Complex manoeuvring or Chaos within Republicanism ?

In a thoughtful article in the Sunday Herald, Rebel Hell, Ed Moloney suggests that the Northern Bank robbery was another crafty tactical move to force the hand of the IRA that was knocked off track by the unforeseen savage and barbaric murder of Robert McCartney.Moloney remembers that Adams manoeuvred the ranks of the IRA, who were unaware of his long-term aims, along the path of his peace strategy by allowing them to use the human bomb tactic which put the hawks in an impossible position.

It would be difficult to devise a greater PR disaster yet it was approved by the Army Council, on which Adams and Martin McGuinness sat, at a time when both men were repeatedly warning the IRA against operations that endangered civilian life. The effect of the tactic was to whip up outrage throughout Ireland and to isolate and demoralise the IRA. It undermined the use of violence and strengthened those, like Adams and McGuinness, who were arguing for a political alternative such as the peace process. The episode was an important staging post on the way to the IRA ceasefire.
In a similar fashion the decision to rob the Northern Bank has left the IRA with only two options: to stay still or carry on down the road that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have mapped out for it.

As Moloney points out Sinn Féin was unlikely to be seriously damaged by an attack on a bank. However, in combination with the McCartney murder, the effect has been far more serious than expected although the tactic might work yet. As Moloney points out the ball is now in the IRA’s court. Their call.