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Hasty U-turn can't hide fact the Sinn Fein mask slipped

By Ruth Dudley Edwards

Published 14/03/2016

Tony McCaul
Tony McCaul

Opponents of Sinn Fein should be cheered by the recent story about 64-year-old Tony McCaul, of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, for it shows how difficult it is for some of the troops to be as two-faced as their leaders require.

It's almost as amusing as the period in 2012 when Michelle Gildernew and Mary Lou McDonald were trying to co-ordinate their responses to questions about Sean Quinn, a hero in Fermanagh and South Tyrone and a villain in Dublin.

Ms Gildernew, his MP, came out passionately in support of the bankrupted billionaire, whom she said had been "treated disgracefully" by the Irish Government.

But Ms McDonald, TD for banker-hating Dublin Central, said the money owed to the Anglo-Irish Bank was now "money owed to the State" and Quinn had "an obligation to abide by the law, the same as any other citizen".

A few days later I was on a panel at the West Belfast Festival with Gerry Kelly, MLA for North Belfast, when he was asked if Quinn was being treated fairly.

He replied in his best statesman-riding-two-horses mode that, while Mr Quinn should be held accountable for his use of other people's money, he shouldn't be made a scapegoat.

Wisely, next morning when Radio Ulster was seeking to interview him he was said to have left town.

But back to councillor McCaul, who was allegedly engaged in a heated debate on Facebook when he wrote: "Republicans can never rule out any tactic, including violence. I now believe politics is expedient, that view could change if circumstances change."

Unionists were understandably cross, not least because he is a member of the local Policing and Community Safety Partnership.

Worse still, this was shortly after the attempt by the New IRA to murder a prison officer.

Questioned by this newspaper, the councillor explained that he had been speaking in an historical context.

"It has always been the position that, at times, republicans have used politics and, at other times, violence," he said. "That's been the reality in history over the centuries. I believe in the peace process, but, after my generation, I don't know what will happen."

Give the guy his due: he was being honest.

But, Sinn Fein being a party that brooks no deviation from the party line (once it knows what it is), within hours he had recanted.

The post was removed from Facebook and he gave a statement to The Irish Times which was more helpful to a party trying to occupy the high moral ground in the Republic as a new government in Dublin is cobbled together.

"I can see no reason why anyone should resort to violence either now or in the future," it began. "There is now a way forward for everyone to achieve their political aims through peaceful and democratic means."

Why? Because "Sinn Fein has moved the issue of Irish reunification on to the national stage and is determined to bring about this change through the democratic process".

Ignoring the fact that, as a result of a century of IRA violence, hardly anyone on the entire island wants unification, it continued: "The vast majority of the people of this island have endorsed the peace process and I call on anyone involved in any violent activity to listen to the will of the people and desist immediately from this activity."

I'm sure that'll go down a bomb with his dissident critics.

During the period of Easter Rising commemorations Sinn Fein is making much of the sacred words of Patrick Pearse, its poster boy.

Yet Pearse made it abundantly clear that none of his political descendants should compromise on a united, independent Ireland.

The 1998 Agreement was definitely not something he would have endorsed.

Ireland's greatest poet, WB Yeats, had been sickened by the violence that ensued after 1916 and wrote not long before his death in 1939: "And yet who knows what's yet to come?/For Patrick Pearse had said/That in every generation/Must Ireland's blood be shed."

Councillor McCaul should resist the temptation to quote that.

Ruth Dudley Edwards' The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic will be published by Oneworld Publications on March 22

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