Martin's new Bessie mate ... Sinn Féin steals show

John Coulter, with one of his regluar columns from the Irish Daily Star. It initially featured in Newshound on 15 April 2014.

Stand by for fresh concessions to Sinn Féin after Stormont deputy First Minister Marty McGuinness had his free meal with Queen Bess at Windsor!

Dissident republicans will pathetically spin Marty's royal dinner as further proof that the peace-loving wing of the Shinners are getting too cosy with the Brits.

But Marty wasn't a head-honcho in the Derry 'RA for nothing! As he supped soup with Bess, he has out-gunned both Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Irish President Mickey D in one fell swoop.

Marty has shown to both Brits and Irish that the Shinners are worthy of the title 'minority coalition partner' after the next Dáil poll.

To claim that crown, Sinn Féin must prove that it has truly shifted from being the apologist for a well-oiled murder machine to a modern, totally democratic political party which either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael could do business with.

The message is bluntly simple – if Bess can go to Croker, Marty can go to Windsor, then Gerry Adams can become Tanaiste in Leinster House.

The Shinners have scored a double whammy in the past three years – sown the seeds of dissent and splits in Robbo's DUP, and rebranded the republican movement as a modern day version of Eddie McAteer's old Stormont Irish Nationalist Party.

Sinn Féin is reaching out so many hands to Unionism, the letters 'PSF' should read Protestant Sinn Féin rather than Provisional Sinn Féin.

The well-polished political behaviour of many in 2014 SF is actually a mirror image of the 1970s democratic republican organisation run by the late Protestant Larne councillor, John Turnley of the Irish Independence Party.

But two more delicate hurdles have still to be cleared by Sinn Féin before the transformation is complete.

Firstly, like the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, the Shinner MPs need to take their Westminster seats.

Secondly, Sinn Féin needs to find less provocative ways of commemorating dead IRA members.

Queen Bess may have laid a wreath of Irish patriots who fought the Brits during the Tan War last century, but if there is to be any royal ass-licking at the centenary of the Easter Rising in two years' time, the Shinners cannot afford a repeat of the Tyrone Volunteers debacle in Castlederg.

That farce descended into an 'Up Your's' to the Unionist community, and a tit-for-tat of loyalist demands to march past the Ardoyne Shops in north Belfast.

The Brits will want a favour from the Shinners if Bess is to lay a wreath for James Connolly and company.

The immediate benefit for Sinn Féin could be to snatch up to four MEPs in May's European poll, as well as lift the majority of Northern nationalist seats in the new super council elections.

But how does Sinn Féin please its hawks? Like its rivals in the DUP, Shinner bosses have been relatively successful at maintaining a public image of a well-disciplined party.

Unlike the Unionist family, there will be no split republican vote. The worst case scenario is a slight rise in nationalist voter apathy in May.

If Marty is really smart, he'll appoint a few republican hardmen to 'important' posts to make the hawks think they have a future in Royal Sinn Féin!

But in this era of the normalisation of Sinn Féin, does Adams have the profile, personality – and past – to become Tanaiste, or is it a case of step forward the Donegal Dynamo, Pearse Doherty? 

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