SF and IRA to 'divorce' over criminality..?

I suspect that if Sinn Fein and the IRA ever split, that it will be because the IRA has become an electoral millstone around SF’s neck. Some rather disillusioned republicans now appear to suspect that, if the IRA carried out the Northern heist, it may be a catalyst for separation. Eamonn McCann takes a look at internal difficulties in the Republican Movement, while Broom of Anger (which has lots of useful links) looks at the separation emerging between the governments and the RM. Brian Feeney (column now in full thanks to Nuzhound – read it) is not far behind.

I think Pete’s blog entry rightly brought the issue of criminality to the fore. It seems critical, especially given the furore over its non-inclusion in the ‘comprehensive agreement’.

And with McGuinness’s (possibly empty, but strongly-worded) denials of IRA involvement in the Northern heist, describing the act as “criminal” (and we know republicans feel strongly enough about that to refuse to include reference to criminality in the proposed IRA statement in the ‘comprehensive agreement’), if it turns out that the IRA was involved, then things might change.

If the IRA becomes an electoral millstone around a power-hungry Gerry Adams’ neck, do you think they might put space between themselves and the IRA? SF seem reluctant to be associated with or punished for the actions of what looks like IRA members carrying out criminal acts. Perhaps ordinary SF voters who had a sneaking regard for the Northern robbers will not be so happy when it becomes apparent whose pockets are being lined.

Meanwhile, Adams refuses to accept sanctions on Sinn Fein, calling on republicans to resist discrimination against their elected representatives.

* * *

Eamonn McCann wrote in today’s Tele:

The raid itself would be no reason for splitting. Few members of Sinn Fein and/or the Provos would have a political or moral problem with snatching millions from a bank. They are by no means alone in entertaining this attitude.

No. The wedge would be driven into the movement by the subsequent words of some of its public leaders – most importantly, Gerry Kelly and Martin McGuinness.

Last week, Kelly described the raid as “wrong.” This week, McGuinness went further. Whoever carried the robbery out was “hostile” to the Sinn Fein agenda. “Anything that sees innocent people held hostage in their house is a criminal act,” he added.

Whether or not they knew of the job in advance, Kelly and McGuinness will have known by the time they made these comments whether the IRA was responsible. Any IRA unit involved has, then, been publicly denounced as “criminal” by Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator.

There is no precedent I know of for any such thing. The closest I can think of came in July 1988 in reaction to the killing at the Falls Baths of Elizabeth Hamill (60) and Eamon Gilroy (24), both local residents, caught by an IRA bomb intended for a British Army patrol.

Pressed by journalists at the time, Gerry Adams said that he was “shocked and “saddened”. But he accepted the IRA’s word that the deaths had been “accidental.”

Local councillor Sean Keenan, was marginally more forthright. The bomb shouldn’t have been planted in the first place, he told the Irish News.

Keenan was a scion of one of the most illustrious Republican families in the North and, by common consent, a coming man. He was close to Adams, had been seriously wounded in the UDA attack on Adams’s car four years earlier. His council seat was safe. But when he distanced himself from the death-bomb, his political career was done.

In his history of Sinn Fein, A Hundred Turbulent Years, Brian Feeney says that, “Keenan never made another public statement.” He wasn’t nominated for the council next time round.

And Keenan had come nowhere near calling the bomb blast “criminal.”

* * *

Ma Bear at Broom of Anger uses the analogy of a wife who can’t bring herself to leave her abusive partner and is reaching the end of her tether to describe the possible Sinn Fein ‘divorce’ from the governments:

And so it went on, each time. She caught them in the kitchen, at the back door, the reports of sightings came in like a deluge from her questionable friends, each report getting more detailed and more racy, his actions more brazen. Each time, the denials, the anger, the threats, the questioning of loyalty.

This time, however. She caught him in their bed. Naked. On top of the other woman. In her own bed! She trembled with outrage.

She told her friends she was ready. Said things like, “All those times we were in marriage counseling and he was making me promises to improve the marriage, and it turns out he was plotting to continue cheating on me right under my nose! At the same time he was promising me the moon, he was making plans to see her!”

And when she accused him of that directly, he told her how disappointed in her he was. He called it a grave blow. Was shocked and angered that she would do that to him after working with him all those years on their marriage. Accused her of encouraging all the securocrats that wanted to wreck their marriage.

But it’s no different than what has gone on for the last seven years of their marriage. So what makes anyone think this will be different? Will the weak willed wife see the divorce lawyer? Will the slimeball husband charm her back? If it does get to the lawyers, how messy will it get? Will it be all out war, or can it be after a fashion, amicable? Is the humilation and the need to cover up dirty deeds done too much for both? Does Hell really have no fury like a woman scorned?

Stay tuned for the next episode of As the Peace Process Turns.

  • Henry94

    The Irish and British governments claim to have the evidence that would show that the IRA lied to Martin McGuinness. He has asked to see it.

    There it stands.

  • J Kelly

    Its time to put up or shut up

  • TroubledTimes

    Sinn Fein and the IRA to split?
    This is the most ridiculous comment I have heard in over 35 years of the troubles. Sinn Fein’s raison d’etre is the IRA. The leadership of Sinn Fein are the leadership of the IRA. So how can they split?
    There may well be renegades in the IRA but they are disciplined by the same people who discipline Sinn Fein.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Gonzo,

    Who are these ‘rather disillusioned republicans’ you refer to?

  • cg

    TroubledTimes
    Sinn Féin’s raison d’etre is the establishment of a 32 County Socialist Republic.

  • JD

    Fascinating stuff.

    I’m interested in how the prospect of a “divorce” is being discussed. It brings out some telling tensions in how SF is viewed.

    For example, I’ve seen several contributors say things along the lines of, “Well, if SF can’t deliver the IRA, then we shouldn’t be talking to them. We should be talking to P. O Neill.” This seems to amount to saying that if SF are democratic, they should be ignored. At the same time, SF are accused of being a bunch of undemocratic criminals. Surely a subtler thought is called for?

    It also makes me wonder who is preventing the divorce. If intelligent people are suggesting the exclusion of SF without the IRA, then what’s their motivation for even filing papers? Is it any wonder that the “divorce” will be a long and drawn out affair?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    For example, I’ve seen several contributors say things along the lines of, “Well, if SF can’t deliver the IRA, then we shouldn’t be talking to them. We should be talking to P. O Neill.” This seems to amount to saying that if SF are democratic, they should be ignored.

    And? That’s how this ‘inclusive’ process has been defined – by exclusion. Virtually every party has been excluded from talks at some point – officially or unofficially – so I wouldn’t consider that an unusual position.

    All they are saying is that if SF can’t influence the IRA in the way they thought they were able to, they should be talking to the organ grinder instead of the monkeys.

  • JD

    All they are saying is that if SF can’t influence the IRA in the way they thought they were able to, they should be talking to the organ grinder instead of the monkeys.

    So what is the motivation for a “divorce”? If they’ll be excluded without the IRA, why should they divorce it?

  • maca

    I thought the case was previously that they woudn’t talk to SF while they were linked to the PIRA. So now if they “divorce” they won’t talk to them because they will NOT be linked to the PIRA.
    Christ, but you Northerners like to make things hard for yourselves. 😉

  • Gay

    The author of the feed lines on this blog seems to have missed a question. I’m interested given this website currently runs a story on lax journalism. Who are ‘Some rather disillusioned republicans’?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    That would be the three people mentioned in the feed lines.

  • cg

    “Northern Bank notes stolen during the IRA bank raid are being sold to criminal gangs linked to loyalists at one third of their face value.”

    Seems like “well placed loyalist’s sources” are trying to cover their backs in case it comes out they were responsible for the Northern.

    (Only a theory)

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I misread the Broom blog entry and corrected the blog entry. Ma Bear was referring to the relationship between SF and the governments, rather than SF and the IRA.

    My apologies to her and any confused readers. She doesn’t object to the description though, and her peace process soap continues here.

    Would McCann object? Primarily, he’s a socialist, so he’s obviously not a mainstream republican, but if he objects to being called a republican too, I welcome correction.

    I doubt if Feeney could object to the description in the current circumstances. It comes across in the article, IMHO.

  • Gay

    I thought Mr Feeney would be a Nationalist that currently favours SF. His history indicates he is a provisional supporter of SF, a Nationalist but not a Republican. McCann is certainly not a Republican. With his current electoral ambitions (most non-SWP) he would deny it completely. Unless you contact him and he proves me wrong. I don’t think a blogger writing about SF makes a Republican. If you can point me to some of the author’s posts promoting an Irish Republic. I think Nationalist, trot and American guest would be a better description. Republican is pushing your luck.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Just to avoid confusion, a republican (in my definition) does not have to be someone who necessarily believes in physical force.

    There are many new SF voters, for example, who perhaps see their vote as a vote for a peaceful republicanism.

    If you are saying that ‘republican’ is someone who is basically a nationalist with a gun, I think we are at cross purposes, but I think I know what you and Pat mean now.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Sorry Gonzo, I thought you met people who had been connected to the Republican Movement in some way who had now walked away.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    No prob.

    It just demonstrates the value of communication between us all… and that’s what Slugger is all about.

  • Hector

    Posted by: Belfast Gonzo at January 13, 2005 06:40 PM
    ‘Would McCann object? Primarily, he’s a socialist, so he’s obviously not a mainstream republican, but if he objects to being called a republican too, I welcome correction.’

    I’d say most mainstream Republicans consider themselves socialists too. Therefore for clarity maybe its better to refer to McCann as a Leninist/Trotskyite?
    Sorry for being pedantic.

  • davidbrew

    Sinn Féin’s raison d’etre is the establishment of a 32 County Socialist Republic.

    ..by any means possible and whether it is the democratic wish of the people or not

    might be a more truthful statement of aims and objectives

    and that explains the bank robbery- they’re obviously going to redistribute capital to the masses ( at masses?)