Harney and Quinn in harmony against Sinn Féin
Like ebony and ivory on Elton John's piano keyboard, Labour and the PDs were in perfect harmony against Sinn Féin over the past week.
While this line from Mary Harney and Ruairi Quinn comes as no surprise, the outburst from the Labour leader was particularly vicious and saw him contradict himself as he tried to use the peace process to bash both Sinn Féin and the Dublin government.
In a foretaste of what will surely be a no-holds-barred general election campaign, the Progressive Democrats began the latest round of Sinn Féin-bashing.
Cork South Central PD candidate John Minihan said that Sinn Féin in government would bring the economy crashing down around our ears. Minihan said it has taken 12 years to create the ``Irish economic miracle'', but ``with the wrong choice at the next election we could blow it in 12 months''. The culprits would be ``the untried and untested policies of Sinn Féin and the Greens''. This report in the Sunday Tribune was headlined ``Sinn Féin would ruin economy, warns PD.''
Minihan's diatribe was echoed in a Sunday newspaper interview last weekend by the Tánaiste and PD leader Mary Harney. ``Even assuming decommissioning takes place, Sinn Féin is a very left-wing party. I think Sinn Féin in government would destroy the economic miracle we have achieved in the last 13 years'' she declared.
Minihan did not hesitate to use the issue of the release of the remaining republican prisoners in Castlerea. He said Sinn Féin ``showed their true colours by demanding the early release of the killers of detective Jerry McCabe''.
But the most perverse attack of the week came from Labour leader Ruairi Quinn. In an interview in Ireland on Sunday, Quinn stated that ``the RUC has to be changed and it is being changed totally and dramatically under Patten'' and then attacked the Dublin government for ``taking an excessively nationalist position'' on policing. But the Dublin government, Sinn Féin and Quinn's supposed social democrat colleagues in the SDLP are seeking the full implementation of Patten.
Where then is the ``excessive nationalism'' if Quinn wants Patten implemented also?
But Quinn went further and said it was ``not realistic'' that you can ``push Patten'' to a point where ``Sinn Féin, along with the SDLP'' will be able to recommend that young republicans and nationalists join the new force.
The reason Quinn contradicts himself is his deep antipathy to Sinn Féin, which he knows is an electoral threat to Labour, especially in Dublin. The Labour leader said it was ``simple nonsense'' that you are ``going to get Sinn Féin to somehow or other, if the wording is right, endorse or accept a police force in Northern Ireland''. Then came the barb that was designed to play on the fears of the electorate in the 26 Counties. Quinn said: ``Sinn Féin do not recognise the Garda Síochána. Sinn Féin have killed members of the force. They are as antagonistic to aspects of the Garda Síochána as they are to aspects of the RUC.''
Responding to Quinn, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
``Once again the Labour Party leader Ruairi Quinn has been blinded by his antipathy to Sinn Féin. At a time when the most reactionary elements of unionism, together with British securocrats, are trying to ensure that Patten will never be implemented, Ruairi Quinn attacks the Dublin government, Sinn Féin and the SDLP for seeking the implementation of Patten. Ruairi Quinn knows that the British government's policing legislation now in the House of Lords falls far short of Patten. Does Ruairi Quinn support the full implementation of Patten? That is far from clear in his interview.
``What is clear is his effort to use falsehoods to besmirch the name of Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin has not killed any member of the Garda Síochána, nor anyone else. It is completely false for Ruairi Quinn to state that we do not recognise the Garda Síochána. That force has the support of the vast majority of people in the 26 Counties, in contrast to the RUC which is a sectarian force representing only one section of the community in the North.
``Ruairi Quinn must seriously re-assess his approach to the vital question of policing in the North. His priority would appear to be to damage Sinn Féin rather than to see a new and acceptable police service established. This is a crucial aspect of the peace process and Ruairi Quinn shows very poor leadership if he persists in this attitude.''