Increasingly Sinn Fein are starting to resemble nothing more than another ordinary little party, says John Drennan
There was something all too typical about the denouement of Sinn Fein’s cack-handed attempt last week to embarrass Joan Burton via the inaccurate claim that the Department of Justice was sitting on a report about the policing response to the activities of the suspected paedophile Domhall O Lubhlai.
For those who wondered about the political cheek of Mary Lou McDonald, given SF’s ongoing travails in such matters, the answer was simple. Sinn Fein were engaging in the ageless Fianna Fail tactic of hiding in full view.
To put it mildly the tactic rebounded badly as Joan Burton immediately turned the spotlight back on the republican movement by repeatedly stressing O Lubhlai’s strong links to republicanism.
As SF responded with baffled fury to their latest rout it was just the latest example of how our Sinn Fein Scientologists are losing the spin game.
One of the great political puzzles of the Mairia Cahill scandal is how these political Machiavellis have been so incapable of dealing with the IRA’s collusion with a culture of sexual abuse.
The essence of political strategy is that when faced by an immediate crisis you work out the expected long-term denouement of the problem and base your response on that.
When it comes to this issue, however, the party has been as flat-footed in its response as any of its conventional rivals.
This is all the more surprising for the pandemic of abuse within the secretive, closeted world of physical-force republicanism, means you surely would have a strategy to deal with the bursting of that boil.
If so, it has neither been evident nor good.
Part of the trouble may be that, rather like the church, or the BBC and Jimmy Savile, Sinn Fein simply hoped that the child abuse monster hiding in the Provo closet might go away.
There, alas was never any chance of that occurring.
Still once the truth finally surfaced we might have expected they would have learnt enough from history to avoid following the errors and precedents set by similar serial offenders such as the Catholic Church.
Instead they repeated each and every one. There was denial and denunciation followed by a circling of the rearguard in Belfast.
When that didn’t work we got faux empathy with poor Mairia and calls for counselling; minus any difficult historical investigations of the sort of ‘decent people’ who conduct kangaroo courts.
It hasn’t worked and it won’t wash.
Instead, on each and every occasion, Sinn Fein have been firmly behind the eight-ball right down to the farcical denouement of documents appearing anonymously in Gerry’s Belfast post-box.
Such now is the scale of the debacle even Martin McGuinness is circling anxiously around the situation if for no other reason that an election is due in the North next year and Martin doesn’t want those clouds circling around his sainted head. One explanation for Sinn Fein’s current dilemma is that they have become the political equivalent of what in cricket is called a flat-track bully.
The flat-track bully is a batsman who scores heavily against easy opposition on soft pitches, but then disappears when the going gets tough.
In the case of Sinn Fein, their political experience since the peace process began has been one of unalloyed attack.
Within the North, once the SDLP opened the door, Sinn Fein characterised them-selves as a vibrant new community force who would take on the old men of the SDLP and finally bring those Unionist fellow Irish ‘bastards’ to heel.
The South was a somewhat more difficult battleground, but having hung in, they have started to gather real critical momentum at the precise point where the establishment parties are wilting under the pressure of the citizens’ existential crisis of confidence in the State.
Suddenly, now Sinn Fein are on the back-foot and liking it as little as Mother Church when the heat came on the ‘note-takers’ in their ‘kangaroo courts’.
Of course there is another far more critical reason for the current discomfort of our soft-slippered Sinn Fein Scientologists.
No matter how finely apportioned you are when it comes to spin or strategy if that which you are spinning is a thing of rot, you cannot but fail. Sinn Fein may like neither the problem nor the denouement.
But, the child abuse scandal has left the Sinn Fein Emperor, and Empress-in-waiting, without a stitch of political clothing.
Instead the movement has, for those who want to see, been unveiled as being just another ordinary little Irish party as distinct to some great ideological force.