|Looking Up (by Creative Commons)|
Only a few years ago, I read a book about the Workers’ Party by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar. A fascinating read, the book extensively discussed the post-republican party’s various ways of securing money.
As just about every form of republican movement clearly illustrates, there is nothing a “formerly” militant leadership relishes more than the prospect of a healthy fund pot (after all, in the absence of public military activity, how else does the movement perpetuate its struggle?). Unsurprisingly therefore, as The Lost Revolution describes in great detail, such movements often resort to very shady means of generating wealth for “The Revolution”.
When the Official Republican movement began rebranding itself as a revolutionary constitutional party, they realized that while the Official IRA could no longer be active publicly, its activity was nonetheless essential for the financial prosperity of the movement. Therefore, instead of keeping the Official IRA in the public consciousness, it covertly existed as a ‘Group B’.
The Official IRA no longer explicitly acted as a resistance to Britain’s involvement in Northern Ireland, but as the covert Group B, it would concern itself with ensuring the monetary health of the republican communist vision outlined by figures like Tomas Mac Giolla and Sean Garland.
Although the Official movement was publicly moving away from unconstitutional behaviour, it was simultaneously engaged in financial cronyism aimed at furthering the political scope of “The Party”.
While Research Services Ireland is clearly not a pseudonym for the Provisional IRA – and in that respect it is completely different from the Official analogy – it is obvious that the organization is nothing more than a smokescreen for increasing the fiscal power of Sinn Féin (not unlike the function of Group B).
Under the guise of a purposeful project, it would appear that RSI (aka a nonsense manifestation of SF with no tangible purpose whatsoever) simply took £700,000 from the public purse.
Think about that for a second.
Purporting to be an organization engaged in legitimate research, RSI was really just a financial tunnel between SF and the oblivious taxpayer. Broadly speaking therefore, what SF executed through RSI was no different to SF activists going out and pickpocketing £1 from 700,000 NI citizens.
|Screenshot from BBC Spotlight|
If we momentarily travel outside of the farce that is the political arena in NI… consider the consequences of a more accountable profession trying to hustle over half a million pound. What would happen if a university researcher secured a substantial fee for advancing the treatment of cancer, but when prompted by her/his supervisor, refused to produce their findings? What would happen if a builder charged £700,000 to build a luxury home, but when the home-owners arrived to view their investment, there was no house at all? What would happen if a charity garnered £700,000 worth of donations to conduct relief efforts in Africa, but an independent evaluator determined that the charity had in fact done nothing to improve living standards in the region?
In all of those scenarios, an array of jobs would swiftly become vacant, court proceedings would begin at the earliest convenience, and a general sense of revulsion would be felt (all of which would be compounded by a media onslaught).
But due to the dismal standards of political integrity here in NI, the financial malpractice (which it must be noted, it not just SF exclusive) highlighted by BBC Spotlight is unlikely to have any of the radical effects that it would have in a more functioning democracy.
As a public, we have literally become conditioned to expect a gutter-level of political decency. We may roll our eyes or mutter a few disparaging words when presented with glaring corruption, but in terms of issuing a statement through patterned electoral change, we do very little.
Perhaps out of a blind sense of allegiance to nationalism or unionism – and in the instance of republicanism, it could be a mentality of “well we’re getting one over on the British system” – most of the electorate seem willing to overlook instances such as the Trojan horse that was RSI.
As I’ve just insinuated, it would appear that equality isn’t the only Trojan horse being developed by the SF stable. Until Research Services Ireland miraculously justifies the money it received by providing evidence that it was engaged in honest, purposeful research (and that £700,000 was an appropriate figure for this activity); then it absolutely was a Trojan horse.
SF, by design, is currently perceived as a leftist force; but how can they reconcile that status with a ploy such as RSI? In southern politics in particular, SF present themselves as the alternative to Fianna Fáil’s undeniable legacy of cronyism; but it is difficult to buy that image when, in Haughey-like fashion, they are perfectly willing to drain £700,000 that could have been, in theory, used to benefit the people of NI.
The saga of RSI would suggest that like most other mainstream political parties, and contrary to SF’s narrative of itself as a party of the working man, SF is ultimately most concerned about its ensuring its own prospects.
Does anyone, other than party activists, really doubt that the £700,000 given to RSI made its way into the SF coffer? If this indeed proves to be the case – and I fail to see how it couldn’t be – the British taxpayer will have made an involuntary contribution to the political development of SF. SF will be guilty of misusing the funds generated by the ordinary taxpayer; and ironically, that is the precisely the type of behaviour which SF have prided themselves on opposing (both in a Westminster and Irish context).
As households that are working strenuously to survive the pressures of austerity will attest to, what a liberty it must be to gain £700,000 at a whim…