From tracksuited socialists to 'Tiocfaidh Armani'
It's amazing what a short bout of amnesia can do. It permeates your brain, fogging over everything, allowing you to criticise others while forgetting the past. Gerry Adams has it frequently. Maybe it's the naked trampolining. So when Padraig Mac Lochlainn made the following comments in the Dail about cigarette and fuel smuggling, you can forgive me for thinking that he was suffering from said condition.
"They are anti-peace process and clearly criminal. I wish to put it on the record and send out a clear signal from everyone in this House that those involved in these activities are a threat to all of us." He's clearly right of course - on this we agree; but everyone else around him missed a trick in not asking him whether the IRA were a threat to all of us when they involved themselves in criminal activities like dodgy diesel in South Armagh too.
We mustn't speak about that, of course. And we definitely shouldn't recall that Gerry Adams, when asked about a notorious IRA man and smuggler said this man was "not a criminal". Whatever you do, don't ask Mac Lochlainn and Adams what the difference is between then and now.
The IRA used to pride itself on its socialist tendencies, paying its "volunteers" £20 a week. Suddenly, in the late 1990s, there was a sniff of wealth around certain republicans. Battered old motors gave way to big flashy jeeps and holiday homes abroad, and tracksuits were discarded in favour of suits, which invariably led to the slogan "Tiocfaidh Armani" being uttered in resentment amongst certain quarters.
Some republicans, who had never worked a day in their lives, moved into bigger homes, or became businessmen, or directors of building companies. And everyone wondered where this newfound wealth had come from, and crucially, where it was being hidden. Everyone, that is, except certain government bodies, who, when asked, said the IRA had gone out of business.
Meanwhile, ordinary people got screwed over as public money was siphoned off through some community projects into republican coffers, as dodgy building left them with management fees and devalued properties and mortgages round their necks, and as their taxes, in some cases, went to pay for community positions that republicans "boxed off" for their own.
But ssssshhh … let's not talk about that.
In November, a BBC documentary exposed a major expenses scandal involving political parties at the Stormont Assembly. Take a bow, Sinn Fein, who sent a whopping £700,000 of public money into a research company, run by - wait for it - Sinn Fein. Nice work if you can get it. Only don't speak about the research that couldn't be produced when Research Services Ireland was asked to do so.
Sinn Fein, for its part, claimed there had been "no impropriety", and that other companies couldn't carry out the research it wanted because it was "too sensitive". So, we'll not go there.
Of course, the culture of cronyism by any political party is wrong. Tax evasion, corruption, and the fiddling of expenses also. It is particularly galling, though, when a political party which prides itself in pointing out other people's failings forgets that the republican movement was involved in some dodgy dealings too.
Sinn Fein get themselves all hot and bothered over Ansbacher accounts and brown envelopes, and allegations of corruption. Oh, and bankers. So, let's not mention the £26m from the Northern Bank robbery, eh? We'll forget what the Independent Monitoring Commission said about this particular bank heist in 2005.
"In our view, Sinn Fein must bear its share of responsibility for the incidents. Some of its senior members, who are also members of PIRA (Provisional IRA), were involved in sanctioning the series of robberies. Although we note Sinn Fein has said it is opposed to criminality of any kind, it appears at times to have its own definition of what constitutes a crime."
And, of course, don't remember that Gerry Adams denied that the IRA were even involved in the first place. But sure, he wasn't in the IRA either. Remember that.
Let's not mention allegations of IRA racketeering and, whatever you do; don't let counterfeit DVDs or cigarettes pollute your mind.
Definitely don't speak about the Algarve, and the properties bought up there with dodgy IRA coffers, or Eastern European shopping centres, or the pool halls and taxi depots and barber shops in Ireland used as a front to launder money.
Don't talk about the Mafia over your mocha latte, or the links they were alleged to have had with leading republicans involved in money-making enterprises. Forget the FARC and the offshore accounts and the provision of the proceeds from cocaine into those IRA accounts in exchange for "military" expertise.
For God's sake listen to Sinn Fein the next time they stand up to point out impropriety from whatever quarter, and don't allow yourself to think of anything they or the IRA have done themselves in the past. They don't, so why should you?
Whatever you do, don't ask where all of this money has gone now, how it is being drawn down, and who it is helping.
Let's all turn a blind eye to everything that Sinn Fein ever gave the IRA political cover to do. Because talk is cheap.