Sinn Fein caught napping by reaction?

In the Sunday Independent, Anthony McInytre argues that the Sinn Fein leadership was caught napping by Bertie Ahern’s decision to go on the offensive in the wake of Hugh Orde’s public statement.He believes however that the key part of Ahern’s strategy was:

Ahern’s masterstroke lay not in accusing the IRA but in unambiguously placing Sinn Fein leaders at the heart of the decision-making processes within the IRA. In doing so he has signalled that the party’s leaders will publicly carry the can for any actions engaged in by their own militia. The legal fictions have been dissolved. No longer will institutional power inflict the myth on society that the Sinn Fein leadership goes to the IRA, that the two are somehow separate entities.

Potentially, this imposes a degree of constraint on the party leadership’s room for manoeuvre. To the extent that it organises, sanctions, or ordains violence, there will no longer be an official cloak behind which it can absolve itself of responsibility. Strategically using the process to undermine the peace as an aid to its own expansionism now comes with a health warning. Sinn Fein exposure to the Republic’s electorate and Corporate Irish America will lack the glamour of yesteryear.

However, he argues that none of this will change the party’s current strjectroy:

Sinn Fein, while peeved that the veils of the peace process have been stripped away, calculates that it can withstand the hurricane. It has journeyed here before and knows the terrain well. Experience has equipped it with the necessary hide to sit out the storm. The current proclivity of London and Dublin to hold on to the peace process, despite the vituperative tone of their discourse, will assure Sinn Fein that the current mutual standoff does not preclude some mutual embrace.

The governments are right to refrain from recommending sanctions against the party. Arbitrarily punishing the electorate forthe democratic choices that it makes subverts the very democracy that those advocating sanctions ostensibly promote.

But the insistence, by Dublin in particular, that the US administration should not bin Sinn Fein’s invitation to the St Patrick’s Day festivities at the White House will be interpreted as an indication that processing will at some point be back on track. Sinn Fein leaders could hardly scream ‘discrimination’ were they to be treated like all other convicted felons who seek access to the US.