Will Sinn Fein ever directly accept policing?

On Friday, Fionnuala O’Connor noted that “through the trauma of The Troubles and the prolonged, anti-climactic dickering that for the most part has replaced violence, conspiracy theories have been almost as sustaining as religion”. Eammon McCann highlights the problem of even making an educated guess as to who exactly who killed Donaldson:

Donegal Catch is Ireland’s leading frozen fish brand. Hence the joke that has been whizzing in text messages around Northern republican circles: ‘‘Donegal Catch dish of the day – Cottage Spy.” The fact that the quip is relished as much by members of the mainstream Provisional movement as by so-called dissidents highlights the difficulty that Gerry Adams and other Sinn Fe¤ in leaders face in dealing with the issues emerging from Denis Donaldson’s death.

But setting aside for a moment the question of culpability for last week’s killing McCann re-iterates the logic behind the IRA’s past actions against informers:

This belief is rooted in the core republican idea of the IRA as the legitimate army of the Republic proclaimed at Easter 90 years ago, and of its armed struggle as a defensive war to protect the Republic. This is not a view which can easily, or at all, be reconciled with unequivocal endorsement of the multiparty agreement of Good Friday 1998 which leaves the North constitutionally within the UK and makes any future vindication of the Republic conditional on the support of a six-county majority.

Sinn Fein leaders have managed to appear to dissolve this contradiction by advertising the agreement to their rank and file, not as a settlement but as a means of undoing the purported settlement of 1922. Thus, demands for the full implementation of the agreement are accompanied, sometimes in the same sentence, with pledges to press on without delay the vindication of the Republic, sometimes anticipated as being accomplished by the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016.

McCann believes the real test will come:

…when they endorse the PSNI, accepting the legitimacy and becoming part of the arm of the machinery of the partitioned state, that republican rhetoric will collide with reality and crumble. It will then no longer be possible to maintain the view which provided moral justification for the armed struggle and enabled Sinn Feiners last week to take pleasure in the death of Denis Donaldson.

But this in turn raises another important question: will Sinn Fein ever accept publicly endorse policing in Northern Ireland?


  • As good time as any for a reprise of Eamon Lynch’s excellent 2002 article: Stickies and Stones Will Break Break My Bones


  • Shore Road Resident

    Whether you agree with him or not you must agree that, by Christ, that man Lynch can write.

  • Good article, useful.
    Don’t know this Lynch fella,
    Pat McLarnon, any dirt on the guy you know of?
    urquhart pat’s my mentor on issues of policing.

  • Busty Brenda

    ‘will SF accept and pubicly endorse policing in NI’

    yes. No question. The have seats at Westminister, offices there, paid by British tax payer, take part in a partitionist assembly, have ministers in a partitionist assembly etc etc.

    Of course they will endorse policing. Why not?

  • missfitz

    Um Brenda, are you saying they might betray principles? lol

  • When the Northern Bank was robbed why did EVERYONE point the finger at the republicans?

    Because they are the only competent group on the island, that’s why.
    They talk like ideologues. Hell, they talk like friggin’ Martians. They act like players.

    Does anyone, anyone, think that the republicans will not drop their old rhetoric in a heartbeat and seize what they have been coveting all these long years, power north, power south, power on the island?

    The chuckies have a feckin’ fantastic talent at completely blindsiding HMG and Unionism. They have taken everything the Army and all the Sneaky Petes have thrown at them for thirty years. These guys are like cockroaches, they will be the only thing living after the Nuclear Holocaust.

    What doesn’t this guy understand?
    “It is when they endorse the PSNI, accepting the legitimacy and becoming part of the arm of the machinery of the partitioned state, that republican rhetoric will collide with reality and crumble.”

    They will embrace policing, and they will do so because they have prepared the ground and because it’s the smart political play. The pundit quoted above and collective unionism as a whole, safe in the Fortress Singapore mindset, will feel something warm and wet running down their leg as they contemplate their next move.

    Why do you keep underestimating these guys?

  • Busty Brenda

    missfitz lol

    The shinners wouldn’t do that now would they?

    I must say a very good piece by McCann.

  • Busty Brenda
    You sound a little cynical that SF are taking not only the crown, but the half-crown?

  • missfitz

    Yes Brenda, good piece. Not sure I agree with his conclusion about SF crumbling when faced with legitimate responsibility on policing.

    I understand the point he is making about the problem in balancing two opposing points of view, ie the republicn ideals vs. the reality of the existence of NI within the Union.

    But the reality is that the history of the island of Ireland is littered with such seeming irreconcilable positions. Sinn Fein itself was founded with the intention of restoring dual monarchy and restoring the position that existed prior to the Act of Union.

    Eamonn deValera was the ultimate in effecting a volte face. He provoked civil war as he was opposed to taking the oath to the crown, but after 4000 peole died, he was able to take the self same oath, once he was able to call it a meaningless form of words.

    So, no, I disagree with McCann that SF will crumble. I think we are used to accomodating change in this way, and I welcome the fact that accepting their place on the Policing Board, the shinners will finally be accepting adult responsibility for the governance of the place where they live. It may not be their ideal place and they may want it to be constructed differently, but the most important issue is that we need law and order on the journey to wherever it is we are going

  • yes missfitz well said, if we don’t show that we need law and order on the journey, then we’re open to accusations that its law and order we are opposed to.

  • ingram


    It appears the PSNI have asked their comrades in Sinn Fein to deliver by hand some of their community policing leaflet`s in Republican areas. Anybody with a Photo of “Post man Pat” Pat McLarnon delivering these in his neighbourhood is on a bonus.

    See the Blanket for full details.


  • missfitz

    Thats the core issue now isnt it? You cannot be the man/woman outside the gate for ever, shouting and not cooperating.

    I think that the shinners will need to shape up pretty quickly, but I think that their recent voting surge is in danger of completely evaporating in the next election. What once looked bright, shiny and hopeful is now looking tarnished and a bit too gritty for real life.

    I am no dan of the SDLP, but they will be the natural benefactors of this swing.

    We have been tantalised with normal society since 1994, now we want to go the whole hog. Proper society, proper peelers and proper politicans.

    Well, 2 out of 3 aint bad

  • Busty Brenda

    ‘I think that their recent voting surge is in danger of evaporating’

    missfitz, I don’t think so. Each and every election this is said and shown to be false. I listened to Martin McGuinness last night in Clonard monastary


    and every one in that audience, and it was quite a large audience, were in agreement with mcguinness, save surprisingly the nuns who spoke up and got on his case about abortion. One nun said how dare he get a man like Clinton to help with the peace process, because of Clinton’s stand on abortion. It’s this issue surprisingly enough that the shinners might fall on rather than the constitutional question.

    The debate has moved on, the contradictions are now accepted as part of politics, and inevitably they will join and endorse the police. Other than the fact working class nationalist areas are crying out for law and order, I would expect their endorsement of the police to be definitely welcomed. The only people to see the contradiction are those of a purist republican tradition and they are too small in numbers to have any impact on SF electorally.

  • Dave

    This is where it all fell apart, the story that is.

    “But setting aside for a moment the question of culpability for last week’s killing”

    Why set anything aside why not just state that the SF/IRA shot DD?

    To make life easy for all concerned see if you can work this Er..mystery out.

    There is no difference whatsoever between:

    UVF……….Red Hand Commando
    SF/IRA…….Dissident IRA,Real IRA or any other IRA… so??? who shot DD? answer The IRA.