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Fionola Meredith

A party of the people? Elitist Sinn Fein shows no cause, not even health, tops IRA myth-making

Fionola Meredith

Like Dominic Cummings, Michelle O'Neill's actions expose double standards at heart of government, says Fionola Meredith​​​​


Michelle O’Neill and Dominic Cummings share more in common than you might think

Michelle O’Neill and Dominic Cummings share more in common than you might think

Michelle O’Neill and Dominic Cummings share more in common than you might think

Michelle O’Neill and Dominic Cummings share more in common than you might think


Michelle O’Neill and Dominic Cummings share more in common than you might think

On the face of it, Michelle O'Neill, our Deputy First Minister, and Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson's chief adviser, have very little in common. One is a fully programmed republican, viscerally opposed to British rule and thoroughly versed in the revisionist narrative which insists that the IRA were glorious, swashbuckling heroes and freedom fighters.

The other is Mr Brexit, the former director of the Vote Leave campaign, and the person whom many suspect is actually running the country right now.

His unorthodox strategies, aggressive appetite for power and casual disregard for political proprieties, or indeed for anything and anyone who gets in his way, led to former Prime Minister David Cameron, describing him as a "career psychopath".

Can't see the two of them bonding over a socially distanced pint at the Duke of York, can you?

O'Neill and Cummings do, however, share a certain special something. And that appears to be a high-handed, autocratic attitude to the rules when the rules don't suit them.

What's particularly rich is that these are rules that both of them, each in their own way, helped to create, promote and enforce.

While the pandemic swept the country, and the rest of us were obediently staying home in order to save lives, as instructed by the government, Dominic Cummings jumped into his car and took that now notorious family trip to Durham.

At a time when people were barred from their dying relatives' bedsides, Cummings was driving around again, this time to a tourist attraction, Barnard Castle, in order to "test his eyesight" after suffering suspected Covid symptoms.

This week, after months of telling the people of Northern Ireland to strictly keep their distance from one another, with accompanying dire warnings that the health service could be overwhelmed without full compliance, Michelle O'Neill attended a mass gathering for the funeral of former IRA chief Bobby Storey.

She posed for a selfie with two other mourners, one of whom had his arm round her shoulders. I can't imagine how people who were cruelly denied attendance at the burials of their closest loved ones must have felt.

To paraphrase Gerry Adams, the coronavirus hasn't gone away, you know.

Last month, our Deputy First Minister spoke out about the need for police to be scrupulously even-handed in their approach to mass gatherings.

"You need to be consistent in everything you do and so I think that it's important that the police are also consistent," Ms O'Neill said, suggesting an as yet untapped talent for self-satire.

No matter what excuses they come up with, the actions of both Dominic Cummings and Michelle O'Neill show that there's one rule for the political elite and their associates and quite another for all the rest of us.

Do as I say, not do as I do.

Republicans hate being described as elitist, because they have always liked to paint themselves as bold revolutionaries and anti-establishment figures, gallant comrades of the people.

Acting as privileged, autocratic rulers, to whom ordinary restrictions need not apply, does not fit the self-justificatory, victimhood-based myth they are so keen on imposing as historical fact.

But when has something as inconvenient as reality ever held Michelle and Co back? In a graveside eulogy to Bobby Storey, Gerry Adams was again in characteristically sentimental mode.

Mr Adams praised the former IRA chief as "caring", "selfless", "gentle" and "kind"; " always ready to help, always prepared to give freely of his time and his great positive energy".

People of all political persuasions and none were revolted, quite rightly, by Dominic Cummings' behaviour, and his refusal to apologise or resign. Likewise, Michelle O'Neill's equally belligerent stance has alienated many, and not just along the usual sectarian lines.

All of the other parties in the Executive - the DUP, UUP, SDLP and Alliance - have now called on the Deputy First Minister to step aside or to resign.

You don't have to be a unionist - and I'm not - to be disgusted by the stink of shameless hypocrisy.

'Ourselves': the Sinn Fein name says it all. They may pledge allegiance to other politically expedient causes, such as gay rights, but their only real loyalty is to themselves, alone.

So we shouldn't be surprised that republican leaders put tribal bonds before public health, in direct contravention of their own instructions. Inconsistency? What inconsistency?

In Shinner-world, the truth is what they say it is. But we don't have to believe them.

Belfast Telegraph