Written on: 12. 10. 2011 in the category: news Uncategorized

McGuinness is part of the IRA’s army council. This question remains central to the election

THE clock clicks by. Irish democracy sleeps, the lullaby of Sinn Fein lies wooing it to a deadly slumber.

Electors under 30 have little memory of the Troubles: those under 25, none.

Mental partitionism, which became endemic in this Republic after about 1973, means that maybe half of those old enough to remember the Troubles do not actually do so: the memory receptors in their brains were instantly turned off by any mention of the North.

And suddenly, we have an inverse reality to deal with. Because though Martin McGuinness was central to so many shocking things in the IRA’s long and ruinous war, they are not remembered by enough people to count.

Amnesia and ignorance now define the key demographic in this election: and since the main beneficiary of any historical knowledge would be Gay Mitchell, all the other presidential candidates are staying prudently and perhaps disastrously silent about McGuinness.

Martin McGuinness is a member of the Provisional IRA army council. This question remains central to the election.

It is utterly outrageous that media passivity, political opportunism by most candidates and the usual pathological republican addiction to deceit could have taken us this far: that he is now within shouting distance of being both the head of the Army of this Republic, and chief of staff of the IRA. Not one radio or television interview, NOT ONE, has raised with Martin McGuinness his current role in the IRA army council. NOT ONE.

Even the much-quoted question from Vincent Browne on TV3 dealt solely with historical matters, not with the present, or with the threat that Martin McGuinness’s membership of the IRA army council poses to our democracy today.

The feckless and abject failure to protect our democracy is even more inexcusable in the case of RTE. It is our national broadcaster, paid for by our television licences. It has a duty to ask the questions that the electorate needs to have answered. If Dana were believed to be a member of some secret anti-abortion society or Opus Dei, would she not be asked about it? So why has no one on RTE asked Martin McGuinness about his current relationship with the IRA army council? Why has no one asked him what he thinks about the IRA army council, or if it should even exist, or should a member of the IRA council properly be head of our Defence Forces? Are these not relevant questions of a would-be president? And since they clearly are, why have they never been asked on RTE?

Some years ago, the then Minister for Justice Michael McDowell alleged that the IRA had placed agents of influence throughout Irish life, sleepers to be mobilised whenever the Sinn Fein cause needed it.

Is this what is happening now, only on a larger scale? Are the secret lay-troops of Sinn Fein now being called to metaphorical arms, to help the cause? Or could there be some other explanation for the media’s supine failure to confront Martin McGuinness with his present paramilitary associations? There is an RTE Authority: what is it doing as this crisis heaves into view?

Believe me, if this particular Sinn Fein vessel docks, it stays, for it cannot then be reversed towards the open sea.

The word-of-mouth propaganda machine has meanwhile feverishly, and not altogether unfruitfully, been comparing Martin McGuinness, who served just four months in Portlaoise Prison and lived at home for the rest of the Troubles, with Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in solitary confinement. Now, the machine is offering an alternative precedent: Menachem Begin. Was he not a terrorist? Did he then not become head of state?

YES to the first question, and NO to the second. He was by any definition a terrorist, and a very evil one too, but he was never president.

He was prime minister, which in Israel is a usually contentious role. However, he was too widely despised ever to be head of state, for Israel traditionally chooses an emollient and unifying individual to be its president.

This is also now true, if only by unwritten precedent, for Ireland. The duty of our head of state is to be the president of all the people, and to represent everything that is good about Irish life: which is why of course so few people qualify for the job. One needs to have had a fairly blameless and even boring past to live in the Park.

Martin McGuinness has not had a blameless or boring past. My colleague Martina Devlin — to whom the earlier remarks about sleepers most emphatically do not apply, as anyone who has read her spritely columns over the years could testify — is simply barking up the wrong tree when she says that the IRA was not alone responsible for the Northern Troubles. Merely being an armed participant in what was a voluntary war disqualifies any such person from becoming the head of state of this Republic.

We want clean hands in the Park. Martin McGuinness’s hands are not remotely clean. Simple.