Too little, too late

The Observer’s Henry McDonald, writing for the Guardian website makes a prediction of the IRA response to Adams’ latest speech, and he notes that we’ve heard similar versions before – “In all probability some kind of ethereal statement indicating that its “war” is over, possibly then backed up by some act of decommissioning albeit without photographs or any other recorded evidence.”As he suggests, they are “bargaining chips” that have been proffered before, but this time they will be used for votes, not a deal with Unionists –

These two moves were bargaining chips the IRA wanted to use when Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists appeared to be inching closer to a deal to restore devolution last December. Now in the post-Northern Bank/post-McCartney murder world, these bargain counters are principally to be offered up in order to win electoral support. But, in addition, any new IRA initative (which will, of course, fall short of unionist demands) will be designed to put unionism under pressure. Stating the “war is over” coupled with decommissioning will paint republicans in a good light and force the British and Irish governments to hold negotiations after the general election. The impression that the IRA is moving will be an irresistible temptation for Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart, Bertie Ahern. Mr Blair and Mr Ahern will then urge unionists to get back into talks with Sinn Féin now that the IRA is moving in the right direction.

In the current circumstances, according to Henry McDonald, there is still no silver lining –

Short of disbanding (a highly unlikely scenario), no IRA statement, no IRA act of decommissioning, will suffice for unionists to re-enter government with Sinn Féin in Belfast. Regardless of whatever slant Tony Blair and his spin masters put on yesterday’s statement and the likely IRA response, there will be no deal on the other side of the general election, or for that matter for the next few years.