For those simple-minded enough to believe that Sinn Féin gets the same amount of critical comment in the media as other political parties, a look at the editorial in yesterday’s Irish Examiner should disabuse them of the notion.
The editorial is headed ‘Sinn Féin integrity brought into critical focus – Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy convicted’. The paper declares that Murphy’s conviction on nine tax charges brings into question the credibility of Gerry Adams as a leader and Sinn Féin as a party. It lists what was found on Mr Murphy’s farm – several tankers, two shotguns, over 30,000 cigarettes and the equivalent €800,000 in sterling. Mr Murphy, it reminds readers, was once described as ‘a good republican’ by Gerry Adams. And it warns its readers against adding to Sinn Féin’s total of 14 Dail seats, given Mr Adams’s description of Murphy.
A couple of things. One is that the charges against Murphy have nothing to do with the IRA, they have to do with smuggling. I’ve sat for fifteen minutes now, trying to work myself up into a lather of indignation that anyone should use the border to smuggle stuff, and I simply can’t. Yes, I know we’re told it’s money out of the public purse, he should be paying duty charges and all the rest of it. Sorry, it still doesn’t work for me. Most republicans detest the existence of the border. That one of them should use it, while it still exists, for development of his business interests, strikes me more as an example of entrepreneurial enterprise rather than unforgivable illegality.
The second thing is that Gerry Adams called Murphy ‘a good republican’. For that, the leader of Sinn Féin and all of his party, according to the Examiner, should be shunned by voters. Oh come on, Mr Examiner. Don’t you think that link is just a teensy bit tenuous, for you to move from it to condemnation of every single Sinn Féin candidate in the coming election? If you’re going to do that, what about all those people who presumably were planning to buy or had bought this illegal fuel and cigarettes – wouldn’t they have a closer link with Mr Murphy than Gerry Adams? Wouldn’t there be some way we could penalise them too?
In a Freudian moment, the paper concedes that Sinn Féin may see Mr Murphy’s arrest as linked with the coming election. If they did they could be forgiven. For the very good reason that the Examiner is following the tradition of the media on this island: Shinner-bashing with particular gusto as election-time comes round.
Thomas Murphy won’t be standing as a candidate in this election. The electorate in the south, one can only hope, will see through this linking of Murphy and Adams for the nonsense it is. Sinn Féin are putting their policies – including a costed health programme – before the south’s electorate. They should be judged on the worth of what they offer, as well as the recorded broken promises of both the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael parties. If the electorate chooses to vote with the words of papers like the Examiner ringing in their ears, let’s hope they react as did voters when Gerry Adams was imprisoned in the mouth of another election.
There are many scandals in the southern state, notably the fact that it failed to construct an even half-reasonable health service during the heady days of the Celtic Tiger. The patent and on-going bias of the media against Sinn Féin may not be a scandal of equal proportions, but it comes close, it comes close.