Last weekend a secret IRA army convention reportedly endorsed overwhelmingly the proposal that Sinn Fein members should take their seats in the new Northern Ireland assembly, which is to be established after elections in June as part of the peace-package deal.
This seems like an incredible volte face. Less than five years ago, the IRA was still attempting to bomb and shoot Northern Ireland out of existence. Now, it seems, it is prepared to reverse decades of republican policy and permit members of the republican movement to, in effect ,enter a Northern Ireland government.
If true, it is a testimony to the tremendous influence that Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have over a movement once noted for its uncompromising commitment to the physical force tradition. They have no doubt been advocating the argument that if this agreement is going to deliver for Northern Nationalists, then Sinn Fein members will have to be working on the inside, especially to get posts on the cross-border bodies that are also part of the settlement package and which can only be made into an important part of it through Sinn Fein participation.
However, a note of caution much be introduced. There is no sign that simply because the IRA may have in a sense