Saturday 1 October 2016

Making our slow way out of Sinn Fein's moral fog

Published 23/08/2015 | 02:30

If I do not seem my usual sweet self this week (ignoring the danger of irony in Ireland) it's not because I am off sugar following a firm talk from Professor Noel Caplice of CUH.

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Exterior events explain my edgy mood. Apart from the good news from Greece (yes, Greece), the past week showed our politically suicidal schizophrenia about Sinn Fein's peace process.

In particular, I'm talking about how politicians and press in the Republic pussyfooted around possible Provisional IRA involvement for more than a week after the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

Apart from Jim Cusack in the Irish Independent, Eamonn McCann in the Irish Times and Audrey Carville and Mary Wilson on RTE, awkward questions were neither asked nor answered.

When Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes of the PSNI finally tackled the Provo question last Thursday, he did so like a man testing a hot bath.

First, he dipped a toe in the water. The PSNI were looking at a group of "criminals, violent dissident republicans and former members of the Provisonal IRA".

Lowering himself gingerly, he admitted that current members of the Provisional IRA were also suspected. But not whether the murder was sanctioned "at command level or not".

Yesterday, the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton finally verified the continued existence of the Provos. Pity the gardai arent as good at at biting the Provo bullet.

Last March, at the Oireachtas Justice Committee, Senator James Heffernan twice asked Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan: does the IRA exist or not? And got waffle.

Why are police, politicians and press so unwilling to call a spade an implement the Provisional IRA used to bury bodies?

Pressed, they claim to be protecting the peace process. But the result is to protect the Provo peace processor.

The Provo processor is a multi-function murder laundering machine, political sanitiser and producer of moral fog.

Crime is poured in at one end, something more politically acceptable comes out the other end, spectators are seduced.

Faced with something that throws a spanner into the peace processor - like the murder of Kevin McGuigan - southern politicians react in two different ways.

The majority simply fall silent as soon as the peace processor is plugged in.

The minority, mostly a small faction of Fianna Fail, seem ready to put the Republic at risk by stupidly thinking they can tame Sinn Fein in a Coalition. Like a mouse tames a cat.

Last week's events should have given Green Fianna Fail a reality check. But will it force the silent majority of politicians to break their shameful silence?

The reluctance of Irish politicians to raise Sinn Fein's manipulation of the peace process is a legacy of letting northern nationalists dictate the Republic's policy.

First, John Hume peddled a pan-nationalist alliance. We forget it gave constant grief to Garret FitzGerald, Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern.

Hume begot Hume-Adams, which begot the peace process. We bought into it because we believed the Provisional IRA would wither away.

But when it did not wither away, politicians and media turned a blind eye. Like politicians, journalists reporting on the peace processor also come in two categories.

First, a well-meaning majority who take a benign view, believing the peace glass is half-full.

Second, a minority of SF cheerleaders who know the glass is filthy, but give it a wipe instead of a wash.

By now it should be clear that Sinn Fein manipulated the peace process. The Provisional IRA called off the armed struggle. But it continued criminal activities and it continued killing.

Since the so-called ceasefire, the Provisional IRA has carried out some 40 murders, including the murder of Joseph Rafferty in Dublin.

The reprehensible silence in the Republic about these murders is no accident. A final function of the Provo's peace processor is to produce a moral fog.

In 2008, a Dublin postman, Robert Delany, crossed a criminal Provo godfather, was blasted by a shotgun and still lies in a vegetative coma.

Robert's father, Terry Delany, is the deeply respected deputy general secretary of the Communications Workers' Union. But the moral fog trumped solidarity.

Two years later, in 2011, the CWU's secretatiat circulated members to vote Labour but to continue preferences to Sinn Fein.

Whatever about Connolly, another socialist seduced by nationalism, James Larkin would have lashed the CWU for not keeping a permanent picket on Sinn Fein.

We must take three firm steps if we are to find our way out of that moral fog. First, by facing the fact that Sinn Fein is still influenced by a shadowy IRA group based in Belfast.

Second, by seeing that Sinn Fein are using their peace processor to pursue their aim of state power for Sinn Fein in both parts of the island. If they succeed, it will start a civil war.

Finally, by grasping that even when Sinn Fein takes up a good cause like the Irish language, it degrades it by doing so for ideological reasons.

Here Ciaran Carson - the distinguished West Belfast poet, who gave us what I believe to be the best version of The Tain - can be a huge help.

Back in 1986, while working in the Northern Ireland Arts Council, Carson was caustic about a Sinn Fein delegation, led by Gerry Adams, which wanted support in promoting Irish in Belfast.

Carson first noted that Sinn Fein was bypassing traditional Irish-language groups like Cluain Ard.

He also noted the Sinn Fein delegation's poor grasp of the Irish language they claimed to love. His acid analysis deserves an annotation.

"Most of those present seem to have a barely competent grasp of the phonetics of the language. [Ouch] It is hardly our place to help them brush up their Irish, [Ouch, Ouch] but it might be our role to make them aware of the wider cultural implications of the language." (Kapow!)

Carson is giving us a moral cue when he doubts Sinn Fein's "capacity to advise on these matters".

Sinn Fein is no more fit to rule the Irish Republic than it is to advise on the Irish language. Ta cead acu dul amach. Go deo.

* * * * *

A final word about the good news from Greece. Good as the good authority shown by Alexis Tsipras.

As I was one of the few pundits to take a hard line on Syriza from the start, my switch to supporting Tsipras will only surprise those who don't understand the dialectics of politics.

But regular readers will remember I reserved by criticisms for Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister, a trendy Trot, unwilling to look bad in order to do good.

Alexis Tsipras bravely led his people into battle. But, not being a Trot, he led them back out again before they got a bad beating.

Like Michael Collins, Tsipras fought fiercely for his principles. But also like Collins (in the words of Lord Birkenhead) he was finally "loyal to the facts".

That dialectical mix of principle and pragmatism is the mark of a great leader and the Greek people know it. He will get his mandate.

Sunday Independent

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