The IRA needs to re-structure…

DR JOHN COULTER is a Northern political columnist with the Irish Daily Star. Here, he argues the Provisional IRA could get around the disbanding dilemma by restructuring itself as the Irish Republican Association, based on similar lines as the Royal British Legion.

By John Coulter

The Provisional Irish Republican Army needs to copy its arch rivals, the British Army, and form an Old Comrades

  • JD

    Davros,

    I may be wrong, but I don’t believe Millie mentioned the RUC. I was under the impression we were talking about the USC/ UDR.

    The RUC is another matter for another thread perhaps.

  • willowfield

    Liam

    Hypocrisy in abundance here – so killing is ‘lawful’ when you agree with the politics of the killers?

    Sorry? That’s nonsense.

    You can’t have it every way – some killings are ‘atrocities’ yet some are less so and in fact are ‘lawful’.

    Some killings are lawful, yes, of course. Are you trying to claim that all killings are unlawful?

    JD

    So you support “killings” for a political purpose, but are opposed to “murder” because it has not sanctioned by a state power?

    I don’t “support” any killings, but I recognise that not all killings are murder. Do you think all killings are murder? When the RAF were shooting down Luftwaffe planes over Great Britain, were they “murdering” the pilots? Don’t be so stupid! When Soviet soldiers killed advancing Germans at Stalingrad were they murdering them? Absurd!

    What happens when that state power is actively persecuting a section of the population, or is corrupt and is rebelled against? Rising up would be “murder”; putting down the rebellion is “killing.”

    Without knowing the details of the situation, it is impossible to comment.

    What you call “law” is a matter for interpretation, and cannot be invoked as an absolute.

    Obviously law is a matter for interpretation. That is a truism. But that doesn’t justify murders in Northern Ireland, no matter what casuistry you try to use.

  • JD

    Willowfield: “I don’t “support” any killings, but I recognise that not all killings are murder. Do you think all killings are murder? When the RAF were shooting down Luftwaffe planes over Great Britain, were they “murdering” the pilots? Don’t be so stupid! When Soviet soldiers killed advancing Germans at Stalingrad were they murdering them? Absurd!”

    Not absurd at all. Of course the pilots/ soldiers were murdered. Dress it up in whatever semantics you choose (and this has everything to do with the point I made earlier about the *way* in which things are said having meanings beyond the one the speaker intends). I’m not sorry the Germans lost, but they were murdered for a political end. Simple.

    Remembrance Day honours murderers. I have no problem with a people commemorating those who murdered for them.

    Funny that I’m absurd when I call your lawful war-“killings” murder, when you also tell me in practically the same breath that it is a truism that law is a matter of interpretation.

    Now that’s absurd.

  • Liam

    Willowfield

    Your double standards are blatant. You cannot claim that killings in war are lawful when they are fought abroad – but this logic did not apply to the war situation in Ireland. Although perhaps you regarded the killings of the SAS, RUC and British Army as somehow lawful, while at the same time condemned all actions of the IRA?

    Either way, its a clear double standard.

    Davros

    You can twist and turn all you wish now, but you have rendered all of your previous comments about ‘atrocities’ completely meaningless as soon as you declared that your hero is Oliver Cromwell the mass murderer!

    Bought of you need to examine your own logic.

    Am closed on this discussion now, unless the thread gets back on topic!

  • Davros

    Davros,

    I may be wrong, but I don’t believe Millie mentioned the RUC.

    You are wrong JD, sorry 🙂

    the forces of the new NI consisted of the USC and The RUC 🙂

    The UDR ???? There weren’t any members of the Pre-war UVF in the UDR JD.

  • willowfield

    Jesus Christ, the guy’s unable to distinguish between lawful and unlawful killing, justified and unjustified killing.

    No courts in your world, then. If someone is killed the killer is automatically guilty. The woman who stabs the rapist in self-defence is as guilty as the man who beats his wife to death.

    Funny that I’m absurd when I call your lawful war-“killings” murder, when you also tell me in practically the same breath that it is a truism that law is a matter of interpretation. Now that’s absurd

    What? Law is a matter of interpretation: so we interpret it. Law says combat killings in a war are not murder: a pilot shoots down an enemy aircraft in a war – the interpretation? Lawful killing.

    How do you interpret the law of war in respect of the pilot shooting down the enemy aircraft?

  • Davros

    You can twist and turn all you wish now, but you have rendered all of your previous comments about ‘atrocities’ completely meaningless as soon as you declared that your hero is Oliver Cromwell the mass murderer!

    Run away Liam 🙂 It’s what your lot do best 😉

  • JD

    Davros,

    If you’re still interested, here are a few figures that might help you arrive at a possible % of UVF in USC. There were over 85,000 (some put it as high as 100,000) UVF prewar. By the nd of WWI, some 27,000 people from *all* of Ireland were dead.

    Bear in mind these numbers are rough. I’m not sure how many from NI specifically died.

    The B-Specials in 1921 numbered about 16,000; this rose to 48,000 in 1922.

    Theoretically, all of the Specials could have been raised from the UVF, with ten thousand (at least) to spare.

  • willowfield

    Liam

    Your double standards are blatant.

    I don’t have any double standards, blatant or not. My standards are applied consistently.

    You cannot claim that killings in war are lawful when they are fought abroad

    Killings in any war or lawful – home or abroad – provided they fall within parameters set by the law of armed conflict.

    – but this logic did not apply to the war situation in Ireland.

    There is no war situation in Ireland.

    Although perhaps you regarded the killings of the SAS, RUC and British Army as somehow lawful, while at the same time condemned all actions of the IRA?

    What a ridiculously simplistic premise. You can’t simply say that all the killings of the security forces are lawful, or they’re all unlawful. Some were lawful, others were not. Some actions were right, others were wrong.

    As for the IRA, all their actions were wrong, of course. There was no justification for them at all.

    Either way, its a clear double standard.

    What is a double standard?

  • Davros

    Theoretically, all of the Specials could have been raised from the UVF, with ten thousand (at least) to spare.

    As that is utterly irrelevent to millie’s claim that all the UVF survivors of WWI were co-opted into the forces of the new NI I’m not even going to bother checking your figures JD.

  • Liam

    As for the IRA, all their actions were wrong, of course. There was no justification for them at all.

    Of course there was a ‘justification’ – the British occupation, the Unionist domination, the attacks on Civil Rights demonstrators, the Pogroms, the burning of Bombay Street…. and the complete failure of politics spring immediately to mind!

    But ok, in your logic ALL of the actions of the IRA were ‘wrong’. But is this just from 1969 or did it also apply in 1916? 1922? Were all of the actions of the United Irishmen ‘wrong’ in your book? Were ALL of the actions of the ANC ‘wrong’? The PLO? The East Timorese? In fact the borders of almost every single nation have been drawn by conflict – were ALL of these conflicts ‘wrong’? Or is it just those particular conflict situations that you select from your own political bias?

    You see, just because you state that somebodies politics or actions are ‘wrong’ doesn’t make it so!

    Davros

    I had thought you were capable of some mature debate – seems that I was certainly wrong on that score!

  • JD

    Willowfield,

    Charming as your apoplectic responses are, I am merely pointing out that you are finessing the deaths of human beings. Simple. The fact that you do so with the benefit of a particular interpretation of a code of laws that are borne of the interests of powerful political groups, does not change that. The interpretations may differ, but the human being is dead.

    Even though the law may seem natural and universal (and hence beyond question) to you, it is written/ repealed by powerful groups and interpreted in different ways by different groups every day.

    The problems you seem to be having stem from your belief that “killing” and “murder” are somehow inherently different because of how one interprets a law. I’m saying that one person’s murder is another’s justifiable homicide, is another rebellion. It’s still murder though.

    But the law is not justice. It is used all the time to justify all sorts of sickening stuff, however.

    Davros,

    If that’s what Millie said, then she may have been thinking about the relation between the Specials and the RIC. You’ll have to ask her. As I said, another day’s argument.

    As you well know, the USC was re-named the UDR in 1970.

  • JD

    Davros: “As that is utterly irrelevent to millie’s claim that all the UVF survivors of WWI were co-opted into the forces of the new NI I’m not even going to bother checking your figures JD.”

    I’m not arguing for Millie. I’m sure she can do that herself.

    Although I now see that your beef is with her word “co-opt.” Very clever way to avoid the substantive issue.

    I really don’t care if you “check” my figures. No skin off mine.

  • Davros

    JD – I’m not disputing that some UVF men joined the USC. The implication that the UVF en masse were co-opted is my complaint about Millies post.
    The UDR has nothing to do with events of the 1920’s and has been mentioned to muddy the waters.

    We are back to the republican propaganda machine that grinds out the nonsensical history of a consistent ‘resistance’ to give moral support to and sanitise the dreadful crimes of the IRA of McGuinness, Kelly et al.

    As I wrote elsewhere – the IRA of the early 20th century would have had this lot up against a wall faster than the Black and Tans … and Wolfe Tone would have abhorred both versions.

  • JD

    Davros,

    Fair enough. But the UDR was found to be guilty of collusion by Stevens. It was part of the reason for the latest name-change as well.

  • willowfield

    Liam

    Of course there was a ‘justification’ – the British occupation, the Unionist domination, the attacks on Civil Rights demonstrators, the Pogroms, the burning of Bombay Street…. and the complete failure of politics spring immediately to mind!

    First, there was no “British occupation”, nor were there any “pogroms”. Second, Unionist domination, attacks on civil rights demonstrators and “the burning of Bombay Street” did not justify murdering 1800 people. Indeed, they didn’t justify murdering anyone.

    Please stop justifying murder.

    But ok, in your logic ALL of the actions of the IRA were ‘wrong’. But is this just from 1969 or did it also apply in 1916? 1922? Were all of the actions of the United Irishmen ‘wrong’ in your book? Were ALL of the actions of the ANC ‘wrong’? The PLO? The East Timorese? In fact the borders of almost every single nation have been drawn by conflict – were ALL of these conflicts ‘wrong’? Or is it just those particular conflict situations that you select from your own political bias?

    You need to examine each situation and apply the same ethical standards to each one. Very quickly: IRA 1916 wrong? – yes; IRA 1922 wrong? – yes; all the actions of the United Irishmen wrong – probably no; ALL the actions of the ANC ‘wrong’ – no? All the actions of the PLO wrong – no? All the actions of the East Timorese wrong – no? All conflicts wrong? – no.

    You see, just because you state that somebodies politics or actions are ‘wrong’ doesn’t make it so!

    Of course the very fact of stating something doesn’t make it so. That is an inane comment.

    JD

    Charming as your apoplectic responses are, I am merely pointing out that you are finessing the deaths of human beings.

    I’m not “finessing” the deaths of human beings (not sure what it means, but I’m confident I’m not doing it).

    The fact that you do so with the benefit of a particular interpretation of a code of laws that are borne of the interests of powerful political groups, does not change that.

    Well you interpret the law of armed conflict and tell me what conclusion you draw about a pilot shooting down an enemy aircraft in a war.

    The interpretations may differ, but the human being is dead.

    Care to say something that’s not completely obvious and pointless?

    Even though the law may seem natural and universal (and hence beyond question) to you, it is written/ repealed by powerful groups and interpreted in different ways by different groups every day.

    Well you interpret the law of armed conflict and tell me what conclusion you draw about a pilot shooting down an enemy aircraft in a war.

    The problems you seem to be having stem from your belief that “killing” and “murder” are somehow inherently different because of how one interprets a law.

    They’re not different because of how one interprets the law. Killing may or may not be lawful. Murder, by definition, is always unlawful. The implicit assumption when I use the term murder is that I am referring to actual murder, as defined by the law, and not a killing which may or may not be murder.

    I’m saying that one person’s murder is another’s justifiable homicide, is another rebellion. It’s still murder though.

    No. A justifiable homicide is, by definition, not murder.

    But the law is not justice. It is used all the time to justify all sorts of sickening stuff, however.

    In Northern Ireland, the law of murder is quite clear, and is not in question.

    As you well know, the USC was re-named the UDR in 1970.

    It wasn’t. It was disbanded and its policing functions were taken over by the RUC Reserve, with the UDR being formed as a part-time military force.

    Posted by: JD at November 5, 2004 10:09 PM

  • Davros

    But the UDR was found to be guilty of collusion by Stevens.

    Collusion was a disgrace and those found guilty should be in cells.

    As an aside … was the UDR “found to be guilty” or were individual members within the UDR found to be guilty ? There’s a huge difference and one that is relevent to discussions about a lot of Organisations.

  • JD

    Davros,

    Would you extend that distinction to the IRA?

  • Davros

    I don’t understand the question JD.

  • JD

    Willowfield: “It was disbanded and its policing functions were taken over by the RUC Reserve, with the UDR being formed as a part-time military force.”

    Quite right. But where did the members go?

  • willowfield

    The IRA was/is an illegal organisation.

  • JD

    Davros,

    Sorry, I meant the distinction between the “members” and the “organization” of the IRA.

  • willowfield

    It was a crime to be a member of the IRA.

  • Davros

    Sorry to be a pain here , but are we talking about PIRA ? It’s best to be precise.

  • JD

    PIRA

  • willowfield

    JD

    I’m waiting for you to interpret the law of armed conflict and tell me what conclusion you draw about a pilot shooting down an enemy aircraft in a war.

  • willowfield

    Or what about a woman being raped who stabs her assailant with a pair of scissors. She a murderer? Lock her away?

  • Davros

    Thanks.

    Individual members of the IRA committed actions for which they should be held to account. Their actions were sanctioned by a command structure- which should also be held to account. eg those who sanctioned Magee’s bombing at Brighton should be held to account. Similarly any security force members who took part in collusion or who sanctioned collusion or who covered up acts of collusion should be held to account.
    The difference is that illegal acts by members of the security forces were against the ethos of the organisation in which they served. The ethos of PIRA WAS illegality. ALL PIRA members were criminals by virtue of their membership of an illegal organisation whose members were EXPECTED to commit or facilitate crimes.

    Now – could you address the rather important question –was the UDR “found to be guilty” or were individual members within the UDR found to be guilty ?

    I would point out that if you argue there is no difference you join those who damn all Members of the RC Ċlergy and all GAA members because of of actions of an unrepresentative minority in THEIR ranks.

  • JD

    Willowfield,

    If murder is always “unlawful,” and codes of law are different, then definitions of murder will differ. Since laws are written by people, what is or is not murder is decided by a powerful group of people who have certain political interests that they draw up their codes of law in accordance with. These laws may not be applied equally to all: for instance, in the case of perceived “political enemies” or “enemies of society.” These laws can be used to remove “troublesome” members of society in a perfectly lawful manner that is still murder.

    Also what may have been a reason for a “lawful” killing in the past may not be one now: being a “witch,” for instance. The definition of “lawful” is always being renegotiated/ rewritten. It is not set in stone or universal. That is why to keep on harping on about what the law states is unlawful to miss the point. “Lawful” very easily becomes an excuse for murder, exclusion, discrimination, scapegoating, and all sorts of injustices. The simple distinction between “lawful” and “unlawful” is not enough to account for these difficulties.

  • JD

    Ah, the “bad apples” argument.

    Frankly, I don’t care for either the church or the GAA. Do I see them as rotten institutions? For the most part, yes. Can they be improved? Probably, but I don’t care.

  • willowfield

    JD

    If murder is always “unlawful,” and codes of law are different, then definitions of murder will differ. Since laws are written by people, what is or is not murder is decided by a powerful group of people who have certain political interests that they draw up their codes of law in accordance with. These laws may not be applied equally to all: for instance, in the case of perceived “political enemies” or “enemies of society.” These laws can be used to remove “troublesome” members of society in a perfectly lawful manner that is still murder.

    The law of armed conflict is universal.

    Maybe definitions of murder differ in different states (although I doubt there is much difference). But that doesn’t matter since we are dealing with NI and the law of murder in NI. So – just for your benefit – I will qualify my earlier statement that all murders are wrong: all murders are wrong in Northern Ireland. Happy?

    Also what may have been a reason for a “lawful” killing in the past may not be one now: being a “witch,” for instance. The definition of “lawful” is always being renegotiated/ rewritten. It is not set in stone or universal. That is why to keep on harping on about what the law states is unlawful to miss the point. “Lawful” very easily becomes an excuse for murder, exclusion, discrimination, scapegoating, and all sorts of injustices. The simple distinction between “lawful” and “unlawful” is not enough to account for these difficulties.

    Well, let’s be even more specific. All murders in Northern Ireland during the past 50 years were wrong.

  • willowfield

    And still I’m waiting for you to interpret the law of armed conflict and tell me what conclusion you draw about a pilot shooting down an enemy aircraft in a war.

    And the woman being raped who stabs her assailant with a pair of scissors. She a murderer? Lock her away?

  • Davros

    JD: Ah, the “bad apples” argument.

    Third time lucky ?

    was the UDR “found to be guilty” or were individual members within the UDR found to be guilty ?

    I have answered in detail your questions JD. I would appreciate an answer to the above.

  • JD

    Willowfield: “The law of armed conflict is universal.”

    Does that “law” extend to collusion? Has the “law” of conflict always been the same. From the stick and stone up to the nuclear capability? Aren’t the Americans rewriting that as we speak?

  • JD

    So, are you saying that the organization bears NO responsibility, and that this should simply be pinned on individuals? Your entire line of questioning is loaded.

  • Davros

    JD- I’m disappointed in you. It’s a simple question.
    And your prevarications and questions show that you don’t want to admit that the Organisation has NOT been found guilty by Stevens and that you were telling a blatent lie when you wrote
    “But the UDR was found to be guilty of collusion by Stevens.”

    Sayonara.

  • JD

    Point me to where he says that the UDR bears no responsibility for collusion.

  • Davros

    Not interested JD. You told the lie, you justify it.

  • JD

    Hah! Didn’t think so.

  • Davros

    You told the lie, you justify it .

  • ShayPaul

    Davros

    Why does the UDR no longer exist ?

    As for the UVF-SUC/RUC argument Chapter 1 (“Black protestants”) of “The fateful split” should help you here.

    I insist because this stage of the history of NI is extremely important, and we should at least arrive at a shared understanding if we want to move forward. This is where the seeds of discord were sown.

  • Davros

    Shay- I’m asking a very simple question – were the UDR as an organisation found guilty of collusion by
    Stevens – yes or no ?

  • willowfield

    JD

    Does that “law” extend to collusion?

    If you’re referring to NI, no, of course not! It only applies to wars.

    Has the “law” of conflict always been the same. From the stick and stone up to the nuclear capability?

    Of course not. It’s been around since the Geneva and Hague conventions and has been added to and refined over time.

    Aren’t the Americans rewriting that as we speak?

    No. But they’re breaking it.

    I take it you now accept that all murders in Northern Ireland in the past 50 years were wrong.

  • JD

    Willowfield,

    As should be amply clear, I do not accept the manner you frame your question. I have explained the problems I have with your position.

    Of course there was a war in NI. Do you honestly think it was “peace”? Really?

    The Americans have the power to rewrite the rulebook on conflict as they wish.

    I also see that Davros is still unwilling to show where the UDR is exonerated of all guilt by Stevens. It seems he’s not above trying to make one participant in the conflict cleaner than the others.

    But it seems you and Davros love to have the last word more than debate. Have it.

  • Davros

    I also see that Davros is still unwilling to show where the UDR is exonerated of all guilt by Stevens.

    That’s dishonest JD. The claim was made that the “UDR” was found guilty of collusion. I haven’t disputed that some UDR members have taken part in collusion. But I don’t think Stevens has said that the Organisation itself took part in collusion.

  • willowfield

    JD

    As should be amply clear, I do not accept the manner you frame your question. I have explained the problems I have with your position.

    No. You’ve just tried to play around with words. I’ve explained what I mean by the word “murder” and I’ve explained the context in which I am condemning murders. So: do you or do you not accept that all murders in NI in the past 50 years were wrong?

    If not, explain why you think some murders were right.

    Of course there was a war in NI. Do you honestly think it was “peace”? Really?

    There was no war in the legal sense in NI.

    The Americans have the power to rewrite the rulebook on conflict as they wish.

    They don’t.