The least convincing aspect of this - and every other Republican step - is the choreography that has to accompany it. A little flatfooted 'Seige of Ennis' that's so familiar that it breeds a little more contempt every day.
First off, Bertie Ahern has to make an announcement in advance that he will be supping with a shorter spoon next time he meets Gerry if you-know-what can just be achieved.
Blair has to gush about how wonderful it would be if this great step can be taken. And then after the event, lots of deliverables become due. And then it's hard to imagine that judicial grounds took precedence over political ones when carefully timed prison releases happen.
Then a few hours of 'will they / won't they?', more trailing than even New Labour used in their late-90s pomp, and then.... the news we've all been hoping for!
A staged press conference. A backdrop with a Mandelsonian slogan (and a smaller one probably with the word 'agus' somewhere in it). A grateful nation rejoices.
Then the watchtowers come down and we are assured of a wholesale arms dumping.
Peter Hain has e-mailed me today (OK, he also e-mailed every single Labour Party member that they know the e-mail address of...) saying "today the IRA have taken a big step forward and Northern Ireland is closer than ever to a future of lasting peace and security."
It all reminds me of marketing campaigns that are negotiated in advance. A load of cosmetic quid-pro-quos. People used to fall for that stuff. They don't any more.
I'm no Republican. But if I were, I'd offer some advice: If you want people to believe you, stop talking and just do it. Don't trail it. Don't get compromised politicians to make staged statements before and after you tie your shoelaces. Don't sweat the small stuff (and a Shankill Bomber in prison is small stuff in the great scheme of things). Make an appointment to deliver a lorryload of disabled armalites to suitable smelting plant. Don't attach conditions or turn it into a circus.
Then say sorry to all of the people whose lives you've destroyed.
Just do it. And tell people you've done it without much fanfare. Discuss the problems of policing and community defence frankly and put the ball back in your opponents court.
But then, those of us who aren't Republicans should draw comfort from all of this. Sinn Fein will continue to be seen to be the cynical shower that we all know they are. And for this reason, they will never really succeed in anything that they do. If you don't beleive me, check out Slugger's comment boxes.
In a few weeks time, we will all know what anyone who has read the statement and thought about it knows already. It offers nothing that hasn't been promised a dozen times before.
Blogger spellchecker update:
- Mandelsonian = Mindlessness
- Ahern = Harem