“Sinn Féin are the last people in the world to be able to reconcile with unionism…”

Today’s must read is from Denis Bradley in the Irish News today. It’s an almost soulful piece on the late deputy First Minister and the final act of his career.  After a particularly acute take on that famous quote of Enoch Powell’s as to how all political careers end, he recalls:

The press conference, at which McGuinness outlined his intention to resign, was dramatic in political terms and even more so in the revelation of the seriousness of his illness. The ‘aawh dear’ as he sat down, probably evoked more warmth and votes than any of the policy issues he went on to discuss.  The ‘aawh dear’ encapsulated the years of effort, the miles of travel, the weary bones from age and sickness and the disappointment at what he was about to do – bring the devolved institutions crashing down.

He underlines the advantages that McGuinness leaves his party, not least in the manner of his leaving. But it also comes with something of a sting in its tail regarding its glaring deficits…

Sinn Féin is now in a win-win situation. It can agree to resurrect the institutions or it can let them wither for a time or even forever. The dynamic and the push for Irish unity has moved into the realm and the dynamics of Brexit.

Future constitutional decisions have moved into a broader Anglo/European space.

Within a lifetime, we have moved from Eddie McAteer, of the old Nationalist Party, knocking his head against a stone wall, to the leaders of the DUP pleading with Sinn Fein to resurrect Stormont.

Sinn Féin is presently strong but continues to suffer from the blindness that is inherent in the republican project and was easily detected in McGuinness. He and his party were blind to the reality that Sinn Féin are the last people in the world to be able to reconcile with unionism.

Charm and a warm handshake does not heal everything. There is too much hurt and death in that mix. They are also blind to the fact are the last people to lead on the Brexit issue.

They have neither the knowledge, the people or the experience within that world. They would be better following other more experienced political parties into that morass.

In the coming years, the republican project is going to have to learn when best to lead and when best to allow others to lead. It is something they have not yet learned and without McGuinness’s charm it is likely to reveal itself in future in a cruder fashion.

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