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No surprises from Sinn Fein/IRA

In the aftermath of what has been bizarrely described as a landmark speech by Prime Minister Tony Blair (or ‘The Naive Idiot’ as he seems to be known in IRA circles), we are now told in no uncertain terms that the IRA will not disband. Gosh, what a surprise.

As has been the case since British Prime Ministers started making ‘landmark speeches’ about Northern Ireland from 1968 onwards, and republicans started replying to them, “Sinn Fein’s” political spokesmen would have people believe that the Marxist Nationalists of the IRA and the Nationalist Marxists of Sinn Fein are not in fact one and the same thing, regardless of the manifest absurdity of the claim:

Pat Doherty, the Sinn Fein vice-president, said: “The IRA is not Sinn Fein’s private army. Sinn Fein is in government because of its electoral mandate and its absolute commitment to the peace process.”

And I suppose the SS was not the Nazi Party’s private army either. The difference in objectives between the IRA and Sinn Fein are what exactly? Sinn Fein is in government in Ulster in order to induce the IRA to stop setting bombs off. Although it has been manifestly within the capabilities of the British state to achieve a drastic military solution to the main problem of Ulster, the post war British system has ensured that the sort of people who find themselves with their hands on the levers of power in Westminster lack the ruthless Imperial disposition to actually do what would need to be done to put that into effect. Similarly arming the Protestant majority and allowing a bloody ‘domestic’ demographic solution (i.e. the way it was ‘solved’ in the former Yugoslavia) is simply far beyond the mindset of modern British polity. None of that is going to change in the foreseeable future of course, as Sinn Fein/IRA are well aware.

So let us not pretend that the persistent terrorist violence of the IRA has not been successful politically and that Sinn Fein is both the beneficiaries and authors of that violence. Accept that and just get on with the process of managing Britain’s incremental surrender and withdrawal. Of course if my Green and Orange Northern Irish relatives are anything to go by, what Sinn Fein/IRA will actually get in a post-UK Ulster will be rather different to what they hope for. The Protestants are no more going to disappear under republican pressure than the Nationalists have under British/Loyalist pressure, regardless of what Britain does in the future. The current situation is an Indian Summer, a comfortable delusion that in the long run will be seen to mean a lot less than it currently appears to.

I have always thought it will end extremely badly in Ulster and nothing has changed my mind in the last few years… but to be honest, if I did not know both communities so well I would care a lot more than I actually do.

18 comments to No surprises from Sinn Fein/IRA

  • Julian Morrison

    Here’s my solution: cut Northern Ireland off into a small country in its own right. It’s not too small – it’s a comparable size to Belgium or Holland. Then ignore it firmly, regardless.

  • If I had to guess, that probably is more or less what will happen. The Brits will leave because they cannot see any reason to stay, Ulster will then violently partition one last time, resulting in a Yugoslavia-like but far shorter civil war. Large numbers of people will end up dead, a big chunk of Belfast will be burned to the ground (in a couple shitty areas people might think it an improvement) and a significent number of Northern Irish Catholics will end up as refugees in the South… and a reduced Orange Ulster will glare south across a much simplified ethnic divide. 10 years from now? 20 years? Dunno. I have always been bearish about Ulster.

  • Dale Amon

    And you wonder why they won’t disarm????

  • David Carr

    Successive British governments have been looking for a way to tip-toe out of Ulster for years. I think a final withdrawal might come quite suddenly a la Palestine 1948 when HMG just decides it has had enough of trying to square a circle.

    For all the traditional commitment to a united Ireland, I doubt the government in Dublin will actually want to inherit the enormous headache.

    So that will leave the two protagonists to fight it out for the spoils.

    I like to think (and hope) that reason and humanity will prevail but I not persuaded that they will.

  • Dale: Of course I don’t wonder why they will not disarm. The only rational way they could disarm is if they allow the UK to look after their security. That means actually playing by Trimble’s rules and just becoming another political party. They will never do that as long as violence seems to actually work and so will end up dealing with the more extreme person who will come after Trimble or after that one, or the one after that… but they will never just play the democratic political game… and so as ultimatly this means they will then have to shoot it out with the Orange side for keeps once the Brits have gone, no, of course they will not disarm.

    But the end result is still that Sinn Fein/IRA do not end up with a ‘United Ireland’ no matter how you slice it as the Orange majority in the North is not just going to disappear.

    Thus we just end up with an ‘pure’ Orange Ulster rump (with lots of empty burned out former Catholic houses) still making up a big chunk of the North and a bunch of Marxist thugs on the other side of a cordon sanitare who will be a problem for a slightly enlarged Irish Republic. Not exactly a happy ending for anyone really. It starts to look rather like what I saw in the former Yugoslavia between 1992-1996. Lovely 🙁

  • E Young

    Irony on irony – two of the major flashpoints in the world today, Ireland and Palestine, are the direct result of early 20th century English ‘Old school tie’ type diplomacy. In every instance these ‘diplomats’ got it totally wrong. Remember that picture of Chamberlain waving a piece of paper, “Peace in our time”. He was the hero of the whole sorry bunch. Appeasement and expediency do not work.
    The other irony I wonder about is whether we would have the terrorism we have today, if the ‘Boston Irish’ had not supported and funded the IRA, via Noraid, for the past fifty years. As I remember it, a certain Bernadet Devlin was leading demonstrations about inequality in council housing. This suddenly mushroomed into a North South thing, her organisation being taken over by the IRA.
    Subsequently, the IRA were in great demand to teach their skills to all and sundry, including Palestinians, Lebanese, Libyans, et al. Just a thought!.

  • Since the sectarian divide is difficult to overcome at an educational or social level, one solution might be to conscript all men and women (regardless of women or class) from the age of 18, ship them out to the US for basic training and then use them as auxiliaries in mixed brigades for peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan and other points east. Nothing like the experience of war to enforce camaraderie in the face of a common enemy.

  • *Sheepish* should have read (regardless of religion or class). Too much Oranjeboom at De Hems.

  • molly

    Ah Oranjeboom, I know it well. Many is the hazy afternoon in Amsterdam…

    I hope Perry is wrong but I am not sure he isn’t right. I’d never do back there to live, that for fucking sure, as they are a bigotted bunch of shites on both sides if you are someone like me.

  • Julian Morrison

    Philip Chaston: blech, how can you so casually talk about enslaving people? Because that’s precisely what “conscription” is.

  • Probably because my family have been involved in Ireland’s conflicts for so many years and they seem to be immune to rational discourse.

    Desperate societies, desperate measures.

    After all, libertarianism is adopted after political maturity and reflection.

  • O'McSomething

    ‘Sinn Fein is in government in Ulster in order to induce the IRA to stop setting bombs off.’

    That statement in a *nutshell* is exactly what the whole deal was not about. Read the GF Agreement. It was about bringing about a government that was representative of the people who live in the six counties in question. The British Government and the Ulster unionists were NEVER up to the task or prepared to give up the unionist veto that has been the backbone of their “protestant parliment for a protestant people” since partition. They are the parties that have failed the Agreement, not Sinn Fein. Perhaps the overwhelming electoral support Sinn Fein is receiving both North and South of the border and the narrowing of the demographic divide (I’ve heard 46/ 54% or even smaller) was just too scary. There will be another day. Probably tomorrow or sooner. Sinn Fein, Adams, McGuinness, their supporters, et al “haven’t gone away you know.” Here is Danny Morrison’s take…
    ‘Sinn Fein’s vote went up after the first ceasefire. It increased even when the IRA ended that ceasefire with the explosion at Canary Wharf. It has grown after the Florida gun-running trial, and after the Colombian and Castlereagh allegations. It will increase again because nationalists – despite the allegations of a republican spy-ring – recognise that Sinn Fein is working for peace, not war.’

  • O’McSomething: I have read the GF agreement. But you miss the point… why did the Unionists and British State agree to let Sinn Fein into government? Clearly because they wanted to induce the IRA to stop setting off bombs. It is that simple. What has a so called ‘democratic mandate’ got to do with anything here? Sinn Fein are voted for by a minority within a minority so please spare me the tosh about ‘mandates’.

    Given that millions of people vote Tory, why has the Labour government not got any Tory ministers in the Cabinet? Because Tory terrorists are not going to start setting off bombs if they are not allowed to have a share of the means of oppression government.

  • Perry

    Hyperbole is stock in trade for politics and nowhere is more tempting to resort to it than Northern Ireland. So I won’t dwell on your allusion to Nazis, except to quote a Southern based political advisor to David Trimble, Eoghan Harris yesterday when skated up to the same very thin patch in the ice and then veered away again:

    “I do not mean to suggest that Gerry Adams is some kind of Adolf Hitler. As far as I am aware, Adams has no plans to murder one million Unionists. And most Sinn Fein members are not fascists in any meaningful sense of that term.”

    You have also characterised the IRA as Marxist Nationalists. This may be true but only to a very limited extent. My own suspicion is that such Marxism as they do retain in the ranks will be dumped as rapidly as the arms will, once agreement is reached to bring the institutions back to life again. I think Ed Maloney was accurate back in July when he said:

    “The Provos are different from any other republican organization, including the old IRA. They’re in the Defender tradition — full of people who joined just to defend their own streets, especially in Belfast.” He added emphatically that “if they came from the Wolf Tone tradition, they’d have had problems ditching the ideological high ground. But they didn’t. They got stuck on guns — decommissioning — since guns were their raison d’autre, as defenders of Catholics.”

    See Dale’s point on this.

    Lastly, I think you underestimate Blair if you think he will not charge for re-admission. But as one senior pro-Agreement Unionist said to me recently, the price is not the dis-discontinuance of the Armed Struggle (that is simply what they promised to pay many years ago), but the price is just as likely to be paid by Unionists; ie, the full implementation of the Patten Report on policing. There is also some residual fear that this will lead to a substantial weakening of the Unionist agenda Trimble and Co were trying to protect by going into government with Sinn Fein in the first place.

  • K Jackson

    How lovely it must be for Blair to know that in Sinn Fein circles he is known as the ‘naive idiot’. Isn’t that what Paisley et al have been openly calling him for years? Come to think of it, 99% of the Ulster people consider Blair to be a naive idiot – some approve of his stupidity as it allows SF to run rings round the British government, but most simply despise him. Who could take Blair seriously when he bangs on about fighting ‘international’ terrorism, yet has no guts for the fight against terrorism in his own backyard. No bulldog breed there, I’m afraid, more like a well-groomed poodle …

  • K, we don’t know what the Ulster people think of him. My mother’s not keen on him, though she is resolutely in favour of his NI policies. And I doubt if he would get elected if he stood for election there, but then I am not sure how many Englishmen/women would in NI, for either constituency.

    It is not a question of whether you like him or any of his predcessors. It is a question of whether he is making things better or worse. If you are arguing that it’s worse, then it would useful to see some evidence to that effect.

    The evidence to the contrary is inconclusive, but there are signs that things are moving in the right direction. The Assembly represents the longest run of local democracy since 1972. . Yes, there is a lot of nasty stuff going on in Loyalist areas, mostly against other protestants, but it is hard to argue against a falling death, which has tumbled since 1998.

    Going in hard against one community in a split polity was a risky proposition in 1971 (internment). But to do it now when the two populations are close to numerical parity, would be foolish in the extreme.

  • O'McSomething

    Perry–Thought I was making a point, not missing one. One person’s point is another’s freedom fighter…. You may think that is why the Brits and Unionists “agree[d] to let Sinn Fein into government” , but Sinn Fein never would have *agreed* to that. Show me where in the GFA it says that. Was it about the British government and Brits allowing people in, or was it an agreement negotiated to have all parties represented? The disarmament of ALL paramiltaries and the demilitarization of areas like south Armagh would have been great gravy, but I still say that is not what the GFA was about.

  • O'McSomething

    Oops!! I meant– ‘Was it about the British government and UNIONISTS allowing people in, or was it an agreement negotiated to have all parties represented?’