Sinn Féin's millstone

Gonzo mentioned Brian Feeney’s Irish News column yesterday, but I think it’s worth highlighting a different section of the piece now that Newshound has made it available on-line

I don’t buy into the idea that, although symbolic, simply joining the Policing Board is by itself sufficient “evidence that the IRA has stood down” –

Sinn Féin’s 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.

Clearly that could not happen.

That argument relies on the same logic which predicted that an end to IRA activity would follow inexorably from the signing of the 1998 Agreement. It was flawed logic then.. and it is flawed logic now.

But the part of Brian Feeney’s article that stood out, for me, was this –

Whether or not that was the explanation behind the IRA’s actions, the opportunity of months absent of political developments cuts both ways. 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 he’s 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, it’s 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?

It’s hard, maybe impossible, for republicans to see this but what Bertie Ahern and his ministers are doing queuing up to take a poke at Sinn Féin leaders, is trying to make it easier for Adams and McGuinness to convince their movement that the IRA must retire from the field and become an old comrades association.[emphasis mine]

As he points out, the Taioseach has been cautiously encouraging through the current crisis –

Throughout all this drama the taoiseach has tried to keep republicans’ eyes on his target. While openly repeating his allegations that the Sinn Féin leaders he was negotiating with knew of IRA plans, he has taken every chance to repeat that he wants a comprehensive agreement that includes Sinn Féin. In other words, last December’s deal is still available but only republicans can make it happen.

In the meantime, to concentrate their minds, the gardai and Criminal Assets Bureau will set about dismantling the IRA’s financial structures built up since the late 1970s and laying bare the linkages within republicanism.

One embarrassing revelation will follow another in the coming months.

However, the implication seems to be that if the ‘millstone’ is shed, then that ‘strategy’ may be adapted. But, surely, the process of tackling organised crime of this nature should continue whether that ‘millstone’ is shed by Sinn Féin or not?

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