Twenty years ago or so it was common to hear Loyalists talking about the “pan-nationalist front”. The term was coined in the early 90’s & referred to the united front of PIRA/SF, the SDLP, GAA etc. The term is not much used today but many Loyalists & Unionists would still argue that Irish nationalism presents a united front on most issues. I would argue however that there is no longer any such united front.
Provisional IRA/Sinn Féin have shifted in a very odd direction in the last few years. Always keen to present themselves as “progressive”, modern, permissive & “on trend”, Sinn Féin have moved so far (culturally & socially) to the Left that they are now creating very serious divisions within Irish nationalism.
There are many (those whom I would describe as “traditional Catholic nationalists”) who now see Provisional Sinn Féin as being actually anti-nationalist. PSF assumed that they could take Irish nationalism in whatever direction they wished, even if that direction was contrary to the sensibilities & traditional outlook of most of their constituency. Apparently they were very wrong.
For a long time, those “traditional nationalists” seemed to keep their reservations to themselves, however, the recent referendum on abortion in the Irish Republic seems to have been the final straw for many. More & more nationalists, both in Éire & in N.I., seem to be verbalising their opposition to the super-progressive “SJW” rhetoric of Provisional SF.
This schism will only deepen. Sinn Féin, under it’s new female leadership, is moving further & further (culturally & socially at least) to the extreme Left, leaving more & more traditional nationalists & religious Roman Catholics (those who are not amongst the large & growing number of Catholic Unionists) without a party that speaks for them.
The uber “progressive” face of the “new Sinn Féin”
The SDLP might undergo something of a resurgence, depending on which direction they choose to take their party, but I would think that it is highly unlikely. The SDLP has lost a lot of credibility with Irish nationalist/republican voters in the last 20-25 years, I doubt they can get that credibility back anytime soon, especially if that party continues it’s own seemingly inexorable drift towards politically correct “grievance politics”.
Besides which, the SDLP, if senior members of that party do not address certain pertinent issues, may well end up irrevocably divided. Instead of this being an opportunity for the SDLP to re-establish itself, it could well end up being the final nail in the party’s coffin.
One might very well see some new nationalist political party, or at least a political pressure group, emerge in the next 12 months or so as traditional religious nationalists become ever more dissatisfied, irritated & alienated by the nationalist/republican “mainstream”.
The bickering, sniping & back-biting between the “progressive” & the “traditional” factions will continue, we may very well see some very interesting (& public) spats between quite senior people within nationalism over the next few weeks & months.
The issue of abortion seems to have divided Irish nationalism more than any other single issue
The only logically consequence of this split is that either A) Sinn Féin, & to a lesser extent the SDLP will have to move, culturally at least, back towards the centre, or B) The split will become permanent & the divisions will become ever more entrenched. Either way the next 12-18 months should prove to be very interesting indeed.