Last week was a very bad week for Sinn Fein.
The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) confirmed that the IRA knew they would be targetting innocent civilians when they exploded the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bomb. They dismissed IRA claims that the mssacre of civilians in November 1987 was a mistake. The atrocity, perpetrated by the IRA, killed eleven people and another victim died after 13 years in a coma. The front page headline in the Belfast Telegraph read 'Enniskillen: it was no mistake'.
Another HET report, due to be released later this month, has confirmed that the IRA fired first when they attacked Loughgall RUC station in May 1987. Sinn Fein have always claimed that the SAS fired first in the incident in which eight IRA terrorists were killed, along with an innocent civilian. However the HET report has rejected that claim.
The third disaster for Sinn Fein was the PR disaster known as Niall O'Donnghaile, who is the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Belfast. When you are in a hole it is best to stop digging but not Niall. When a Belfast Telegraph reporter asked him whether he would repeat his snub to a young Army Cadet he refused to answer. The newspaper carried the story under the headline 'Embattled Lord Mayor refuses to rule out repeat of cadet snub' and it also carried a column on the subject by Malachi O'Doherty.
Niall failed the first test when he refused to hand over the award to the young cadet but instead of learning from that, he has done it again. If his initial apology had been a sincere apology, rather than a carefully worded excuse for an apology, he would have been able to answer the Belfast Telegraph's question. The fact that he didn't confirms what we suspected, that his 'apology' was not a real apology at all. If you are really sincere when you apologise then you will seek to demonstrate that by not doing the same thing again and you will be able to say that. Clearly Niall does not understand what an apology is.
Now Sinn Fein know the importance of PR and they take it very seriously. But this past week has not gone well for them at all.