Democrats are no fools

An interesting editorial in Bertie’s favourite paper, that’s the Irish Times again, states that the ‘old game’ is already over – Day of the IRA shadow has ended – a little premature, perhaps, but it’s their strongest line yet.The editorial leaves litle doubt as to the Irish Government’s message to Sinn Féin –

Tough talking took place at Government Buildings yesterday when Mr Gerry Adams was advised that the continuing existence and criminal activities of the Provisional IRA had become a fundamental obstacle to Sinn Féin’s participation in government, North or South.

And echoes what the UUP and the SDLP said yesterday –

But republicans appeared to believe they could share power in the shadow of the IRA. The Northern Bank robbery – and the gross abuse of political trust it represented – changed all that. It acted as a wake-up call to democratic parties on this island and a seismic shift in attitudes has resulted.

There’s a distinct chill in the air, according to the Irish Times, and it doesn’t pull any punches when apportioning blame for that –

The political process in Northern Ireland is now in cold storage because of the criminal activities of the IRA. All the bluff and bluster by Sinn Féin will not change the fact that security forces on both sides of the Border are convinced, on the basis of extensive intelligence, that the IRA planned and executed the robbery. The topsy-turvey world of republicans, their sense of victimhood and their clever public relations have challenged that reality by way of Mr Adams’s wounded assertion that Mr Ahern had failed to prove that he and Mr Martin McGuinness had known in advance about the robbery. Any IRA involvement in the raid was, he maintained, “a separate issue”. Such bombast may serve to provide Mr Adams with a public fig leaf, but it emphasised the rift that had opened up between the Government and Sinn Féin.

And argues that continued IRA activity means Sinn Féin’s reassurances have no credibility –

Last November, even as Sinn Féin provided reassurances that the IRA was preparing to disband and disarm, the Independent Monitoring Commission reported there was no sign of that happening and that the organisation was continuing to recruit and train members. Then came the breakdown in negotiations, ostensibly because of a photograph, and the Northern Bank robbery. Since then, there has been a resumption of IRA punishment shootings. The democratic family was being played for fools.

The suggestion of a two-year hiatus may have, previously, been intended as a spur to do a deal, but the editorial warns that it may become a reality

In present circumstances, there is no chance the Democratic Unionist Party will share power with Sinn Féin. And the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Mr David Trimble, advised the Government yesterday that the majority of unionists will not endorse Sinn Féin’s participation in government for the foreseeable future. The dismal prospect, outlined by the Taoiseach last October, of a two-year hiatus in political progress in Northern Ireland is in danger of becoming a reality.

Despite that, the Governemnt line of ‘no exclusion’ is restated, but progress will be dependent on decisions that had previously been put to one side –

Political contact between Sinn Féin and the two governments will – and should – continue. Exclusion of republicans did not work in the past. But the emphasis, as the Taoiseach insisted last night, must be on making democratic progress within the political dispensation created by the Belfast Agreement. That will require decommissioning and support for policing.

The old game, the ‘constructive ambiguity’ of the past, is increasingly being recognised as a hurdle to that progress –

Ambiguity, a necessary component perhaps in the early days of the peace process, has been flung back in the face of all democrats on this island. The day of parallel tracks has passed. The Government, elected by the people, must have cast-iron assurances from now on that all paramilitary and criminal activity has ended for good.Then, and only then, will the Government be in a position to move forward.