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Post-Debacle Stress Syndrome

Most of us did not spend all of yesterday glued to our TV screens. Indeed, after each fruitless round of political arm-wrestling, more and more of us have disengaged from politics altogether. Understandable, as we have private lives to get on with and the political elite sound more and more like generals fighting the last war - Irish News editorial

Anthony McIntyre • 10 December 2004

No doubt, many of those still interested enough are sitting wondering what the rollercoaster ride of the last few days was all about. Those suffering most from Post-Debacle Stress Syndrome will be the dealoholics. While it has not yet found a cure for chronic sufferers whose recurring symptoms break out every time Blair and Ahern hint at coming to Belfast, Northern Ireland fortunately leads the field in PDSS research. The correlation between PDSS and journalism is said to resemble that for smoking and cancer. An early warning sign appears to be a totally irrational belief despite all the evidence to the contrary, that the political tyre kickers who seek to govern us would actually complete a transaction that might, once the initial fanfare faded and the audience had gone home, consign them to obscurity. Once full blown, PDSS, feeding on its own symptoms, manifests itself in an even more bizarre belief that the next Blair-Ahern visit will sort matters out and deliver a done deal. Which in this place would be one of those rarely recorded instances of a successful parasite having deliberately killed its host. As Nick Robinson reported in the Times, ‘this row was a tad too convenient for both sides who, away from the cameras, showed none of the anger or bitterness they had displayed publicly for their supporters.’

Of the two parties locking horns, albeit through the impaled butts of the British and Irish governments, the DUP is more eager to strike a deal. Amongst other things it thinks that having a sackcloth-clad Martin McGuinness in government is evidence enough that it has humiliated the IRA and shunted the lion's share of the blame for the conflict onto Adams' militia. How else can Peter Robinson justify putting McGuinness in government after having named the Derry nationalist under Assembly privilege as a member of the Provisional IRA’s prosperous army council?

Sinn Fein's primary aim is to expand North and South. It is power driven rather than ideologically guided. This totalising strategy determines and is not determined by strategic sub-concerns in the North. The power-sharing executive there is subsidiary to the imperatives of expansionism. It's function or malfunction will not be determined by Northern factors but by island-wide ones. The North nevertheless remains vitally important because it houses the pump from which flows the high octane aphrodisiac that Sinn Fein feeds on and without which its explosive propulsion onto the national stage could not be sustained. Tonight on the Republic’s Late Late Show, Gerry Adams was the main act. He was there promoting himself and his party – quite well it must be said – solely as a result of this week’s deal debacle. Had the deal been clinched he would have been on the show tonight also. But perhaps on no more. But with no deal, Late Late viewers are assured of even more commanding performances by the Sinn Fein boss.

Sinn Fein, astute in measuring public perception and conscious of the need to maintain goodwill at home and abroad, knows it must be seen to be working towards an accommodation with unionism. The type of accommodation, however, must not be bedded down too comfortably otherwise it develops a dynamic and sustainability all of its own and might just bring an end to the endless processing. To prevent such settling Sinn Fein always offers the unionists a chair, which invariably has a nail in it so the latter, if they avoid getting scratched, can never sit comfortably. The nail is the IRA. For as long it is below the unionist fundament there is no respite. Sooner or later, with or without arms it tears something and all bets are off. Requiems and inquests follow. Then the two governments come along, give the kiss of life to the corpse, and the thing totters along for another while.

Sinn Fein encourages this situation of creative crisis to happen. A permanently settled executive is no good to it. One facing seemingly interminable crisis gives the party’s island wide expansionist project more zip. Subverting any Northern political equilibrium, rather than thwart the peace process adds momentum to it. Each time IRA subversion occurs Sinn Fein is more than content to wage a public battle over the existence of its military arm. It seeks to persuade the island’s public that unionist intransigence is more detrimental to attempts at establishing a power-sharing executive than the IRA, which we are disingenuously told has been on ceasefire for ten years. That policy so far has been rewarded at the polls North and South. It is unlikely to be abandoned until such times as electoral growth is capped.

Viewed through such an interpretive grid, the hue and cry about humiliation is a red herring. Paisley’s sackcloth and ashes comment is the excuse, not the reason, for Sinn Fein not to strike the deal. Sinn Fein in its own humiliation of David Trimble last October clearly signalled it had no intention of doing a deal and had every intention of elongating the life of the peace process. By bagging the promise of an election before concluding a deal, then not concluding a deal, Sinn Fein sent Trimble into an electoral lion pit where his only hope was to minimise the mauling he was certain to get. Sinn Fein was aware that on the other side of the election the emerging unionist lion would have DUP branded on its rump and that it would never forego an opportunity to wave the sackcloth. There was never any intention to deal then or now. Last year's humiliation of Trimble, who at least believed in the Good Friday Agreement despite being continuously blamed on not wanting it implemented, was predicated on a Sinn Fein desire to produce a more plausible 'rejectionist' unionist body.

Sinn Fein shrewdly and strategically always ensures that concomitant with sabotaging the stabilisation of the power sharing institutions, there will be enough coming from the party to create the appearance of forward momentum. It helps in the blame game. The latest paper from the two governments indicates that Sinn Fein is willing to move on a range of issues including policing. It has, to the chagrin of the SDLP allowed the DUP to dilute the mechanisms of accountability within the assembly. But crucially, it has not disbanded the IRA. Its time will come when the exchange rate is considerably higher than anything a power sharing executive can offer.




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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.
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Index: Current Articles

11 December 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Post-Debacle Stress Syndrome
Anthony McIntyre

Keeping the Lid on Pandora's Box
Davy Adams

Paisley's Guide for Penitent Provos
Brian Mór

Talking to Mr. George
Fred A. Wilcox

Dr No Says No, Again; Dublin Wrong to Back Photos
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

A Way Out of the Impasse
Liam O Comain

'Eternal Elves of the West'
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Bobby Tohill vs. The Andersonstown News
Liam O Ruairc

Peace Comes Dropping Slow
Brian Lennon

6 December 2004

The Fleece Process
Anthony McIntyre

Padraic Paisley
Anthony McIntyre

Revolutionary Unionism
Dr John Coulter

Official Secrets
Mick Hall

Kilmichael Controversay Continues
Liam O Ruairc

Turkish Man Beaten and Racially Abused by PSNI in front of Witnesses

Iraq is Not the Second World War
Fred A Wilcox

Dancing at the Edge of the Abyss
Karen Lyden Cox



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