Lord Dodds was speaking after Sinn Fein declared at the weekend that the Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Dana Erlich, should lose her diplomatic status due to the “sheer scale of [Israel’s] belligerence, collective punishment and the devastating loss of life” in Gaza.
This is a reversal of the position the party had maintained for weeks.
Reacting to this change of heart, Lord Dodds also told the News Letter that the republican party’s stated concern for the lives of ordinary Palestinians living under Israeli bombardment exposes the “utterly shameless contradiction” at its heart, given its historic ties to the IRA.
Following the October 7 incursion into Israel by Hamas, Sinn Fein had faced calls from within its own ranks to demand the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador to Ireland.
These had come from its highly-active youth wing Ogra Shinn Fein, MP Chris Hazzard, and Chris Andrews, Sinn Fein TD for Dublin Bay South.
Meanwhile, the party was facing intense pressure from its rivals in the SDLP and People Before Profit – both of which had already backed expulsion – as well as from grassroots republicans.
The position was especially unusual given that the party had called for such an expulsion in 2021, during a flare-up of violence in Israel/Palestine that was far less intense than today, and in 2022 called for the Russian ambassador to be kicked out of Ireland over the Ukraine invasion.
After almost a month of resisting that pressure, on Friday Sinn Fein issued a statement in the name of Mary Lou McDonald indicating a change of position – albeit without actually mentioning the word “expulsion”.
In it, Mrs McDonald said: “The position of the Israeli ambassador to Ireland is now untenable, the ambassador should no longer enjoy diplomatic status in Ireland while Israel refuses the imperative for ceasefires and as the suffering and death toll grow.”
This all followed comments from the taoiseach Leo Varadkar late last week, in which he said that Israel’s response to the Hamas murders seemed to be going beyond mere defence, and was entering the realm of “revenge”.
Nigel Dodds, who was the party’s deputy for about a decade-and-a-half until 2021, and who now sits in the House of Lords, told the News Letter the Sinn Fein policy change is “inevitable and totally to be expected".
"I think it's an indication to other European member states of the sort of country that they're going to have within their ranks when Sinn Fein, or if Sinn Fein, lead the government there,” he told the News Letter.
"It's pretty bad at the moment. The Irish government is the most anti-Israel European country, and this will be made 100 times worse if Sinn Fein come to power.
"Israel regards the Irish Republic as one of its most hostile states, and I think this will get much, much worse – even if it could do – under Sinn Fein, and I think that'll cause real problems with the EU. I don't think they realise what's going to hit them.
"I think it’s a sad day, but it's a totally expected outcome."
In the last Irish general election of 2020, Sinn Fein won the biggest share of the popular vote (25%) and 37 seats, second only to Fianna Fail’s 38.
Reflecting on the fact of Sinn Fein’s historic links to the IRA, Lord Dodds (who was once the target of a Provo assassination bid at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital) said of the party’s concerns for civilian life in Gaza: "I think that this [is] hypocrisy and utterly shameless contradiction by Sinn Fein leadership, pretending that they're concerned about civilian casualties when they supported and still eulogise those who carried out similar atrocities against their neighbours.
"It's the sheer bare-faced brazenness of their position that I think appals so many decent people in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic as well.
"I think it is just a scandalous situation that they appear to get away with this kind of thing, but perhaps this Middle East crisis will demonstrate to people the double standards that's at the heart, the core, of Sinn Fein philosophy.”
The book Lost Lives, along with the Ulster University web archive known as CAIN, both cite civilians as having been the number one class of IRA fatalities during the Troubles.
Lost Lives says that the IRA was behind 48.7% of all killings (1,771 in total) of which the biggest single category of victim was civilians (636), followed by regular UK military (443), police and police reservists (284), the local UDR/RIR (182), fellow republicans (161), loyalist paramilitaries (28), and prison wardens (23).
Lord Dodds also said that American politicians who have been wooed by Sinn Fein should take note of the party’s stance on Israel.
"Sinn Fein claims a lot of support in America, it likes to make a lot of friends on Capitol Hill,” said Lord Dodds.
"And yet its policies – you think of Cuba, the Middle East, you think of a whole host of areas – is totally opposed to the values of the US.
"And I'd just like to see American politicians who are quick to come over here and lecture everybody over what should happen, take Sinn Fein to task for their approach to political affairs across the world which are totally opposed to American interests.”
Lord Dodds’ criticisms were put to Sinn Fein, which responded by saying: “Our position on this was set out by Mary Lou McDonald in a statement on Friday.”
On October 7, Hamas members poured into Israeli civilian settlements and massacred up to 1,400 overwhelmingly-defenceless people.
A Sky News report on Sunday quoted Israeli pathologists as saying many victims had first been cuffed or bound by their tormentors.
One man was “shot, burned, stabbed, and then run over,” said one scientist Chen Kugel examining the corpses, while other corpses were found “hugging together… they were burned together hugging each other”.
Another scientist showed Sky a bloodied mattress and said: “This baby was probably stabbed in his own bed.”
Over 200 hostages are still being held by Hamas.
Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, as of Sunday the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that whilst the UN cannot independently verify the figures, the Hamas-run ministry of health was reporting a death toll there of 9,770, 67% of whom were women and children – with some 192 families having lost more than 10 members.
Meanwhile, 2,260 people are reported missing, possibly buried under rubble.
The UN also estimates that so far in the Gaza Strip about 40,000 homes have been destroyed, that there has been a “full electricity blackout for 21 days”, that one-third of all hospitals are now shut down and that all of the 13 hospitals still operational in Gaza City and Northern Gaza have received evacuation orders.