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Editorial: Morally dead SF unfit for power


Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams


Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams

The existential question we and Sinn Fein have to answer after last week is a simple one. Can it really be safe to hand the keys of power to a party which is in such disarray over its capacity to handle the issue of child abuse amongst its own members and associates? Amidst the old Fianna Fail-style revivalism of Sinn Fein's Derry Ard Fheis, their new 'respectability' was epitomised by the declaration by ICTU President John Douglas that he was looking forwards to working with a 'progressive' party like Sinn Fein north and south of the border.

In fairness to Mr Douglas, his view is not uncommon. Increasingly, we are told the time has now come to take a 'pragmatic' approach to Sinn Fein. Such a view is informed by the uniquely Irish misapprehension that pragmatism is some kind of virtue. Sometimes it may be. But, more often than not, particularly in Ireland, pragmatism is the child of cowardice and indolence. Pragmatism and the love of the politics of the possible have held up reform of every sort from the decriminalisation of homosexuality to divorce in Ireland. The pragmatism of social partnership rotted Irish governance from the head down, while the same ideology stayed the hand of the self-interested Ahern administration from moving earlier to save the Celtic Tiger. Then, when that child of pragmatism collapsed, we were told the only response to this was the pragmatism of austerity.

The great apogee of pragmatic politics was the peace process. When this began with the Hume-Adams talks, this paper warned that Irish democracy was engaged in an act of appeasement which could yet evolve into a Trojan horse that would fatally corrupt the state. Our concern that short-term gain would lead to long-term rot has been fully borne out. Back when Hume-Adams began talks, the SDLP were the dominant nationalist party and Sinn Fein were the marginalised representatives of a militarily defeated IRA. Since then, SF have become the dominant nationalist party in the North. In the South, meanwhile, a party with unresolved issues over the IRA's sexual abuse - of children and adults - murder and fundraising is poised to become our largest party.

This prospect has been the conduit for burgeoning whispers from the advocates of pragmatism who tell us to cease the 'holding Sinn Fein to account' thing. Let it be, it is not losing Sinn Fein votes, is the line. There are, however, more important things in a functioning democracy than votes. The abuse of children and the murder of mothers cannot, no matter how nicely Martin McGuinness asks, be consigned to historical commissions.

If anything, it is, instead, time to become far less polite to the most morally decadent party in Irish political history. Built on IRA foundations of silence, murder, sectarian Catholicism, cunning, environmental vandalism, crime, amorality and the exiling of dissenters and sex abusers alike, as a party they represent a far greater threat to the future political health of the Republic than the failed Fianna Fail experiment.

Truth can be inconvenient and appeasement is often the ticket to an easier life. In the case of Sinn Fein, we say pragmatism be damned; we will speak the truth about Sinn Fein whether we are liked for it or not. It is called informing the electorate.

Quotes of the week

"If Europe leaves us in the crisis, we will flood it with migrants, and it will be even worse for Berlin if in that wave of millions of economic migrants, there will be some jihadists of the Islamic State too."

Panos Kammenos, Greek Defence Minister.

"Objectively speaking, to kill another human being is always sinful. The child is still a human being, you don't destroy a life in order to get back at a rapist."

Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin, on abortion, who also suggested homosexuality was no more God's plan than spina bifida or Down syndrome.

"It is possible to have deep and passionately held convictions without seeking to have those convictions imposed by the State on fellow citizens who do not share them. Respect for the freedom of others who differ from us is part and parcel of the faith we profess. For these and for other reasons, I will be voting 'Yes.'"

Fr Iggy O'Donovan, Limerick-based Augustinian priest.

"Israel is a country surrounded by enemies, but the enemies do not scare me. I am scared of our leadership, by the absence of vision and the loss of path, the loss of determination, by the hesitance and the impasse. And, above all, I am scared by the crisis of leadership, which is the worst there has ever been until today."

Meir Dagan, former head of Mossad, on Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

"We should want real women with real-life experience of the education system, the workplace, childbirth, childcare, managing money in tight situations and general life. Look at the recent issues in the news, such as abortion, symphysiotomy and difficulties in maternity hospitals. Women who have had children have a direct and well-informed view on these issues that other people who have never had children do not."

Tom Brabazon, FF councillor.

"Her career was ruined by this one guy asking for sex on this night. And realistically she would have been much better to have given him a blow job on that night. What I tell my trainees is that, if you are approached for sex, probably the safest thing to do in terms of your career is to comply with the request. The worst thing you can possibly do is complain to the supervising body because then . . . you can be sure that you will never be appointed to a major public hospital."

Dr Gabrielle McMullin, Sydney-based vascular surgeon.

"I have said to the Lord, 'You take care of me. But if it is your will that I die or something happens to me, I ask you only one favour: that it doesn't hurt, because I am a real wimp when it comes to physical pain.'"

Pope Francis.

"When I discovered my son, Michael, was gay, I was devastated. I cried for weeks. The hopes and dreams I had for my son, were shattered. I felt guilty, almost as if I were to blame for my son being gay."

Senator Eamonn Coghlan, former champion athlete.

"I believe we were together not only to have our beautiful children but to learn how to love . . . for the next time round, the right way."

Robin Wright, House of Cards actress, on her marriage to actor Sean Penn.

"What we can't do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices if those lifestyle choices are not conducive to the kind of full participation in Australian society that everyone should have."

Tony Abbot, Australian PM, on withdrawing funding for remote Aborigine settlements.

"It was just a typical Saturday night out with the lads."

Oliver Shovlin who told Letterkenny Court he drank 'near on 15 pints' of Guinness before being arrested.

"I'm off to the job centre."

Jeremy Clarkson, BBC presenter, on being suspended for allegedly hitting his Top Gear producer.

Sunday Independent