Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Much done, more to do for Sinn Fein

The Sinn Fein poll at its Ard Fheis shows that the political landscape is changing, and that the Republican movement is slowly moving forward. The question as to whether or not Martin McGuinness should meet the Queen is a significant test for changing political attitudes.

The 54% support for such a meeting, with some 30% opposed, does not seem particularly encouraging for non-republicans. However, these figures also show progress, compared to the hardened attitudes of only a few years ago.

It seems likely that Martin McGuinness will meet the Queen at a suitable opportunity, and once that encounter takes place we can all move on.

One Republican delegate opposed to the move was pragmatic enough to describe it as a seven-day wonder, and not a major cause for contention.

However, one unchanging issue of contention is how far Sinn Fein will support law and order in practice, and not just in words.

It is encouraging to find that 36% of delegates would be prepared to tip off police anonymously about dissident arms dumps, and if the peace process continues this figure may increase.

However, it is still a step too far to expect Republicans to act as prosecution witnesses if they see a dissident attack on the police. Only 16% would do so, with 60% refusing, but with time these figures might also improve.

The offer by senior Sinn Fein figures to talk to dissidents is also encouraging, and is evidence that the party is moving away steadily from the old Republican bomb and bullet mentality.

However, if Sinn Fein is to be taken seriously in its support for the police, and encouraging young Catholics to join the PSNI, the message must go out even more clearly that all dissident attacks on security forces are out of bounds.

Another encouraging finding is that 84% of delegates support a public expression of regret to "all who were injured and bereaved" by the Provisional IRA campaign. Sinn Fein is clearly making progress, but much more needs to be done.


From Belfast Telegraph