Well who’d have thunk it? As I write this, Twitter is flooding with reports that Martin McGuinness will be the Sinn Féin-backed candidate for the Irish presidency. Well.
Nobody saw that coming. NOBODY. But they had good reason not to. For a start, McGuinness is terribly important to the success of Sinn Féin in the north and to the peace process in general. It just seemed inconceivable. Then there’s his clear IRA history, which raises a lot of hackles, not just in the north. But then you think about it and maybe it makes sense. If it’s true. How does it make sense? Let me count the ways.
1. 1. He’s an authoritative figure to all shades of Sinn Féin.
2. 2. He’s widely admired for his ability to work and even form a friendship with Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and just last weekend, a Derry Presbyterian minister.
3. 3. The election period is short – around six weeks.
4. 4. If he were to win, it would be a huge coup for Sinn Féin – almost inestimable in its worth.
5. 5. If he doesn’t win, he can return to Stormont and pick up where he left off.
6. Either way, he’ll attract the maximum vote Sinn Féin could have hoped to get.
How does it not make sense?
1. 1. There are people in the south who have always detested Sinn Féin and its linkage with the IRA, and Martin McGuinness personifies that link. But then they were never going to vote for any Sinn Féin-backed candidate.
2. 2. Know something? I can’t think of a No 2.
It sounds like a huge high-wire act until you stand back and think. Then you begin to see how many boxes (to invent a new metaphor) it ticks.
No wonder we all thought he looked sorta …different at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis. Now - if the rumours are true - we know why.
It could be one helluvan interesting six weeks…