I remember almost breaking down as I spoke as the realisation hit me that the difference between Ned McCann and Patsy Gillespie was nothing except 25 years.
Just as the difference between Patsy and Gerry McConnell was 20 years. Oglaigh na hEireann hadn’t sucked the idea from their thumbs.
This consideration, the fact that precedent is provided by the actions of some who have since become the epitome of political respectability, provides the ‘dissidents’ with their most plausible defence: that they are doing nothing which the Provisionals didn’t do before them and with the same political rationale – that a ‘war of liberation’ will always be legitimate while Northern Ireland remains part of the UK.
To the extent that the tradition of armed struggle and the precedents it has set are not faced up to, for as long as a pretence is maintained that the aim of the Provisional campaign had been to win equality within the North rather than to achieve a Britless Ireland, the ‘dissidents’ will have a right to claim that they stand in direct succession to now-accepted and widely-approved republican struggles of the past.
During Martin Mcguinness’s early days as head of the IRA’s Derry Brigade in the early 1970s, he is said to have made the city’s center “look as if it had been bombed from the sky without causing the death of a single civilian”; while a decade later he sat on the IRA’s army council while it approved the bombing of the hotel used by the British Cabinet for 1984 Tory Conference and, two years later, he told delegates at a Sinn Fein conference that the party’s “unapologetic support for the right of Irish people to oppose …in arms the British forces of occupation… is a principle… it will never, never, never change, because the war against British rule must continue until freedom is achieved.” [added emphasis]
However instead of offering an insider’s perspective on the Ulster Bank attack or commenting on the glaring irony of him as First Minister of a Parliament, he once took pride in bringing down; addressing a conference his subordinates once bombed, McGuinness chose to compound the irony by informing journalists that those who attacked Ulster Bank were “Conflict-junkies” and that people in Derry “are horrified that there are still these neanderthals within our society.”
The use of the word ‘junkie’ also directly contradicts his colleague and Sinn Fein’s former director of publicity Danny Morrison who stated in an interview last year that “people do not use violence because they are addicted to it. They use violence because it gives them a voice” and that it is always “the people in power”, not the opressed, who prolong war by refusing to listen.
In the interview Danny Morrison also suggests, when asked about the difference between the stated “chief goal” of the Provisional IRA – a united Ireland - and the current situation, that now people “feel that they’re able to look forward to a united Ireland at some stage in the future” and that “in a sense, the guerillas fought and the guerillas are in government”.
Neither of which points addressed the question.
And leaves another hanging in the air – what happens when that feeling goes away?
Now that “the guerillas” are “the people in power”…
Which makes me wonder how far the parallels go…
The former EU envoy to Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, said the practice was far from unusual.
“Many governments that hope to court influence are paying and providing money to the president’s office in what I would call a slush fund. This has been going on since the very beginning, and the Americans are very much in the vanguard. So I’m not surprised the Iranians are doing it,” he told the BBC.
He added that the payments were symptomatic of the West’s failure to establish a proper government in the country.
“It is in the interest of any Afghan government to be in good relations, with at least one neighbour, if not the two major ones. What bothers me is that the West has failed to establish a kind of government run by rule of law and with an established system that would make it impossible or totally unacceptable to use these means of gaining influence.”