Republicans cannot disavow history…

The latest Andersonstown News has an interesting line (subs needed) on the question of criminality. The prime target is the charge from the PDs that all acts of violence of IRA were criminal.

The killing of Jean McConville was an abomination. The laws of the land decreed it a crime. But whether those who carried out that grim deed viewed themselves as criminals is another issue altogether. In fact, it’s a core republican belief — eventually accepted by British and Irish authorities after lengthy prison protests — that they were in fact soldiers at war. Even wars, of course, have codes of conduct and it would be a foolish person indeed who would say those rules were never broken by the IRA — or the other participants.

But it argues that there is no way, retrospectively at least, that the IRA could accept the charge of criminality:

Was every IRA member who picked up a gun in a society where peaceful change had been stymied a criminal? And was everyone who provided a safe house for republicans on the run commiting a crime? The law says they were. The PDs believe that to be the case. The majority of nationalists, however, especially those in the frontline in areas such as Ardoyne and Crossmaglen, beg to differ.

  • peteb

    They should have just reprinted Martin McGuinness’ ‘ground-breaking’ statement, Mick – Are not, never were and never will be criminals… or perhaps that’s being held back for the first ‘editorial’ of Ireland Daily?

  • Davros

    The problem with ATN’s line of reasoning is that if one allows any kind legitimacy for wrong-doings because the perpetrators had a belief in the cause for which they fought, then they legitimise equally those responsible for the Dublin/Monaghan Bombings, all the collusions and 9/11. I cannot accept that.

  • mickhall

    I do not agree very often with the content of the ATN, but I feel what Mick has posted is a fair statement and I agree with it. The fact is we are all seeing this through the eyes of today and not back then. Of course my saying this in no way lessons the dreadful nightmare Mrs McConville and her children experienced.

    And before anyone asks, yes I do regard it as a crime against humanity, however instead of trying to make SF leaders admit there movements criminality, which they are never going to do and not for dishonest reasons, for if they were to do so they would be spitting in the face of those PRM members who have gone before them.

    Perhaps it would be better if we try and learn lessons from this un-necessary death and indeed those other ones which were committed by all sides during this conflict. By the way, from what I have read, Mrs McConville’s eldest daughter and son in law do seem to be steadfast and fine people.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Interesting post Mick H.

  • Jimmy Sands

    This debate seems to me a deliberate red herring. Call it crime, call it war, call it Betty if it floats your boat. The IRA can choose any word they like to describe what they do. All that matters is that they stop.

  • Keith M

    McDowell must be having a quiet chuckle to himself every night before he goes to bed knowing that he’s upsetting SF/IRA anbd their fellow travellers so much. It’s pointless saying more as Eoghan Harris has already done it so well.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    KeithM,

    Mc Dowell knows the same as everyone else that if the figures add up and Bertie needs SF to form a government then that will happen and the PDs’ will be as relevant as last weeks newspaper.

    Completely unethical and inconsistent of course, but food and drink to Fianna Fail.

  • willowfield

    Was every IRA member who picked up a gun in a society where peaceful change had been stymied a criminal?

    (a) There was no such society: peaceful change had not been stymied, unless by the men of violence; (b) yes, every IRA member who picked up a gun was a criminal.

    And was everyone who provided a safe house for republicans on the run commiting a crime?

    Yes.

    The majority of nationalists, however, especially those in the frontline in areas such as Ardoyne and Crossmaglen, beg to differ.

    If that is true, then the majority of nationalists is wrong.

    mickhall

    The fact is we are all seeing this through the eyes of today and not back then.

    Yes, back then, even if not today, a majority of nationalists *did* view the IRA as criminal.

    Jimmy Sands

    Call it crime, call it war, call it Betty if it floats your boat. The IRA can choose any word they like to describe what they do. All that matters is that they stop.

    That’s not all that matters. It matters that they also acknowledge that what they did was wrong and acknowledge that it was criminal. For while they continue with the self-serving fantasy that they were a legitimate “army” and that their murders and horrendous deeds were justified and not criminal, they leave open in their own minds the future option of “legitimately” returning to their heinous campaign of violence.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    I’m all for a forum where ever act carried out by every organisation is trawled through and at the end we can then designate whether it is criminal or not.
    The present system where it seems only some participants to the violence are asked to come clean on their actions is hypocritical and further inflames passions.

    The call by the PDs is self indulgent nonsense and Harney knows it.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Willowfield,

    I fully accept they were wrong. They, however do not and are not likely to do so. The most you can hope for is to force them to pretend otherwise. I don’t see the point.

  • TroubledTimes

    Why are people so comcerned with past actions? Why cant we discuss how to move things forward?
    The IRA and all the other groupings filled the political vacuum that was present at the time.
    A political vacuum that could so easily rear its ugly face again if we concern ourselves too much with the past and too little with the future.

  • willowfield

    Jimmy Sands

    I fully accept they were wrong. They, however do not and are not likely to do so. The most you can hope for is to force them to pretend otherwise. I don’t see the point.

    It may be pointless to hope that the ultra-nationalists will admit that they were wrong, but that was not my point. You said that it doesn’t matter if they think they were right to murder and maim. I say it DOES matter, because, for as long as they harbour such fantasies, they remain a potential threat to society.

    While that does not remove the need for the rest of us to deal with them for so long as they get elected, we must always bear that danger in mind.

    Troubled Times

    Why are people so comcerned with past actions?

    You can’t expect to go round bombing, murdering and torturing people and then expect everyone to forget about it. Get real.

    Why cant we discuss how to move things forward?

    We can do that too. But if the Provos won’t knock the criminality on the head and shut down the death squads, then obviously attention is going to be paid on the Provo legacy of death and destruction.

    The IRA and all the other groupings filled the political vacuum that was present at the time.
    A political vacuum that could so easily rear its ugly face again if we concern ourselves too much with the past and too little with the future.

    You’ve proved the point I was making to Jimmy Sands. We must never forget the danger that these extreme groupings pose. To them, a “political vacuum” may be licence to murder and maim.

  • aquifer

    ATN: Was every IRA member who picked up a gun in a society where peaceful change had been stymied a criminal?

    Which society was this then. The IRA campaign made a non-violent and non sectarian street campaign impossible and ignored democratic politics. Violence was their first cultural and revolutionary resort, don’t pretend it was ever their last.

    Didn’t the IRA help bring down the first power sharing executive with more bombs the first time?

    We can forgive criminals when we chose but with this narcissistic bunch it is dangerous to forget previous form.

  • ricardo

    Serious question. Seeing as what constitutes a crime has become muddied lately . .

    Bearing in mind SFs recent attestation that the murder of Jean McConville was not a crime, does this mean that the murder of Pat Finucane, for example, was not a crime either?

    I think both were crimes incidentally, but would like to hear your views.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Ricardo,

    The problem with your question is that the terminology has become twisted, with the word crime simply used as an expression of disapproval. Both people you mentioned were the victims of squalid and brutal murders. Even the most die hard provo is prepared to accept that the killing of McConville was morally reprehensible, a view which appears to extend even to those who beleive the “trannsmitter” story. The debate centres on the legal, as opposed to the moral quality of the act.

  • nuzhound

    Mick, that editorial was on the Newshound today. Available to all.

  • Davros

    If people like Mitchel are prepared to say that it was ‘wrong’ but not a crime because it was by the IRA who were in a conflict situation, then it would be interesting to hear how he squares actions such as that with the Proclamation of 1916.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    Pat said : “Completely unethical and inconsistent of course, but food and drink to Fianna Fail.”

    You have to remember Pat that they are not the only ones. In the scenario you describe Sinn Fein are going to have to decide whether or not they’re going to go into government with people who called them bank robbers and criminals.

  • Liam

    Davros

    If people like Mitchel are prepared to say that it was ‘wrong’ but not a crime because it was by the IRA who were in a conflict situation, then it would be interesting to hear how he squares actions such as that with the Proclamation of 1916.

    Not sure that I even understand what point you’re making there Davros, but what I would think to be of much more interest would be how Michael McDowell could square the actions of the IRA in 1916-23, with his current attempt to criminalise republicans for their actions.

    This whole attempt to pin a ‘criminal’ label on republicans is a complete waste of time. The media and political opponents of Sinn Féin have used the term ‘terrorists’ for many years. Has any such label stopped the rise of republicanism? In a word, No. They should try and match Sinn Féin in the political arena instead of this stupid name calling, it really serves no purpose.

    For years and years I remember leading politicians saying that Sinn Féin should come into the political system. Political leaders constantly challenged Sinn Féin to test their mandate, to put themselves before the people for election and all of them claimed that they would greatly welcome that development.

    Their (naieve) scenario was that the IRA would call a ceasefire, Sinn Féin would stand for election and receive an insignificant mandate and then the governments could shore up the middle ground with some minor reform – but of course it didn’t quite work out like that did it? And now they have such great difficulty dealing with Sinn Féin’s popularity that they will use incidents from 33 years ago purely as a political football instead of getting on and doing politics.

    I have supported the IRA for over 20 years and I have no difficulty saying that. Others will condemn me without even pausing for a moment to ask me why? Or to ever really try put themselves in my place or in the place of hundreds of thousands of others like me.

    And over that 20 years, some of the consequences of some actions of the IRA have cut me to the core. I don’t have a problem saying that. I recognise why many Unionists have great difficulty with the existence of the IRA. But you have got to accept that many of us also have huge difficulty with the actions of your security forces, your police, your army, your SAS (yours not ‘ours’), with your courts, with your government, with the paramilitaries from your community. You have got to accept that all of you, even the most moderate and reasonable of you, spend the vast bulk of your time focussing on the actions of an IRA that is largely dormant and was prepared in December to take a huge leap in an attempt to bring a complete end to this conflict. You engage in all this name calling while so easily ignoring and minimising all of the actions, past and present of the gunmen from your own community, and of the security forces of your government.

    This morning I watched on live TV (TG4) as the relatives of those killed in the Dublin bombings of 1972, 1973 gave testimony to the Leinster House Oireachtas Committee. It was harrowing stuff, very emotional. Those people knew that the British government had colluded with Loyalists in killing their family members, and nobody cared for years, their pain even after all this time was palpable.

    But I got to thinking as I watched these victims of British/Loyalist violence – how would I cope with a Truth & Reconciliation Commission that heard testimony from victims of the past actions of the IRA? To be honest, it would be very difficult for me.

    Republicans are not made of stone, do not be so foolish as to think so. But do not be so foolish either to think that it is in any way productive to try to pin a silly label of ‘criminal’ on the entire republican struggle – it won’t work and is a fruitless and very blinkered exercise.

    The conflict here was a political conflict, we all know that already so lets just admit it. Bobby Sands, Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew, 3 IRA volunteers in prison were elected to national parliaments – how much more political can a person be than to be elected to a national parliament, for crying out loud?

    Republicans truly do not ever wish to see the return of conflict. We all suffered. But lets just take the blinkers off and recognise that the conflict resulted from the utter failure of politics. And lets get on with this process and make it work and not be so stupid as to allow politics to fail utterly again!

  • Davros

    Not sure that I even understand what point you’re making there Davros

    OK, As I understand it their position is that it couldn’t be a crime as they don’t recognise the legitimacy of the laws that would render it a crime.
    That as they were engaged in conflict, wrongs happen and we should move on. The legitimacy is that conferred on them by The proclamation of 1916 and the Dáil.

    If they only recognise the original authority of the Proclamation, then how else, when we read

    We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God. Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, in humanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

    can we regard this act of inhumanity as anything else except a crime against the spirit of the Proclamation ? An act that has dishonoured everything for which those men in 1916 were struggling ? That one act has destroyed the provo’s credibility.

  • cg

    Davros

    SAS men like Robert Nairac were very akin to using lines like that out of the proclamation to turn people into touts, thankfully people aren’t that naive.

    The line in question “We pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonor it by cowardice, in humanity” bears no resonance to Mitchel’s comments.

    Mitchel talked about the activities in question not being a crime which this line is no authority on. Mitchel accepted that the killing of this woman was wrong and should never have taken place.

    You seem confused about republican legitimacy
    According to purist republican theology (Only word I can think of) it was the First and Second Dail which conferred the powers of the state to the army, not the proclamation.

  • Liam

    Davros

    Lets not play word games for the sake of it? Are you really so stuck on this word ‘crime’? I have already told you that republicans will not ever accept criminalisation of the republican struggle now, just as Bobby Sands and the nine other hunger strikers would not.

    I can accept that terrible deeds occurred. I can even accept that some of those deeds dishonoured the struggle. But I will absolutely never accept what you want to force down my neck, that the republican struggle was somehow ‘wrong’ or a ‘crime’. In fact I believe in my heart that it was ‘right’.

    Perhaps you have difficulty understanding this? But whether you like it or not, you have got to accept that is the reality for me and for many many more like me. Think about that instead of getting agitated about it.

    What is more important to you, to find a way forward and progress the peace, or to engage in silly name calling and remain stuck in the past?

  • Davros

    cg- as I understand it the first and second Dáil drew THEIR legitimacy from The POI and events of 1916 ?

  • cg

    The First and Second Dail’s were elected by the people of Ireland and they gave legitimacy to the foresaid Dail’s.

    This doesn’t change the fact Davros that your logic is flawed in relation to the proclamation

    Mitchel made a good point on that show that the IRA men of the War of Independence robbed banks, killed women and killed cops and we don’t hear Michael Mc Dowell calling his relatives criminals.

    My personal feeling is that his relatives would spin in their graves at their descendant’s willingness to be an apologist for the British state in Ireland.

  • Davros

    Liam, There are a couple of points.

    Firstly, and less important, if the RM insists on demanding that the state admits it committed Crimes, then is it not fair that the RM should be asked to do the same ?

    Secondly and more importantly – and I’m speaking for myself, others may disagree – in respect of

    But I will absolutely never accept what you want to force down my neck, that the republican struggle was somehow ‘wrong’ or a ‘crime’.

    I’m NOT trying to force anything down your neck in respect of the “struggle”. I’m trying to get you to admit what I’m prepared to admit – that crimes were done by both sides.Because unless one accepts that – and acknowledges that crimes done by individuals or groups in pursuit of something do not destroy the legitimacy of their cause , merely reflect human frailty, then we really ARE in trouble. Do crimes committed by supporters of the union mean that support for the union is untenable ? Of course not. The same goes for your Movement, the same goes for the British Government. Do the crimes of Al Quaeda damage the Beauty of Islam as a faith ? No. Ditto the Crusades and all the other horrors.

    The terrible danger of your position is that one ends up with a mindset that as long as the intention is good, then anything can be justified, excused and allowed for the greater good. Look where that took the USA.

    I’m asking the RM to accept responsibility for it’s actions and I cannot see how I can be expected to accept the RM in government when I can entertain the idea that they may allow “wrongs” to happen for what they consider right or proper reasons.

  • Davros

    One thing cg – wasn’t the very first act of the first Dáil the ratification of the 1916 proclamation ?

    The first Dáil met in the Round Room of the Mansion House on the 21st January 1919. The Members present ratified the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and passed a Declaration of Independence.

  • cg

    “One thing cg – wasn’t the very first act of the first Dáil the ratification of the 1916 proclamation ?”

    Yes it was but that still doesn’t support your argument with regards the IRA and the issue of “crime”.

  • Davros

    Once again we’ll have to agree to differ!

  • cg

    “I’m asking the RM to accept responsibility for it’s actions”

    It did Davros

    The IRA apologised to all the non-combatants that were killed during the struggle

    The main point is that the British government which claims to be a neutral party, instead of the active protagonist that it was, refuses to even acknowledge let alone apologise for its state agencies involvement in collusion.

  • Davros

    Because the brits do something wrong doesn’t mean republicans have to follow suit!

  • cg

    “Because the brits do something wrong doesn’t mean republicans have to follow suit!”

    What do you mean by this?

  • Davros

    Just because the Brits refuse to admit they committed criminal acts … I suspect this is heading towards a choice – general amnesty for all or not ?

  • cg

    Davros

    Republicans are only asking for the truth to be reveled and I would support all sides reveling the truth as I believe its the only way this country can accept its past and move on to its future.

  • Davros

    I think there are some truths that would be too damaging to reveal.

  • cg

    Again Davros we’ll agree to differ 😉

    now to watch Law and Order SVU

    oíche mhaith

  • Davros

    Law and Order SUV ? Is that an Open University Course ? 🙂

    oíche mhaith

  • Robert Keogh

    Davros,

    Firstly, and less important, if the RM insists on demanding that the state admits it committed Crimes, then is it not fair that the RM should be asked to do the same ?

    Nationalists and Republicans are asking the British Government to reveal the part it played in colluding with all paramilitaries, not to say it committed crimes.

    I’m asking the RM to accept responsibility for it’s actions and I cannot see how I can be expected to accept the RM in government when I can entertain the idea that they may allow “wrongs” to happen for what they consider right or proper reasons.

    The phone call to the media claiming/admitting responsibility for the bombing/shooting isn’t sufficient acceptance of responsibility?

    There are 2,000 pages from the latest Stephens report that remain unpublished almost two years on. There are two previous Stephens reports that remain unpublished. A Sampson report before that, unpublished. Stalker report before that, unpublished. Does your concern only apply to the Republican Movement or does HMG have to pass the same test?

  • cg

    LOL, I of course meant Law and Order svu

  • Davros

    The phone call to the media claiming/admitting responsibility for the bombing/shooting isn’t sufficient acceptance of responsibility?

    not in the context in which I was writing, no.
    And especially as it has taken decades to admit to some of the “wrongs”.

    I think my point is clear Robert.The US had to be dragged kicking and squealing to admit the Oliver North business. It applies to everybody, not just the RM. Individuals or groups cannot be allowed to shelter behind the excuse that a wrong was done with good motives, or for a good cause.

  • Liam

    Davros
    I’m asking the RM to accept responsibility for it’s actions.

    And I believe that the republican movement has already done this and has acknowledged that it is prepared to engage with any truth and Justice Commission. However, as has been pointed out, the role of others in the conflict is far more shrouded in secrecy. The British government were a major protagonist to the conflict, not a neutral bystander. If you wish to apply a set of standards, then you must apply this to all protagonists to the conflict. A narrow focus on the activities of the IRA does nothing to progress the wider process. In fact it hinders it.

  • Davros

    Liam …did you miss this ?
    It applies to everybody

    I’ll repeat. I’m not asking people such as yourself to accept that everything to do with what you might call the Armed struggle was criminal. That would be pointless. But as a bare minimum if you want any form of trust you should be prepared to admit that some acts were criminal. Otherwise you are no different than the USA in it’s adventures.

  • willowfield

    Liam

    I have supported the IRA for over 20 years and I have no difficulty saying that.

    Shame on you.

    Others will condemn me without even pausing for a moment to ask me why? Or to ever really try put themselves in my place or in the place of hundreds of thousands of others like me.

    Whatever “place” you were in, support for the nationalist death squads can never be justified.

    But you have got to accept that many of us also have huge difficulty with the actions of your security forces, your police, your army, your SAS (yours not ‘ours’), with your courts, with your government, with the paramilitaries from your community.

    Having “difficulty” with the security forces, courts, government and loyalist death squads (and the difficulty you had was most probably a direct consequence of the terrorist onslaught) is NO excuse for supporting the nationalist death squads.

    You have got to accept that all of you, even the most moderate and reasonable of you, spend the vast bulk of your time focussing on the actions of an IRA that is largely dormant and was prepared in December to take a huge leap in an attempt to bring a complete end to this conflict. You engage in all this name calling while so easily ignoring and minimising all of the actions, past and present of the gunmen from your own community, and of the security forces of your government.

    What a lot of garbage. The reason – and I’m assuming you understand this – that so much attention is focused on the Provos is because the Provos are poised to enter into government. Loyalists are not. Loyalists are not part of the political process: the Provos are.

    But do not be so foolish either to think that it is in any way productive to try to pin a silly label of ‘criminal’ on the entire republican struggle – it won’t work and is a fruitless and very blinkered exercise.

    If “republicans” committed crimes then, by definition, they were criminals. They knew that before they went out to bomb and murder. Stop trying to rewrite history. It was never legal in this country to murder someone, or to plant a bomb.

    The conflict here was a political conflict, we all know that already so lets just admit it.

    No-one denies it was political. That doesn’t mean that murders and bombings stop being crimes. Wise up.

    Bobby Sands, Kieran Doherty and Paddy Agnew, 3 IRA volunteers in prison were elected to national parliaments – how much more political can a person be than to be elected to a national parliament, for crying out loud?

    Being elected to a national parliament does not make one immune from committing crimes – they had all been convicted of crimes in the courts, for goodness’ sake!

    Republicans truly do not ever wish to see the return of conflict.

    Then close down the PIRA. We’re getting bored waiting.

    We all suffered.

    And more people suffered at the hands of the nationalist death squads than from anyone else.

    But lets just take the blinkers off and recognise that the conflict resulted from the utter failure of politics. And lets get on with this process and make it work and not be so stupid as to allow politics to fail utterly again!

    Once more we have the veiled threat: if “politics fail” (on ultra-nationalists’ own terms), then they believe that gives them licence to start up their campaign of murder and misery again. There was violence because people engaged in violence: politics had not “failed utterly”. As aquifer said above, violence was the first resort for the ultra-nationalists, not the last. Provos and their sympathisers are engaged in a concerted effort to rewrite history in an attempt retrospectively to justify their heinous crimes.

    But I will absolutely never accept what you want to force down my neck, that the republican struggle was somehow ‘wrong’ or a ‘crime’. In fact I believe in my heart that it was ‘right’.

    Shame on you. How can you possibly say that murdering people, planting bombs, torturing people, abducting people, terrorising people was “right”. This kind of thinking is unacceptable and must be challenged at every turn. It presents a danger to us all.

  • Liam

    Davros

    I will respond to your question by quoting from Willofields post. Willowfield reacts very predictably and in true knee-jerk fashion to my original post.

    But let me respond to this remark:

    “Stop trying to rewrite history. It was never legal in this country to murder someone, or to plant a bomb.”

    Let me respond by stating a fact.

    Willowfield is absolutely right.

    In the very long history of this island, it has never been ‘legal’ to engage in rebellion against the British. But does that mean that it has been ‘criminal’?

    But you need to ask, who has written the law? And you need to remember that the republican struggle in 1798 was not considered legal, nor was the rising in 1803, 1867, 1916-23. At no stage ever was any rebellion considered ‘legal’.

    In fact if you are going to apply that term, you could easily state that the 26 county government was founded on ‘illegal’ activity and so have the governments of countless other states.

    The outworking of that particular logic then becomes a nonsense. It is ridiculous to pursue that.

    I will say one more time only, that yes, I believe some actions of the IRA were wrong. I also firmly believe that a great many actions (or all of the actions) of the British/Loyalists were wrong.

    This is what conflict resolution is all about – not focussing on one side only, but honestly examining the real causes and context. It is not easy to do, but it is necessary.

    Unless the likes of Willowfield manage to pause to remove the blinkers, they will always be unable to do this.

    To state that the failure of politics resulted in conflict and to state that we all should acknowledge that, learn from it and not repeat it, is not a threat. It is an obvious reality that we would all be stupid to ignore.

  • willowfield

    Liam

    Willowfield is absolutely right. In the very long history of this island, it has never been ‘legal’ to engage in rebellion against the British. But does that mean that it has been ‘criminal’?

    Bombing and murdering people in late 20th century Northern Ireland was criminal, Liam.

    But you need to ask, who has written the law?

    Much criminal law is common law, inherited and refined over the years. Murder and bombing are universal crimes, not peculiar to Northern Ireland or to the UK.

    And you need to remember that the republican struggle in 1798 was not considered legal, nor was the rising in 1803, 1867, 1916-23. At no stage ever was any rebellion considered ‘legal’.

    Whether or not past events that you consider justifiable were legal or not, has no bearing on the legality of the Provisional IRA murder campaign. The fact is that murdering people, torturing people, abducting people, planting bombs, etc., was against the law in Northern Ireland. You know this, so why are you pretending otherwise?

    In fact if you are going to apply that term, you could easily state that the 26 county government was founded on ‘illegal’ activity and so have the governments of countless other states.

    The fact that the Southern state may have been “founded on illegal activity” does not render the Provisional IRA campaign legal. There is no logic in trying to claim that murdering someone in 1975 was legal because the Southern Irish state was “founded on illegal activity”. It is complete nonsense.

    I will say one more time only, that yes, I believe some actions of the IRA were wrong.

    Some?? All IRA actions were wrong. It is appalling that you justify their heinous deeds.

    I also firmly believe that a great many actions (or all of the actions) of the British/Loyalists were wrong.

    No-one is claiming otherwise. This does not justify the evil deeds of the Provisional IRA.

    Unless the likes of Willowfield manage to pause to remove the blinkers, they will always be unable to do this.

    I do not have any blinkers, so I cannot remove them.

    To state that the failure of politics resulted in conflict and to state that we all should acknowledge that, learn from it and not repeat it, is not a threat. It is an obvious reality that we would all be stupid to ignore.

    It is a veiled threat. You are saying that if politics “fail” (on your terms), then the consequence will be a return to the nationalist murder campaign.

  • Davros

    Liam – isn’t your response a wonderful illustration of our problem ? WF and I are approaching our discussion from very different angles and yet you cannot respond to points I am making because I have become WF in your mind. I’m NOT being condemnatory of the entire RM from year dot, I’m bending over backwards to get away from that mindset.
    I’m saying that ALL participants in this mess have committed some crimes, not that all the actions of any of the participants have all been crimes. Governments, politicians, paramilitaries. You are still stuck with an inability to concede that some crimes were committed on your side of the fence.
    That worries me because the notion that good motives and belief in “the cause” allows one to byepass the system of justice is a slippery slope.

  • willowfield

    Davros

    I’m not sure that our angles are very different. We both refute Liam’s claims that bombings and murders were not crimes, do we not? We both accept that all “sides” committed crimes, do we not?

  • Davros

    WF- While you and I might agree on what does and doesn’t constitute a crime, that’s not what I am discussing with Liam. I’m asking him for a level playing field so that we can move on, I’m not going to use individual events as a stick to beat the beliefs he holds dear and I’m not going to focus on attacking the RM. In the context of this discussion I’m trying to establish a framework in which we both feel comfortable. Everybody committed crimes in this conflict. OK, let’s move on. The bare minimum I need to accept that we can move on and establish a workable solution is reassurance that the RM are prepared to accept that crimes in the future cannot be excused by either the persons involved having a strong belief in their cause or good intentions. I’m not asking him to even be specific about an actual event. I’m asking him to acknowledge that in the course of the “armed struggle” some crimes were committed by members of the RM. I acknowledge that crimes were committed by Unionists, Loyalists and members/agents of the British and ROI Governments. If he can join me in acknowledging that all the participents committed some crimes then that leads us onto a situation that we can agree that, regardless of belief or good intentions, wrongs/crimes will not be excused in the future. I’m not interested here in punishments for past wrongs/crimes.

  • willowfield

    Davros

    If someone makes the ludicrous claim that murder is not a crime, then he cannot reasonably expect not to be challenged about it. Indeed, it is the duty of reasonable people to challenge such claims. Similarly, if he “holds dear” the belief that it was right to murder human beings, plant bombs, abduct and torture people in Northern Ireland then, similarly, it is the duty of reasonable people to challenge those beliefs. The Nazis may have “held dear” the belief that Jews and Slavs were subhuman, but it would have been wrong not to challenge them.

    In the context of this discussion I’m trying to establish a framework in which we both feel comfortable.

    That may not be possible, Davros. I could never be comfortable in a framework that accepts that it was right to engage in a heinous terrorist campaign. Could you? More than that, we should not be seeking such a framework, which would be morally repugnant and dangerous in the extreme.

    Everybody committed crimes in this conflict. OK, let’s move on. … I’m not asking him to even be specific about an actual event. I’m asking him to acknowledge that in the course of the “armed struggle” some crimes were committed by members of the RM. I acknowledge that crimes were committed by Unionists, Loyalists and members/agents of the British and ROI Governments. If he can join me in acknowledging that all the participents committed some crimes then that leads us onto a situation that we can agree that, regardless of belief or good intentions, wrongs/crimes will not be excused in the future. I’m not interested here in punishments for past wrongs/crimes.

    But what do you mean by “some crimes”? I would be concerned that this implies that you are prepared to accept that some actions were not crimes. Are you asking Liam to acknowledge that, say, the abduction and murder of Jean McConville was a crime, while accepting his “belief” that, say, the murder of a policeman was not a crime? Murder was and is a crime – no matter who the victim or who the perpetrator. To claim that it was not a crime is preposterous.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Liam,

    I think your open support for the Provos was refreshingly frank. What people actually think is much more important than saying what other people wish to hear.

    From your post I got the impression you regard the Provos as freedom fighters with legitimate aims much like any army. Whilst I agree that calling the Provos criminals could be seen as name calling, I think you need to address why they are described as terrorists. It isn’t just a Loyalist/Nationalist thing. Remember, Loyalists do not describe the Irish Army as terrorists. They do not refer to Wolfe Tone as a terrorist. To look outside Ireland, they do not refer to the German Army during WW2 as terrorists or indeed the Continental Army during the American war of Independence as terrorists.

    Why are the Provos treated differently?

    To me the difference is that terrorists expect their enemies to treat them as civilians up until a time of the terrorists’ choosing when they become a “soldier”. I think this is a dishonourable way to fight a “war”. I also agree with you pointing out the inconsistency in how “McDowell could square the actions of the IRA in 1916-23, with his current attempt to criminalise republicans for their actions.” I feel that in general Nationalism has to address this period and recognise that these were also terrorist actions.

    If this does not happen, imagine the scenario should there be a UI against the wishes of a million or so Unionists. What do you think Unionists are going to do? There are many people within the Unionist community who feel that it would be pay back time. If mainstream Unionism took to a terrorist campaign how could Nationalism condemn them? Bearing in mind that the British Army are recognised as one of the best counter terrorist forces in the world and the difficulty they found trying to quell the situation here how do you think the Irish Army would fare? At this point it would be too late to retrospectively attach the label terrorist to the Provos or indeed the IRA during 1916-23.

  • barnshee

    Sigh
    The same endless claptrap about ” British government involvement”

    The british Government is the cabinet acting through parliament- some 400-700 MPs in various groupings over the years

    When and where did the “Government” meet and agree to the the murder of republicans?

    Where is the PROOF that republican whingers croak on about so frequently?

    So some policemen, army or whatever took it personally and arranged/helped/took part in murder? ? again where is the PROOF?
    (Personally I`m surprised that it did not happen on a daily basis- Incidentally remind me of the “score” again how many killed by Police etc V republicans)

  • Davros

    WF- you are in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I don’t see Liam as being any different from a lot of people on our side of “that damned fence”.It is after all down to chance as to the side on which we were born. Realistically he won’t convince our side that all the police and army were bad and we won’t convince him and his side of TDF that all the armed Republicans were bad. Same applies to core beliefs and values about Britishness or Irishness.
    We have agreed to sort it out democratically on a local(6 county) basis. Overwhelmingly Both sides of TDF will try and persuade. That’s progress.
    My position after this is that in order to move further in my discussion wih Liam I need to hear an admission that some crimes were committed. “Wrongs” is not enough. In Nua Uladh I need to know that a blind eye will not be turned to any further “wrongs” committed by ANYBODY , regardless if the representatives of the community from which the miscreant/s hail think that his/their heart was in the right place or that their intentions were good or that they believed it was for the cause. That’s an assurance I’m prepared to give.
    This is the peace process at a micro-level between Liam and me. It’s a small step, that’s all and no damage to core beliefs/values or surrender is required. We can still make peace between us even though he will continue to believe that the IRA were fundamentally sound and I’ll still believe that the RUC and Army were fundamentally sound.

  • willowfield

    Davros

    I don’t see Liam as being any different from a lot of people on our side of “that damned fence”.

    If anyone on “our side of the fence” claimed that murders and bombings were not crimes, I would be no less quick to challenge him.

    It is after all down to chance as to the side on which we were born.

    It’s not. Our views on what constitute crimes are not determined by the side of the fence on which we were born. The vast majority of people on both sides acknowledge that bombings and murders in Northern Ireland were crimes.

    My position after this is that in order to move further in my discussion wih Liam I need to hear an admission that some crimes were committed.

    I queried “some crimes” previously. Can you clarify by what you mean by this phrase. Are you prepared to accept a view that says that only some murders were crimes?

  • Davros

    Are you prepared to accept a view that says that only some murders were crimes?

    That’s a different issue entirely WF. Liam and I will agree to differ on a lot of issues in order that we can move forward.

  • Liam

    Davros

    “Overwhelmingly Both sides of TDF will try and persuade. That’s progress.

    I agree. That is the expected and natural order of politics.

    My position after this is that in order to move further in my discussion wih Liam I need to hear an admission that some crimes were committed.

    Republicans also would like to hear a lot of things admitted. Will we get to hear all these things? I don’t know if we will hear them in the exact language that we would prefer? Do we need to get stook on a hook every time a lexicon is produced?

    But you see to me this demand does not quite make sense. Try to follow my logic here. If any armed group is engaged in a war with a State, then do you expect that group to have due respect for the laws of that state and to differentiate between what is legal or illegal or criminal as decreed by the State that they are at war with?

    You must remember that all of this runs very deep for republicans. Margaret Thatcher pursued a deliberate policy of ‘criminalisation’ where she removed political status from republican prisoners in a determined and deliberate attempt to portray to the wider world that the republican struggle was a criminal conspiracy.

    Republican prisoners felt so strongly about this that they undertook the hunger strike to demonstrate that they were politically motivated and not motivated by selfish reasons or for selfish ends.

    Ten men died. Try to realise the enormity of this for the republican community, if you can.

    But in the present context it is important to note that Mitchel McLaughlin had no difficulty in saying (on Q&A with McDowell) that if it turned out that the IRA robbed the Northern Bank (they didn’t!) that he would have no difficulty in recognising that as a ‘crime’.

    Why? Because it would have been an act carried out in the middle of the peace process, in a totally different political context.

    I appreciate your measured responses in this debate Davros. One thing that strikes me here is that republicans are constantly being called on to use certain language, demanded to use this phrase or that phrase, demands that this action or that action must be taken – but consider this -when have republicans made such demands from the Loyalist community? When has this process ever become unstuck by republicans making similar demands? Can you give me any examples?

  • TroubledTimes

    Hi Liam,
    I appreciate your comments. I think the reason why Unionism and others are having a problem with Sinn Fein is because they are major players in the devolved Government whereas Loyalism is not.
    Remember that Sinn Fein whilst connected to a paramilitary organisation “and” being major players in Government will always be a problem for democracy.

  • mickhall

    Congal Claen

    Every resistance organisation during WW2, who fought the nazi forces of occupation of Europe were called terrorists by the German occupying powers, as to were those Germans who tried to kill Hitler in July 1944.
    As to are those in Iraq who oppose the occupation of the USA and its allies. Calling the PIRA terrorist is nothing unique, the forces of occupation set the agenda on this until such time as they are over thrown. For example no one calls the Resistance against the Nazis, Terrorists these days.

  • mickhall

    Im really surprised people are demanded that members of the PRM accept that their members were criminals as it is nothing short of a diversion. If politicians really wish to move this situation forward then they have an opportunity to get the PIRA to at least stand down in the ROI. If this were to happen, would it not open doors for the future in the north. Once PRM recognised the southern State by entering the Dail, the position of the PIRA in the south became untenable. i e the PRM wishes to enter government in the ROI and by so doing pass laws, whilst a section of their movement actively breaks that States laws. I doubt if all but the most fanatic republican would not see the contradiction in this; and I would include many members of the PRM in the south.

    Instead of their demanding of Mr Adams that he corrects this abnormality forth with, we have the infantile situation of some of the ROIs leading politicians, demanding of Mr Adams and co they deny the whole history of their struggle, which as I said is infantile. Such behaviour, can only be regarded as the most blatant electioneering and once again highlights the fact that many of the south’s leading politicians do not give a fig about the nationalist population in the north and their only interests are self preservation and the defeat of republicanism. After the forthcoming elections are out of the way, these same people will simply go back to business as normal as far as SF is concerned, without having helped to move the situation, north and south a single step forward.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Mick, it’s not a diversion. The context is a demand that the provisionals undertake to obey the law. As long as the answer is that as far as they are concerned they do, no progress is possible.

  • TroubledTimes

    I dont think that the frustration with Republicans is anything to do with criminality.
    I think it has more to do with of their inability to inject trust into the peace process and hence move the situation forward.
    The bank robbery is merely a reminder to us that Sinn Fein 7 years on from the signing of the Agreement have still failed to inject trust into the process.
    No matter who the fault lies with, this is the reality of the situation.
    Not only is trust with Sinn Fein an issue for the British elements but also the Irish elements.

  • Davros

    Liam – appreciate the reply. I do see your difficulties. That’s why I have been vague in my request rather than asking you to be definitive about any specific event.It’s why I was non-specific in my admission that crimes were committed by those on my side of TDF.

    Republicans also would like to hear a lot of things admitted. Will we get to hear all these things?

    you have done, from me. Crimes were committed.
    If you want specific admissions about specific cases then we enter a cul-de-sac. A blanket ‘mea culpa’ from each of us means we can move on. I’m not asking you to jump first. I’m asking you to join me.

    Words are important.They are politicians, lawyers and fraudsters’ tools of trade! By using the word “crime” I’m not asking for you to accept the legitimacy of the state before the GFA. Merely labelling certain events “Wrong” doesn’t work for me. If “Crime” is unpalatable for you, can you express yourself in some other form of words that will reassure me that in future misdeeds will not be excused/turned a blind eye to because those responsible were acting from depth of conviction or with good intent ? We can agree to disagree on what we are building – a transitional stage towards a United Ireland or, as I favour, something different. In our micro-negotiation, I’m happy to say that in future there should be zero-tolerance of misbehaviour, no leeway, no looking the other way, no flexibility over what is unacceptable to you and yours because I might agree with the political ambitions or recognise the sincerity of someone who does something wrong or tries to pull a fast one.

    Honesty and trust. I’m not asking you to criminalise your beliefs or those you respect.
    Rather than that being the case, if you can say
    “At times we were in the wrong” it will increase my respect for you. I know that at times some or even many of those from community were in the wrong politically and at times some committed crimes or looked the other way when crimes were committed. We cannot build a model that will work unless we both agree that that sort of behaviour has to stop.

  • Liam

    Davros

    Yes, words and language are hugely important.

    I do not hesitate and can very easily say that “at times we were in the wrong”, now normally I would qualify and explain that and even though I feel that it needs to be qualified, I will just leave it at that.

    From my side of TDF, I have observed the political leadership of my own community offer much conciliatory language and reach out to the other side, time and again, but in all honesty, I have just not heard reciprocation. I have heard demands for this and demands for that, but have not heard reciprocal words of reconciliation from the political leadership of Unionism. Although perhaps I should say this: I heard more words of sense and real understanding spoken by Billy Hutchinson in one recent interview, than I have heard from Ian Paisley in my lifetime.

    Have you noticed how all the noise about decommissioning has quietened down lately? Why? Because it is not the real issue and the reality is that it really never was. The real issue has always been could Unionism accept fundamental political change? Could the two governments accept and accomodate change and deal with the political challenge of republicanism? There is a different tune being played right now and the governments seriously expect republicans to dance to this tune? We’re not for dancing to it at all.

    But do you know what I really fear. I really fear that we are all going to lose this chance. This is not any sort of threat as Willowfield might leap in to allege. It is a real fear that all of this could slip away and that history could repeat itself. I sincerely hope that I am wrong and I am not for giving up, but I am genuinely nervous that too many of the elements for a meltdown of this process are in place.

    I honestly do feel that both governments have become very complacent to the point that they are now completely arrogant and careless in their handling of this process. There is little appreciation for the initiatives that republicans have taken. There is no understanding of the anger in republican communities over all the broken promises and the downright lies that are being told right now. The political leadership of Sinn Féin is expected to manage all of this mixture in their own communities while being treated shabbily by the governments?

    It has been the responsibility of the governments to demonstrate that politics works. Are they living up up to this responsibility? I do not believe that they are.

    Bertie Ahern, in particular is motivated purely by his own electoral interests at this time. The future of FF is by far more important to him than the health of the peace process.

    How far have we come since the 8th of December?

  • Davros

    I do not hesitate and can very easily say that “at times we were in the wrong”, now normally I would qualify and explain that and even though I feel that it needs to be qualified, I will just leave it at that.

    That’s good enough for me Liam. We are at peace. There will be snarlings and raw nerves will be hit, but those are trivial compared to establishing that fundamental level of honesty and
    self-examination.

    We have a major problem – Our communities tend to think and speak differently. Therefore what to me might appear like a hand extended to you might appear anything but. Ditto in respect of when your community has thought what it was offering was a hand can appear very different to mine. This is about building trust. I don’t think the GFA itself and party Politics CAN build trust in the way that one to one establishment of trust, from the bottom up, can build it. There are too many points to be scored,too many backs to be guarded, it’s zero sum, it fits us into boxes and it is too complex.
    Look at the word games that have to be played by the leaders to keep people on board. At a personal level people like us can communicate properly. That’s the value of Slugger.

  • willowfield

    Could someone explain what “TDF” means, please?

    Liam

    But you see to me this demand does not quite make sense. Try to follow my logic here. If any armed group is engaged in a war with a State, then do you expect that group to have due respect for the laws of that state and to differentiate between what is legal or illegal or criminal as decreed by the State that they are at war with?

    Liam, there was no “war”. That is just a self-serving fantasy which aims to sanitise and justify the Provo murder campaign. Unsurprisingly, the same argument is used by the loyalist death squads in attempt to sanitise and justify their murder campaigns.

    The law applies to everyone. One does not become immune to the law simply by claiming one is at “war” with the state. What makes the Provos so special that they think they are immune from the law?

    You must remember that all of this runs very deep for republicans. Margaret Thatcher pursued a deliberate policy of ‘criminalisation’ where she removed political status from republican prisoners in a determined and deliberate attempt to portray to the wider world that the republican struggle was a criminal conspiracy. Republican prisoners felt so strongly about this that they undertook the hunger strike to demonstrate that they were politically motivated and not motivated by selfish reasons or for selfish ends. Ten men died. Try to realise the enormity of this for the republican community, if you can.

    Liam, it doesn’t matter what your motivations are. If you murder someone – whether for political reasons or as a crime of passion – you commit a crime. No-one denies that Provo prisoners were politically-motivated, but that does not make them immune from the law. Similarly, fanaticism – manifested by a hunger strike – is not an immunity from the law. Special category status for prisoners was simply an expedient way of managing the prisons: it was nothing more than that. It should never have been implemented as it only served to encourage the terrorist belief that they were somehow exempt from the law.

    But do you know what I really fear. I really fear that we are all going to lose this chance. This is not any sort of threat as Willowfield might leap in to allege. It is a real fear that all of this could slip away and that history could repeat itself. I sincerely hope that I am wrong and I am not for giving up, but I am genuinely nervous that too many of the elements for a meltdown of this process are in place.

    By “history repeating itself”, I assume you mean a return to the Troubles. And who is going to return us to the Troubles, Liam? I won’t be shooting people or planting bombs, I can assure you of that. Nor will the vast majority of people in NI who have consistently opposed terrorism. I assume, therefore, that you refer to the Provisional IRA, whom you support. That is why your comments are a veiled threat, because they emanate from someone who has supported terrorism in the past and who passes comment about how “history may repeat itself”.

    I honestly do feel that both governments have become very complacent to the point that they are now completely arrogant and careless in their handling of this process. There is little appreciation for the initiatives that republicans have taken. There is no understanding of the anger in republican communities over all the broken promises and the downright lies that are being told right now. The political leadership of Sinn Féin is expected to manage all of this mixture in their own communities while being treated shabbily by the governments?

    Would you ever listen to yourself? We are fed up of all this moaning by ultra-nationalists. “Broken promises and downright lies”? Are you for real? The vast majority of ordinary people in NI are more than fed up with the broken promises and downright lies of the Provisionals. We are STILL waiting – five years on – for decommissioning to be completed. We are STILL waiting – ten years on – for an assurance that the ceasefire is permanent (already shown not to be in 1997). We are STILL waiting for the death squads to be closed down. We are still waiting for a permanent end to gun-running, beatings, murders, intelligence-gathering, etc. In short: we are STILL waiting for a convincing commitment to peace on the part of the Provos.

    Provos should quit their self-pitying self-obsession. They owe the people of NI big time. We’ve been patient: very patient. Quit moaning and crying and commit to an exclusively peaceful, lawful and democratic future. NOW.

    mickhall

    Every resistance organisation during WW2, who fought the nazi forces of occupation of Europe were called terrorists by the German occupying powers, as to were those Germans who tried to kill Hitler in July 1944. As to are those in Iraq who oppose the occupation of the USA and its allies. Calling the PIRA terrorist is nothing unique, the forces of occupation set the agenda on this until such time as they are over thrown. For example no one calls the Resistance against the Nazis, Terrorists these days.

    You’re getting too hung up on language. The important question is not whether a group is “terrorist” – it may or may not be. The question is whether they are justified in their use of violence. In the case of resistance movements against Nazi occupation, clearly they were justified. In the case of the PIRA, clearly they were not. (Remember that NI is not “occupied” and there are no “forces of occupation”.)

    Once PRM recognised the southern State by entering the Dail, the position of the PIRA in the south became untenable. i e the PRM wishes to enter government in the ROI and by so doing pass laws, whilst a section of their movement actively breaks that States laws. I doubt if all but the most fanatic republican would not see the contradiction in this; and I would include many members of the PRM in the south.

    Yet in NI, the PRM also wishes to enter government and pass laws whilst a section of their movement actively breaks that state’s laws.

  • Davros

    TDF = that damned fence.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Mick,

    “Every resistance organisation during WW2, who fought the nazi forces of occupation of Europe were called terrorists by the German occupying powers, as to were those Germans who tried to kill Hitler in July 1944. As to are those in Iraq who oppose the occupation of the USA and its allies.”

    In my definition I mentioned that I consider the Ra terrorists because they expect to be regarded as “soldiers” at a time of their choosing but to revert to civilian status at all other times. And of course, the same “rights” are not granted to their enemies. This was not the situation in any of your examples and is why I do not consider any of your examples terrorists.

    The reason why I think this is important is that if we don’t agree on a set of principles by which aims can be carried out we’re destined to enter an never ending cycle of terrorist violence. For example, if their was a UI and Unionists decided to further their aims via the terrorist avenue how could the new state have any moral authority after supporting such methods in the past? The end doesn’t always justify the means…

    Hi Liam,

    “From my side of TDF, I have observed the political leadership of my own community offer much conciliatory language and reach out to the other side, time and again, but in all honesty, I have just not heard reciprocation.”

    The release of the terrorist scum from prison more than matches any “conciliatory language” from your community. I don’t think you realise just how much of a bitter pill that was from the Unionist community’s point of view.

    “Have you noticed how all the noise about decommissioning has quietened down lately? Why? Because it is not the real issue and the reality is that it really never was.”

    Not true Liam, decommissioning is very important. It is the flipside of the prisoner releases. We swallowed hard years ago. It’s time republicans did also. The very fact that they didn’t volunteer to do so has created the deep mistrust that we currently find ourselves in. That is why no one believes SF about the Northern.

  • Davros

    The end doesn’t always justify the means…

    in my book the end never justifies the means. If the “means ” are wrong, they stay wrong.

  • mickhall

    willowfield wrote,
    “Remember that NI is not “occupied” and there are no “forces of occupation”

    Willowfield
    Surly the above is what all this heartache has been about, and to go back down the right and wrongs of this question will lead us no where but back into the mire?

    Congal Claen,

    I hate to spoil your illusions in the WW2 French resistance, but they acted in much the same way as the PIRA did. Indeed any insurgents who rise up against the governing power would be on a suicide mission were they to behave in the manner you suggest. If the Republican movement learnt anything from the Easter Rising it was just this. The military forces of a State like the UK are far to great to be taken on as you suggest. The only historical example I can thing of who conducted their liberation struggle in the manner you suggest, was Mustafa Kemal Ataturks, when they liberated Turkey from the dregs of the Ottoman Empire and the Greek armies of occupation and imperialist influence. This was only possible due to the historical situation and the empty vastness of Anoltolia.

    All the best to you both.

  • willowfield

    mickhall

    Surly the above is what all this heartache has been about, and to go back down the right and wrongs of this question will lead us no where but back into the mire?

    The only people who claim that NI is “occupied” are ultra-nationalist terrorists and their supporters. Nobody else is under such an illusion.

    If that is what all the heartache was about, surely that is a good reason to discuss it? If that is the issue from which everything else emanates, then the Provos have no leg to stand on.

    The empirical fact is that NI is NOT “occupied”. Even if the Provos used to believe this nonsense, they can no longer do so since they signed up to the GFA.

    On another point, I put it to you that the important question was not whether we describe violent groups as “terrorists” or not, but whether or not their violence was just. Do you accept that this is the relevant question?

    Do you also accept that, in the case of anti-Nazi resistance movements, their violence was just, whereas in the case of the PIRA, it was not?

  • Davros

    If the Republican movement learnt anything from the Easter Rising it was just this. The military forces of a State like the UK are far to great to be taken on as you suggest.

    The RM knew that in advance of the Easter Rising Mick.

  • mickhall

    Historically, situations do not evolve as you or I may wish, they do so due to the political/military instruments to hand. Many people myself included believe a great injustice occurred when the Northern Irish Statelet was established. It flew in the face of all that had gone before. This alone did not lead to the violence that has been part of the Statelets history since its inception, what made such violence all but inevitable, was the disgraceful way those who led that Statelet in its early years, went about removing any real political influence of Roman Catholics. They were organisationally discriminated against in almost all walks of life. Such discrimination in my view was shameful; and that the rest of the UK turned a blind eye to it made the explosion of the late 1960s inevitable. If there had been a tradition of civil protest within the nationalist community, then this struggle may have taken the road of the civil Rights movement in the USA. But the decades of the Statelet seeing any protest against injustices by the nationalist community as treasonous, plus the RUC attempt to bully, bash and brutalise the civil rights movement into submission, made many nationalist youth reach for the only vehicle that had achieved some success in Ireland and was organisationally already formed, the IRA. The responsibility for the rise of the PIRA can firmly be laid at the door of the Unionist political establishment, their armed police and the mismanagement of the situation by the British government, who were unbelievably still acting on the advice of the Stormont government when they first sent troops in.

    Now as to your question whether the use of violence by the French Resistance was just, yes it was in my view. As to the use of armed struggle by the PIRA struggle in the early days. I would answer not only was it correct, it was completely understandable and the more so if you take into account that the majority of its volunteers were young men and women who due to the misgovernment of northern Ireland, saw no other opportunity open to them if the wished to oppose the injustices that confronted them daily.(some may say they were mistaken in this, but that is how they saw it) This war could have been avoided if the Unionist powers had agreed to treat their neighbours as equals and with common dignity from the beginning of the States existence, instead your government treated every nationalist as being part of a fifth column, the fact that many of them went on to act as such should hardly have come as a surprise.

  • mickhall

    Sorry, my reply above is to Willowfield

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Mick,

    “I hate to spoil your illusions in the WW2 French resistance, but they acted in much the same way as the PIRA did.”

    I don’t remember the French Resistance expecting to be treated as civilians when not in Resistance mode. Can you think of a single instance, similar to say Loghgall, were the French Resistance complained when the Germans took them on?

    “the disgraceful way those who led that Statelet in its early years, went about removing any real political influence of Roman Catholics”

    and then

    “The responsibility for the rise of the PIRA can firmly be laid at the door of the Unionist political establishment”

    That being the case, I take it that you would lend support to a Unionist paramilitary grouping in the RoI resorting to violence to right such EXISTING discrimination such as the need for a Gaelic qualifiaction for joining such things as the police?

    It is very easy to point faults with each others states. However, resorting to violence to right wrongs is not the way. We should agree on the rules to change things.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Mick,

    “I hate to spoil your illusions in the WW2 French resistance, but they acted in much the same way as the PIRA did.”

    I don’t remember the French Resistance expecting to be treated as civilians when not in Resistance mode. Can you think of a single instance, similar to say Loghgall, were the French Resistance complained when the Germans took them on?

    “the disgraceful way those who led that Statelet in its early years, went about removing any real political influence of Roman Catholics”

    and then

    “The responsibility for the rise of the PIRA can firmly be laid at the door of the Unionist political establishment”

    That being the case, I take it that you would lend support to a Unionist paramilitary grouping in the RoI resorting to violence to right such EXISTING discrimination such as the need for a Gaelic qualifiaction for joining such things as the police?

    It is very easy to point faults with each others states. However, resorting to violence to right wrongs is not the way. We should agree on the rules to change things.

  • willowfield

    mickhall

    I wouldn’t argue with much of what you say in your initial paragraph. Obviously, I disagree that partition was a “great injustice”, since it was merely the inevitable solution to a politically, ethnically and geographically divided Ireland, and the most just (or, if you prefer, least unjust) solution available. But I accept that the treatment of the nationalist minority by the Unionist government was a great injustice, and that this inevitably resulted in the (completely justified) civil rights agitation of the 1960s.

    I don’t, therefore, have too much difficulty in agreeing in large part with your assessment that “The responsibility for the rise of the PIRA can firmly be laid at the door of the Unionist political establishment, their armed police and the mismanagement of the situation by the British government”.

    I would, however, qualify this slightly be including ultra-nationalists among the list of those responsible. The ultra-nationalists cannot escape the fact that they were partly responsible for preventing the civil rights movement from becoming a non-sectarian, cross-community working-class movement. Infiltration of NICRA by ultra-nationalists ensured that the movement would never attract Protestants into its fold in any significant numbers. Ultra-nationalists used the civil rights agitation as a means to resurrect the “national question” and the result was to alienate Protestants and unionists. Remember one of NICRA’s initial slogans was “British rights for British citizens”. That was one side of the coin. The other side, of course, was the Paisleyites who unwittingly conspired with the ultra-nationalists to ensure that civil rights became a divisive issue between the two communities.

    The other responsibility that ultra-nationalists must accept is the rather obvious one that they deliberately chose to organise and execute violence. This was a deliberate choice that they made: they were not compelled to do so. The situation was never such that violence was the only option for the pursuit of political change.

    You further go on to justify Provisional IRA terrorism “in the early days”. I would be interested to know how you define the “early days”.

    You say PIRA violence was “correct”. Could you explain the reasoning behind this?

    As for “understandable”, that is a different and, I would suggest meaningless, question. The fact that we can understand something is not relevant to the issue of whether that something was right or wrong.

    You say “this war could have been avoided if the Unionist powers had agreed to treat their neighbours as equals and with common dignity from the beginning of the States existence, instead your government treated every nationalist as being part of a fifth column, the fact that many of them went on to act as such should hardly have come as a surprise”.

    Leaving aside the fact that there was no “war” in anything other than a rhetorical sense, I would agree with your statement. I would add, however, that neither would there have been a “war” if ultra-nationalists had chosen to pursue change peacefully rather than to establish the Provisional IRA.

  • mickhall

    Congal Claen ,

    The point I was trying to make, was once the injustices were coupled with a ready made and available organisation like the IRA, then a violence reaction to the said injustice was inevitable. Im not trying to justify it in that it was the best way to proceed. Myself I do feel Gerry Adams has a good point about taking the gun out of Irish politics. Fortunately, no ready made Loyalist organisation exists in the south, however personally if the Gaelic qualification for joining the Guards is still in place, it is high time it was removed, but of course this is for the people through their political party’s to do. The whole tragedy of the north, is back in 1969 young Republicans had no confidence that they could bring about change in such a manner.

    Your right picking holes in either of the two states will not help, we have to move forward from where the situation is today.

  • willowfield

    mickhall

    I’m not sure why you chose to ignore my post.

    But let me take up your comment to Congal Claen that “Im not trying to justify it in that it was the best way to proceed”.

    How do you square this with your earlier statement – on this very thread – that the PIRA campaign was “correct”?

    You are lacking in consistency here.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Mick,

    Do you then accept that a terrorist campaign is not the way to further political ideals?

    (providing of course that there are political means of address)

  • mickhall

    Hi Willowfield

    I was not ignoring your reply, I had replied to Congal Claen and due to having to go about my business, I had not yet had time to read your post. I do not differ with some of the points you put forward, however and this is a genuine question. Do you really feel that the NICRA could have attracted Protestants in significant numbers, especially from working class areas in which the loyalist paramilitary’s were increasingly becoming active. Would they (UDA/UVF) have tolerated Protestants actively campaigning against injustices perpetrated by the northern State, especially if the beneficiaries of such a campaign, if successful would have been mainly Catholics?

    You then ask me the following, “You say PIRA violence was “correct”. Could you explain the reasoning behind this?” Whilst it is a perfectly legitimate question for you to ask, the answer being complex, is why people are reluctant to answer this type of question when asked on a list like this. In full it would take me a long time to answer, but to put it simply, I would just say this, and by so doing I understand im leaving myself open because it does deserve a fuller answer. My reason for supporting armed struggle back then, basically boils down to the fact that some times, when people are bullied, terrorised, denied what is their right by the standards of most civilised societies, they have no option but to strike back, to demand they are treated as equals by force of arms. to say to their tormentors no! enough is enough, this stops now or I will go down fighting to prevent any more of it.

    Of course once this road is set upon the consequences cannot be foreseen, but no man or woman was put on this earth to tip his forelock and bend his/her knee for ever. I would guess that 90% of the young PIRA volunteers joined for this reason and incidentally, this is why it will be possible to bring this dreadful period to a close under terms which will satisfy, to a degree all sides. Then the campaign for reunification will, bar small minority groups be a political struggle without the use of arms.

    You also wrote, “You are lacking in consistency here.” Probably your correct, but in the type of situation the north of Ireland has experienced over the last few decades, logic and consistency have not been the foremost characteristic on view. Why should I be any different, one just does ones best to square the circle, sometimes we dont make it. 😉 The problem with real life, is it is not possible to go back to the drawing board, one just hopes one can help make a better pair of shoes in the future, a pair that does not pinch quite as much as the old pair?

    Hi Mick,

    Do you then accept that a terrorist campaign is not the way to further political ideals? (providing of course that there are political means of address)

    Posted by: Congal Claen

    Conga Clean

    Yes I do, with one rider, the political means of address must be fair, open, democratic and honest and not stacked in one party’s/section of society’s favour.

  • Liam

    Willowfield, do you ever get a pain in your knee? It must be from all that jerking! Sadly, you just haven’t got a clue what a ‘peace process’ is all about.

    Congal
    “The release of the terrorist scum from prison more than matches any “conciliatory language” from your community. I don’t think you realise just how much of a bitter pill that was from the Unionist community’s point of view.”

    Terrorist scum? Oh yeah, thats great language. Well done on your vocabluary.

    A bitter pill for the Unionist community just? What planet are you on?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Liam,

    “What planet are you on?”

    A.) One where terrorists are not eulogised as freedom fighters or heroes.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Mick,

    “Yes I do, with one rider, the political means of address must be fair, open, democratic and honest and not stacked in one party’s/section of society’s favour.”

    I agree wholeheartedly.

  • willowfield

    mickhall

    I do not differ with some of the points you put forward, however and this is a genuine question. Do you really feel that the NICRA could have attracted Protestants in significant numbers, especially from working class areas in which the loyalist paramilitary’s were increasingly becoming active. Would they (UDA/UVF) have tolerated Protestants actively campaigning against injustices perpetrated by the northern State, especially if the beneficiaries of such a campaign, if successful would have been mainly Catholics?

    I think by the time the loyalist paramilitaries were forming it was too late. I’m talking about the initial period in the late 1960s, before “the Troubles” had begun. And I’m not suggesting that large numbers of Protestants would have become active in the civil rights movement, but there were some at the beginning (including Young Unionists), and there was moderate opinion (including moderate nationalist opinion) that resigned from NICRA because of PD infiltration. I’m more making the point that – even if there will still relatively few Protestants involved – if the civil rights issue hadn’t become embroiled in “the national question” events would not have evolved as they did into the situation where we had the Troubles. And I’m blaming two factors for this: the Paisleyites on one hand, and the ultra-nationalists on the other.

    If you examine (albeit retrospective) attitudes among working-class Protestants reflecting on this period, a common theme is the indignation they felt when they heard civil rights protestors complaining about housing, the local government vote, etc., as though these were issues that only affected Catholics. They resented being portrayed as “oppressors” when they suffered many of the same indignities. Could a better-presented civil rights movement have averted some of this resentment and indignation (which, presumably, was ultimately channelled into loyalist “defence forces” which then evolved into paramilitary death squads)? Remember there was a strong tradition of labour organisation, and Labour voting, in working-class Protestant areas of Belfast in the 1960s. As late as 1970, Labour candidates were winning thousands of votes from this constituency: only when the Troubles took hold did the Labour vote collapse as people retreated into the sectarian bunkers.

    In defence of your statement that you felt PIRA violence was “correct”, you say that sometimes people “have no option but to strike back, to demand they are treated as equals by force of arms”. Yet this was clearly not the case: there were other options. Indeed peaceful options were working as evidenced by the success of the civil rights movement in achieving its demands. It also ignores the “national” and political dimension to the violence, in that PIRA was not pursuing a civil rights agenda: it was not simply a vigilante self-defence organisation; it was a self-conscious part of the ethnically-defined ultra-nationalist movement which sought to change by force of arms the constitution without any kind of democratic mandate or legitimacy. And further, it ignores the fact that PIRA violence was completely disproportionate: the bombing of pubs and shops, the slaying of policemen, the random shootings and murders, etc., could in no way be described as defensive, nor were they proportionate responses to any perceived “inequality”.

    In summary, then, I don’t think your assessment of the “correctness” of PIRA violence stands up to any kind of honest scrutiny. It would seem that emotion rather than reason is the basis of your justification for Provo terrorism. Indeed, you acknowledge in your final paragraph that – because “logic and consistency have not been the foremost characteristic on view” in NI, then you feel that this excuses you from applying logic and consistency to your own opinions. I should think that admission speaks rather loudly against your conclusion that PIRA terrorism was “correct”.

    Liam

    Your (non-)response is pathetic. You should take time to reflect on why it is that you choose not to respond when your support for Provisional IRA is challenged. If you are uncomfortable, unable, or unwilling to defend your support, maybe that is telling you something.

  • mickhall

    Willowfield,

    I found your reply very interesting and well put, of course you are correct in saying emotion playing an enormous part in the direction the troubles went. Sadly this is what often happens when a political situation reaches crisis point; and it is something we should all keep reminding ourselves about today. The point is in my view the northern State was not reformable back then and the same may still be true today. Having said that, if ever there was an example of jaw jaw is better than war war this is it.

    All the best

  • Davros

    Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has today said that “women parenting alone deserve to be treated with respect”.

    hyperlink

  • aquifer

    I keep a copy of the GFA and I know that decommissioning was in it somewhere. Lots of people have done a lot to move the GFA on including the forming of a new policeforce and cross border links. Peace alongside a booming economy is also a powerful engine for the integration of the peoples on this island. SFIRA keeping the wherewithal for violence makes me doubt SF ability to sustain this process. This may not be entirely rational, as I feel firearms to be vile instruments for butchering and oppressing fellow human beings.

    Although I appreciate the sincerity with which their views are expressed, the RM cannot reasonably expect that others view their previous conduct as other than criminal. This may be a hard prospect for them, but their own justifications for their acts will have to do.

    The RM also benefitted from others’ abhorrence of ‘criminal’ behaviour, in that the protestant community for the most part did not retaliate in kind, and the RUC often caught and successfully prosecuted loyalist terrorists and assassins.

    Post 9/11, post Bosnia, and with a booming but fragile open capitalist economy, tolerance for committed and intelligent english speaking practitioners of armed ethnic insurrection may simply be exhausted.

    It may be decision time for the RM

  • Liam

    Willowfield

    Liam

    Your (non-)response is pathetic. You should take time to reflect on why it is that you choose not to respond when your support for Provisional IRA is challenged. If you are uncomfortable, unable, or unwilling to defend your support, maybe that is telling you something.

    Personally I do not really feel a need to respond to your response to my response to Davros, or indeed to your responses to my response to Davros’s response!

    Your remarks are very predictable and just more of the same. I do not feel any need to “defend” my support for the Republican movement. I am entirely comfortable and confident in my politics.

    If you want a mature, considered response, then have a bash at making a mature, considered post?

  • willowfield

    Liam

    Your remarks are very predictable and just more of the same.

    I do not feel any need to “defend” my support for the Republican movement.

    You should. We should all feel the need to defend our views. We should constantly be questioning and refining our views. Burying our heads in the sand and refusing to engage with people and ignoring those who challenge our views is, in my opinion, unhelpful and, indeed, dangerous when, in Northern Ireland, such attitudes lead to horrific violence and support for such horrific violence.

    I am entirely comfortable and confident in my politics.

    Not quite, it would seem. Otherwise you would not be so shy of defending yourself.

    If you want a mature, considered response, then have a bash at making a mature, considered post?

    I have already done so.

    You fail adequately to explain why you think the law of the land did not apply to the Provisional IRA. Why do you believe that the Provisional IRA had the right to slay people, to plant bombs, to abduct and torture people?

    The only hint of an explanation comes with your comments that imply that a political motivation for (what most people would deem) a crime immunes one from the law, yet you provide no reasoning for this implied assertion.