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Sinn Féin for next government coalition? Not likely, say FF and FG pols

Second part of TV3 exploration also hears Sinn Féin politicians questioned about IRA criminality.

Ursula Halligan and Pearse Doherty in his home county of Donegal. His father was a Fianna Fáil man but he says it is the last party he would go into power with.
Ursula Halligan and Pearse Doherty in his home county of Donegal. His father was a Fianna Fáil man but he says it is the last party he would go into power with.
Image: TV3 via TV3

GOING INTO POWER with Sinn Féin is not desirable, according to high profile Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael politicians.

In tomorrow’s concluding episode of TV3′s Sinn Féin: Who Are They?, both Justice Minister Alan Shatter (FG) and former Defence Minister Willie O’Dea (FF) were adamant that they could not see their parties in a power-sharing position with Sinn Féin after the next general election.

O’Dea said Fianna Fáil would be “mad to go into coalition with Sinn Féin and they would be even more mad not to rule that out firmly now well in advance of the election”. Meanwhile, Minister Shatter said he believed that Sinn Féin’s economic policies would “bankrupt” Ireland if implemented.

He also cited his objection to sharing power “with a party that has not fully come to terms with the conduct of the Provisional IRA”.

IRA and criminality

TV3′s political correspondent Ursula Halligan, spends part of tomorrow night’s episode exploring links between the IRA and criminality, and the knowledge – or participation – of some current Sinn Féín politicians in such criminality.

She quizzes Kerry TD Martin Ferris, who is open about his past membership of the IRA but not about the specifics of “mistakes” he admits he made as a member. Irish-American gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, recently sentenced to life in prison,  once organised a gun and explosives-running expedition to the IRA. On this 1984 incident – for which Martin Ferris was jailed as part of the crew which took the weapons from Bulger’s gang – Ferris says he wasn’t aware of Bulger’s violent mob reputation:

I hadn’t a clue. All my job, as an IRA volunteer, was to take the weapons, get them ashore and make sure they were secure.

Another Sinn Féin TD, Caoimhighín Ó Caoláin, is pressed by Halligan on the issue of criminality and the IRA. Halligan receives similar short shrift from him and from fellow TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh. Ó Snodaigh defends “fundraising” – “and that involves sometimes robbing banks” – as all part of supporting a cause in wartime. Ó Caoláin challenges the use of the term “criminality” in relation to the IRA’s past. He tells Halligan:

I don’t believe that it ever did (play a role). That’s your view.

Sinn Féin are likely to take issue with tomorrow evening’s episode – several party figures voiced their displeasure on Twitter after last Monday’s initial instalment. Some senior figures believed that part one was unbalanced and focused too heavily on the IRA.

Gerry Adams

Asked about the two-parter earlier this week, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said:

It wasn’t about Sinn Féin, it was about the IRA, but we’ll have to wait to see the second programme. They obviously haven’t found us yet.

I’ll wait until it’s finished and tell you then, but TV reviews aren’t really within my domain but anyway, we’ll see at the end.

Standing next to Reform Alliance TD Peter Mathews and several other deputies on the Leinster House plinth during the week, Adams jokingly added: “The only one who’s actually in ‘the RA’ in this group is Peter.”

Adams may not be find tomorrow’s episode amusing, as Donegal SF TD Pearse Doherty and colleague and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness are asked by Halligan about Gerry Adams’s continuing denial that he was a member of the IRA.

Doherty refuses to be drawn, saying that it is only the media that is concerned with that question and not “the person on the street”. McGuinness’s reply is a little more cryptic. The following is the exchange between Halligan and McGuinness on the issue:

McGuinness: Gerry Adams is on the public record as saying that if a truth and reconciliation commision of an international standard is established then he’s prepared to go for it.

Halligan: Will he tell the truth about his membership of the IRA?

McGuinness: We’ll know that when we see such a commission established; if it is ever established.

I’m not going to tell anyone who was in the IRA and who wasn’t. Why should I? It’s up to me to tell my truth. It’s up to others who were involved in the conflict to tell theirs.

Economic policies

The show hears criticism from other parties of Sinn Féin’s economic policies – but Gerry Adams says that it is not a weak point for the party. He tells Halligan:

It is a challenge of course to move into a totally different jurisdiction and to learn the detail. But that can be got over… We have Pearse Doherty and other people who have a singular brief.

You see those people who dismissed us as economic illiterates are the people who created the mess.

One interviewee in tomorrow’s episode who has experienced Sinn Féin from within and without is Integration Centre CEO Killian Forde. A former Sinn Féin councillor who left the party and joined Labour in 2010, he likens Sinn Féin to a “cult”-like organisation. He says there is little confrontation within Sinn Féin but that you just “know” when you have done something “wrong”.

  • The final part of Sinn Féin: Who Are They? airs tomorrow night on TV3 at 10pm.

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