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1 February 2001 Edition

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Sluggish Celtic snails

Fine Gael's squabbling over their party leadership this week was about as spectacular and significant as their `Celtic Snail' campaign on the 26-County budget - not very.

Jim Mitchell, Michael Noonan and John Bruton epitomise why the electorate are turning away from the establishment political parties.

In their petitions for support they offered no discussion of policy differences but a hell of a lot of hot air and talk about image. Like the mythical figure Narcissus, Bruton, Mitchell, Noonan and their ilk are in danger of staring too long at their own images and falling into oblivion.

The sterility of careerist establishment politics is becoming more and more apparent to people. While Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the PDs and the Labour Party jockey for position and give themselves generous wage rises - a hike of over 20% in Leinster House this week - people who don't have such generous employers are turning away in search of a radical alternative.

Support for Sinn Féin is growing because the party is not tainted with the politics of the brown envelope. It is growing because republicans want to change society on the basis of justice and equality, not play ball with the establishment.

Bruton or his successor, just like Bertie Ahern. Mary Harney and Ruairi Quinn, are the political equivalents of the three-headed monkey - all happy with the status quo.

That's not good enough. There's too much in this country, North and South, that needs changing.

Hello, goodbye

The new British Secretary of State, John Reid, is no stranger to Irish politics. His unequivocal support for the two British soldiers convicted of killing young Belfast man Peter McBride has already coloured his perception within the nationalist community.

John Reid's backed supporters of the Scots Guards during his tenure as British Arms Forces minister but refused to meet with McBride's mother.

At the end of the day, British Secretaries of State have come and they have all gone.

Republicans will deal with whoever holds the post, all the time working to ensure that the latest incumbent is the last.

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