Enda Kenny's first duty is to protect our democracy
By toying with overtures about coalition, the Taoiseach is playing into Sinn Fein's hands, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards
Cash for ash: Sinn Fein’s excuse shows us the spectacle of the people who approved and benefited from the 2004 Northern Bank robbery sanctimoniously denouncing ‘corruption’ Picture: PA
Look, I realise that Enda Kenny is under great pressure - but his eye is off the most important ball: maintaining intact the Irish democracy in which we rightly showed such pride during last year's commemoration.
It was foolish of him to fall into a Sinn Fein trap set last week by Mary Lou McDonald and Gerry Adams by saying he wasn't ruling out a Fine Gael-Sinn Fein coalition in the future.
As Taoiseach, he well knows how dangerous Sinn Fein still is, and should not be speaking as if it were a normal political party, just because Martin McGuinness has been replaced by Michelle O'Neill, a 40-year-old blonde from Tyrone who never killed anyone.
He should know better than anyone that Sinn Fein has contempt for democracy.
As the 2015 official assessment of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland revealed, the Provisional IRA's army council still exists and oversees both the IRA and Sinn Fein "with an overarching strategy".
It was disgruntled Provo hardliners at a meeting in the Belfast Felons Club that forced the collapse of Stormont when Martin McGuinness was too ill to keep things going. So the people who forced the decision were not the obedient elected representatives, but IRA legends such as the ex-convicts Spike Murray and Bobby Storey.
"Cash for ash" was the excuse, which confronts us with the spectacle of the people who approved and benefited from the 2004 Northern Bank robbery sanctimoniously denouncing "corruption".
In a normal political party, there would have been competition for the job of party leader - but you don't get any other than cosmetic elections to leadership positions in Sinn Fein.
Every year since 1983, Gerry Adams has been elected president unopposed. Remember his unchallenged defenestration of Caoimhghin O Caolain as party leader in 2011?
As Adams explained last week in his column in Andersonstown News, Sinn Fein's Pravda, he had agreed with McGuinness "and others in our leadership" early in 2016 a strategy for advancing the struggle and had concluded that leadership transition "must be visible in the gender and age profile".
Hence Ms O'Neill, carefully nurtured as an MLA and appointed leader by Adams and his kitchen cabinet.
Although frequently referred to as someone "without Republican baggage", she is from Republican activists, including her father, Brendan Doris (whose council seat she inherited), an ex-IRA prisoner and local hero, "whose commitment to the Republican struggle…has played a big part in shaping who I am today", she explained in her first interview as leader.
She talked too of the massive impact on her of two SAS ambushes at Clonoe and Loughgall - without, of course, mentioning that both were of IRA local assassins (including her cousin Tony) armed and bent on killing.
The DUP MP Gregory Campbell remarked that "rather than express sympathy or regret to the many innocent victims of PIRA, or other terrorist organisations, Michelle O'Neill offered empathy to those who are guilty participants in two separate attacks on police stations".
Unsurprisingly, unionists don't buy her message of "reaching out to all sections of the community".
Fianna Fail have their fellow-travellers, but Micheal Martin immediately responded to the coalition bait by repeating that he would not enter government with Sinn Fein, causing Adams to denounce him as hysterical and as having an "historical tolerance of corruption" which Sinn Fein has taken "a stand against". (Breathtaking, from the leader of one of a crimininal gang who murdered, tortured and robbed in the name of Ireland.)
The Army Council will be thrilled with the responses of Kenny and the Fine Gael TDs who merely spoke of policy differences, but fortunately some others remembered that quite apart from the Shinners being liable to bankrupt the country if let near power, there was the little matter of their anti-democratic practices.
Colm Brophy went to the heart of the matter with: "God knows Fianna Fail have their faults, but they are a modern democratic party. Sinn Fein is not. As long as that remains the case they should not be in government."
Any hope that you'll remember that keeping Ireland a democracy is your first concern, Taoiseach?
Ruth Dudley Edwards' 'The Seven: the life and legacies of the founding fathers of the Irish Republic' was published by Oneworld on March 22