Belfast Telegraph

The silence is deafening as a terrorist seduces Ireland

By Kevin Myers

The clock clicks by. Irish democracy sleeps, the lullaby of Sinn Fein lies wooing it to a deadly slumber. Electors under 30 have little memory of the Troubles; those under 25 none.

Mental partitionism, which became endemic in the Republic after about 1973, means that maybe half of those old enough to remember the Troubles do not actually do so: the memory receptors in their brains were instantly turned off by any mention of the north.

And, suddenly, we have an inverse reality to deal with. Because, though Martin McGuinness was central to so many shocking things in the IRA's long and ruinous war, they are not remembered by enough people to count.

Amnesia and ignorance now define the key demographic in the Irish presidential election: and since the main beneficiary of any historical knowledge would be Gay Mitchell, all the other presidential candidates are staying prudently and perhaps disastrously silent about McGuinness.

Martin McGuinness is a member of the Provisional IRA army council. This question remains central to the election.

It is utterly outrageous that media passivity, political opportunism by most candidates and the usual pathological republican addiction to deceit could have taken us this far: that he is now within shouting distance of being both the head of the army of the Republic and chief of staff of the IRA.

Not one radio or television interview, not one, has raised with Martin McGuinness his current role in the IRA army council. The feckless and abject failure to protect our democracy is even more inexcusable in the case of RTE. It has a duty to ask the questions that the electorate needs to have answered.

If Dana were believed to be a member of some secret anti-abortion society, or Opus Dei, would she not be asked about it? So why has no one on RTE asked Martin McGuinness about his current relationship with the IRA army council?

Some years ago, the then Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, alleged that the IRA had placed agents of influence throughout Irish life, sleepers to be mobilised whenever the Sinn Fein cause needed it. Is this what is happening now, only on a larger scale?

Are the secret lay-troops of Sinn Fein now being called to metaphorical arms, to help the cause? Or could there be some other explanation for the media's supine failure to confront Martin McGuinness with his present paramilitary associations? There is an RTE Authority. What is it doing as this crisis heaves into view? Believe me, if this particular Sinn Fein vessel docks, it stays, for it cannot then be reversed towards the open sea.

The word-of-mouth propaganda machine has meanwhile feverishly and not altogether unfruitfully been comparing Martin McGuinness, who served just four months in Portlaoise prison and lived at home for the rest of the Troubles, with Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in solitary confinement.

Now the machine is offering an alternative precedent: Menachem Begin. Was he not a terrorist? Did he then not become head of state?

‘Yes’ to the first question and ‘No’ to the second. He was, by any definition, a terrorist and a very evil one, too, but he was never president.

He was prime minister, which in Israel is a usually contentious role. However, he was too widely despised ever to be head of state, for Israel traditionally chooses an emollient and unifying individual to be its president.

This is also now true, if only by unwritten precedent, for Ireland. The duty of our head of state is to be the president of all the people and to represent everything that is good about Irish life.

Which is why, of course, so few people qualify for the job. One needs to have had a fairly blameless and even boring past to live in Phoenix Park.

Martin McGuinness has not had a blameless, or boring, past. The Irish Independent’s Martina Devlin — to whom the earlier remarks about sleepers most emphatically do not apply, as anyone who has read her sprightly columns over the years could testify — is simply barking up the wrong tree when she says that the IRA was not alone responsible for the Northern Troubles.

Merely being an armed participant in what was a voluntary war disqualifies any such person from becoming the head of state of the Republic.

We want clean hands in Phoenix Park. Martin McGuinness’s hands are not remotely clean.

It really is that simple.

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