It is time those within Sinn Féin voiced a different opinion than the typical party line
Published 21/12/2015 | 02:30
As Gerry Adams begins yet another bout of bluster and spoof, trying to sidestep serious questions about his organisation and its associates, key questions have emerged.
How long can Sinn Féin keep Adams as 'life president' in light of what some of his key lieutenants see as an increasingly erratic performance?
What exactly is the nature of his allegiance to the IRA godfather Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, and why is it so steadfastly sustained?
What is Gerry Adams's basis for criticising the Special Criminal Court?
Why does nobody ever voice dissent within Sinn Féin - especially on questions which harm the organisation's reputation?
And, if Sinn Féin is given a role in government south of the border, who will be influencing them?
Will key supporters, like Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, be consulted about government policy?
At Leinster House there is a sense that Mr Adams, who has led his party since 1983, is losing his touch and is not at home with politics in this jurisdiction. A 32-year term at the helm of any organisation is decidedly unhealthy; over the same period Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour have each had five leaders.
All the parties have in recent years had key figures who did things which caused damage, or at least embarrassment, to them. But when it happens to Sinn Féin, they are being victimised.
Mr Adams has always been unequivocal in condemning wrongdoing by others. But when it comes to his "friend" and "good republican", a new set of rules apply. Why can't we be told the full truth by Mr Adams about Murphy and his role in Sinn Féin - and the republican movement generally?
So, Gerry Adams dislikes the Special Criminal Court? This writer never met anyone who liked the necessity for it. It is required due to intimidation and terrorising of juries and witnesses. It has afforded a great deal more due process and justice than many of the IRA's victims of summary murder and maiming ever got.
Sinn Féin operates like a sealed unit at Leinster House. The way they never voice dissonance or dissent is as unhealthy as Mr Adams's longevity as party president.
The day we hear a Sinn Féin TD or senator speak in public disagreement with party colleagues will be the day we know some real change has happened.
There is a pattern here which gives political succour to Sinn Féin. A disquieting controversy arises, posing questions which would rock any of the other political parties.
How would Labour fare if their leader was taken in for questioning about the disappearance and murder of the widowed mother of 10 children? Would Fianna Fáil manage their way handily through serious questions about their management of sex abuse allegations? How would Fine Gael do if one of their key backers was convicted of tax cheating - and they still lauded that backer?
The pattern has been that Sinn Féin fall back briefly in the polls - and then recover. That pattern may not hold as an election looms near and real questions hang over Sinn Féin.