IRA needs new context to leave the field of play

In the interests of balance I have temporarily abandoned my needy garden, to blog a couple of items. The first is Jim Gibney’s column in this week’s Irish News. He argues (as a senior member of Sinn Fein, he’s in a position to reflect internal RM thinking) the IRA are not going anywhere:

…the IRA will be part of the political scene here until there is a comprehensive peace agreement which works, which they can support and which deals with the removal of all armed groups involved in the conflict. There is not a comprehensive agreement round the corner so those jumping up and down demanding the IRA exit now should sit down and review what it is they are trying to achieve – a permanent peace or the defeat of the IRA? The first is possible the second is not


He goes on to turn attention away from where it has been in the last three months, on criminal behaviours of members of the IRA to the wider context, and the varous deficits that Sinn Fein feels its erstwhile partners in the Belfast Agreement are responsible for.

  • SeamusG

    I’ll repeat what I said on an earlier thread:
    When the IRA offered to decommission its weapons at the end of last year, that was a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that it no longer needed to exist. If it still had a military purpose, a raison d’etre based around security of the Catholic community or advancement of Republicanism, then no offer would ever have been made.
    Armed Republicanism ran its course years ago. I’d ask any of my fellow Republicans who disagree with this to please explain to me what the IRA is “for”.

  • IJP

    Thanks Seamus for immediately illustrating the contradiction in all this.

    Can I add: could one a ‘Republican’ explain how this can be read any way other than Gibney saying that the IRA won’t go away until there’s a United Ireland?

  • Cthulhu

    The remaining arms are, at their best, a bargaining chit… something that, for lack of a better term, can be used to keep the other players at the table honest. Following the news on this side of the pond, the disparity in the news has been painfully obvious — the IRA’s sins find their way to large type, above the fold printing, while those of the Unionists thugs usually end up stashed somewhere in the back of the paper, next to the obits and the polo scores, metaphorically speaking. Compare the news treatment of the McCartny matter vs. the death of Lisa Dorrigan.

    Their other “purpose” is retalitory — not in their use, but in their withholding — the more Paisley pushes to change the GFA unilaterally, the more “right” they IRA has to change it in return — plain, old-fashioned contract law.

  • spirit-level

    “a permanent peace or the defeat of the IRA? The first is possible the second is not”
    I thought we (The People)were getting somewhere when Big Ian joked about the IRA retiring to a kinda old boys network. That’s the best we can hope for.
    The IRA will never be defeated.
    Its useless to look for victory.
    Can the IRA be reformed? maybe a silly question?
    You got it when you said;
    “the IRA won’t go away until there’s a United Ireland?”

  • tom luby

    whenever i hear jim gibney’s name mentioned i remember back to the evidence given in the kevin mcgrady supergrass trial – gibney was accused of taking part in the sectarian murder in the mid-1970’s of some poor protestant drunk who had wandered drunkenly into the markets district – loyalists were killing catholics with abandon at the time and the ira had decided upon a policy of retaliation but using other labels to claim reposnsibility – the protestant civilian was, according to the evidence, blindfolded and taken into the back room of the markets social club where jim gibney sat, waiting to pronounce sentence – he told the man that he was to be set free but as he spoke he motioned a thumbs-down to the other ira men in the room – being blindfolded the protestant man couldn’t see any of this but he was so happy and relieved to know that he would live – they took him outside, still blindfolded, and put a bullet in the back of his head – gibney was convicted but acquitted on appeal when the whole supergrass system was discredited – some will argue that this story therefore falls as well but it is hard to think of making something like that up – the story will haunt gibney for sure no matter – i have always thought it fitting that the man accused of such disgusting deception ended up as adams’ principal spin doctor to the media.

  • Samjac81

    Tom I do not know if this story is correct or not but what I will say is this I am not a republican but I would have a lot of respect for Jim Gibney. From the outside he seems to be one of the key republican thinkers who are prepared to try something different.

    On this article I believe all he is doing is stating the facts and what he is saying to those who do not like is put together a deal that will get rid of the IRA. I think a deal is very possible if in some way the IRA can get around the photos. Sinn Fein want the IRA off thestageso that they can mount a serious assult on the next elections in the south.

  • IJP


    Thanks for stopping by.

    However, could you explain how one is to take from the article that a partitionist settlement sans IRA is possible? Or isn’t it?

  • Henry94

    The IRA will be around in some form for the forseeable future. If the currenr army council decide to call it a day they there will be other army councils and other armies.

    The real question is can we have a political settlement which has such widespread support that the IRA in whatever form are reduced to a tiny and irrelevent group.

    The nightmare scenario is that the “Provos” stand down and loyalists decide that the croppies can now be made lie down. A dispute over a parade? Shoot a couple of taigs to show them who’s boss.

    In that case the IRAs that are waiting in the wings would find people willing to listen.

    It is a risk we will have to face I think if political progress is to be made but I rate the chances of it leading to peace at only 50:50.

  • IJP

    Sounds a fair assessment, Henry, and of course any deal concerning ‘standing down’ or ‘going away’ or whatever would need similar from all ‘armies’.

    However, let’s be brutally honest: Loyalist mafia exist to be just that – they’re not political, they’re criminal. The evidence is strong that the IRA is ‘degenerating’ (as many would see it) to being the same.

    So my two questions in general are:
    1. Can the IRA (as Henry suggests) be ‘stood down’ with NI still part of the UK?
    2. Is what we are looking for in fact a security solution rather than a political one?

  • Henry94


    Loyalist mafia exist to be just that – they’re not political, they’re criminal.

    They played a political role in the conflict and may do so again. If they don’t we have a much better chance. If all the armies are to stand down together then we will have no problem.

    Is what we are looking for in fact a security solution rather than a political one?

    That is the kind of crazy thinking that got us into trouble in the first place.

  • alex s

    The IRA have a simple choice, quit now with what remains of their reputation intact or degenerate into a criminal gang all the time maintaining a glass ceiling on Sinn Fein’s rise to power on both sides of the border

  • Alan

    Logically speaking Gibney’s analysis stacks up, however, that doesn’t mean that it is correct.

    The republican *fact* that all ills in NI result from the presence of Britain in Ireland is insufficient and therefore inadequate. There is an element of choice that we are all free to act upon. We can choose violence, or we can choose the more difficult path of non- violence.

    The problem with the choice of violence is that we are always blind to its consequences. The choice of violence demands that consequences are forever out of our control. The contradiction within republicanism is that the political tradition (which requires intentional outcomes) has been wedded to a militaristic tradition that results in outcomes that are without anyone’s control.

    It is the tradition of violence that is illogical, not republican tradition. It is, therefore, foolish to suggest that the existence of of an organisation formed for violent purposes should be accepted as part of the fabric of our society even for a period – which is what Gibney is doing.

    The presence of the IRA can only destabilise anything that the Republican movement wish to achieve. That is why we have the prevarications, evasions and lies in order to protect the political from its own military.

    The only logical option for the Republican Movement is to remove the IRA at the earliest.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    Henry94, I think your assessment is a fair one and that is why we need to sort out this problem of republican communities not supporting the police. As soon as we can fix whatever it needs fixed (and whereever it needs fixed) the police should assume their role protecting all communities against any group of thugs which decides that it can execute someone.

    On the other hand, the trouble is that the police can’t be everywhere at once, and of course neither can the IRA. The IRA has never been able to prevent loyalists from killing civilians.