Hypocrisy over suspected IRA criminal activity…

CHIEF Constable Hugh Orde is likely to blame the IRA for the Northern Bank robbery tomorrow. Today, Prime Minister Blair and DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson criticised the IRA for not ending its criminal activity. I’m not sure why – neither Blair nor the DUP were at all concerned about the lack of clarity over criminality in the IRA’s planned statement contained in the ‘comprehensive agreement’, preferring to concentrate on getting a photo of decommissioned arms.The News Letter reported: The Lagan Valley MP noted that an end to all criminal activity by the IRA was central to any deal and was highlighted in the Comprehensive Agreement which the two governments had drawn up as the proposed compromise deal before Christmas.

“The IRA have to understand that we are not just talking about ending their terrorist activities but also their criminal activity.

“The statement the IRA were due to make in the event of a comprehensive deal was very specific about IRA volunteers being instructed not to engage in any activity that would endanger the agreement.”

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Eh? It was anything BUT specific. How did the robbery (if we assume for a moment it actually WAS the IRA, so indulge me Pat) “endanger the agreement”? How would it be considered a ceasefire breach under the woolly ‘comprehensive agreement’ the DUP helped negotiate.

A cynic might argue that the words in the ‘comprehensive agreement’ are so deliberately ambiguous that they now appear to do the opposite of what they were intended to do. None of this was nailed down, and for Peter Robinson – who was “unperturbed” at the lack of clarity over criminal activity in the IRA’s proposed statement – to complain now is shutting the stable door long after the horse bolted.

Robinson said: “Let no one be in any doubt, the consequences of mainstream republican participation in this colossal crime will be far reaching.”

He’s right. The consequences are that any deal will be put off until after the May elections, so that the DUP can finish off the UUP. Presumably the SDLP will have met its end at the hands of Sinn Fein around then too. How convenient for the DUP and Sinn Fein – you’d almost think they had planned the Northern job between them, it works out so nicely.

Tony Blair today said: “But be under no misunderstanding at all, there can be absolutely no place not merely for terrorist activity, but for criminal activity of any sort by people associated with a political party.

“There is no way that this thing is going to work or that other political parties will accept such a thing, rightly.

“We will have to wait and see what happens, but the ban on terrorist activity includes a complete prohibition on criminal activity as well.”

Like Donaldson, he is wrong or just hasn’t read the ‘comprehensive agreement’ his Government helped write. The IRA actually proposed to say: “…all IRA volunteers have been given specific instructions not to engage in any activity which might thereby endanger the new agreement.”

This means the IRA was prepared not to take part in activity that would have political consequences, such as attacks on British targets. It does not preclude the IRA engaging in criminal activity – like the Northern job – nor does it mean the IRA cannot continue to engage in ‘internal housekeeping’, such as shooting informers from the nationalist community or kneecapping ‘joyriders’ in Twinbrook.

If the IRA says it will move into a “new mode”, and expects this to be seen as some kind of confidence-builder, it is mistaken. The statement is meaningless. The IRA will do exactly what says it will do – more of the same, because there’s nothing in the ‘comprehensive agreement’ to suggest otherwise. Blair’s commitment to achieving an end to the list of paramilitary activities he came up with in Paragraph 13 of the Joint Declaration was always suspect, but his attempt to ensure the IRA ends its criminal activities barely registered.

I can’t believe I’m agreeing with Reg Empey: “If true [that the IRA robbed the Northern], it will also highlight the futility of the DUP’s much vaunted ‘one hour photo’ as any real guarantee or assurance on the true intentions of the Republican movement. This underlines the concern that the Ulster Unionist Party and others had expressed, that the DUP’s deal had not secured an end to Republican criminality.”

One wonders what side deals were made to ensure that the issue of ending IRA criminal activity was not nailed down.

Right, that’s the rant over. Carry on.