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27 October 2014

Sinn Fein family are doomed through secrets and lies

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein should own up, wrote the editor of The Irish Catholic last week. "Mr Adams and his colleagues should learn the lessons from the Catholic Church, where clerics who felt they were protecting the institution actually brought it to its knees."

We've all been part of institutions and we all learn through experience that they're more fragile than they seem.

I've been part of a few: there were Dublin schools (which I disliked, or loathed), University College Dublin (which I loved), Cambridge University (to which I was largely indifferent), the Post Office (a disaster I was glad to see privatised) and the Department of Industry, for many members of which I had great admiration and affection, but which first made me realise how misguided loyalty makes even high-minded people stoop low in the interests of institutional self-preservation.

The strategy adopted by my senior managers to ensure public spending cuts didn't hit us (offer up as sacrificial victims the services the public were known to value) was straight out of Yes, Minister, which at that time hadn't even been written.

I used to protest to colleagues that we could cut our staff by 50% without damaging the economy and yet, after three years in the place and feeling at home, I could feel bonds of loyalty tempering my radicalism as I revelled in being part of a band of brothers (and a few sisters).

Had I not had the option of leaving to become a freelance writer, there was a fair chance I'd have become an aspiring Dame Humphreyetta.

I learned much more thereafter about how human weakness got in the way of institutional reform from books I wrote and committees I joined.

The Economist newspaper was the most successful institution I got to know, mainly because its editors are never more than first among equals and have to contend with combative staff who feel free to question every policy decision vigorously in editorial meetings. I never knew anyone fear that honesty would cost them their job.

The Orange Order, whose members loved it dearly, was its own worst enemy, because insularity and loyalty to brethren so often trumped common sense - and at times even morality - and drove reformers to despair.

And then there were the Roman Catholic Church and IRA/Sinn Fein, both of which I knew well and which, for a time, seemed impregnable, because of their determination through intimidation to stifle debate, kept their secrets safe and hide their sins from the public.

Like all too many institutions, a church which had been formed for the best of reasons and which preached a gospel of love and care was corrupted by its own power and colluded in covering up terrible sins against the little children to whom Jesus had said the Kingdom of God belonged.

The Provisional IRA, which had its fair share of youthful idealists and people of selflessness and courage, pitilessly and brutally murdered its opponents and sacrificed the innocent in the interests of its perverted ideology.

No more than in the case of the Catholic Church did its leaders encourage, or approve of, sexual abuse, but both institutions practised vicious corporal punishment and promoted a culture of terrified obedience.

Run in tandem with the Provos for more than three decades by the same - now elderly - men, Sinn Fein has proved incapable of sloughing off its totalitarian mindset.

A party whose spokespeople demanded the arrest and prosecution of anyone involved in covering up child abuse is now in disarray, its blind loyalty and resistance to dissent embarrassingly exposed by its inability to deal with the testimony of one brave woman.

"The only rock I know that stays steady," said the motor industry giant and business guru, Lee Iacocca, who had reason to know, "the only institution I know that works, is the family."

And yet, even apparently strong families fail, often because of the secrets and lies members tell to preserve a facade.

Like every other institution, like the old Stormont, like the Orange Order, like the Roman Catholic Church, like the IRA and like Sinn Fein, without light, air, transparency and truth, in the long run they cannot prosper.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards