Thursday 13 December 2018

Martin is the only leader who can be trusted on Sinn Fein

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Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

For the past six months I regularly predicted a Fine Gael-Sinn Fein coalition - and will prove that claim further on.

Political correspondents laughed at the notion. They are not laughing now. But they are still blind.

Like Fine Gael itself, the consensus of correspondents is so heavily invested in the glitter of Leo Varadkar they cannot tell gilt from gold.

These confetti pundits seem blind to the fact that Leo Varadkar is blustering about Brexit, slow to speak out about abortion and can't be trusted on Sinn Fein.

Conversely, they can't see that Micheal Martin has been prudent on Brexit, fast to speak out on abortion and is the scourge of Sinn Fein.

But thanks to Jim Daly, Middle Ireland now knows the political pundits have sold it a pup and that FG has long been flying kites for a deal with Sinn Fein.

Given that Senator Billy Fox of Fine Gael was murdered by a gang of IRA sectarians, Daly said three things that defy belief.

He has no "ideological" objection to Sinn Fein being part of a government. He says Sinn Fein's mandate is as "legitimate" as any other party's. He says you must have "a valid reason for not doing business with Sinn Fein".

Leo Varadkar did not slap Daly down. He did not refute Daly's three points in political and moral terms, as Micheal Martin has done over the past four years.

Martin's answers all come down to his political and moral loathing of the IRA which he believes still controls Sinn Fein strategy.

As far back as October 19, 2014, at Bodenstown, Martin condemned Sinn Fein leaders who "crush and marginalise" anyone who breaks silence.

Last year, on April 23, 2017, at Arbour Hill, Martin ruled out coalition, castigating the Provisional IRA as follows:

"At the core of their narrative lies the claim that the hidden leadership of the Provisional movement retained the right to kill and maim in our name in spite of constant rejection.''

On July 23, 2017, in Ennis, he said Fianna Fail should always challenge Sinn Fein's "cynicism and hypocrisies".

On September 18, 2017, in Longford, he ruled out coalition, citing how Gerry Adams and Eoin O Broin TD said they were opposed to prosecutions of those responsible for the 1991 murder of Tom Oliver.

Martin always stresses the immorality of the IRA campaign as the insurmountable reason for refusing to go into Government with Sinn Fein.

Conversely, Varadkar and Daly stress easily negotiated economic "policy" differences that could be disposed of in a week's talks.

Or even quicker given that Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald are gagging to go into government with Fine Gael, who they correctly see as a soft touch.

Last week in QUB, referring to Northern Ireland, Adams saw "a certain irony that the Fine Gael leader has a better position on Northern Ireland than the Fianna Fail leader".

"A better position" simply means a Sinn Fein position. Which is to keep picking at the scab of a sectarian society until it creates blood poisoning.

Let me now recap my long-term predictions of a future love-in between Fine Gael and Sinn Fein. It began with Varadkar's appointment of Simon Coveney as Minister for Foreign Affairs on June 14, 2017, and the ramping up of green rhetoric that followed.

Before that date, Arlene Foster had visited Roman Catholic schools, spoken a few words of Irish, and supported a soft Brexit.

But after June 14, Coveney, supported by Varadkar, using Brexit as cover, began the dog whistling which caused Sinn Fein to start wagging its tail at Fine Gael.

In my column of July 2, 2017 ('Why Coveney support for Sinn Fein on Irish is a bridge too far'), I totted the score on Coveney.

"Add up his attendance at the McGuinness funeral, his white paper on Irish unity, telling Sean O'Rourke he wanted to 'move on' from Sinn Fein's Provo past, the benign view Mary Lou McDonald holds of him."

Having done the tots I asked and answered a question: "What does it all amount to? Something close to the sanitising of Sinn Fein in some Fine Gael circles. To what end? No good end we can be sure."

In my column of August 6, 2017 ('Varadkar and Coveney are dancing too close to Adams'), I noted Sinn Fein's warm Dail response to Leo Varadkar's green rhetoric on Brexit.

"By last Thursday, Adams was loving up Varadkar and Coveney so much I feared he was in danger of premature ejaculation at the prospect of a coalition with Fine Gael."

Again on November 26, 2017 ('The Taoiseach must put his country above his party'), I noted the following flag-waver.

Simon Coveney told an Oireachtas Committee on the GFA he wanted to see a united Ireland "in my political lifetime".

My column of October 8, 2017 ('Cosgrave cast a constant cold eye on the IRA enemy') noted that in Dail tributes to Liam Cosgrave, while Micheal Martin and Brendan Howlin singled out the Provisional IRA by name, Varadkar spared Sinn Fein's blushes by using the vague term "terrorism".

Brendan Howlin then became the first politician to point out a simple truth about a possible coalition: "I've heard Micheal Martin rule it out with more conviction than Leo Varadkar has."

On December 10, 2017 ('Taoiseach wins Brexit battle - but Sinn Fein benefits'), I wrote: "But I fear the Catholic Hibernianism of the new ultra-nationalist 'united Ireland' Fine Gael."

On December 17, 2017 ('Tubridy tries to have it both ways on Royal wedding'), I repeated my predictions.

"Leo Varadkar's green dog-whistling suggests he's laying the ground for a spring election followed by some kind of sweetheart deal with Sinn Fein."

I went on to point out the difference between Martin and Varadkar's verbal attacks on Sinn Fein as follows: "Martin shares De Valera's visceral suspicion of Sinn Fein with a depth of passion that Varadkar can fake but never feel."

On March 4 ('Brexit giving cover as Fine Gael and Sinn Fein make eyes'), I drew attention to a Newry meeting where Mary Lou McDonald made the following patronising remarks about Fine Gael.

"To be fair to them, so far they have heard that message and so far we have managed to keep them on that path: we have to sustain that into the future."

That will be no bother judging by Varadkar's limp response to Daly's chicken-livered willingness to work with the "able" Sinn Fein politicians he admires.

Why did the political pundits remain so blind to the belly-rubbing between Fine Gael and Sinn Fein?

First, they were too busy beating up the DUP in polemics nobody in Northern Ireland read.

Second, they were not paying attention to the "nods and becks and wreathed smiles" between Leo Varadkar and Sinn Fein during the daily doldrum exchanges in the Dail.

Third, they could not give up their tattered script of a FF-SF deal to which some still cling.

Finally, they don't grasp Martin's moral loathing of the IRA, and his De Valera-like determination not to let its pawns dictate to Fianna Fail. Time they woke up.

Sunday Independent

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