Mairia Cahill: Sinn Fein's hot air as Stormont train goes off the rails
The Stormont ‘crisis’ is just another case of Sinn Fein and its counterparts failing to engage in mature politics, says Mairia Cahill
Published 13/09/2015 | 02:30
There was a brilliant remark by Gerry Adams on BBC's Good Morning Ulster on Friday morning when he likened the political manoeuvring in the Northern Ireland process on Thursday to something out of "Lanigan's Ball - He stepped out, she stepped in again". And that's exactly how it was.
The whole sense of "crisis" fizzled out like a damp squib, once people realised that it's back to listening to the dreaded endless coverage of "talks". To use that worn-out line, the reality is that NI's version of talks rarely deliver much, but is used as a ploy to buy more time, to bandage up any bad feeling, and to keep the process ongoing, until it lurches to the next crisis. Salaries are still paid to those who are tasked to deliver, and the real people who suffer are those on the ground, most notably victims, who still live in hope that justice will be delivered someday. At some stage, those victims need to face the reality that justice in a court of law is never going to be delivered. If anyone wants any evidence of IRA or Loyalist continued action through convictions in a court of law, they'll be waiting a long time. The documented evidence points in the other direction. The majority of murders as a result of the conflict have actually been unsolved - that doesn't mean they were not committed. People are still dead. Including Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan.
History tells us if there was IRA involvement, it's unlikely anyone will be held to account - people will be too afraid to give evidence, because that's always the way. If there was no IRA involvement in Kevin McGuigan's murder as Sinn Fein say - (at odds with the Secretary of State, the Chief Constable, the Taoiseach and most other people out there), then there will be no impediment to a court case with people in the dock. That is looking increasingly unlikely at present, despite 17 arrests.
Where Sinn Fein got it wrong, was to place the entire blame for failure, and the near collapse of the institutions on everyone else but themselves. Gerry Adams on Thursday morning blamed Mike Nesbitt for pulling the Ulster Unionist Party out of the executive and triggering Friday's events.
Memo to Adams: While there may well be posturing for position within the Unionist community, Nesbitt wasn't a member of an illegal organisation. His party do not have a shadow army. He has no connection with people accused of being associated with a recent murder. This crisis was triggered when Sinn Fein refused to even countenance the possibility of IRA involvement, and went into attack and denial mode.
First to feel the wrath of Sinn Fein was Micheal Martin, then Joan Burton and Frances Fitzgerald, then all of the southern parties were accused of playing politics, followed by the parties in the north. Everyone else was labelled "cynical opportunists".
The absolute arrogance of the SF position left the other parties with little choice when facing their own electorate. Had it not been for Nesbitt's move, Sinn Fein would likely have got off the hook again.
Up stepped Mary Lou McDonald on Sean O'Rourke on Friday, with the line "This is what we do. We do democracy, we do politics." Forgive me for rolling my eyes.
Sinn Fein do not operate within the boundaries that other political parties do - they can't take criticism, they attack anyone who raises legitimate questions about their actions, they don't do dissent - and they will never take responsibility.
It's a timely reminder to any of the southern parties considering coalition options with Sinn Fein in advance of the oncoming election. Join at the hip, at your peril. Do so, and transform a once relatively stable Dail into an institution plunged into uncertainty and instability should Sinn Fein ever get into the driving seat of power.
The Northern Irish so-called peace process is a train driven off the tracks time and again, with lots of hiss and steam and hot air, before it grinds to a halt - until some senior passengers jump on board from another jurisdiction and the "I think we can" public mantra kicks in, fuelling the lie that the train is moving again, slowly chugging up hill. It never quite reaches its destination.
The Unionists, used to sitting in the first-class carriage for decades, had to adjust to people it never wanted as passengers in the first place, while republicans jumped on board with glee, reluctant to leave their extra baggage behind.
No responsibility was taken by Sinn Fein any time it derailed, despite almost always being the cause. The result? Thousands of people who had voted for the Good Friday Agreement, but whose engagement and hope has withered year after year, leaving the most disaffected completely disengaged and uninterested in the political process.
This is what the Dail has to look forward to: A poisoning of politics. A complete immaturity from Sinn Fein to finally face the reality that to continue a link with an organisation accused of criminality is not only a hindrance to its own growth, but a complete abuse of its own mandate.
Sinn Fein votes rose dramatically in the years after the IRA had publicly announced an end to armed action. People voted for peace, not war. So the next time Sinn Fein accuses everyone else of not respecting their mandate, they would do well to respect their own.
Northern Ireland doesn't need Band-Aid politics. It needs dissolution of the present system of government and political maturity from all of those involved. A "weighted majority" voluntary coalition is the most likely remedy to the difficulties in the North, where both Unionist and Nationalist voters can re-engage with politics, and take ownership of their own process. Until that happens, we can expect more of the same.