Bob McCartney believes that the flaw in all of last week’s dealing is in the assymetrical recognition of Sinn Fein’s electoral mandate, and its tacit endorsement of the IRA’s military mandate to potentially resume armed struggle.
The notional separation of Sinn Fein from the IRA provided the party with a negotiating advantage which was not shared by its nationalist or unionist opponents. Sinn Fein, wearing its ‘democratic’ hat and relying on its electoral mandate, could claim political legitimacy enabling Adams, McGuinness, Doherty and co to posture as statesmen.
Showered with privilege, place, money, and media attention, they talked the talk of democrats, while the IRA acted as their political and social enforcers and criminal fund-raisers in the nationalist ghettoes.
The separation of Sinn Fein ‘democrats’ from IRA ‘terrorists’ became the key to ongoing benefits. It enabled Sinn Fein to accept the Mitchell Principles and gain entry to the negotiations which delivered the Belfast Agreement.
It secured the release of convicted republican terrorists; the destruction of the RUC, and the placing of Sinn Fein ministers in government. It permitted Sinn Fein to deny responsibility for the decommissioning of IRA weapons by accepting that Sinn Fein did not control the IRA’s activities and should, therefore, suffer no greater political sanction than other ‘democratic’ parties should the IRA refuse to decommission.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty