Thursday 19 July 2018

Willie O'Dea : Provo myths do not fool anybody but their own rank and file

Sinn Fein's only interest is in advancing its own position as a party, so it snipes from the sidelines, writes Willie O'Dea

Mythology: Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at this weekend’s SF Ard Fheis in Dublin. Photograph:Sam Boal /
Mythology: Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at this weekend’s SF Ard Fheis in Dublin. Photograph:Sam Boal /

Willie O'Dea

A few nights ago, as I was TV channel hopping, I came across an interesting Discovery TV show called Mythbusters. Presented by two hipster scientist/special effects experts, the programme exposes and debunks common urban legends.

As I settled in to watch the remainder of the episode, it occurred to me that not only was there scope for a political version of the show, but that there was a full series at least to be had in exposing the myriad of myths propagated by the Provos and Shinners about themselves.

These myths are unending. They have mythologised almost everything from their origins to their history, to their associations, their funding, structures, supposed invincibility, through to their relationship with authority and ultimately on to their mythical claims to have respect for individual freedoms.

Chief among them is the mega-myth that the Shinners are masters of negotiations and strategies. Where is the evidence for this?

It most certainly has not been on display over the past few weeks. Unlike most others, including the bulk of the Independents, when faced with the merest hint of difficult decisions and tough choices Adams and his acolytes could not run away fast enough.

So while others, including many who know that they will not be part of a government, opted to play a part and try to see a government formed, the great Shinner negotiators headed straight to the sidelines to rant and rave at those remaining in the arena.

So incongruous and illogical was their position that they ended up demanding that the two parties they claim to oppose most come together to form a government.

The sidelines - especially sidelines filled with cameras and microphones - are where the Shinners feel most comfortable and are most at home.

They cannot cope with not being the centre of attention. So rather than take their place in any talks or negotiations in proportion to their actual mandate, they opt to grand-stand instead.

When faced with tough choices on welfare reform in the North some months back, the Shinners voted en masse to hand back to the Tory government in Westminster the powers that had been hard won.

Consider the sheer hypocrisy and cynicism of this. The very people who claim that they alone are committed to the removal of London's influence on this island rush to hand powers back to London.

Rather than face some political opprobrium and criticism for making tough decisions and prioritising those most in need, Sinn Fein was happy - if not eager - to abandon absolutely everyone to the tender mercies of the Tories.

In the Sinn Fein world, no one's interests, not the poor, the dispossessed, the unemployed or the victims are ever allowed to come before the interests of the Sinn Fein high command and their treasured myths. While others are mere oppositionists, the Shinners go way beyond that. They not only oppose everything, they have a vested interest in maintaining and exacerbating the chaos and mayhem that they claim to oppose.

They see chaos, distrust and turmoil as good for business, so it is no wonder that they are not interested in resolution or progress.

The statistics from what is the closest thing to a Shinner fiefdom on this island, west Belfast, are terrifying.

The Shinners hold five out of the six Northern Ireland Assembly seats in a constituency where the child poverty rate of 43pc is the highest in these islands. It also has the highest drug offences rate in Northern Ireland, coupled with chronically low numbers getting to third-level education.

Despite the bulk of the local residents voting decade after decade for their self-proclaimed champions, their situation has still worsened, even when the Shinners they back hold ministerial office and wield executive power.

While most politicians, whether from the Left or the Right, see the holding of power as a means to improve the lot of those who vote for them, the Shinners see those who vote for them as merely the means by which they achieve office and advance their own mythology.

For Adams and the Provos, the mythology is more important than the reality. We saw it during the 1916 celebrations.

Rather than simply joining in with what were the nation's commemorations, they had to have their own tawdry little myth-making charades, most of which seemed unrelated to actual events of 1916 and were more about honouring a sinister organisation which tried to destroy this State.

President John F Kennedy said: "The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth: persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."

Sinn Fein's persistent mythology is not just the enemy of truth, it is the enemy of those it claims to defend and needs to be exposed as such.

Willie O'Dea is the Fianna Fail TD for Limerick City

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