The news that someone has threatened the life of the deputy First Minister is a serious business. Just how serious it is impossible to tell. But Tom Kelly notes in his Irish News column that it is hardly news in the long scheme of things. Indeed he claims that threats on his own life came directly from members and supporters of the deputy First Minister’s own party in the past:
Back then some in Sinn Fein openly encouraged attacks on Policing Board members. Back then some of their less articulate followers, spurred on by careless rhetoric, took unilateral action, allowing Sinn Fein to escape their responsibilities.
Today, there is a wry pleasure in knowing that some of those doing the taunting now openly support the PSNI and serve on district policing partnerships. Others, such as the then Sinn Fein MLA, are no longer members of that party, having being dumped for not fitting in with Armani republicanism.
It is all too easy to forget in the West-Wing version of modern day Provisional revisionism that many in the SDLP bore the burden of attacks from militant republicans and loyalists. Nevertheless that was back then.
He goes on to note the sea change in Sinn Fein’s political outlook:
To maverick militants and old-style republicans the progressive and political maturity of the Sinn Fein leadership in abandoning militarism, supporting the police and signing up to devolution built on the principle of consent is not so much a U-turn as a sell-out.
That these dissidents are mistaken and that they have neither solutions nor support seems irrelevant amid the haze of perverted history handed down to them.
Sinn Fein has taken to the road to explain its case to communities once enthralled with the kind of militant republican rhetoric which told The Irish Times in 1991 that those who are left to finish the unfinished business will do so.
In 2009, for Martin, his family and the rest of us, lets hope that reason routs the legacy of redundant militant rhetoric.
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