By Ray O’Hanlon
All the main political parties are putting distance between themselves and Sinn FTin as the general election looms in the Republic. Bertie Ahern has been especially adamant that Fianna F_il will not countenance a coalition arrangement with Gerry Adams even if the IRA decommissions its entire arsenal and duly goes the way of the dinosaurs.
This casting of Sinn FTin into the cold should suit Adams. The party looks set to secure more D_il representation anyway, and the thought of jumping into bed with Ahern’s crowd is not necessarily the right recipe for firing up the revolutionary fervor required of the party’s rank and file. As well as the whiff of cordite, Sinn FTin retains an odor of relative purity in terms of its willingness to stir up the status quo south of the border. Fianna F_il, by contrast, is suffering from the inevitable symptoms of being in government a long time and is not being helped by the whiff of corruption that has been about the party’s body for some time now.
So what does Ahern need in such circumstances? He needs a threat. Whatever about the economy and the burning issues of the day, there’s nothing like a good all-hands-on-deck fight with an in-your-face rival to get the Fianna F_il’s blood up.
Fine Gael doesn’t quite provide the same kind of challenge as it once did, while the Labor Party is nothing more than a potential junior coalition partner. But the Shinners, what with their holier-than-thou attitude and claims of being more republican than Fianna F_il, are quite another matter. It will be an interesting campaign.
I talk to the trees
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Gerry Adams — who is rated in the latest Irish opinion poll as top party leader only after Taoiseach Bertie Ahern — will be in New York this week to attend the World Economic Forum and a couple of Friends of Sinn FTin events. “IF” will be curious to see how Adams, no stranger to street politics, deals with the expected street demonstrations against the forum.
Meanwhile, plans are taking firmer hold for Adams’s St. Patrick’s Day U.S. tour. Not content with taking to the waves on FDR’s old yacht, Adams is now expected to talk to the trees when he visits a Redwood forest north of San Francisco. This tree-hugging expedition will of course be seen by some as blatant politicking, but there’s likely sound reasoning behind it. Not content with bucketing all the yacht club votes back in the auld puddle, Captain Adams could be lining up for a swipe at the environmentally correct Green Party, which, according to last week’s opinion poll, is not numerically too far removed from Sinn FTin when it comes to attracting the jaundiced eye of Irish voters.
It remains to be seen if U2’s Bono will be allowed, or have the time, to deliver a few bono mots to the masses during the super-hyped halftime extravaganza at the upcoming Super Bowl.
Bono is not one to lose an opportunity to get his views across on pet issues, his present main one being the matter of debt relief for the developing world. Chances are there won’t be time for a speech, and given all the patriotic fervor building around the game, the crowd is going to be in more of a bombs away than debts away mood anyway.
Still, it would be unlike Bono to miss a chance if a chance was going-a-begging. Perhaps if he starts with, “Hi, my name is Bombo, how’s she daisy cuttin’?”
Meanwhile, the halftime U2 show is only part of the extravaganza. There’s a huge pre-game show as well featuring the likes of Mariah Carey, who, if this were a pro-wrestling event, would be featured as the star act of WWF Meltdown. And to think the Super Bowl was once just a football game with commercials, rather than what it has become: commercials with a football game during the breaks.
Scrapping the oath
Sinn FTin’s Westminster MPs, led by Gerry Adams, say they will never sit down in the House of Commons, even if the required oath of allegiance to the queen is consigned to the dustbin of history.
Regardless of Sinn FTin’s view on the oath, there is a growing debate in Britain on the need for an elected politician to swear allegiance to someone who has inherited a throne. The influential Economist magazine, never shy about its true-blue Britishness, took the view recently, by way of its Bagehot column, that Sinn FTin MPs should not be allowed take the oath of loyalty for the simple reason that they are not loyal.
“They have, indeed, won election on a promise not to be loyal. While the oath exists, they cannot and should not be allowed to take their seats,” the anonymous columnist opined.
But that was not the final word. “So scrap the oath,” Bagehot continued. “It is picturesque [which is why Bagehot will regret its passing], but it is a relic. Worse, it is a picturesque relic with baleful consequences. It makes liars out of honorable MPs who want to argue against monarchy, which is a legitimate argument that ought to be aired in the nation’s democratic forum. And it disenfranchises the minority of British voters who seek union with Ireland and have chosen MPs committed to this cause.”
The Bagehot writer goes on to agree with the British Labor Party’s spokesman on matters Irish, Kevin McNamara, who has argued that the only test for membership of the House of Commons “should be the will of the electorate, freely expressed.”
McNamara has sponsored a bill that would see the oath removed. Adams and his fellow S.F. MPs can’t lend their support to this bill because they refuse to take their seats. Perhaps if it was a midnight vote they could sneak in and out. Just for a wee minute. Hardly.