Belfast Telegraph

Michelle O'Neill has dashed hope of new republican thinking

By Malachi O'Doherty

Many have hoped or anticipated that a new generation of republicans would be able to look more critically on the past than the generation which directed the movement through the Troubles. Michelle O'Neill is not that new thinking.

She will not do for Sinn Fein what Khrushchev did for the Communist Party when he broke with the legacy of Stalin.

But he had been elected to lead and she has not. A post was invented for her that had not previously existed - Sinn Fein's Leader in the North, the LIN.

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Initially it seemed she was simply the designated successor of Martin McGuinness, to be the First or Deputy First Minster when and if devolution was restored. Now she is more than that. She is taking the lead in the General Election campaign though she is not actually a candidate. And she is the voice of Sinn Fein's condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London.

She is not the one who can acknowledge the anomaly in that - that within the republican movement, the IRA bombed London many times, so there is a credibility problem when she seeks to damn others for things the IRA also did.

When the inconsistency is mentioned in the media, she is outraged. She seems to think that only someone opposed to peace and reconciliation would liken the past conflict, or war, to attacks by Isis on the British state. For the campaign of the IRA is to be honoured as a legitimate struggle by those who had no alternative.

Maybe some day there will be a Sinn Fein leader who will be able to acknowledge the scepticism so widely held about the decency and justice of the IRA campaign.

But for that to happen, there will have to be open discussion within the party and a vote taken on who might lead and who might speak for the membership.

In order to put that off, the old guard has appointed the LIN and denied the party rank and file any say. That's Michelle O'Neill's job, to forestall the future.

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