KEEP an eye out for Brian Feeney’s column in the Irish News today (and probably Newshound tomorrow). Feeney argues that the IRA has become a millstone around Sinn Fein’s neck, and believes IRA activities that have been long ignored by the Irish Government will be focused upon by the Gardai while the current political limbo persists. Irish patience is wearing thin, but perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel?
The Irish government has clearly decided to take full advantage of the vacant period to force an end to the phase of the peace process which should have been completed five years ago, namely decommissioning and the removal of the IRA from the equation. As Bertie Ahern told the Dail, three major efforts in 2002, 2003 and December 2004 had failed.
Now heâs telling the republican movement to act unilaterally. The message from Dublin is that they have no bargaining counters left. Far from the IRA being an advantage, itâs a millstone round the neck of republicans.
No-one, and certainly not the DUP, will join them at a negotiating table while the IRA remains in business, or should that be in finance?
Feeney also – and rightly in my opinion – identifies the point at which the IRA will ‘go away’ as an active paramilitary organisation; when Sinn Fein eventually sign up to the Policing Board, which I believe is ultimately inevitable, if not likely in the short term.
Indeed, if the DUP had the wit to see it, Sinn Feinâs endorsement of the PSNI and their appearance on the Policing Board with government approval will provide the crucial evidence that the IRA has stood down.
Why? It would be preposterous for the IRA to continue its activities if senior republicans were on a Policing Board charged with stopping IRA activities.
The message from Dublin is clear; the ball is in Republican Movement’s court. It has to deal with criminality, and until then, there will be a window of opportunity for the Irish (and to a lesser extent, the British) authorities to take on the RM financially.
If Sinn Fein and the IRA do not face the challenge, then it is likely that the continuing drip-drip effect of negative publicity surrounding republican criminality will be the result, which could affect Sinn Fein electorally at a time when the party is anxious to expand quickly.