It is more than difficult to take Niall O’Dowd’s given reasons for withdrawing from the Irish presidential race seriously. The Irish Voice editor and founder cites the expense involved, the complexities of the nomination process and the difficulties of mounting a credible campaign in just a few weeks as the factors that led to his decision. But he lists these as if he just found out about them when of course these admittedly real difficulties were always there and were well known.
My own bet is that Sinn Fein shafted him, leaving him with no credible, heavyweight backer or conduit for raising money and the given reasons for his retreat are the fig leaves covering his embarrassment. O’Dowd had taken his case last week to SF leader Gerry Adams but since then it has emerged that the Shinners are likely to throw their weight behind Labour’s Michael D Higgins who stands a more than decent chance of winning.
The Shinners are spinning that this is a reward for Higgins’ comradely opposition to Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act. Well, maybe. But what about O’Dowd’s unceasing labours on behalf of Adams in the States, helping to secure in particular the 1994 Clinton visa for the Provo boss to visit New York, without which internal IRA opposition to the peace process might well have been much greater and Adams himself might now be occupying an anonymous hole in the ground somewhere between South Armagh and Monagahan? Does not that merit some payback?
The fact that O’Dowd expected Adams to recognise his obligations to him is a measure, alas, of his naivete. Adams has his eye on the future, not the past, to the possibility that at some point in the coming years he may have reason to call in the debt soon to be owed by Higgins and Labour, especially if the Galway man ends up in Phoenix
Park. With Irish electoral politics now more unpredictable than ever, a Labour-Sinn Fein coalition (led, incidentally, by two men who continue to deny a militaristic past) is not as fanciful a prospect as it was just a few years ago. And then there is Adams’ own hopes that one day, Jean McConville allowing, he too might spend his twilight years in the Aras. Scratch Michael D’s back and one day he just might return the favour.
Niall O’Dowd spent many years working with and for Gerry Adams and the Provos but it seems he did not learn much. And it is not as if this was the first time his Shinner friends have shafted him. A few years back The Irish Echo, New York’s oldest Irish-American newspaper, was bought over by the unambiguously pro-Sinn Fein Andersonstown News group, dealing a potentially fatal blow to O’Dowd’s ailing Irish Voice. Having been screwed once by the Provos, O’Dowd should have known better. After all these are the people who put ‘forgotten’ in that wonderful old Irish saw: ‘Eaten bread is soon forgotten’.