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ireland, irish, ulster, ireland, irish, ulster, Sinn Féin, Irish America

Getting Stormont's ugly show back on the boards

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday Life)

Another act in the political pantomime that is Northern Ireland politics will be staged this week.

The three person-IMC style panel, appointed by the British government to assess the state of paramilitary activity here, is due to publish its report. Regarding the IRA bit, you don't have to be a clairvoyant to know what's coming.

The assessment won't contradict what the Chief Constable has already said about the Provos but it will provide enough cover for those who wish to keep breathing life into the political corpse that is the Stormont Executive.

The report will read something like this: the IRA still exists but isn't a threat to the peace process and while some of its members murdered Kevin McGuigan, the leadership knew nothing about it.

Had renegade IRA members used the organisation's weapons, and executed somebody without any authorisation, there would surely be dead bodies on the street by now.

Those responsible would, at the very least, be facing the wrath of the Provo leadership and be public outcasts. They wouldn't continue to live peacefully in the heart of the republican community.

No statement signed 'P O'Neill' claiming responsibility for the murder of Kevin McGuigan will ever be released, or uncovered, and those who want to believe the killing was unsanctioned will always be able to take refuge in that.

The assessment will further state that the IRA isn't targeting members of the security forces and isn't a danger to the organs of the state. Well hooray for that. Nobody ever said they were.

Those at risk from the Provos are those who have the misfortune to cross them in their own community. Just as it's working-class Protestants – and not nationalists – who have most to fear from loyalist paramilitary thugs.

So long as the UDA and UVF bullyboys are targeting the likes of Tracey Coulter and Jemma McGrath – as opposed to anybody on the other side of the sectarian divide – nobody in power will give a hoot.

"They can take a beating or a bullet for the peace process" has effectively become official policy.

Don't imagine for a second that by setting up a security assessment panel, the British government is finally interested in tackling the paramilitarism still plaguing our society. Far from it.

This is about waffle and window-dressing before restoring business as usual. The government anticipates that the security report will help bring down the curtain on the killing of Kevin McGuigan, to remove the body from the stage so to speak.

It's hoping that the assessment will be enough to allow DUP ministers to waltz back into their roles full-time. The wheels of the Stormont show could begin to trundle along again.

Morality or idealism are irrelevant. Politics is just show business for ugly people.

October 13, 2015, 2015
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This article appeared in the October 11, 2015 edition of the Sunday Life.

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