Morning View: Will Tony Blair Expel Sinn Fein? Will He Invite Osama Bin Laden for Tea?

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), July 24, 2002 | Go to article overview

Morning View: Will Tony Blair Expel Sinn Fein? Will He Invite Osama Bin Laden for Tea?


SINN FEIN WILL BE IN THE executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly before Tony Blair says what he has to say about IRA activity today; and they will still be in it when he concludes.

Unionist politicians of all shades who are calling for the exclusion of the republican party know this. Not one of them would wager the proverbial brass farthing on the chances of the Prime Minister satisfying their demands.

The unpalatable truth unionists must face is that as things stand there is a greater likelihood of Mr Blair inviting Osama bin Laden to Downing Street for tea and buns than there is of him turfing Martin McGuinness and Bairbre de Brun out of government.

That would surely change if IRA volunteers abandoned their interest in self-preservation, hijacked an aeroplane and flew it into the glass towers of the City of London.

But nothing the Provos have done during Mr Blair's tenure as Prime Minister has come close to convincing him that Sinn Fein are not fit to participate as equal partners in the politics of Northern Ireland.

Short of another spectacular act of terrorism directed against British interests, it is difficult to envisage exactly what the IRA would have to do to incur Mr Blair's wrath.

The wily Provos know what they can get off with, and what they cannot. They know that the British Government will tolerate a great deal of skullduggery, as long as the days of bombing campaigns and of soldiers being flown home in coffins, remain in the past.

Today Mr Blair will send a warning shot across the bows of the republican ship and all who sail in it, and unionists will conclude that he is firing blanks.

Strong words have been uttered before, but there has been little in the way of decisive action to back them up.

The Tories will also seize on Mr Blair's perceived weakness in dealing with IRA activity, but it should be remembered that they too adopted a kid-glove approach to republicans, and at a time when the IRA was considerably more active than it is today. …

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