McCann identifies the difference in the IRA’s premise and those of similar movements. He begins with an echo of Michael Collins:
“The agreement doesn’t represent freedom, then, but freedom to achieve freedom. Not the promised land, but a stepping stone toward it. The problem is that the IRA has differed from movements that republicans have sometimes, depending on who’s within earshot, been content to compare themselves with–the Basque ETA, the African National Congress, the Palestine Liberation Organization–in that it has seen the Republic not as an aspiration but as an actually existing entity.”
Nearly all violent Republican campaigns of the twentieth century is rooted in:
“…the proclamation of the Republic on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin at Easter 1916 and its endorsement in the 1918 general election – the last all -Ireland poll before partition. The seventy-three Sinn Fein MPs elected then, out of 105 Irish seats, constituted the first and only legitimate parliament – the First Dail – in Ireland.”
He draws this rather barbed conclusion:
“…it has been this conception of its role and historical significance that has sustained the IRA through lean years when it could find little sustenance in the day-to-day world around it. Just as important, it’s this view of the Republic that has provided moral sanction for armed struggle. To end the armed struggle now definitively, to contemplate disbandment of the IRA, as Tony Blair, special US envoy Richard Haass and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern are currently urging on Adams, would be retrospectively to withdraw sanction from those who carried on the struggle at times of fierce condemnation from all except themselves alone.”
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