Jude Collins

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Transfer and hollow out

Now that the air is thick with mud being lobbed in Gerry Adams's direction, it's easy to forget what the Sinn Fein project is. Long-term, the party has one central objective: a re-united Ireland, governing itself free from British intervention. Since that is in the hands of the majority in the northern state, it might seem a forlorn objective. So what are Sinn Fein up to?

They don't talk about it much but it's a similar strategy to that once propounded to me by the late Monsignor Denis Faul. He told me that he preached to his boys that the quickest route to achieving a re-united Ireland was by way of getting a good education and taking your rightful place in northern society. This, he figured, would be to dismantle the Orange state from within and it would eventually dawn on unionists: what's the point in having a state separate from the rest of Ireland, if it doesn't give us (unionists) a superior position to the taigs?

He may or may not have been right but that seems to be the Sinn Fein strategy. The most immediate instance of this at work is the transfer of policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont. It represents one more piece of the political furniture positioned in Ireland rather than England. Jim Allister is right on this one: Sinn Fein almost certainly have their eye on encouraging closer and closer ties between the Garda Siochána and the PSNI, until they become one police service. That won't happen without the consent of unionists; but like Denis Faul, Sinn Fein no doubt are hoping there'll come a time when unionists won't see the logic in maintaining a totally separate police service on such a relatively tiny island. Why bother if the PSNI is no longer the armed wing of a unionist oligarchy?

It's a seductive idea and working for it certainly beats doing nothing, which is what all the other 'nationalist' parties on the island have been doing about a re-unified country for the past forty years and more.

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