The Toothpaste


How can you be full of moral outrage and orgasmic at the same time?

Easy. Join the Progressive Democrats. Write for the 'Sunday Independent' or re-write history (much the same thing). Emigrate to Munster. Then wait until your favourite opinion poll comes along and, Hey Presto, who needs Viagra!

Yes, the election campaign has started in the Free State, the hormones are pumping, the brains have been put on wraps, and it's 'Bash Sinn Fein' time!

First off was Michael Zorro McDowell, who left home that morning as the Attorney General, then at a Progressive Democrat convention turned into an election candidate for Dublin South East and was not the Attorney General, left the convention and was the Attorney General! As he launched his bid for a seat in Leinster House he accused Sinn Fein of having no loyalty to the state and its institutions, and that the Republican Movement was "still involved in torture, mutilation… smuggling, racketeering, protection rackets and taxing the drug trade in our cities."

Zorro, unfortunately, is one donkey short of a derby, as he is trailing the Sinn Fein candidate, Daithi Doolan, in an opinion poll and perhaps should consider staying on as Chief Marshal until peerages are reintroduced.

After Michael, the 'Sunday Independent' brought out its pea-shooters - Ruth Dudley Edwards, Conor Cruise O'Brien, John A. Murphy - an awesome, intellectual triumvirate that had Adams begging for mercy. Nobody knew it was going to be this dirty. No one could have predicted from Ruth such a piercing piece of pretty prose - 'Ten Thorns in Shinners' Side', in which she approvingly quotes 'republican dissidents (intellectual)', that is, Anthony McIntyre, Thorn Number Five, as proof of her thesis that Sinn Fein is reeling.

But it was the RTE/'Irish Independent' opinion poll taken in Kerry North that boosted the morale of the establishment parties and media. In a TG4 poll taken last year, the Sinn Fein candidate Martin Ferris had 23% support and was in line to take the third seat, a factor which influenced former Labour leader Dick Spring to declare that he would stand again. However, the most recent poll put Ferris standing at 16.8%.

Ferris's director of elections had been arrested by the Gardai and questioned about vigilantism in the constituency, as had five others of his election team, and he complained that the arrests were politically motivated and an attempt to frighten people away from voting for Sinn Fein. The government also has made attractive promises to the area and pumped in finance to boost Fianna Fail's prospects of retaining the seat, though this should not be read as 'buying votes' - since only TDs and councillors can be bought, which we've learnt from the ongoing Tribunals.

Sinn Fein TD, Caoimhghin O Caolain, was being interviewed by Vincent Brown on RTE last week and was asked if he would urge members of the public who might have information about the killing of gardai by the IRA or know the whereabouts of IRA arms dumps to inform. He replied: "I am not going to urge people to take a particular position that challenges them individually and, indeed, within their own communities."

In other words, people should be their own judges and follow the dictates of their conscience.

For recognising the continuing complexities of a transitional situation - one which has its roots in a conflict that arose out of partition and British repression; in which, out of necessity, the IRA used the south as a base, and the state, and its forces, cooperated with the British, introduced repressive laws, ill-treated detainees, imprisoned people, often on dubious information, using special courts, extradited and censored a political view - all of which conditioned the republican response, O Caolain was savaged by the media and the other parties which threatened him with suspension from Leinster House.

That was the kick off for a tirade which continues as we drink.

"The seemingly relentless march of Sinn Fein has been halted," declared Alan Ruddock, again in the paper in which Sinn Fein inadvertently keeps in employment several pea-shooters. "Ferris and his Sinn Fein colleagues are in reality dreary and largely unimpressive people who are no strangers to donkey jackets and socialist babble," he continued.

For me, I hadn't appreciated the gravity of the situation until I heard the comments of a former swimmer. Who can forget the wettest press conference the North ever witnessed when in 1987 the then leader of the Alliance Party, John Cushnahan, left Belfast wreathed in tears, because he had to get away from politics and be with his family - only two years later, on dry land, to get back into politics as Fine Gael Euro MP for Munster?

John was "appalled" - very strong language - by O Caolain's comments, as was Brid Rogers, the MP for West Tyrone in theory.

Many years ago - 1978 in fact - an old friend of mine, Secretary of State Roy Mason, declared that he was squeezing the IRA like a tube of toothpaste.

Unfortunately, the IRA was not in that particular tube of toothpaste.

Nor is Sinn Fein in the tube presently being squeezed.

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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison