Malachi O’Doherty, never to be counted among the more optimistic of Northern Ireland’s commentators re the peace process, reckons that those northern nationalists who have voted for Sinn Fein have all but killed the Belfast Agreement, by supporting the continuation of an illegal IRA.
He argues that even if (as many political insiders believe it will) the process survives, the lack of visibility in the relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA means that future elections in Northern Ireland will necessarily be compromised:
What of the Sinn Fein vote? It will be tested in May in local government elections and the General Election. If it goes up again that will be calamitous.
If most Catholics vote for a party of bank robbers and spies that will reflect on their commonsense and their civic commitment. On top of that, district policing partnerships will collapse as SDLP members lose their seats and Sinn Fein refuses to take theirs. Would it be even worse if Sinn Fein did take theirs now?
And how fair will the election be anyway if one party has a fighting fund of secret millions and all the patronage and influence that goes with such wealth?