Platform - Letting Political Values Erode Can Be Expensive

Article excerpt

Byline: CANON WALTER LEWIS: CHAIRMAN, CHURCH OF IRELAND LEGISLATION AND POLITICS COMMITTEE (NI)

THE Northern Bank robbery has put the focus of media attention on the IRA and Sinn Fein. The robbery was shocking in its audacity, repulsive in its criminality and farreaching in its political consequences.

Intentionally, or otherwise, it has put Sinn Fein under the microscope. People are asking:

* Is Sinn Fein a democratic party or not?

* Is Sinn Fein committed to the "exclusively democratic and peaceful means" which it signed up to in the Belfast Agreement?

* Is Sinn Fein prepared to create a law-abiding and secure society for everyone?

* Is Sinn Fein prepared to take its place equally alongside the other political parties which are democratic?

The flow of media information linking the IRA and Sinn Fein to the robbery is huge. The only dissenting voices are those groups themselves.

However, the very large majority of people in Ireland accept the judgment of the Prime Minister and Taoiseach, the Chief Constable and Garda Commissioner, and the Independent Monitoring Commission, in identifying the organisations responsible.

And there is little likelihood that this is going to change.

The people and their leaders are saying: "We are committed to living in a society in which there is respect for the rule of law and in which criminal conduct will be dealt with firmly."

Since 1998, politics in Northern Ireland has been set on the shifting sands of pragmatism and expediency.

Constructive ambiguity and fudge - not clarity and transparency - have been words used in relation to the euphemistically named peace process. …