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Past Time to Deliver an Outcome

What with trying, largely unsuccessfully, to avoid blame for the collapse of the latest political initiative, having to weather a storm of protest in the Republic around the proposed early release of Det Garda Jerry McCabe's killers, and dealing with fallout from the latest twists in the "Colombia Three" saga, Sinn Féin has been under the cosh somewhat in recent weeks, writes David Adams

Davy Adams • Irish Times, 24 December 2004

A general view that republicans were mainly at fault for the failure of a peace process initiative is, in itself, something of a novelty. Sinn Féin has always been able to ensure that someone else (preferably a unionist) carried the blame for previous such failures. Not this time.

Despite the DUP being a tailor-made fall guy (central casting couldn't have come up with better) and Ian Paisley virtually gifting them an exit route with his ill-conceived "sackcloth and ashes" speech, Sinn Féin still failed to garner much sympathy in citing IRA sensitivities as a pretext for not reaching agreement.

Demanding the early release of the Adare killers regardless of the feelings of Det Garda McCabe's family and his police colleagues, while at the same time prattling on about not causing offence to republicans, might just have smacked a little too much of double standards for most people's taste.

Or perhaps it was simply a case of people beginning to wonder if, with Sinn Féin being an ever-present at failed initiatives, it might possibly be they and not everyone else who was at fault this time.

But no matter, maybe we should be thankful that republicans are otherwise occupied at present, because it gives the rest of us time to consider distinct patterns that are beginning to emerge in the peace process.

After successfully orchestrating an implosion within the Ulster Unionist Party by continually promising much but delivering little before finally hanging moderate Ulster Unionists out to dry, one wonders if Sinn Féin might now be trying to employ similar divide-and-conquer tactics in their dealings with the DUP.

After more than 10 years on ceasefire, republicans are still enticing unionists with heavily conditional promises of total decommissioning and a final IRA winding-up. Are they hoping to tempt a more pragmatic DUP faction that finds expression in people like Peter Robinson and Jeffrey Donaldson into advocating taking a chance on those promises and, in so doing, provoke a split between them and the fundamentalist wing that looks to Ian Paisley for something akin to divine guidance? They may not yet have fully realised that the DUP is a totally different animal from the UUP.

Like Sinn Féin itself, the party is tightly controlled from the centre, extremely well disciplined and certainly not given to publicly airing internal disagreements. And, of course, the Ulster Unionist experience of dealing with Sinn Féin will not have been lost on the DUP either.

If there is to be a schism in that party, it certainly won't be before Ian Paisley expires. However, that such a tactic looks doomed to failure is beside the point. If that indeed is what Sinn Féin is trying to do, then it bodes ill for much further progress in the peace process.

In our more rational moments, even the most avid supporters of the peace process, like me, still wonder if Irish republicans can ever really conceive it to be in their best interests to be contributing fully to a peaceful and politically stable Northern Ireland.

There is another pattern beginning to emerge as well or, rather, a sense of déjà vu. As Bertie Ahern stood before the assembled media in Dublin recently, with Gerry Adams grinning over one shoulder and Martin McGuinness the other, to declare that photographic evidence of decommissioning wasn't possible, he reminded me, for all the world, of John Hume. And that, in turn, caused me to reflect on how Sinn Féin, through Hume, sucked dry the SDLP before effortlessly taking its place as the senior nationalist party in Northern Ireland.

With Bertie already politically damaged by declaring his willingness to release Jerry McCabe's killers (and, crucially, receiving nothing in return for his pains), as republican ex-prisoner Dr Anthony McIntyre astutely points out, Sinn Féin is still in a position to trade in the IRA at some later date for electoral gains in the Republic. Might we be witnessing a similar attempt to displace the major party in the Republic? If we are, for more than the obvious reasons I hope it is unsuccessful.

Bertie Ahern is someone I hold in particularly high regard, not least because of his personal commitment to finding a lasting settlement in Northern Ireland. This no more amply, and movingly, illustrated than by his coming directly from his mother's funeral to continue negotiations in Belfast in the lead-up to the Belfast Agreement. His total dedication, however, like that of John Hume, might be viewed by others merely as a weakness to be exploited.

Whatever the machinations of Sinn Féin, sometime soon the peace process has to stop being just that, a never-ending process, and deliver an outcome.

Reprinted with permission of the author.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

2 January 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Thing About History
Tom Luby

Do Not Be Afraid to Face the Truth
Mick Hall

Past Time to Deliver an Outcome
Davy Adams

Reclaiming Irish
Dr. John Coulter

Anthony McIntyre

Response to Anti-Semitism
Brian Kelly

23 December 2004

The Spectre of Imprisonment
Marian Price

Bad Santa
Anthony McIntyre

Blunkett's Interment Law Struck Down
Eamonn McCann

Trust Us, It's Not What It Looks Like
Brian Mór

ARN & Street Seen: End of the Year Comments from Davy Carlin
Davy Carlin



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