Article from the May 2004 edition, Socialist Voice
The pragmatism of 'New' Sinn Fein
SINN FEIN'S "radical" image was carefully put to the side when Gerry Adams rose to speak to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce in April.
Instead it was the business friendly message of "New Sinn Fein" that Adams put across. While, in words, Sinn Fein stand opposed to privatisation, bin charges and tax cuts for the rich, he comforted the audience when he said they now recognised that, in power, it is necessary to be "pragmatic".
In other words if you want to become an establishment party you have to do like all the other establishment parties and tear up your manifesto promises when you get a whiff of power.
So, when asked about privatisation through schemes like public private partnerships he told his well heeled audience: "Well, we are against them. Having said that, Martin McGuinness, as Education Minister, faced with the reality that he would either have no schools or an involvement in a qualified way with private finance, went for it. So I suppose you could argue that that is the emergence of pragmatic politics."
This "pragmatism" also carries through to the issue of bin charges. Sinn Fein has opposed the charges in Dublin where the Socialist Party has been in the leadership of a campaign of mass non payment of this tax. Yet in Sligo, where Sinn Fein is part of the coalition that runs the Council, they brought in bin charges.
Adams sees no contradiction. "Sinn Fein councillors in Sligo rather than seeing the service go entirely over to privatisation... then went for a more pragmatic approach. The same thing has happened in Monaghan. Our position is against it. But in terms of the actual practicalities of working out these matters...the party made compromises on it."
So while Martin McGuinness was privatising schools in the North for "pragmatic" reasons, Sinn Fein councillors in the South were bringing in bin charges because they could see no other pragmatic way to avoid privatisation!!
Compare this with the approach of Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins and Councillor Clare Daly who, along with other activists, went to prison last autumn, rather than compromise on the introduction of bin charges in Dublin.