Sunday 23 July 2017

FG rediscovers passion as 'incompatible' SF revels in populism of being in opposition

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Photo: Tom Burke
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

One by one, Fine Gael backbenchers trotted out in a frantic and desperate attempt to kill off a story that was created by their party leader's own volition.

Dublin South West TD Colm Brophy chose the issue of the economy, telling RTÉ broadcaster Seán O'Rourke that Sinn Féin would scupper our hard-fought recovery.

Louth deputy Fergus O'Dowd referred to law and order, telling the same programme that Sinn Féin continues to be associated with heinous crimes such as the murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville.

Both deputies are right: Sinn Féin has no credibility whatsoever when it comes to economic or justice issues.

Let's not forget, we are dealing with a party that believes economic sense equates to hundreds of thousands of water meters being left to gather rust in the ground for the rest of time.

It's the same party whose own leader has the capacity to drive two brothers, Austin and Oliver Stack, to an undisclosed location on the Border in a blacked-out van in order to meet a senior IRA figure.

But of course Gerry Adams doesn't have the willingness to assist the live Garda investigation into the sickening murder of prison officer Brian Stack.

The controversies surrounding his party are as damaging as they are endless - but they warrant a constant reminder.

On one hand, Sinn Féin wants to abolish the Special Criminal Court.

On the other, the party is associated with the staging of kangaroo courts which have seen rape victims subjected to interrogations so traumatic they don't even bear thinking about.

While these issues of course render Sinn Féin as a legitimate government party, the real litmus test lies elsewhere.

Sinn Féin had an opportunity only a few months ago to do what is expected of all responsible political parties - put the country first.

Ireland was plunged into a period of deep uncertainty following General Election 2016.

Many members of Dáil Éireann - ranging from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to the Independents and Green Party - plucked up the courage to enter into government formation talks.

Sinn Féin couldn't even find the energy to at least try.

The party didn't show a scintilla of interest in the need to put in place a government that would serve the people to the degree in which they deserve.

Its leadership didn't seem one bit worried over the fact our country was left in a state of flux for over 70 days. If it was concerned, Sinn Féin would have acted.

These are the arguments that Enda Kenny should have made if, as was expected, he chose to firmly rule out coalition with Sinn Féin.

The reason why he didn't is quite simple.

Mr Kenny learned during the election campaign that there is no such thing as the unthinkable.

Time after time, he and other Fine Gael figures insisted a deal with Fianna Fáil was never going to materialise.

The public expressed a different view at the ballot boxes - and the rest, as they say, is history.

But the controversy surrounding Sinn Féin has in a peculiar way forced Fine Gael to rediscover its true values.

From the perspective of grassroots members, they have sat back and watched as their elected representatives demonstrated a show of force in condemning the prospect of joining forces with a party whose standards fall far short of what defines the basic norms.

Yesterday saw a situation whereby the Fine Gael parliamentary party showed both passion and fight - attributes it has lost somewhat in recent months.

It was a day in which Fine Gael sent a clear message to its supporters that, despite Mr Kenny's remarks, this party is not prepared to allow the country to fall into the hands of people afraid of responsibility.

The backlash we have seen against the Taoiseach is because the potential scenario of a FG/SF deal is incompatible with Fine Gael values.

Of course the situation may change in the future, perhaps under a new leadership.

But for now, the party will remain in opposition and continue to revel in populism: Sinn Féin's trademark.

Irish Independent

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