question was not unreasonable but had little to
do with whether Orde knew about the role of Donaldson
as an informer. Of course he knew. Following the
Northern Bank robbery Sinn Fein, not prescient
enough to foresee the imminent change in its fortunes,
took to accusing Orde of being a securocrat. It
was a declaration of intent by the party to wait
Orde out and deal with his successor.
the collapse of the December 2004 talks and the
subsequent bank robbery the party was riding high.
Whatever blame may have accrued to the DUP for
the failure of those talks quickly dissipated
as Sinn Fein landed in the dock. The Adams led
body had lost the establishment-assisted Midas
touch in direct proportion to its procrastination
losing it friends. The peace process would no
longer effortlessly open the doors it once did.
The killing of Robert McCartney, while not the
party's fault, transformed the political landscape
from tennis lawn to obstacle course on which the
most jutting trip wire would be policing.
to move without detonating some booby trap from
Capitol Hill to Strasbourg Sinn Fein found it
ever more difficult to delay the inevitable. It
cleared the hold of excess ideological baggage
in order to stay afloat like a cork in a choppy
sea. That the party is where it is today, begging
and pleading for the theocrat Paisley to be first
minister and allow its leading lights to serve
under him, is a direct outcome of it being boxed
into a corner by circumstances less propitious
than they were this time two years ago. Methodically,
the British state has grinded any vestiges of
republicanism left within Sinn Fein into the ground.
is the last real issue on which any pretence of
republican opposition can be sustained. In a bid
to avoid the occurrence of any sour notes fouling
the recent mood music strummed by Gerry Kelly,
Hugh Orde has begun harmonising to the same tune
by offering to speak at the Sinn Fein special
conference so that he may reassure party members
that the police are serious about building new
relationships with the nationalist community.
These days his republican credentials are as solid
as Gerry Kelly's given that both believe in and
are prepared to administer essentially the same
thing including pursuing and imprisoning those
former comrades and other physical force republicans
opposed to British rule. Orde knows that if he
speaks from the podium at the Ard Fheis, amongst
those reinforcing his argument in the audience
- and probably on the platform to his rear - will
be more than a few who for years have been on
the payroll of his force. Their attitude will
be 'ah, the Messiah.'
Sinn Fein and the PSNI grope towards each other,
Gerry Adams is eager to narrow down what it is
about the police he is actually opposed to. In
the Irish News he has been claiming it
is not the police per se but the political police
that provokes the ire of his nationalist party.
In time that will become not the political police
but one or two 'securocrats' with political policing
functions. The British government by effectively
removing overt political policing from the PSNI
and placing it in the care of MI5, is actually
easing Sinn Fein's entry into the police.
it was never the ordinary role of policing within
the North that defined Sinn Fein as wholly oppositional
to the police. It was the issue of political policing
which the British control as tightly as ever and
from which any Sinn Fein influence will be excluded.
Few in the DUP or elsewhere are likely to make
a song and dance if Sinn Fein decide not to support
MI5 or utter the odd ritual condemnation of Whitehall
in public Sinn Fein will press to have MI5 involvement
in policing removed, in practice the spook body
will not be an obstacle. Some formula of words
will be cobbled together to cover for the party
abandoning that position. The public will be informed
of a new strategic initiative which shall see
the revolution move from going toe to toe with
the 'political detectives' to going ankle to ankle
with them, then shin to shin
phases of revolutionary struggle, of course.
terms of timing, it is unlikely that Sinn Fein
will want to be holding the poisoned chalice of
policing until after the CAB and ARA between them
destroy any Provisional power base in South Armagh.
That makes a November deal virtually impossible.
But once the Sinn Fein leadership has South Armagh
safely corralled it will find it an easy matter
to endorse the police. The party will proclaim
that as nationalists are in government and powers
of justice and policing have been devolved, the
PSNI should be viewed as no less legitimate than
the Gardai. The new revolutionary duty proclaimed
by party drones will be to support a British police
force in anticipation of Red Hugh Orde completing
the journey to a socialist republic.