Hyper-Orwellian doublethink of Sinn Féin and the IRA being exposed for what it is
Several years ago, a member of the Sinn Féin inner circle took part in a series of discussions with a group of Presbyterian clergy. These were very serious people who liked clarity and straight answers.
The discussions ended when the Presbyterians, using polite language, told the Sinn Féiner that they did not believe what he had told them. In other words, he was lying. True, but not quite so simple.
When we think about Sinn Féin and the IRA, some of us call to mind the term 'doublethink', invented by George Orwell. Doublethink means holding two directly contradictory opinions and passionately believing both of them.
In the 45 years since the foundation of the Provisional IRA, doublethink has existed in every part of the Sinn Féin-IRA spectrum, from the highest level down to the humblest voter. It takes a form not so much Orwellian as hyper-Orwellian. It has affected all the brave efforts to find a solution to the woes of Northern Ireland. It has even crept into the various agreements achieved at enormous cost in manpower and brainpower, and internationally recognised.
No wonder that in their reaction to the current revelations Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have resorted to bluster, fudge and contradictory statements, while denying facts which are clear and irrefutable.
We now know for certain what we always suspected. The IRA did not honour their pledge to put all their armaments "beyond use". They still have secret caches of guns and explosives.
Neither did they honour their pledge to work for reconciliation. In that, they resemble closely their opponents on the extreme unionist side. The Good Friday Agreement sought to bring the two sides together. It has failed. Neither seems to know the meaning of the word 'compromise'.
We also know that a slimmed-down 'army council' still exists. For what purpose? In the first place, of course, to act as overseer of the IRA and Sinn Féin, albeit using non-violent means, as confirmed by the Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers.
But their true intentions are impossible to conceal. First, to maintain their control over the Northern Catholic communities. Secondly, to build support in the Republic with a view to gaining a place in government and making it appear that their presence in administrations North and South has brought about some sort of united Ireland.
Obviously, both of these are little to the taste of the Irish and British governments or to the well-intentioned persons, ranging from the Presbyterian ministers to Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, who have worked so hard for peace.
However, even the best share part of the blame for the dreadful current background.
The border 'twilight zone' has reverted to forms of lawlessness familiar from the worst periods of the Troubles. The IRA and their offshoots engage in diesel laundering (which pollutes water supplies), cigarette smuggling and murders.
One of the chief reasons for this state of affairs is under-manning in the police forces on both sides. We shall see if the long-needed measures to modernise the Garda Síochána, lately announced, have any tangible impact on the 'twilight zone'.
Evidently under-manning in the Police Service of Northern Ireland has had ill-effects far away from the border. After every controversial Orange parade we hear that a large number of police, typically 20 or more, have been injured, but few reports of casualties among the rioters.
So, far from communities coming together, the building of 'peace walls' has continued to such an extent that they have seriously hampered communications and made it harder for Catholics and Protestants to know one another.
Stormont had to close down in the wake of the dispute about welfare cuts. That is outrageous. Whether or not you approve of welfare cuts (I, for one, do not) they are a matter for the British government and nothing to do with Stormont.
Now, Peter Robinson and his party have returned to their offices. The disclosures about the survival of the IRA and the army council have given the First Minister a strong hand. How will he play it, and how will Sinn Féin react?
Mr Robinson has said that the parties have only a "couple of weeks" to conclude an agreement. Within that narrow timescale, he presumably wants Sinn Féin to admit the continued existence of the IRA and outline methods by which the dissolution of the army council can be confirmed.
That is a reasonable demand. It puts it up to Sinn Féin to try to verify their claim that the IRA (including, by definition, the army council) left the scene many years ago. But if they cannot do that, how can they admit that they never intended to fulfil the pledge of dissolution and that they have been lying about it ever since? Or admit, in particular to the citizens of the Republic, that their grotesque boast about struggling for peace for 30 years is another lie?
If the parties do not agree, the British government will have little option but to reimpose direct rule - an admission that their policies (and ours) have failed once again.
But Sinn Féin (notwithstanding their political advances) and the IRA have failed far more dismally.
And one reason is that, through 30 years of violence followed by the era of lies and doublethink, they have held on to exactly the same leadership.
Adams and McGuinness have grown old, but learned little.
If the IRA really do leave the scene at long last, perhaps they should take Messrs Adams and McGuinness with them.