More was expected

In the Irish Times, Northern Editor Gerry Moriarty was clearly less than impressed by the ‘rhetorical flourishes’ of the speakers at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, and references Bertie Ahern’s prediction on Thursday that “on the key issue of whether the IRA would take the required initiative to reopen the possibility of a deal we would be as informed entering the conference as we were leaving it.”

However, this could also be a temporary little achievement for Adams. If in the weeks ahead nobody is brought to book for Robert McCartney’s murder, then this 100th anniversary Sinn Féin Ardfheis could come back to haunt the Sinn Féin president and leadership. It will be viewed as the worst of stunts, a cruel stunt.

And if in the months ahead we are still being subjected to impenetrable language from republicans which – with the right wind and the planets in alliance – just might be construed as the IRA being prepared to fade away, then the notion of this being a purifying moment for the IRA will also evaporate.

So which is it? It’s impossible to tell because although Adams may have issued subliminal messages, he didn’t issue direct ones. It would have been a defining moment if delegates travelled home last night conscious that come the autumn a deal would be feasible again and that that would involve the IRA unequivocally bringing down the shutters on all activity and dismantling its arsenal.

We got hints and some rhetorical flourishes from Gerry Adams and his senior colleagues over the weekend of such possibilities ahead but nothing truly concrete.

Gerry Moriarty also noted the sidestep on the issue of criminality –

To be sure Adams and his colleagues hammered home to delegates that the IRA and Sinn Féin must not be tarnished with allegations of criminality, most particularly over Robert McCartney’s murder. But to republicans what constitutes criminality? Adams partially addressed this conundrum as well. “We know what a crime is both in the moral and legal sense, and our view is the same as the majority of people. We know that breaking the law is a crime,” he said.

But then came rider: “But we refuse to criminalise those who break the law in pursuit of legitimate political objectives.” We’re still back to the Kafkaesque concept of republicans alone defining what is a crime.[emphasis added]

His overall impression of the weekend would seem to be that it was an opportunity missed –

So is the IRA prepared to go away? Maybe. Is Sinn Féin prepared to acknowledge that IRA criminality is corrupting society, and more importantly that it must do something about it? Maybe. Might they sign up to policing? Ditto.

In essence, beyond the drama of the McCartneys, the weekend was a Sinn Féin holding operation, an occasion to rally the troops. It seems that the big decisions on the big issues won’t be made until a deal is in prospect, which could be a long time away.

More was expected of the ardfheis, and republicans are still where they put themselves, in a corner.[emphasis added]

  • levitas

    It seems that the Ard Fheis did not leave all observers as cold as hardened cynical anti-republicans such as Gerry Moriarty…

    “Downing Street has said that Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis indicated the party is now starting to deal with criminality within the republican movement.
    A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the weekend’s Ard Fheis showed the party was now beginning to address what he described as issues of concern to the two governments and the people of Ireland both north and south.” RTE News 14.55 7/3/2005

  • levitas

    It seems to me, and I was at the Ard Fheis that the McCartneys arrival put many press hacks in a blue funk and talking afterwards at least two hacks were very angry.One in particular a slightly built Irish Times female hack with glasses and grey hair spent all of Adams speech peeking out from behind a curtain beside the stage to noting down every facial tic, nuance, or expression form the McCartney sisters during whilst Adams was speaking-perched precariously on some camera boxes and constantly glancing over her shoulder in case security would quite legitimately challenge her this vaguely ludicrous figure clearly wanted to get just one eyes up to heaven or theatrical sigh and she would have her piece.After a while she was challenged for her nosey and prying peep show efforts,and she attempted to explain what she was doing….it was obvious taht she was desperately trying to rebound the spin from the sisters arrival at the Ard Fheis and this was the best she could manage….pathetic

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    These weasel words from the Irish Times shouldn’t come as any surprise. This is self styled newspaper of record after all takes every opportunity to brand as criminal the republican movement while describing the true criminals in the north, the UDA and their police handlers, as ‘peacemakers and bridge builders’ (editorial of January 31).

    The Irish Times under the editorship of Geraldine Kennedy has fallen off its lofty perch and has now become the propoganda sheet of the Progressive Democrats and other anti peace process parties and partitiionists.
    The piece by ‘Professor’ Moriarty and the editorial in today’s edition are just further nails in the coffin of editorial independence on Burgh Quay (used to be Dolier Street but I think they’ve moved).

  • AW

    The sisters were invited and they could have refused or accepted. If they had refused then it could be construed that they were just anti Sinn Fein. If they accept they risk being seen as acquiescing and thus blunting their main thrust. As it turned out they are seen as accepting in good faith and really it is now up to the Republican movement to deliver. I think they played it well.

  • AW

    The sisters were invited and they could have refused or accepted. If they had refused then it could be construed that they were just anti Sinn Fein. If they accept they risk being seen as acquiescing and thus blunting their main thrust. As it turned out they are seen as accepting in good faith and really it is now up to the Republican movement to deliver. I think they played it well.

  • JC47

    There is no ambiguity with republicans, and in particular with republican leaders, as to what is a crime. Republicans see the army council of the IRA as the legitimate government of the Irish Republic.Any act taken under the remit of the army council of the IRA is de jure a legitimate act of government. This is why the killing of Robert mcCartney, the killing of Jean mcConville,and the Northern Bank robbery etc cannot be termed criminal. For republicans this claim is an objective fact. There can be and there is no ambiguity in this matter. Gerry Adams may use a ‘rhetorical flourish’ to postulate that some of these acts may be ‘wrong’, but that is a subjective judgement and in no way overrides the moral objective fact that, for republicans, these acts are lawful.

  • GavBelfast


    How, by your logic, could the UDA be criminals?

    They have done (and not done) little that the IRA have (and have not done) over the years.

    You are clearly not on their side, but can you not see that there is little to distinguish loyalist death squads from republican ones.

  • levitas

    JC47 are you going to keep coming out with thesame old twaddle about the Army Council.etc etc

    a) you are wrong both de jure and de facto

    b) attempting to sound authoritative about what the IRA believes is undermined largely by the fact Gerry Adams specifically refuted this specious argument in his Ard Fheis speech-see the full text-but this extract covers this specious argument, which I suppose if McDowell and others keep repeating they hope will eventually become an accepted “fact”

    “Sinn Féin is accused of recognising the Army Council of the IRA as the legitimate government of this island. That is not the case. The supreme governing and legislative body of Sinn Féin is the Ard Fheis. This is where this party makes its big decisions. This is where we elect our leadership, agree our policies and set in place our strategies.

    I do not believe that the Army Council is the government of Ireland. Such a government will only exist when all the people of this island elect it. Does Sinn Féin accept the institutions of this state as the legitimate institutions of this state? Of course we do. But we are critical of these institutions. We are entitled to be.”

    Now perhaps you can move on to some new “theory”-but then again you will probably stick with the one you have invested so much time learning by rote, since lets face it why let a little thing like the truth get in the way of your best loved conspiracy theory.

  • Belfast Gonzo


    I noticed another very odd write-up of another party conference in another paper you might be aware of. The newspaper reviewed the event two weeks before it happened… astounding foresight!

  • Hardy Handshake


    I am assuming that you’re a member of SF and/or a supporter of the IRA but fogive me if you are not. A number of questions if I may.

    Is it your understanding that the IRA sees the 32 county Republic not as an aspiration but as an actually existing entity ?

    Do you ascirbe any legitimacy in today’s world to the 1918 general election and the endorsement by the First dail of the 1916 Proclamation as having any authority on the modern world or providing now, or at any time since 1918, moral, or political, authority over Ireland in the 32 county context ?

    Did any such legitimacy which flowed from it in the eyes of the IRA provide for the IRA moral or political authority for armed struggle from the late 1960s ?

    Do you and/or current IRA members consider that the IRA Army Council became the repository of the 1916 tradition and thereby represented or still represnts the only legitimate political authority in the land ?

    What is SF and /or the IRA’s position now on Pearse’s decree that a man who accepts “anything less by one iota than separation from England is guilty of so immense an infidelity, so immense a crime against the Irish nation…that it would be better for that man (as it were certainly better for his country) that he had not been born.” ?

    Do you consider that the sovereignty over both parts of the island, inasmuch as they are exercised by (sic) by elected representatives north and south now replaces and consigns to history the sovereignty of the First Dail or, notwithstanding the ongoing soveriegnty of the UK over part of Ireland, do you believe that both of the Irish states continue to represent perversions of national democracy and to that extent can never enjoy the wholehearted endorsement of irish nationalists and/or republicans pending British withdrawal ?

    Is your support of the 26 county state now total or does it continue to be caveated in any respect whatsoever ?


  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about. Do you? If so, fill me in.

    The UDA were and continue to be criminals with involvement in drugs, prostitution and extortion – not to mention sectarian violence up to murder. To be described as ‘peacemakers’ by the Irish Times editorial writer is a perversion of language and an indication that Eoghan Harris’ moral fog truly does reign in the 26 counties. They have shown no indication that they’re leaving that behind in spite of being feted by establishment Ireland with invites to the President’s inauguration and days out playing golf in top golf courses.

  • lámh dearg

    Surely the bottom line is that despite SF’s damage limitation exercise, despite Gerry’s speeches the IRA men who murdered Robert McCartney are still free, witnesses still remain afraid or unwilling to make usable statements and justice remains denied.


  • levitas


    your up far too late to be asking questions which you already think you know the answer to…I was tucked up in bed asleep… Secure in the knowledge that the Republic was declared for all the national territory, but has not (yet) (self evidently) become a de facto reality.It is a fairly self evident truth that whether it be sooner or later, then the Republic will become a reality for all the nations people. Not least because the majority of the people on this island of ours wish to it occur, and by a mix of democratic process and demographic inevitability it shall come to pass, the British do not want their most fervent self proclaimed brothers, who in anay case they regard as the least likeable of the various “paddies” on this island. I’d say they are just waiting for a time to slip away quietly in the night leaving the unionist community crying for mammy….no I would say despite the repeated rantings of “ulsterman” et al that the beloved union was very far from safe. As for SF or the IRA…you do not need to support them to observe, as I do, that their analysis is closer to the truth, and their projections for the future more realistic.

  • GavBelfast

    OC, I’m pretty sure you know very well what I’m getting at.

    You referred to the UDA as criminals. What did the UDA do (or not do) that the IRA did or didn’t?

    They, too, have had stated political objectives. By your logic, anything they ever did as a means to securing those objectives was not criminal.

    That’s simply applying your logic.

  • JC47

    “I do not believe the army council is the government of the Ireland.Such a government will only exist when all the people of this island elect it”…..Levitas

    Such a government was elected by the people of this island in 1918.
    Hardy Handshake this election is the basis of the legitimacy of the IRA army council’s claim to be the lawful government of the Irish republic.
    Therefore the killing of Jean mcConville was not a ‘crime’ etc
    Sinn Fein find this ‘fact’ to be politically dangerous so they have to either fudge the issue or indulge in personal attacks.
    So Hardy handshake you will not get a detailed response to your interesting post.

  • Hardy Handshake


    The questions are not barbed and are not malintended or sarcastic or rhetorcial, why don’t you answer any of them please ?