The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Are We On The Verge Of A New Political Ice Age?

Anthony McIntyre • Belfast Telegraph, 12 March 2005

THIS year, 2005, was heralded as the centenary year for Sinn Fein, in which the emblematic phoenix would soar, triumphantly stewarding the party within the majestic spread of its wings.

However, that old Jack in the Box called 'events', that every so often leaps out to bloody political noses, has remained faithful to its potential for party-pooping.

No point in putting garlic around the political neck and shouting 'securocrat' at the event.

It remains disdainfully impervious while it drinks licentiously from the vein of credibility.

Already it has left Sinn Fein looking both haggard and anaemic. The party response? Nothing, apart from turning the other vein so it, too, may be drained.

In terms of public image, the spot on the pantheon that the phoenix had marked out as its own has been occupied by a vulture, picking on the carrion of dead deals and decomposing expectations. The magnificent architecture of Sinn Fein strategy, finessed with Le Corbusier-like precision, now lies scattered as debris.

Yet, like a disaster movie rewound, the entire edifice of party fortunes can be put back together again. The Good Friday Agreement may be in more trouble than Sinn Fein. The results of the recent Belfast Telegraph/BBC Newsnight poll hardly augur too poorly for the Adams outfit. Otherwise the largest winners would not have been the DUP, but the SDLP. The biggest losers have paradoxically been the Ulster Unionist Party.

DUP hegemony is growing deeper roots because the unionist electorate are eager to trust leaders who do not trust Sinn Fein.

Unfortunately, from the perspective of Sinn Fein's opponents, the party's growth is not dependent on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. So long as it is does not take the lion's share of the blame for obstructing that implementation, it can continue to progress, certainly in the North.

Giving the DUP more teeth than it already has, is inviting the theocrat-led party to take a larger bite of the blame. Here the poll is revealing. Most nationalists either claim to believe that the Provisional IRA did not rob the Northern Bank or have yet to be convinced that it did.

It would be informative to find out the exact correlation between this body and the swathe of nationalist opinion that expresses a preference for the IRA to disband.

This bloc is arguably the soft underbelly of the republican electorate. It is a bigger underwriter of the "no return to war" mode than any sanctions the governments might threaten to impose.

Unless the IRA returns to armed struggle there is no real indication that its continued existence, albeit with its sharper edges buffed down, will hinder the expansionism of Sinn Fein vis a vis the SDLP.

Wanting the organisation to go away, while pretending it does not rob banks, is the balm that eases voting for the army-council run party. With the undertaker business seriously short-changed by the IRA in recent years, few can be bothered to work up the energy needed to get angry at Sinn Fein when the IRA short-changes fat cat bankers.

Unionism, although it may not think it, actually needs the Good Friday Agreement to work more than Sinn Fein. Worked on terms that secure a peace solution, rather than endlessly feeding a peace process that underpins Sinn Fein expansionism, would give unionism a major victory over its republican nemesis.

Sinn Fein will, of course, endeavour to frustrate this. It can have it both ways with the Agreement.

An accord that allows the IRA to be smuggled into government means recurrent
crisis and an ongoing peace process but no settled peace.

Alternatively, with no agreement and the blame shifted on to unionists - always easier to do with the DUP than the UUP - the situation fuels Sinn Fein growth in the North, and allows the party to justify the continued existence of the IRA, with, of course, a peace process needed to secure its disbandment.

Party fortunes in the Republic, where its appeal to the electorate is not so firmly established, are more vulnerable to 'events.'

This explains Gerry Adams going to considerable lengths to put some distance, albeit illusory, between his party and his army. Hence the contrast between his presidential address at the Ard Fheis calling for the Robert McCartney case to be settled in accordance with due process and in open court, and the IRA's generous offer to shoot those involved.

If London and Dublin buy into the myth and return to creative ambiguity, as it appears they might, then the IRA will remain a significant player on the political landscape for some time to come.

Despite all the setbacks, it remains a valuable weapon in the Sinn Fein armoury. The party leadership wishes only to relinquish blame for the IRA, not control over it.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

6 April 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Criminality and Public Relations
Eamon Sweeney

Truth Better than Spin
Mick Hall

The Central Issue is Justice
Catherine McCartney

Not Out of Nationalist Woods Yet
David Adams

South Down Election Play
John Coulter

Are We on the Verge of a New Political Ice Age?
Anthony McIntyre

28 March 2005

The Writing's Off the Wall!
Catherine McGlinchey

Ireland: Republican Movement faces disintegration
Paul Mallon

The IRA is Morphing into the 'Rafia'
Anthony McIntyre

Truth and Justice!
Sheila Holden

Greet the Lion to Kill the Cat
Àine Fox

Concerned Republican
N. Corey

Six Against the Rock
Anthony McIntyre

Our Patriot Dead Are Turning in their Graves
Margaret Quinn

Easter Oration 2005
32 CSM

Easter Statement from the Leadership of the Republican Movement 2005

RSF Vice President Calls On Provisionals To Disband
Des Dalton, RSF

Easter Statement from the Leadership of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement
Andy Gallagher, IRSP

Easter Statement from the Irish National Liberation Army Prisoners of War

Caribbean Sinn Fein Easter Message
Jimmy Sands



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