Let's get a few things clear on Sinn Féin and the price of constructive ambiguity
Published 04/11/2015 | 02:30
Every time a skeleton (sometimes literally) falls out of the Sinn Féin-IRA cupboard and they are challenged to reveal what they know about a particular murder, rape, robbery, or smuggling racket, their first lines of defence are to flatly deny any involvement by their members; to ridicule the suggestion that they have a case to answer; or to attribute base political motives to those who demand answers.
They also encourage everyone to bring any information they have to the police but, like the busload of Sinn Féin members and supporters who witnessed the murder of Robert McCartney, people know how to handle this admonition - by keeping their mouths shut, for the very good reason that they know the consequences for 'touts' who break the code of omerta.
A mix of these defensive routines has been employed in countless cases, including the killing of Det Garda Jerry McCabe in Adare and more recent events, such as the murders of McCartney, Joseph Rafferty, Paul Quinn and Kevin McGuigan; the kangaroo courts set up to deal with the rape and sexual abuse of Mairia Cahill and Paudie McGahon; the Northern Bank robbery; and the criminal activity by 'republicans' along the Border.
When the probing persists and it looks like these diversionary tactics may not be sufficient to contain the damage to Sinn Féin's political ambitions, they resort to the ultimate line of defence, the need to "protect the peace process".
Citing the need to "protect the peace process" has been used as a get-out-of-jail card - literally, in many cases - by Sinn Féin ever since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.
The most recent deployment of this "don't hit me while I have the peace process in my arms" tactic was in response to the hue and cry over the PSNI and garda reports that the IRA army council is still in place and retains arms, continues to control nationalist areas through intimidation and maintains an "overarching" role in directing the whole republican movement - though not in the Republic, as Gerry Adams reassured us.
Mr Adams simply rubbished the two police reports and dismissed the questioning of Sinn Féin about these revelations as "only happening because there is an election".
Also, several party members scoffed at the very idea of the army council having any influence on Sinn Féin policy. But when these threadbare rebuttals failed to alleviate widespread concern about the implications of these reports, we were warned to back off as there were crucial talks under way at Stormont which, if they failed, could set back the peace process.
After we have tolerated amnesties, letters of comfort to 'on-the-runs' and a blind eye turned to bank robberies, brutal killings and criminality for nearly 18 years, Sinn Féin now demand our continued forbearance with their strategy of "the ballot box in one hand and the Armalite in the other".
While the Armalite is no longer displayed openly, they still retain the pike in the thatch, as it was expressed in another era. The kangaroo courts held long after the signing of the good Friday Agreement revealed what the PSNI has confirmed, that the army council retains 'nutting' capacity and intent to deal with 'legacy issues' if needed.
The unspoken message from Sinn Féin when they counsel caution in probing these matters, in order not to jeopardise the peace process, is that if we do insist on the truth, the people who are exposed may revert to the bomb and the bullet.
Another unspoken part of the deal with 'active service' members of the republican movement is that they will ultimately be honoured and remembered for generations to come for their heroic contribution to Irish freedom.
If anyone doubts that this is the intention of Sinn Féin, consider, just for example, that in 2013, on the 20th anniversary of a bomb which killed nine innocent shoppers in a fish shop on the Shankill Road, a plaque was unveiled in the Ardoyne to honour the IRA bomber Thomas Begley.
MLA Gerry Kelly supported the erection of the commemorative plaque on the grounds that Begley, who died in the explosion, was himself a victim.
There is more of this to come, much more, particularly if Sinn Féin manage to get into government in the Republic. They will demand our continued tolerance of the 'constructive ambiguity' that requires we turn a blind eye to anything that they say might jeopardise the peace process, a journey that for them will not end until such time as history is rewritten and the atrocities of the IRA are represented by the government of this Republic as a noble chapter in the fight for Irish freedom. Watch how Sinn Féin advances this narrative in the forthcoming 1916 commemorations.
We are told that the IRA has "left the stage". What a neat example of constructive ambiguity. In addition to the need, once and for all, to decommission arms and disband the IRA, it is high time to decommission and disband the licence to resort to constructive ambiguity, especially its cynical deployment "to protect the peace process". Constructive ambiguity, whatever its justification in securing the Good Friday Agreement, has long since passed its 'use by' date and has morphed into a corrosive subterfuge that corrupts political life, undermines the system of justice and destroys communities north and south of the Border. Constructive ambiguity now poses more dangers to a lasting peace and the creation of a genuine republic than the unambiguous truth.
Eddie Molloy is a management consultant and a republican