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Hibernians decry ‘lamentable’ Stormont crisis

By Ray O’Hanlon

The Ancient Order of Hibernians has issued a ringing denunciation of the PSNI and unionist politicians, a combination which, according to the order, has led to the current political crisis at Stormont.

In a statement issued by AOH Political Education Chairman Neil Cosgrove, the Hibernians state that “it is lamentable that, as we are in the midst of Ireland's 'Decade of Commemorations," we are witness to an all too clear case of history repeating itself in the current Stormont Crisis.

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“As in the Home Rule crisis of 1914, we again see the progress to peace and justice through constitutional means being thwarted by politicians using rumor, myth, innuendo and prejudice to further their own political ambitions at the cost of the people of Northern Ireland.”

Cosgrove, in his statement, said that the proximate cause of the current crisis was by those opposed to the peace process “seizing upon the ill-considered and unsubstantiated remarks of a mid-level PSNI official speculating that the IRA was responsible for the death of Kevin McGuigan.”

Chief Constable George Hamilton had since “tempered his subordinate's statements, indicating that while remnants of the Provisional IRA organizationally may exist, there was no evidence that they were involved in anything but the peaceful political pursuit of their goals, “a description that aptly describes in many ways the relationship of the former RUC to the current PSNI.”

Continued Cosgrove: “However, the initial PSNI speculation has become for some an all too convenient sound bite.

“The McGuigan murder was seized as a pretext for the show arrest of Sinn Féin's chairman Bobby Storey and two other well-known Republicans; only for them to be released unconditionally within 24 hours without charge.

“Lack of charges and evidence were not enough to dissuade Mr. (Peter) Robinson, who had previously unsuccessfully attempted to suspend the government, and all of his ministers save one from using the arrest of Mr. Storey as the casus belli to resign from the government, creating a political crisis and raising the specter of a collapse of Northern Ireland’s devolved power sharing government.

“Mr. Robinson directed that Minister Arlene Foster would remain as finance minister and acting first minister ‘to ensure that nationalists and republicans are not able to take financial and other decisions that may be detrimental to Northern Ireland.’ Just in case anyone missed Mr. Robinson’s attempt to resurrect the ghost of William Randolph Churchill and his Orange Card, Ms. Foster defined her role as ‘I have been placed there as a gatekeeper to make sure that Sinn Féin and the SDLP ministers don't take actions that will damage Northern Ireland and principally, let's be honest, that damage the unionist community.’

“One can hear the Lambeg Drum and the echoes of 1914 that ‘Home Rule is Rome Rule’ in Ms. Foster’s outrageous and prejudiced comments.”

Cosgrove stated that the “apparent reasons for this political Kabuki dance” appear to have become clear.

“During the Stormont Financial Committee inquiries into the sale by NAMA of the £1.2 billion Project Eagle loan book of distressed Northern Ireland properties to U.S. Investment firm Cerebus, revelations were made of secret meetings with Cerebus and the payment of £7 million channeled to an Isle of Man bank account to benefit a ‘prominent Northern Ireland politician and political party.’

“Mr. Robinson is loudly protesting his innocence and asking to be given the presumption of innocence, the very same courtesies he and his party withheld from Mr. Storey and Republicans as they stormed out of Stormont bringing the government and peace of Northern Ireland to the brink of crisis in what appears to be an elaborate political misdirection.”

Added Mr. Cosgrove: “The irony of leaving a ‘gatekeeper’ minister “to ensure that nationalists and republicans are not able to take financial and other decisions that may be detrimental to Northern Ireland’ while being implicated in the tainted sale of the homes and businesses of Northern Ireland for pennies on the pound is indescribable.

“Ms. Foster may indeed be ‘guarding the gates,’ but the gate she is guarding as Mr. Robinson’s dutiful Horatius appears to be leading to the DUP and NAMA Project Eagle, not nationalists and republicans.

“The weapon that has devastated Ireland the most has not been the gun nor the bomb, but hypocrisy for short term political gain; the hypocrisy of people demonstrating their ‘loyalty’ by threatening rebellion and forming paramilitaries when the Third Home Rule Bill was passed in 1912; of a military that proclaims ‘ours is not to reason why,’ but mutinied at the Curragh in 1914 rather than enforce the constitutionally enacted law of the land; of a government turning a blind eye to the landing of ‘loyalist’ guns at Larne, yet violently intervening in the landing of Republican guns at Howth; of the country which proudly points to the Magna Carta while interning without trial Catholics suspected of paramilitary activity and simultaneously colluding with loyalist paramilitaries; of a government that trolled through the archives of Boston College in search of information to discredit political opponents while the files of Ballymurphy, Loughinisland and Dublin/Monaghan remain sealed.”

Each one of these “hypocrisies,” said Cosgrove, “has devastated all the citizens of Northern Ireland irrespective of religion or loyalties. To this litany we now add the NAMA scandal and the use again of fear and prejudice to misdirect from political and personal agendas.”

Cosgrove concluded: “Let us hope that we have indeed learned something from Irish history, that we tear up ‘the Orange Card,’ that politicians stop using it to fan the embers of mistrust to provide a smoke screen to hide their personal political agendas while risking setting Northern Ireland ablaze once again.”