The politics of the north of Ireland has made a mark in this election, with the continual Tory attempts to link both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell with the IRA. Given the travails of the devolved settlement at Stormont, it’s unfortunate that this is where the focus has been. It may become much more significant now that the DUP seem to be supporting a Tory government.
At present Sinn Féin don’t take their seats at Westminster, because they don’t believe the UK Government should have the right to govern any part of Ireland. It’s a deeply held belief, not a quirk, or a foolish oversight.
People often talk about what it would take for Sinn Féin to take their seats at Westminster. Often they talk rot.
The political context in the north of Ireland is fascinating. Sinn Féin with a strong performance in the Westminster and Assembly elections are able to prevent any administration forming.
Their position in the Republic allows them to pressurise both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the two larger parties. That pressure may play into the Irish government using or threatening to use its veto over a Brexit deal.
I think that there is a real possibility that concessions made by the Conservatives to the DUP may force Sinn Féin into a position where they consider taking their seats. Something like replacing Stormont with a Westminster Grand Committee that would govern the north using Irish MPs sitting at Westminster (10 DUP, 1 Independent, former Ulster Unionist). That would be intolerable for Sinn Féin, and may move them to act. Perhaps even by taking their seats.
They will do this to defend the interests of nationalists in the north. Bringing down a DUP-supported Tory government in pursuit of the unity of Ireland is one of the very few ways Sinn Féin could convince their supporters that taking their seats was acceptable.
That could change everything.