While Sinn Féin continue to attempt to portray themselves as opponents of the ham-fisted ongoing restrictions in the Republic, it would appear that where they have actual control that their approach will be somewhat different.
In the wake of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement that almost all restrictions on masks and gatherings will be lifted in England from July 19, Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister in the north Michelle O’Neill tweeted that this would not necessarily be applied in the part of the United Kingdom under the devolved administration at Stormont.
The concluding line in fact would indicate that the northern Executive, or at least the Sinn Féin part of it, is not inclined to follow the same path. Nor are the Scottish or Welsh assemblies set to implement the full range of the measures to come into effect in England.
It would seem that both Wales, under the control of Labour – and Scotland, under the control of the Scottish National Party – have, like the coalition in the Republic, decided instead to take the advice of the health bureaucrats. Johnson’s decision to lift restrictions is based on the level of vaccinations, the lower virulence of the Delata variant, and that normal life needs to be given a chance to revive prior to the return of the shorter colder days.
Any decision in the north will require majority support in the Executive, and there has been no indication so far as to how the DUP, many of whose members were less enthusiastic about the lockdown, will respond to what is in effect a pre-emptive strike by O’Neill assuming that this has not yet been discussed and agreed within the Executive.
Meanwhile in the south, Mary Lou has continued to use all of the controversy to ensure that her candidate in Thursday’s Dublin Bay South bye election is not damaged by appearing to take one side or the other. The spin in the last few days could be taken as favouring indoor re-opening under testing and vaccination criteria that are either impossible to enforce, or to have ready quickly.
Given the overall incompetence of her opponents, all Mary Lou has to do is seem to be critical, without really proposing any alternatives. It is what her party decide to do in the north over the coming days that will indicate where Sinn Féin really stands. Preferably, they will wish to delay any official announcement until after polling ends on Thursday.