Sinn Fein Take Positions in Northern Ireland Assembly

One paper described it as “a nauseating spectacle” while another compared the appointment of Martin McGuinness to the position of Minister of Education as the “political equivalent of child abuse”. Difficult to assess whether the gnashing and wretching is because McGuinness is alleged to be an ‘IRA Godfather’, or simply because he failed the 11 plus. Where there is consensus on both the Left and Right is that the acceptance of ministerial office represents the final ‘embourgeoisment’ of Republicanism both north and south. “The republic” according to the Observer “is now richer than the North, has no time for the fantasy of a socialist republican Ireland”. While Trimble along with the socialist Left in Britain crows, “that once terrorism is left behind you’re left wondering what the party [Sinn Fein] actually stands for”. The widespread hope and belief, allowing for the odd spasm of doubt, is that republicans have at the end of the day, despite all the twists and turns finally ‘been fooled by the fancy diplomatic language’. Which was why Trimble was widely congratulated for his ‘masterstroke’ in convening another Ulster Council Meeting in February to ratify decommissioning. Objections from the IRA that this was outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement were dismissed by the Guardian as an organisation “outmaneuvered by Mr. Trimble, indulging in one last whinge”. Which is nice.

However, far from being the genius he is painted, all Trimble has actually done is pencil in yet another potential crisis for the peace process, his party, and of course himself, for February. Moreover with ‘IRA guns under the cabinet table’, what in practical terms is Unionism’s reason for being is now the pressing question? Equally, the prospect of SF, already the fourth biggest party on a 32 county basis, entering government in the south while “appalling” is again clearly far from ‘fantasy’. All in all it does make you wonder, “How” as Michael Collins once asked “these fellas ever ran an Empire”.

BIG ISSUE PREDICTION: Unionists backs to the wall - backs to the future.

Reproduced from RA vol 4, Issue 4, Dec '99/Jan '00