year, 2005, was heralded as the centenary year for
Sinn Fein, in which the emblematic phoenix would
soar, triumphantly stewarding the party within the
majestic spread of its wings.
that old Jack in the Box called 'events', that every
so often leaps out to bloody political noses, has
remained faithful to its potential for party-pooping.
point in putting garlic around the political neck
and shouting 'securocrat' at the event.
remains disdainfully impervious while it drinks
licentiously from the vein of credibility.
it has left Sinn Fein looking both haggard and anaemic.
The party response? Nothing, apart from turning
the other vein so it, too, may be drained.
terms of public image, the spot on the pantheon
that the phoenix had marked out as its own has been
occupied by a vulture, picking on the carrion of
dead deals and decomposing expectations. The magnificent
architecture of Sinn Fein strategy, finessed with
Le Corbusier-like precision, now lies scattered
like a disaster movie rewound, the entire edifice
of party fortunes can be put back together again.
The Good Friday Agreement may be in more trouble
than Sinn Fein. The results of the recent Belfast
Telegraph/BBC Newsnight poll hardly augur too
poorly for the Adams outfit. Otherwise the largest
winners would not have been the DUP, but the SDLP.
The biggest losers have paradoxically been the Ulster
hegemony is growing deeper roots because the unionist
electorate are eager to trust leaders who do not
trust Sinn Fein.
from the perspective of Sinn Fein's opponents, the
party's growth is not dependent on the implementation
of the Good Friday Agreement. So long as it is does
not take the lion's share of the blame for obstructing
that implementation, it can continue to progress,
certainly in the North.
the DUP more teeth than it already has, is inviting
the theocrat-led party to take a larger bite of
the blame. Here the poll is revealing. Most
nationalists either claim to believe that the Provisional
IRA did not rob the Northern Bank or have yet to
be convinced that it did.
would be informative to find out the exact correlation
between this body and the swathe of nationalist
opinion that expresses a preference for the IRA
bloc is arguably the soft underbelly of the republican
electorate. It is a bigger underwriter of the "no
return to war" mode than any sanctions the
governments might threaten to impose.
the IRA returns to armed struggle there is no real
indication that its continued existence, albeit
with its sharper edges buffed down, will hinder
the expansionism of Sinn Fein vis a vis the SDLP.
the organisation to go away, while pretending it
does not rob banks, is the balm that eases voting
for the army-council run party. With the undertaker
business seriously short-changed by the IRA in recent
years, few can be bothered to work up the energy
needed to get angry at Sinn Fein when the IRA short-changes
fat cat bankers.
although it may not think it, actually needs the
Good Friday Agreement to work more than Sinn Fein.
Worked on terms that secure a peace solution, rather
than endlessly feeding a peace process that underpins
Sinn Fein expansionism, would give unionism a major
victory over its republican nemesis.
Fein will, of course, endeavour to frustrate this.
It can have it both ways with the Agreement.
accord that allows the IRA to be smuggled into government
crisis and an ongoing peace process but no settled
with no agreement and the blame shifted on to unionists
- always easier to do with the DUP than the UUP
- the situation fuels Sinn Fein growth in the North,
and allows the party to justify the continued existence
of the IRA, with, of course, a peace process needed
to secure its disbandment.
fortunes in the Republic, where its appeal to the
electorate is not so firmly established, are more
vulnerable to 'events.'
explains Gerry Adams going to considerable lengths
to put some distance, albeit illusory, between his
party and his army. Hence the contrast between his
presidential address at the Ard Fheis calling for
the Robert McCartney case to be settled in accordance
with due process and in open court, and the IRA's
generous offer to shoot those involved.
London and Dublin buy into the myth and return to
creative ambiguity, as it appears they might, then
the IRA will remain a significant player on the
political landscape for some time to come.
all the setbacks, it remains a valuable weapon in
the Sinn Fein armoury. The party leadership wishes
only to relinquish blame for the IRA, not control