SO HERE’S how it works.
At 5am, my Army Council-issue alarm clock abruptly wakes me. I jump out of bed and take a 4-minute military-style cold shower.
I then eagerly stand to attention beside the Army Council-issue telex machine. At 5:25am, my orders arrive telling me where to go, who to meet and what to say.
Duly instructed, I go about my business as a Sinn Féin activist and South Dublin County Councillor.
At 10pm, having completed my allotted tasks for the day, I return home. I read my designated 24 pages of the Army Council-issue Collected Writings of Comrade Adams. At 10:45pm, content that I have served my master well, I go to sleep.
When confronted with the important political issues of the day, I take my cue from an unknown group of people, meeting in secret, deciding what I should think and how I should respond.
I have no mind or opinions of my own. I blithely take instructions from others. I am but a small cog in a well-oiled machine designed and directed by the IRA Army Council.
This is what a motley crew of disgruntled securocrats, failing politicians and partisan journalists would have you believe. They present no evidence to support their outlandish claims. They are trading in lies.
The idea that a non-existent IRA Army Council tells me what to do is not only absurd, it is an insult.
It is an insult to the hundreds of us elected to public office and the thousands of party activists.
More importantly, it is an insult to the half a million people who vote for Sinn Féin.
Do you really think all of us are that stupid? Is it really credible to assert that more than half a million people are willingly complicit in such deception or too stupid see that the IRA Army Council are pulling the wool over their eyes?
Give me a break!
These claims and the increasingly hysterical debate surrounding them has nothing to do with the existence of the IRA or their alleged relationship to Sinn Féin. This is all about politics.
In the North, the crisis in the political institutions has reached a turning point. Tory austerity is crippling the Assembly, souring Executive relationships and jeopardising the Peace Process.
Sinn Féin’s principled stand in defence of those who would be worst affected by welfare and public spending cuts has stopped David Cameron and Peter Robinson in their tracks. The strength of our mandate and our arguments has placed an obstacle in the way of their corrosive policy agenda.
So what do you do when you are losing an argument? You change the subject. Out of nowhere you reveal that the bogyman of the IRA is back on the scene. Worse still, you claim that they are pulling the strings of the Sinn Féin puppet.
In vain, Cameron and Robinson hope that such ‘revelations’ will weaken Sinn Féin’s resolve and force us into making concessions on the full implementation of the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements and the Assembly Budget.
Meanwhile, across the Border, poor aul Mícheál Martin is feeling the pressure.
Fianna Fáil are stagnating in the polls. Their leader knows that his post-election choices are grim – a junior partner in government or another five years on the Opposition benches.
So he stands in front of the grave of the IRA’s ideological and organisational ancestors and rails against the Mafia-like cult known as Sinn Féin. Of course, poor aul Mícheál knows a thing or two about Mafias, albeit of the Galway Tent vintage, but that is besides the point.
Now everybody knows that in politics if you have nothing positive to say about yourself your only option is to attack your nearest opponent. Unfortunately for poor aul Mícheál, such disparate tactics inevitably backfire.
While Fianna Fáil’s relentless focus on Sinn Féin will do little to revive their flagging fortunes, it has the potential to undermine the Peace Process. But, given their recent support for the unionists’ attempt to collapse the Assembly, they clearly aren’t too worried about that.
If you think that Fianna Fáil are desperate that’s nothing compared to the Labour Party.
Sinking in the mire of their own broken promises and incompetence, Labour leader Joan Burton is only delighted to have something to talk about other than the fiasco of Irish Water or the deepening housing and homelessness crisis.
For Fine Gael, the utility of attacking Sinn Féin is a little more sophisticated.
Stability and chaos is their clarion call as they head into the general election. No harm if their claim of economic instability can be reinforced with the more general calamity of crime and cordite. And, sure, they never cared too much about the Peace Process anyway.
Meanwhile, back in Irish Independent HQ in Talbot Street, the new guard at the helm have a problem. Flagging readership has caused a certain panic. In response, Spindo hacks wade deeper into the gutter with ever more bizarre stories about moles and cover-ups.
At the heart of all of this distraction and disinformation lies a simple fact. Two elections are fast approaching.
Sinn Féin are doing well in the polls. The centres of power and privilege, North and South, are nervous.
For different reasons, and in different ways, the interests of Southern conservatives, Northern unionists and the British Government have converged.
Interestingly, they don’t want to confront Sinn Féin on the ground of which party has a better vision and programme for the future of Ireland. Instead, they retreat into fantasies about the existence of the IRA and its apparent control over our party.
So let me make it very clear. The IRA no longer exists. Sinn Féin controls our own destiny. Increasingly, more and more people support us.
It is the fear of fundamental social, economic and political change rather than the existence of the IRA Army Council that has the Establishment in such a spin.
Now, if you will excuse me, I must get back to my Army Council instructions for today or I’ll be in trouble . . .
● First published in the Sunday Business Post, 25 October 2015