That venerable organ The Irish News is this morning excited by the fact that Sinn Féin’s Raymond McCartney is to be the deputy chair of the new Justice Committee. This committee will keep an eye on the Justice Minister and see that he does the right thing in all cases. The VO is excited because, it reminds us, Raymond McCartney is a former hunger-striker who spent 53 days on hunger strike in 1980.
Why does the venerable organ choose to do this? Who knows? Maybe the VO would say it’s because there’s such a contrast between the anti-establishment life-and-death stance of McCartney thirty years ago and his position today as part of the establishment, intent on seeing justice dispensed and law-breakers punished. Striking indeed but as I’ve said in another context, it’s based on the notion that things normally stay the same. They don’t. Places change, problems change and people change. Their bodies change, their understanding changes, their goals change. It’s called maturing and flexibility. Consistency is a wonderful virtue, but if you show consistency by continuing to read, say, The Irish News, even though your living room has caught fire, what could be hailed as a virtue becomes a self-immolating vice.
But the IN article has a far more important purpose: to keep Sinn Féin tethered to its past. If you can keep reminding readers that what may look like a respectable political party has its roots in violence and prison sentences and a fever of social and sectarian division, well hey, it might help give a leg-up to Mark Durkan, Margaret Ritchie and God knows how many other SDLP arthritic ducks.