IRA weapons wholly beyond use: a once white lie now a blood stained black

The latest attempted murder by republican terrorists involved an attempt to kill a prison officer with a booby trap car bomb. This tactic was one of the IRA’s favourites throughout the Troubles (and occasionally adopted by others). Thankfully the victim survived and all decent people wish him well: though as so often one wonders how well he will recover both physically and mentally.

Clearly the responsibility for this latest crime is borne solely by those involved in it. However, as the Belfast Telegraph has noted this episode once again raises the uncomfortable question of the extent to which the IRA actually decommissioned their weapons and as such the integrity of those who supposedly oversaw this complete decommissioning.

The Belfast telegraph claim that the assault rifles used in last month’s murder in the RoI were IRA weapons. That may be the case though it is quite clear that Kalashnikov typed assault rifles are ubiquitous throughout parts of the world. As such even if the IRA had got rid of all those weapons criminals could obtain more with only moderate difficulty.

The issue of the semtex is more problematic. Semtex is a commercial explosive designed for standard commercial blasting, demolition etc. It is manufactured in the former Czechoslovakia and now the Czech Republic. It became notorious as a terrorist explosive after it was exported in large quantities to Libya and, hence, on to assorted terrorists. Part of its popularity was due to the difficulty in detecting it – apparently it had no smell. However, from 1991 distinctively smelling compounds were added by the manufacturer to ease detection.

In addition since 2001 it is almost impossible to obtain semtex from the manufacturer as almost all manufactured is used in the Czech Republic. As such it seems almost certain that the Belfast telegraph is correct in its assertion that the semtex used in this latest terrorist attack was from the original IRA stockpile.

Initially after its ceasefire the IRA claimed they would decommission “Not a Bullet not an Ounce”. As such when they finally agreed to decommission there was considerable skepticism. To allay such fears the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning was established under the chairmanship of retired Canadian General John De Chastelian. Many lauded his integrity though this was somewhat tarnished by his alleged involvement in the cover up of sex crimes by Canadian peacekeepers in Somalia in the 1990s.

As well as De Chastelian there were the two Northern Ireland witnesses: Father Alec Reid and Rev. Harold Good. Clearly Alec Reid is dead though his position as an independent witness is undermined by both his close friendship with Gerry Adams and his sectarian behaviour during the “decommissioning roadshow” after the supposed decommissioning complete with the classic “Unionists were Nazis” episode.

If Reid’s independence can be questioned and De Chastelian’s integrity was already compromised this latest crime also calls into question Harold Good’s bona fides. Good and Reid made their statement in 2005. To quote one part:

In light of this, and in order to create universal confidence, we wish to assure everyone, but especially those in Northern Ireland who may yet have misgivings, that the decommissioning of the arms of the IRA is now an accomplished fact.

As I said above the terrorists are the ones who bear sole responsibility for this latest crime. However, it is long past time that Harold Good (and John De Chastelian) gave an honest account of the exact circumstances of what they saw. In addition it is behoven upon them to apologise for either their gross naivety or else significant dishonesty. They may at a time have felt that the end justified the means. Now, however, with yet another crime committed with this completely decommissioned IRA weaponry that white lie has long since turned a blood stained black.

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  • Kev Hughes

    ‘Actually the facts’

    Stop there immediately AI. Look at the folks you’re dealing with here, take a step back and realise that these guys re never swayed by facts of any kind that don’t fit in with their pernicious world view.

    I’m only saving you some time and bother.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    No surprise for some of us:

    “Sometimes the older ones among them racked their dim memories and tried to determine whether in the early days of the Rebellion, when Jones’s expulsion was still recent, things had been better or worse than now. They could not remember. There was nothing with which they could compare their present lives: they had nothing to go upon except Squealer’s lists of figures, which invariably demonstrated that everything was getting better and better.”

    http://george-orwell.org/Animal_Farm/9.html

    As the Jacobite commander Richard Hamilton told the defenders of Derry all too accurately during discussions (regarding their future “usefulness” to William and the Whigs), “eaten bread is soon forgotten”. And it’s not the only thing that vanishes “in this generation, which lives practically without any historical background”. Accordingly, for those who instinctivly understand that there is neither detailed memory or where there might be some thread of rememberance, no strong committment to principal to call them out publically on inconsistency, contemporary actions are governed by pure expediency, not by any kind of principal. Especially if you can pick up votes simply by the hoary old call for “keeping Themuns out”.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    A “Republican” finally considering accepting the crown the month he died, and buried with both Crown and ermine?

    http://www.sparknotes.com/biography/cromwell/section10.rhtml

    and ” When he died, a wax mould was made of his features and was most probably kept by its maker, Thomas Simon. Seven weeks after his death a wooden effigy and wax replica of his face (made from the cast) were laid in state at Somerset House.

    Contemporary sources record that this effigy held an orb and sceptre and wore a velvet cap lined with ermine (a symbol of royalty). Behind him was the crown. Later the effigy was moved to another room, sitting upright with the crown positioned on its head – in effect a posthumous coronation”.

    Contemporary research now proves that in his final months he was thinking of going back on his earlier refusal. And, anyway, if he was a “Republican” why did he not then establish a Republic? He sent the Republicans packing and the period of his control was marked by experiments with incressingly dictatorial forms of governance. No, if you’re looking for “Republicans” in those times it would be the Levellers, those whom Cromwell executed, in part for demanding that the Irish were given the right of self-determination.

  • John Collins

    Chris
    Who is to guarantee that arms and explosives, or at least their ingredients, have not been ‘imported’ to NI in the meantime, i.e. since ’98?. After all this kind of thing has been going on, on all sides, in this island for generations.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Thanks for that Kev, I was aware of it, despite which I like to amuse myself.

    Although they never allow facts to get in the way of their preformed opinions it’s always a telling moment when they either don’t reply to a point or change the direction of their argument.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t do it, and it reveals a certain flaw in my nature that I wasn’t aware of. I never pulled the wings off flies when I was a boy as I was quite soft hearted, perhaps I’m becoming a little cruel in my dotage.

    A bit like those last surviving wasps that sting for the sake of it!

  • Anglo-Irish

    That is becoming abundantly clear Robin and I just hope that it isn’t the voices in their heads that they are paying attention to.

  • DOUG

    If I decide to form a football team and call them Manchester United – does that afford me the same status and accolades usually reserved for Alex Ferguson?

  • Richard Gadsden

    It’s not particularly easy to make plastic explosives. If you have access to proper facilities, sure – but hiding a chemical factory from the authorities should be beyond the capabilities of the dissident republicans.

  • Richard Gadsden

    There were already dissidents at the time of the decommissioning –
    if they stole explosives from the IRA stockpile before that stockpile
    was destroyed, then that would fit with all the known facts. I do wonder
    how good the IRA’s stocktaking was; if they didn’t know exactly how
    much they had, then they could easily think they’d destroyed it all
    when, in fact, quite a lot had been nicked by the dissidents.

    Also,
    there was tons of Semtex in stockpiles in Libya (several hundred tons
    at the time of the fall of Gaddafi). Given the current state of Libya,
    it doesn’t seem implausible that some of that is ending up in the hands of dissident republicans now – and since that’s from the same source as the original, there would be no way to tell the difference.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    If you’re referring to your baptismal font, it appears to have coloured your views for a lifetime.

  • PeterBrown

    Is Republican as specific as a term as the name of a football team? In relation to their claim to be the new IRA then maybe but not republicanism? Maybe PIRA should copyright the name? I did make this point to the late William McCaughey about the links between the modern day and 1912 UVF though I used Belfast Celtic as a comparator rather than Man U – who wnats to be Man U nowadays?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree that it seems obvious we should have maximum transparency over decommissioning. It’s a no-brainer. And I think if IRA weapons supposedly decommissioned are indeed turning up in use, there’s a particular need for further clarity on exactly what was supposed to have been decommissioned and how it happened. It felt like we had to take a lot on trust.

  • chrisjones2

    Well we know that PIRA did import fresh guns from Florida. Strange that when they were disbanding

  • chrisjones2

    Oh do try and keep up ….

  • Kev Hughes

    ‘Oh do try and keep up ….’

    That’s all you’ve got? Really?

  • DOUG

    Republican? No.
    but I was really responding directly to the statement that ” IRA is IRA, and the fact that Sinn Fein have decided they don’t currently support using violence makes no difference. ”
    I’d argue that calling yourself the IRA ( or new IRA ) doesn’t make you IRA.

  • Jollyraj

    Not sure I’m understanding your point. By ‘form a football team’, do you mean get a few low, criminal types to carry out a terrorist act? And who is Sir Alex in your analogy? Gerry, presumably?

  • DOUG

    I suspect you understand exactly what I’m saying, but in the interest of good neighbourly relations, I’ll clarify and still maintain the football analogy.

    Santos are a very successful professional football team from Brazil. They are a group of footballers who play football matches with the aim of winning matches and ultimately trophies.

    Santos are also an amateur football team from Belfast. They are also a group of footballers who play football matches with the aim of winning matches and ultimately trophies.

    New Santos are also an amateur football team from Belfast. They are also a group of footballers who play football matches with the aim of winning matches and ultimately trophies.

    They are 3 separate organisations and are in no way affiliated.

    Does calling yourself the NEW IRA and engaging in similar activities to other groups known as the IRA ( Provisional, Real, Continuity etc ) mean that you’re all the same group? Or could it mean that you’re a separate group who share aims, methods etc and decided to adopt the name?

    After all, what’s in a name? Unless it comes with a soupcon of badly advised romance or undeserved kudos attached.

    Please be under no illusion, these actions are deplorable and I have no hesitation in saying so. No ifs, ands or buts.

  • Reader

    Robin Keogh: But, part of defeating them is by categorically excluding them from mainstream Republicanism and letting them know they have no quarter within it.
    Sheesh. So, added to the problem of defining who qualifies as a ‘republican’, we now also have the problem of defining ‘mainstream republicanism’.
    That’s Fianna Fail, isn’t it?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    and of course, it would be something of a break from form if the IRA actually gave a full and honest account to De Chastelain. They are kind of famous for their acuity with ambiguity, loopholes and, failing those rapiers, their readiness to bludgeon in with the cudgel of just plain lying. McGuinness on his IRA involvement, Bloody Sunday, and all the rest, Adams on just about everything. Even post-GFA they have denied the Northern Bank robbery, the Stormont spy ring, and at least two high profile murders; they denied any link between themselves and their SF alter ego before that was exposed … They’re not exactly a brand that has built a strong record of trust with the public over the years. It would be amazing if they *were* telling the truth over decommissioning.

  • Cosmo

    tsk, tsk….the sociopathic ‘code of ethics’ is…. if you didn’t get caught and/or they can’t convict you in a court of law, ‘cos the witnesses won’t testify – sure, then (truly) you didn’t actually do it!

  • Tadhg Curran

    The evil terrorists are the Irish workers whose families have lived in Ireland since time immemorial. The good guys are the English troops in the six counties who are allowed to carry guns, since they keep the peace for a foreign queen, they’re not murdering terrorists like the natives.

    Who buys into this rubbish? Aside from the RTE, Fine Gael, D4 crowd etc. ?

  • Jollyraj

    I’d argue that calling yourself the IRA ( or new IRA ) doesn’t make you IRA.”

    Interesting point. What would be your definiton for IRA then?

  • babyface finlayson

    Talk about damning with font praise!

  • barnshee

    With names like Adams and Morrison I think it unlikely that they have been living “in Ireland since time immemorial “

  • barnshee

    “You have the word of these ministers, the word of the IICD, and the word of the Dublin, London and Washington governments.”

    The word of people and organisations that could not be trusted to go to a corner shop— and come back with the correct change ?

  • congal claen

    Hi Sean,
    Republican in that the government that was established excluded a monarch.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Congal, I can see where you’re coming from, sure, honest mistake, but he was hardly heading anything resembling a republic after the dismissal of the appointed members of ” Sanhedrin of the Saints” in 1653!!! To my mind, the fellow was a republican in name only……you may just have picked up that I’m no great fan of Cromwell.

    As my grandfather drove his old Light 15 Citroen through Drogheda on the way to Dublin in the 1950s he used to always stop, drag me from the car and point to the Mill Mound up on the hill. “One of your ancestors was amongst the Colonels hanged by that man Cromwell by that mound, the day after Drogheda fell.” Just for the record, he was cavalry colonel carrying a commission from Charles II, who surrendered on quarter and was hanged with other officers after the town was taken, their heads hacked off after hanging and sent to Dublin. No, I’ll be looking for my republicanism with the Levellers, with St Just, or with honest Episcopalians like Harry Munroe, but never from dictators like Old Noll! We could do with a few of such people today…….

  • MainlandUlsterman

    have you told the Queen she’s a foreigner? 🙂 A bit of German ancestry perhaps but hey we’re all Africans originally.

    The army in NI by the way are British troops on their own national soil. It’s really not that controversial – or shouldn’t be.

    Terrorists are terrorists – and murder is murder, no matter who is doing it. Don’t pretend there is no Irish nationalist problem with terrorism, because there clearly has been a massive one. At the same time, state forces are also capable of committing murders and that’s not right either.

    It’s not that complicated: if we all simply do the obvious stuff of condemning murder from whatever source (sticking to the objective legal definition of murder), support democracy and accept however grudgingly that the security forces are those of the state we live in and not the Mongol Horde, it’s surprisingly easy to be fair and impartial.

  • Jollyraj

    I’d say all of the teams in your football analogy play the same sport, with the same tactics, and the same goals. Just that one brand receive a heck of a lot more money for it than the others.

  • Jollyraj

    Tumbleweed….

  • MainlandUlsterman

    how they remember it all is the amazing thing – what they actually did as well as remembering what they have to pretend they did. I find it hard enough just remembering one version of my life.

    When Adams and McGuinness start getting really old and the grey matter softens a bit, I wonder will we see some breaching of the ‘watertight’ stories they’ve been holding firm on all these years? You can’t clench forever.

  • Cosmo

    We like to believe in conscience, but when you think of a Jimmy Savlle type of ethics and outlook, you see someone who thought they could live their life as a balance sheet of a ‘bit of bad’ with a ‘bit of good’. Maybe they just have a tidy arrangement within the mafia. Rather too sweet an analogy, but remember how, in Clochemerle, the two village priests travelled to each other’s gentle confessional, each to confess his own ‘little arrangement with his housekeeper’.

  • Cosmo

    Are you American-Irish, perchance ?
    …. full of ‘truthiness’, ignorance, exporting arms to terrorists and meddling in foreign affairs.

  • Reader

    Jollyraj: What would be your definiton for IRA then?
    If they were with Gerry on “The Long March”…

  • congal claen

    Hi Sean,
    There’s many a type of republic and many a type of republican.
    Very interesting about your tale of Drogheda. You are a lucky man to be able to trace your family back so far. As far as I’ve got is about 1900! My dad couldn’t remember the name of his grandad for instance!
    I read a book once on Cromwell’s Irish campaign. It took a very different view to the norm. For example, the writer claimed that most of the garrison had only recently turned royalist after the royalists had captured the town. Having formerly been parliamentarians. A lot of them were also English and Protestant. He also claimed that the main massacre (2nd day) may well have been as the result of the Royalists turning on the former parliamentarians in their midst. His reason for suggesting this was because of some confusion of the date of the storm of the town. To fit the chronology most suggest Cromwell got his dates wrong when writing up his report for Parliament. He suggests Cromwell was correct and that Cromwell’s forces were still across the river at the time of the massacre. He also referred to Cromwell’s papers, which apparently are the only accounts written at the time, and the lack of punctuation which could be interpreted in different ways.

  • Jollyraj

    Right…so you’re saying that if they weren’t/aren’t with Gerry, they aren’t real IRA? Sort of like low-fat IRA, IRA margarine, or I Can’t Believe It’s Not IRA? Oh my…….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Congal, the “planter” part of my family has a very long memory, including its marriages with “Royal” O’Neills! I suppose that puts me with the over 70% descended from The book looks interesting, but I’d want to compare it with a lot of primary resource material before taking it as gospel. Yes, the town was thick with Royalists supporting Ormonde, many of them English Catholics, but a from everything I’ve read the only regiments in the town were either Royalist or Confederate, four of the best regiments Ormonde still had having just recently been sent to garrison the town after Rathmines (Warren’s, Walle’s, Berne’s and Verney’s regiments). The movement as I understood it was of Royalists defecting to Cromwell after Ormonde’s poor showing at the fight at Rathmines, Inchiquin’s Horse joining Cromwell as he actually marched on Drogheda. But everyone in Ireland kept changing sides and alliances in these years and I’d not risk even a 50p bet on there being no ex-parliamentarians in the regiments! The reports of the massacre being subsequent to, and in revenge for, the bloody repulse of the New Model force that came through the breach in the wall are pretty well attested! I’d need a lot of documentary evidence that this well supported version of events was a myth! If you have the book’s title………

  • congal claen

    Hi Sean,

    The book is “A New History of Cromwell’s Irish Campaign” by Philip Graham McKeiver.

    One of the good points he makes is that no one really defended Cromwell. Nationalist Ireland hated him and as England reinstated the monarchy, he was also demonised there. His statue at Westminster was only erected in 1899.

  • congal claen

    Hi Sean,

    Drogheda became a parliamentarian town under Governor Michael Jones after Sir Henry Titchbourne sided with the King and left in June 1647. It remained loyal to parliament until it was besieged by royalists (11th) and eventually fell on 15th July 1649. Henry Moore was installed as governor. Interestingly (well, to me anyhow), Earl Street, Henry Street, Moore Street and Drogheda Street (now O’Connell) in Dublin are named after him. Not too many Cromwell Streets, etc!

    Most of the garrison jumped side at this point. A common occurrence at the time apparently. So, when Cromwell attacked a mere 2 months later, a good proportion of the defenders had been former comrades. This is why the author suggests that perhaps the royalists then turned on their previously parliamentarian comrades. He suggests the date confusion masks this interpretation.

  • babyface finlayson

    A tough audience!

  • Jollyraj

    Keep ‘er lit boys 🙂

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Congal, I think they had good reason to fail to defend him (I would say that, would I not?)

    The earlier posts suggestion that the old garrison remained is open to question, The problem is that primary source material is scarce and contradictory, but what I’ve read in the Carte papers, etc, would suggest to me that Ormonde was worried about the unreliability of the old garrison and exchanged the four regiments I’d mentioned, the best he had, along with Aston, who took over from Lord Moore. The thing is that until the execution of the King’s father, every garrison in Ireland loyal to England was “Parliamentary” in a very general way, but this did not mean they supported Cromwell or the Rump parliament, rather the concept that had just been extinguished of “The King in Parliament”.

    It was a mess, but I’m still pretty certain that Cromwell instigated the massacres, certainly he used the massacres as a threat in his future action, and supportive contemporaries believed him to have carried out the massacre. Bu, thanks, I’ll look at the book……..

  • Jollyraj

    I believe McGuinness is a devoted Catholic. One wonders what kind of stories his priest used to hear.

  • Jollyraj

    Put the critical thinking part of the brain permanently beyond use?

  • Cosmo

    Why does the line, “it’s the way you tell ’em” spring to mind. Anyway, you know what happened to touts.

  • aquifer

    Notice that post 9/11 SF have new strategies, and that indignation, righteous or not, is not an operational strategy.

  • Jollyraj

    ‘At’s a cracker.

  • Jollyraj

    Hmm..I think the rather bitter and entrenched strategy of trying to force unionists, and indeed anyone else opposed to the 19thC vision of things, out by making life as miserable as possible is still clearly there. Merely the tactics have changed.

  • Cosmo

    Mind you, Jollyraj, I feel the DUP vision on life is having a pretty depressing effect on Unionists too.

  • John Collins

    Two of his men stole a chicken from an old ladies farmyard in North Dublin , and in order to show his authority, Cromwellhad them executed. By contrast when elderly priests were murdered in Wexford Cromwell looked on and did nothing about it. No wonder Cromwell was hated by all sides