Sinn Fein not quite ready for power

AS someone who has voted for Sinn Fein in the past and would do so again I take the Independent Newspapers-led assault on the ‘Shinners’ with a pinch of salt.

But nevertheless some things about Sinn Fein will have to change before I would be comfortable with the party wielding power.

It’s no use anyone pretending that there is not a crossover between the IRA and Sinn Fein. The whole Republican Movement has evolved out of the conflict over the national question here. Sinn Fein still twists itself into knots over this issue. The idea, for instance, that Gerry Adams has never been in the IRA is laughable.

The problem was that the Republican Movement was at war with the British and in a semi-war with the State down here. Over the course of the past thirty years that has inevitable led to a culture in the movement of subterfuge and general murkiness. People had to lie about IRA membership. Banks had to be robbed to buy guns. Sinn Feiners on the one side and gardai and the justice apparatus on the other developed a mutual loathing.

All of this has been acknowledged by the movement and the need to end ‘physical force republicanism’ is now an explicit goal of the leadership.

Now we know, since last week, that the IRA is willing to disarm totally and to instruct its volunteers to enter a new ‘mode’.

Rightly or wrongly, there is a perception in many areas of Dublin that Sinn Fein is a greater force than its membership or votes would suggest. I’m sceptical about that. I would like to see hard evidence of vigilantism before I could accept that criticism of Sinn Fein.

Therefore, the revelation in court that Sinn Fein man Niall Binead had documents detailing surveillance (fairly petty surveillance) of senior politicians is a disaster for the party.

It’s absolutely obvious that you can’t be in the government of a democratic state and have a private army outside it. Even Sinn Fein accept that. I’m afraid that until Sinn Fein has proved that the IRA has been decommissioned at all levels, a huge number of people won’t trust them with power.

Murkiness all round

The recent conviction of Niall Binead and Kenneth Donohue for IRA membership raises a lot of questions about justice in this state.

The crucial witness against them was a senior garda officer who said that they were IRA members. That was it. He didn’t produce any evidence. He said he had to protect his informants.

The judges examined the garda evidence, an unprecedented move on their part. They accepted the gaurd’s accusation.

The men’s defence was not allowed to see the evidence, never mind contest its veracity.

The men were then found guilty by the judges after a non-jury trial at the Special Criminal Court.

This isn’t good enough. You have to wonder what the point is of having a trial if the judges are going to make their minds up on evidence that doesn’t even make it into the courtroom.