| 3.9°C Belfast

Eoghan Harris

Gullible commentators seem to believe Sinn Fein, in government in the Republic, would reveal a green Shangri-La... but all I see are dark shadows and dangers

Eoghan Harris

The murders of Martin McBirney, a Protestant magistrate, and Rory Conaghan, a Catholic judge, within minutes of each other tell you all you need to know about armed republicanism's contempt for the rule of law


Belfast Telegraph coverage of killings

Belfast Telegraph coverage of killings

Magistrate Martin McBirney

Magistrate Martin McBirney

Judge Rory Conaghan

Judge Rory Conaghan

Belfast Telegraph coverage of killings

Seamus Mallon had this to say about Gerry Adams, who is adulated by Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Fein: "I just can't be in the same room with him. I don't want to be. There is just something about him that I recoil from. He has his hand in too many awful events."

Mary Lou McDonald's Sinn Fein has never apologised, never mind atoned, for any of these "awful events".

Micheal Martin has made it clear he cannot bear to be in government with Sinn Fein, as long as it continues to condone these same awful events.

But, far from praising a politician with principles, most of the media seems to resent Martin taking a moral stand against coalition with Sinn Fein.

That media agenda was set by RTE, the primary patron of political pundits who toe the Montrose line to stay on the invitation list.

Last Friday, Sean O'Rourke's panel rounded on Martin for rejecting Sinn Fein. Neither presenter, nor panel, made any attempt to look at the merits of Martin's stance.

Later, Bryan Dobson, who had smiled benignly at Leo Varadkar in a light interview last week, stared stonily at Micheal Martin, asked second-rate questions and seldom let him finish a sentence.

Dobson's failure to delve into Martin's moral problem with Sinn Fein reflected RTE's reluctance to deal with the three main reasons for rejecting Sinn Fein in government.

First, it is now widely accepted that Sinn Fein is influenced by an outside group which includes members of the IRA army council.

Second, as long as Sinn Fein condones the Provisional IRA campaign, its presence in the Republic's government would make the state retrospectively complicit in IRA atrocities.

Finally, it would remove credible objections to the recurring IRA, which could reasonably hope for a similar absolution.

Luckily for the future of Irish democracy, Micheal Martin's reservations are shared by most politically alert people in the Irish Republic and supported by the heavyweights on his shadow front bench.

Unlike Fine Gael chief whip Regina Doherty, Fianna Fail's Dara Calleary, Jim O'Callaghan, Michael McGrath, Lisa Chambers and Barry Cowen have been rock-solid in rejecting Sinn Fein.

Incredibly, our gullible commentators seem to believe that Sinn Fein, in government, would give us a green Shangri-La. But what I see are dark shadows and dangers. Let me list them as follows.

Unlike our gullible Generation X, these gardai know the Provisional IRA has never gone away and is still pursuing its historical agenda at many levels

The army council of the IRA still exists and actively pursues the same agenda: to control the levers of state power, north and south.

The army council views Sinn Fein as its political arm and expects the ard comhairle to act accordingly.

The army council's influence on Sinn Fein is supplemented by the party's militaristic code of decision-making, which allows deceptively minor functionaries to act like political commissars.

The army council will urge Sinn Fein in government to seek ministries such as education, and communications, to legitimise their sectarian war against the Irish people.

The army council would ask Sinn Fein ministers in government to seek access to police intelligence and affect policing policy.

Goodbye to a crackdown on the crime empires of former comrades along the border.

The army council, which influenced the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly, will also influence when Sinn Fein pulls the plug on its coalition partner.

The army council will influence Sinn Fein in ramping up pressure at home and abroad to end partition, regardless of the wishes of Ulster unionists.

The army council will influence Sinn Fein to keep up Irish government pressure, even if it creates conflict on the island.

The army council believes such a crisis will lead to a British withdrawal, but it's much more likely to lead to prolonged sectarian violence.

Lest you think the above thesis far-fetched, I sent it through channels to some retired senior members of the Garda who specialised in subversion. They thought it a generally accurate analysis of the Provisional IRA's project to secure state power, north and south.

Unlike our gullible Generation X, these gardai know the Provisional IRA has never gone away and is still pursuing its historical agenda at many levels.

But, thanks to their craven dependence on RTE, many journalists now feel it's a social faux-pas to support Micheal Martin's concerns about Sinn Fein in government.

When you get away from the metropolitan media, however, you find most people privately support Martin's stance.

Irish people with a moral compass think a party that still weasels about the murder of Tom Oliver is not likely to be squeamish about abusing state power.

My fear of an IRA-influenced Sinn Fein with state power is rational and rooted in lived experience.

Like most of my family, I was reared a republican, but I clearly recall the first two murders that caused my lasting moral revulsion against the Provo IRA.

On September 16, 1974, Martin McBirney, a Protestant lawyer married to a Catholic, was shot dead at breakfast at his home in Belfast.

McBirney was a Labour democrat. His play on Daniel O'Connell was broadcast a few weeks before his murder.

On that same day, the IRA shot dead a Catholic judge, Rory Conaghan, in front of his eight-year-old daughter, in their home on the Malone Road.

They did this despite Justice Conaghan having a record in awarding damages against the Army and RUC for assaults arising from internment.

In spite of Sinn Fein still defending that foul murder campaign, most of our media spent the past three weeks castigating Micheal Martin for daring to draw attention to it.

In doing so, Martin is following in the footsteps of Eamon de Valera, who loathed the later IRA and used the full force of the state to crush it.

Most Irish people still respond to that rarest of political virtues: responsible moral leadership

Luckily for democracy, the media is out of touch with middle Ireland, which won't give Sinn Fein a mandate for government until it cleans house.

Come election day, the silent moral majority will reward Martin for acting with good authority by supporting his view that Sinn Fein is not just another normal political party.

Most Irish people still respond to that rarest of political virtues: responsible moral leadership.

As Christianity retreats from the public sphere, people want politicians who can act as moral guardians.

Micheal Martin has remodelled the Fianna Fail party in accordance with his own ideals of decency, civility and moral integrity. His honest personality and republican pluralism is the foundation of a new public trust in Fianna Fail.

I believe Martin's republican tolerance will be reciprocated by the real Arlene Foster revealed by Ryan Tubridy on The Late Late Show by simply asking her the right questions, in the right way, and letting her finish her replies.

My prayer for Ireland is that on Sunday, February 9, it will keep the wrong ones out and let the right ones in.

Eoghan Harris is a Dublin-based political commentator

Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Belfast Telegraph