AS I SEE IT
Sinn Fein are the most popular party with the prize of forming part of the next Government. However, last weekend a poll revealed that the party’s support had dropped four percentage points. Could it be that voters are having second thoughts?
The drop coincides with the playing of taped conversations during the murder trial of Gerry the Monk Hutch at the Central Criminal Court. The tapes are of recordings made secretly by Gardai of conversation between Hutch, on trial for the murder of David Byrne shot dead at the Regency Hotel, Dublin in 2016 in the escalating Hutch Kinahan gangland feud, and former Sinn Fein Councillor Johnathan Dowdall.
Dowdall, who resigned from Sinn Fein in 2015, has turned State evidence against the Monk, admitting that he hired the hotel room where the murder took place. Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou MacDonald used the Hutch family for money and votes, Dowdall says in the bugged conversation, criticising her for not attending the funeral of slain Edward Hutch, Gerry’s brother, saying:“But ye were good enough to use Gerard for votes, good enough to use for money.”
Political leaders have expressed concern over the conversation and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has said that question will have to be asked and answered, once the Monk’s trial ends. The conversation between the two men, recorded just weeks after the 2016 murder, is held in the State’s to case to mean that the Monk had asked Dowdall to arrange a meeting with his provisional republican contacts to mediate in the Hutch-Kinahan feud, indicating a connection between gangland criminals and the Provos.
There was “no comparison” between violence of the IRA during the Troubles and gangland violence, Mary Lou McDonald claimed in a report last month. Perhaps the Sinn Fein leader is attempting to eradicate history in a manner akin to Orwell’s novel 1984 which examines the way truth can be manipulated in a totalitarian state based on Nazism and Stalinist Russia.
Bombings murder, torture, protection rackets, bank robberies, money laundering and much more were common to paramilitaries on both sides during the Troubles. When it comes to criminals and paramilitaries it seems to me there’s a dark underworld there reminiscent of the unseen life of fungi, which every so often throw up visible, mushroom reminders of their entangled networks below ground.
Sinn Fein, founded as the moral authority of the Irish Nation back in 1905, now bill themselves opportunely as the party for change, in the midst of a housing and a cost of living crisis.
The census shows that Catholics now outnumber Protestants in the North and Mary Lou McDonald has said that it’s time to plan for the Border Poll outlined in the Good Friday Agreement. It isn’t as simple as that, however many of us aspire to an eventual united Ireland. In the North voters would be asked if they want to remain in the UK or leave for a united Ireland. A majority -including a share of Catholics want to remain — 47% compared to 42% who want to leave in a 2021 poll with 11% undecided. Hardly surprising, given the practical challenges that need to be overcome where there are major differences in health, education between north and south, and constitutional issues to be overcome, never mind the cost of unification.
What is Sinn Fein doing, as leading commentator on Irish unity Professor Brendan O’Leary puts it, to ensure that necessary and detailed preparations and political conditions for success are in place before it is called to make sure that reunification prevails?
One of the party’s aims is to end the housing crisis. But throwing money at the problem won’t solve it, given the complexity involved in everything from planning regulations, labour shortages, availability of land for building, costs and the way that the current situation is hardly attractive to developers.
The cut and freeze rentals approach advocated by SF has been shown not to work under the Coalition and has resulted in an exodus of landlords and a famine in rental accommodation. Another aim is to move retirement age back to 65 from 66. Aside from the eye-watering cost involved not everyone either wants, or can afford, to retire at 65, a more flexible approach is needed.
Time to for the party of change to entertain second thoughts about themselves and answer questions. Has this leopard moved on from its past and fully changed its spots?