Time to think carefully about who we want in government
We can be proud that post-revolutionary Irish politicians established a stable democracy. Do we really wish to risk it? asks Ruth Dudley Edwards
BOWING THE KNEE: Will Sinn Fein TDs Mary Lou McDonald, Gerry Adams and Caoimhghin O Caolain take orders from Belfast?
This is a critical period for Irish democracy. A period during which voters have to think hard about whether they want a stable democracy or are minded to take a punt on a smooth-talking populist party linked inextricably with the Provisional IRA.
Yep, I'm talking about Sinn Fein, ruled by IRA veterans who grudgingly acknowledge the legitimacy of the "Free State" they hate, but show their true colours in their worship of terrorists who wanted to destroy it.
In Northern Ireland, they supplanted a successful civil rights movement. In the name of a united Ireland the IRA brought only hatred, misery, anarchy and the destruction of thousands of lives.
Having copper-fastened partition and exacerbated sectarianism it is now shamelessly claimed that what they were killing for all those years was equality.
Anyone who believes this should just look up the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement, which came in the wake of the granting of the reforms the civil rights people demanded and created a power-sharing executive: along with unionist die-hards like Ian Paisley, the IRA helped to bring it down.
Nervous of being accused of undermining the peace process which Gerry Adams still uses as a weapon after a quarter-of-a-century, most Irish politicians hold their tongues about the iniquities of the Provisional movement, but their patience seems to be running out.
The Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin, was right last Sunday at Bodenstown, at the annual commemoration of Wolfe Tone, when he pointed out that: "The party which today uses the name Sinn Fein has no right to claim that it represents the men and women of 1916."
As Martin explained, the then Sinn Fein party was not involved in the Easter Rising, and the present one is conjoined with the Provisional movement founded less than 50 years ago which "waged a campaign in the face of the overwhelming and constantly reaffirmed opposition of the Irish people.
It used methods which dishonoured the Republic and its first loyalty has always been to its own and not the Irish people."
Fine Gael's leader, Enda Kenny, was right too, when in the wake of the revelations in the independent report on paramilitaries he said last week that "the legacy of the Provisional IRA has poisoned society". It was a pity that he qualified this with "in many cases around the border", for the truth is their legacy of brutality, intimidation, criminality, mendacity and corruption has poisoned the whole island.
But as Taoiseach, Kenny has to be more circumspect than the leader of the opposition, for Sinn Fein regularly blames him and David Cameron when they've fallen out with the DUP.
Still, Kenny did talk tough about the IRA's belief about the IRA Army Council being in control of Sinn Fein and about the movement's continued access to weapons and the widespread criminality among its members and supporters. Of course, he knew all about that already, but now it's in the open and at last he has come out against the policy of blind-eye-turning that since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 has enabled the IRA and its freelancers to get away with murder and with the robbery, fraud, extortion, smuggling and corruption that enriches so many of its members.
"There may have been a time when living with constructive ambiguity helped the peace process but that time has passed," Mr Kenny said.
Good. The fear of being denounced as anti-peace and the Provos' enthusiasm for the libel law has stifled criticism from the political and media classes, but perhaps now people will be braver.
If anyone doubted the pre-eminence in Sinn Fein of the old guard, consider the people that southern TDs who were never in the IRA are required to publicly venerate.
Now, I have my problems with 1916, but Irish nationalists largely accept the signatories of the Irish Proclamation as their founding fathers, so when Adams declares that various dead Provos should have parity of esteem with them, they should consider his nominees critically.
He insists, for instance, on that status being given to all those indoctrinated young men in jail for murdering or trying to murder their neighbours who in 1981 died on hunger strike: they thought they were dying for Ireland, but in fact their horrific deaths merely helped gain votes for the leaders who sacrificed them.
Presumably for the sake of gender equality, Adams is also pushing the unfortunate and gullible Mairead Farrell (who according to Wikipedia was recruited into the IRA by Bobby Storey, now Sinn Fein's Northern chairman), whose life from her teens consisted of unsuccessful attempts to kill people and a dirty protest and hunger strike in jail.
She was finally shot dead at 31 in Gibraltar by the SAS as she was targeting an army band with a bomb.
Sinn Fein politicians are expected to revere even the ghastliest of IRA people. One of the tough loyalty tests Mary Lou McDonald, ex-Fianna Fail, had to pass on her climb up the Sinn Fein hierarchy was in 2003, when she was required to speak at a rally in honour of Sean Russell, the Nazi collaborator who was Chief of Staff of the IRA when he died of a burst ulcer in 1940 on a U-boat taking him back home from his explosives training in Germany.
Not only that, but she had to do it side-by-side with Army Council member Brian Keenan, who controlled the bombing campaign in England that killed many civilians and was the IRA's contact man with Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and other unsavoury arms suppliers in East Germany, Lebanon and Syria.
McDonald passed with flying colours and the following year she became a Sinn Fein MEP. She is now, of course, famous for her incessant mantra of "I believe Gerry".
Do Irish voters really want in government people - however able - who bow the knee to the IRA cabal who still call the shots in Sinn Fein?
Ruth Dudley Edwards's 'The Seven: the Lives and Legacies of the Founding Fathers of the Irish Republic', will be published in March