Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

“they are doing nothing which the Provisionals didn’t do before them and with the same political rationale”

Wed 27 October 2010, 3:32pm

Somewhat related to this previous post.  In the Belfast Telegraph, Eamonn McCann makes the point

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.

And, as spotted by WorldbyStorm, an article at Ceasefire magazine adds

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”…

As I’ve mentioned previously, if “No one in this small, enclosed biosphere ever told them this project was never going to work in the first place…”

The Ceasefire article, and more particularly the linked videos, also attempt to draw parallels between here and elsewhere.

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.”

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Comments (27)

  1. Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit (profile) says:

    “Somewhat related to this previous post.”

    Yes, in the sense that he is making exactly the same point.

    I would wager that the boul Eamonn would also consider that the (probably) ill-fated current Engleze sojourn in Afghanistan is no different from those other ill-fated Engleze sojourns of the 19th Centruy.

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  2. White Horse says:

    They may have the same rationale for their violence, but they also have the insurmountable, IMHO, reality to face that their ideology, ideological nationhood, was conceded by Sinn Fein with an infinitely larger campaign.

    Having no real prospect of resurrecting that ideology – who would believe them if they say that that is their goal – what is the real goal?

    A Bosnia complex? Distracting the people of the Republic from their financial woes? Undermining Sinn Fein and brining the SDLP back into play? Who knows?

    It certainly has nothing to do with overcoming partition. Sure, didn’t Gerry tell us that that was only a cod?

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  3. Greenflag says:

    ‘was nothing except 25 years.’

    If a week is a long time in politics then 25 years is an eternity. Eamon McCann’s claim about the differences between the two named persons may be true, but the point surely is that the world both within NI and without has changed these past 25 years . Stormont suspensions have come and gone and the GFA has been enacted and power sharing is in place . Trickle down economics and deregulation of financial controls have loosed a thousand or more horsemen of the apocalypse on the world economy and the global world order is in transition with the USA being forced off the top perch having stretched it’s military and financial and political forces to the point of self destruction as a society and as a democracy:(

    NI is in a state of stasis and that’s where it will remain for quite some time given the limitations imposed by current economic and political and demographic conditions .

    If the GFA fails then there will be an attempt at another solution and another and another until eventually a permanent political solution will be found be it a UI, or Repartiton ,or some modification of the present status quo . In the meantime changing demographics will exert their own pull and push in areas of politics and economics and the shift in the world economy will be filtered through London to effect the people of NI with not too much deference being paid to local politicians .

    Both sides have lost and gained and the same will be true in any future agreement .

    Now here’s a man below whom the Americans should have listened to before they decided to set fire to 3 trillion dollars and send several hundred thousand lives beyond this mortal coil :(

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11633646

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  4. dodrade (profile) says:

    I’m no republican but part of the problem is that to dissidents “armed struggle” is not merely a tactic or a means to an end but a virtue in itself, regardless of it’s effectiveness or even counter-productiveness.

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  5. JJ says:

    Exactly. It is the “Cult of the Gun”. The struggle is no longer a means to an end but is the end, as without it their lives have no meaning.

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  6. another (profile) says:

    Is Eamonn McCann running out of things to say?

    He affords ther dissidents a sense of continuity, that they simply do not have.

    The Provisionals were a Northern phenomena, that was able to thrive bacause it was able to feed on a sense of victimhood. When the sense of victimhood was no longer there; they rightly reasoned that there was no longer a need for the armed struggle. If there is going to be a United Ireland, it is one that is only going to come about through a policy of ameliorating centre ground Unionist opinion (“learning to talk to the Prods”).

    That the Provisionals were a Northern phenomena was seen at the 1997 Convention; when the rump of those that still wished to embrace an armed struggle, were exposed as being the former leading players in and around Dundalk. These boyos did not have to live in the North; most of them had never talked to a Protestant in their lives. Theirs was was always a little bit more romantic than the reality on the ground in Belfast.

    McCann makes the fatal mistake (in tandem with the dissidents) of failing to distinguish the political conjuncture of the 2010s from that of the 1970s. His comment;
    ““they are doing nothing which the Provisionals didn’t do before them and with the same political rationale”
    falls into the dissident trap of ignoring the profound political differences between the two periods. He seems almost compelled to share the dissident imperative to find a link between them. Is this perhaps the Hegelian in him coming to the fore?

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  7. White Horse says:

    Another

    With all due respect, the Provos’ claim to victimhood ended pretty quickly and, like the dissidents, the only thing that fuelled their campaign for its last twenty years was partition and the consent principle they accepted eventually.

    The dissidents, at least on the surface, are seeking to prove that they won’t compromise on ideological nationhood like Gerry Adams.

    Who knows what they really want as they can’t be for real.

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  8. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Not “a virtue”, but a right.

    Just as it was for Martin McGuinness

    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]

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  9. Alan Maskey black spot says:

    Good video Pete:
    AQ and Hamas come across well. The Israelis come across as the secular anti Christs that they are. Blair comes across as a totally dishonest broker.
    The fact that Blair wants the Muslims to sell their birthright away, ie negotiate, does not reflect well on PIRA.
    Danny Morrisson comes across as an ageing, articulate Mick and nothing more.
    Eamoon McCann makes good points about PIRA/RIRA

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  10. Alias (profile) says:

    Eamonn McCann mentions Patsy Gillespie in that article, who was chained to driver’s seat by Marty McGuinness’ brother and forced to become a human bomb on the instructions of the Deputy First Minister.

    One of Slugger’s bloggers proffered a secondhand anecdote on a recent orbituary thread about Marty McGuinness offering to trade his first class seat (paid for by Her Majesty’s taxpayers) on a return trip from America with a then ailing and now departed photogragher who was popular among NI’s establishment class, and who was seated in economy class. I guess we were supposed to read that and think, “Gee, it is possible to reform sociopaths after all. What a charming man he is.” But I just thought, “It’s a shame he didn’t offer to trade seats with Patsy Gillespie.”

    I guess it’s true that you become respectable – not so much if you live long enough – if it serves the British state’s interests to make you respectable.

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  11. Archie Noble says:

    We should recall that Eamonn McCann has frequently changed his mind for and against armed struggle. I attach no particular weight to his views although he is as entitled to them as the next man or woman.

    We might also consider Eamonn has his own political allegiance and status as leading Trotskyist of the North. No doubt it informs his discourse.

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  12. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Play the ball, not the man?

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  13. Jimmy says:

    “When the sense of victimhood was no longer there;”

    I must have been away that day. I wonder what that was like?

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  14. aquifer says:

    Substitute’ Ulster Unionists’ for ‘Provisionals’ and describe the DUP sectarian domineering in government that boosts the support for violent irish separatists.

    The DUP are the most accomplished political demolition specialists in these parts.

    Which big developer are they clearing the site for?

    UN? USA?

    If they want to indulge in sado-masochism, they should get a room and leave our lives out of it.

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  15. Alan Maskey black spot says:

    Eamonn McCann has said a lot of rot over the years. But he has got bullseyes very many times as well. He is entitled to his political beliefs and he has never hid them. He has, as far as I know, never supported armed violence.
    The Patsy Gillespie affair is right up there with Jean McConville and PIRA’s other barbatric acts; Christy Moore, the intellectual wing of the Wolfe Tones said it was this singular act pof Provo savagery which got him to move away from these animals.
    . Our resident fascistic fantasist who, like Forest Gump has met everyone, attacked me for drawing attention to the machine gunning of Shergar, a singular act of economic terrorism aganst the Irish people. This is how these people think and how their hierarchy of victims works. Only mention who they want to to be mentioned: the glorious dead such as the burglar Jim Bryson and ignore and shun their unarmed victims, victims of both their cruelty and their crass stupidity.
    PIRA have committed numerous acts of barbarity. The dissidents have a long way to go before they are in the same league as the savages who kiled Gillespie, Shergar, McConville and John Corcoran.
    It was said that Hitler would have won a free election in Germany in 1945. He certainly would have got the Provo vote, the vote of those who boast about sticking a gun into the ear of an unarmed junkie.
    The 1916 Proclamation spoke against cowardice, inhumanity and rapine. Today’s republicans have done all three in spades. Whatever forums they attend, they should have bells to warn the other attendees that they are the moral lepers we all know them to be at heart.

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  16. Archie Noble says:

    Sorry you feel that way Pete I was attempting to make the point that Eamonn “would say that, wouldn’t he” to borrow from Mandy Rice Davies.

    Its in keeping with how he sees his role as a person, a political activist and a commentator and we should not be suprised at his views. I was not seeking to attack or disparage Eamonn rather I wished to contextualise him within his political tradition. In this regard I find myself agreeing with another above when he wrote that Eamonn:

    “falls into the dissident trap of ignoring the profound political differences between the two periods. He seems almost compelled to share the dissident imperative to find a link between them.”

    Apologies for not making myself clear.

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  17. slappymcgroundout (profile) black spot says:

    “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 avoid getting any more humans killed, the point here isn’t, is it legitimate, but do they have a hope in heaven or hell of gaining anything more than what Sinn Fein/PIRA gained? If not, then all there is, is mindless carnage. As General Bell told Mabini: “the possibility of success is the sole justification of war and as soon as that possibility disappears, civilization demands that for the sake of humanity the vanquished should submit to the victor.” Believe it or not, that’s why Gerry & Co made peace. The Brits did so for the same reason. Both knew that they were not going to defeat the other by force of arms, so time to make a mutally acceptable peace. And that’s the point that has to be hammered home. The related notion is, of course, that war is simply politics by other means. So get on with your more usual politics.

    Lastly, on a wholly unrelated note, and I don’t wish to hijack the thread, but I simply can’t get over this report. Perhaps it was because I was out celebrating the 4th here in the US, but I missed this 4 July report in Bel Tel:

    “Firebrand victims campaigner Willie Frazer pleaded with a judge last week to be lenient on his former colleague William Wilkinson who raped a terrified woman.

    Frazer wrote an impassioned letter to Judge Geoffrey Miller urging him to go easy on his former associate who he described “as a fun-loving figure in the lives of mature females” in the victims group FAIR.”

    As I’ve said, ole Willie isn’t right in the head. A rape case with a conviction and he tells the judge that the accused now convicted of rape is “a fun-loving figure in the lives of mature females”. There simply aren’t words… Well, there are words, some of which are, Willie, if I’m ever convicted of crime, please don’t write a letter to the judge on my behalf. Thanks.

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  18. Brian Walker (profile) says:

    “Other times, other customs.” In wrestling with the dissidents problem it’s easy to become transfixed at the similarities with the past but what about the differences?

    No one party rule, no serious intercommunal rioting that gets out of control, no major army presence to affect a cycle of violence, and yes,a consensual political framework between the communities and the States.
    .
    All this naturally fails to impress the dissidents; it simply presents them with a bigger target. They have their perfect alternative political rationale, we did not fight for equality we fought for unity and the Brits have yet to declare in favour of a United Ireland.

    How does a peace loving more or less contented majority press their will on a small pro-violence minority particularly one which so clearly echoes the recent past? There is no easy answer but there seem to be two legs to tackling it.

    First,while the example of better government would offer the vision of a better life,it does not address their political imperative. Only nationalism can address this effectively. Thus Micheal Martins’s visit to Lurgan More of that is needed from Dublin.

    SF may be in a dilemma. They are embarrassed at their obvious failure to control but that’s what IRA disapperance means. If they confront the dissidents repeatedly they risk building them up further. But Eamonn is is surely right that SF cannot any longer dismiss them as micro-groups and will need to mobilise opinion against them through engagement without trying to ostracise them completely. An uninvolved civilian death might change the passive climate but we cannot wish for that.

    This part of the answer seems to lie in persitent local engagement through challenging them at meetings and, removing their symbols in the public space. Local passivity,the bane of the era of IRA dominance is no longer an option. The excuses for passivity, lack of enfranchisment, have been/ are being addressed. The exercise of that franchise specifically rejects a new armed struggle. If they aren;t confronted now, repeatedy and constantly, they may increase their grip on the community through intimidation. A vital moment may be lost. .

    The second leg is policing and security. In the preoccupation with the peace process since 1994, grip of the security situation was substantially relaxed In a sense Omagh was more of a continuity than an aberration even as the IRA were going through their upheavals towards standing down. The dispersal and pay offs of police teams accompanying reform broke continuity MI5 seem to be doing the heavy lifting at the top of the counterinsurgency tree. But at the vital lower levels the PSNI seem to lack expertise and former penetration. Although that may be part of a plan to develop community policing, in the real world, they will need to recover old skills, this time with explicit public support. Not easy and it will need unambiguous and constant political support..

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  19. Alan Maskey black spot says:

    Everything you say and suggest was prviously directed at PIRA who scoffed it off.
    Maybe PIRA and PSF are a lot of the problem anjd the dissidents are a part of their failures and are linked to them.
    When Dev left SF in 1927 or so, he said those who stayed were carrying on where he left off. The dissidents would see themselves very much in that light.

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  20. Alan Maskey black spot says:

    http://saoirse.info/current/jun10.pdf

    Are RSF still selling their paper or are they frying other fish? At least the Provos were regular with that. They used to send a PRN copy religiously to the British Embassy, as if they had not contacts aplenty already there.

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  21. Blaze says:

    when CIRA overthrew their leadership they took the newspaper with it. RSF and the old CIRA Army Council don’t recognize the new body so presumably are preventing them from continuing the paper. good to see http://www.ceasefiremagazine.com ‘s Irish column referenced here.

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  22. David Vance says:

    It is indeed a pity he did not offer to swap seats with Mr Gillipsie. It is a bigger pity that so many nationalists admire him.

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  23. Greenflag says:

    maskey/alias ,

    ‘They used to send a PRN copy religiously to the British Embassy’

    So that’s where you started reading it eh ? I trust you still get your copy ?

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  24. Greenflag says:

    ‘ Not easy and it will need unambiguous and constant political support.’

    That it will and sniping at SF from the sidelines doesn’t help but then it’s perhaps designed to foment something else . Let’s hope that the broad mass of the nationalist people of Northern Ireland don’t fall for the ‘divide et imperium’ strategy of those who pursue a chaotic agenda -which is not in the interests of any of the people of Northern Ireland regardless of political or religious denomination.

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  25. another (profile) says:

    Contexts change; movements evolve; people die. The catalysts that led to the birth of the Provos no longer exist. Accordingly militant republicanism will forthwith simply represent a case of stoking the embers; those that jump on the bandwagon will be nothing more than backwoodsmen caught up in history.

    Perhaps it is also important to look at the Republic and what it has become; a bankrupted shell state. This fact impacts upon the whole notion of Republicanism whether the dissers can see it or not.

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  26. aquifer says:

    “They use violence because it gives them a voice”

    They point a pistol at our head because it is the only way we might listten to their drivel.

    National self determiniation in the sense of economic self sufficiency socialism and independence is dead in the West, because we live off the fruits of the exploitation of poorer people in the developing world, and enjoy pillaging natural resources in the great big celebrity binge party.

    Any ROI cannot be economically divorced from GB EU and USA, except as a North Korean style subsistence gulag under seige from America. Nobody here wants this, so the pistol comes out early to impress upon us the wisdom of the great irish separatist leaders of history and now.

    As the complexity of the captitalism economy has grown so has the capacity of fanatical male gun gangs to disrupt it with car bombs and selective assassination.

    But post 9/11 the great powers take their terrorism seriously, and surveillance technology has come a long way, backed by appropriate legal frameworks to ensure that gun gangs cannot prosper.

    Locally we may have some hardy perennial weeds in the field, but in a lab somewhere a new suppressant is being tested.

    For later.

    Until then, ‘dissidents’ are useful dupes who may already be in the employ of disaster capitalists, ensuring that the local democratic and self-determining assembly do not get any social democratic ideas above their business development and loan repayment station.

    The US may want their economic toehold in the European market expanded. Isn’t that what Charlie Haugheys support of armed irish separatists over socialsts has achieved?

    The next stage of disruption and the triumph of capital can be the dissolution of local state power. With dissidents acting as solvents or cancers until they become expendible or compliant.

    Has the CIA imported cocaine arrived yet? What is it like?

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  27. [...] After rejecting the PSNI Chief Constable’s preferred option of employing private security firms, by a “majority view”, members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board can’t have been too surprised by his announced intention to re-deploy 150 frontline officers to guard police stations in the face of the increased threat of attack by republican paramilitaries. [...]

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