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.

  • Jacko

    “I suppose the answer is simply to assume the benign scenario…”

    The answer for Vincent, who is sounding more ridiculous by the day, is to simply swallow his monumental pride and, like the rest of us, accept that he was taken for a sucker but thank his God that we, just about, wakened up before it was too late.

  • tom luby

    if vincent browne is wrong about his earlier claim that the ira didn’t do the bank robbery what does that make him? the Village idiot, perhaps?

  • peteb

    Let’s keep the personal comments to a minimum.

    Tom, He didn’t actually go as far as claiming that the IRA didn’t do the robbery in the earlier piece – it was more about whether Adams knew if they had or not.

  • Jacko


    Vincent also argues that everything will be hunky dory (brilliant album by the way) if we can only convince the provos to buy into policing. The strangest logic I have ever come across in a lifetime littered with the illogical being sold as making perfect sense.

  • peteb


    I’d suggest the point of Vincent’s article is to try to convince Bertie et al to take the pressure off Adams (and McGuinness)… there’s also a clear and disingenuous attempt to indicate an ‘or else’ in the article – which, as I pointed out, he attempted to use previously in his defence of Adams. Unfortunately for Vincent, his logic doesn’t appear to stand up to much scrutiny.

  • Jacko


    Yes, I agree with you.
    Also, within the opinion related sphere of journalism there must often be a temptation to sometimes go against the prevailing orthodoxy – to heighten profile,to be different from the crowd and sometimes just for the devilment of it.

  • peteb

    That’s a fair point, in general, about columnists being tempted to “go against the prevailing orthodoxy”, Jacko – although I don’t think it applies in this particular example.

  • Jacko

    No, neither do I as it happens.

  • New Yorker

    I’ve never understood why the Irish media prints Vincent Browne; he is a third rate columnist, at best.

    It is very simple: In a democracy you cannot have criminals (including those in conspiracy to criminal acts)in government; no matter how many fools voted for them. One of the major reasons for alienation is stupidity.

    Do you think for a moment that the other democracies of the world, especially my own, would take you seriously if you put crimonals in government offices. The world judgment would be that you are at the very least temporarily insane and you would be eased out of the the modern democratic and economic world. A curiosity to be forgotten about.

  • spartacus

    New Yorker wrote:

    ‘Do you think for a moment that the other democracies of the world, especially my own, would take you seriously if you put crimonals in government offices.’

    Actually your entire cabinet is made up of criminals–war criminals, mostly, but quite a few of the ordinary fleecing type as well, who make the Northern job look like a day in the park. The highest legislative body in the US has just approved as Attorney General a man who condones torture. So spare us, please, the lectures on the ‘democracies of the world.’ Save it for Abu Ghraib and Gitmo.

    You complain that Browne is a third-rate journalist. By my marks that would put him well ahead of the rest of the pack. And while we’re at it, can you point me toward an outstanding American journalist? Hersch comes to mind, Moyers maybe, though his reflections on the state of American journalism at the end of a distinguished career are not very complimentary. There are individuals who write for local and big-city papers, but do you know of any others of national standing? Mostly drivel–state-sponsored drivel, so far as I can tell. And haven’t you read recently that the Bush admin was actually paying a Republican hack to pose as a ‘journalist’ as part of the White House press corps? He is being let go only because its been revealed that he’s gay. I’ve always been struck by the fact that the country that boasts so loudly about freedom of the press allows the public (the ‘fools’ in your lexicon) to be exposed to only the narrowest range of opinion on the issues of the day. Why do you think that is? Answer after the break.

  • IJP

    The benign scenario?

    The whole point is that we’ve been assuming the benign scenario since the Agreement, because although we accepted it might not be the case, there was a great prize for us all if it was.

    It is now clear that the benign scenario was wrong, that is the very problem!

    It is correct that if SF went on to the policing boards and accepted the PSNI as the only legitimate police service in NI, that would be extremely significant (far more significant, for example, than decommissioning). However, the very point is that that won’t happen!

    The rest of us have woken up, I think Mr Browne should join us!

  • New Yorker

    Dear Spartacus,

    I am anti-Bush and anti-Iraq. We have always had dubious characters in all areas of our government. But, when evidence is revealed, we usually get rid of them. Remember the conspirator Richard Nixon?

    As for US journalists of national stature. Many of the reporters and columnists on the NY Times, Washington Post and LA Times are US journalists of national stature in the newspapers. The NY Times columnist Paul Krugman is especially astute and progressive. Take a look at

    I affirm my position that if you put criminals in government positions, you will me marginalized out of the association of the world’s democracies. It is totally contrary to the beliefs of the world’s democracies that you can have criminals in government offices. Period, or full-stop, as you say.

  • spartacus

    New Yorker:

    I’m glad to see that on some issues at least you retain your sanity. And yes I remember Nixon, another war criminal, who retired with a full pension funded by US taxpayers and was rehabilitated after his death as a ‘great statesman,’ blah blah blah. And Reagan, who deployed US-funded death squads throughout much of Central America in open breach of the US Congress, whose henchmen were involved up to their necks in the drugs-for-guns trade and who are still at large and, very likely, serving as consultants to the gang now in power. So no, I do not accept that in the American system, evidence usually means that criminals are put out of government. I think that that is an incredibly naive perspective, at odds with the facts. Nor do I think the US is exceptional in that respect.

    I read the NYT, the Post daily and the LA Times once or twice a week, but do not find that any of them engage in serious, consistent journalism. You have a ‘kept press,’ easily as efficient as anything the former Stalinist states were ever able to sustain, but one with the appearance of ‘objectivity’. At least two of the three papers you mention were compelled to issue unprecedented op-ed pieces in the wake of the Iraq invasion admitting that they had allowed themselves to be duped by the Bush admin in its rush to war.

    As for criminality on this side, I read your contribution on another list in which you state that the ‘evidence is mounting.’ I’ll admit that there is a white-hot campaign underway, assisted in this country by an incredibly conservative establishment north and south and an especially spineless media, to criminalize SF, but what evidence specifically are you referring to? Incidentally I have never voted SF but am tempted to now out of disgust at this charade. Having lived through the WMD debacle, which took in the vast majority of the American public, you will understand why I refuse to accept the word of the media/political/security establishments on such matters. Have you not learned your lesson? Perhaps Al-Jazeera will turn up some credible information on the Northen job. They have been more reliable than any western media outlet on other important matters.

  • New Yorker

    Dear Spartaus,

    The evidence is mounting. What do you think the investigators and lawyers are doing with the cache of hard-drive data, mobile phone memory chips, interrogation of the two main money launderers and others. Plus all the other investigations underway. Do you the Cork raids are imaginary? If not, it is not reasonable for you and me to assume they have a treasure trove of incriminating data which they are using to assemble cases that will be sent to the DPP? Money launders keep records on computers nowadays.

    As for the US major newspapers. You are right they did not do their job before the wrongful invasion of Iraq. I believe they were cowered by the Bush administration. It was a bad period for US journalism. But, they get most things right, I personally know many journalists who are smart, ethical and independent people. As are many Irish and UK journalists. I think you have to balance out what percentage they are a force for the good versus their mess-ups. I submit, the mess-ups are a small percentage.

    As for Richard Nixon, he was never rehabilitated. He will forever be know in history as the President who ordered the Watergate robbery, the one who ordered the cover-up, tried to subvert our democracy and was thrown out of office by will of the people. Reagan did get away with his criminality, he was a bit slicker than Nixon at covering his tracks; but several of his henchmen, as I recall, were put behind bars. I do not think history will be kind to Reagan, he used the race card, drastically cut funds and programs for the needy, piled up enormous national debt, etc.

  • Henry94

    New Yorker

    Money launders keep records on computers nowadays.

    I know nothing about money laundering but from what I know about computer security that doesn’t seem like a very bright thing to do.