Sinn Fein pulled an initial blinder last night: one, by not turning up for the Nolan Show and letting Gregory Campbell explain the nuances of the Panel Report all on his own; and two getting the host Stephen Nolan read out their key messages on their behalf.
However, in the longer run not speaking about it, leave the field open to your opponents to define the ground on which this issue gets unpacked. The problematic linking of ongoing IRA criminality with the party is not likely to go away anytime soon.
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell echoes Micheal Martin’s line of questioning yesterday:
“It is a pity the Panel did not follow the money trail a bit further. The money from those robberies did not just evaporate, it was invested in front businesses and it funded further illegal activities such as diesel laundering which is being carried out with PIRA personnel, infrastructure and muscle.
“The Sinn Féin leadership say there is no evidence for all this and of course they are right. There is no evidence because a considerable proportion of their members are still bound by the secrecy oath they swore when they joined the IRA. If in fact the party is not controlled by the Army Council, which all the old Provos seem to believe it is, then why does the party not simply tell the truth?
“When we hear them saying in public that people should come forward and tell the police or Gardai what they know, what are they saying to their own people? How come none of them has come forward, never once? Is it because of the IRA oath? Gerry Adams could set them all free, if it is true that the party does not take orders from anyone else.
Sinn Fein needs to turn its back on its dirty past and its dirty war and tell its own people to come forward and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That is what the people of Ireland want them to do.”[Emphasis added]