The most extraordinary thing about this robbery is the speed with which the IRA seems to have been comprehensively landed with the public blame for it particularly when the jury remains out for many outsiders over Castlereagh (some believing it was an inside job), Colombia and Stormontgate. Perhaps, evidence will emerge that exonerates that organisation, but given the areas in which the operation took place, it was effectively on the IRA’s watch.For now, it looks to have been an enormous own goal that barely serves any of the party’s longterm objectives. Although individual members of the party believe Orde was out of order in making his accusations without evidence or arrests, there is also disblief that the IRA could have put the party in such a difficult position vis a vis the peace process.
It certainly leaves the party’s leadership severely wanting in terms of its long term credibility. It’s been opened to ridicule from opponents. And perhaps most damagingly, it has created an impression (rightly or wrongly) of the IRA having the ultimate authority over Sinn Fein’s own elected representatives.
In the week to come there will be speculation as to what this means for the peace process: will the party be forced out of the process; what price might they be forced to pay to stay in; and what are the implications for future reform of policing?
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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