Evidence of turmoil?

On RTE’s 9 O’Clock News last night, Northern editor Tommie Gorman gave his analysis of the IRA statement[streaming video clip], saying that “it shows the level of turmoil within the whole Republican movement”. He predicted that those “fingered by the IRA” must now end up in court, but also pointed out that, whatever the intention behind the statement, it “is going to ensure that all other political parties.. will be insisting that there must be no doubt for the IRA to move away, disintegrate, to leave the stage before they’ll do business with anyone”.

It is also worth noting the change in stance by Sinn Féin that has taken place since their initial statement – by Sinn Féin’s Policing and Justice Spokesman Gerry Kelly, speaking shortly after the IRA statement was released, and shown on RTE’s 9 O’Clock news last night[streaming video clip – Gerry Kelly appears 1:58 minutes in], who described the IRA statement as “a positive contribution” and “trying to enhance the process and facilitate the process of bringing some justice to the McCartney family, and I think it has advanced that process.. and I think it’s a very strong statement”.

Later the Sinn Féin reaction had shifted, as noted by RTE, the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was restating the party’s previous position that “he had made it clear that he was not going to be an interpreter of IRA statements”. And Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said he was “surprised by the IRA statement. To shoot those involved would have been a mistake and unfortunate.”

Gerry Kelly was, IMO, clearly attempting to set the tone for the reaction to the statement, a ‘first strike’ technique that has proved successful in the past. THat he failed to achieve that is an indication of by just how much the party is misreading the public mood.

No matter how quickly the party’s shutters now come down, the reaction elsewhere is clear and is summed up in the Irish Examiner editorial

The latest statement issued by the IRA must rank as one of the most extraordinary ever. It is a frightening exhibition of just how out of touch the organisation is with the constitutional process and the fundamentals of the judicial system.

It is alarming that they would offer to shoot the alleged culprits, and just as frightening that they would brazenly admit this, because the whole thing confirms their criminal nature and lack of respect for human life.

They are either totally ignorant or contemptuous of the fundamentals of a civilised judicial system.

The McCartneys have again distinguished themselves in the whole sorry episode. They are the ones who come out with dignity, having passed up an opportunity for vengeance. Their answer was essentially: “Thanks, but no thanks.”

We could not agree more.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Why are people so confused by the tenor of this IRA statement? It was, like all important republican statements at defining moments, deliberately designed to be read two ways.

    For republicans, it was saying: “The IRA can do no more to help, as we offered the maximum punishment we can.”

    For the rest of the world it was saying: “We haven’t learned a thing, you know.”

    The Republican Movement seems to be damning the PIRA with faint praise as much as everyone else is demonising it with harsh criticism at the moment.

    The IRA statement seems designed to attract negative reaction and to possibly shock the republican community itself – but remain true to the IRA’s policies. There is only one reason I can see for this (and about a hundred other things recently, such as the Northern robbery) – the ground is being laid for the IRA to either stand down/dump arms/whatever this week’s term is, or go its separate way.

    It’s all part of Gerry’s big plan to take overall control of the RM without splitting it. Why else would be bring up his belief that the Army Council doesn’t represent the legitimate government of Ireland to himself in his keynote speech at the ard fheis.

    All this seems to fit the Moloney theory that suggests SF may be bringing all this to a head deliberately.

    Isn’t that obvious? ;o)

  • slug9987

    Gonzo – problem is tha talmost *anything* can be seen as evidence for that conspiracy theory.

    Thus –

    IRA bad stuff: its Adams doing it deliberately to discredit them.

    IRA good stuff: Adams takes the credit.

    That is, your theory fits any facts. Its not a falsifiable theory in the Popperian sense.

    All very well for weblogs but doesn’t really get us anywhere.

  • peteb

    Gonzo

    Two points I’d make.

    1) It is the lack of change in the IRA which the statement evidences that has caused the reaction.. 8 years after the GFA etc etc.

    2) Ed Moloney’s theory did come to mind as I wrote the intro.. but the ‘strategic genius’ theory is wearing thin.. and has always been more about the isolated internal politicking of the PRM than its relationship with the outside world.

    Without the ability to control the media response, see Gerry Kelly reference above, the isolated nature of that thinking is now being brought to the fore.

    Just MHO..

  • Circles

    Hmmm – nice conspiracy theory Gonzo, but I think it assumes a degree of unity in the RM which is just not there.
    However I do see the possibility that it is a ground preparing exercise for them to slowly sink below the horizon / ride off into the sunset.
    On the other hand though – why would they do this now? The chance was there in December and events since then have not exactly made the atmosphere more conducive for a general order to stand-down.
    Normally though P. O’Neil is an astute statement writer so I find it hard to believe that this was simply a case of either arrogance or ignorance.
    Still it is quite a mystery.
    What will the next bend on this road bring? The coup would of course be a massive dumping of all arms and a massive romp to election victory – which is more than unlikely.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I refuse to believe this was a ‘PR gaff’ as some seem to think. P O’Neill has had plenty of statement-writing practice recently, and if every word hasn’t been gone over a hundred times before publication, I’d be surprised.

    slug9987

    Not sure I see your point. Since Adams is the ‘face’ of the RM, of course everything is going to rebound off him.

    Now we even have Daily Ireland saying the McCartney killers must account for themselves in a court of law. Think about it. Policing and justice are THE key issues, and if recent events haven’t shown that SF is moving towards greater acceptance of those, I don’t know what does. At that point, sometime after 2007 I would guess, the RM will either be split or the IRA will no longer be active.

    Baby steps…

  • peteb

    It’s not just about the “killers”, Gonzo, but as the McCartney family have pointed out today.. also those involved in the cover-up.. a group that is noticeably absent from the IRA statement.

    THere’s still a “damage limitation” operation in action.

  • Circles

    There is damage limitation peteb, but you must admit that latest statement went well beyond that.

    I don’t buy the gaff theory either. These statements are finely combed a thousand times before they appear. Something is most certainly afoot.

  • slug9987

    “Not sure I see your point. Since Adams is the ‘face’ of the RM, of course everything is going to rebound off him.”

    Sure but it doesn’t mean that every single thing is some part of his intended masterplan.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    slug9987

    You don’t get it. Fair enough.

    Adams is the face of the RM, an image he has carefully constructed. Why is his face on every SF election poster, no matter who is standing? Where the younger leadership coming up through at the moment?

    Adams has created, like Paisley, a cult of personality. What he decides, happens.

    I think Gerry has decided that the RM can afford to ‘take a hit’ at the moment, since the polls are still holding up reasonably well.

    The Tele will have an opinion poll this week, which might give us a better idea of things… maybe!

  • Alan

    There’s also the question of what type of republicanism would survive the *dissolution* of the PIRA. Does it revert to *mere* nationalism?

  • IJP

    Careful, Gonzo. Peteb is correct.

    The basic problem is that the IRA stopped violence tactically not morally, likewise the calls for the killers to account for themselves in a court of law by some ‘republicans’ are tactical not moral.

    If the ‘baby steps’ were towards an acceptance that violence is morally utterly unacceptable in all contexts and that the justice system is morally the only means to deliver justice, we could be optimistic about the future of a political process involving SF. I’m not.

    However, the McCartneys have shown that the long-term future of our region – led by people of courage and principle – might not be quite so bleak.