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Adams' past is not another country

BY the time polling day rolls around, most of us will be delighted to see the end of a campaign that seems to be going on forever. It is, nonetheless, the most important election this county has faced in recent times.

This election is not just about who forms a government, it is also about who forms the opposition. Constructive opposition and its legitimate right to be heard are vital in a democracy. If as an electorate we are serious about political reform, then thought must be given not only to who forms the next government, but to who forms the opposition.

While some commentators have dismissed the five leaders' debate as less significant than the debate between the leaders of the three main parties, I disagree.

Following that debate, the argument has raged, certainly among my friends, as to whether or not Gerry Adams' past is relevant to this election. Can the public really be expected to forget the image of the beret-topped president of Sinn Fein carrying the coffins of known IRA activists?

Adams played his part in brokering a deal on power-sharing in Northern Ireland. He worked hand in glove with Martin McGuinness, (who has stated that he was a member of the IRA), to see an end to violence; to see proper political process in Northern Ireland.

None of us likes the idea of what went before, but happen it did. Please don't insult us by trying to make out that crimes didn't happen.

The IRA denied any involvement in Garda Jerry McCabe's murder, yet senior members of Sinn Fein negotiated on behalf of those involved so that they would get early release under the Good Friday Agreement.

While there may be no concrete 'evidence' that the IRA was involved in the Northern Bank robbery of £26.5m in 2004, PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde confirmed that he was "confident that this crime was committed by the Provisional IRA".

But of course, if you mention any of these things then you're accused of attempting a political slur. Since when is making reference to facts a political slur? You might just as well say that any reference to Fianna Fail being in government during the economic meltdown is only a political slur.

Is it realistic to expect the leaders of other political parties, or indeed the voting public, to completely ignore Mr Adams' past when it is so intertwined with images of the IRA?

He speaks of a republic like he has a monopoly on republicanism. If there is one thing Kenny, Gilmore and Gormley have in common, it is a love for the Irish Republic, and its economic survival.

Europe has never been more crucial to the survival of our economy, yet Sinn Fein has consistently opposed our membership and participation in Europe. It campaigned against joining in 1972, and against the Single European Act, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon. This is the bit I can't figure out. We know Sinn Fein is against Europe yet it runs candidates in the European elections, and when its candidates succeed in getting elected they take up their seats and salaries. Explain that to me. It's okay to take a seat and get paid for being in the European Parliament but not okay to be part of the European Union. Of course, inconsistencies are nothing unusual for Gerry Adams. He wanted to be an MP in the North. He wanted to be a member of the Assembly in the North. Yet having been entrusted with these positions by the electorate, he abandoned ship and came south.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams claims that he wants to "put manners on all these other guys". This is the same guy who threw his arms around Enda Kenny for the photoshoot after the five-way debate on RTE last Monday. Given Enda Kenny's stated position on doing business with Sinn Fein, one can only assume Adams did it to get up Enda's nose. Very parliamentarian.

Mr Adams says he will sort out the financial difficulties we have. How will he do it?

Burn the bondholders, reject the EU/IMF €85bn loan and bridge the deficit in the short term by using money in the National Pensions Reserve Fund. When that money runs out, he expects to return to the bond markets to borrow money. Did I miss something here? Why would the bond markets lend us money if they were already burned by us? Where will Sinn Fein get the money to pay our guards and our nurses then? Where will Sinn Fein get the money to pay social welfare payments then? One-third of that budget is funded through borrowing. Perhaps Mr Adams could explain that one to us. But then consistency is not one of his strong points.

Let's have a look at Sinn Fein's tax policy. It says it will raise €4.5bn in taxes this year alone, by pushing the top marginal rate to above 62 per cent (including levies), and imposing a 1 per cent wealth tax on assets over €1m. Remember, that's an assessment of your total assets. The value of your home along with any land you have will be taken into account. That's a minimum of €10,000 per year. People in rural communities might have assets on paper but I doubt many have that kind of cash. Sinn Fein policies will absolutely devastate consumer spending and stifle any growth. A wealth tax will also undermine foreign direct investment, which supports 240,000 jobs in this country. Funny, I didn't hear Adams objecting to foreign investment when the IRA was fundraising in America. But then consistency is not one of his strong points.

The unrealistic nature of the economic policies pursued by Sinn Fein shows a lack of understanding of the current political crisis. But if it is serious about drawing a line under the events of the past, then it needs to take a serious look at the public face of the party.

Sunday Independent