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Once Bitten



Anthony McIntyre • 9 October 2006

The RUC has never been disbanded. As the British police force in Ireland it has been rebranded as the PSNI courtesy of Patten. Sinn Fein always chanted disband, not rebrand the RUC. Now the party is writing the mood music to suggest that it is on the cusp of supporting the same body of men and women its leaders ordered killed because it was part of the 'British war machine.' Many republicans were killed, tortured and framed by that body as it strove to achieve what exists today, the emasculation of the IRA and longevity of both the Northern state and partition. Yet the twain shall eventually meet, although not on any ground vaguely resembling the endpoint of the armed struggle promised by Sinn Fein leaders.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, the nationalist politician, Gerry Kelly, eye firmly on the top securocrat job in the North, said if sufficient conditions were in place it would be weeks rather than months until the special Sinn Fein ard fheis on policing would be called. Most commentators anticipate that the conference will be the occasion to rubberstamp the party leadership's position on policing.

Despite a few deep breaths drawn in anticipation of the moment having finally arrived, Kelly's position is hardly new. He is simply keeping the beat with the mood music. The substance of his preconditions is that devolved powers of policing and justice arrive in the partitioned state. It is a mere repetition of what he stated at the Sinn Fein ard fheis earlier this year: 'Sinn Féin has been pressing for this first step for a considerable time.'

Although the leadership have been pleading with the British for understanding and flexibility in case any sudden movement jolts the grassroots out of their slumber, the rank and file have rolled over so often that few seriously expect a rebellion from that quarter. 70% of them at the last ard fheis endorsed the leadership's position on policing. When that policy position becomes a strategic fait accompli, the bulk of the remaining 30% will follow. And as long as key leaders, who might otherwise raise objections, are provided with the means to buy holiday homes in Portugal or Turkey - the new Costa Del Provo spots - there will be no rallying point for those Provisionals opposed to Sinn Fein becoming the Peelers Party.

Whenever it comes, once the decision is taken, the party drones will be sent out to paint over the 'RUC/PSNI' graffiti they had previously sprayed the walls with. Up will go murals of Hugh 'Che' Orde, the latest hero of the peace process 'courageously and imaginatively' working to create Irish unity by 2016.

Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein's spokesperson on policing and justice, has already met with the PSNI, a liaison which caused little in the way of internal rumblings. Such meetings have been taking place for some time, for the most part at a lower level, although Gerry Adams did meet Hugh Orde in Downing Street.

The publicising by Sinn Fein of the Kelly meeting was to maintain the public appearance of a party working assiduously to become fully respectable. At the same time it was a holding tactic. It fits in to a wider strategy aimed at winning from Dublin and London the latitude to go into government prior to the special ard fheis on policing which was reportedly promised to the US administration for last month.

It is part of the Sinn Fein game plan to play square balls and hope that the spectators, fearful of being accused of being spoilers, will view it as moving forward. Sinn Fein wants to show the administrations its good intent, while at the same time portraying itself as not yet able to complete the routine completely because of problems of internal management. Ideally it would like to go into government and then use the policing issue to fuel the 'battle a day' scenario predicted by Gerry Adams. Just as it eroded the will of the UUP to stick to its 'guns before government' position leading to the downfall of Trimble, the party now wants to subvert the DUP position of 'policing before power.'

With few cheerleaders chanting for such a sequence the party, unless London and Dublin between them devise a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, faces being strategically marooned. Sinn Fein's position is not nearly as strong as it was prior to the Northern Bank robbery and it can ill afford to be beached on the rock of its own perceived intransigence. With nowhere else to go the party can with relative ease be simultaneously shoehorned into both government and policing.

Nevertheless, while the governments have it in their power to bring the peace process to a successful conclusion and save the country further tedium and valuable political time wastage, it is not beyond the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin to be the one turkey to vote for Christmas and argue the Sinn Fein position of power before policing. The peace process is like original sin. Once bitten, twice bitten. If successful, the DFA will certainly hobble the next Taoiseach who will be forced to carry it albatross like, around his neck, in expiation for the sins of others.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

16 October 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Friday the 13th — The Most Terrifying Deal Ever Done!
Tom Luby

Black Friday
Anthony McIntyre

When No Means Yes
Dr John Coulter

Blowin' In The Wind
John Kennedy

Time to Conclude NI Process
David Adams

Once Bitten
Anthony McIntyre

Dysfunctional Family Values
Mick Hall

Racism: The Social Uniter?
Dr John Coulter

Nobody Home
John Kennedy

'The Revolution is the People'
Jane Horgan-Jones

10 October 2006

Hail The Messiah
Anthony McIntyre

HET: History of Whitewash Continues
Martin Galvin

To Deal or Not
Martin Ingram

One Small Step for Paisley, One Giant Step for Ireland?
Dr John Coulter

The Haunting
John Kennedy

Subversion of an Irish Peace Plan
Brian Wardlow

Working Class Hero
Mick Hall

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 15 - 22
Michael Gillespie

John Kennedy

Racism: The Social Cancer
Dr John Coulter

Forced Out
Anthony McIntyre

The Letters Page Has Been Updated.



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