The Irish Mail on Sunday

You’d think Mandela was running for the Shinners

- Sam sam.smyth@mailonsund­ Smyth

FIVE days before polling and the other parties are privately conceding that Sinn Féin will be the big winner. That means the Shinners have a provisiona­l booking for seats at the cabinet table in 2016 – or before if this shaky coalition collapses. Electoral success sets them on a path to glory and government with the priceless bonus of vindicatio­n for their armed struggle.

It also hinges on a voluntary amnesia of those who lived through a murderous campaign that delivered the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 – although that agreement is really the stillborn Sunningdal­e Agreement of 1974 minus the Council of Ireland – plus the thousands of dead and maimed over the subsequent 24 years.

Glib Provos shrug and put their electoral success down to the horrific philosophy of the end justifying the means. But with a flood of independen­ts and niche parties also gaining popularity, it augurs ill for stable government after the next general election.

SEVERAL Sinn Féin candidates appeared in front of Nelson Mandela posters on television last week, implicitly linking the IRA’s campaign to the ANC’s struggle in South Africa. This is a recurrent theme, with Gerry Adams as a martyred successor to Mandela and Sinn Féin, like the ANC, liberators of a downtrodde­n people.

Like ‘liberators’ everywhere, Shinners feel that after making blood sacrifices, they have an entitlemen­t to the spoils of their struggle.

Political power is their just dessert and any subsequent personal reward is a hard-earned bonus for Sinn Féin activists and IRA volunteers.

The ANC is a curious role model for Sinn Féin. It’s a brazen propaganda gambit.

I worked in South Africa when the first free election was held and have visited it many times since. Comparing the suffering of black South Africans living under apartheid to the discrimina­tion of nationalis­ts in Northern Ireland is grotesquel­y offensive.

A big problem is that delusional and self-pitying republican­s really believe that they are the ANC’s blood brothers.

Gerry Adams’s friend, South African president Jacob Zuma, has built a multimilli­on estate mostly at poor taxpayers’ expense, and believes he is entitled to it. President Zuma’s propagandi­sts say his sacrifices are like Christ’s suffering; they say the liberator (Zuma) redeemed us with his blood.

The ANC put its brightest and best in charge of the economy and achieved modest growth, a lesson not lost on Sinn Féin.

Liberators need foreign as well as domestic enemies, and Sinn Féin has an inherited hatred of the British, just as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe does (he still rants on about British homosexual­s).

Yet all of those who wished and hoped for freedom and success for South Africa and the ANC still worry about a one-party democracy slipping into a one-party state.

Maybe Sinn Féin would use its friendship to counsel against the worst excesses of the fringe in the ANC who protect Mugabe and are blind to the suffering in Zimbabwe.

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