Why Sinn Fein is like a political conjuring act ... uncomfortable facts vanish in a puff of smoke
Gerry Adams says he'll stand down as party president next year, but can we believe him?
A representative of the Catalonian independence movement addressed the Sinn Fein ard fheis last Saturday morning in Dublin. In that address, he called for support for an independent Catalonia and was received with rapturous applause throughout his passionate address. When he ended, he was given a standing ovation, punctuated by enthusiastic cheers and raucous whistling.
A short time later, the ard fheis heard a series of equally enthusiastic speeches from senior Sinn Fein figures, who consistently demanded a border poll in Northern Ireland to end partition and bring about a united Ireland.
At one point, the TV camera refocused on the Catalonian representative, who was now enjoying being feted in the front row of the excited gathering.
One wondered whether the Catalonian representative might have been a bit perplexed by the creative ambiguity of the Sinn Fein position of ardent support for the partition of Spain, but an end to the partition of Ireland.
He might not have realised that it was quite simple for Sinn Fein, which sees no contradiction in ending the border in Ireland and building a new border (hard or soft) in Spain.
Comradely greetings were also extended to a number of international delegates, including the Cuban Communist Party.
While warmly greeting the Cuban comrades, Gerry Adams failed to highlight the persistent and extreme human rights violations (including summary executions and internment without trial) carried out over several decades by the Castro regime. Not a word of criticism of Castroism and its history of inhumanity.
Interestingly, Castro even set up concentration camps to 're-educate' gay people in Cuba. So much for the consistency of Sinn Fein's rights-based strategy, which highlights the issue of same-sex marriage as being a 'red line' issue that prevents them from entering into government with the DUP.
But therein lies the genius of the Gerry Adams-led Sinn Fein, a political conjuring act, in which the facts magically disappear, if they are inconvenient, or simply don't fit.
A bit like the 'Disappeared', whose corpses were hurriedly buried in the dead of night to confuse and deceive their anxious relatives for decades. Those relatives were deprived of the truth that their loved ones were killed.
This flagrantly dishonest approach to human rights, or to Brexit, or to welfare reform, that is expendable of truth, or consistency, is reminiscent of the political satire Animal Farm by George Orwell, where the dominant ruling elite, the Pigs, who have taken over Animal Farm from farmer Mr Jones (in the style of 20th century totalitarian regimes), subtly change words and slogans to suit the new circumstances in which they found themselves, but deceive the other enslaved and subjugated farm animals.
Thus, the revolutionary slogan, 'All animals are equal' becomes, 'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others'.
The ard fheis agreed to the removal of the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution, which established the equal right to life of both the mother and the unborn child.
This life-affirming constitutional protection has saved many lives of unborn children since its approval by referendum in 1983.
But, worse still, Sinn Fein has now agreed to support abortion on the grounds of not just fatal foetal abnormality, rape, or sexual abuse, but also 'where a woman's life, health, or mental health is at serious risk, or in grave danger'.
This is, in effect, abortion on demand and, in practice, would be the same as the Abortion Act 1967 in Britain in all but name. This is a cynical decision to court electoral popularity in the south, as they were in danger of being outbid on the abortion issue by the Left-wing parties, including the People Before Profit party, who support abortion on demand.
Sinn Fein calculates that the north's compliant nationalist electorate will obligingly vote along sectarian lines for the party, irrespective of the new policy of abortion on demand.
So much, then, for Michelle O'Neill's doublespeak assertion at the weekend that 'Sinn Fein isn't in favour of abortion'.
If this enlargement of abortion policy is not in favour of abortion, what is it in favour of, scarely pro-life? Animal Farm again springs to mind.
Even Daithi McKay, former Sinn Fein MLA for North Antrim and a sympathetic commentator, believes that the change will bring the party's policy 'broadly into line with the 1967 Abortion Act'".
This is a far cry from October 2008, when Adams, along with fellow Assembly leaders Peter Robinson, Reg Empy and Mark Durkan, signed a joint letter to each Westminster MP, urging them to vote down a Bill to extend the 1967 Act to Northern Ireland.
It is extraordinary how a principled opposition to abortion can mutate to being pro-abortion in a few years.
The only good news from the ard fheis was Adams's announcement that he is stepping down as leader next year.
But can we be sure?