RUC has never been disbanded. As the British police
force in Ireland it has been rebranded as the
PSNI courtesy of Patten. Sinn Fein always chanted
disband, not rebrand the RUC. Now the party is
writing the mood music to suggest that it is on
the cusp of supporting the same body of men and
women its leaders ordered killed because it was
part of the 'British war machine.' Many republicans
were killed, tortured and framed by that body
as it strove to achieve what exists today, the
emasculation of the IRA and longevity of both
the Northern state and partition. Yet the twain
shall eventually meet, although not on any ground
vaguely resembling the endpoint of the armed struggle
promised by Sinn Fein leaders.
an interview with the Belfast Telegraph,
the nationalist politician, Gerry Kelly, eye firmly
on the top securocrat job in the North, said if
sufficient conditions were in place it would be
weeks rather than months until the special Sinn
Fein ard fheis on policing would be called. Most
commentators anticipate that the conference will
be the occasion to rubberstamp the party leadership's
position on policing.
a few deep breaths drawn in anticipation of the
moment having finally arrived, Kelly's position
is hardly new. He is simply keeping the beat with
the mood music. The substance of his preconditions
is that devolved powers of policing and justice
arrive in the partitioned state. It is a mere
repetition of what he stated at the Sinn Fein
ard fheis earlier this year: 'Sinn Féin
has been pressing for this first step for a considerable
the leadership have been pleading with the British
for understanding and flexibility in case any
sudden movement jolts the grassroots out of their
slumber, the rank and file have rolled over so
often that few seriously expect a rebellion from
that quarter. 70% of them at the last ard fheis
endorsed the leadership's position on policing.
When that policy position becomes a strategic
fait accompli, the bulk of the remaining 30% will
follow. And as long as key leaders, who might
otherwise raise objections, are provided with
the means to buy holiday homes in Portugal or
Turkey - the new Costa Del Provo spots - there
will be no rallying point for those Provisionals
opposed to Sinn Fein becoming the Peelers Party.
it comes, once the decision is taken, the party
drones will be sent out to paint over the 'RUC/PSNI'
graffiti they had previously sprayed the walls
with. Up will go murals of Hugh 'Che' Orde, the
latest hero of the peace process 'courageously
and imaginatively' working to create Irish unity
Kelly, Sinn Fein's spokesperson on policing and
justice, has already met with the PSNI, a liaison
which caused little in the way of internal rumblings.
Such meetings have been taking place for some
time, for the most part at a lower level, although
Gerry Adams did meet Hugh Orde in Downing Street.
publicising by Sinn Fein of the Kelly meeting
was to maintain the public appearance of a party
working assiduously to become fully respectable.
At the same time it was a holding tactic. It fits
in to a wider strategy aimed at winning from Dublin
and London the latitude to go into government
prior to the special ard fheis on policing which
was reportedly promised to the US administration
for last month.
is part of the Sinn Fein game plan to play square
balls and hope that the spectators, fearful of
being accused of being spoilers, will view it
as moving forward. Sinn Fein wants to show the
administrations its good intent, while at the
same time portraying itself as not yet able to
complete the routine completely because of problems
of internal management. Ideally it would like
to go into government and then use the policing
issue to fuel the 'battle a day' scenario predicted
by Gerry Adams. Just as it eroded the will of
the UUP to stick to its 'guns before government'
position leading to the downfall of Trimble, the
party now wants to subvert the DUP position of
'policing before power.'
few cheerleaders chanting for such a sequence
the party, unless London and Dublin between them
devise a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of
victory, faces being strategically marooned. Sinn
Fein's position is not nearly as strong as it
was prior to the Northern Bank robbery and it
can ill afford to be beached on the rock of its
own perceived intransigence. With nowhere else
to go the party can with relative ease be simultaneously
shoehorned into both government and policing.
while the governments have it in their power to
bring the peace process to a successful conclusion
and save the country further tedium and valuable
political time wastage, it is not beyond the Department
of Foreign Affairs in Dublin to be the one turkey
to vote for Christmas and argue the Sinn Fein
position of power before policing. The peace process
is like original sin. Once bitten, twice bitten.
If successful, the DFA will certainly hobble the
next Taoiseach who will be forced to carry it
albatross like, around his neck, in expiation
for the sins of others.