Report on North’s terror groups - Another test for Sinn Féin credibility

SOME of those well-suited worthies of the right who hope to represent America’s Republican party in next year’s White House race vociferously deny climate change — even if they recognise the science and the evidence behind the phenomenon as valid. 

They do this because a large section their constituency, reactionary and frighteningly insular in many instances, reject the idea of climate change. Challenging that dangerous delusion would be electorally far too expensive. Telling the truth would cost votes.

Irish republicans who pursue their ambitions through Sinn Féin are in a pretty similar bind. Even if they know — or even suspect — that the essential details contained in the report into the current status of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland are accurate they cannot acknowledge that position. If they did it would be, in any rational society, political suicide. And why would they? Trenchant, unwavering and barely believeable stonewalling has been a successful tactic for the party’s leadership for decades.

Despite the report’s conclusion that all of the paramilitary groups operating during the Troubles remain features of life in Northern Ireland, and that the structures of PIRA remain in existence in a much reduced form, those Sinn Féin denials will not be qualified in any way. The report found that senior leadership, the Provisional Army Council (PAC), and some departments with specific responsibilities remain active. The most damming, and hotly contested finding, is that PAC oversees both PIRA and Sinn Féin with an over-reaching strategy.

The core and most disturbing conclusion of the report suggests that the 14 Sinn Féin members of our parliament and that party’s four MEPs are proxies of an unelected, unaccountable and anti-democratic “army” council plotting away in a secure Belfast back room. They will of course, and already have, strenuously deny that assertion. As ever, when we reach this crossroads, we have to decide who we believe — Sinn Féin or the security forces working on both sides of the border on behalf of democratically elected governments. Like the American Republicans who deny climate change those who accept Sinn Féin’s rebuttals seem indifferent to conclusions reached after an independent and thorough assessment of the facts. Like their unwavering nemesis, the lady from Finchley, they are not for turning.

The report also found that individual members remain involved in crime. But it must be acknowledged that the Provos who abandoned terrorism for everyday criminality, unfettered by the burden of what they imagine were noble ideals, seem rank amateurs compared to their former opponents. The report is a terrible indictment of former loyalsit paramilitaries and finds that very many of them are as bad, if not worse, than organised crime gangs anywhere in the world.

The report is unlikely to influence how a decisive number of people will vote in the imminent election but it is impossible to believe that some of the vast — one suggestion is €10m a year — proceeds of smuggling, extortion, fuel laundering, protection rackets and and other crimes will not play a part.

A ballot box in one hand, a swag bag in the other?

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