Sinn Féin and the IRA: policeman and bicycle

Fionnuala O’Connor is not so impressed with the performance (subs only) of Sinn Féin under questioning.Not to put too fine a point on it, she believes that the IRA has shafted Sinn Fein. And she’s not been impressed by the party’s main spokesmen:

The Sinn Féin president can do beard-fingering and repository of republican gravitas, but he isn’t much good on events, whereas Mr McGuinness reverts quite naturally to the stonewalling that stood up so well under questioning in Strand Road and Castlereagh.

And she thinks the faultless image of a party on top of its brief has been blown by the current crisis:

Chances are that most of today’s leadership have yet to separate the elements of their own being, let alone readied their followers for cutting out “the army”. Stopping “the war” brought huge relief. Changing “modes” is perfectly feasible over time, as Fianna Fáil history demonstrates. But republican timescales, given to telescoping when they make demands of others, have always been elastic with regard to requirements of themselves.

And she questions the quality of the leadership that brought the movement to the brink of an agreement that couldn’t be consumated:

How the Sinn Féin leaders got ahead of themselves is a mystery. It’s not as if they have any illusions about the nationalist view of Mr Paisley.

But she says the heist may well have been a calculated risk:

It does not do to under-estimate the self-righteousness, and arrogance, of an organisation which killed and maimed so many in the name of a nation that does not exist. Factor in that they have no reason to suppose London and Dublin will stay mad with them for long, because they have already got away with so much.

The problem for the party is the underlying relationship between the IRA and Sinn Fein. She cuts to a literary reference:

Flann O’Brien’s policeman, who spent so much time on his bicycle that man and bike mixed molecules and were no longer distinct organisms, was no more of a hybrid than most leading republicans. There is hardly an individual in the front rank who isn’t three parts Sinn Féin to two parts IRA, or the other way around.

She notes that in the current credibility vacuum, it’s Sinn Féin rather than the British who find themselves short of public credit:

…the Adams/McGuinness team once announced that IRA robbers did not kill Garda Jerry McCabe though now they clamour for his killers’ release.

But, she believes there is little chance that any of this will end in a direct punishment of the party:

…perhaps the best hope is that even some dual-purpose Provos hear how bad they sound.