A HAPPY New Year to the patriots who last week decommissioned the statue of Sean Russell, who ended his murderous IRA career by dying on a U-boat and being consigned to the waves wrapped in a swastika. Dublin no longer is shamed by being the only city in Europe with a monument to an ally of Hitler.
Unfortunately, Ireland's main cause of shame - the fascist travesty of a republican movement that represents everything that is worst in Irish nationalism - is alive and well and embarking on a year-long celebration of the Sinn Fein centenary.
On the run-up to the big birthday on November 28, 2005, we are promised rallies, concerts ("with major artistes"), exhibitions and fuhrer tours (sorry, "leadership tours") across our lucky little country, and events are planned for England, Scotland, Wales, Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Latin America and Africa.
It's the globalisation of the ghastly annual West Belfast propaganda-fest (prop. G Adams) with its magical components of whinging, ranting, mendacity, ersatz Irishry and pride in local murderers, all packaged with grandiose PC rhetoric about justice and rights. We're even promised "a series of murals throughout the 32 counties".
All this will be expensive, but since the Northern Bank recently became Sinn Fein/IRA's unwitting sponsor. Money will undoubtedly be no object.
Not that all this is being undertaken solely for the ceol agus craic. No, it's to be, we're told by Caitriona Ruane, "the platform for a recruitment drive", and the "celebrations will focus on issues of huge importance to Ireland's future such as equality, human rights and ethnic minorities".
Caitriona Ruane is a real laugh. She used to insist when she ran the West Belfast festival that she was not involved in Sinn Fein. Similarly, when she began the campaign to bring Farc's three little helpers back from Colombia, it was just out of the kindness of her heart.
But those of us who knew her and followed her career with interest knew she was only teasing, and were therefore not surprised when she joined Sinn Fein, smartly elbowed out a party stalwart and won the South Down assembly seat he thought was to be his. Appointed Sinn Fein gauleiter (sorry, "spokesperson") on Equality, Human Rights and Women, she showed her keen sense of humour by inviting Martin McGuinness to host the press conference launching Sinn Fein's Freedom Charter, which inter alia, said that everyone has the right to life and to be protected from all forms of injury. Laugh? I nearly died.
Can it be Ms Ruane who thought of penning the comic line on the Sinn Fein website, where a party reputedly (try proving it!) funded by robbery, smuggling and fraud assures us that it has a "well-earned reputation for honesty and integrity".
(Actually, I'm kidding. My personal experience of the woman suggests she is in the great tradition of humourless republican harpies, whose patron saint should be Mary MacSwiney. These days they are more interested in political power than in sacrificing a generation of young Irishmen to internecine warfare, but boy, are they still pitiless broads. I've heard many republican speakers in my time, but for sheer nastiness, a venomous performance in Crossmaglen by Bairbre de Brun (now MEP) to an enthusiastic audience that included an IRA colour party, is the one that still gives me the shivers. What is it with republican women? Do they become denatured by snuggling up so close to violent men? Was Mary Lou MacDonald turned on by standing beside Brian Keenan, IRA bomber, as he eulogised Sean Russell?)
As a keen student of Sinn Fein revisionism, I can confidently predict the narrative thrust of the centenary celebrations will dwell lightly on the party's first 70 years. Sinn Fein's inspiration and founder, Arthur Griffith, was no republican: he espoused a dual monarchy under the English crown and favoured passive resistance over force. The party was not involved in the 1916 rising, though through some fancy footwork it won political power on the back of it. While it secured a majority of seats in the general election of 1918, it won less than half the vote.
It had not sought a mandate for violence, but was subsequently hi-jacked by the IRA. Arthur Griffith was a negotiator for the Anglo-Irish treaty that saw Sinn Fein split, with the anti-treatyites making off with the name and disappearing into the political wilderness because they rejected the legitimacy of the southern state: it did not abandon abstentionism until 1986.
Ms Ruane's circus will be ignoring these embarrassing details. The official line is that Sinn Fein "is a republican and labour party, taking its inspiration from the politics of Wolfe Tone, James Connolly and the 1916 Easter Rising". I can't imagine that either Tone and Connolly would be too thrilled with that. Both abhorred the sectarianism that infests modern Sinn Fein/IRA.
Modern Sinn Fein/IRA is not in the tradition of Tone, who wanted to unite people of all religions or none, or of Connolly, who sought to unite the Catholic and Protestant Belfast working classes against the bosses. It is, in fact, a manifestation of the vicious, sectarian genie that Irish nationalism from time to time lets out of its bottle for another assault on Protestants.
It was the naive idealists in the United Irishmen who unleashed those responsible for such obscene cruelties as the burning of more than a hundred men, women and children in the barn at Scullabogue. It was their heirs in 1916 who provided the opportunity for what became a war on southern Protestants. And most of the young people who - in the name of social justice - began the trudge to Burntollet on January 1, 1969, would look on in horror as the worst beast of Irish nationalism was reincarnated to spend decades massacring Protestants, terrorising its opponents and fashioning itself into a ruthless, fascist movement bankrolled by criminals.
How do you think Wolfe Tone would feel about those long years in which the IRA steadily killed off Protestant farmers on the border? About the deliberate fomenting of sectarian tensions that gave us Drumcree? About a movement talking of his ideals that tradesin lies?
How would James Connolly, whose life was one of abject poverty, feel about the flash houses, cars and fashionable clothes of prominent republicans, subsidised by protection rackets, counterfeiting and licensing of drug dealers? How would that crusader for those at the bottom of society feel about the beating and intimidation of children?
So, a reality check for a year during which Sinn Fein will target our young people with disinformation and black propaganda. Modern Sinn Fein/IRA is led by people who want power at all costs and who will do and say anything to get it. The movement has much more in common with Al Capone than it has with Tone and Connolly.
Whatever ideals it once had disappeared during the decades when its members murdered almost two thousand people out of sheer hatred. It is dominated by Northern hard men - the H-block gang - who hate the South, need quislings to do their bidding and are seeking to recruit more.
Like Sean Russell, it is a disgrace to the Irish people.