Mise agus Martin and Ted in Stormont Castle 2018
The demonising of republicans has long
been an integral part of politics on this island, and especially in the lead
into and during electoral campaigns. Through the decades of conflict Unionist
leaders and British governments regularly posed as democrats while supporting
anti-democratic laws, censorship and the denial of the rights of citizens who
voted for Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin Councillors, party activists and family members
were killed by unionist death squads, often in collusion with British state
Successive Irish governments embraced this demonization strategy through Section 31 and state censorship. Sinn Féin was portrayed as undemocratic and dangerous. We were denied municipal or other public buildings to hold events including Ard Fheiseanna. In the years since the Good Friday Agreement these same elements have sought to sustain this narrative. The leaderships of Fianna Fáil, the Irish Labour Party, the SDLP and unionists, have been at one on this. Self-interest has shaped their approach.
Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin regularly uses the Dáil to attack Sinn Féin. At one point in September 2015 he called on the two governments to suspend the institutions in the North! When the institutions did collapse in 2017, over the Renewable Heating Incentive scheme and the denial of rights, he changed his tack to one of “not comprehending” why there is no Executive and Assembly in the North.
In January Micheál Martin kicked off the current negative campaigning with a claim that Sinn Féin is not a “normal” democratic party. Decisions he said were being made by “shadowy figures”, by an unaccountable Ard Comhairle and by people in the Felons Club and Connolly House in west Belfast. Stupid, yes, but recent loyalist threats and death threats against Michelle O’Neill and Gerry Kelly mean that vacuous claims of “shadowy figures” feeds into a context in which people can be targeted.
Previously in the Dáil Micheál Martin identified two of these as Ted Howell and Padraic Wilson. In more recent days Marty Lynch, Sean Murray, and Bobby Storey have all been named. Teachta Martin knows all this to be rubbish.