When Sinn Féin released their 2020 election manifesto, many were surprised to find that controlling immigration featured as a part of their platform. In a twist that will shock anybody who has actually been listening to them for the last few years, they wrote: “Sinn Féin does not want open borders. We believe that all States must manage migration”.

Granted, it is buried deep in the document on page 70, almost like they hoped nobody, especially the media, would notice it. But it is in there.

This sounds very encouraging on paper for many of the more traditional Sinn Féin supporters. Maybe after being punished by voters at the local elections last year, Sinn Fein have realised that their base want common-sense border control, and less of the “Brits out, everybody else in” madness that they’ve persisted with in recent years. However, when a party does a wild u-turn on a trending topic right before an election, that’s not exactly what most would call an ironclad conviction.

Immigration is one of the unspoken issues of this election cycle, but clearly it’s on people’s minds. Locals have protested the imposition of direct provision centres on already-stretched communities in Rooskey, Oughterard, and Achill, and people upset at housing allocation are organising “House The Irish First” protests in Mulhuddart. Even Leo Varadkar (of all people!) has been talking about how illegal immigration from Albania and Georgia is a serious problem.

Is it possible that Sinn Féin are hearing this on the doors, and the inclusion of this new policy allows them to tell voters they are taking a stand on the issue?

Words on a manifesto page are one thing, and actions are quite another. We don’t know what Mary Lou’s party are going to do with Ireland’s borders in the future, but we know what they’ve tried to do in the past, and it paints a very different picture to their rhetoric now.

In 2004, a mere 16 years ago, the Irish people had a referendum on whether or not we should have “birthright citizenship”. In a nutshell, this meant that anyone in the world who was born in Ireland would receive citizenship by default, regardless of who their parents were. As anyone with a modicum of common sense might imagine, this law would have opened us up to a whole host of potential abuses and problems, not least of which, as was successfully argued at the time, that women could fly in from abroad, have a baby after arrival and receive Irish citizenship.

Well, the referendum was held, and though Sinn Féin supported it then, the Irish people, in their wisdom, voted against birthright citizenship by a staggering 79%, making it one of the most overwhelmingly decisive referenda in Irish history. The vast majority of voters disagreed with Sinn Féin, saw through the emotional blackmail and touchy-feely sentimentality, and went with what eight in ten of them believed to be the common-sense border control option.

Last year, in January 2019, the Dáil voted on a bill to restore birthright citizenship, effectively seeking to overturn the referendum’s result. It was ultimately defeated due to lack of support, but not before Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams voted in favour of it. In other words, a mere 12 months ago, Sinn Féin were happy to support a radical policy of handing out Irish citizenship with virtually no restrictions – a policy which 80% of voters had already rejected within recent memory.

As if this wasn’t enough, last year Sinn Féin Ard Comharile member and MEP Martina Anderson made the vacuous claim that “no human is illegal” , referring to illegal immigration, and in 2017 the party supported a so-called “regularisation scheme” to provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. This would essentially reward the 26,000+ border-hoppers and law-breakers living in the State by providing them with Irish passports and letting them off the hook. In 2015 they said that the amount of refugees Ireland was taking in was “woefully inadequate”, and sought to have it dramatically increased.

This isn’t decades and decades ago, mind you. This is the Sinn Féin of a few months ago – as recently as last April. They are objectively soft on borders, soft on immigration, and soft on crime. But now suddenly the election fairy has come and sprinkled a dash of magical PR dust over their manifesto a week before voters go to the polls, hoping to create the illusion of firmness on this issue.

But should we really be surprised? This is the same Mary Lou who said at her first presidential address as Sinn Féin leader in 2018: “Ireland is no longer merely orange and green. Ireland is a rainbow of identities and cultures.”

For years now, they have been an internationalist party, jumping onto every multicultural trend and bandwagon that comes along. They left any shred of nationalism on the subjects of borders and immigration behind a long time ago. Mary Lou can say what she wants about borders now that their policies are blowing up in their face, but Sinn Fein’s track record on immigration speaks for itself.