Selfie pic O'Neill
© Paul Faith/AFP/Getty ImagesSinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill takes selfie with party president Mary Lou McDonald
It is now clear even to the dimmest that the IRA have won in Northern Ireland. Their political poodle, Sinn Fein, has toppled the Democratic Unionists as the largest party in the Stormont Assembly. It is hard to see how this will not now lead, in the fullness of time, to the transfer of the Six Counties of Northern Ireland to Dublin rule.

And what rule will that be? Why, the rule of Sinn Fein, rapidly growing in strength in the Republic, now that its grislier figures are dead or in alleged retirement.

In Dublin, the party is 'led' by Mary Lou McDonald, who was mysteriously the only candidate for the job in 2018. Her Northern counterpart, Michelle O'Neill, similarly emerged in a process about as transparent as a North Korean general election. Both come from a pretty hard-edged Republican tradition.

It is still risky to speculate about who really runs Sinn Fein, but as recently as 2019 the Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed its previous assessment that the IRA Army Council 'retained its oversight' of the party.

Such things are increasingly unsayable as they might 'derail the Peace Process', but there you are. On the same grounds we have had to ignore countless bomb outrages, murders, bank raids, protection racketeering, intimidation, and who knows what else, by both Republican and 'Loyalist' gangsters, since the Great Surrender of 1998.

This was sold to the Province, and to the British people, as 'peace'. Many ninnies have claimed since that it was a defeat for the IRA and Sinn Fein.

The only response to this must be the most savage sarcasm. Was the 'beaten' IRA forced to accept the mass release of its men of violence from prison, and the effective end of any prosecution of those as yet unconvicted?

Was Martin McGuinness so vanquished that he was compelled against his will to attend a dinner with Her Majesty at Windsor Castle, dressed in humiliating white tie and tails?

Now we see beyond doubt the true outcome. The Democratic Unionists, who once elbowed the official Unionists out of the way by pretending they could save something from the wreck, are now crumbling. This is because they cannot save anything. On one flank, their supporters are realising that the game is up. On the other, a more militant grouping is threatening to supplant them. They have nothing left to say.

Each day shows more clearly that the UK Government in London does not want the loyalty of the Loyalists, and wishes heartily that they would go away. The creation of a customs frontier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country is about as big a hint as you are likely to get.

So here it comes, and it will be a hugely significant moment in British and European history when it does. Because despite all the blather about 'Good Friday' and democracy, the handover of Northern Ireland to Dublin is the direct and undoubted result of a long campaign of ruthless murder, which the USA did not perhaps hamper or oppose quite as vigorously as it might have done.

It will be the first transfer of territory as a result of violence in Western Europe since 1945.

This is the hard truth, and, while I can see why a lot of people would rather not admit it, I think it is vital that it is openly stated - a total and unmitigated defeat, just as I said it was 24 years ago.