Andrew Lynch: The Shinners must now be exposed as a serious threat
During the all-party meeting on the Finance Bill, Brian Lenihan got so fed up with the hectoring from Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty that he eventually ordered him out of the room.
Between now and February 25, many of us will wish we could do the same. Make no mistake, the resurgent Shinners will be a real threat in the upcoming general election -- which is why these sinister and ruthless fanatics need to be exposed at every available opportunity.
Sinn Fein's tactics for the next month of campaigning are already clear. They will vigorously attack Labour from the left, presenting themselves as the last true keepers of the socialist flame. They will also target younger voters who may not remember that despite the arrival of peace in Northern Ireland, the Shinners' hands are still dripping with blood.
If Gerry Adams and his cronies fail, it will certainly not be for want of money. They seem to have a constituency office in every corner of the country, with shiny new posters and a well-oiled election machine just waiting to roll into action. While other parties hold raffles and race nights, SF's bank-robbing past (check out the recent revelations on WikiLeaks) suggests they have rather more creative ways of paying their bills.
The stakes could hardly be much higher. If SF can turn their opinion poll ratings into votes, they could win up to 20 Dail seats and overtake an imploding Fianna Fail. That would make Adams leader of the Opposition and, incredible though it might seem, a candidate for Taoiseach on the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016.
As far as all true democrats should be concerned, this simply can't be allowed to happen. The problem with SF is not just the party's crazy economic policies, although their proposed tax increases would certainly kill off the international investment that our economy so desperately needs. Their biggest flaw is that they preach a kind of jingoistic militarism that is completely out of place in the 21st century -- and the longer this campaign goes on, the more voters should be able to see through their shallow soundbites and phoney populism. The events of this week have shown yet again that when it comes to the economy, SF will always put the national interest last. Every other party in the Dail agrees on the need to pass a Finance Bill quickly so that a general election can be called by the weekend. Pearse Doherty, on the other hand, threw all his toys out of the pram so that he could guarantee himself a few minutes on the Six One News.
The Shinners are trying to present Doherty and Mary Lou McDonald as their fresh-faced leaders-in-waiting, since the fact that they've never smuggled arms or planted bombs makes them respectable. For the time being, however, Grizzly Adams remains firmly in charge. His decision to run for the Dail in Louth could yet come back to haunt him -- because with so many skeletons in his closet, one could come tumbling out at any moment.
In the 2007 General Election, Adams self-destructed during a television leaders' debate that exposed his complete ignorance of economics in this country. Four years later, it seems that not much has changed. On Morning Ireland today, he went head to head with Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar -- and was left floundering once again when his party's threadbare policies were subjected to proper scrutiny. This leaves Adams' handlers with a tricky choice -- either sign him up to a refresher course in basic accountancy or keep him off the airwaves for the next four weeks.
Adams is being challenged by independent candidate Helen McKendry, whose mother Jean McConville was kidnapped, murdered and dumped in an unmarked grave by the IRA in 1972. She believes that he was the man who gave the order, a claim backed up in a posthumous statement by the IRA commander Brendan 'Darkie' Hughes from the book Voices From The Grave. As long as he and his cronies refuse to come clean about their murderous past, SF cannot be considered a respectable party -- and they should certainly not be allowed anywhere near the levers of power in Government Buildings.
Sinn Fein have already got away with murder in Northern Ireland. On February 25, it will be up to the electorate to make sure the same thing doesn't happen in this Republic.