The prospect of a new power-sharing government in Belfast, which seemed so close before Christmas, has receded. Now, with both the British and Dublin governments holding the IRA responsible for a recent spectacular bank robbery in Belfast, it looks like vanishing from sight for the foreseeable future.
It receded because Ian Paisley and the Democratic Unionist Party insisted that when the IRA disposed of the weapons it said it was willing to “decommission” the event should be photographed and the photographs published. And because Sinn Fein/IRA said having the event photographed would be an intolerable “humiliation” for them. The triviality of this deal-breaking issue was one measure of how close they were on everything else. But even so, it did break the deal.
The Belfast bank robbers who took £26.5 million may have buried it for the foreseeable future. Sinn Fein and the IRA deny involvement in the robbery. They say they are being framed for it by those who want to drive them out of their rightful place in Belfast politics.
But the idea that the British government, after making so many concession over so many years to encourage them to come in from the cold and participate in power sharing, now wants to “marginalise” them, just does not make any sense. And Dublin too has identified the IRA for the bank robbery.
On the other hand, the robbery and its predictable consequences are so much at odds with the political interests of Sinn Fein and its leaders as to suggest it may have been the work of internal opponents of the Sinn Fein and IRA leaderships who want to undermine Adams, McGuinness and the “peace process”. Not invariably, but usually, the IRA tells the truth when it claims or disclaims an “action”. The robbery may have been the work of IRA dissidents.
The tenor of articles by the Sinn Fein/IRA leadership in their paper An Phoblacht (The Republic), suggests that they feel the need to reassure scepticism in their own ranks.
The self-disarming by the IRA was sure to generate some opposition in its own ranks. The only question was how much.
The robbery has not only given Paisley a stronger case against power-sharing with Sinn Fein now, but also weakened and pushed back the Adams-McGuinness political case for the IRA going out of business soon.