Congratulations to the BBC in Belfast, and especially Spotlight producer Lena Ferguson and her team, for making these two excellent documentaries detailing expenses corruption and fraud committed by individual members of, and political parties represented in the Northern Assembly – in particular Sinn Fein and the DUP, the two principal parties that make up the power-sharing government at Stormont.
Here are the links to the two Spotlight programmes and readers should know they have 28 days or less in which to view them. Viewers outside Ireland and the UK can watch the BBC iPlayer via Hola.org, a VPN which by-passes blocks on foreign viewers imposed by the BBC.
All the parties involved in the peace process deal, bar Alliance, get a touch in the Spotlight shows but while the SDLP and the Official or Ulster Unionists do not emerge unscathed they are in the ha’penny place compared to the DUP and Sinn Fein while the DUP is in the minor leagues compared to Sinn Fein.
The inference from the Spotlight expose is that in Sinn Fein’s case the corruption is organised, extensive and centralised, with money that was supposed to go towards meeting MLA’s office expenses instead pouring into the party’s central bank account in West Belfast.
What happened to that money – which must be a sum of seven figures if, as seems likely, all or most of Sinn Fein’s MLA’s expenses since 2006 got paid into a central account – is not known as Sinn Fein’s bank is under no obligation to reveal such details to the media.
But this writer would not be surprised to learn that a substantial slice made its way south of the Border to help finance Sinn Fein’s bid to enter government in Dublin, which now seems a very likely outcome of the next general election there.
Sinn Fein’s enormous wealth on that side of the Border and the impact it is likely to have on the result of the next general election is the 500 pound gorilla in the room which few people are yet prepared to talk about.
The possibility that Sinn Fein’s entree into Government Buildings in Dublin might be greased by corruption in the Belfast Assembly is one thing that should cause concern to the political parties in Dublin. But it is not the only worrying aspect.
While none of the South’s political parties are exactly snow white when it comes to corruption allegations there is a difference. Corruption in parties like Fianna Fail tends to be centred on individuals such as Charles Haughey, while the evidence from the Spotlight probes suggests that in the case of Sinn Fein it is both wholesale and centralised and that implicitly it is being directed as part of a political strategy rather than for personal enrichment.
These are the tell-tale fingerpints of a party under the control of a centralised authority which is able to exert its will over individual MLA’s because they accept the sovereignty of that authority (why else would MLA’s fail to protest when their office expenses are taken from them?).
For some reason it evokes memories of that famous IRA Staff document discovered by the Irish police when Chief of Staff Seamus Twomey was arrested in 1977: “Sinn Fein should come under Army (i.e. IRA) organizers at all levels”. That document heralded the Adams-led takeover of the IRA and Sinn Fein which ultimately led to where we are now.
So here is one issue that should now be of paramount concern to political leaders in Dublin: if what has been exposed by Spotlight is how Sinn Fein behaves in a Mickey Mouse parliament and government like that in the Stormont Assembly what on earth will they get up to if they enter a government in Dublin which exercises real power?
The other issue is this: is Sinn Fein still controlled by the IRA? Has the Twomey directive ever been rescinded and if so when? If not, shouldn’t we be told?