- No matter how noble the original intentions, the seductions of power can turn any movement from one seeking equal rights to one that would deny them to others - Tammy Bruce
The sex abuse scandal embroiling Sinn Fein rages on. That the party has not fractured in the face of such blistering media probing is indicative of the regimented control wielded by the martial politicians at its helm. The culture of deference to command that has characterised Sinn Fein throughout its existence has not only stymied a democratic eruption of critical voices from below, but has created a laager mentality pitched against the explosion of external discourse that poses questions and seeks answers, a vital democratic functioning for keeping wider society informed about the abuses of power that dominant institutions are prone to committing unless held in check.
That the party is feeling the heat seems evident from the number of media kitchens it declines to go into. Sinn Fein was asked to provide a spokesperson but no one was available has been a frequent enough assertion made by radio and television presenters in the five days since the Paudie McGahon story broke. While leader Gerry Adams in his own inimitable way has met the challenge head on by sidestepping the questions, the party seems to have something of an echeloned defence, allowing the sandbags to absorb the shock waves while many party luminaries for now remain off camera, possibly being held in reserve to be hurled into the breach once the outer rim is overrun which seems to be happening.
Sandbagging the ramparts has proven something of a damp squib. People either step forward or are thrown forward even less prepared than summer attired Nazi troops for the Russian winter. Jude Collins on Prime Time while not completely taken apart was wholly ineffectual, managing only to dent his own credibility through erroneous reasoning while accentuating the absence of those who should have put in an appearance. Former Communist Party leader and erstwhile editor of the Stick paper the United Irishman, Eoghan O Murchu, fared even worse today on RTE when lacking both ring craft and punching power found himself completely overwhelmed by a formidable Elaine Byrne.
Sinn Fein as a party routinely survives this type of crisis. But to focus on this is to perhaps miss the point. The stench of each scandal might be easily enough inhaled by those inside the tent and similar in temperament and sentiment to Francie Molloy who might as well have dismissed Paudie McGahon as a rape victim against the peace process. It is how that stench sits in the nostrils of those not in the tent, the political forces necessary for Sinn Fein to get into government as a junior partner or in the more unlikely scenario, as a senior partner. They are being compelled to temper any willingness to cosy up to Sinn Fein with the grim realisation that any government that might emerge from coalition with the party while it is led by Gerry Adams is likely to be prone to endless crisis.
Strategically, Sinn Fein cannot afford to be Ourselves Alone if it fancies a crack at government. But with Gerry Adams ensuring that an ABBA perspective takes roots amongst potential partners, his own party must look at the potential limitations for coalition if Any Body But Adams trumps other considerations in the strategic calculations of the array of political forces out there. One art of politics is to divide, not unite, the opposition. Sinn Fein’s periodic sex abuse scandals is turning that law on its head with potentially devastating consequences for its participation in government.