THE PROVOCATIVE police raids on Sinn Fein's offices in Northern Ireland last week created a crisis inside the ruling assembly. The police claimed they had raided the Republican party's offices in the Northern Ireland Assembly, Stormont, because of links with an alleged spy ring supplying secrets to the IRA.
Sinn Fein said houses of community activists involved in human rights and justice issues were also targeted. The Unionists have eagerly seized on the raid to attack Sinn Fein's elected representatives in the ruling assembly.
Hardline Unionists like Jeffrey Donaldson have called for all Unionists to walk away from the assembly. They hope to bring down the power-sharing structure in Northern Ireland that came out of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. New Labour's Northern Ireland secretary John Reid also rushed to condemn Sinn Fein.
The Unionist leader, David Trimble, may well use the claims about 'spying' as an excuse to resign from the power-sharing executive, so bringing about its collapse. The police raid comes against the backdrop of constant pressure from Unionists to paint Sinn Fein as an organisation intent on 'violence' through its association with the IRA.
But recent upsurges of violence in the province certainly have not come from either Sinn Fein or the IRA. Northern Ireland police chiefs admitted last month that Loyalists are behind the recent wave of sectarian attacks in Belfast, including street disorder, shootings, and pipe bombings.
There have been more than 200 pipe bomb attacks on Catholic homes in Belfast and Larne this year. Catholic children trying to attend the Holy Cross school in Belfast have been terrorised by the Loyalist group, the Ulster Freedom Fighters.
Danny McColgan, a Catholic postal worker, was shot dead by the Loyalist UDA as he arrived for work in January. Northern Ireland secretary John Reid was forced to acknowledge last week that the UDA and LVF Loyalist paramilitary groups have not kept a ceasefire. By contrast, the IRA has kept to its ceasefire for the last four years as part of the Good Friday Agreement.
Unionist politicians are not happy with this. They want a complete surrender by the IRA. Many would be quite happy if demanding this leads to a collapse of the peace process.
They have built a political base for themselves over decades by fomenting Protestant hatred of and discrimination against Catholics. They fear anything which might undermine such hatred. So they spread the absurd lie that Protestants are losing out to Catholics in the peace process, even though Catholics still get the worst jobs and the poorest housing as a consequence of long years of discrimination. That is why David Trimble was already planning to collapse the power-sharing executive in January.
Someone high up in the security forces or the police in Northern Ireland has decided to force his hand by raids on Sinn Fein, even if it risks producing a new wave of sectarian killings.