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Two political medusas are not a pretty sight

(Tom Kelly, Irish News)

Recent polls suggest that Sinn Féin may have little to worry about following the McCartney murder and the Northern Bank heist.

This will disappoint many who thought that the criminal activities of the Provisional movement would have resulted in some electoral damage to Sinn Féin.

It is a sad indictment of where we are as a society that it does not. Sinn Féin wields a mandate as lethally as paramilitaries wield M-16s.

For more than 20 years Sinn Féin has assiduously conditioned sections of the nationalist community into mirroring the most repugnant practices of unreconstructed loyalism.

The appalling vista of systematic bigotry; the subrogation of ordinary people in the pursuit of false patriotism and the coat trailing of flags and marches are now as important to the nationalist psyche as it is to those on the loyalist side.

Of course, finding the black-tie circuit closed to the Sinn Féin hierarchy has bruised the egos of some in the Provisional elite. The recent awakening of American consciousness to the true face of the Provisional movement is amazing.

Where have these people been for the past 30 years? Why did the murder of Mr McCartney cause them more indigestion than the murders of Jerry McCabe or Frank Kerr?

Since the ceasefires, by donning a veil of democracy Sinn Féin distracted the democratic world from the reality of Provisional criminality and the smell of sulphur.

These days some of those who feted the Sinn Féin leadership and wet nursed them into the mainstream political process are having restless nights; though some through personal vanity still don't see the magnitude of their actions.

The only consolation of being duped by the Provisional movement into believing they were buying into democracy is that they also duped many of their own followers – even if that reality has not dawned on some of them yet.

For the majority of the nationalist community there never was any romantic notion about murder and the representatives of mainstream nationalism were unambiguous in condemning any notion that murder could be somehow justified.

Unionism bears much of the responsibility for the electoral appeal of Sinn Féin and the increasingly uncompromising attitude of the wider nationalist community.

The stubborn refusal by unionists to countenance power-sharing measures until it was begrudgingly dragged from them in the Good Friday Agreement has tempered any enthusiasm within the nationalist community for any genuine or sincere attempts to move things on.

It is clear that some unionists, particularly those in the DUP, believe that by the strength of their mandate they can undo the cooperation between the British and Irish governments.

It is duplicitous in the extreme for some unionists to try to fool anyone in Northern Ireland into believing we could ever be as 'British as Finchley', and the struggle faced by secular unionists in reining in anti-Catholic rhetoric of the bigoted fanatics in their own ranks is proof, if proof was needed, that equality for some unionists is a one-way street.

Sinn Féin is a formidable electoral opponent and unionist talks about electoral pacts aimed at limiting their growth will provide Sinn Féin with an electoral trump card.

Those who encourage such unity of purpose among unionist political parties are short sighted and their only gain will be the further polarization of the north.

Whether Arlene Foster or Michelle Gildernew holds Fermanagh/South Tyrone is irrelevant. Unionists once held all but two of the Northern Ireland Westminster seats and three-quarters of all seats in Stormont and still they could not govern the place, and no British government will ever allow them to govern again without a power-sharing executive and meaningful all-Ireland structures being in place. Similarly, the Provisional movement are no closer to their goal of a 32-county socialist republic in 2005 than they were in 1975!

The Provisional movement has successfully mirrored loyalism not only in fanning the flames of sectarianism but also now in commissioning acts of criminality. Now the DUP seem intent on showing Sinn Féin that they can mirror republican media antics too. We have two political Medusas facing one another and it's not a pretty sight.

Elections in the north have rarely solved anything and the forthcoming elections will be no different. Those in the British and Irish government who saw the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP as two lame duck parties have found themselves with two fighting cocks in the DUP and Sinn Féin.

Unfortunately, two years on the electorate ended up with a turkey of a result. Let's hope it's not a re-run this time around!

March 22, 2005

This article appeared first in the March 21, 2005 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News