manipulating public opinion

The Irish Times editorial today follows up on its, generally overlooked elsewhere, report yesterday in which Gerry Adams’ chief spokesman [Gerry’s on holiday dontchaknow] admitted that Adams was wrong when he claimed that the Taoiseach had given a commitment that “MPs elected in the six counties will be able to speak in the Dáil”.. a claim which Ahern corrected, as noted here.. they had to unspin the admission though – SF admits Adams wrong on Dáil speaking rights

“Perhaps Gerry wasn’t qualified enough in what he wrote or didn’t explain himself enough,” he [Adams’ spokesman] said

From today’s Irish Times editorial –

It is difficult to understand why Mr Adams misrepresented the situation, last week, in an article published in this newspaper. He may have been annoyed by a succession of statements from the Democratic Unionist Party that entering government with Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland represented a long-term option for the party. In that context, raising the prospect of special Sinn Féin access to the Dáil was likely to antagonise loyalists while mollifying republicans. And, of course, the “Colombia Three” were about to reappear on the domestic scene.

The fact that three days were allowed to elapse before Mr Adams, through a spokesman, acknowledged his misunderstanding of the situation suggests an element of political gamesmanship. Last year, when a deal appeared likely, the Taoiseach told the Dáil he was prepared to recommend that Northern MPs should be invited to attend committee meetings when they were discussing matters relating to Northern Ireland or the Belfast Agreement. It would, however, be up to the Oireachtas to make that decision. And there was no question of MPs being given a right to address the Dáil in plenary session.

This matter had been under discussion for years. And there was never any hint that those Sinn Féin MPs who refused to take their seats at Westminster would be granted an automatic audience in the Dáil. There was certainly no question – as Mr Adams had it – of their being given quasi-ministerial licence to speak on controversial issues such as major construction projects, drug abuse and social housing in this State.

Republicans are good at manipulating public opinion. They have demanded many concessions from governments while delivering as little as possible in return. It was instructive, therefore, that the Taoiseach was the one who found difficulty in convincing the public that no special deals had been done in relation to Sinn Féin MPs or in connection with the return of the “Colombia Three”. Mr Ahern should regard this development as a cautionary lesson in his future dealings with Sinn Féin.

He should.. whether he will is a different matter.