Barry McElduff’s decision to resign was probably less than voluntary. It is more likely he was told to quit and had no choice.
It followed what is being widely described as a powerful interview with one of the Kingsmill survivors by Miriam O’Callaghan on her RTE Radio One programme yesterday, ‘Sunday With Miriam’.
That gives a clue about the source of pressure on McElduff to quit, i.e. from the Southern section of SF and in particular the party’s leader-in-waiting Mary Lou McDonald who must have been painfully aware of a) the damage McElduff could do to SF’s electoral prospects in the South, and b) that otherwise she would soon meet the same fate as Gerry Adams, pursued in every media interview by endless questions about the IRA’s bloody past.
If this was the case then the significance cannot be understated for it marks the beginning of a process in which Sinn Fein’s political interests in the South leads it to increasingly separate itself not just from the IRA but from Sinn Fein in the North.
The IRA’s place in the Northern Nationalist psyche is deeply embedded and always will be as long as there is a political conflict with Unionism and as long as security policy is riddled with contradictions. The South may find it easy and straightforward to leave the IRA behind; the Northerners not so much.
Here’s an example: if Judge McCloskey had been allowed last Friday to confirm his dismissal of the Police Ombudsman’s report claiming police collusion with the Loughinisland killers, Barry McElduff’s idiocy would have mattered a lot less to Nationalists, notwithstanding O’Callaghan’s interview. He may return to court to do just that this week and if he gets his way, the fallout will be interesting.
And in a comment sent to this blog last week, Eamonn McCann, as shrewd an observer of Northern matters as can be found, spoke for many Nationalists with this remark:
‘…..when it comes to giggling and gloating about the killing of people of a different religion, the Provos have never been a match for the Loyalist paramilitaries. That doesn’t excuse McElduff or SF. But it points up the fact some of the Loyalists, including members of the DUP, who have been caterwauling about McElduff’s sectarian stupidity are liars, frauds and abject hypocrites.’
So the two question that follow McElduff’s resignation are these:
- Did Mary Lou McDonald demand his resignation? and,
- Are we witnessing the start of a North-South schism in Sinn Fein?