Scottish independence: 'Confidence is very low' in Sturgeon
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Sinn Féin — the republican party that wants to see a reunified Ireland — won the most seats in the Stormont elections for the first time in a century last week. It managed to secure 27 seats in the devolved parliament while the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) — which formerly led Stormont and wants to remain a part of the UK — managed just 25 after losing three vital seats. The victory marks the first time a nationalist party has come to power in Northern Ireland, with many political analysts arguing it could mark the beginning of the road to unification.
Quick to congratulate Sinn Féin’s leader Mary Lou McDonald and Vice President Michelle O’Neill was Scotland’s own nationalist leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
In a tweet, she wrote: “Many congratulations to @moneillsf and @MaryLouMcDonald on a truly historic result for Sinn Féin.
“I wish Michelle & her colleagues – & all Northern Ireland’s elected representatives – the very best for what comes next & hope to see the NI government functioning again soon.”
Before the results came in, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Sweeney said a Sinn Féin victory would provide the SNP with “an opportunity” to work with another nationalist party.
He said the historic result would see “political leadership” at Stormont “which was prepared to challenge” Boris Johnson’s UK Government.
Mr Swinney added that the “policy approach” of Sinn Féin meant there would be much more common ground for ministers at Holyrood to work with the leading party in Northern Ireland.
Sinn Féin was widely seen as the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Troubles, a conflict that spanned the Sixties to the Nineties over Northern Ireland’s status.
While the IRA disbanded after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, other groups have since emerged in its place.
In 2019, a series of parcel bombs were found across the UK that police believed were sent by the “New IRA”.
One of these packages ended up at Glasgow University and was thought to be linked to three other letter bombs that prompted fears of a fresh campaign by Irish Republican dissidents.
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Two other parcels were found at busy London transport hubs, and were almost identical to the one found in Glasgow.
After the parcel was found at the University, campus buildings were evacuated with police later confirming that they believed it to be linked to the London bombs.
At the time, the SNP failed to condemn the act, with Ms Sturgeon thanking the police and university for their quick response in a tweet: “Important to have calm vigilance from the public while police inquiries continue.”
Express.co.uk cannot find any evidence for the SNP condemning the “New IRA” for the action.
However, we did find a tweet from John Mason, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, responding to a Twitter user asking him whether the party would make a statement about the device found.
He replied: “I am not sure why you are looking for a statement.
“It is clear that the SNP opposes using violence as a way of obtaining independence.
“If you mean that we should condemn republican violence more than we condemn unionist violence, then I do not think we will be doing that.”
Now, with the news that the SNP could be joining forces with Sinn Féin, some users on the social media platform have drawn uncomfortable comparisons.
Sharing an image of a news report of the bombing from the time, user Agent P tweeted: “Only two years ago the IRA sent a parcel bomb to Glasgow university.
“The SNP failed to condemn it at the time.
“Now the SNP say they are ready to work with the former political wing of this terrorist group.
“Let that sink in.”
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When approached by Express.co.uk, an SNP spokesperson said: “The SNP condemns and rejects the use of any violence, intimidation or threat for political gain.”
The spokesperson then failed to respond when asked whether the party specifically condemned the New IRA.
It is worth noting that Sinn Féin has no explicit links to the New IRA.
However, some have claimed that the party has sought to forge political alliances with far-left groups in Northern Ireland, such as Saoradh, which is alleged to have links to the group.
According to a report in The Sunday Times earlier this month, Sinn Féin chairman Declan Kearney made direct contact with Saoradh.
The publication said he wrote to Brian Kenna, who acts as chairman for Saoradh, offering to arrange a meeting on promoting “engagement on developing a common strategy and co-operation” around a referendum.
He is also said to have offered an invitation for a “delegation” from the dissident group to “meet with myself and other members of the Sinn Fein leadership”.
Sinn Féin defended the move, telling the newspaper that dialogue and engagement” is a “vital part of the peace process”.
Meanwhile, asked about a potentially dramatic shift in Northern Ireland just ahead of the results, Scotland’s vice deputy First Minister Mr Swinney told Sky News: “I think what it would mean is we would have political leadership in Northern Ireland which was prepared to challenge the United Kingdom government on many aspects of its policy approach.”
“So there’s an opportunity for us to work together to pressurise the UK government to ensure that they address the very real difficulties that people are facing in their lives today, particularly around the cost of living and to have an intervention that actually addresses the depths of the crisis that people are facing.”
The Scottish Conservatives hit out at the notion, arguing that the move would be for “selfish and damaging” reasons.
Donald Cameron, a Scottish tory MSP said: “People across Scotland – including those sympathetic to independence – will be concerned about Mr Swinney’s overtures.
“The SNP will entertain relationships with almost anyone so long as they support the break-up of the UK.
“It’s important to remember that in every intervention the SNP makes, it does so with the intention of only one selfish and damaging goal.”
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