Right at the moment of maximum tension in the latest political crisis in the North, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) arrested Bobby Storey, one of Gerry Adams’s closest colleagues and allegedly a former director of intelligence for the IRA.
The news was important enough to make it to the front page of The New York Times, seemingly signaling a massive new crisis in the peace process.
Storey is now Chairman of Sinn Fein in the North. The Times wrote, “The fragile provincial government in Northern Ireland teetered on the brink on Wednesday evening after the arrest of a senior member of Sinn Fein, the Irish Nationalist party that shares power with British Unionists, in connection with a murder last month that the police have linked to Irish Republican Army operatives.”
Storey and two others were arrested in the case of the killing of Kevin McGuigan, 53, a former IRA member and a father of nine who was shot outside his home in Belfast on August 12.
Police believe the killing was an act of revenge for the assassination of former IRA member Jock Davison, 47, in May.
The peace process, already in deep trouble, plunged even further into the abyss. If Storey could be connected to the murder then all hell would break loose for today he is a leading figure in the Sinn Fein.
The Storey connection meant that the IRA must still be active, critics charged, therefore making it clear that Sinn Fein is tainted by the killing of McGuigan and therefore had no place in respectable politics.
Then, lo and behold, within a day Storey was released and all potential charges against him were dropped, something not reported on the front page of the Times you can be assured. Detectives stated he was “released unconditionally.”
Bobby Storey flanked by senior Sinn Féin members as he insists IRA is gone http://t.co/ZyDxff3L4t pic.twitter.com/bbe23DnhcQ— TheJournal.ie (@thejournal_ie) September 13, 2015
So laughable were the “charges” that Storey’s lawyer John Finucane decided to sue the PSNI, something almost unheard of. Finucane told the media he and his client would be suing "for unlawful detention and wrongful arrest."
"We are not talking about an arrest whereby the evidence is weak or whereby the evidence is disputed," said Finucane.
"We are talking about an arrest for 35 hours, 11 interviews, where the evidence was non-existent."
If that is true it begs profound questions of the PSNI as to why the North's police force would choose such a critical time to carry out a bogus arrest of someone who had nothing to do with a critical case.
Is it that there is a still a hard-line, old-timer faction – as has often been alleged – within the PSNI, ready to do their worst to destroy the peace process due to their hatred for nationalists and Sinn Fein? Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness certainly thinks so.
“It is stupid not to be asking the question, whose agenda is best served by those murders. It certainly was not our agenda; it wasn’t the Sinn Fein agenda. It was not the Sinn Fein peace process strategy agenda and in my opinion it was not Peter Robinson’s agenda either,” said McGuinness.
“This is something has caused huge problems for us.”
McGuinness wondered if “agents were involved, people who are hostile to the peace process, who are hostile to Sinn Fein’s involvement in the political institutions.”
“The people who are responsible for those murders are criminals, agents, dissidents; they are certainly not supporters of ours,” he added.
So was all this a setup, right down to the bogus arrest of Storey, to undermine the peace process at a critical time?
Martin McGuinness: "state agents" may be behind murders of Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan: http://t.co/UP0j5AiBzN pic.twitter.com/x9hgkwUmQv— Belfast Telegraph (@BelTel) September 13, 2015
It certainly seems so, and the damage done to the PSNI, not just in the Nationalist community in the North but here in Irish America too, is very real. Who are they really acting on behalf of?
Read more: What’s going on in Northern Ireland right now - a guide