Michael McDowell silent as British duplicity exposed
Eoin Ó Murchú:
As our political parties jostle each other to show who is the most anti-Sinn Féin of them all, in the real world the battle is being lost. The Good Friday Agreement is going under.
Wasn't it curious that Michael McDowell, the stalwart defender of the state's integrity and self-proclaimed champion of its republican ambitions, had nothing to say about the Stormontgate affair, an episode that shows the British government as hopelessly duplicitous or haplessly unable to control their security apparatuses?
This is not a clever point: it's a very serious issue. How can the British be trusted if this is the way they behave?
Of course, Sinn Féin have been hammering this point for three years, denouncing the securocrats, as they call them. And the more they have denounced them and called on the British government to impose control over them, the more have Sinn Féin been derided, and the more stentorian has become Michael McDowell's bark in blaming the republicans for all the problems of the peace process.
On top of that, there is the current US administration urging the British and the unionist parties to refuse to re-establish the institutions until Sinn Féin accept the "legitimacy" of a police force that behaves in such a partisan political way.
Does it really matter that there's a feud going on between the RUC Special Branch and the MI5 intelligence service? Does it matter that Hugh Orde is outside the loop? But surely it matters when the normally voluble Michael McDowell gives Hugh Orde a polite hearing for his ridiculous efforts to justify the unjustifiable?
We do know that if a republican agent in the ranks of British intelligence had been unmasked, the heavens would be shaking still with Michael McDowell's denunciations.
The question is what is more important to Michael McDowell – to see Government policy on the establishment of the Good Friday institutions brought to fruition, or to wage his own private war against Fine Gael for the anti-Sinn Féin vote?
And even still, despite these revelations that show that Britain has not played with a straight deck, none of the parties can bring themselves publicly to denounce this perfidy, while all are at pains to insist that they won't share coalition power with Sinn Féin after the election.
Sinn Féin's policies are certainly more radical and leftwing than Labour's, but it's only a matter of degree – and perhaps of integrity in being willing to insist on them. Their policies on liberal issues are indistinguishable from those of the liberal wing of Fine Gael. Yet both Fine Gael and Labour have categorically ruled out Sinn Féin as potential government partners. They have not so ruled out the PDs, a party with less than 40 per cent of the support that Sinn Féin enjoys, a party that puts party before country, as their reaction to the Donaldson revelations show, that squeezes the poor to make the rich better off, and that openly boasts of its Thatcherism.
Meanwhile, as the parties jostle each other to show who is the most anti-Sinn Féin of them all, in the real world the battle is being lost. The Good Friday Agreement is going under.
Bertie Ahern still insists that he has a special relationship with Tony Blair, and that, angry as he is about the Donaldson and Stormontgate affairs, it would be foolish to place that relationship in jeopardy.
But a cursory examination of the unionist position shows that for them Blair is already yesterday's man. They are preparing their positions for the advent of Gordon Brown, and where will he stand?
It's wishful thinking on their part to imagine that Brown, as a dour Scottish Presbyterian, is inclined the unionist way. He is more likely to be tired of paying these ingrate spongers for a higher standard of living than they earn themselves. It's very easy to see Brown pulling the financial plug on them, though the unionists are so sunk in sectarian hatred of Catholics that even that might not concentrate their minds.
But if Brown is to play a more positive role, and be an active proponent of a way forward that culminates logically in a British withdrawal from Ireland, then we will have to work for that, and our political parties will have to start arguing for it.
For Gordon Brown can recognise hypocrisy and political humbug as well as the next, and he will only get interested in the Irish question if he has no choice. For Brown has always asked one simple question: do the Irish people want reunification, and are they prepared to pay for it? I believe the Irish people do want reunification, but I don't believe that the parties, apart from Sinn Féin, do. And I certainly don't believe that either the Government, or Rainbow options, are willing to pay for it.
But when Brown succeeds Blair, Britain is going to slowly start turning the tap off. Already under Hain, Britain is trying to shift more and more of the costs of running the North away from the British Exchequer to the people of the North. Superficially this looks like privatisation; in fact it's an "Ulsterisation" of policy that has profound implications for all the people of Ireland, North and South.
But our political leaders can't see that. They are too busy attacking Sinn Féin.
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