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A perfect 10 for Bertie's volte-face on the peace process

Anthony McIntyre • Sunday Independent, 6 February 2005

With Bertie Ahern having been at so many turning points in the peace process at which he failed to turn before, no one courted ridicule by predicting he would continue eyes-front in the wake of the Northern Bank robbery. When eventually he performed his volte-face many heads snapped at the perfect ten execution of the act.

Sinn Fein was left to defensively tackle with the weaker foot. Its Iveagh House team-mates failed to muster sufficient centre-field cover. The party leadership, rendered narcoleptic by its accumulated experience of the two governments’ non-response to the many previous actions of the party militia, instinctively behaved as if the most it faced was a political squall followed by yet another round of ‘and whatever you’re having yourself.’ A mere six months after having faced the furious barrage of accusations that accompanied the Bobby Tohill ‘kidnapping’, the party was at Leeds Castle processing alongside the DUP like never before. Such was the arrogant complacency of some of its leaders that they brazenly and openly revelled in their lying, labouring under the misapprehension that the lie would always command a privileged space within the sacred tabernacle of the peace process.

Now that Ahern has spit on the tabernacle and placed Sinn Fein’s senior commanders in the frame for the bank heist, a credibility crisis has beset the party. Its Capo di tuti capo, Gerry Adams, has seen a steady metamorphosis in his public image from international statesman to universal liar.

Ahern’s masterstroke lay not in accusing the IRA but in unambiguously placing Sinn Fein leaders at the heart of the decision-making processes within the IRA. In doing so he has signalled that the party’s leaders will publicly carry the can for any actions engaged in by their own militia. The legal fictions have been dissolved. No longer will institutional power inflict the myth on society that the Sinn Fein leadership goes to the IRA, that the two are somehow separate entities.

Potentially this imposes a degree of constraint on the party leadership’s room for manoeuvre. To the extent that it organises, sanctions, or ordains violence, there will no longer be an official cloak behind which it can absolve itself of responsibility. Strategically using the process to undermine the peace as an aid to its own expansionism now comes with a health warning. Sinn Fein exposure to the Republic’s electorate and Corporate Irish America will lack the glamour of yesteryear. Nobody is photogenic in a balaclava. If the party leadership insists on continuing to run a functioning IRA, or worse, one which reverts to ‘war’, it will incur all the wrath reserved for those depicted as ‘directing terrorism’ in the post-9/11 world.

Sinn Fein demands that the ‘side issue’ robbery be forgotten about and that society should just carry on with the ‘real task’ of endless processing has fallen on deaf ears. If anything, with Dublin taking the lead, the Irish and British governments have firmed up their ‘get lost’ stance. Wednesday’s petulant response by the IRA in which it referred to its unwillingness to remain quiescent is the language of splendid isolation; as self-defeating as it is self-pitying. Having spent twelve years edging its way out of the corner, life in the shadows has little or no appeal for new Sinn Fein. The language of the victim might provide a comfort blanket but fails to grip the political nettle that the governments have reluctantly been forced to grasp.

London and Dublin now accept that a power sharing executive in the North and the continued existence of the IRA are mutually irreconcilable. Consequently, they have gambled on manipulating the power lust of the Sinn Fein president, forcing him to choose between being marginalised to the ghetto as chief corner boy of West Belfast, and taking his place on the international stage alongside the Nouveau Rich.

In spite of this Sinn Fein, while peeved that the veils of the peace process have been stripped away, calculates that it can withstand the hurricane. It has journeyed here before and knows the terrain well. Experience has equipped it with the necessary hide to sit out the storm. The current proclivity of London and Dublin to hold on to the peace process, despite the vituperative tone of their discourse, will assure Sinn Fein that the current mutual standoff does not preclude some mutual embrace.

The governments are right to refrain from recommending sanctions against the party. Arbitrarily punishing the electorate for the democratic choices that it makes subverts the very democracy that those advocating sanctions ostensibly promote. But the insistence by Dublin in particular that the US administration should not bin Sinn Fein’s invitation to the St Patrick’s Day festivities at the White House will be interpreted as an indication that processing will at some point be back on track. Sinn Fein leaders could hardly scream ‘discrimination’ were they to be treated like all other convicted felons who seek access to the US.

For this reason spare a thought for Micky McKevitt. From his shamrock-free Portlaoise cell, where he may contemplate the presence of his former fellow commanders on the White House lawn, he has good grounds for concluding that his real misfortune was to have directed activity for the Wrong IRA.





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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

18 February 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

"Death by Suicide"
Margaret Quinn

But Will Anyone Object
Brian Mór

Seeking Justice for a Brother
Davy Adams

Perspective and Perception
Eamonn McCann

Only One Option Left, Really
Mick Hall

Trust Your Leaders!
James Connolly

A perfect 10 for Bertie's volte-face on the peace process
Anthony McIntyre

Distress vs Illness: Social Control
Sean Fleming

Double Visions Conference
Seaghan O Murchu

No More Lies

14 February 2005

An Ireland of Equals Will Not Be Built on Fear
Gerard Quinn

'Law and Order' From Behind a Balaclava
John Kelly

Where Are the Guards of Honour?
Sean Magee

Losing Hearts and Minds
Mick Hall

Protest? You're Having a Laugh
Michael Benson

Brian Mór

When A Leader Deserts His Men
Anthony McIntyre

No News
James Fitzharris

I Didn't Know Her, But I Did
Fred A. Wilcox

Parents Must Fight Bigotry
David Adams



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