Cara­cas tops Coal­is­land for Sinn Féin

Irish Examiner - - Opinion -

One of this so­ci­ety’s ad­mirable con­ven­tions is how we greet death. There is, gen­er­ally, a cir­cle-the-wag­ons re­sponse to be­reave­ment, a fu­neral is of­ten a cel­e­bra­tion a life well lived. At­tend­ing one is an en­dorse­ment for the prin­ci­ples that shaped a life. Equally, choos­ing not to at­tend one can ex­press reser­va­tions gen­er­ally left un­spo­ken.

At­tend­ing the fu­neral of a po­lit­i­cal leader is an op­por­tu­nity to en­dorse and reaf­firm al­liances as Pres­i­dent Trump’s ab­sence — he was not in­vited — from Bar­bara Bush’s fu­neral last April showed. Ac­cept­ing an in­vi­ta­tion to the in­au­gu­ra­tion of a po­lit­i­cal leader is an­other en­dorse-by-at­ten­dance con­ven­tion. Ac­cept­ing an in­vi­ta­tion to the in­au­gu­ra­tion of a po­lit­i­cal leader who se­cured of­fice through means in­ter­na­tion­ally ques­tioned sug­gests col­lu­sion and de­nial that chal­lenge the prin­ci­ples of democ­racy. Ac­cept­ing an in­vi­ta­tion to the in­au­gu­ra­tion of a leader whose first term in of­fice de­stroyed their coun­try sug­gests a cold in­dif­fer­ence. It also brings the so­cial-jus­tice com­mit­ments of any who ig­nore this truth into a sharp, re­veal­ing fo­cus.

De­spite how ve­he­mently she might har­rumph, de­spite how she might, with a straight face, try to com­pare Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar’s and Venezuela’s Pres­i­dent Ni­colás Maduro’s record, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDon­ald must face those charges over Sinn Féin’s pres­ence at Maduro’s in­au­gu­ra­tion. MLA Conor Mur­phy and gen­eral sec­re­tary Dawn Doyle were in Cara­cas last week for an event de­scribed as “a farce prop­ping up a dic­ta­tor­ship”. That Ms McDon­ald should de­scribe Maduro as “demo­crat­i­cally elected” adds to that dan­ger­ous — if fa­mil­iar — air of delu­sion. The UN, the EU, the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Amer­i­can States, the Lima Group and coun­tries like Aus­tralia and the United States re­jected Venezuela’s elec­toral process. It was recog­nised by China, Cuba, Iran, North Ko­rea, Rus­sia, Syria, Tur­key, and oth­ers. By their friends, ye shall know them...

Maduro came to of­fice in 2013 and cre­ated a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis un­prece­dented in re­cent Latin Amer­i­can his­tory. Po­lit­i­cal and so­cial chaos de­stroyed what was once one of the re­gion’s most pros­per­ous so­ci­eties. Al­most 10% of Venezuela’s 31 mil­lion cit­i­zens fled. Of those who re­main, nearly 90% live in poverty. The IMF warned that in­fla­tion was head­ing to­wards one mil­lion per­cent, a rate com­pa­ra­ble to 1920s Ger­many and Mu­gabe’s Zim­babwe. Demo­crat­i­cally elected in­deed — well maybe, Venezuela’s mil­i­tary dis­suaded any­one pre­pared to op­pose the in­ept Maduro so the field was small.

All of this could be dis­missed as a green­horn’s blun­der — like Ms McDon­ald’s de­ci­sion to run a can­di­date in our equally-pre­dictable pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — but that it came days be­fore SF’s anachro­nis­tic House of Com­mons ab­sten­tion­ism may have very real con­se­quences for North­ern Ire­land’s ma­jor­ity who voted to re­main in the EU sets it in a very dif­fer­ent con­text, one far closer to hypocrisy than prin­ci­pled pol­i­tics. But then, as the Stor­mont im­passe shows, SF has long been in­dif­fer­ence to chaos if it of­fers the party a chance strengthen its po­si­tion. A far more ad­mirable, prac­ti­cal pol­icy would be to for­get Cara­cas and re­mem­ber Coal­is­land.

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