Democrats are no fools

An interesting editorial in Bertie’s favourite paper, that’s the Irish Times again, states that the ‘old game’ is already over – Day of the IRA shadow has ended – a little premature, perhaps, but it’s their strongest line yet.

The editorial leaves litle doubt as to the Irish Government’s message to Sinn Féin –

Tough talking took place at Government Buildings yesterday when Mr Gerry Adams was advised that the continuing existence and criminal activities of the Provisional IRA had become a fundamental obstacle to Sinn Féin’s participation in government, North or South.

And echoes what the UUP and the SDLP said yesterday –

But republicans appeared to believe they could share power in the shadow of the IRA. The Northern Bank robbery – and the gross abuse of political trust it represented – changed all that. It acted as a wake-up call to democratic parties on this island and a seismic shift in attitudes has resulted.

There’s a distinct chill in the air, according to the Irish Times, and it doesn’t pull any punches when apportioning blame for that –

The political process in Northern Ireland is now in cold storage because of the criminal activities of the IRA. All the bluff and bluster by Sinn Féin will not change the fact that security forces on both sides of the Border are convinced, on the basis of extensive intelligence, that the IRA planned and executed the robbery. The topsy-turvey world of republicans, their sense of victimhood and their clever public relations have challenged that reality by way of Mr Adams’s wounded assertion that Mr Ahern had failed to prove that he and Mr Martin McGuinness had known in advance about the robbery. Any IRA involvement in the raid was, he maintained, “a separate issue”. Such bombast may serve to provide Mr Adams with a public fig leaf, but it emphasised the rift that had opened up between the Government and Sinn Féin.

And argues that continued IRA activity means Sinn Féin’s reassurances have no credibility –

Last November, even as Sinn Féin provided reassurances that the IRA was preparing to disband and disarm, the Independent Monitoring Commission reported there was no sign of that happening and that the organisation was continuing to recruit and train members. Then came the breakdown in negotiations, ostensibly because of a photograph, and the Northern Bank robbery. Since then, there has been a resumption of IRA punishment shootings. The democratic family was being played for fools.

The suggestion of a two-year hiatus may have, previously, been intended as a spur to do a deal, but the editorial warns that it may become a reality

In present circumstances, there is no chance the Democratic Unionist Party will share power with Sinn Féin. And the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Mr David Trimble, advised the Government yesterday that the majority of unionists will not endorse Sinn Féin’s participation in government for the foreseeable future. The dismal prospect, outlined by the Taoiseach last October, of a two-year hiatus in political progress in Northern Ireland is in danger of becoming a reality.

Despite that, the Governemnt line of ‘no exclusion’ is restated, but progress will be dependent on decisions that had previously been put to one side –

Political contact between Sinn Féin and the two governments will – and should – continue. Exclusion of republicans did not work in the past. But the emphasis, as the Taoiseach insisted last night, must be on making democratic progress within the political dispensation created by the Belfast Agreement. That will require decommissioning and support for policing.

The old game, the ‘constructive ambiguity’ of the past, is increasingly being recognised as a hurdle to that progress –

Ambiguity, a necessary component perhaps in the early days of the peace process, has been flung back in the face of all democrats on this island. The day of parallel tracks has passed. The Government, elected by the people, must have cast-iron assurances from now on that all paramilitary and criminal activity has ended for good.Then, and only then, will the Government be in a position to move forward.

  • cgmoron

    At long last. Everyone has had enough. Now it is time for the SDLP to get its act together and start to come out fighting they have remained honorable throughout the process. The losers are both the Irish and British govts who didn’t even consult the SDLP or UUP in the last round of secret DUP SF talks.
    SF need to get on to the policing boards with immediate effect and decommision their weapons. If this leads to a split in republicanism so be it. It always will anyway. If Adams / Mcguinness can’t deliver this ,it’s time to find new leadership who can. They have had long enough. And finally if the IRA go back to their old ways it is time for both Irish and British govts to crush them. Just lock up the leadership and all known activists return to jail all those released under the GFA.

  • cg

    “basis of extensive intelligence”

    Is this the same sort of British intelligence that said there was WMD’s in Iraq?

  • TroubledTimes

    To be honest CGMoron, I dont think that any party would be too keen on seeing Sinn Fein involved in Policing.

    I think Unionists would walk off the Board and Partnerships if Sinn Fein signed up. The only party that may be happy would be the SDLP who have had a tough time holding together with all the attacks on their members etc.

    The big porblem now, deserved or not, is that Sinn Fein have completely failed to build trust with 20% of the electorate on the island of Ireland ie the Unionist community.

    Until Sinn Fein build some form of trust with Unionism, I can’t see any progress at all.

  • James

    The Irish Times isn’t just Bertie’s favorite paper on the island, it is mine as well. I take it online because it gives me the local news that I can talk about whenever I am back on the island and it also gives me the complexion of contemporary (well, perhaps urban and staid contemporary) thought there.

    What it is telling me now is that everybody’s nuts.

    Through the Northern Bank job, the IRA has upped the ante from Canary Wharf to show, not merely that it has not gone away, but that it doesn’t have to grind up fertilizer to show that the legitimate governments do not control the island.

    It is that simple, yet this charade goes on:

    Bertie meets Gerry and Martin for “tough talking” and to display a “seismic shift in attitudes” the IT editorial writer trumpets that the democratic family was being played for fools” in one breath while in the next “Political contact between Sinn Féin and the two governments will – and should – continue

    The only way to demonstrate that they really control the island is for the governments to stop debasing the legal system for political means: prosecute and jail the people who robbed the bank. If you have the intelligence to trumpet to the world that they did it, you must bring charges or be seen either as one of Mao’s paper tigers or as in on the job, an accessory after the fact.

  • aquifer

    The idea that everyone should be in government all of the time is a suspect notion from the point of view of accountability, and any requirement for nationalist or catholic representation within every NI government need not mean Sinn Fein always in and an effective veto by the IRA army council.

    We should be allowed minority government to overcome such sectarian vetos, and an all-NI proportional franchise to ensure that smaller minorities can also hold ministers to account.

    Our political instability is engineered by the IRA, an organisation accountable only to dead people.

  • peteb

    James hits the nail on the head, again. ‘Tough talking’ isn’t going to convince anyone in the long term, although it may cover the cracks temporarily.

    If both governments are convinced by what they have seen then prosecutions must follow. To do otherwise debases and devalues whatever democratic values that still exist even further than they have been by the ‘constructive ambiguity’ that has, to date, characterised the political process here.

  • cgmoron

    “basis of extensive intelligence”

    Is this the same sort of British intelligence that said there was WMD’s in Iraq?

    Yet agian you rush to the defence of the teflon dons of SF/IRA. Let me let you into a little secret. SF/IRA over the years have lied consistently. Just to wet your appetite.
    They initially denied they had anything to do with Garda Mc Cabes Murder.
    * For years they kept the Mc Conville family in limbo by not admitting they had murdered their mother.
    * Enniskillen
    * Omagh they know who did it dissident or not
    * Columbia
    I could go on.
    I just am puzzled how you fail to see through their lies.
    Finally your bitter critiscism of the SDLP is somewhat unwarranted.
    Afterall had it not been for John Hume bringing SF in from the cold you would be nowhere. Because as you well know your military wing was defeated.

  • Pat Mc Larnon


    ‘If both governments are convinced by what they have seen then prosecutions must follow.’

    As the PSNI keep telling us intelligence (if it existed) is not proof. The current situation is perfect for the two governments as then can nudge, nudge etc without having to show the hand they are holding.
    What seems to have escaped analysis is the fact that when discussing the robbery Mc Dowell, Ahern etc are stating that the republican leadership must have known what was going on, it is an assumption.


    Republicans tell lies and the police tell lies, on the basis of what you have heard or uncovered so far how do you make your call on who you believe in this case.

    ‘Because as you well know your military wing was defeated.’

    Yet at the same time people like you allege, Florida, Stormontgate, Castlereagh, the Northern. Bit contradictory that.

  • cg


    I have no doubt you believe Sinn Féin knew all of these things; the one thing you lack is evidence.

    “Finally your bitter critiscism of the SDLP is somewhat unwarranted”

    It’s not bitter but merely criticism; I have no time for so called nationalist politicians who pander to the will of the British establishment.

    You don’t like the Sinn Féin, that’s fair enough but the fact remains that my criticism of the sdlp must have some truth as the majority of nationalists have abandoned them in the 6 counties.

    “Because as you well know your military wing was defeated”

    Firstly, I don’t have a military wing and secondly if it’s the IRA you are referring to then they are and will remain an undefeated army.

  • aquifer

    Is piling up in jail victory?

  • cg

    “Is piling up in jail victory?”

    An unfortunate consequence of struggle

  • peteb


    Given the stated position of both the Irish and British Governments, doing nothing beyond ‘talking tough’ (for whatever reason) only further undermines whatever kind of democracy we may have left.

  • Pat Mc Larnon


    Prosecutions can only take place in the presence of evidence. Whatever Ahern and Blair might have it certainly does not constitute evidence. Given the fruitless raids of the PSNI and the failure of said organisation to turn up as much as a fiver one can assume that the intelligence is not very good either.

  • willowfield


    It’s not possible to prosecute an illegal organisation.

  • peteb

    You seem to know more about what they have based their opinion on than anyone else, Pat, including the SF leadership – who are still demanding to be informed. (and yes, I know you’re assuming)

    My point remains, though, given the Irish and British Governments’ stated position, doing nothing beyond ‘talking tough’ only further undermines whatever kind of democracy we may have left – in part because SF will attempt to use your argument in the absence of any actual action.

  • Pat Mc Larnon


    I only know what I can see for my myself and that is the fact that all the PSNI have done is arrest a couple of pairs of shoes pre Xmas. All the other raids amounted to nothing, no arrssts, and nothing recovered.
    5 weeks down the line the PSNI have not even recovered a dud fiver, by any standards that is truly abysmal.

    Now at this stage most reasonable people would be asking just what exactly are the PSNI up to. There does come a point where people have to put up or shut up. We’ve had the leaks and the friendly briefings. We’ve had the accusations and the smears. Cut away all the bull and we have exactly nothing.

    The two governments stated position is not sustainable as things stand. All sides are simply preaching to the converted.