As Ed Moloney noted on RTE’s lunchtime news (26 mins in) today, this is a statement ending the campaign, not the right of the IRA to prosecute war against the British. Nor does it indicate a restructuring of the IRA into an old boys association. That would take an Army Convention. There is no evidence from this statement that such has taken place.What it does say is that IRA arms are to be dumped. That there will then follow a deal that should seal all or some of those dumps. And that IRA volunteers “have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means”. Effectively, to jump ship from the IRA to Sinn Fein?
For good measure the clause the governments wanted in December to cover criminal activity, appears now to have been appended with: “Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever”.
No specific reference to policing, but no pejorative reference to the PSNI either. Indeed the relevant paragraph seems to pass the responsibility for the defence of Catholic neighbourhoods to ‘society’. Vague, yes. But it would seem to clear the way for the acceptance of a legitimate police force.
And it would appear that the IRA is now finally prepared to sign up to the principle of consent:
The IRA is fully committed to the goals of Irish unity and independence and to building the Republic outlined in the 1916 Proclamation. Our decisions have been taken to advance our republican and democratic objectives, including our goal of a united Ireland. We believe there is now an alternative way to achieve this and to end British rule in our country.
In short the statement looks like a tacit agreement to do what Unionists thought the IRA was already signed up to do within two years of the Belfast Agreement. Then, however, David Trimble decided to jump first and let the IRA follow in its own time.
Now the promissory note will have to be fulfilled entirely before Sinn Fein can expect any reciprocation from its new prospective dance partner in Northern Ireland – Ian Paisley and the DUP.
And so the party continues…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty