Vincent Browne's benign scenario

In the Sunday Business Post, Vincent Browne suggests that “The problem for the rest of us is knowing whether Adams and McGuinness are attempting to retrieve a situation internally where they have lost control, or whether they have been involved in this carry-on all along“, before offering his solution – “the answer is simply to assume the benign scenario”.

He has already given his answer to the question he poses early in the article

If Adams and McGuinness knew about the robbery and/or money laundering, they cannot be trusted. How could other political parties enter government with anyone who has been so duplicitous?

having written in the Sunday Business Post two weeks ago (blogged here) –

Having known Adams for many years, and having met him recently, I do not believe that he knew in advance of the Belfast bank robbery.

Back then he raised the spectre of the IRA returning to war

What is more scary is the prospect of the IRA going back to war, this time with a €38 million war chest (if they did indeed do the bank job).

If that happens, they will not fool around with the old brigade rifles and Semtex: there will be more devastating stuff, with more devastating consequences in terms of human life, destruction and political fallout.

Now, he does the same thing, but the difference is he no longer doubts that they were responsible for the Northern Bank raid –

It is no longer credible, given the evidence of Sinn F̩in engagement in money-laundering, that it Рor rather the IRA (if the distinction makes any difference) Рdid not carry out the Northern Bank job.

We are talking about vast amounts of money, almost €40 million. What would a political party do with that amount?

I don’t believe the point of stealing such money was to underwrite Sinn Féin for several years to come.

I think there must be some other, far more sinister, purpose, such as going back to war at some stage in the future – this time with far more sophisticated and devastating weaponry than anything previously deployed by the Provos.[emphasis mine]

And he asks the question, of which we know his answer, again –

If that is what they are about, then it is just as well we know now. It would bring an end to the peace process and other means must be secured to stabilise the North and preserve the peace generally on these islands. That is if Adams and McGuinness knew about it.

If they did not, the situation may be even more perilous. It would mean that they are no longer in control of the movement, that others are in charge and running things to a very different agenda.

That ignores, or perhaps dismisses, Adams’ own recent comments on this situation – no crisis within.

Then to his consideration of just a couple of the options –

Adams and McGuinness have the option either of going along with this for a while, in the hope of turning things around, or abandoning ship, as both seemed to be hinting at in the last few days.

Abandoning ship amounts to the same thing as abandoning the peace process. The point of the peace process was to bring a united republican movement into exclusively democratically peaceful politics.

Adams and McGuinness abandoning ship now means abandoning that objective.

We are then left with the prospect of attempting to construct arrangements, vulnerable to the destruction of a still-powerful IRA, still supported by a sizeable section – albeit a minority – of the nationalist community in the North. It would not work.

And so to the point of the article.. it did take a while..

The best outcome is that Adams and McGuinness remain involved and that they attempt to retrieve the situation.

In his view that is. He doesn’t entirely ignore the reasons why there are serious problems with such an approach, but doesn’t elaborate on them much either –

The problem for the rest of us is knowing whether Adams and McGuinness are attempting to retrieve a situation internally where they have lost control, or whether they have been involved in this carry-on all along. If it is the latter, then doing business with them is hazardous.[my emphasis]

And so, he supposes, softly softly –

I suppose the answer is simply to assume the benign scenario and edge them and the republican movement back to the position of December 8, when they were about to agree to complete decommissioning and, more significantly, to accept the police force in the North.

It’s an scenario that assumes that endorsement of the PSNI by Sinn Féin was imminent in December and ignores the implications of his earlier argument – “It would mean that they[Adams and McGuinness] are no longer in control of the movement, that others are in charge and running things to a very different agenda”

By way of a comparison, Gerry Moriarty in the Irish Times, in January this year, wrote about a similar choice between a malign and a “slightly more benign scenario” behind the Northern Bank raid, The Provos are in Egypt, and argued at the time that the Irish Government were inclined to believe his slightly more benign scenario.. at the time my own view was that he was closer to the mark with the first scenario he outlined –

The first, and most malign, is from a senior nationalist who is now convinced that the provisional republican movement effectively has abandoned the Belfast Agreement.

In brief he argued that Sinn Féin and the IRA reckons it’s pointless “wasting time in trying to do a deal with the DUP” when with its electoral power bases in the North and South, it should be aiming for bigger gains, particularly when there is now a real chance of achieving the balance of power in the Republic. Therefore, bypass the agreement and strive to leapfrog to joint authority to enhance the chances of a united Ireland by 2016.

The second scenario is that the IRA gave the go-ahead for the robbery only after the collapse of the talks in December. Republicans believed that unionists, especially with Ian Paisley talking of humiliating the IRA and Sinn Féin, had spurned a good deal and needed to be taught a salutary lesson short of a return to war. Sure, where was the political danger; wouldn’t the robbery be yesterday’s news in a week or two?

Whether the Irish Government still believes that benign scenario remains to be seen.

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