Only Sinn Fein could contest election on an anti-corruption ticket and keep a straight face
Of recent weeks, Gerry Adams seems to be spending a lot of time back in Northern Ireland and away from his constituency across the border. It’s a sign that there are problems and it’s also a sign that Adams is asserting his authority.
He has had to oversee the appointment of Michelle O’Neill to replace Martin McGuinness and he has also had to set out his election stall. Michelle may be the face on a poster, but Adams is pulling the strings. He is the man who gives her the authority.
Sinn Fein is setting out its stall on platforms, pamphlets and posters and the generic Sinn Fein posters make clear the things that are on that stall. One poster, that is entirely in Irish, seems to be about its demand for an Irish Language Act, which would cost around £100m a year.
Then, last Saturday in Dublin, Adams spoke about Brexit. He warned it would “undermine the institutional, constitutional and legal integrity of the Good Friday Agreement”. Adams demanded that “the north be accorded a special designated status within the EU”, and he is clearly worried about Theresa May’s commitment to a “red, white and blue Brexit”.
Of course, Sinn Fein doesn’t understand irony and so it has a poster that says ‘Sinn Fein stand against corruption’.
That brings to mind the three words Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, that “good republican” who was convicted in Dublin of tax evasion to a value of £164,000.
Or three other words, Research Services Ireland, the company that managed to get its hands on £700,000 of Sinn Fein MLA expenses. RSI directors include Sinead Walsh, who is also sole director of Republican Merchandising (Belfast) Ltd. The three-word options are endless.
Another top ticket item for Sinn Fein is the legacy of the past. After the coronation of O’Neill, Sinn Fein posted a video in which she talked about many things, but made sure to mention the Loughgall ambush, when eight IRA terrorists, on their way to blow up a police station, were killed in an SAS ambush.
They were led by the commander of the East Tyrone Provisional IRA, a callous killer who is now portrayed by Sinn Fein as a republican martyr and honoured by O’Neill.
There was no mention of any IRA atrocities such as Claudy, La Mon, Warrenpoint, Enniskillen or Bloody Friday.
Sinn Fein wants to rewrite the history of the Troubles, to sanitise IRA terrorism, legitimise the IRA campaign and demonise the Army and RUC.
It wants to scrutinise and interrogate everything to do with the Government, the Army and the RUC, while at the same time it remains silent about the atrocities and the sectarian murder campaign of the IRA.
The truth is that the Provisional IRA killed far more people than any other organisation, legal or illegal. Up to 2001, the Provisional IRA killed 1,823 people, which is just under half of the deaths during the Troubles.
Republicans know they are not going to get any more inquiries like Bloody Sunday, which lasted 12 years and cost £195m. As a result, they are putting the focus on legacy inquests, but therein lies the danger, because Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights is interpreted in Northern Ireland so as to prioritise cases involving the State, the Army and the RUC over the greater number of cases, which involve the Provisional IRA and other organisations.
Arlene Foster, as First Minister, stood up to Sinn Fein on this issue and Sinn Fein didn’t like that, because for it, it is a strategic issue.
It wants to put the spotlight on the Government and security forces and keep it away from republican terrorism.
When he appeared before the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, McGuinness said: “I cannot answer that question, because there is a republican (IRA) code of honour. For me to identify people would be a betrayal.”
That answer helps to explain what Sinn Fein is about as regards the past.