George Burns, our new guest blogger, kicks off with a Republican take on the impact of the last few days on the forward momentum of Sinn Fein’s electoral bandwagon.By George Burns
In today’s Irish Times (subs needed), Anthony McIntyre argues in a peace headed “strategically induced crises pay electoral dividends for Sinn Fein” that the Northern job will “breath new life into the peace process and the process is what keeps Sinn Fein growing”.
McIntyre argues that as the British and Irish governments are transfixed by the peace process like a moth to the flame, the Sinn Fein leadership, playing by its own rules, benefits from the permanent instability.
“Its primary strategic goal is not an agreement in the North but
expanionism, North and South. The attainment of any deal is evaluated within this over-arching framework and never on its own merits,” he says. And with more electoral cherries to be plucked in the 2005 Westminster elections and the expected Dail elections in 2006, now is not the time for a deal.
Strangely, instead of pointing to Sinn Fein’s work on the ground, McIntyre says “Gerry Adams’s statesmanlike profile is the primary reason for Sinn Fein being able to expand in the Republic”, although the IRA’s continued existence is also a help.
“Central to maintaining that peace process as a ‘work in progress’, and consequently the profile of Mr Adams, is the continued existence of the IRA. With the IRA off the scene, the peace process comes to the end of its shelf life and beds down as a solution,” says McIntyre.
“But to be of benefit to Sinn Fein’s strategic designs the IRA has to do more than merely exist. It must – employing plausible deniability – continue to disturb the peace, upset the unionists, and allow Sinn Fein to promote the need for a process through which ‘peace’ can be pursued against the wishes of agenda-setting ‘securocrats and recalcitrant unionists.”
McIntyre argues that if Sinn Fein was serious about reaching a deal it would have reached it with David Trimble before the 2003 Assembly elections and with the DUP now in the unionist driving seat, the only deal acceptable to the Paisley et al is one which will bring the peace process to a conclusion and “to conclude the peace process before the Republic’s electorate had been milked for it was worth never featured in Sinn Fein’s intentions.”
With the next election in the Irish Republic most likely coming in 2006 due to a possible constitutional challenge over new electoral boundaries if the FF/PD coalition wait until 2007, when McIntyre believes Sinn Fein could double its number of TD’s from five to ten, the IRA won’t be “traded” until the 2010 election, with Gerry then looking to run for President in 2011.
According to McIntyre, senior Sinn Fein member Jim Gibney says the IRA is completely under the control of the party leadership so a deal could be done.
“The organisation could quite easily be put out to graze but the time is not yet right,” says McIntyre. “Too large a hiatus between concluding the peace and the 2011 presidential bid could seriously arrest the forward momentum of the party.”
One thing that certainly backs up McIntyre’s argument is the fact that the IRA’s prevarication on decommissioning, the scandals of the Colombia Three, Castlereagh, the ongoing issue of the release of the killers of Garda McCabe etc. have had no effect on Sinn Fein’s electoral rise north or south of the border.
Why should the Northern Job be any different?
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