Sunday, January 28, 2007


5.05pm. At the Sinn Féin speical ard fheis in the RDS. It's been on since 10am this morning and it looks like it will be at least another hours before the vote is taken. There's still a big queue of people waiting to speak. Of course, the outcome is a certainty and was dictated by the speeches of the leadership triumvirate - Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly this morning.
There have been a couple of dissenting voices. But it's almost been pro forma. The SDLP, the Irish Government and the British have unsurprisingly come in for a huge amount of criticism. But a lot of it is disingenuous. For no matter how much SF condemns the SDLP for signing up to policing in 2001, it cannot escape the fact that what it is doing is exactly the same five or six years later.

It may argue that it has wrung concessions on getting policing powers devolved from government, of getting MI5 out of civic policing etc. But there is an element of window dressing to this. The core is that SF have had to grasp this nettle (and it's exactly the same nettle as the SDLP grasped).

Still, it's an historic day and there's a sense of history being made, of a Rubicon being crossed. There have been strong emotional overtones all day. And some legendary IRA icons have been conspicuous, including Martin Meehan, Jim Monaghan of the Colombia Three, and Rose Dugdale.

A legion of conspiracy theories have mushroomed setting out questionable theories as to why SF are doing all this. One is they were caught bang-to-rights by both governments over the Northern Bank and over the McCartney murder and were forced into this. The second is that they are scared that there are other Steak-knives and Denis Donaldsons in the rank. The third is that all this was agreed a long time ago and all the 'event's since then - like the handy coincidence of Nuala O'Loan's report - were choreographed to suit the purposes.

All are impossible to prove or disprove. In a climate of secrecy - and that's what Northern politics has been about for the past three decades - everything, including the worst, is possible.

5.30pm A speaker has just got up and said that the vote should be taken now as a lot of the delegates have a long distance to travel. Was put to a vote and carried by a huge majority.
It means that they are now going to the main vote...

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