Belfast Telegraph

Eilis O'Hanlon: Despite the pieties, Sinn Fein still laughs in IRA victims' faces

Michelle O’Neill (David Young/PA)
Michelle O’Neill (David Young/PA)
Eilis O'Hanlon

By Eilis O'Hanlon

Hypocrisy is Northern Ireland's national religion.

It shouldn't be a surprise to come across another instance of it. Somehow, it always is.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill's homily in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, in which she hailed the publication of the party's so-called "legacy consultation" as a major step forward for victims of the Troubles, is just the latest nauseating example.

"Families have faced too many false dawns," she declared.

Now, whose fault might that be? The British State's, according to Sinn Fein.

Of course, London must take its share of the blame for failing victims who simply want to know the truth about what happened to them and their loved ones.

But the republican movement has hardly bent over backwards to help heal the wounds of the past.

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Information about the Disappeared was only reluctantly prised out of it under duress.

Sinn Fein leaders still openly celebrate and defend IRA violence. Then there's the rape and abuse of women and children which individual republicans carried out for years and which was subsequently covered up by the party at the highest level.

The full truth of that dark chapter remains to be told, and Sinn Fein is in no apparent hurry to tell it.

This crucial aspect of addressing the past wasn't even mentioned by O'Neill in her insipid address to the nation. Instead, she droned on, priest-like, through a succession of meaningless pieties.

"I want families to know that we in Sinn Fein have listened to your stories of injury and loss," she even pronounced at one point, taking refuge in what grammarians call the passive voice.

Injury and loss, it seems, was merely done to victims as if by accident, with no mention of who might have done it to them. Perhaps it was the fairies?

Balaclava-clad fairies.

Sinn Fein's aim is to broaden out responsibility for the conflict so widely that republicans' own culpability for the deaths which they inflicted on Northern Ireland over decades is correspondingly diminished.

That's why the results of this "legacy consultation" were presented in the context of the British State being the "main conflict protagonist" in the violence.

Asked at a Press conference on Tuesday to explain how this squared with the fact that the Provisional IRA alone committed half of all murders during the Troubles, with a further one in 10 by other republican terrorist groups, O'Neill simply said that the document was a "piece of work that has been brought about with extensive engagement".

It's a piece of work, all right.

She then passed the question quickly to Assembly Member Gerry Kelly to add a further gloss.

This would be the same Gerry Kelly who was a senior member of that very IRA and who served time for blowing up the Old Bailey, right? Thought so.

It's almost as if they're laughing in victims' faces. Sinn Fein has learned the language of healing and reconciliation, but still can't speak it with any conviction, like tourists in a strange land, struggling over a phrasebook.

Instead, they concentrate on putting on a good show.

There's that nice Michelle O'Neill, but right beside her sits a glowering Gerry Kelly, a reminder of which side of the republican movement may really be in charge.

Apologies are laced with qualifications. We'll say sorry if you admit you were just as bad, or, better still, worse. We'll tell the truth if you tell it first.

This isn't remorse, just a different phase of renegotiation.

Instead of embarking on face-saving consultation exercises, Sinn Fein should just come clean on what it did and what it knows - about murder, about sexual abuse, the lot.

After so much lying, nothing else will do.

Belfast Telegraph


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