Martin McGuinness believes the NI Assembly is a successor organisation to the Provisional IRA

Sam McBride first reported this from a lively Question Time at Stormont yesterday. It’s Martin McGuinness responding to a rather pointed question from Jim Allister:

Worse still is the pretence that there is an IRA when, quite clearly, the IRA has long-since left the stage and handed over the responsibility for the politics of the North of Ireland to the 108 Members in the House.

Now that may be the settled view inside Sinn Fein and within whatever remains of the wider Provisional movement, but it’s not one readily shared (or that is even shareable) by any of the non-Sinn Fein MLAs in the house, and few citizens outside it.

As Rowan Clarke notes at the Pensive Quill, “it’s an organisation that is viewed as a source of ridicule and as a bizarre curiosity for those outside it”.

You’d also have to wonder just what the DUP MLAs in his own administration (still) sitting opposite must have thought. In the old days, they’d surely have brought parliamentary business to a standstill for the utterance of such a remark.

Much as that may be a testimony to how far we’ve come, the statement itself is, to borrow Clarke, truly bizarre to anyone not bought into the narrow doctrine of the IRA as the successors of the 1st Dail.

Is the deputy First Minister actually arguing that the Assembly is now corporately responsible for all the moral, political and financial liabilities generated by the IRA during the Troubles, and after?

It might explain the silence Brian Rowan mentions?

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  • grumpy oul man

    “I have always opposed terrorism and have no interest in brushing crimes
    under the carpet. How dare you assume I’m some sort of apologist for it.”
    Really then how come every time it comes up you blame it on Nationalists.

  • grumpy oul man

    . You have to accept that armed force Republicanism necessitated unionist suspicion and hyper-vigilance.
    Yep they got their retaliation in first, loyalist violence started before the Provo’s fired a shot, did gusty own a Tardis!

  • John Collins

    This is something I have always felt about MU. He is ,on the surface, a very objective observer, but scratch him a little deeper and it emerges he is not as hard on Loyalist violence.

  • John Collins

    Ah come on MU, I thought you were a mature and honest historian. Before 1918 only males over 35 had the vote and if Nationalists had voted themselves out of the UK the utterly unelected silly old farts in the HOL could have overruled said decision anyway. When the people, as in a relatively full electorate, had the chance in 1918 the IPP and in most of the country Unionists were destroyed. To say the majority of people in Ireland did not want to leave the UK before 1916 is at best highly questionable. To say that 1916 was the only motivating factor for the 1918 slan abaile result is an argument that does not really stand up. The election took place after all a full two years and eights months after those executions, and could not have been just an emotional response to them

  • John Collins

    Am I right in saying that a serving MP officiated at Billy Wright’s funeral? If he did I cannot what would be said if a priest who was a serving MP officiated at an IRA mans obsequies.

  • John Collins

    Well in all fairness they voted Paisley in their tens of thousands, whether they admit or not. And no I am not or never would be a SF supporter.

  • eamoncorbett

    And the Nelson Mandela of Unionism is ? Just asking in response to your detailed but a little biased version of the troubles . You might at some stage research the causes and effects of conflict world wide from Africa to the Middle East , you will most likely find a common denominator in all cases and that is oppression , whether big or small ,perceived or real . When a government actively treats a section of its citizenry as second class citizens , it can have far reaching results in to the future . Northern Ireland is no different , to anywhere else . I’m not and never have been an IRA supporter but the seeds of conflict do take a while to grow . When you find yourself being unemployed because of your religion and and your housing is substandard and if you have a job there is no prospect of promotion and the ruling party will always be the ruling party then you know your place in society and it is as a second class citizen . Now you can deny or play down the FACTS I’ve just outlined as some people do but you can’t ignore them.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And, TuFu, from some very real Unionist State violence in the first months of 1922. I’ve outlined some of this on my other comments on this thread.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Do we actually know that “they were subject to the law”? So much information on these matters is still classified as issues of national interest, and is accordingly unavailable for our examination. And as Wikipedia says regarding such claims, “The majority of the jurists consider that the “national interest” is incompatible with the “rule of law””

    We simply do not know just how often the perception of national security during the troubles seemingly necessitated actions which may have been entirely outside of the law, although some of what has come to light suggests a great deal of what the state carried out “on our behalf” might have been outside of normal legal control. But with the restrictions on any genuine information from which any assessment may be made, I think its entirely inaccurate to attempt to claim that everything done was “subject to the law.”

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    No-one is trying to justify terrorism. But your contention that “you’ll find Republicans guilty of the vast majority of the Troubles” just does not ring true. The provocation behind all the violence came from the Unionists, who were determined that they would stay supreme in the NI population and used both physical and political violence to ensure that. Your unexamined partiality knocks the feet out from your arguments.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It’s not a question of “ringing true”, like it’s some apercu or opinion. It is just demonstrably the case. What planet are you on?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Problem is, nationalists through the Troubles meted out more oppression than they ever received from anyone. Sorry to be blunt but it is true. You simply can’t explain the Troubles purely in terms of Catholic response to “oppression”, because to the extent it was a “response” at all, it was massively out of proportion to anything Protestants had done. Sorry, but you can’t get away from the fact that armed force Republicanism launched a campaign to get “the Brits” out of Ireland, killing many, many people in the process, and the Troubles largely consisted of and revolved around that campaign. Yes there was ‘6 to one, half a dozen to the other’ inter-communal strife in the initial phase of a year or two, but from 1971 at the latest onwards, the Troubles were all about the PIRA’s self-declared “armed struggle” and the responses of others to that.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t know but I could believe it. You raise an interesting point though about funerals – should the churches give self-declared terrorists a church funeral at all? I don’t think so. I’d like to have seen, as happened I think in a few cases, churches shunning such people entirely, to really make the point about how they regard terrorism. However, I do understand churches work to a Christian worldview that may preclude that. I am not a Christian so not bound by such considerations.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Before 1918 only males over 35 had the vote and if Nationalists had voted themselves out of the UK the utterly unelected silly old farts in the HOL could have overruled said decision anyway.”
    That was the case throughout the UK though!
    And the Parliament Acts passed in I think 1911 prevented the HoL vetoing legislation.
    ” To say the majority of people in Ireland did not want to leave the UK before 1916 is at best highly questionable”
    Well, we only have 1910 election results to go on and voters in what is now the Republic voted overwhelming for the IPP on a manifesto of staying in the UK with a devolved assembly.
    As we know, the 1916 Rising had very little popular support at the time. Of course there were big undercurrents of anti-British resentment in Catholic Ireland with a long history – they weren’t JUST an emotional response to the executions – but politics did change decisively after that and SF was the main beneficiary. That was translated into a political choice only at the 1918 election. Three years later, independence was conceded.
    It always amuses me how SF lost so many elections they are happy to ignore as having no consequence, and give such massive significance to the one that they won 🙂 Where their wishes were largely conceded anyway, as far as democratically possible. Yet still the sense of injustice, now in 2016. I think some people just thrive on a sense of injustice and grievance. Same people tend not to notice so much what they are doing wrong to others. It’s an extreme form of narcissism.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    When I say ‘ring true’, I mean that they do not have the ‘ring of truth’. i.e. they are false statements. Unfortunately also, I find that your arguments and replies show, as I say above, a degree of partiality which makes your statements invalid i.e. I believe that, consciously or unconsciously, you are arguing in bad faith. As for your statement that Republicans being guilty of the majority of violence is ‘demonstrably the case’ – this is ‘demonstrable’ only if you are bigoted in the extreme – which I now take it you are.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Ignoring the childish insults, how in your worldview are all the statistics on what happened in the Troubles explained? You know, the ones that show 60 per cent of the deaths were by Republicans, a murder rate that for half of the Troubles ran at 70 per cent?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Unfair. I talk more about Republican violence on this forum for 3 main reasons: (1) I am regularly writing in response to people downplaying its role, its sheer malevolence and who at some level think it was “justified”; (2) it actually was the central feature of the Troubles, around which everything else revolved; and (3) the people responsible for the Republican murder campaign are now, somewhat incredibly, the largest party within nationalism in NI and in political power.

    Loyalist terrorism is morally no better than Republican terror. If I comment on it less here it’s mainly because of the context of the comment pages here. There are rarely voices on here justifying Loyalist terror for me to counter. There are sadly and to the shame of Irish nationalism many voices on Slugger that one way or another seek to excuse Republicanism and/or shift blame for its deeds away from it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Responsibility for the Troubles lies with everyone who supported terrorism. Plenty of unionists did and I know one or two myself. But nowhere near the levels of support nationalism has given its terrorists and I think on that and on the sheer scale of the terrorism, the bulk of the responsibility for the scale of damage and loss in the Troubles lies with Irish nationalism. That’s pretty clear. But look Loyalist terror was a massive part of it too and I wouldn’t play that down for a second.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, while I can see why you might claim that “Republican violence….. actually was the central feature of the Troubles, around which everything else revolved”, this is not so much an unchallengable truth as a matter of your own chosen ground and the perspective this necessitates. Surely you can see that this is the reason why others here can argue point-counterpoint against you so fervently? You are apparently looking at this from an assumption of the entirely Unionist perspective that NI is in essence fully justified as an expression of self-determination, a limitation of cues which simply fails to take into account the “gestalt” of the events, the inextricably interwoven relationship between a situation created by a single Unionist action (the recourse to arms in 1911), the response from nationalism, and the growth of a previously marginalised republican separatism in response to the aura of success Unionism’s action gave to the recourse to arms. To describe the mutual tradition of violence which is embodied in the very inception of NI as somehow an entirely Republican fault is to simplify a very complex situation down to its most superficial aspects, and must involve your analysing Republicanism itself as as something in essence self-generating with no influence from its interactive history with the wider community.

    To me the situation is an unfolding of cause and effect, and while it is clear to anyone sensible that the recourse to violent solutions (by both political camps) at the end of the 1960s was entirely destructive thing for the whole community, I see this as one aspect of the unfolding of that single mistaken recourse to violence first made by others in 1911, a cause and effect embodied in the very existence of a Northern Ireland generated and sustained by the implicit threat of violence. To try and talk up or down “sides” in this situation can only be at the expense of justifying these original mistakes from which all else derives. The “central feature of the Troubles” was the existence of Northern Ireland itself as an expression of the unchallenged dominance of two thirds of a population over the remaining third, rather than as the co-operative democratic community which the NICRA began to demand here from 1968. Without the manner in which NI was structured to fully accommodate Unionism’s concerns after 1920 the Republicanism you anathematise could not have existed. You may criticise Loyalist violence alongside Republicanism, but not the roots from which such Loyalism drew its very existence.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Republicanism needs to take responsibility for its own decisions and actions. Unionism likewise. The records of both are there for all to examine.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    A response, I see, which owes everything to the very historical encoding that I’m refering to! When the third of our community which was Catholic was “othered” by Unionism origionally as its natural enemy, (the natural expression of a state which was crafted for one part of the community where the other part was living within the borders under sufference), this created a distinctly “apartheid mentality” which your response here seemingly assumes is entirely the natural way of things. Your earlier privlidging of a Unionist self-determination which denied all similar self determination to a full third of those trapped within its borders offers another example of this. This is the political equivelent of telling a person suffering from severe depression to “pull him/herself together and buck up” in its conspicious failure to look at any pattern of causes.

    The problem is that you are blaiming Republicanism primarily, and alongside simply stating you abhor a loyalist violence, without acknowledging the profound structural inter-relatedness, the gestalt, of these things. What has historically occured is the outcome of a pattern of cause and effect where violence is a common currency of action between both political camps, and while each individual may be responsible for his or her actions personally, to see this as an entirely personal or single group matter, entirely outside of the context of the long term historical pattern of local cultural encoding is to ignore the very reason why we all actually are who we are and act as we do. Until this is fully and honestly addressed in all its messy inter-relateness how are we to ever function as a community? This is something the community as a whole needs to do for itself, not something one portion should be demanding from the other, and in this repeating this self same pattern of “othering” which has itself inevitably nurtured the violence for a century.

    “The records of both are there for all to examine”, yes, but the ahistorical ignoring of the utterly inter-related nature these records is the customary response of those for whom the violence is attributable to “themuns” only. Such a response is simply a letting off of steam and adds nothing to any serious attempt to sincerely resolve the problems for future generations.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Another mis-characterisation of my views. Really I can’t respond to your take on things I don’t think and haven’t said. If you want an actual conversation, great but I am really tired of finding myself the subject of a Kafka-esque transformation into Bill Craig.

    We probably share a rejection of the mid-20th C way of doing things, which btw in my case is not just a rejection of some practices of the UUP in the NI of that era but also politics as done in large parts of the world. NI was only moderately worse than most places, if at all – it wasn’t great but really it was small beer. It was a sleepy province with a fairly mild form of corruption which actually didn’t infuse everything it did and which was in many respects able to function fairly and decently. A comparison with the croneyism, corruption, scleroticism and sectarianism of the Republic in the 40s and 50s should be enough to bring a little perspective on that. It was not apartheid South Africa or Alabama in the 60s. The Republic started modernising a few years before NI with Lemass, but it was hardly light years ahead on that score.

    I’m not in denial of the wrongs committed by the NI state in the past, but it’s also unarguable that they have been (1) quite wildly exaggerated also, (2) taken out of the historical context of the times generally, and (3) made without recognition of the genuine security issues the NI state had to deal with.

    Republicanism was opposed to the NI state anyway, from the start, and implacably so – and its ‘reaction’ to the unfairnesses in it was not to seek to correct them, but to use them as a pre-text for overturning the NI vote on its sovereignty by force. Something we all, including SF, now accept would be wrong to do. As such its response came from the belief-system of Republicanism itself. For them, injustices were good fuel but they were making their case with or without it.

    Even if unionist governments had been better, irredentist Republicanism would surely have persisted and at some point would have made a violent bid to attack and defeat the state. They were already having a go before the NI state had done anything – and it was because they believed fundamentally in the use of violence, indeed in its positive qualities as a ‘cleansing’ force. They regarded our presence as Brits in NI as an offence in itself and did not recognise our right to self-identify differently from them. None of that was driven by what the UUP did in the 20s-60s.

    To just look at unionist nervousness about the late 60s demonstrations without bearing in mind the very real presence of a hard-set, militant Irish Republican tradition in NI leads you to blame unionist hostility alone for the whole thing kicking off. In reality there were subtexts to the demonstrations that made not just the old UUP but a lot of ordinary people nervous. And they weren’t proven wrong – it did lead into exactly the kind of social breakdown that unionists feared.

    Now, hardline unionist responses to peaceful demonstrations unwittingly of course played a part in speeding up that very process. But to blame unionists for the breakdown as if nationalists were not just as involved is to be as partisan as you’re accusing me of being. I hope I’m not. And it’s certainly not unionists’ fault that the PIRA Army Council decided in January 1970 to begin its “armed struggle”. Really, this blaming unionists for every weakness and mistake of Irish nationalism in the 20th Century – and let’s face it Irish nationalism did not cover itself in glory – is one-sided and not at all convincing.

    Unionists today generally don’t defend things like gerrymandering in the past and don’t stand by the record of the old unionist governments as if our lives depended on it. This has left that period free for some revisionist nationalists to apparently use for whatever myths suit them. But I’m sorry, small-scale unionist unfairnesses of that period justifiably cause resentment and a need for reform but they do not cause terrorism. Armed-force Republicanism made that leap all by itself.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I imagine that if we were siting over bottle of wine, MU, we’d find considerable agreement on many things, but I fear not on this evasion of those issues of structural responsibility which you appear to not even notice characterises your responses. We seem to post at cross purposes, where I’m teasing out the all important interrelatedness of things which you seem to believe can be simplistically evaluated simply as “quantity”. While you state that you reject all violence, your quantative evaluation of violence must only work if the kind of structural relationship I’m highlighting is entirely ignored, which is of course exactly what you are doing.

    “Another mis-characterisation of my views.” And then you go on to argue Unionism’s justification and underpin everything I’m saying! I have said before that support for the Union is one thing, but that support for political Unionism itself (which forms the gist of your responses), carries some ugly historical baggage. Are you suggesting, MU, that you have not argued in recent responses, for example, that the inceptive actions of Unionism are irrelevant compared to the greater scale of Republican Violence in our recent troubles? You’ve not even addressed the inceptive role of Unionism’s recourse to violence except to suggest that it is somehow explicable in that there was Republican violence also (“from the start”, but this would need far, far more unpacking, as when did this start begin, and how much did actual state sponsored mob violence in the north after 1920 contribute to the development of this Repubvlican violence?). I’m making points about the detailed historical relationship of things, and your responses simply offers braid generalisations in return. When you comment on the points I raise it is to dismiss their importance with such generalisations. Since Prof. F.X. Martin raised the question in 1967 “was the UVF the first Fascist army in modern times?” the exemplary role of Unionism in the inception of a particular manner approaching politics has been unpacked by historians and their role in employing a paramilitary force in the creation of a one party state with that force retained as an “enforcer” for their politics and a threat against political opponents is well recognised.

    You claim “It was a sleepy province with a fairly mild form of corruption which actually didn’t infuse everything it did and which was in many respects able to function fairly and decently” which shows little knowledge of the practical situation in the 1950/60s. Such a characterisation can only be thought by someone who has not actually examined the pervasive atmosphere of something similar to apartheid in the 1950s. Just one example, in the country Protestant farmers employing Catholics were regularly boycotted and sometimes even intimidated by their neighbours, with the ever present threat of the “B” Specials as an armed force to back up threat. This was something much discussed in leftist and liberal circles here when I was child. Certainly in the kind of secure north Down Protestant community I grew up in “was in many respects able to function fairly and decently”, but the simmering threat with string memories of the state authorised violence of 1920/23 in less homogenous areas of the province was the order of the day. Do you imagine that NICRA in the 1960s was some “camping up” of aggrievement ? And the response the encountered removed this veneer of decency and revealed what it was actually founded upon.

    It is one thing to, in a broad general sense, be opposed, as you claim, to something called violence, but quite another to unravel the all important encoded pattern which engendered this violence. Simply saying, “themuns did it as well, so we had to keep them down” (which is my translation of what in effect you are saying above) is not that dissimilar to the kind of argument put out in support of all political violence at all times and places.

    You are also making a great number of broad suppositions, such as “For them, injustices were good fuel but they were making their case with or without it”, but what case would they have credibly had on offer for anyone without the “othering” of the Catholic portion of the community in the decades after 1920? “They did it before the NI state did anything”, really? This is the very thing that requires considerable careful unpacking of historical detail. The IRB was, as I’ve so often said here, a minuscule and marginalised group in 1910. It was the development of the UVF which created that situation for their growth. Even the report of the British Commission on the 1916 Easter Rising states this (p.13)! This was then a tit-for-tat growth of a culture of recourse to violence. The inceptive move of the troubles in the north, the violent driving out of five thousand Catholic workers (over a thousand ex-service men, many from the 36th Division) at Harland and Wolffs on 21st July 1920 in response to speeches by Unionists on the Twelfth calling for such action, was actually occurring at a time when the greater proportion of northern Catholics were still voting IPP and were almost all supporters of the Constitutionalist Joe Devlin (characterised to me recently by a Republican as a “West Brit”). SF had very, very poor support in the north until the pogroms began. Even in the south, any historian who takes the trouble to check a day by day account of unfolding violence across Ireland after 1919 can see how the violence in the north, tolerated and even supported by the new administration, cranked up the scale of violence Ireland wide week by week. “None of that [the Republican rejection of NI] was driven by what the UUP did in the 20s-60s.” A bizarrely inaccurate statement no-one with even a cursory knowledge of the history could have made, with no possible underpinning in fact.

    “They regarded our presence as Brits in NI as an offence in itself and did not recognise our right to self-identify differently from them.” Unionism worked very hard to achieve this, and you have only to examine the actual relationship of Unionism after 1905 with the old IPP to see how very different the situation was before the Great War (where the IPP saw Unionism as the core of a constitutionalist opposition under Home Rule), and that rancour set in motion and stoked up by Unionist hatreds itself set the pace for polarisation. You are inferring the ingrained bitterness developed steadily through a century of Unionist intransigence and sectarian aggression while in power back into very different, far less polarised times.

    “In reality there were subtexts to the demonstrations that made not just the old UUP but a lot of ordinary people nervous.” I heard a lot of this from Unionists in my extended family at the time in the 1960s, but I was there in the PD and NICRA and a great deal of what was said then and now reflects more on the peripheral Republicans trying to claim all credit for Civil Rights than the actual pluralist situation at the time. There were some of the more genuinely progressive Unionists within the NICRA, those who were not deluded by the “scare stories” but who were thinking for themselves before Ronnie Bunting Sr invoked enough of a level of violence to let the IRA claim credit as defenders of their own community.

    “Unionists today generally don’t defend things like gerrymandering in the past and don’t stand by the record of the old unionist governments as if our lives depended on it.” Very generally! Are you counting the DUP as Unionists, where often what is said even in public can show strong hankering for “the good old days”?

    “But I’m sorry, small-scale unionist unfairnesses of that period justifiably cause resentment and a need for reform but they do not cause terrorism. Armed-force Republicanism made that leap all by itself.” A proper examination of the history would have shown just how inaccurate “small scale unfairness” actually is when contextualised with what passed at the inception of the state, and which directly coloured every further aspect of community relationships for the next two generations. And while you seem to have accepted that Unionism was faulted at one moment, stating that “Armed-force Republicanism made that leap all by itself” is the kind of volte-face either in justification or dismissal of some unquestionably ugly Unionist behaviour that makes it so hard to accept that you are seriously critical of any Unionist faults.

    “I’m not in denial of the wrongs committed by the NI state in the past, but it’s also unarguable that they have been (1) quite wildly exaggerated also, (2) taken out of the historical context of the times generally, and (3) made without recognition of the genuine security issues the NI state had to deal with.”

    Well you may not think you are in denial in a general sense, but you are at some pains to attempt point by point generalised denials or marginalisations of everything which I offer as instances of Unionist culpability! State encouragement of inceptive burnings out of undefended Catholics, direct praise and overt support from Craig himself during the pogroms for local orators recommending an escalation of such violence, the failure to reprimand uniformed involvement in such activity, even of murder, all is simp,e fact supported by contemporary evidence in the UK press, rather than something unarguably “wildly exaggerated”! Just one example, the assassination of a Seaford Highlanders officer who had conspicuously defended Catholics against attack, is simple fact, and just one well attested instance of Loyalist gunmen and snipers systematically targeting the British Army in the manner of others during later troubles. The context of all this is clearly that Unionists took the inceptive lead in atrocity in the north and used this long remembered reputation for extreme measures with tacit state support to overawe opposition for the next fifty years. In early 1920 what “security issues” Unionism was actually confronting were innocuous non-violent IPP “opposition” in an entirely constitutionalist form, something utterly changed by their own extreme violence against the entire Catholic population of the six counties, actions which consequently invoked the rapid growth of what had been a previously negligible Sinn Féin presence in the north. You really need to examine this from primary source reports of the time, rather than rely on loose broad generalisations about what you feel it should be inferred backwards.

    I am not downplaying Republican violence in itself, but pointing to the manner in which Unionism had established the patterns of violence and set the pace for all of this with inceptive actions which can only be ignored or downplayed if one is wilfully unprepared to actually look at the detailed pattern of historical development and draw the obvious conclusions it suggests. As Yeats said “Prove that I lie”, but with some actual detailed instances please, rather than with these broad and unsupportable generalisations.

  • Skibo

    MU you are missing out on a couple of things.
    1) The majority are not the ones to decide if the minority are treated fairly. You keep on stating that Nationalists and Republicans are rewriting history but what is actually happening is Nationalists and Republicans are writing their history.
    2) Unionism in the early 20th century used the threat of violence and the act of violence to bend the democratic will of the Westminster government to their view. Westminster was well through the process of putting home rule in place in Ireland. This, I believe would have eventually led to a peaceful process of finally giving Ireland its full independence.
    How can you accuse Republicanism of learning from the lesson of their Unionist neighbours? Looking through history Ireland has had at least one uprising every hundred years.

  • johnny lately

    To be fair to you MU you do not condone loyalist or state controlled violence but you do break those actions down in a manner that would lead some to believe you give succour to those actions by excusing them as either reactionary or counter terrorism even though those loyalist and state actions are no different than the actions of republicans that you would claim to be terrorism. Its an up the Falls and down the Shankil way of simply saying that you reserve the right to define what terrorism is or who’s a terrorist and that the state has a right to use any means necessary to combat terrorism including resorting to unmoral methods that would be classed by all decent persons as no different than the actions carried out by those people you class as terrorists. Ireland’s problems with the entity called the Crown, the British establishment, the British state did not start in 1960’s 1920’s or 1916 it has been going on for almost a thousand years, no one side holds the moral high ground when it comes to the legitimacy of some of the actions they carried out on the Irish and British peoples, actions the Queen herself acknowledged on her recent trip to Ireland that mistakes were made in our past history and actions taken that in the light of day were not the right actions.

  • Skibo

    Wrong Sir, responsibility for the troubles also lays with those who allowed the two tiered system to be established in Ni and then allowed it to flourish.
    It is easy for you to say that Catholics were treated fairly but if everything was so fair then why was there such rich pickings for the men of violence?
    I do not blame the Unionist people as a whole for this but their politicians and a number of prominent religious clerics who, if they wore a turban instead of a black coat would have been called religious fundamentalists.
    They instilled a fear in the general Protestant community that the Papists would endanger their way of life. They had to be controlled.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The state doesn’t have a right to do whatever it wants in the fight against terrorism and I don’t disagree with the Stevens and Da Silva criticism of how the intelligence services operated with only very loose oversight. But the state does have a duty to do all it reasonably can to stop terrorism. The mistakes and overreaching some state operatives were guilty of were made in the context of doing that duty. That’s hugely important context. Ignore that and no wonder you get confused.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The fear came from what was actually happening, i.e. a regular drip feed of being murdered by Republicans, week after week after week. We weren’t imagining it or exaggerating it.

  • Skibo

    Again you are not looking to the cause of the troubles but the troubles itself. Why did it happen?
    Remember the actions of Gusty Spence in setting off bombs and trying to blame Republicans.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    and you’re looking at the causes of resentment in the late 60s, not the reasons why this turned into a 30 year terror campaign. The Troubles describes almost 3 decades of violent incidents. You need to distinguish between the things that sparked inter-communal scrapping in 1969 from the things that caused it to morph into the shape of terrorism which we saw for the rest of the Troubles. Terrorism did not drop from the skies and was not forced upon anyone. Neither set of paramilitaries’ explanations that they needed to do it for “defensive” purposes check out. Very, very little of the use of guns or bombs by paramilitaries in the Troubles was defensive in nature.

  • Skibo

    But are you ignoring the issue that had the “resentment” that you referred to been dealt with successfully, the troubles would never have happened.
    Some unionists did try and Sunningdale was the result. Republicans were against Sunningdale but they did not bring it down. It was brought down by Unionists who did not want to share power with Nationalists. Nearly half the deaths of the troubles could have been prevented.
    Violence only begets violence and the spiral gets deeper and deeper and each atrocity has to be greater than the last. Remember that WW2 ended with the worst atrocity man has ever inflicted on man when the atom bombs were dropped by the allies, the good guys!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The IRA was never on board with Sunningdale – just nonsense. There is no excuse for any of the violence anyway.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    ah the “but for” test … that’s a bit too Gaia Theory for me. It takes all the agency out and treats bad decisions as pre-ordained and blameless. Conveniently lets the main perpetrators of Troubles violence off.

    Are you really suggesting that the Stormont government was so bad there was no choice but to kill a couple of innocent people a week for 30 years? Can you talk me through your logic? I get the former Stormont governments’ faults, what I don’t get is the ‘murdering to try and force a United Ireland’ bit.

  • Skibo

    Where did I say the IRA were on board with Sunningdale? I said they were against it but did not bring it down. It was brought down by Unionists who did not want to share power with Nationalists. It took then 26 years to agree to share power and I actually believe what the opposition parties are saying about Stormont now. It is not sharing power, it is a carve-up. SF decide a policy while they have their ministers in as do DUP but when they change ministries, they do their damnedest to reverse previous policies.

  • Skibo

    See this is where the telling of history will differ from Unionist and Nationalist/Republican views differ. You believe that all-in-all the old Stormont wasn’t too bad. The figures ( gathered by old Stormont) show there wasn’t any real severe treatment of the Catholic community.
    The Nationalist/ Republican community on the receiving end of such wonderful treatment had to take to the streets to demand equal rights. They were battered off the very same streets that Orange Order believes they can march anywhere. Violence begets violence. Look at the stats of the victims at the start of the troubles. They are mainly in the Nationalist side at the hands of the security forces. THAT’S where the troubles started.
    After that it was a downward cycle of violence which laid atrocity on atrocity.
    You will not agree but had Gerry Adams not had the talks with John Hume, we could still be talking about the IRA.
    I suggest the offer of the Protestant churchmen in 1992 had alot to do with the moves by SF.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Look at the stats of the victims at the start of the troubles. They are mainly in the Nationalist side at the hands of the security forces. THAT’S where the troubles started.”
    The stats for 69 and 70 actually show 20 killings by Republicans, 15 by security forces and 5 by Loyalists. The next 6 years had 923 by Republicans, 205 by the security forces and 580 by Loyalists. The pattern changes again for the 77-90 period (71 per cent Republican killings) and again 91-94 (virtual parity between Loyalists and Republicans, very few by security forces).

    You can’t just say X happened in the first year of the Troubles and therefore all else followed. It didn’t, it went in phases and there were many moments when it could have been stopped. For the vast majority of the Troubles, Republicans were the only people who could stop it. If they stopped, it all stopped. That cannot be said of either Loyalists or the security forces.

  • Skibo

    You say you cannot look at the figures for the first year as it does not suit your raison d’etre. You want a reason why something started, look at the causes, look to the beginning. You wouldn’t be much good at finding cures for illnesses.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No, you CAN look at the first year (Aug 69 to Aug 70), though I took it to end of 70 as the data I was looking at in CAIN is organised by calendar year. I’m saying you need to look at the other years AS WELL, not instead of.

    The Troubles went on for 30 years or so and the nature of the violence and impetus behind it changed quite a lot. You can’t explain what was happening in 1984 or 1993 purely in terms of what was happening in 1969. The patterns change quite dramatically. Republicans for example went from killing 18 people in 1970 to ramping it up to 23 deaths in the first 7 months or so of 1971 alone, before internment was introduced in early August. Of course it only got worse after internment, as by then the Republican killing machine was in gear and ready to react to any attempts to stop them by ramping up the killing further.

    Before Bloody Sunday, Republicans had already killed 128 people (59 per cent of the total), including 9 in January 1972 alone. The security forces had killed 62 (29 per cent) and Loyalist groups had killed 27 (12 per cent). Before and after Bloody Sunday the Irish Republican share of the killing is actually about the same overall. What did change was that security force killings went way down as a percentage (running at 5 per cent in the latter years of the Troubles) and Loyalist killings went up, at least until 1976, after which they came back down again due to security forces’ high degree of success in infiltrating and apprehending Loyalists.

    I don’t cure illnesses, but I can sometimes identify and diagnose the malady whose symptoms involve faecal effluence from the oral cavity 😉

  • Skibo

    So you can look at the first year if you include the second year, mmm something doesn’t sound right with that!
    What I am trying to say is everything has a starting point. What you have to examine is the symptoms of why things happen and try something different to change it in the future. The sign of insanity is trying the same thing every time and expecting a different result.
    Republican violence got a foothold in the Nationalist community because of the treatment of the civil rights movement. The security response to peaceful demonstrations was violence. That foothold was reinforced by a number of conditions that happened along the time span of the troubles.
    The main one early on was internment and the one-sided way it was enforced. Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy were others.
    Once that foothold had been reinforced it was always going to be hard to go back.
    For you not to understand this is a good sign that you were not on the side of the GFA or even the talks with Sinn Fein at the start.
    To believe that you can combat political violence with violence will always result in an increased spiral of violence. Perhaps this is what you would have preferred, rather than the sharing of power.
    Go back through the troubles and you will notice that every time that the treatment of the two communities differed, the result was violence.
    Perhaps your ability to identify “the malady whose symptoms involve faecal effluence from the oral cavity” comes from the many years of listening it it from your own orifice, 🙁

  • OneNI

    Its worse than that! SF now talking about taking their seats in the Mother of Parliaments!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Republican violence got a foothold in the Nationalist community because of the treatment of the civil rights movement. The security response to peaceful demonstrations was violence.”

    The Scarman Report placed blame pretty equally on both sides and set out the escalating series of events. It didn’t find the RUC responsible for what happened but rather overwhelmed by the scale of inter-communal violence and rioting they had to deal with. It pointed out it was stone-throwing by ‘hooligans’ in Derry at the Apprentice Boys’ march that led to that situation kicking off, but obviously there was also a ramping up of tensions over months beforehand.

    Of the spread of the disturbance and explosion of the trouble province-wide, Scarman said:
    “1.22 … the spread of the disturbances owed much to a deliberate decision by some minority groups to relieve police pressure on the rioters in Londonderry. Amongst these groups must be included NICRA, whose executive decided to organise demonstrations in the Province so as to prevent reinforcement of the police in Londonderry. We were told that they intended to exclude Belfast from their plans; but we have no doubt that some activists, so far from accepting the decision, did co-operate with some in Londonderry to call for demonstrations in Belfast. There is clear evidence of such a call being made in Divis Street on the 13th.”
    We know from later work on the IRA that Republican activists were closely involved in that (see “Armed Struggle” by Richard English).

    Scarman also found:
    “2.2 … it would be the height of naivety to deny that the teenage hooligans, who almost invariably threw the first stones, were manipulated and encouraged by persons seeking to discredit the Government. While accepting that the major riots that occurred in Londonderry, Belfast, Armagh and Dungannon were not deliberately planned, we are satisfied that, once the disturbances started, they were continued by an element that also found expression in bodies more or less loosely organised, such as the People’s Democracy, and various local Defence Associations, and in associating themselves with bodies such as NICRA and the several Action Comniittees. The public impact of the activities of this element was tremendously enhanced by the coverage given by the mass media of communication.”

    Scarman found Protestant groups no less to blame than Catholic ones overall, but certainly no more to blame:
    “2.10 Protestant participation in the disorders under review was largely that of violent reaction to disturbances started by Catholics, though there were exceptions. Their reaction was particularly fierce in Belfast in mid-August, when it took the form of violent eruptions into Catholic areas – the Falls, Divis Street, and Hooker Street. These eruptions, the course of which we trace in detail later in the Report, may with some justice be described as “invasions” – given the “ghetto” pattern of so much of Belfast.”

    The outbreak of the Troubles in August 1969 really wasn’t caused by the security forces, it was the spread of inter-communal rioting, which happened for a number of reasons. Yes there was some police indiscipline in 68 and a few peaceful protestors got treated wrongly – those incidents are well known. But the outbreak of violence in 1969 cannot be explained purely as some kind of natural consequence of that.

    Scarman’s key summary paragraph was this:
    “2.16 Thus, a study of the Protestant side of the disturbances reveals the same basic pattern as that of the Catholic – communal disturbances erupting without plan or premeditation during a summer when the traditional Protestant marches and ceremonies, following immediately after the massively publicized and vividly remembered events of the period August 1968 to April 1969, provided a series of occasions for the eruption of violence which neither the political leaders nor the forces available to the NI Government could prevent or suppress.”
    I hope I’m not telling this in a one-sided way, it certainly doesn’t seem one-sided to describe events in the round as Scarman did. He accepted the IRA weren’t fully in control of the disturbances but were running to catch up initially (which they soon did); and that the UVF didn’t really exist in anything like the kind of structure the IRA did then, though other low-level Protestant groups played a role.

    You then commented on how the ramping up of violence was down to a number of incidents in which nationalists were victims. You don’t mention any aspects of the ramping up of the violence where nationalists took the lead. In particular you point to “internment and the one-sided way it was enforced” as a factor causing Republican violence. Yet as I set out, if you look at what was happening in the first part of 1971 in the lead up to internment, there were 23 killings by Republicans already in those seven and a bit months; in the same period the Army killed 7 people while policing riots, 2 of who were terrorists; and Loyalists killed one person. The outrage from Republicans at the time and since that internment was tried and that it was directed against Republicans seems rather disingenuous. I agree it should have gone after Loyalists too, of course it should, it was naive not to. But it’s not hard to see why Republicans, at 23 killings to 1 that year, were seen as the focus for dramatic steps by the authorities to stop the violence.

    For Republicans to then use that to explain their subsequent violence seems to me dishonest as well as making little rational sense. In truth Republicans ramped up their violence in response to people who, appalled by their previous violence, were trying to bring it to an end.

    On another note: I was a massive supporter of the GFA and remain so. And before the formal talks process began in the mid-90s, I was one of a few pro-Union young people (those were the days) who had discussions in London with Irish diplomats to help them better understand unionist opinion. I must say they didn’t take your approach.