a most serious juncture in politics and democracy on this island

The Parnell Summer School opened at the weekend.. and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny certainly pulled no punches in his speech. The Irish Times reported the speech yesterday.. and SF Cllr Christy Burke’s immediate reaction at the event – “Mr Burke remonstrated with Mr Kenny after the speech, particularly on the issue of the party’s involvement with narcotics” – the full text of the speech is available from the Fine Gael websiteFrom Tim O’Brien in the Irish Times

Mr Kenny said there was an extraordinary tolerance of Sinn Féin activity by the media and the Government. He said if he or any other party leader had been involved with the “Colombia Three” they would be probably subjected to extraordinary scrutiny.

Mr Kenny said he had deliberately chosen the eve of the seventh anniversary of the Omagh bombing to make his remarks and he called on the Taoiseach to reposition his government’s attitude to Sinn Féin.

“In dealing with Sinn Féin, the Taoiseach is acting in the name of the Irish people, not simply as leader of Fianna Fáil.

“No holder of the office of Taoiseach should put themselves in the position where they can be held to ransom by the claims of an organisation that could lie for Ireland, and with a tenuous grasp not just on the truth but on sincerity.”

The text from the Fine Gael website shows that Enda Kenny was also highly critical of both Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.. and the media treatment of him –

Gerry Adams gave his usual performance on RTÉ last week on the apparition of the so-called Colombia Three, proving once again, that this particular artist favours politics by pronouncement: no interruption, no contradiction, no questions, no analysis would be, could be, tolerated. It was the word according to Sinn Féin. And it went unchallenged.

But would it not have been appropriate, as the leader of a democratic party, to have asked Gerry Adams if Sinn Féin was involved in the repatriation? Why wasn’t he quizzed as to the men’s current whereabouts? Or whether, this time, they crossed borders as themselves or someone else?

If it were my party that were involved I would be subject to extraordinary media scrutiny. As would Pat Rabbitte or Trevor Sargent or Bertie Ahern. And rightly so. Yet we had a repeat of this reticence when James Monaghan intimated, again to RTÉ, that when you’re involved in a peace process, like he was, it can somehow be better to break the law and travel on a false passport. Why the exception and exemption clause for Sinn Féin, even on issues of such international importance?

Whatever about the media, it’s a pity that our Government haven’t given Gerry Adams a few pronouncements of their own. I’m glad to say that as leader of the opposition, as leader of the Party that founded this State, and the democratic institutions of this State, I don’t share their reticence with regard to the Sinn Féin leader and his increasingly insincere and predatory approach to Irish politics.

He continued in his criticism of the Irish Government –

Regrettably, the current government has compromised its integrity to such a degree on so many fronts, not least on the reprehensible deal to release the killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe that you begin to suspect that another deal, even on the Holy of Holies that is Northern Ireland, could become just one more episode of serial compromise. The Tánaiste and the Progressive Democrats may bleat all they like. But, they are the Government. They do the deals every bit as much as Fianna Fáil.

Compromised as they are then, the two parties may tolerate Sinn Féin bullying, they may put up with Sinn Féin’s deceit and abject insincerity. But they need to remember that if they do, they do it in the name of the Irish people.

and concluded with this challenge to Bertie Ahern –

This is a most serious juncture in politics and democracy on this island. Today, on the eve of the seventh anniversary of the Omagh Bomb, I’m saying clearly to the Taoiseach, that it’s time, now, for him to leave his political comfort zone. It’s time to stand not by the republicans. But, by the Republic.