How can any party go into coali­tion with toxic Sinn Fein?

When I put my­self in Mary Lou McDon­ald’s shoes, I can al­most feel some sym­pa­thy for her, writes Ruth Dud­ley Ed­wards

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Analysis -

WELL, good­ness me, poor Mary Lou McDon­ald con­tin­ues to have a re­ally rough time.

Even the Taoiseach — who up to now ap­peared to be in bliss­ful ig­no­rance of who runs a po­lit­i­cal party he’s been in­ter­mit­tently woo­ing with an eye to the next coali­tion — has had to face up to and re­veal pub­licly some unig­nor­able facts about her un­savoury party.

As emerged a few weeks ago in the Re­new­able Heat In­cen­tive (RHI) in­quiry hear­ings in North­ern Ire­land, Sinn Fein — who was claim­ing to have aban­doned Stor­mont be­cause of its hor­ror about DUP cor­rup­tion — had been in the same game. It turns out the po­lit­i­cal wing of the IRA — that gang fi­nanced by rob­bery, smug­gling, ben­e­fit fraud and so on — turned out not to have clean hands when it came to rip­ping off the tax­payer by tak­ing ad­van­tage of a flawed en­ergy-sav­ing scheme.

And what’s more, it was do­ing so at the be­hest of a shad­owy rul­ing cadre of vet­eran repub­li­can grandees.

I try not to brag, but when a long time ago I was first told about how DUP spe­cial ad­vis­ers (SPADs) ap­peared to have been help­ing friends and re­la­tions to take ad­van­tage of a set-up ap­proved by civil ser­vants and politi­cians that en­abled them to make pots of money by burn­ing sub­sidised wood pel­lets (‘Cash for Ash’, as it be­came known), I asked where Sinn Fein was in this.

Nowhere, I was told. It was ex­clu­sively DUP stuff.

That, I said, was ridicu­lous. If there was any free money go­ing, they would have their grubby hands on it on be­half of their party and its sup­port­ers.

But in his tear-stained let­ter of res­ig­na­tion pulling down Stor­mont, Martin McGuin­ness had cer­tainly pinned the blame on his coali­tion part­ners. He ex­plained pi­ously that “the DUP’s han­dling of this is­sue has been com­pletely out of step with a pub­lic mood which is rightly out­raged at the squan­der­ing of pub­lic money and the al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct and cor­rup­tion”.

Ow­ing to be­ing well aware that McGuin­ness was still on the IRA Army Coun­cil he claimed no longer ex­isted, that had au­tho­rised in 2004 the multi-mil­lion-pound rob­bery of the North­ern Bank, I didn’t be­lieve him for a mo­ment, but there was no firm ev­i­dence un­til re­cently, when it emerged — as Leo Varad­kar ex­plained last week in the Dail — they had been well and truly in­volved.

Micheal Martin put it more strongly. “I have ab­so­lutely no doubt but that the col­lapse of the Ex­ec­u­tive and the As­sem­bly was con­trived nearly two years ago by Sinn Fein for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons. Al­legedly, it was over the re­new­able heat ini­tia­tive. We now know Sinn Fein was in­volved in try­ing to keep that ex­tended as well. The de­gree of cyn­i­cism in­volved in that act was ex­tra­or­di­nary.”

It had also emerged, as the Taoiseach ex­plained, that the rel­e­vant Sinn Fein min­is­ter (the ever-sanc­ti­mo­nious Mairtin O Muilleoir) had been seek­ing the ap­proval of se­nior un­elected repub­li­cans to OK sign­ing off the scheme.

When I try to put my­self in her shoes, I can al­most feel a tiny bit of sym­pa­thy for Ms McDon­ald. Gerry Adams was taught over years how to de­feat in­ter­roga­tors by ly­ing shame­lessly, and when he got into a tight spot, he had his part­ner-in-crime — the shrewd Martin McGuin­ness, to con­sult. And, of course, he had Ted How­ell, his life-long friend, emis­sary and strate­gist — a con­trib­u­tor to his cook­book af­ter whom one of his teddy bears is named.

Mr How­ell was namechecked by the Taoiseach in the Dail as one of the non-elected se­nior repub­li­cans to whom Sinn Fein min­is­ters de­ferred.

Mary Lou re­ally only has Adams, who is tough and able but of­ten shows rot­ten judg­ment, as, for in­stance, when he got so hooked on trans­form­ing the party into New Sinn Fein the Pro­gres­sive Party, that he over-rode McGuin­ness’s wishes and ap­pointed the light-weight pup­pet Michelle O’Neill as his suc­ces­sor rather than the toughie Conor Mur­phy.

Who is there down south whom she can con­sult when try­ing to cover up the past and present crimes of the IRA? Martin Fer­ris cer­tainly has a dis­tin­guished IRA pedi­gree, hav­ing done time for im­port­ing weapons of mass de­struc­tion, but he and fel­low south­ern veter­ans are thick, the bright, lily-white Shin­ners are ei­ther naive or af­ter her job, and the most prin­ci­pled of them, Peadar Toibin, has gone off in dis­gust at his ill-treat­ment to found a po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous ri­val.

McGuin­ness had the charisma to keep the hard-lin­ers happy and Stor­mont afloat, but Adams could not and so McGuin­ness was forced at death’s door to kill the thing he had come to love. Then Adams came to re­alise that Sinn Fein — un­der his tainted lead­er­ship — would never be ac­cepted as coali­tion part­ners and in­stalled McDon­ald as his suc­ces­sor. But it’s not work­ing out. How could it?

And who does she have in the North, other than Adams, who would un­der­stand her prob­lems down south? Not the Boys in the Back Room, Nordies al­most to a man. Does Mary Lou chan­nel Mar­lene Di­et­rich by croon­ing: “See what the boys in the back room will have/and tell them I’m hav­ing the same/Go see what the boys in the back room will have/ And give the them the poi­son they name.”

The prob­lem is that they’re the ones with the poi­son, and they ad­min­is­ter it to her ev­ery time she shows any signs of in­de­pen­dence. It’s grad­u­ally be­com­ing com­mon knowl­edge that the IRA Army Coun­cil still ex­ists, and that am­pli­fied by some fel­low-trav­ellers, it dic­tates strat­egy to Sinn Fein’s elected politi­cians.

Isn’t it time for our demo­cratic par­ties in the Repub­lic to say that un­der no cir­cum­stances will they go into coali­tion with one con­trolled by an il­le­gal group of thugs who claim to be our coun­try’s true govern­ment by right of lin­eage and vi­o­lence?

‘Mr How­ell was name-checked in the Dail’

LINKS: Mary Lou McDon­ald

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