Insider has been a keen observer of the political scene for well over 40 years, and, up until recently, thought he had seen and heard it all. There were many contenders for the ‘Brass Neck’ award over the years - from Charlie Haughey’s ‘doing the State some service’ to Ray Burke’s ‘line in the sand’ to Bertie Aherne's ‘won it on the horses’.
There is much material to be considered when the ‘Brass Neck Award’ over Insider’s political lifetime is being handed out. However, with he hopes many more years of political life still ahead of him, Insider is convinced he will never see a better example of the political Brass Neck than from Sinn Féin over Pope Francis’ visit.
The following is a statement issued by SF vice-president Michelle O’Neill, in relation to the Pope's visit: "We must specifically acknowledge the damage done by the Catholic Church to the lives of many women and children...and a succession of abuse scandals and cover-ups. The visit of Pope Francis is an opportunity to address these issues, to meet with victims and survivors, to fully acknowledge their suffering and the damage done, to end the cover-ups and to commit to full redress, north and south."
You could not make this up.
A false narrative
Insider has observed over the last 20 years how the IRA’s terrorist campaign, which lasted for almost 30 years before the Belfast Agreement, has been repackaged for a new generation and presented in an entirely inaccurate way. Let us look at the electoral record of Sinn Fein in this State, while the IRA's terrorist campaign was under way. This shows the actual level of support which existed for the party while the campaign was ongoing. Indeed, it would be unfair to suggest that all those who voted for Sinn Fein were supporters of the IRA campaign, as there are many reasons why people vote for political parties.
In the General Election of 1987 Sinn Fein received 1.9 per cent of the vote, in 1989 it got 1.2 per cent, and in 1992 the total Sinn Féin vote was 1.6 per cent. In the General Election of 1997 the party secured 2.5 per cent of the vote: this was the year of the second IRA ceasefire, the 1994 ceasefire having been broken in 1996.
These figures tell the true story of the standing of Sinn Féin in the eyes of the electorate at this time. In Northern Ireland, a clear majority of nationalists also voted for the SDLP in preference to Sinn Féin in every election while the IRA campaign was ongoing. It is vital we recognise this, and do not allow the past to be misrepresented to facilitate any modern day political agenda. It was while reading the Sinn Fein statement on Pope Francis’ visit that Insider decided to replace the words 'Catholic Church’ with the words ‘IRA'.
This is not to deny that the Church has sinned and covered up some dreadful deeds. However, the revised statement makes much more sense. So is there any chance of a statement from Sinn Fein "acknowledging the damage done..to the lives of many…a succession of abuse scandals and cover ups...an opportunity to address these issues...to meet with victims and survivors, to fully acknowledge their suffering and the damage done, to end the cover-ups and to commit to full redress, north and south?"
Of course, there is no way back for the ‘damage done’ to those who had their lives taken by the IRA campaign. Imagine if Sinn Fein leader, Mary Lou McDonald TD, was to take such a bold step: would she like to, would she be let? It is important, as horrific events carried out by terrorists on all sides move ever more distant into the past, that we do not allow the passage of time to become the terrorists' best friend, allowing them to present vile acts as heroic and truly heroic acts as anything less than they were.
A younger generation of reporters seem to be easily fooled, and do not have the knowledge to properly challenge the false narrative being peddled. And, of course, there are the 'useful idiots’ working in the media, and the internet trolls who rarely miss an opportunity to advance the fictitious Sinn Féin line. Do they ever wonder how the violence on all sides was almost entirely ended, once the IRA ceasefire was called? ‘What about the terrorists on the loyalist side, and the British army?’ they will ask. Believe me, if they were running for the presidency and trying to tell us how to run our country, they would come in for the same scrutiny.
In the recent Brexit votes in the House of Commons, Sinn Féin could have prevented a potential economic calamity for this island by partaking in the votes to keep the UK in the customs union. Of course, it chose to put party interests ahead of national interests. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin should remember this will always be the case with Sinn Féin. You have been warned.
If the House of Commons were to take a vote on a law to facilitate Irish Unity, and the promoters of the proposed law were going to lose by six votes, would the seven Sinn Féin MPs take their seats to ensure the vote was passed? Insider recently heard a Sinn Féin spokesman talk about how that party was instrumental in advancing civil rights on this island. We owe it to the real victims of the past to challenge this false narrative. Indeed, you could not make it up.
The presidential election
On a lighter note, the presidential election will be fully underway in the coming weeks, and what an enjoyable contest we should have. With no ‘skin in the game’, Insider is looking forward to the campaign, and particularly the televised debates. President Michael D Higgins is a very short priced favourite, and the contest is certainly his to lose.
Insider had considered the President to be vulnerable if a capable candidate emerged, but, looking at the contenders, it is hard to see who can dislodge him. Insider is amazed at the irony of the stance of the main political parties in this election. Dep Eamon Ó Cuív, as Fianna Fáil as you can get, being rejected as its candidate by the party hierarchy in favour of Michael D Higgins! How must all true Fianna Fáil supporters feel to see Eamon De Valera’s grandson cast aside in favour of the former Labour Party TD? This would not have been considered possible a few years ago.
As for Fine Gael, was Leo afraid his first electoral contest would be a losing one, from which he would suffer a loss of prestige, at a minimum? Better safe than sorry. Maybe he was correct to avoid the possibility of a Gay Mitchell, 2011, type result. Though Insider believes Mairead McGuinness MEP would have provided the incumbent with a real challenge.
As for the Dragons, is this another item on the list of ‘what Trump has to answer for?’ Insider regrets not giving the matter more serious consideration; at worst I would have beaten half that field. As for Michael D himself, he is a wily political operator, and has obviously been campaigning for a long time now, though not officially of course. At his present rate of being introduced to sports teams before matches, Insider expects to see him meet the players before the GFA under 12 premiership match between Galway Hibs and Knocknacarra in Bohermore on Saturday.
He will win the election, but there is no possibility he will achieve anything like the 65 per cent he is on in recent opinion polls. Insider fears some attempts to embarrass him will be part of his opponents’ campaigns. It will be important that he stays measured and statesmanlike throughout the contest.
Taking back my money
Insider has little time for populist politicians who encourage law breaking for any reason. It now appears some of our lawmakers do not see anything wrong with protestors occupying properties to make a political point, even if this is in breach of the law. Insider is now going to draw up a list of the laws he does not like, and intends to ignore in the future. I suggest we all do this. Then at least everyone will know which laws we will abide by, and which ones we feel we can ignore. I had a bad day at the Galway Races last week, so the first thing I am going to do is seek out the bookmaker who I lost the money to, and demand it back, using whatever means necessary. I’ll just have to check there are no 84-year-old great grandfathers on the premises at the time. Now, there is a real hero.