shouldn't have been surprised at all, really.
After all this is the party that calls itself
"socialist republican", yet gave us
two ministers who privatised school building programmes
and closed hospitals with as much gusto and lack
of concern for the social consequences as Margaret
Thatcher shafting the coal miners of Yorkshire.
dear readers, how many of you let out a gasp of
horror when you heard, courtesy of Ian Paisley's
lips, that in order to slither back into power,
Sinn Fein had collaborated in ensuring the survival
of that symbol of class privilege, the Eleven
wasn't that long ago - was it? - that our dearly
beloved Minister of Education back in 2001, James
Martin Pacelli McGuinness, former IRA Chief of
Staff, Northern Commander and Chairman of the
Army Council, made a solemn pledge to scrap the
exam that he had himself failed. It would go,
he said, and end a system that condemned people
to low wages and poor housing before they'd even
grown pubic hair. His own life journey, from butcher
to government minister was evidence, he insisted,
of the deep flaw in the Eleven plus system.
we thought, a promise given by somebody who had
spent the years between the butcher's shop and
the ministerial suite, making life and death decisions
for other people, was something that would only
be given in the expectation that it would be honoured.
But apparently we were wrong about that, just
as we were wrong about nearly everything we thought
Sinn Fein stood for.
last Friday, it was, perhaps, the only hopeful
aspect of a Sinn Fein expedition into government
that otherwise had brought only disappointment
and the wholesale ditching of political principle.
While Barbara Brown obediently axed medical services
and outpatient departments to save money for the
British National Health Service and Minister McGuinness
implemented, with nary a sign of a single misgiving,
Tony Blair's neo-liberal economic agenda in the
classroom, at least there was still that pledge
to scrap the Eleven plus as evidence that Sinn
Fein believed in...... well, something.
even that has gone, with not as much as an apology
or a half-hearted effort to pretend that once
Sinn Fein bums are back on the leathered rear
seats of ministerial cars, they'd try to make
it right. No, the promise to bin the Eleven plus,
like everything else the republican movement once
stood for, had to be sacrificed so that the project
to respectabilise and habilitate Gerry Adams and
his colleagues continued on its ever upward and
is a lesson from the episode of the Eleven plus
at St Andrews last Friday and it is a simple one.
Sinn Fein believes in nothing, not a single blessed
thing. Political principles are merely commodities
to be traded for narrow, electoral gains and ideology
is a burdensome weight whose only value lies in
the freedom of movement that comes once it is
the search for power and the belief that everything
can be abandoned in order to secure it can adequately
explain the Adams-McGuinness phenomenon. There
is a salutory warning here for the faithful disciples
who have tolerated the U-turns and compromises
of their leaders in the expectation that once
power is attained it will be used to secure the
hallowed goal. Once their leaders attain power
they will do everything they can to hold on to
it because power, by its nature, is addictive
- and if that means the hallowed goal joins everything
else in the Sinn Fein bin, then so be it.
was another lesson from St Andrews on Friday the
13th and it was evident in the large contingent
of British and foreign media present for Tony
Blair's press conference. They weren't there to
hear about the latest twists and turn in our boring
and never-ending story but to quiz the British
premier about a call from his most senior General
for troops to quit Iraq.
that was happening, the Bush regime in America
was preparing its own retreat from Iraq, commissioning
a report from James Baker that will almost certainly
recommend some sort of military withdrawal from
the country. The truth is that the Iraqi insurgents
are about to succeed in expelling foreign invaders
from their soil. As, by contrast, Sinn Fein leaders
queued up at St Andrews to suck the PSNI truncheon,
as one wit put it, so as to get a share of governing
British Northern Ireland, the other truth is that
their insurgency has been well and truly defeated.