Two important things have happened in the last fortnight that have barely registered in a media preoccupied with a scandal that was already well on its way to being fixed before it hit our screens.
One really big one was the revelation that serial abuser of children in his care William McGrath made up a spurious connection with military intelligence. For most of my adult life Kincora’s been a byword for sleaze and cover up. Yet it was barely covered. A fixed point in the narrative became a unexpected variable.
The second was the revelation that Martin McGuinness’ health condition is seriously life curtailing. His departure carried that extra tinge of emotion of a man who knows his time is shorter than he had until recently planned for.
Time has suddenly turned enemy where it had so often been his friend. His lifelong friend and some time comrade in arms, Gerry Adams in interview with Pat Leahy at the Irish Times looked as if this unexpected turn had taken a toll on him too.
It’s possible this rolling up of time has not just affected McGuinness and Adams, but that aging band of rebels formerly known as the Army Council seems to have led to a radical ditching some of the party’s key touchstones:
Earlier this week, Mary Lou McDonald told The Irish Times Inside Politics Podcast that Sinn Féin should have “a conversation” about joining a Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil-led government, something the party ruled out before the last election.
Previously the party had insisted it would only join a left-led government. Is this a recasting of the party’s political strategy in the South?
“I have to say, I never really subscribed to that notion of a left-wing government, certainly not in the short-term. I mean, who are the left?”
This looks a lot like a shift in political strategy.
SF’s decision to sit out the horse trading after last February’s southern election cost it an opportunity to explain to the wider nation, not just it’s red lines, but what a government containing SF in the Republic might look like. Ditching leftism (like armed struggle before it) is just another weight thrown from the balloon in order to regain height.
As the Irish Times editorial notes today:
Having triggered a northern election to a negotiation process in which it has no concrete red lines, over an issue which Adams now concedes is being handled adequately: the clock is now running down, rapidly.
The party’s next “ten year plan” will undoubtedly be Adams’ last. Suddenly it seems, there’s not that much time left to fulfill the big promises of the past.
In time, almost all fixed points become variable. Interesting times ahead.
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