A thawing consciousness

In an interesting, and pertinent, article in today’s Irish Times John Waters marks what he describes as “a thaw in the consciousness of this society, dulled and wearied by 25 years of slaughter”. “The eaves are now dripping”, he argues, and charts his own thawing consciousness as part of that process. If accepted, his analysis is likely to have an impact on the decision that the Irish Government still faces.

Those concluding paragraphs read –

Many of us who offered succour to the Provos, in whatever degree, believed not so much that the actions of the IRA were legitimate but that, since this was how many Northern nationalists saw it, we, not being in their shoes, could not rush to condemnation. We wished and prayed it would stop, but could not go further without distancing ourselves from our own history and leaving Northern nationalists isolated and more desperate than before. This resulted in what Eoghan Harris called “the leaky national consensus” in which support for the Provos waned after an atrocity and grew again as the memory receded.

But the leak has been effectively welded by a succession of events with no justification in the context of the alleged “war”: the Belfast bank heist, the Colombia Three, the McCabe affair and, by no means least, the episode in which the wife of a Sinn Féin TD participated in a public brawl in which gardaí were assaulted and threatened with the consequences, by virtue of this woman’s connections, of applying the law her husband has pledged to defend.

I have touched before on what I called “talking the Provos down from the ledge”, by which I meant the need to convince the extremists that they would not lack support if they laid down their guns. If the killing could be stopped by bringing “our” side in from the cold, then surely it was better that we offer them solidarity if they stepped back from the brink and handed over their hostages?

But as time goes on, I agree more with those who told us that the Provisionals were incorrigible thugs who sought one thing only: power at the point of a gun. Michael McDowell now describes the Provos as “classical Marxists”, but this may be to mistake the mask for the face. He may have been closer to the truth when he called them thugs. The IRA “struggle” bears the classic hallmarks of terrorist psychology: a deep sense of grievance which translates into a desire to hurt and keep on hurting, not just those who have wronged you but even those who, by living ordinary lives, seem to suggest that your grievance does not matter.

For all their alleged political sophistication, the Provos have not shaken off this founding neurosis. It becomes clearer that they were never Marxists, never republicans, and, as we observed in their attitude to Articles 2 and 3, never nationalists in any sense connected to concepts of unity understood in this Republic. They never had any concept as to how Ireland might be reunified, and probably no such ambition other than as a rhetorical instrument.

You might say that they were purely a “Brits Out” movement, except that they have clearly been willing to accept a settlement without getting the Brits, as it were, out. Always, they have been willing to concede anything except their own grievance, their “right” to avenge it, and the overall meaning this holds for them.[my emphasis]

  • Sluggerite

    Bravo, John Waters. Bravo.

  • cg

    Utter tripe

  • peteb

    Some reactions, cg, are entirely predictable.

    Perhaps, though, you’d like to elaborate on your previous comment – for the benefit of the debate.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Superb. We really do seem to be moving to a position where Vincent Browne may be the only provo defender in the press not actually employed by them.

  • George

    Michael Collins said he would not use coercion against Unionism so long as Unionism refrained from using coercion against the nationalist minority in Northern Ireland.

    The acceptance of consent means 80 years later that the coercion has to end for both sides. If a voting majority want to leave the union, Northern will leave the union. If not, then not.

    The IRA have to accept this as do “hard no” Unionists. It is a situation unpalatable to both who feel they don’t need votes to be right.

    If the IRA continue to look at coercion as an option in the present climate, then Waters has a point.

    The grievance does matter but coercion is not the way. As of the last general election, 43% of Northern Ireland’s voting electorate give their x to unification parties.

    Convince another 8% and Britain should be making plans for a border poll, which if it goes the same way will lead to it withdrawiong permanently from the island.

    We’ll see if unionism is as adverse to using coercion to achieve their goals as they let on then.

  • David Antsinpants

    Rarely have I seen the moral vacuity of provo fellow-travelling displayed so nakedly as in that response by George, to an article I might add which discussed only inter-nationalist dynamics and mentioned unionism not at all.
    It seem to me that George is WISHING FOR loyalist violence at the prospect of a United Ireland, so that the violence used nominally to achieve that objective can be excused with cries of “but themmuns!” Of course, preparing for such instability in a transitional environment by building support for any institutions of law and order remains out of the question for republicans.

    Disgraceful.

  • TroubledTimes

    When a situation arose in the North to bring about an end to the death and destruction that stenched the streets for 30 years, the provos were going to be given the benefit of the doubt. Hence the rise and rise of Sinn Fein. However like John Waters, you can only allow Sinn Fein so much time before it is realised that they are making a mockery of that Agreement which belongs to the people of Ireland.
    The next step for the people of Ireland is to show their disdain for Sinn Fein’s insincerity at the ballot box.

  • cg

    Peteb

    LOL
    I will make my points

    “Eoghan Harris called “the leaky national consensus””

    Hardly an “independent” or “impartial” journalist

    “The IRA “struggle” bears the classic hallmarks of terrorist psychology: a deep sense of grievance which translates into a desire to hurt and keep on hurting, not just those who have wronged you but even those who, by living ordinary lives, seem to suggest that your grievance does not matter”

    Funny how a lot of “academics”, who have researched this, refuse to agree with him.

    “It becomes clearer that they were never Marxists, never republicans”

    Obviously no understanding of Republicans whatsoever

    “They never had any concept as to how Ireland might be reunified”

    I think their concept on who to unite Ireland was very clear.

    “Probably no such ambition other than as a rhetorical instrument”

    How does he explain men and women joining such an organisation? His level of intellect and good journalism is non-existent.

    A very poor piece

  • cg

    “concept on who to unite Ireland”

    should read “concept on how to unite Ireland”

    Thanks

  • David Antsinpants

    A very poor response from CG, rather – consisting only of the revelation that columnists aren’t impartial followed by various cries of “oh no it isn’t”.

    Lame effort. 2/10

  • peteb

    cg

    He’s not calling Harris as a character witness, just attributing the phrase he uses – as any good journalist would. As for your other ‘points’.. well.. keep up the studying.

  • cg

    David Antsinpants

    When did you become my examiner?

    He has made sprawling claims with no evidence to back them up and that’s why it’s a poor piece of journalism.

  • cg

    “As for your other ‘points’.. well.. keep up the studying.”

    I am but my points are valid

  • David Antsinpants

    I became your examiner, along with everyone else here, when you put your claim to superior political insight up on the internet for examination. So far you aren’t doing too well. Incidentally, if you feel Waters has made false claims can you explain WHY they are false? How does the current republican movement envisage uniting Ireland, exactly? By robbing banks and screaming abuse at anyone who disagrees with them?

    I’m away for my tea. Since the robbery this website has been exposed as a total wabsite – good luck with all your little lives.

  • cg

    David Antsinpants

    He didn’t say republican movement, he said IRA. He also said the IRA didn’t have a strategy for a United Ireland and that reunification probably wasn’t on their agenda.

    If he believes that then he hasn’t done his research

    As for the robbery allegation if you have proof I would love to see it.

  • TroubledTimes

    As with any conflict CG, proof is a hard thing to come by. Just look at the millions of pounds that have gone into the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. To this day there is still not an answer as to who is guilty in this aspect, even if everybody knows they were murdered. If someone who lost a loved one that day said to you that they were murdered, would your response to them be where is your evidence? I dont think so CG. Plus there are countless of thousands of people who were murdered here over the past 35 years yet there is no evidence to put people away.
    I would love to see proof for every action taken here over the past 35 years but unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world.
    Sometimes the dogs on the street know who did what even when there is no proof.

  • Jimmy Sands

    I don’t know why this robbery should be regarded as the touchstone. Even were it to turn out they were not involved it would not alter the position. They were invited to renounce organised crime and refused to do so. That much is unarguable. The only effect of the robbery is as a reminder of what that refusal means.

  • TroubledTimes

    Or maybe its just that the poor IRA are being ganged up on. God Bless Them. They wouldnt harm a fly. Theyre just decent guys out fighting for Ireland. Is that what you think CG?
    Is it all a big conspiracy? Are the Irish Government now acting as British Agents? Just how brainwashed are you CG?

  • Henry94

    I’ve always liked John Waters and consider him a fair-minded man. This article will hurt more than al the usual Sinn Fein haters put together.

    But it does raise some questions and it is worth the while of republicans to address it seriously exactly because Waters is not one of the ‘usual suspects’.

    I know that republicans will not recognise the movement we support in Waters article. We need to ask ourselves why so many other will and what we need to do about that.

    But there are questions for John Waters too. He raised the fear of leaving Northern nationalists isolated and more desperate than before as a reason for not speaking out in the past. Does that count for nothing now when the people who, unlike John Waters, opposed the peace process from the start are screaming for exclusion.

    But at another level his attitude could be seen as one of considering everything fine as long as it stayed “up there”. The prospect of republicans (and that is exactly what we are) taking their rightful place at the table not just in the north but in the south may be disconcerting for someone who saw us as people to be pitied at one time.

    we observed in their attitude to Articles 2 and 3, never nationalists in any sense connected to concepts of unity understood in this Republic

    Articles 2 & 3 were contained in the counstitution of that republic and it wasn’t us that put them there. The concept of unity as understood by John Waters appears to be one that doesn’t disturb the south in the slightest.

    John Waters has written extensively about Fianna Fail and was one of those who defended Charlie Haughey from what his saw as the excessive moralism of his detractors.

    The money Haughey and his cronies ripped off from Ireland dwarfs even the Northern Bank heist. Sean Docherty, the jiving hero of the crossroads, did more to undermine the Gardai than any public brawl but we can let that go.

    I’m sure John Waters will keep an open mind and I hope we give him plenty to think about.

  • alex s

    did more to undermine the Gardai than any public brawl but we can let that go.
    Posted by: Henry94

    Henry can you imagine the wife of a british Labour MP brawling with a London Bobby, thats how far removed Sinn Fein is from normal human decency

  • Henry94

    alex s

    I hate to undermine your faith in the standards of normal human decency as exemplified by British MPs but I remember John “Slugger” Prescott brawling in the street during the last election.

    And wasn’t there something last week about a well know unionist gettic pugilistic on a bridge.

    I know it’s only a constitutional crisis when Sinn Fein are involved but fists can fly anywhere.

  • James

    “british Labour MP brawling with a London Bobby”

    Hell yes, especially Labour if those old commies haven’t mellowed into a bunch of pussys.

    The problem Waters speaks of is not what the ‘wimmenfolk going savage and on the tear as a shamrock version of Mammy Yokum but what Sinn Fein did behind the scenes to smooze the thing out of existence. It is the alleged abuse of power that he alludes to.

    Does anyone know more about this?

  • peteb

    James

    You’re right that it isn’t simply the issue of brawling that John Waters is referring to, but it’s not the issue of smoozing it out of existence either.. convictions and fines followed – only last week IIRC – but during the attempted arrest, and the obstruction, breach of the peace, and for some of those arrested, convictions for drunkeness, there were references made to the Sinn Féin TD and threats that the gardai would lose their jobs if his wife was not released. You know the drill – “Don’t you know who her husband is?” – more attempted abuse of power than actual.. in this case.

    Only a side issue in John Waters’ article really, but for some reason, some seem to be more concerned with the side-issues than the main point.

    Hope that helps.

  • Davros

    I don’t know why this robbery should be regarded as the touchstone. Even were it to turn out they were not involved it would not alter the position. They were invited to renounce organised crime and refused to do so. That much is unarguable. The only effect of the robbery is as a reminder of what that refusal means.

    Excellent point.

  • Davros

    Convince another 8% and Britain should be making plans for a border poll, which if it goes the same way will lead to it withdrawiong permanently from the island.

    That’s a massive if George. I would be confident that even if at an ordinary election the SDLP and SF got to 55% they still wouldn’t carry a referendum.
    Not just because of people like me who vote SDLP, but also because the “Unionist” turn-out at elections is lower. I would be certain that would be different at a referendum.

  • James

    Hope that helps”

    There are tangible advantages to remaining beyond help.

    Thanks just the same.

  • peteb

    dammit, did I forget the smiley again? 😉