Sinn Fein to play both ends against the middle?

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 Valéra hanged his former IRA comrades during the second world war. Now that the extent of Sinn Fein/IRA’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 — 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 Ahern’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 Fein’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 — as exemplified by the Irish Independent leader of 22 February — 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.

  • mickhall

    That there has been a backlash in the ROI against them, led by FF can hardly come as a surprise to SF. If anything it will be FF who were caught by surprise, in that the Shinners allowed them a ready made peg on which to hang their hat. Once SF began to challenge FF as the true Republican party in the south, the FF leadership have been looking for a way to slow the SF electoral battle bus. I doubt their intent was/is to drive it from the highway altogether due to it not being road worthy. But when the opportunity arose, politics being politics they just could not resist the opportunity. Although Bertie may well tell the Shinners where they can get a dodgy MOT to make their battle bus more roadworthy, in the hope in a year or so it might help get the GFA back on the road. However, for Bertie to do so the shinners will have to dump their lovingly maintained old vehicle and purchase a more up to date Bus…

    As to PIRA intelligence moving over into the political field, why not? The media reaction to this is a tad disingenuous, for all the UK/ROI major parties of any worth would have a similar outfit. The Tories call theirs MI5 and the British Labour Party names theirs after the computer into which their rebuttal department feeds all the dirt they have on opposition politician. Ireland being a somewhat smaller pond much of the dirt on there opposite numbers is kept in peoples heads, although FF being the natural Party of government will have had had decades to collate a mass of information about the movers and shakers throughout Irish public life. Indeed when people say Bertie is a formidable operator and not a man to be crossed, what else are they talking about but his ability to pull the rug from anyone who does him down, due to the information he holds on them.

  • Jacko

    mickhall
    You constantly compare provisional SF with sovereign governments – telling I think.

  • Ringo

    Mick

    for all the UK/ROI major parties of any worth would have a similar outfit. The Tories call theirs MI5 and the British Labour Party names theirs after the computer into which their rebuttal department feeds all the dirt they have on opposition politician.

    Surely you’re not holding the Tory party up as a model for the future of Irish politics?

    Aren’t you one of them lads who keeps telling us that the influence of British politics on this island has been to the detriment of all?

    And now you’re telling us it is ok to behave like this seeing as that’s what the Tories and Labour do?

  • mickhall

    Surely you’re not holding the Tory party up as a model for the future of Irish politics?
    Aren’t you one of them lads who keeps telling us that the influence of British politics on this island has been to the detriment of all?
    And now you’re telling us it is ok to behave like this seeing as that’s what the Tories and Labour do?

    Posted by: Ringo

    Ringo,

    Ouch, you winded me there and not even below the belt. From where im now sitting on the canvas, a spot of solidarity with Pat looks attractive, no, must get up. 😉

  • Circles

    You really have to shake your head. That SF want to “seize power” really shouldn’t surpirse anyone. It is after all a poltical party with an agenda for Irish unity.
    Of course it always helps if this can be made a bit more sexy by adding that the IRA have this huge observation / intelligence gathering / money making / big brother type operation breathing down the necks of TDs in vulnerable seats. Kind of puts a nice dark spin on it, and turns back the clock on the public perception of the republicans (cartoonist will surely have the fangs back on Gerry Adams soon if they haven’t yet). But the real question is just how true these allegations are.
    At the minute the complete absence of a burden of proof in all accusations against Sinn Fein makes it far too easy for anybody to claim anything. We’ve gone from a bank robbery to overthrowing the republic – and all that in just 2 short months. And still the proof of it all is as shakey as a second years woodwork project.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    What absence of proof? It was good enough for the Irish courts.

    http://www.breakingnews.ie/2004/11/25/story177583.html

  • barney

    List of Politicians Names Found In House!!! Stop the presses FGS!

    They weren’t actually covicted of having a list though, now were they BG?

  • DessertSpoon

    I would take the backlash against Sinn Fein and the IRA in ROI more seriously if I thought it was because anyone down there really genuinely cared but they don’t. All they care about is their own vote and now that SF are nibbling away it or even taking whacking great bites out of it it’s time to tell everyone what we already knew about Sinn Fein and the IRA but what the ROI Government have conveniently ignored for years.

    I never used to be this cynical you know

  • Ringo

    DessertSpoon

    All they care about is their own vote and now that SF are nibbling away it or even taking whacking great bites out of it it’s time to tell everyone what we already knew about Sinn Fein and the IRA but what the ROI Government have conveniently ignored for years.

    That’s how real politics works!

  • George

    Dessertspoon,
    Most people in Ireland and the UK blissfully ignored the bombings and killings for 30+ years so it should come as no surprise that they also ignored the subtle inconsistencies in the peace process.

    The people only engage when it really affects them which is why you’ll see the Sinn Fein vote holding up south of the border despite all this hulabaloo.

    Why? Because SF has engaged the people who voted for it by going into areas no other party has been in for years and getting these people to vote. These people are also demonised by the media on a regular basis so aren’t going to be worried too much about what the Irish Times or Irish Independent says.

    Also, it’s safer now for a southerner to vote Sinn Fein than ever before because there isn’t a hope in hell of any party sharing power with them.

    If SF’s vote holds north of the border in the May general election then the worst is over for them.

    All the stuff going on at the moment is making SF the ultimate protest party.

  • Ringo

    George –
    Also, it’s safer now for a southerner to vote Sinn Fein than ever before because there isn’t a hope in hell of any party sharing power with them.

    why would that make them more attractive?

    The people only engage when it really affects them which is why you’ll see the Sinn Fein vote holding up south of the border despite all this hulabaloo.

    I think it will hold up too – but for a party that is supposed to be growing that is no good. The will be plenty spin from Sinn Fein about how their vote held up despite the bad press, but that is a significant set back – not a triumph. Like any movement – they need momentum.

    And it is hard to see how they can really get out of the areas no other party has been in for years and into areas where there would be less of an unquestioning attitude to their position on certain matters and take votes from other parties in the numbers required to become a major party.

    It certainly isn’t going to be possible to do so while maintaining the stoic united front on display from the party on matters related to the IRA. Individual candidates will break ranks or suffer.

  • Davros

    In respect of ROI politics is there not an important class element ? The expansion area for SF was amongst the middle classes. Nice middle class candidates without a whiff of cordite. Nice middle class people don’t particularly care about punishment beatings as they only happen to those they consider riff-raff and who need to be kept in their place. The lippy underclass. However – robbing banks and white collar crime ? Crivvens, that’s a whole different ball-game.

  • levitas

    The notion that SF wanted to “seize power” a la some kind of Munich putsch is so laughable that it says more about those who believe it than those who are suggesting it . The likes of Jim Cusack are so widely discredited that,and speaking as a former journalist on a major Irish daily, former colleagues and friends fall around laughing when they hear the next most preposterous porky emanating from the fevered anti-republican sweat shop which is the Irish Independent these days, under the malign dictatorship of Sir Tony O’Reilly’s hand picked editors. Certain journos at the Indo are virtually under orders to turn up anti-shinner story a day-and many of them are heartily sick of it. As for SF support nose diving in the ROI don’t start counting your chickens anti-shinners…their base would be very cynical of the media and are astute enough to see and sense a witch-hunt when they see one. Also the Shinners are out most nights leafleting and meeting and greeting to reassure their core supporters.
    Also from what I have heard from a reliable source, focus groups employed by two Irish media corporations are registering boredom and increasing apathy about the anti-republican agenda being pursued by so many ROI publications, with comments such as “repetitive”….”same old stuff over and over” coming back…dispiriting for them also that the ubiquity of McDowell’s ugly bonce is widely believed to actually solidify wavering but instinctively pro-republican pro-GFA sentiment FF voters -the very group SF covet for transfers.

    Apparently Bertie’s spin doctors are aware of this and have cautioned laying off on the rhetoric somewhat-hence the marginal scaling down of the intensity in the last few days. What is affecting the shinners however is the Bert McCartney affair , and I gather that internally a huge head of steam is building up on this within SF too…I expect some developments on this with word of SF actually preparing for a “sensational initiative” in the autumn