Those who want change are unlikely to settle for new faces that already sound a bit like FF/FG, writes Gene Kerrigan
Sinn Fein took a hiding last week, and deservedly so. There was, unsurprisingly, a "gotcha" element in the media coverage that followed Bobby Storey's funeral.
This allowed the party's defenders to claim that the criticism was just another example of the media being tied to the FF/FG agenda.
But this is far more serious than that.
There were three major funerals of public interest recently. Two in the North, one in the South.
One of those funerals showed significant respect for public health.
In the other two funerals - those of Detective Garda Colm Horkan and of Bobby Storey - people who should know better behaved with reckless disregard for public health.
Is it really necessary to point out that this pandemic isn't over? We're in a summer period in which it may be less risky to relax our defences. That's all that's happening now.
We don't know yet how long this may last - months or years.
Credible voices tell us we may have to put up with at least a year more of this. Others believe we may need to find ways to live with the virus over the long term.
No one yet knows.
Worldwide, it has already killed more than half a million of us.
Our only defence is to break the chain of transmission of the virus, by putting a distance barrier between those infected and those not infected. That is what every single aspect of our defence measures has been about - distance between the infected and those not infected.
These are the circumstances in which the funerals of Colm Horkan and Bobby Storey were held.
The third funeral was that of Noah Donohoe, the schoolboy who died in a tragic accident.
From the depths of her unimaginable grief, Noah's mother thanked those who had taken the child to their hearts after he went missing.
"At the time of the funeral," Fiona Donohoe said, "I want everyone to be at home with their children."
We all feel an obligation to show our support for those who are grief-stricken. Given the dangers involved, Fiona Donohoe's statement released people from that obligation.
Members of the wider public went along to the funeral, anyway. However well-intentioned, that was reckless.
The respect and affection shown for Detective Garda Colm Horkan indicate the regard in which he was held.
Bobby Storey was respected within his community.
Neither funeral needed to become an occasion for the transmission of the virus. Fiona Donohoe showed how that could have been done.
Dignity and caution and an acceptance that public health takes precedence over traditions.
Instead, we saw the police and politicians behave as though their strong will was enough of a barrier.
We listened to Sinn Fein explain how their loss was different.
This is not a moral matter.
It's not about character or respect, apologies or doing penance.
In terms of the virus - there is no difference whatever between a respectful funeral and a crowd of drunken louts grilling burgers in the back garden.
Each time the defences are lowered, we're all exposed to a new chain of transmission of the virus.
Lowering that barrier doesn't just affect those present, it potentially affects countless members of the public.
Do the Garda and the politicians not know that? Did Sinn Fein not know that?
Of course they knew.
And they chose to act as they did.
Their success in the February election took Sinn Fein by surprise. They received more votes than any other party.
Surprising for them, shocking for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.
After dominating politics for decades, FF/FG had solid bases. They took turns representing the interests of the comfortable classes - the people who gave them money and the people who were doing well out of business.
Meanwhile, the rest of us would be kept content by the "trickle down" economic effect.
It's a truism that Ireland has changed significantly in this century. Precious little of that - if any - was led by the parties of the comfortable classes. They ran to catch up, as social movements pushed for change.
FF/FG dished out austerity, protected the interests of their friends, took money from them, listened respectfully to their advice - business as usual.
Costs mysteriously spiralled up, more people got very rich, there was never an explanation. Just, oops, dunno what happened there - move on.
In recent years, the old parties have been pitiful failures. The broken housing market made some people immensely rich and gave a kicking to many more - principally the young.
They gave us a health system that - again - made selected people richer and left others lingering on trolleys.
When the virus came, the health system survived only by freezing much of normal activity.
In the past, support for Sinn Fein could always be undermined by strategic use of IRA atrocity stories. It's now a quarter of a century since the original IRA ceasefire.
Huge numbers of voters looking for something different, tired of the chancers, turned to Sinn Fein in February.
The party had choices to make.
It was born out of the Republican movement, then moved to the left.
It contained talented people - Eoin O Broin shamed the other parties on the housing issue, Louise O'Reilly was impressive on health.
Fiscal prudence had been the great claim of Fine Gael - media stars assured us the economy was in safe hands.
In 2016, Fine Gael laid out the budgetary figures, Fianna Fail and Labour checked FG's figures and said they were fine.
Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty checked them and immediately saw they were wrong by two billion euro.
The notion that the FF/FG axis was "sound on the economy" was always nonsense, now it was plainly seen to be. What kind of parties don't notice a two billion discrepancy in the figures?
It was beginning to look like there might be an alternative to the conservatism and the deadly inefficiency of the FF/FG cartel.
Ahead of Sinn Fein there was a possible route to usefulness - to make things fairer, to end the housing and health scandals.
Sinn Fein, however, is caught between the future and the past. They're steeped in tradition - and funerals are part of that.
From O'Donovan Rossa to Bobby Sands, funerals have had a treasured place in Irish Republican culture. They are commemorations, they are political assertions, public displays of support, recruiting mechanisms.
When Bobby Storey died, the SF Republican base expected that he would get the traditional send-off.
Sinn Fein's choice: maintain the necessary defence against the virus, or enjoy the warmth of engaging in a Republican ritual? It chose the latter.
Listening to SF claiming innocence, there was a smack of FF/FG off them, and that's not good.
They took a hammering from the media, which might well help them.
There are similarities between the photographs of the Colm Horkan and Bobby Storey funerals. It's hard to tell some of the photos apart. The mix of social distancing and reckless conduct, the men in white shirts, the large numbers allowed to gather in a dangerous manner.
Sinn Fein blew much of its credibility. And the media doesn't look too good when it decides something is wrong only when Sinn Fein does it.