‘The time for indulgence is long over’

Today’s Irish Times editorial would seem to sum up the prevailing mood of the Irish, British and, now, the US Government – “We share the view of the British and Irish Prime Ministers that the continuation of paramilitarism and associated criminality remains the central obstacle to a lasting and durable peace in Northern Ireland“, US State Department spokesman.Irish Times editorial –

The mask is slipping in the IRA’s second statement. It is not clear whether republicans are just being sullen and petulant because Sinn Féin has to take responsibility for their actions or, more likely, the statement is intended as a sinister and nasty prelude to a threatened return to war and terrorism.

The IRA has raised the ante by warning the Government that it should not underestimate the seriousness of the current situation. That is certainly true. But the time for indulgence of the twin-track strategy, the Sinn Féin ballot box in the one hand and IRA gangsterism in the other, is long over.

The IRA has drawn attention to its threat not to “remain quiescent” in the future, even as the Independent Monitoring Commission reported on its activities. Its response has emanated from the perfectly reasonable request that Sinn Féin should act as a stand-alone political party, like all others in Dáil Éireann today, and that the IRA should go out of business.

After nearly 11 years of formal ceasefire, however, the republican leadership is clearly not prepared to abandon violence and criminal activity in favour of exclusively democratic politics. There are those within the IRA who are not prepared to accept that progress towards a united Ireland should take place on an agreed basis and within the framework of the Belfast Agreement. Are they now in the ascendant within the republican movement? If Sinn Féin now speaks for “ourselves”, as Mr Gerry Adams said yesterday, what is going on within the IRA? What influence do he and Mr Martin McGuinness have to deliver the end of all criminal and paramilitary activity?

Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness were told by the Taoiseach last week to go away and reflect on the situation in the aftermath of the Northern Bank robbery and to come back when they were in a position to say the IRA would end its activities and leave the stage.

In the past, the IRA withdrew from talks with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning when sanctions were imposed on Sinn Féin as a result of its paramilitary activity. The organisation reacted with aggression, intransigence and ambiguity to successive attempts by the two governments to bring an end to its paramilitary activity, punishment beatings and other criminal acts.

Time and time again, all parties in the Dáil have stretched their democratic constituency to make space for Sinn Féin at the negotiating table, even in the shadow of an active IRA. That situation can no longer be tolerated. Mr Ahern and Mr Blair have made clear that if Sinn Féin is to share power in either jurisdiction then republicans must unambiguously endorse the rules of democratic society. It is no good pointing the finger at the governments, the Progressive Democrats and the Democratic Unionist Party for Sinn Féin’s discomfiture. The republican leadership can no longer parade as international statesmen while their lesser-known associates rob and kneecap without accountability.[my emphasis]

© The Irish Times