SF mask never slips -just like days gone by
DOWN at the Wexford Opera house, Sinn Fein held their ard fheis. With their pikes carefully stored away in the lofts or in whichever hole John de Chastelain dug, they were all dressed in their best bib and tucker and there wasn't a balaclava in sight. Though the spectre of the bad old days still pervaded the conference as only days before the ard fheis, the family of murdered Garda Seamus Quaid removed his commemorative plaque from a seat in the Opera house.
The IRA killed Garda Quaid in 1980 in Wexford and even the man who shot Mr Quaid is now reported as saying he thought it was grossly insensitive for Sinn Fein to hold its ard fheis in Wexford at all. But Sinn Fein don't do sensitive.
The story should provide a useful reminder to the people in the republic that the IRA and their apologists in Sinn Fein waged a war against the Irish state - something worth remembering if ever tempted to put them into government or within a hair's breath of running either the Irish departments of defence or justice.
To Sinn Fein's credit their ard fheis is run very professionally. It apes the controlled and sterile environments of party conferences during the New Labour era. Everything is choreographed to the last detail. Just like in days gone by the mask never slips.
Sinn Fein members lap up every word of their leadership. Adams is Sinn Fein's Moses. He talks to God and then tells the faithful what God wants them to do. Unfortunately like Moses, Adams is unlikely to ever cross into the Promised Land.
As usual Sinn Fein is against an awful lot of things. It is also still too dominated by the jaw droppingly boring issues about the north. Declan Kearney tries so hard to be statesman like but comes across like a polished republican version of Max headroom.
Mary Lou the conference darling and would-be leader in waiting, is a hectoring individual who seems to annoy some of the conference delegates. The deputy first minister on the other hand is all bonhomie and cheery.
It's McGuinness rather than Adams who has done more to improve Sinn Fein's electability and credibility across both parts of the island. Sinn Fein has some pretty impressive figures in its ranks and Pearse Doherty is no tongue-tied slouch
The Achilles heel for Sinn Fein is still their economic policies - it's Castro mixed with Chavez and Citizen Smith.
No one in their right mind would trust Sinn Fein with their hands on the economic levers such as finance and enterprise. A point not lost on the DUP.
Ironically it's being Ireland's only all-island party that is hampering Sinn Fein.
In the north, Sinn Fein has taken some tough decisions in government and in particular over the closure of inefficient and near empty rural schools.
In the south, it's parish-pump politics and Sinn Fein opposes the closure of rural schools.
In the north, Sinn Fein know that domestic rates are a key and essential part of government revenues.
In the south, Sinn Fein opposes the very modest rates that have just recently come into play.
Being a player in two states, at two different levels is causing headaches in the north especially over much needed welfare reform but Sinn Fein in the republic is relishing its anti-government stance and opposes nearly all government economic initiatives.
Apart from the obvious differences with the DUP over haass, the Sinn Fein strategy in the Dail has led to policy stagnation at Stormont.
Sinn Fein's interest in overseas matters reads like a busman's holiday for Marxists, revolutionaries and former comrades in arms as they discussed motions on Columbia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Sri Lanka and of course Palestine.
There is no doubt that Sinn Fein aspires to be in government in the republic and they know that the only route map is by coalition with another party. At the moment it's a case of unrequited love. Labour detests Sinn Fein with an intensity that only those on the left can have for one another.
Yet, as the north proves, if Sinn Fein can share power with the DUP, they can't be too sniffy about whom their bed partner is the republic.
No party has done more significant U-turns on their ideological shibboleths than Sinn Fein, so Mary Lou like Ado Annie in Oklahoma may soon be "the girl who can't say no" to would-be suitors.