Over at Brassneck, I’ve compiled a round up of the blog comment on recent events and the issue arising. I’ve ended with Conor Ryan, who, it seems to me covers the political (as opposed to the moral or legal) angle better than most “yesterday was the day when the process – and Sinn Fein – finally showed its maturity”. Now it can be said that this was a reluctant conversion. The sheer awkwardness of McGuinness’s body language not to mention the tortured prose for me betokened, not so much insincerity, as an unfamiliarity with the mantle of leadership he now has about his shoulders.
This is new territory for a party that has systematically avoided external damage almost at any cost. Time after time it burrowed in behind the SDLP, let it make the gambits (most notably policing reform) and then walked in to take the credit when the controversy and the political was substantially over. As one former member told Slugger a few years back, ‘they are generous to no one but themselves’.
Michael White in his usual jolly manner noted Sinn Fein’s difficulty in its own back yard, and after noting Adams’ ‘weasel-ish words’:
Adams may not be a natural on TV (the Brits kept him off it for years under Mrs T so he may lack practice), but he has a delicate balancing act to sustain in what we routinely call the republican community. Most of us want him to succeed, don’t we? A little hypocrisy about violence is a small price to pay.
Before putting that one to bed, try listening to two women, both wives of policemen. Angela’s call is here, who describes some of the fear Policemen’s families live with… But it is also worth listening to the woman who called in this morning, who described her family’s experience of living with the 24 hour threat to her husband herself and her children from an earlier campaign when they get round to loading up today’s programme here… It’s near the beginning… And there is the McCartney and Quinn families who most recently fell foul of the party’s most profoundly ungenerous protective instincts.
The new political dispensation, which has been unremittingly generous to the party, now requires Sinn Fein to put a large amount of its hoarded up political capital out onto a more open Northern Irish market. If it begins to play more straight and directly it may well find that the pall of its recent bloody past begins to fade. And it may help it, finally, to face the future, rather than constantly casting a nervous eye over its shoulder, and back towards past horizons.
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