There is no silver lining

In the Guardian- not in today’s print version but probably tomorrow – Henry McDonald sounds a, much needed IMO, note of caution to those commentators forever searching for silver linings. Instead, he argues, behind yesterday’s cack-handed PR gesture is a double-sided communique, in part assuring its base, in part intending to menace – and – the real message is that the IRA is still a key player in the peace process and remains armed and dangerous and unwilling, as yet, to exit the stage.

His view of the statement is relatively straightforward – and I don’t fundamentally disagree with it.. although I would add that the statement, also, is an attempt to put a halt to the damaging pressure the PRM finds itself under –

The menacing aspect of yesterday’s seemingly bizarre message is aimed at the British and Irish governments. Decoded, it warns there is still an IRA out there prepared to use violence or the threat of violence to meet its ends. Paradoxically, the raging crisis sparked by the butchering of Robert McCartney outside a Belfast pub has presented the IRA with an opportunity to underline the fact that it remains willing to resort to armed action if needs be.

Those commentators forever searching for silver linings in the dark clouds hanging over Northern Ireland’s political landscape are wrong in their assertion that the McCartney controversy provides a chance for the IRA to leave the scene. Their argument is that Sinn Féin is being forced, though the actions of six brave and determined women (the McCartney sisters and the murdered man’s partner), to persuade its supporters to accept the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s bona fides. They point to the distance Sinn Féin leaders such as Gerry Adams have travelled in a matter of a few weeks, from denying outright that any republican was involved in the murder to calling on witnesses to pass on information to Northern Ireland’s police ombudsman and for the people responsible to hand themselves over.

Which BTW, is an argument that is closely entwined with the benevolent intrepretation of the IRA statement that Gerry Kelly was pushing yesterday.

However, the searchers for a silver lining misunderstand the essence of what the IRA said yesterday. Stripping down that statement to its core, the real message is that the IRA is still a key player in the peace process and remains armed and dangerous and unwilling, as yet, to exit the stage.[emphasis added]

  • ulsterman

    Total and absolute rubbish. You are either in a ceasefire or you are not. The IRA has now effectively left the political stage. SF are now isolated. There is now no chance of a return to government for them.

    In May the Papists have a choice. They can reject these murderers from representing them. Now that they are seen for the scum they are rejection is the only option. The sisters should stand in every seat that a SF MP is standing in.

    For the Union this is a great day. The IRA is on the run.A leopard never changes it spots. With the DUP heading for an electoral landslide in May the future is indeed ours

    Dublin, the Pope, the IRA/SF are finally on the run. Lets keep them running. Oh happy days are here again.

    No Surrender, No powersharing, No Compromise ever.

    God Save The Queen.

  • Pat Curley

    I would like to ask what sentence the killers and the coverup men might face in relation to their offenses. The man who killed James McGinley got three years for manslaughter. Would there be a murder prosecution because of the reported order (arguably in the heat of a bar brawl)?

    What I’m getting at here is that in the US these men might be desperate, looking at very long prison sentences or even capital punishment (unlikely but the reported order would certainly make it more likely that the death penalty would be sought by the prosecutor than a bar brawl killing).

    I assume capital punishment is completely out of the question. What kind of sentence might they get?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Pat Curley,

    Sentences are imposed after all the evidence is ascertained and a verdict recorded. In all likelihood the people involved in the actual killing will serve life sentences while those involved in any cover up will receive lesser sentences depending on the depth of their role in the incident.

    The Mc Ginley case indicated that Fisher was the victim of a sustained attack by two people and CCTV footage seemed to indicate that Mc Ginley and another person waited to ambush Fisher after the initial assault.
    The Fisher trial was done under jury and the fact is the jury and trial judges recognised the mitigating circumstances by first dropping the murder charge and the severity of the sentence imposed.

    The two cases are totally different in the fact that Mc Ginley appears to have initiated the incident in which he was killed and the (hearsay) evidence so far indicates Mc Cartney did not.

  • aquifer

    The IRA may be in part be running according to its own internal dynamic, projecting threat to dissuade those who would jump ship or betray the RM financial empire. They may also wish to persuade people that IRA dissolution is still worth negotiating for.

    The negotiating bit is problematic, for SFPIRA have shown themselves to be untrustworthy and unwilling the reciprocate the flood of reform, rights protection, and political innovation that flowed from the GFA. The decommissioning requirement in the GFA has not been completed, and was not done in a way to build confidence. The IRA has not indicated much intention of proceeding to dissolve.

    Was the GFA just a con to get an effective state police force off its back in order to build a new level of support, refinance. regroup, and rearm?

    Maybe not, but a unified and armed movement has a problem managing internal dissent when dissent may lead to bloody internal strife. Too easy to blame external others and avoid difficult political choices.

    The IRA may always have a problem concluding a peace that does not involve a nineteenth century nation state called Ireland. The problem that creates for everyone else is that there may be no point in negotiating with them, inviting their suppression.

    Can the SDLP and others help the SFPIRA salvage this? If not then, why not now. They are the irish republicans now. They can speak with good authority, especially as their colleagues are not pointing guns in their back.

    Do the Unionists need the IRA to legitimise their own but very odd exclusive version of democracy? If not, stop pretending that democrats can be excluded after they close down their armed appendages.

    Performance of decommissioning has to trump their preferred distrust of irish nationalists. Unionists should make it very clear that SF will be included when the guns and threats go.

    What if SFPIRA should stage a split.

    And leave the security services to clean up the mess?

  • Circles

    The interesting thing at the minute is that (if Henry McDonald were to be correct) it would IMO represent a huge miscalculation of the actual feeling in the republican / nationalist community on the part of the IRA, a community which SF are now much more in touch with.

    Part of the menace / strength of the IRA lay in the fact that they drew support from a community that, in general, was sympathetic to the cause (if not always with the methods). Since Decmber (in fact since poltics has started paying off a lot more than violence) this relationship has come under increasing strain, and is now at the point where the IRA are seen at best as an embarassment to republicanism / nationalism, and at worst as the “Rafia” as sections of the press have been busy trying to convince us. Any real sympathy is concentrated in a small hard core minority who have no credibility.

    SF must be aware of this and must know that drastic action is needed to protect their own credibility, and to a large extent the credibility of republicanism in general. It would have been better for them to have seen off the IRA from a position of relative strength – unfortunately, they carried on too long and any chance of that is blown.

    Of course, as Gonzo hinted yesterday, this could be a master stroke to destroy any romantic notions of the IRA before they go – but I doubt this, as it would have required the manipulation of a situation in which the are only able to react and not act.

  • Pat Curley

    Thanks for the info, Pat Mc Larnon. Over here in the US we hear how soft the Europeans are on crime (e.g., the man the other day in England who killed his ex-wife and her new boyfriend and got 17 years), so I’ve been wondering if the shooting threat might convince the killers that it’s better to do their time. If they’re facing life, I doubt that’s in the cards.

  • peteb

    Pat Curley

    That’s where the ‘bar brawl’ narrative could be seen to be important.