Monday 24 September 2018

It's hard to please both southern voters and the IRA

Mary Lou McDonald has a tough time while she rides two such incompatible horses

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald
Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards

Last week, the Belfast Newsletter had a major interview with Mary Lou McDonald. It can't have been easy, for she is simultaneously riding two horses of uncertain temperaments, either of which might bolt at any moment.

One is the southern electorate, which wants competence and modernity and insofar as it cares, wishes Northern Ireland once again had a devolved administration. The other is the informal strategic committee of angry, hardline IRA veterans that direct the republican movement from the Felons Club in West Belfast while rewriting the past.

The Newsletter isn't just unionist and fiercely critical of political violence, it is tough-minded and probing. "In many ways," wrote its political editor Sam McBride, "Mary Lou McDonald seems to be a break with Sinn Fein's past - female, middle class, and with no background in the IRA."

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