Sinn Fein is now a hair's breadth away from ditching the IRA so it can enter top-tier politics, says former Provo bomber
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Shane Paul O'Doherty, a former Provo who was given 30 life sentences for attempted murder (but served only 15 years), made the comments in the wake of criticism aimed at Sinn Fein over its stance on Israel.
The party had brought a motion before Dail Eireann last Tuesday condemning Israel's attacks on civilian lives and property, as well as "the taking hostage and imprisonment of civilians" in general and the "mass forced displacement of civilians".
DUP MP Sammy Wilson complained that these are all things of which the IRA were guilty, and since Sinn Fein has sought to justify the IRA's actions, the motion could not be taken seriously.
For example, the IRA took hostages in cases such as the “human bomb” attacks of the early 1990s, when civilians were told their families would be hurt unless they carried bombs to military checkpoints and blew them up.
And the displacement of people was a common tactic of both sides in the Troubles, as estates and streets were turned into exclusively Catholic or Protestant zones.
Mr O'Doherty told the News Letter that after the "loss of face" caused by the arrest of an IRA bomb team (including current North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly) in the early 1970s, he was dispatched to England on the orders of Martin McGuinness to resume the bombings.
Among the targets he posted letterbombs to were the residence of the Prime Minister at No 10 Downing Street, and that of Tory MP Reg Maudling (the latter had been the Home Secretary at the time of Bloody Sunday).
Like fellow republican "detransitioner" Eamonn Collins, Mr O'Doherty later turned his back on the IRA and was marked as an enemy of the group. He has since left Northern Ireland.
He said there were two ways to understand the Sinn Fein motion which condemned attacks on civilian lives and infrastructure, hostage-taking, and so on.
"That motion describes everything the IRA has done, to a lesser degree in some minds, but the IRA has done everything on that list," he said.
"It bombed civilian infrastructure. It used civilian infrastructure to hide weapons and launch attacks. And it has murdered men, women, and children, coldly."
He said that on one hand, the motion could lead an observer to simply say Mary Lou McDonald (the party leader and a sponsor of the motion) is "an utter hypocrite".
On the other, he said it could be a sign that Sinn Fein intends to distance itself from armed violence of all kinds – including that of the IRA.
In other words, perhaps Mrs McDonald is planning to solve the contradiction between Sinn Fein justifying IRA actions while condemning those same actions in others by finally condemning the IRA itself.
"She's the person charged with heaving Sinn Fein into front stage government distancing itself from the IRA's human rights atrocities," said Mr O'Doherty.
"And she's a hair's breadth away from condemning the IRA's atrocities.
"That's a view widely held by the dissidents - that this Sinn Fein movement is on the cusp of finally condemning the IRA's past.
"In order to participate in European affairs and hold justice posts and so on, the New Sinn Fein may have to bite the bullet on its final, ultimate condemnation of the IRA's human rights atrocities."And I think she may be the person who will do that."
Mr O'Doherty noted that earlier this year, the Sinn Fein president had been asked by reporters if she would attend IRA commemoration events were she to become taoiseach.
She was quoted as saying in reply: “For me ... if I had the privilege of leading government I would be a taoiseach for everybody and I would act in a way to foster respect, reconciliation and understanding and never in a partisan way to give offence to anyone.
“If I were taoiseach there’s a set pattern of what the taoiseach attends and does not attend.”
Various media outlets then interpreted this as meaning that she had “confirmed”, “signaled”, or “hinted” that she would not go to PIRA events (although she didn't explicitly say that).
She had also repudiated IRA actions against southern forces, saying in December 2022: "I've been clear, and we have been clear, that no members of the Gardai, nobody wearing the uniform of An Garda Siochana, should’ve been hurt or harmed in any way in the course of that conflict."
Sinn Fein has been asked to comment on Mr O’Doherty’s views.