Ruth Dudley Edwards argues that the liberal press in Ireland are too late in expressing their surprise at a possible connection between the IRA and large scale criminal activity:Until now Orde had been in the forefront of conciliatory approaches to the Republican movement. However, circumstances intervened:
Officers are expected to allow rioters to inflict grievous injuries on their men and women rather than order the firing of plastic bullets, informers are kept at arm’s length, and many of the wise old cops who knew their patch have taken early retirement.
It was poor intelligence that let the Northern Bank heist happen and it is over-regulation and political nervousness that have been hindering the hunting down of the perpetrators.
In a world in which Denis Bradley, the nationalist vice-chairman of the policing board, can say “I have yet to meet a former or present republican who doesn’t believe that the IRA did this job,” the credibility of the PSNI was on the line. Though Orde and his political masters struggled to avoid fingering the Provos, the pressure to come clean became irresistible.
And she believes the movement has some spectacular form:
For the IRA to have been planning the robbery at the same time that Adams and McGuinness were negotiating the final acts of completion with the two governments “just beggars belief”. Huh? How soon they forget. These are the same guys who were planning the blowing up of Canary Wharf as Clinton was shaking hands with Adams in the Falls Road.
She’s little kinder to the DUP:
One major change is that no unionists can possibly negotiate with Sinn Fein with the IRA still in business. The DUP ‘bring-on-the-Mercs’ brigade (Peter Robinson and Jeffrey Donaldson) have been badly wounded. But for Ian Paisley’s insistence on photographs of decommissioning, the deal would have been done and they would now be reeling in the face of a betrayal worse than anything David Trimble endured.
Yet the Doc should be ashamed rather than self-satisfied, for he knows that if given enough to satisfy their grassroots, the DUP was united on a strategy of colluding with Sinn Fein in the Balkanisation of Northern Ireland, which is why they showed not the faintest interest in making criminalityan issue.
As far as the DUP was concerned, if the IRA wanted to rob and steal and mutilate its people and corrupt the South as they have corrupted the North, that was a problem for Taigs. Yet it is the criminality that has sunk a cosy deal.
But she reckons it’s Bertie Ahern who faces the sternest test:
It’s all up to Bertie now. As Taoiseach of a sovereign nation and hero of the EU, he has once again been lied to and humiliated by small-town terrorists and criminals. He has everything going for him: the Irish people and even the Irish Times are now in the mood to cheer a crackdown, the White House would back him and, as there is no longer any possibility of going into coalition with Sinn Fein, keeping the PDs sweet is amajor priority.
Tony Blair just wants Northern Ireland out of his in-tray, but it’s in Bertie’s power to persuade him to agree to an all-Ireland anti-IRA offensive and serious punishment of SF – possibly even their exclusion from the Assembly.
This is Bertie’s big chance to show us if he’s really a statesman, a worthy successor of de Valera, or if, at heart, he remains the ward boss who just wants to be loved.