Anywhere else but here, Sinn Fein wouldn't stand a chance
Concerns: As local elections approach, the onward march of Sinn Fein – despite past Nazi and terror links – raises some serious questions, writes Gerry Gregg
"The Prince who advances the power of another Prince risks losing his own."
Fans of the TV series The Borgias will be familiar with the deadly rivalry that spawned that insight.
Niccolo Machiavelli made this wry observation in the bear pit that was Florence 500 years ago. It still rings true today.
Looking at the carry on of the two parties in Government it's not hard to see how Fine Gael and Labour are effectively paving the way for the rise to power of the black sheep of Irish democracy since 1922 – Sinn Fein.
All the signs point to the biggest upheaval in our politics since Fianna Fail accepted reality and took their seats in Dail Eireann in 1927.
Within five years the losers of the Civil War were in power. And they more or less held onto it until the election of 2011 decimated De Valera's party.
Sean Lemass maintained Fianna Fail was "slightly constitutional" in 1927. But today Sinn Fein brazenly sits in the Dail with the secret Army Council of the IRA lurking in the shadows.
These faceless seven samurai control a clandestine army out there somewhere. We were told it has been stood down but as the former Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne often reminds me, "PIRA has not disbanded".
So what's the Provisional IRA for these days? What is it up to? Why haven't they "gone away you know"?
These questions are rarely asked because to do so might threaten peace. So silence prevails and a movement that still is rooted in conspiracy thrives.
The Coalition periodically throw shapes at Gerry Adams in Dail Eireann. Parliamentary debate rarely ruffles a veteran of a long dirty war that saw his movement murder thousands of fellow Irishmen and women and more than 80 children. This man can now realistically contemplate a seat at the Cabinet table in 2016.
Shortly after he lost his Westminster seat to Gerry Adams in 1997, I met the SDLP's Dr Joe Hendron. More in sorrow than anger, he told me that "the wolves had taken over the house because we had let them in the back door".
Today the SDLP is a dying party in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein sucked the blood out of it and moved south of the border looking for bigger prey.
And now Adams and his comrades are poised for a feast.
Judging by recent events and the latest opinion polls – both the back and the front door are wide open and all the windows too.
Thanks to a combination of media induced amnesia and the smug complacency of the establishment parties in this Republic, the public has been lulled into believing that all elements within the Republican movement have gone legit.
Despite a rap sheet that includes countless massacres, racketeering, smuggling, extortion, kidnapping, narcotics franchising, VAT fraud, counterfeiting and the robbery of the Northern Bank a flawed consensus has emerged about the nature of the Republican movement.
This is the erroneous notion that the movement no longer poses a threat to democracy as we know it.
It's easy to see why Sinn Fein looks attractive to a generation that feels betrayed by the politics of the old brigade. The Troubles are ancient history to many under 30.
It's natural for us to want to give those who claim they have reformed and seen the light a second chance.
But Republicans don't do apologies and don't seek atonement for their past misdemeanours and murders. They seek to share the guilt and thereby evade the blame.
Martin McGuinness dined for the cause at Windsor Castle last week, an honoured guest of Queen Elizabeth. While Michael D Higgins did well out of the successful State visit Sinn Fein did better – much better.
The 98th anniversary of the Easter Rising falls next Thursday – will Sinn Fein be in power for the centenary in two years time?
Nothing it would appear stands in the way of the movement's steady advance at present. Certainly Labour and Fine Gael don't look up for the fight. Fianna Fail are in survival mode. The party that once dominated the show is still on probation with the public after the economic crash and is struggling to stay relevant with voters under 35, especially in Dublin.
Next month we go the polls. Up for grabs are local councils and seats in the European Parliament. Fine Gael are already conceding privately that Sinn Fein will double its number of councillors to well over 200.
A Sinn Fein seat in each of the European constituencies on the island is also likely. If that comes to pass Sinn Fein will be able to boast that it is the party of choice for most people both north and south combined. If that happens we have crossed the Rubicon into the political unknown.
In January I was in Wannsee outside Berlin. I was filming with Holocaust survivor Tomi Reichental at the villa where the 'Final Solution' was planned.
On the wall there is a list of all the countries in Europe with a Jewish population. Ireland's 4,000 Irish Jews were on the list for extermination. So who was going to help the Gestapo round up Dublin's Jews?
There was only one party in cahoots with Nazi Germany at the time. The quislings in Sinn Fein would have been asked to help the SS send our Jews to the gas chambers. That would have been the price of Irish "freedom" under Hitler.
The Nazis lost. Irish Jews were spared. Yet to this day Sinn Fein honours Sean Russell (inset left), the IRA man who forged an alliance with Hitler. In no other European country would such a party have a chance in hell of getting into government. But we do things differently here, don't we?
LOCAL ELECTION SPECIAL STARTS ON MONDAY