Tom McGurk asks difficult questions in an article, Sinn Fein must find a way, in the Sunday Business Post which greatly increased my respect for him. He neatly manages to both tie and distance SF to and from the IRA and has enough nationalist and republican orthodoxy in the article to allow himself to pursue questions that come close to heresy. Similar questions, less well crafted, will doubtless be written elsewhere, but in this case it won’t be as easy to shrug them off as coming from a consistently hostile source.
“In the North too, a new generation of nationalists emerged with educational, economic and cultural strengths unlike anything known before. As the old oligarchic structure of unionist economic power was wiped away by free market forces, the new nationalist economic power utterly changed the social landscape of the Six Counties. The last thing the post-ceasefire nationalist generation in the North needs is a paramilitary army.
Following the ceasefire, this newly aspirational generation voted in unprecedented numbers for Sinn Féin.
They did this because their demands and expectations were matched by Sinn Féins harder political nose and they voted too – let’s not forget it – to divert the republican movement’s energies away from paramilitarism to politics. Ironically they voted for the war party in order to end the war. Above all, they voted because they wanted the share of political power that was the inevitable consequence of their new economic and cultural position.
The very serious question that Sinn Féin needs to ponder this weekend is whether their some 320,000 voters across the country fully appreciated the role the IRA would have in the discharge of their democratic franchise.
Of course. the political forces ranged against Sinn Féin were determined to trammel their political ambitions by tying them to the IRA, but do their voters accept this arrangement?
How can you have, at one end, a political party with 320,000 votes demanding political power and at the other end a secret, armed society exercising a political veto by virtue of their continuing existence?
The question this weekend is actually not who robbed the bank, but who runs the show lads? Is it the universally franchised, democratically elected members of parliament or the IRA army council with its more limited franchise? I don’t know, but I would like to know. So too would the wider Irish political democratic constituency.“
“This is about the long march of the nationalists of the North out of the dark and into a new century to their full share of peaceful political and economic prosperity. Sinn Féin is the weapon they chose to carve out that share. Is Sinn Féin up to the hard choices now needed to deliver it?”