sinn féin under attack

Questions And Answers last night was fascinating. A negotiator for Sinn Féin was subjected to a barrage of abuse from representatives of the government, The Labour Party, The SDLP (Fine Gael and The Unionist parties conspicuously absent). I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

Sinn Féin organized themselves and capitalized on voter apathy in last year's council elections and showed themselves as a significant growing threat to the sitting government coalition between Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats (aka "The FF National Front"- my words). Taoiseach Bertie Ahern then assembled his party at Inchydoney, West Cork, to discuss a new direction that they would be taking to rise to the challenge set by the electorate.
They came out of their think tank supposedly embracing a new philosophy, with the leader even going so far as to claim he was and had always been a "socialist". What I contend is that this was not their main point of discussion. I suggest they came to an agreement that it was about time the rise of the militant Republican Party was nipped in the bud once and for all.
The peace process came to a historic brink before Christmas. The DUP with their demagogue leader the Rev Ian Paisley came incredibly close to actually sitting down with Sinn Féin, something that was unheard of in the previous thirty or so years. Having both walked to the edge of the abyss, however, neither militant faction in Northern politics was willing to jump first, and the process collapsed due to a row over a photograph.
And so the process had finally derailed on the issue of "decommissioning". I still cannot fathom how this condition had been accepted by the parties in the first place. Supposedly the IRA putting their weapons beyond use was the key to a resumption of the Legislative Assembly in Stormont Castle. But how many weapons would satisfy the Unionists? Why was decommissioning never publicly quantified before it became a factor in the peace process? Eventually Paisley's ridiculous demand for a Polaroid snapshot to be placed on his desk for his own perusal was to virtually end the role of decommissioning as a negotiating tool, at least for the time being.
Then came December 20, 2004. £22million sterling stolen from a bank in Belfast. It was an early Christmas present for the anti-Sinn Féin parties. With decommisioning no longer effective as a stick to beat them with, we now had a new word - "criminality". Surely only an organization such as the IRA would have been capable of pulling off such a heist and that this money would be used to re-arm?
So here we have a perfect chance for the lions to feast on Sinn Féin's supposed wounded carcass. But where is Paisley? Where is Trimble? Where is Donaldson? The only ones feasting from where I can see are parties on the Republican side. I suggest the robbers are not the only ones laughing all the way to the bank.
I sent an email to the Q&A debate as a contribution to the first question put to the panel, which was "Is the Northern Bank raid Sinn Féin's Watergate, and if so does it go all the way to the president?".
My email read : "The peace process cannot and will not move forward until after the British elections. The parties involved should not speculate who did what to whom until there is hard core evidence either way and stop scoring cheap political points off each other. If only!"
This point was eventually made anyway by panellist Brian Feeney, Head of the Department of History at St Mary's University College Belfast and Irish News columnist who has written an extensive history of Sinn Féin.
The Irish Minister For Justice Michael MacDowell (seemingly pronounced mac-DOOL) and the British Minister for Northern Ireland Paul Murphy, were at Hillsborough Castle in the north yesterday to sign some kind of accord between the police forces north and south. Also present were the commissioners for the two forces in question. Obviously the media attention was focused on MacDowell's allegations that the leadership of Sinn Féin were also members of the IRA's war council.
I would be more interested to know why the Commissioner for An Garda Siochana (southern Ireland's police force - Irish Gaelic for "guardians of the peace") was wearing civilian clothes while he was signing the accord.


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