Friday 30 September 2016

How much longer must this foostering over Sinn Féin and its IRA links go on ?

Published 24/12/2015 | 02:30

Sean Lemass described Fianna Fail, which he helped found, as 'a slightly constitutional party'
Sean Lemass described Fianna Fail, which he helped found, as 'a slightly constitutional party'

Seán Lemass liked to call the Fianna Fáil party he helped found "a slightly constitutional party".

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Let's recall that the Soldiers of Destiny were founded 90 years ago next May in totally different circumstances from the Ireland of today. There are ropey tales of some of them entering Leinster House with guns in their pockets, but prepared to take an "empty formula" oath of allegiance to the British monarch.

Partition was not their problem - it was an issue which rated scant and glancing mention in the Dáil debates on the 1921 Anglo Irish Treaty.

Most of our political parties have grown out of Arthur Griffiths's Sinn Féin which emerged at the turn of the last century. The Irish Labour Party has been something of a side-bar - the late lamented Progressive Democrats grew out of the ones which grew out of Sinn Féin. We go on.

For too many years we had to listen to Gerry Adams and his colleagues justify the murder and mayhem, too often wrought upon their own people rather than upon British forces they could not always reach, based on comparisons with what happened from 1916-1922.

Where politics meets history, there is often a convenient and selective use of facts. For this and other reasons, many of us are bracing ourselves, facing into the centenary of 1916.

Let's recall that we are just two years short of the twentieth-year mark since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Let us also recall the work which delivered that landmark transformational deal.

If you come from the southwest of this island and are of a certain age, like this writer, you will remember the trial-by-ordeal that was travel via Heathrow Airport. Yes, a small inconvenience when compared with a daily horror which lasted 30 years north of the border and claimed the lives of over 3,000 people.

Give or take, the IRA killed half of those people. Time moves on, the years roll in. We can forget too easily.

John Hume, that great Derryman who helped found the all-Ireland credit union movement and stood with the fearless and selfless civil rights people in the North in the late 1960s, extended a lifeline to Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In the ensuing years, so many politicians on these islands and beyond helped. The list includes John Major, Albert Reynolds, Dick Spring, Bill Clinton, Jacques Delors, Bertie Ahern, Mo Mowlam, Tony Blair and a host of others.

At times, in more recent years, it has often appeared that Sinn Féin and their counterparts in Ian Paisley's DUP were incapable of doing normal politics without outside adult political supervision.

Notably, John Hume's own SDLP party, which grew out of the civil rights movement asserting long-overdue human rights for nationalists, took a major hit in this peace process. A big part of this process was foostering over Sinn Féin, trying to ensure that their long-time IRA brethren would stop murdering and maiming. That Sinn Féin might ultimately just do ballot box stuff, leaving Armalite stuff to one side.

In the immediate aftermath of peace in the North, it all seemed good and worthwhile. We were happy to see Ireland emerge from a vortex of violence.

But time moves on. By now we are entitled to ask: How much longer can this foostering over Sinn Féin and its IRA links go on?

Lemass's Fianna Fáil swiftly became a constitutional party within a decade.

Any fear, Gerry Adams's Sinn Féin could catch up?

Irish Independent

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