So how is that when the Iraq war has the British left and right so split that the IRA and Sinn Fein can unite it, apparently, so completely. Dean Godson in the Spectator wonders how Ahern will deal with an apparently recalitrant Republican movement.He warns there are some stringent lessons from history:
Southerners have historically afforded the republican movement a degree of latitude in operating up north. But woe betide republicans who subvert the south: de ValÃ©ra hanged his former IRA comrades during the second world war. Now that the extent of Sinn Fein/IRAâ€™s criminal empire is becoming apparent south of the border, the constitutional parties of the 26 Counties have again taken fright and have turned on the republicans with a vengeance.
And the British are not the only one accused of having a special team of spooks or spies:
According to Garda sources, this racketeering is not simply about personal enrichment or even pension schemes for aging Provisionals. It is also a highly sophisticated operation whose main aim is to help Sinn Fein/IRA seize power. It includes spying on the private lives of Dail members of rival parties in key target seats. Far from being a creative sideline to redirect the Republican movement away from full-scale terrorism, criminality gives Sinn Fein/IRA a major advantage in the political arena.
However Godson beleives that Aherns game plan is assuduously avoid burning bridges, and attempt another deal after this affair has blown over. But he may face problems:
Mr Ahern may have difficulty in pulling this trick off. The complex investigations will go on for a long time under a militantly apolitical Garda commissioner, Noel Conroy â€” who only briefed the Taoiseach on them after the raid. Who knows where the trail might lead and what might emerge each week? Already, one of Mr Ahernâ€™s closest associates, Phil Flynn, has been questioned by the Garda. Mr Flynn is a former industrial troubleshooter turned businessman who was once a vice-president of Sinn Fein. He has recently received a commission to overhaul Sinn Feinâ€™s organisation; the convicted IRA terrorist, Brian Keenan, has been a visitor in his home.
As for Sinn Fein, he reckons they will continue to try and play coalition partners off each other:
They are skilled at this kind of operation: after the first suspension of Stormont in 2000 they demonised the Ulster secretary, Peter Mandelson, and largely exempted Mr Blair. Although the Taoiseach is sensitive to accusations that he is letting the justice minister hang out to dry â€” as exemplified by the Irish Independent leader of 22 February â€” few who know Mr Ahern would want to rely upon him in this sort of fight. And if the republicans can force out the justice minister, they might also win the scalp of the Garda commissioner, too, with incalculable consequences for Irish democracy.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty