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The IRA on the defensive

This IRA versus the McCartneys (aka civilisation) struggle is truly amazing. First a bunch of IRA thugs murder Robert McCartney. Then, in defiance of all precedent, the McCartney family complains, loudly, in public, and demands justice. The IRA obviously cannot allow IRA people to be tried in a court of law, so they offer to shoot the rogue elements who committed the murder. Not good enough say the McCartneys (they are not anarchists, they want it done by the state. I can see their point).

Now one of the leading IRA/Sinn Fein thugocrats, a repulsive exhibit by the name of Martin McGuiness, has perpetrated another public relations clanger:

Sinn Fein has warned the sisters of murdered Belfast man, Robert McCartney, to stay out of politics.

The party’s chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, told them to “be careful” and not to step over the party political line.

The sisters insist the IRA was involved in the murder with one of them accusing Sinn Fein of taking part in a cover-up.

The family are to fly out to the US on Tuesday to continue their fight for his killers to be brought to justice.

Mr McGuinness said their campaign could leave them open to political manipulation.

He ought to know.

This is not the kind of thing you should tell people who are bereaved, who are good looking (which the McCartneys are, very) and who are on the telly a lot. One of the rules of the modern, TV-dominated world is that bereaved and televised families may say and do whatever they choose and may not be criticised. They certainly cannot be told by a politician-stroke-terrorist not to do politics. But McGuinness is only following another rule, a Northern Ireland rule, which says that if the IRA tells you to shut up, you shut up. So you can see how hard this must all be for him to comprehend. When he issued his warning, he was only doing IRA business as usual.

But business for the IRA is no longer business as usual.

The equally revolting Gerry Adams is now over in the USA, where he usually gets a free ride and choruses of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. (The BBC showed Clinton and Adams singing along together in happier IRA-USA times.) But this time it is different. Not only have the IRA carried on murdering people. They have also been blamed for a truly enormous bank robbery. President Bush, comparing Adams to Arafat, has told Adams to get knotted, and now not even Ted Kennedy will give Adams the time of day. All of which is just one more little consequence – yet another of those knock-on effects – of 9/11. Suddenly the friends (the IRA) of their enemies (Islamist terrorists) no longer look so appealing to the Americans. They look more closely, and do not like what they see.

Adams was accordingly very much on the defensive. Challenged by the McCartneys, who are also over in the USA drumming up support for their quest for justice, Adams was then shown by the BBC protesting piously that if, God forbid, he had become involved in anything as nasty as the murder of Robert McCartney, then as soon as he had realised the enormity of what he had done, he would have handed himself in to the relevant authority (although he was a bit vague about who that would be exactly) and would have made a full confession. Like hell he would.

Mark Steyn goes into a bit more detail, and has a few more swipes at the IRA. Patrick Crozier (to whom thanks for the link) asks if this is a first for Steyn. Is it?

As Steyn points out, this is a mess which the British and Irish Governments have done a lot to perpetuate, along with all those idiot American IRA-donors. The UK and the Republic have followed a policy of relentless appeasement, and it has not worked. The appeased have taken and taken, and carried right on terrorising.

I have always suspected that if the British Government had said, about a quarter of a century ago, that they would stop even discussing a change in the status of Northern Ireland until the IRA had pretty much ceased to exist, and that if the IRA chose to exist for ever, that would mean Northern Ireland remaining British for ever, that might have settled this thing long ago. But appeasement, for all its fatuities, does at least have the advantage that it makes the nature of the appeased beast unmistakable, and unites all but the most casual of onlookers against the beast. So, now that Bush has changed the rules, the rest of us can all join in and give the IRA the kicking they deserve.

I certainly hope that this is what is now going to happen.

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32 comments to The IRA on the defensive

  • Rob

    Whilst I’m not one to defend the IRA, I think it’s worth pointing out that the IRA has killed far fewer people since the peace process (such that it is) began.

    Should the IRA now be pushed into disbandment, it will only be possible because of the electoral success of Sinn Fein, which in turn relied on the policy of engagement undertaken by the British and Irish governments.

    Furthermore, such a policy was only undertaken after the military option had been tried and was widely seen to have failed (elected government minus Sinn Fein had also been tried and failed).

    The ground has shifted over the last few years, and now the IRA looks increasingly out of touch with its own putative sympathisers. It is that, not any tougher stance from the British or Irish governments, which has led to the current situation.

  • Dale Amon

    I happen to live here… and I much prefer keeping them engaged in talk, even if they do now and then go off and do something nasty. Belfast is changing. Every year that passes moves the mainstream farther and farther away from the old status quo. That is why the McCartneys did what they did. The old rules are… well, old rules and have very much less to do with life today than they did a decade ago.

    You need to keep the dinosaurs engaged and keep an eye on them. They will go extinct eventually. It isn’t money that feeds the beast. It is fear. Take away the fear and they are simply excess to requirements.

  • Verity

    Why not just shoot the shit out of the dinosaurs? That way you have landfill, and the TV screens free up for better looking people.

  • James

    I have always suspected that if the British Government had said, about a quarter of a century ago, that they would stop even discussing a change in the status of Northern Ireland until the IRA had pretty much ceased to exist, and that if the IRA chose to exist for ever, that would mean Northern Ireland remaining British for ever, that might have settled this thing long ago

    Snowballs chance in hell. Wouldn’t have stopped the Provos from their “campaigns” for the simple reason that they wouldn’t have trusted Westminster to keep its end of the bargain. Handing ultimatums to Terrorist organizations doesn’t usually work. Handing them their ass does. The UK failed to do both.

  • zmollusc

    McGuinness, Adams and the other IRA top brass have been transformed into politicians. They now have a luxurious lifestyle and are publicly feted (apart from the present moment) , thus they have an incentive to continue to pretend to end the armed struggle as this pretence perpetuates their wealth and power.
    The rank and file of the IRA have no incentive to end the armed struggle. Why would they go back to being the civilians upon whom they have preyed for so long? Why would they give up the power and influence they have over the populace? Not to mention all the lovely money extorted from businesses ‘to help free ireland from the oppressive british’. They may like the way the ‘peace process’ keeps the british army off their backs but there is no reason at all to expect that this ‘process’ will lead to peace.

    I have just seen some irish-american gimp in a wooly hat being interviewed on the streets of some american city (boston? washington?) saying that he still likes mr adams and that bush should welcome him. The lazy reporter failed to ask “And do you support any other terrorist organisations?”

    Final thought: Why is so much attention paid to the decommissioning of the IRA’s weapons when the number of weapons is a secret and there would be no problem buying new weapons soon after (or even before) giving up any old ones?

  • Jason

    James; could you give an example of a serious terrorist organisation that has been successfully defeated by “handing them their ass”?

  • Julian Taylor

    1) France’s Action Direct 2) Italy’s Brigade Rosso 3) Japan’s Red Army 4) Germany’s Red Army Faction – over 70 spectacular arrests in one day = “handing them their ass” don’t you think?

    Oops, Gerry seems to have had another of his “Gerry Adams Moments” by suggesting that “Bill Clinton ran a better gig”, maybe he can ask the repellent McGuinness to make a veiled threat to Dubya as well then.

  • Julian Taylor

    “Whilst I’m not one to defend the IRA, I think it’s worth pointing out that the IRA has killed far fewer people since the peace process (such that it is) began.”

    Rob, with all due respect you might want to think about that paragraph some more. The whole point about a peace process is that you ain’t supposed to kill anyone at all, or am I the only one seeing this? And by the “military option” for the Provisional IRA I take it you refer to “terrorism” which is. after all, what the Provisional IRA is or (we hope) shall one day be referred to as ‘was’ … a terrorist organisation.

  • Some people seem to think that the murder of Robert McCartney happened in some sense because of the peace process. They are mistaken — very similar things have been happening all along, but either twenty years ago or five years ago, the murder would have been business as usual, to the extent that it wouldn’t even have made a front page story.

    What the McCartney affair shows is that the IRA is losing its constituency. Northern Ireland’s nationalists have to make the choice to reject the IRA; no-one else can make that choice for them — all we can do is drive them together. The McCartney sisters have shown the way, and done more for peace than anyone else.

    Anyone looking for in-depth blogging on Northern Ireland can’t do better than Slugger O’Toole

  • Dale Amon

    I, along with many others who actually *live* here, get really annoyed at philosophical discussions of our fate disguised as policy. The fact is, *we* are the ones who get to live in the mess and do the dying that some of the rather silly suggestions would cause.

    The organizations of both sides here feed off fear and hatred. The UK *did* try to wipe them out back in the early-mid 1970’s. It came in as a saviour and rapidly found itself part and parcel of an ongoing civil war. I have close friends who grew up with daily sprays of machine gun bullets through their streets and often through their living rooms. If you were on one side, the fire came from the prods and the brits; if you were on the other side it came from the IRA and less often from the brits. No one in their right minds wants to go back there. Even the ensuing 15 years was an improvement, and that was bad enough. The last decade has been pure heaven.

    It is an exceedingly dangerous thing to step in the middle of someone else’s civil war unless you really and truly are an outside force and seen by both sides as an impartial broker. The power brokers on both sides may well desire to paint you as being partial and if they succeed (or if you really are), then all hell breaks lose.

    All this crap about violent solutions to our problems here just annoy me. Bind these people with golden chains, keep them drunk and feeling self important. Give them all the cheap Havana cigars and other carcenogens they can handle.

    The solution is they will die off and the younger generations for the most part already don’t give a flying eff about them.

    Don’t make these people artificially important again. Don’t turn them into rallying points for people afraid for their lives and their families lives.

    Just let them go into the night as quietly as we can manage.

  • I know you don’t exactly say this in the post, but just to be clear: the murderers of Robert McCartney were not in any way “rogue elements” when they killed him and his friend. They were normal IRA members doing what they have been doing under cover of the peace process for nearly a decade, which is use their membership of a terrorist organisation to ensure they never come second in bar room brawls. The IRA has committed about fifty murders since the ‘ceasefire’, often simply as revenge over fights they didn’t win. This sort of killing is pretty much common practice.

    So it’s only the embarrassment that the McCartney family has created that has made his killers “rogue elements”.

  • Again, re “normal IRA members doing what they have been doing under cover of the peace process for nearly a decade”. Before they were doing it under cover of the peace process, they were doing it under the even more effective cover of the war. The peace process did not make it possible, it (eventually) made it newsworthy.

  • Yes, but at least before the peace process we knew there was a good chance his murderers would be jailed or killed. Now, any action at all tends to be deferred or left undone because it’s argued that that would “hurt the peace process”.

  • Julian Taylor

    I disagree. Certainly before the Good Friday agreement the police and security forces would have attempted to hunt down Robert McCartney’s killers but I think that now the IRA is being allowed to select its own brand of noose by the encouragement to hand over the murderers for punishment, perhaps as a gesture of goodwill on its part. What would be even more satisfying would be to have the 2 Sinn Fein candidates, Deirdre Hargey and Cora Groogan, come forward and make statement to the police about what they saw on the night.

  • Peter, you might be right, but I don’t think so. How many IRA men were ever brought to justice for “punishment beatings” or murders in their own community? If you can point to a few I’ll concede the point. My impression is that its only when they stepped outside to take on the government or the Unionists did they put themselves at any risk.

    The PSNI is not leaving action undone — it is investigating but being hampered by a community which does not accept it — and never has. It is in their interest to accept it, as they are beginning to realise, but we should not be glib about the change of attitude that entails.

  • There are plenty of terrorist organisations that have been “handed their arse” and stopped existing. The Black Panthers are another good example of that. The claim that no terrorist organisation ever goes away if you use a military solution is a myth and provides succor to terrorists everywhere.

  • Rob

    Rob, with all due respect you might want to think about that paragraph some more. The whole point about a peace process is that you ain’t supposed to kill anyone at all, or am I the only one seeing this? And by the “military option” for the Provisional IRA I take it you refer to “terrorism” which is. after all, what the Provisional IRA is or (we hope) shall one day be referred to as ‘was’ … a terrorist organisation.

    Yes, they’re not supposed to kill anyone, but it’s surely better to kill fewer than to kill more? There are many things wrong with the current situation, but it does at least have the virtue of being better than the situation 10 years ago.

    As for the military option, I was referring to the British military. As Dale pointed out, the strategy of engaging the IRA through military means was tried and largely failed. Political engagement has worked better. This is an undeniable fact and we should not allow it to be said otherwise by those who want to revise history to fit more closely with their view of how terrorism should be dealt with.

  • Dale:

    Bind these people with golden chains, keep them drunk and feeling self important. Give them all the cheap Havana cigars and other carcenogens they can handle.

    The solution is they will die off and the younger generations for the most part already don’t give a flying eff about them.

    Like you I also live here. With respect, the strategy of buying the IRA off or of turning a blind eye has failed. They have taken the taxpayer for a ride (even the Andersonstown News, which never deviates an inch from the SF-enforced party line has received government funding) and used the 10 years of “peace” to build a criminal empire.

    Don’t make these people artificially important again. Don’t turn them into rallying points for people afraid for their lives and their families lives.

    I am not for allowing SF to pose as victims, but turning a blind eye involves the sacrifice of more Robert McCartneys and more Northern Bank robberies – this cannot be allowed to happen.

  • Dale Amon

    Peter: We are probably not in disagreement. I am not saying the killers in this case should be ignored. Quite the contrary, I like very much that things have changed so that the McCartneys are doing what many others have been afraid to do. Only the community itself can change the situation here. Outsiders trying to enforce their ideas will not help. The people *here* must sort it out in each of their *own* neighborhoods.

    I see this as a sign that watershed is being crossed.

  • Dale Amon

    Andrew: Not all situations are amenable to external force. I will not say that British forces could not have ‘won’ here. Had they used techniques such as in Malaysia they might well have done so. Now what what that have entailed? They would have bulldozed entire towns; they would have moved a large part of the population into a concentration camp behind barbed wire; they would have hunted down and killed large numbers; they would have used unrestricted warfare and turned this lovely place into a bomb pocked wasteland. Yes, they would have ‘won’ that way.

    People who live here must sort it out for themselves because the populations are quite evenly balanced. Far too close in numbers for it to be possible for one side to dominate the other. There simply is no other option but to learn to live together. The non-option is for the last dozen survivors to raise a flag and declare victory.

    The only people in Northern Ireland who want that ‘solution’ are either stark raving bonkers or psychopathic killers.

  • The question of fact which determines whether the IRA should be actively wiped out by the government, as some here recommend, or not, as Dale and I are saying, is whether the IRA still command political loyalty from their community.

    On the BBC have your say today:

    The fact of the matter remains the PSNI are not trusted by the majority of many areas of Belfast as a result of their harassment of the community. Unfortunate as it may be, the IRA has been the most effective law force in many areas of Belfast, and seen by many as a “lesser of two evils”

    The same people who send their army to my country are passing comment on things they don’t understand. We need a representative and accountable police force. The community has no faith in unionist policing.

    Neither Sinn Fein nor the IRA will turn in the people who killed Robert McCartney to a Police Service or a Court System that the majority of Nationalists/ Republicans have no confidence in.

    I’m not saying these three commenters are right about the PSNI today. I’m just saying it would be better to convince them they are wrong — and none of them are asking for anything that they haven’t got a right to — than to fight them, which is what abandoning the peace process would entail.

  • Matra

    The IRA could well have been defeated in the early 70s just as previous rebellions were, but, unfortunately, London interfered then later took away the powers of the Northern Ireland government at Stormont – ironically this was right after Bloody Sunday, an incident that had nothing to do with the Northern Ireland government as the British troops were not under Stormont’s control. The Irish irredentists of the late 60s met something they had not previously experienced when rebelling and that something was weakness. That certainly encouraged them and they were helped along by better organisation and a more sophisticated ideological outlook provided by a new generation of educated Republicans who despite such terrible, terrible, “Unionist oppression” somehow managed to study at university in such great numbers. Luckily for this new generation of Republicans London subordinated security policy to political policy and the latter has always been based on English misperceptions regarding the nature of the “civil rights” movement of the 60s. You see, Catholics were “oppressed” and once their oh so brutal oppression was ended they would stop being so bothersome. (Similar arguments may sound familiar when it comes to minority violence in the US and the terrorism of Muslim extremists).

    Of course, a crackdown on the IRA in the early 70s would not have gone over well with the Americans who were so keen on IRA killers they chose them to be guests of honour at St Patrick’s Day parades instead of extradicting them. These are the same Americans, like Congressman Peter King of New York, who now demand that the rest of the world support their “war on terror’. But at least Bush is breaking with US policy regarding the IRA unlike Blair who is pandering to them just like all his predeccessors since the Troubles began.

  • Matt O'Halloran

    Wasn’t McCartney just a thug who fell foul of some other thugs?

  • Dale Amon

    Now I do not usually bring religion up specifically because I am a non-practicing atheist… but I was raised in a Methodist family. With that said, I ask one of the previous posters who said Catholics in Northern Ireland were not second class citizens a simple question:

    How many Catholics were employed by Harland and Wolf in 1970?

    (Yes, it is a private firm and can do what it damn well pleases… but the answer will tell you a great deal about the mentality of the time).

  • Matra

    I ask one of the previous posters who said Catholics in Northern Ireland were not second class citizens a simple question:
    How many Catholics were employed by Harland and Wolf in 1970?
    (Yes, it is a private firm and can do what it damn well pleases… but the answer will tell you a great deal about the mentality of the time).

    There couldn’t have been more than a handful of Catholics working there after all it is in a Protestant area. Shipbuilding, the British Empire, and Northern Ireland’s separation were all connected. The “mentality of the time” was that the industry was British and so why should those who want to take N Ireland out of the UK benefit from it? Was it unfair to Catholics? Yes. Protestants felt there was an enemy within determined to destroy their state and so like Israelis in their dealings with Arabs, occasionally discriminated against them. But most of the Catholic complaints of discrimination were directed at the state which they wanted discredited and destroyed and most of these were greatly exaggerated or completely untrue.

    BTW Protestants also suffered from discrimination before 1969. The Belfast Telegraph reported in 1958 that in 19% Protestant Newry all 90 Newry Urban District Council staff were Catholics. The Council’s Gas Works employed 30 Catholics and only 1 Protestant and all 18 members of the Newry Port and Harbour Trust were Catholics. In 1964 it was reported that in all the years Catholics controlled Enniskillen council not a single Protestant was ever allocated a house yet the “civil rights” agitators made anti-Catholic discrimination in housing allocation their first cause. Things were more complicated than the leftist and Republican historiography would have us believe.

  • Effra

    Matra: Good points. Another is that academics who have studied NI elections since Partition have concluded that, contrary to constant claims in the liberal media, there was no systematic gerrymandering against Nats apart from the one, admittedly monstrous, exception of Londonderry City Council. Rather the fiddling was done by the Ulster Unionist ruling class to prevent other Protestant parties, especially socialistically inclined ones such as the NI Labour Party, getting up a head of steam.

    Gerrymandering was effectively attacked by Ian Paisley, whose long march has brought the DUP to the leading place among Ulster parties after being started from scratch in 1970: a feat of political management unparalleled in post-war Britain.

    BTW, those who wax indignant about discrimination against Catholics in the bad old Stormont days should understand that the Nat leaders were men of blood who opposed the very existence of the polity preferred by the majority of Ulstermen. Nats enjoyed its welfare benefits while refusing to carry a British passport. They were not a loyal parliamentary opposition, and as current events are showing, they are still not just politicians. How right Dr Paisley was about Sinn Fein IRA all along– while Trimble and the ‘respectable’, middle class Unionists were kissing Adams’s bum!

  • Dale Amon

    Yes, very good excuses for keeping a large section of the population out of the top paying industrial jobs… and you neglect to answer why this was true through the decades preceeding the troubles and do no stop to ask if just maybe, just possibly, this inequity left a fertile breeding ground for socialists and revolutionaries.

    There was some of this in the US at the time as well; I helped out in a small way with the Black Construction Coalition in Pittsburgh, where a similar quiet ‘conspiracy’ kept blacks our of the high paying industrial trades.

    I am quite sure there were areas in the Pittsburgh Hill District at the time which were almost solely made up of blacks who could not break into the high paying trades. Seems very similar to the situation that existed here at the time: Ripe for trouble. The US got it in the long hot summer of 1967, but compromises were made. In NI, there was ‘No Compromise’. That attitude, here or anywhere in the world just causes pressure to build until something happens.

    I have often wondered if the whole of the troubles was masterminded by some KGB station chief who saw a situation in which a couple killings and a few rubles could take advantage of an existing situation and tie down a bunch of British troops for a very long time.

  • Dale Amon

    PS: For those who are not local… Harland and Wolf is the shipmaker who for perhaps a century was the largest high paying industrial employer in Belfast. Oh, and btw, they built the Titanic.

    The situation we are discussing is as if United States Steel in Pittsburgh in 1970 did not have a single black employee in any capacity, let alone in the highest paying Trade Unions.

  • Danny

    Do people really think that the IRA will go back to a military capaign? I personally doubt it. In my opinion and I may be way off here is that the Republican armed struggle has not dissapeared or been defeated, I believe that will never happen, Irish history proves that. Something has happened within militant Republican circles, they have evolved, the struggle has evolved into politics. From what I’ve learned over the years there has always been a pattern to Irish nationalism.
    First moderates try seeking independence through elections and so on, of coarse it fails miserable.
    Second people become frustrated at the inability for moderates to change anything, they turn to extremists who fail also.
    So the cycle continued right up until the late 1990s. However now Republican extremists are begining to say goodbye to armed rebellion because now they are actually able to bring change through politics, for the first time politics and elections will reep rewards. in the past Britain and unionism did all the could to thwart any nationalist political power, hence the Provisionals, but now they have an oppurtunity to do this, gained real political power, despite continued unionist efforts to stop power sharing.
    The good friday agreement should be implemented fully. The IRA will not go back to the use of arms to gain indepentence unless as history teaches us politics fails due to British and unionist refusal to change.
    Sorry if that insults anyone, but they are the facts as I see it.

  • Danny

    Do people really think that the IRA will go back to a military capaign? I personally doubt it. In my opinion and I may be way off here is that the Republican armed struggle has not dissapeared or been defeated, I believe that will never happen, Irish history proves that. Something has happened within militant Republican circles, they have evolved, the struggle has evolved into politics. From what I’ve learned over the years there has always been a pattern to Irish nationalism.
    First moderates try seeking independence through elections and so on, of coarse it fails miserable.
    Second people become frustrated at the inability for moderates to change anything, they turn to extremists who fail also.
    So the cycle continued right up until the late 1990s. However now Republican extremists are begining to say goodbye to armed rebellion because now they are actually able to bring change through politics, for the first time politics and elections will reep rewards. in the past Britain and unionism did all the could to thwart any nationalist political power, hence the Provisionals, but now they have an oppurtunity to do this, gained real political power, despite continued unionist efforts to stop power sharing.
    The good friday agreement should be implemented fully. The IRA will not go back to the use of arms to gain indepentence unless as history teaches us politics fails due to British and unionist refusal to change.
    Sorry if that insults anyone, but they are the facts as I see it.