Editorial from Irish Political Review, January 2008

Fianna Fáil In The North

The Fianna Fail party has announced its intention to return to the Six Counties after 70 years' absence.

De Valera profited from the Appeasement phase of British politics in 1938 by gaining the removal of the Royal Navy from 26 County territory, and thus establishing a necessary precondition for the independence of the Irish state. The meaning of Appeasement in its time, as distinct from later mythology, was the relinquishing of some degree of authority by the British Empire to Indian nationalism, to the Irish State, and Germany freeing itself from the shackles of the Versailles Treaty. When Churchill first raised the banner of Anti-Appeasement in the early 1930s, it was in opposition to a minor concession to Indian nationalism at a time when German resurgence under Nazi rule still lay in the future.

The appeasement of Ireland, in the form of evacuation of the British naval bases which would have made it impossible for the Irish State to act independently in the event of war, was almost certainly accompanied by agreement by the Irish side to let Northern Ireland be. Anyhow that was when Fianna Fail stopped contesting Parliamentary seats in Northern Ireland. And it did let Northern Ireland be. It was Fine Gael and Labour, in a wild reversion to a kind of Republican anti-Partitionism, that stirred things up ten years later with the aggravating, but essentially futile, Anti-Partition campaign, whose main effects were the definite commitment of the British Labour Government to the Northern Ireland system, and the IRA invasion of the North in 1956.

Fianna Fail has now returned to the Northern electoral scene for the declared purpose of breaking Sinn Fein. We doubt that it will succeed. We know that it doesn't deserve to.

The present arrangement in the North owes nothing to Fianna Fail, apart from a spurt of purposeful activity by Albert Reynolds before he was undermined by the Irish Times. That was before the Good Friday Agreement. (Haughey, too, gave behind-the-scenes encouragement to the Hume/Adams process.)

The best that can be said about Fianna Fail under Ahern's leadership is that it did not prevent the implementation of the GFA, though it helped to whittle it down.
Stormontgate, Castlereagh, the Northern Bank robbery, the McCartney 'murder': these are the events by which the GFA was whittled down by Blair and Trimble and Blair and Paisley, with either the acquiescence or the active participation of Ahern. And it was hoped that, along with the scaling down of the GFA, Sinn Fein would be seriously damaged. When Sinn Fein not only held its ground, but increased it, Blair put the screws on Paisley. He did so only when time was running out for himself, and he wanted something on his political epitaph besides the shambles he made of Iraq and the wreck of Yugoslavia. But he did it.

And, whatever the Agreement is worth, credit for implementing it belongs entirely to the Sinn Fein leadership and Blair—and to Paisley, the best calculator of reality in the North for almost forty years, who saw when there was nothing else to be done.

The McCartney 'murder', an incident in a pub brawl, was hyped into an international incident by Ahern and his Justice Minister, and the McCartney sisters were set up for a painful disillusionment. They were given the world but they lost the Short Strand. And it was no use telling the Short Strand that it was acting under the duress of IRA terrorism, because if there is one piece of the North that knows what it is and what it isn't, it is the Short Strand.

And the Northern Bank Robbery—Ahern knew quite definitely that Adams and McGuinness did it. So why didn't he have them prosecuted? Because policing wasn't his business, nor even the giving of information to the police! And if Adams and McGuinness really thought they hadn't done the Bank Robbery, why didn't they sue him for defamation? That was the line spun for him by Radio Eireann.

Along with the other good reasons why he could not be sued for defamation, Ahern's then Justice Minister has provided a conclusive one. He slandered Daily Ireland as Nazi and successfully entered a defence of Crown immunity when prosecuted.

Public life in the Republic is being debased by the Tribunals, and the treatment of Ahern by Mahon is outrageous. But Ahern himself has done as much as anyone, and more than most, to debase public life.

Before the Bank Robbery there was Stormontgate. After making use of Stormontgate to disrupt implementation of the GFA to help Trimble, the British administration found it expedient, for another purpose, to let it be known that the central suspect was its own agent.

And before Stormontgate there was Castlereagh—a break-in to a high security barracks in broad daylight by unmasked men, with the security cameras switched off.

We don't know who did the robbery or the break-in. We only know that nobody has been charged, and that otherwise sceptical people profess to have no difficulty in seeing a strong prima facie case that the Provos did them. There was a sudden onset of gullibility in the interest of Saving Dave—but Trimble proved to be unredeemable.

If Ahern is now being disgracefully treated by RTE on other matters, he used RTE disgracefully in this matter.

But Sinn Fein survived all the dirty tricks—which it could only have done by being the political substance of the Catholic community in its determination to develop.

Of course we have no objection to Fianna Fail finally engaging with the internal realities of the North. And it is good to see that all we have said over thirty years about the need in the North for party politics connected with a state is finally having some effect. But we trust that its only success in the first instance will be picking up the pieces of the SDLP—which had its chance, and bungled it.

We understand that Fianna Fail intends to be Abstentionist in the North, like Sinn Fein. The way this is being put is that it will not contest Westminster seats. Well that's Abstentionism. And Fianna Fail's grounds for it seem to be identical with Sinn Fein's. And that cuts the pretentious posturing down to size.


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