Blair: IRA need not disband

Tony Blair has given his blessing to the idea, floated earlier by Bertie Ahern, that the IRA does not have to disband. He said: “What is important is that the Republican movement pursues its aims by exclusively democratic and peaceful means, and that means an end to all violence and all preparations for violence”.

  • peteb

    Mick

    The full text of Blair’s quote, and links to the other details of what emerged yesterday, is in the updates to this post

    “On the first point which is to do with the form of disbandment. Look let us be very clear, otherwise you get into verbal battles which are not what is important. What is important is that the Republican movement pursues its aim by exclusively democratic and peaceful means, and that means an end to all violence and all preparations for violence. And therefore that means an organisation like the IRA moving into a different way of working, a different frame, a different modus operandi where it is no longer posing a threat of violence, or violence itself in the community in Northern Ireland. Now I think that is pretty clear and what language you use to describe how that happens is I think far less important than the blunt fact that you have got to have an end to violence in word and in deed.”

    It’s another attempt at a balancing act that involves the credibility threshold incorporating at least one favourable IMC report.

  • Mrs Tilton

    This strikes me less as balancing act than squaring the circle. What is it that Blair is suggesting, really? That, if the IRA permanently, totally and credibly abjure violence and transform themselves instead into a democratic political party (or for that matter a knitting circle), it won’t much matter if they insist that, in the strict technical sense, they haven’t gone away you know?

    Well; I suppose. But will not getting the IRA to deliver what one might call the substance of disbanding a rather large hurdle to be leapt before everybody may enjoy the luxury of seeking a terminology acceptable to all?

  • David Vance

    Wonderful things, weasel words.

    Disarm, disband, cease all criminality, go away forever. How hard is that to understand?

    The IRA, in liaison with the British and Irish Governments, is planning the mother of all con jobs and there will be those useful fools who will go along with it.

    Hoperfully the DUP and UUP will remember the words of the Who and “won’t get fooled again.” Provo words and Blair and Ahern spin – all sound and fury signifying nothing.

  • Liam

    If the IRA disband, that would leave a void for another armed group to move in and fill that void, problem being is that they may not be in ceasefire.
    If the IRA say stay together in a peacefull way with no physical acts of violence, they can use their influence over their supporters to embrace peace and go forward in a “democratic” fashion.

  • circles

    to D. Vance: “Disarm, disband, cease all criminality, go away forever. How hard is that to understand?”
    Good question. Supposing the IRA were actually to issue a statement saying they intend to immediately disarm, disband, and to go away forever, there would not doubt be people who would still say it was the mother of all con jobs.
    Those who are crying loudest for such a statement are exactly those who won’t believe it anyway.
    In this respect Liams post is a much more logical and realistic way of seeing the situation (and I believe Ahern and Blair see it this way too).
    All this “won’t get fooled again” (copyright Pete Townsend) behaviour, while to be expected is simply counter productive to transforming the face of political discussion in the north.

  • Mick

    There is something formulaic in the character of all of this discussion. And that seems to fit the overall situation. It gives all parties a chance to test any new situation arising from a prospective agreement in advance of signing up – when it could be too late to change.

    I wanted to ask Liam whether he thinks passive coersion of less convinced members of the Nationalist/Republican community is feasible if the ultimate sanction cannot be used without undermining the agreed new dispensation?

  • peteb

    Mick

    I’d suggest that the elements of the formula emerging in the isolated statements yesterday don’t contain the full details of the proposition that has undoubtedly been under discussion

    It will also be interesting to see how the eventual statement from the Provisional Movement is portrayed in the light of the apparent choreography..

    Will we still be expected to swallow the ‘unilateral move’ line that had previously been promoted?

  • David Vance

    Circles,

    No thinking unionist cares a jot what the IRA say. (I know that still leaves North Down Ulster Unionists still gagging for the deal…but let’s leave them out for a moment!)

    Actions are what count. So, let’s see all the arms dumps emptied, let’s see a complete end to all criminality, let’s see the permanent end of the IRA (and UVF and UDA ETC)

    Now, and I’ll whisper this so no one can hear, we all know that’s not the deal here, don’t we? We all know that this is about Provo wordplay and grand gestures with no substance. Naturally some people WILL allow themselves to be fooled again – but then they say there is one born every moment…

  • Harboy

    Can’t agree that this talk has been “full of sound and fury” – look at what has been said – little sound, no fury – seems to me that most people involved think something important is going to happen.

    “Take it slowly and don’t ruin an historic chance” would be more like it, in my opinion.

    The only reason for the use of the “full of sound and fury” by those above is to elbow those of us with a little bit of education towards the phases “told by an idiot” and “signifying nothing”.

    Fair enough so far as it goes – but there are viewpoints that inform moves in such directions and they aren’t 100% towards progress and peace or anything like it.

  • pete baker

    Wrong thread, perhaps, Harboy?

  • Harboy

    No – right thread – well-ish – it was a response to this comment of DV’s of 12:24pm.

    “Hoperfully the DUP and UUP will remember the words of the Who and “won’t get fooled again.” Provo words and Blair and Ahern spin – all sound
    and fury signifying nothing.”

    Though to be honest, I did have to check twice as there’s all this sound and fury going round on the other thread… maybe that’s where the party’s at?

  • Boris The Spide

    David Vance ? You better you better you bet…he’s wrong. Again. No fool like an old fool Who definitely will get fooled again..and again…and again.

    He is NOT the Sea.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Ahh the dancers change and dance goes on. The question that will arise is the extent to which a formula based on various sequential statements and then the credibility of those statements being tested by the IICD and the IMC can build sufficient trust in the wider unionist community. They love momentum negotiations tactics here at Harvard as well. It can work on participants but what happens when you go back to the constituency that the primary represents? That’s the judgment call I suppose Robinson and Dodd’s will have to make. The real trick will be not to stretch beyond what the wider unionist community will tolerate in pursuit of a deal. There will always be those who are unhappy but can they hold a significant enough mass to consider a response to this? If so it will be interesting to see how they plan to manage the internal tensions in the DUP? (Ballymena councilors anyone). Although I know that unlike the UUP they are planning for it.

    The disbandment of the IRA always seemed unlikely to me and the fact that both governments are now indicating this pretty strongly is going to make for a tough round for the DUP. The issue it seems will be creating a set of events that demonstrate that the IRA is shifting from violence in way the DUP can then convincingly sell to the broad mass of unionist opinion. The issue of criminality is going to be even harder. The IRA can say that they give it up but can they deliver that on the ground? Will each and every member be willing to give up their community status or income? Not everyone gets a cushy job in SF so someone’s going to lose and how to manage those people is a tough one for Gerry & Co. I wonder if the SF leadership have finally reached the point where they are willing to let a few people shed and turn their back on their former colleagues if they keep up criminal behavior?

  • Alan McDonald

    Duncan,

    How’s Cambridge? Have you gotten to see much of the Boston area? Check out Plimouth Plantation if you get the chance, and compare it to the Ulster American Folk Park.

    Anyway, from here in America it is hard to see any accomodation coming from the DUP based on everything they’ve said so far.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Alan,

    Hot! Its been 90 here this week, too hot for me. i have seen a lot of Boston and am busy doing the Police tour through my summer job so thats been an interesting way to see the city. Havent got down to Plymouth yet.

    The DUP will play it careful and it may be the case that they dont want a deal but my instinct is that enough momentum exists inside the senior leadership to try to reach one. The issue is whether papa doc and even more importantly baby doc can be controlled. Dont confuse their rhetoric with their actions.

  • Alan McDonald

    Duncan,

    Thanks for the insight on the DUP. I must remember that politicians are the same everywhere.

    My wife and I skipped the Bush speech tonight, but we accidentally caught the discussion that followed. Since my wife wasn’t actually listening, she asked me what was said. I replied that politicians (from either party) never answer a question. They all came to sell tomatoes, so they tell you about how good their brand of tomatoes is, even when the subject is war.

    Now, as I recall, you were more like an honest man than a politician. We actually know a state assemblyman here in New York who is also an honest man. Wow, that makes two of you!

    I hope you get out to Cape Cod. I haven’t made it myself, but everyone says it’s beautiful. (Also, from the other thread, you’re right about Al Franken.)

  • Menzies

    Why are we being told that we must wait until at least August for the IRA’s big statement (yawn)? Are they planning more heists, criminality and settling of old scores before their big day? Just like the IRA to hog the limelight and or all of us to wait on them so foolishly with baited breath…..when will we ever learn?

  • Comrade Stalin

    “Actions are what count. So, let’s see all the arms dumps emptied, let’s see a complete end to all criminality, let’s see the permanent end of the IRA (and UVF and UDA ETC)”

    Would you support SF in government after that had been reached David ? I’d always imagined you were completely against powersharing with people who were opposed to the state.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    This may be a daft question but how does Gerry Adams secure the permanent end of the UVF, UDA etc? And if he can not then why should Sinn Fein pay a price for the failure to do so?

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Alan,

    Nice of you to say so. In my view the general public are not so stupid as to be incapable of hearing the truth. I actually think that people have greater respect for you if you do even if its not always what they want. Not so sure it leads to a long political career though. But who knows at this point. I always liked this one:

    “I never gave anybody hell! I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”
    Harry S. Truman

  • David Vance

    Comrade Stalin,

    Let me answer your question.

    1. If the IRA disband and disarm and stop all organised criminality, then one could argue that Sinn Fein politicians could be permitted into an administration on the back of a democratic mandate.
    2. I oppose power-sharing in principle. It is undemocratic. Sharing power with those dedicated to the destruction of the State is even more stupid.

    So – no mandatory power sharing with insurrectionists EVER would be my point of principle.

  • T.Ruth

    Like David Vance I am opposed in principle to power sharing. For any majority in a democratic political process the willingness to share power is in itself a major concession to political opponents who are opposed ,some violently, to the existence of the state in which they live.
    However I recognise that for Northern Ireland the involvement of nationalists and republicans in the Assembly and in the Executive level of government will indicate their acceptance of the legitimacy of the majority wish to be part of the United Kingdom and may enable us to get down to the business of developing the potential for forward movement in our society.
    It will be interesting to see how the next stage of the IRA fudge is presented to us as a major step forward. The Unionist people will not be fooled by smoke and mirror diplomacy but will rely on the evidence of what they see and experience in terms of a new dispensation.
    There is no place in a democracy for armed paramuilitary armies and no one will forget the evil acts of violence perpetrated by the IRA in its vicious sectarian fascist campaign against the Unionist population.Attempts now to rewrite history and present its leadership as statesmen and not vicious calculating criminals will be resisted by those on the Unionist side who have endured the pain of the last forty years.
    Thankfully despite its failings democracy endures and the pen is still mightier than the sword.
    T.Ruth

  • T.Ruth

    Like David Vance I am opposed in principle to power sharing. For any majority in a democratic political process the willingness to share power is in itself a major concession to political opponents who are opposed ,some violently, to the existence of the state in which they live.
    However I recognise that for Northern Ireland the involvement of nationalists and republicans in the Assembly and in the Executive level of government will indicate their acceptance of the legitimacy of the majority wish to be part of the United Kingdom and may enable us to get down to the business of developing the potential for forward movement in our society.
    It will be interesting to see how the next stage of the IRA fudge is presented to us as a major step forward. The Unionist people will not be fooled by smoke and mirror diplomacy but will rely on the evidence of what they see and experience in terms of a new dispensation.
    There is no place in a democracy for armed paramuilitary armies and no one will forget the evil acts of violence perpetrated by the IRA in its vicious sectarian fascist campaign against the Unionist population.Attempts now to rewrite history and present its leadership as statesmen and not vicious calculating criminals will be resisted by those on the Unionist side who have endured the pain of the last forty years.
    Thankfully despite its failings democracy endures and the pen is still mightier than the sword.
    T.Ruth

  • Eddo

    T. Ruth

    How long will this silly ‘huff’ continue and will the rest of us who aren’t unionist simply have to lump it ? Also, if you truly believed in democracy you’d be perfectly happy to subsume your political interests as a negligible minority within the UK rather than the parochial self-interest pursued at the grossly over-expensive non-performing do-nothing Stormont and in the vastly over-populated local councils here – will you ?

  • T.Ruth

    Eddo

    Given the political and demographic realities the non Unionist community will I believe have to accept that Northern Ireland will remain within the United Kingdom for the foreseeable and long term future. The question is then how can we have an inclusive,democratic,peaceful future that releases the latent energy in our community and gets a positive result for all the people of the province.
    Unionists have long been clear that they will support devolved democratic institutions that protect the rights and civil liberty of all.
    The IRA is the stumbling block. Everyone over the history of Northern Ireland has had equal access to the democratic process in Stormont, Westminster and Dail elections.The IRA rejected the ballot box and has consistently supported murder,bombing and assassination to advance its political view. It has now reached a position where it must disband and enable Sinn Fein to establish itself as a party no longer wedded to terrorism and criminality. Only in this kind of scenario can we assume joint responsibility for devolved government.
    The principle of local government is valid and to accuse the arrangements of the last period of years as having failed misses the point completely. The intransigence of the IRA and its reliance on fascist sectarian tactics have hindered the development that all constitutional democrats seek.
    Fighting for some unachievable “fenian dream” only prolongs the day when we can get down to the busines of making this province a great place to live for us all.

    My particular preference would probably be for an independent Ulster and I imagine yours would be an all Ireland republic. I can’t see either coming along in my lifetime so lets move forward in a positive direction. Let’s think5k of our young people and give them some hope for a
    better future.

    T.Ruth

  • Eddo

    T. Ruth

    But your argument is that power-sharing is wrong anyway, in which case why aren’t the two unionist parties leading from the front and showing us by example what civil an religious liberty for all looks like, yoiu don’t need nationalists to be in place to implement or at least advocate this. What in actuality does that mean anyway – what pratical politics do you have or support which will bring NI into the 21st century and make it a liberal, secular open-minded and genuinely pluralist place which lessens its dependency on the UK subvention and promotes meaningful valuable employment to all people here on a basis which is fair ? Can we have a situation in which this silly prolonged annual festival of bigotry ends and some semblance of community relations be introduced and develop ?