Only a few days ago, the peace process appeared to be coming apart at the seams over the controversial arrest of Gerry Adams. Accusations by republicans of “political policing” and counter-claims by unionists that Sinn Fein were “attempting to blackmail the PSNI” highlighted the fragility of the current power-sharing government which lurches from one crisis to the next.
The situation was not helped by David Cameron’s hosting the DUP at Downing Street on the night the Sinn Fein President was arrested. Although discussions on winning compensation from Libya for victims of IRA terrorism will be welcomed by those who care for victims, the meeting seemed rather ill-timed.
The failure thus far of the Prime Minister to meet Sinn Fein as a party, adds more fuel to the fire. They are partners in government with the DUP. He ought to have met them a long time ago. Although abstentionists cannot offer Mr Cameron what he hopes the DUP will offer in a hung parliament, keeping them at arm’s length will aggravate ill-feeling in the province. It gives the impression of partiality. It makes people think the current situation in Northern Ireland is of secondary importance to the Tory leader.
Nevertheless, tensions have eased – at least for the time being. The Deputy First Minister’s declaration of support for the “many progressive and open-minded elements in the new policing arrangements… who are wedded to the Peace Process and to accountable and impartial policing” was a welcome contrast to talk of a “dark side” within the PSNI. Gerry Adam’s affirmation that “the IRA is gone, finished” and that he is “resolved to build the peace” takes some heat out of the situation.
But it also bolsters republican prospects in forthcoming elections. They are maximising their support. Large numbers are attending their public rallies. Once again Sinn Fein has shown its adeptness at using difficult situations to its advantage. They are “wise as a serpent.”
However, the problem of the Disappeared remains unresolved. The McConville family’s hope for justice has been raised and dashed once more. As an organisation the IRA might have gone away, but the individuals that did Jean McConville to death are still around.
Why should the McConville family, and other victim’s families, be made to wait indefinitely for justice? Why should their heart be broken repeatedly and made “sick with deferred hope”? (Proverbs 13:12).