“a ball of smoke”

I hadn’t looked at the Irish Times when I posted my earlier comment today, but I see Vincent Browne, sort of, agrees. From his opinion piece in today’s Irish Times –

The IRA is not going to disband. The IRA is not going to end what is called criminal activity, not for now anyway. The IRA may decommission most of its weapons but it will retain some.

From Vincent Browne’s opinion piece in today’s Irish Times

The IRA is not going to disband. The IRA is not going to end what is called criminal activity, not for now anyway. The IRA may decommission most of its weapons but it will retain some, writes Vincent Browne.

Senior members of Sinn Féin will continue to be involved in the IRA. More than likely there will be some internal rearrangements which will perpetuate the IRA in some other guise, allowing deniability and cover. And for many people, were they to appreciate all that, this would be unacceptable. They would be mistaken.[emphasis added]

To get an idea of where Vincent Browne is coming from you may need to re-read his benign theory of events

Back to today’s article

What matters now is not an IRA statement announcing disbandment or an end to operations or full decommissioning or commitment to solely peaceful methods. There is another test, a far more important test, a test, which, if met, would be truly transformative.

Policing.

Policing has been the big issue for a decade and remains the big issue. Everything else is a ball of smoke. Decommissioning doesn’t matter – it never did.[emphasis added]

This argument has been put forward before.. and I’m still not convinced by it –

If republicans are tied into policing all other issues fade away. And by being tied in I mean the following: that they give their total support to policing; that they urge their members and supporters and society generally to co-operate with the police force in the prevention and detection of all acts that are against the law (let’s not get tangled up in the semantics of criminality – all action, that is, against the law as the law now is, is what matters); that they agree no other organisations have any authority to enforce anything other than the police force and the courts; that “punishment beatings” be reported to the police along with all information on who were involved; that members, supporters and others are urged to give information to the police on all breaches of the law, ie to “inform”.

This won’t stop criminality, won’t stop all “punishment beatings”, won’t end the IRA as an organisation. But it will or would be transformative for it would mean an acceptance of the democratic institutions of the state, notably the police force, as the sole legitimate institutions, demanding unequivocal allegiance.

Of course there will be fudges and equivocations on this for a while at least – only the appointment of a Sinn Féin minister in charge of security would end the fudges and we would then see a law and order which many of us liberals might not like at all.[emphasis added]

He skips quickly on from what seems an ominous statement, in which I suspect that he’s actually implying that only a really hard-line Minister for Justice can get to grips with this society’s problems.. to blame the political culture

The problem is not so much with the IRA or republicans generally, it is to do with the political culture.

There is a danger that when republicans are found to have engaged in further criminality, the whole process will be discredited because of a failure to appreciate that transformations are not sudden – they take time, lots of time.

The problem with this argument, as well as the further indulgences in the ongoing process it requires, is that Vincent [the liberal?] is putting the cart before the horse – for how can any society accept the word of any organisation claiming to be committed to policing while it continues to operate on the basis of, in Browne’s own words, “some internal rearrangements which will perpetuate the IRA [or any other organisation] in some other guise, allowing deniability and cover” for continued criminal activity? And how can any society then continue to accept that fiction while that organisation takes hold of the post of Minister for Policing and Justice?

As I’ve already said, Vincent Browne’s seeming preference for benign scenarios permeates the article – in contrast, perhaps, to Gerry Gregg’s noting of Browne’s interpretations of other events

But it’s also worth noting that the process he suggest fits, even more closely, the contrived divorce scenario.

In short, expect more ambiguity, and more crises, ahead.