Thursday 13 December 2018

Micheal Martin not fooled by new false face of Sinn Fein

Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

Micheal Martin has a working moral compass and always acts with good authority: he tells the truth, about women's issues like abortion and cervical cancer, about Brexit, and the dangers of a deal with Sinn Fein.

None of this matters to the compliant confetti pundits infatuated either by the glitter of Leo Varadkar or the smiling mask of Mary Lou McDonald.

Irish Times pundits, mostly the male ones, prefer to Photoshop the Taoiseach than point out his many political warts.

These blemishes include: tardiness in coming out on abortion, bluster on the Brexit backstop, caginess on cervical cancer and mutual grooming with Sinn Fein

RTE too follows the Irish Times binary policy of being nice to Fine Gael and Sinn Fein and not so nice to Fianna Fail. Prime Time last Tuesday was a model of the media refusal to raise the awkward questions Martin has been asking about the Brexit backstop.

Brian Hayes loyally backed the Fine Gael line. Noel Whelan had no such excuse when he echoed everything Hayes said.

But Whelan went a lot further in looking after Varadkar, even hinting that it would be better for Varadkar to bust up Brexit talks now rather than later.

He repeated that wild line in The Irish Times last Friday, apparently not aware that his Armageddon call came across as follows:

"Better for Varadkar to go mad now and protect himself from Martin's predictions of a bad backstop from coming true."

Whelan is wrong to think we can bully the British into staying in a customs union without a backlash.

The British stood alone against Hitler. They won't bow before Barnier and the EU - who in my view are using us as pawns against our nearest neighbour.

Last Thursday in the Irish Independent, Dan O'Brien warned that Varadkar's macho stance on the Border was a high-risk gamble.

But then Varadkar is a bit of a gambler. As we saw when he allowed Brexit to become midwife to the impending birth of a Rosemary's Baby in the form of an SF-FG deal.

For six months I had predicted such a deal while most pundits pronounced me mad as a March hare.

Even now they still try to beat a begrudging retreat, predicting a Fianna Fail faction will remove Martin to do a deal with Sinn Fein.

That's wishful thinking for three reasons. First, Fianna Fail's rank and file members are not fools. Last year they voted overwhelmingly in support of Martin's hard line against a Sinn Fein deal.

Second, if a Fianna Fail faction tried to remove Martin it would split the party and finish it as a fighting force forever.

Finally, who else on the Fianna Fail front bench could fill Martin's shoes, could handle Varadkar and McDonald with the same forensic pugnacious passion he brings to the battle?

The most schizophrenic pundits are those light blueshirts who know Varadkar is far more likely to do a deal with Sinn Fein than Martin - but can't face the fact that Cosgrave's Fine Gael is selling out.

So they looked away from Varadkar's sucky response to McDonald's remark that Monica Barnes did not seem a typical Fine Gaeler.

"Monica Barnes often did not come across as a typical Fine Gaeler, perhaps in the same way that Deputy McDonald doesn't always come across as a typical Sinn Feiner."

Michael Healy-Rae was delighted by all the matchmaking."Is this an olive branch?" he asked. "A courtship? It's nice."

Not so nice for middle- aged Middle Ireland which still remembers the blood and bones and has sharp eyes for the shadowy trio in Belfast pulling string.

Martin is not fooled by McDonald's smiling mask. He keeps pointing to the supreme barrier - Sinn Fein's horror hinterland of IRA atrocities.

Conversely, he refuses to waffle about the alleged "economic differences" cited by Fine Gael ministers and their factional supporters in Fianna Fail.

Last week Martin's policy of focusing on the moral and political divide, and not an alleged economic divide, was vindicated when McDonald met the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and finished off the waffle about major "economic differences".

She assured the Dublin Chamber that Sinn Fein will not tax people into "oblivion", that foreign direct investment was fine and that Sinn Fein had a "vested interest in commercial and business success".

In sum, there is nothing McDonald will not do or say in pursuit of power. Sinn Fein is gagging to get into government and wait to pull the plug on a populist issue while it works up serious sectarian trouble in Northern Ireland.

Reporting her remarks, Fiach Kelly tacked on the usual Irish Times caveat. "Other parties, including Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, have repeatedly said Sinn Fein's economic policies make them unsuitable coalition partners."

That is only half true. Varadkar has left the door on the latch for Sinn Fein. But in speech after speech over the past four years, Martin has locked and bolted the door on a Sinn Fein deal.

Last year, on April 23, 2017, at Arbour Hill, Martin ruled out coalition, castigating the Provisional IRA firmly on moral grounds 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.''

Martin's hard line is backed by his party and by most of his front bench.

But Kelly would have been right to point out that some Fianna Fail secondary contributors miss the opportunity to follow their leader's policy of attacking Sinn Fein on anti-IRA grounds.

Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee seemed stumped a few weeks ago on TV3's Sunday Show when Lynn Boylan of Sinn Fein brazenly accused Martin of "damaging the peace process" by his stance on the Brexit talks, ie for not swallowing Varadkar's bluster about an alleged Brexit backstop.

Senator Clifford-Lee is not alone in missing an opportunity to ask pontificating Sinn Fein contributors to condemn the IRA for murdering Garda Jerry McCabe, Tom Oliver and Paul Quinn.

Fianna Fail contributors should pose the following questions to all Sinn Fein spokespersons until they get a yes or no, and refuse to be deflected by demands to get down to the "real issues".

Because Sinn Fein and the IRA are the real issues and their contributors should be challenged to a yes or no as follows:

"Deputy McDonald, your smiley leader, was a mature 27 years of age in June 1996 when an IRA gang murdered Det Garda Jerry McCabe. She joined Sinn Fein in 1998, two years after Jerry McCabe's murder, but she has never publicly condemned the IRA for committing it. Condemn the IRA now and then I'll move onto Brexit."

Since Fine Gael won't raise the IRA issue, Fianna Fail should do so. Start by reading Lost Lives, and help educate under-35 voters being taken for a ride on the Sinn Fein tiger.

Because, unlike the famous limerick, these young voters are likely to come back from the ride with the tiger inside and the smile on the face of the lady.

Sunday Independent

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