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SF must disavow its hooded past if it wants to win trust

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'If you live in a world of walls, you can always make a case they need to be guarded by men with guns. This was something Sinn Féin had been doing for decades.' Stock picture

'If you live in a world of walls, you can always make a case they need to be guarded by men with guns. This was something Sinn Féin had been doing for decades.' Stock picture

'If you live in a world of walls, you can always make a case they need to be guarded by men with guns. This was something Sinn Féin had been doing for decades.' Stock picture

If you live in a world of walls, you can always make a case they need to be guarded by men with guns. This was something Sinn Féin had been doing for decades.

But since the Good Friday Agreement, all army councils and their proxies were supposed to have gone away, you know.

What prompted Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to confirm a five-year-old PSNI report claiming the IRA maintains an overarching command structure overseeing Sinn Féin is not clear.

But what is clear, is that Sinn Féin and leader Mary Lou McDonald excel in getting their message across. The party is unrivalled in making sure it is both heard and understood. This being the case, why has it been so slow to decommission claims it is run by a cabal of quasi-military strategists?

Bitter exchanges like the ones witnessed between Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Ms McDonald in Leinster House are likely to be a feature of the 33rd Dáil until her party disavows its hooded past.

Exactly such a challenge was put to Ms McDonald yesterday.

"Why doesn't McDonald disband the Army Council and the PIRA - or if she cannot, repudiate them and sever all links and do so publicly and unequivocally?" asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Is this so much to demand of someone putting herself forward as taoiseach?

Ms McDonald may counter that the PSNI also concluded: "We judge this strategy has a wholly political focus and that the Provisional Army Council and PIRA were committed to the peace process." Nonetheless, a fully democratic party should regard any association - oblique or overt - with militarism, as anathema. It will be haunted forever with what Thomas Jefferson described as "the sanguinary hue" until it steps away from the shadows.

The party insists all such associations are a contrivance, to undermine its mandate.

Yet when they are made by the Garda Commissioner, they must be taken seriously.

If Sinn Féin is tired of being marched up and down the same narrow strip arguing back and forth on the subject of alleged dubious associations, why not put an end to it?

Just as one cannot be a bit pregnant, one can't be a bit of a democrat.

There are two types of politician, insiders and outsiders. The choice is that simple.

This week Ms McDonald won more votes than any other party leader when her name went before the Dáil. If her party is serious about playing a role in government, then it must be able to convince possible coalition partners of its credentials.

Not a big ask in the context of taking charge of a country. It has two choices. It can continue to claim it is being victimised and persecuted, or it can remove any lingering doubt. Easily the best way to set aside anxieties about awkward skeletons falling out of the cupboard is to lay them to rest.

Irish Independent