He will perhaps conclude that but for the wrong seat at the men only table of the Provisional IRA’s army council, he could have been this morning declaring himself fit for Taoiseach rather than a judge declaring him unfit to be at large.
The thought has to cross his mind that he could have been asking people to cast their vote for him rather than arriving with a squad of heavies to cast his vote for somebody else. That someone else might not have been his former army council colleague Gerry Adams. Mr Murphy’s nose might have been out of joint knowing that he faced the joint while Adams continues to power his own political career with the fuel so industriously provided by Murphy.
If an Irish Times report from December is reliable then Murphy might feel even more aggrieved.
Murphy and a group of about a dozen close associates believe the “architects of the peace process” assured them they would not be targeted in the wake of the 1997 IRA ceasefire, according to the source.
There sure is a lot for Murphy to think about including the fact that this trial was as much about the Dublin political and legal establishment passing judgement on Murphy’s past as it was about tackling his tax avoidance. In a week that Bobby Sands made the headlines 35 years after his death courtesy of a graphic novel titled Bobby Sands – Freedom Fighter, the Murphy conviction will be used to undermine everything Sands stood for. A headline in the Irish Times today helped set the trend: Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy jailed over tax like Chicago gangster - IRA godfather who ruled south Armagh like Al Capone. Even if we were of a mind to view Murphy's activity "as an example of entrepreneurial enterprise rather than unforgivable illegality" we are still being entreated to evaluate the political past using the criteria of the criminal present.
Murphy’s arrival at a polling booth in Louth this morning prior to his sentencing, surrounded by an entourage that proceeded to engage in "blatant intimidation" of journalists has merely served to reinforce the Irish Times depiction. There was more of Dundon about it than Sands. Gerry Adams who only last year was speaking approvingly of how Michael Collins handled troubleseom journalists, was forced on the backfoot: "Journalists and photographers should be able to do their job without being impeded."
Sinn Fein’s discomfort around the Murphy trial is proportional to the extent that the party is run by leaders who were heavily involved in the IRA’s campaign and whose history is deeply intertwined with his. If Sinn Fein was run by civilian rather than martial politicians there would be much less leverage for the party's opponents. That a former IRA chief of staff can hold down the top position within the party for thirty three years suggests the prevalence of a martial rather than a civil culture. It is a magnet for controversy.
Is Slab Murphy a good republican? No better or worse than his former fellow army council members. If one of them feels himself fit for Taoiseach, then Tom Murphy is fit as well.
For many, not a comforting thought after the polls have closed and nothing more can be done about it.