The TUV’s stance on refusing Power sharing with Sinn Fein is one of their most distinctive policies. To refuse mandatory coalition with Sinn Fein was of course a policy once held by the UUP and, until as recently as 2007, by the DUP. The DUP now claim that Sinn Fein have changed and as such they, the DUP, are willing to share power with them. The TUV dispute this and I would submit that a single word can sum up the reason for the TUV’s position: criminality and Sinn Fein’s attitude to it.
Sinn Fein is frequently proud of its links to violent republicanism as represented by the IRA. As recently as the latest leaders’ debate, Gerry Adams, whilst denying membership of the IRA stated that he was proud to be associated with it.
The simple fact is that the IRA, of which Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams are so proud, committed an enormous number of crimes. Even by the Sutton Index ,which grossly underestimates the IRA’s crimes, it was responsible for 1709 deaths during the Troubles and that is to leave out crimes which are accepted by practically everyone to have been committed by the IRA such as Kingsmills.
Senior individuals within Sinn Fein have been repeatedly linked to criminality. Gerry Adams himself has been linked to La Mon and possibly most notoriously to the murder of Jean McConville. Adams’s denials have to be taken alongside his other denials. Whilst various politicians have tried to make their lives appear more interesting than they are (a category into which Adam’s claims to have sung “Always look on the bright side of life” in gaol should be put): his lies about being in gaol when Jean McConville was murdered paint a picture of an individual whose word is utterly worthless.
It is of course not only Adams who seems to have blood not only on his hands but to be saturated in the stuff: Operation Taurus against Martin McGuinness appeared to have evidence of several crimes for which he could have been prosecuted and in 2001 Ian Paisley named Martin McGuinness as the one who ordered Frank Hegarty’s murder.
In very few countries would politicians be expected to share power with a party led by people over whom such serious accusations hang. It might be possible to argue that these accusations are exactly that, only accusations: however, there are also multiple Sinn Fein MLAs who have been found guilty of serious crimes. Gerry Kelly is a released life sentence criminal, convicted in connection with the Old Bailey bombing which killed one person and injured 200. Paul Butler was convicted of murdering a police officer, Martina Anderson is a convicted bomber, Conor Murphy was convicted of explosives offences.
Sinn Fein of course do not accept the IRA’s actions as remotely criminal. In a time of peace Jean McConville’s kidnap, murder and burial would be a crime: in a time of war it would be a war crime. However, as recently as January 2005 Mitchell McLaughlin, the then Sinn Fein chairman, claimed that the murder of Jean McConville was not a crime: a position which Sinn Fein have yet to reverse.
However, even if these crimes are regarded as political there are plenty of other examples of an attitude to criminality which would make it difficult for Sinn Fein to be accepted as democratic politicians in any other society. Gerry Adams’s attitude to his brother’s alleged paedophilia stripped him of any remaining moral authority and it is difficult to see how in any other society his cover ups and lies on this issue would make him an acceptable partner in political power.
Maybe that is the past and all pre ceasefire stuff though why exactly sexual perversion and covering it up is of lesser importance in a conflict situation has never been fully explained. However, there are multiple more recent crimes on which to judge Sinn Fein’s position on criminality.
The position of Sinn Fein on the Northern Bank robbery is of course that the IRA did not do it and as such presumably if they are to be taken at their word (a laughable concept) then indeed it is irrelevant. Again though to pretend for a moment to take that seriously.
When the infamous Thomas Murphy was arrested over tax evasion, Adams stated: “Tom Murphy is not a criminal. He’s a good republican and I read his statement after the Manchester raids and I believe what he says and also and very importantly he is a key supporter of Sinn Féin’s peace strategy and has been for a very long time.”
He also said:
“I want to deal with what is an effort to portray Tom Murphy as a criminal, as a bandit, as a gang boss, as someone who is exploiting the republican struggle for his own ends, as a multimillionaire. There is no evidence to support any of that.”
For a politician to dismiss out of hand alleged serious criminality simply on the alleged criminal’s word would be bizarre in any other society than ours and would call into serious question that politician’s views on criminality and support for the police: in this case incidentally the Garda. Nor is this treatment of those accused of involvement in serious crime unique. When Sean Hughes had properties confiscated at the request of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, Conor Murphy stated:
“Sean Hughes is a sound republican. He has spent his entire adult life engaged in the struggle for Irish unity and independence. He has championed the peace process and the campaign to end political policing. There have been numerous attempts over the years to smear Sean’s character. The raids today on Sean’s home and those of a number of his relatives have caused deep anger in South Armagh. There is no justification for the deliberate targeting of Sean and his family today.”
On other occasions, however, Sinn Fein has been much less concerned about accusing people of criminality even when it was actually the victim of the crime whom they were accusing of criminality. When Paul Quinn was murdered, the same Mr. Murphy, explained the incident as a result of fallings out amongst criminals. When Robert McCartney was murdered Alex Maskey’s response was to blame the police for investigating the crime stating: “It appears the PSNI is using last night’s tragic stabbing incident as an excuse to disrupt life within this community, and the scale and approach of their operation is completely unacceptable and unjustifiable.” Eventually Sinn Fein did suspend several members (those apparently in the Tardis toilets) but later they were apparently quietly allowed back into the party.
Of course on other occasions Sinn Fein have taken criminal activity much more seriously. After Harry Holland was murdered Gerry Adams went with the family to see the Attorney General to complain about the length of the sentences imposed on the killers. Later when Patrick Crossan, one of those involved in the attack on Mr. Holland, was knee capped allegedly by dissident republicans, Gerry Adams did not seem to mention it.
The simple fact is that Sinn Fein’s attitude to criminality is not that of a normal political party. Sinn Fein cannot accept that the forty years of murder and mayhem were unjustified and that the (legitimate) quest for equal rights for nationalists, or indeed the desire for a united Ireland (a reasonable aspiration if perused peacefully) did not justify the murder of dog club members, people at war memorials, widowed mothers of ten, workmen on their way home, shoppers in country towns or Belfast etc. etc. In contrast Sinn Fein is greatly exercised by the crimes of loyalists and the possibilities of collusion, demanding answers and apologies for events chronologically synchronous with, or earlier than, others which they dismiss as past irrelevancies. When it comes to the past crimes of republicans, they are not crimes at all, and even if, by chance certain actions were unfortunate; they were in the past. The idea that so tainted are Sinn Fein by their support for the crimes of the past, frequently their members’ commission of those crimes and their current dubious and partial support for the rule of law, that they are unfit for government, is dismissed as unionist bigotry and a refusal to accept the rights of nationalists.
In the current dispensation the PSNI are to be criticized for excessive and heavy handed policing when they have the temerity to arrest those of whom Sinn Fein approve and equally to be criticized when they fail to catch those guilty of crimes Sinn Fein regard as of importance. The difference between police heavy handedness and inadequate police response is of course entirely predictable and dependent not on the crime but on the approval or otherwise by Sinn Fein of the supposed victim and more importantly perpetrator.
Some unionists and others may feel that in the current climate Sinn Fein have accepted the rule of law and should be accepted, albeit maybe with a heavy heart, into partnership government. However, it is still reasonable to say that Sinn Fein is extremely far from the norms of democracy and too far for normal parties to accept that. The criticism is frequently made that the TUV will not share power with any nationalists / Catholics. Jim Allister has repeatedly stated that he would enter a coalition with other nationalists. It is then alleged that the TUV are ignoring SF’s mandate: again that is untrue. The TUV may wish that nationalists did not vote SF but it recognizes that they have that right.
In actual fact the TUV is not refusing to allow Sinn Fein into power sharing: that might be characterized as undemocratic. Rather the TUV is stating that they (the TUV) will not enter into a power sharing government with Sinn Fein. The TUV are thereby simply depriving themselves of power. That is a completely different and entirely democratic position to hold. If the TUV gain a mandate in the next assembly elections not to enter power sharing with SF, then that is the mandate they have. They have excluded themselves and not SF from power.
The TUV’s aim is to deprive themselves of power by refusing to participate in this game of see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. It is for the other parties to explain why all the above issues regarding SF’s attitude to criminality no longer matter.
This author has not written a biography and will not be writing one.