“If you can keep your head when all about you”

The Guardian assesses where we are after the drama of December and the events that followed, discusses the choices facing voters on both sides of the border who have voted or considered voting for Sinn Féin and wonders if it is time for Gerry Adams and co’ to step aside if they are unable to deliver the goods. Forward not backAt some point in this process, however, this effort demanded a fundamental act of reciprocity from republicanism – an irreversible embrace of peaceful means at the expense of violence and criminality. The moment for that conclusive act seems at last to have been reached. It is make your mind up time for the IRA, Sinn Féin and their supporters. And high time too.

Thus far, the response of Sinn Féin into this challenge has been inadequate. The vow to banish criminality from the republican movement is naturally encouraging, as far as it goes. But it is actions that count, not words. This is especially the case when the twisted theology of parts of republicanism, in which the possibility of a self-proclaimed political movement such as Sinn Féin or the IRA committing any act of criminality is still a contradiction in terms. This is a culture in which, all too often, to stab someone to death in a bar, as happened to Mr McCartney, to threaten witnesses not to talk to the police, or to rob a bank of millions of pounds do not qualify as criminal acts. Gerry Adams may talk of an end to criminality. But when he does so against the backdrop of a uniformed honour guard at an IRA commemoration it is meaningless to the outside world. It suggests that a new generation of republican leaders may be needed to take the great leap into lawful and democratic activity.