McCann on the IRA: defenders

Echoing Jack Holland’s interview with Moloney in the summer, McCann makes a robust distinction between the nature of Republicanism in Belfast and Derry and that of the more classic type:

“Moloney rightly identifies Adams’s 1983 election to Westminster from West Belfast as one of the most significant plot points in his narrative. He might with advantage have directly quoted the new MP’s exultant first words to cheering crowds on the Falls Road: ‘Even De Valera couldn’t win the Falls.’ De Valera had been hammered in West Belfast in the seminal election of 1918. It was one of only two seats in all of Ireland where constitutional nationalism defeated Sinn Fein.”

“This fact, of which Adams was obviously acutely aware, might usefully be kept in mind by commentators who lazily identify the Falls, or the Bogside in Derry, as ‘traditional republican’ areas. They are not. What gave Adams’s election its sharp significance was that he was the first republican ever elected in the area. What he meant was, even De Valera couldn’t win the Falls for the republican movement.”

According to McCann it has been more of an ad hoc resistance movement:

“One of the most revered rural leaders of the IRA in the 1980s observed a few years ago that ‘those fellows from Belfast were never really republicans. They were only fighting for their streets.’ Fighting for your street, of course, is not necessarily an ignoble thing to do. In certain circumstances–Belfast 1969–it can be no more than neighborly duty. But the impulse to defend one’s locality doesn’t automatically harden into a clear set of ideas.”

In other words:

“The reason the Adams leadership has been able to retain the support of the republican base while ditching core republican ideas is, on this analysis, that the base was never republican in the first place.”

Previously stepping away from history.