Can Republicans accept power sharing?

In this week’s Newsletter column Alex Kane has trouble getting excited about the IRA statement. He argues that the Republican movement is refusing to face some fundamental political truths about Northern Ireland’s future, and wonders aloud whether its because it cannot face genuine power sharing with its erstwhile political opponents – the Unionists.

By Alex Kane

It really is very hard to work up any enthusiasm for the IRA statement. The organisation is still only half-way to where it should have been in 1998. Instead, it spent the next seven years lining its pockets and bullying from the sidelines. And while this particular statement may lack the torturous semantics of its predecessors, it still adds up to in-your-face guff.

The IRA has lost and lost big time. The prospect of a United Ireland is as far away today as it was in 1970, when the Provisionals first bombed their way into the headlines; or July, 1972, when Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams were flown to London for secret talks with the British government. There is no hope of a United Ireland and thirty-five years of ditches, safe houses, hunger strikes and republican propaganda, has led to nothing more than a formal recognition of partition and the opportunity for IRA members to govern Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.

The unionist presence is as strong as it has ever been. This is a victory for the entire pro-Union community, who refused to be bombed, blackmailed or bargained out of their beliefs. The IRA may say that the “armed campaign” is finally over, but the truth of the matter is that the end purpose of that campaign—to remove the British from Ireland—was never a serious prospect. That being the case, the IRA is having to settle for the removal of the watch-towers and the return of its on-the-runs. Again, not much to show for thirty-five years of terror.

That is the stark reality underpinning the statement, a reality which seems to have been ignored in the media hoopla and the fatuous response from Tony Blair. Mind you, Blair’s comment that this is “…a step of unparalleled magnitude…” perfectly encapsulates the hypocrisy of the whole thing. It was, after all, the spineless attitude of successive administrations, which encouraged the IRA to believe that its terror campaign could deliver the ultimate dividend of a united Ireland.

But the IRA hasn’t gone away. It hasn’t disbanded. It hasn’t apologised. It hasn’t faced up to political reality. It hasn’t made any concessions to unionism or unionists. It justifies the legitimacy of its terrorism. It hasn’t ruled out another campaign at another time. It hasn’t promised to dismantle the paramilitary apparatus, which allows it to keep whole geographical areas and housing estates under its control. It isn’t handing back the money it has stuffed away in numerous secret accounts. In essence, the statement is the same old baloney of finger-pointing self-righteousness.

Yet it is precisely because Mr. Blair has interpreted it as being of “unparalleled magnitude” which leads me to believe that it is unionists, rather than Sinn Fein, who will again be pressurised into delivering more concessions, or remain deprived of devolved and fully democratic institutions of government. The appeasement machine has already been cranked up, showering Sinn Fein with face-saving goodies, while reminding unionists of how fickle and surrender-driven the NIO and Number 10 are likely to be.

The problem, of course, is that the statement, and the reaction of the British, Irish and American governments, causes huge problems for unionism in general and the DUP in particular. In one fell swoop the IRA has been removed from the equation; but without having been removed from the political undergrowth. The DUP will be told that this is as good as it will get and that the statement should be regarded as a final and definitive one. In other words, the issues of disbanding and disappearing are, as far as the governments are concerned, completely off the political agenda.

The DUP has been given a stark choice. Take it or leave it. They will be given another stark choice in a few weeks time—talk to Sinn Fein directly about re-establishing devolution, or forget about devolution for the forseeable future. The DUP has very little room for manoeuvre and it will not be allowed to drag out the process for very much longer. Putting it bluntly, Tony Blair, having found it, is not going to risk losing the Holy Grail of every Prime Minister since 1968, the ending of republican violence.

Sinn Fein, it must be remembered, has problems of its own. P.O’Neill has written of the IRA’s decision 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.” There is no such alternative. The pro-Union majority is not going to be out-bred or out-voted and Northern Ireland is not going to be evicted from the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland has come a very long way since 1995. It has still a very long way to go. The whole process could move much faster if Sinn Fein and the IRA had the courage to abandon rhetoric and embrace political reality. Unionism, all of it, has accepted the reality of power-sharing and the Irish dimension as the price to be paid for devolution. Are republicans wilfully or psychologically incapable of accepting power-sharing and the British dimension? If so, then the IRA’s statement will, as I suspect, amount to no more than another false dawn in the peace process.

First published in the Newsletter on Saturday July 30th, 2005

  • nmc

    Alex has his own axe to grind. He, like many people don’t see the IRAs efforts over the years as anything other than murder etc. However I know that catholics in Northern Ireland have been discriminated against over the years, and that now this is ceasing to be the case. This is not entirely due to the IRA but it would be stupid to suggest that they had nothing to do with it. The real problem Alex has is that the governments and the NIO no longer get away with openly marginalising catholics, because Unionism no longer holds all of Northern Ireland’s power.

  • beano; EverythingUlster.com

    I don’t think it’s stupid to say the IRA had nothing, or at least very little, to do with winning equality for Catholics. Far from it, I wouldn’t be surprised if equality was accomplished earlier without the distrust, the fear and the hatred they nourished.

    Look around you. Equality legislation progressed in the UK for gender, race and the latest probably sexual orientation and disability. Surely you don’t think the nationalists/catholics/Irish in Northern Ireland would have been left out of this, with or without the IRA.

  • Mick

    nmc, this is not simply for you, but for Slugger’s commentariat in general.

    It is really useful for the rest of us that when you comment on someone else’s remarks that you try to make a counter argument to what that person has said, rather than try to read between the lines to what you think they mean, or second guessing what may have motivated them.

    It may be that you are right, but it also may be that you are completely wrong. As external readers we have no way of making a judgement one way or the other.

    In any case, it means that interesting lines of argument don’t get explored – and we go down the track of parallel argument (ie where the two sides never actually touch) often known pejoratively as whataboutery.

  • Hmm…

    Beano:
    Maybe, but then again, lots of Westminster legislation doesn’t make its way over here. The ’67 abortion act, for example, doesn’t apply in deference to local sensitivities…

  • aquifer

    Alex does not bother to spell out the RM’s remaining option of keeping NI unstable and ungovernable. I wonder does he live in a quiet ‘single identity’ area like many unionist voters. And given the proddie paramilitaries tendency to make enemies of anyone who is not an NI born and bred bigot, the shredding of the Unionist vote and bolstering of Nationalism can only continue. The Unionist battle for British mainland hearts and minds was lost about 25 years ago.

    A small coterie of criminal ethnic gangsters have managed to politically encircle a much larger law abiding population.

    Unionist political strategy, tactics, command & control must all be really crap, and SFPIRA will not grant them breathing space to re-group.

    Although they may encourage them to parade.

    And trust them not to ask why.

  • nmc

    On your second point, “Equality legislation progressed in the UK for gender…” you are right in what you say – eventually we would have gotten equal treatment. It may have taken a long time, how long is difficult to decide. This argument we Northern Irish have has a problem with dates, 25 years of troubles, 100 years of discrimination 300 years blah blah blah. So I’ll leave history out of it. On your first point, I disagree. I think the IRA had a whole lot to do with the progress catholics have made here over the past twenty five years. Aside from what decent ordinary people see as progress, the IRA has been a powerful bargaining tool for decades, and they continue to be now.

  • slackjaw

    I think the IRA had a whole lot to do with the progress catholics have made here over the past twenty five years.

    Wise up.

  • aquifer

    The IRA campaign and its polarised aftermath has left many young nationalists afraid to venture far from their single identity neighbourhoods for employment or any other reason. The effect of civil disorder, the business bombings, car hijackingss, riots etc was for kids to lose too many school days and to close off the few employment options at that time. Sectarian polarisation leaves Catholics crowded into single identity housing areas behind peacelines.

    If the IRA want to claim their fair share of credit for all this that’s fine by me.

    And do please ask Ian Paisley for his thoughts. We might not like his answers, but he too bears responsibility and we should hear them.

  • middle-class taig

    slackjaw

    Have you ever lived in the North? It’s by no means an uncommon view among nationalists that the only reason we have the range of equality measures etc that we do is the IRA’s campaign and the international spotlight it cast on the discrimination practices by all aspects of the state and unionist society against the nationalist community here.

    Personally, I think the DUP would deny us oxygen if they had power to do so. With the UUP not so far behind. And bear in mind that for most of the period 70-97 an ugly tory regime was in power in GB, and it was not predisposed to equality, anti-discrimination or other comparable policies at all, never mind for a crowd of fenian rebels.

    BTW It’s staggering that within 8 minutes of Mick’s post, you should post as you do. Own goal by you, one-nil to nmc. Are you going to chase an equaliser?

  • BogExile

    If SFIRA took the head staggers and embrased genuine power sharing (and responsibility sharing) even as a holding position, we could get on and tackle the corrupt, depraved revolting sectarian sewers around the province where good people who just want to play by the rules and bring up their familes are corralled, cowed and subjugated by squalid paramilitary fiefdoms. But then of course it’s very useful to have a few hundred rent-a-chavs on sink estates to provide the necessary ‘North still ungovernable’ film footage when you’re on the back foot.

    Which begs the question about the more accessible Loyalist estates. If we didn’t have such an emasculated Police Service this sort of clear out should have occurred long ago. The scene in Holywood and E. Belfast would have not been tolerated for 2 minutes on the other side of the border or the sheugh. Bring back the Guards!

  • middle-class taig

    BogExile

    “If SFIRA took the head staggers and embrased genuine power sharing (and responsibility sharing) even as a holding position, we could get on and tackle the corrupt, depraved revolting sectarian sewers around the province where good people who just want to play by the rules and bring up their familes are corralled, cowed and subjugated by squalid paramilitary fiefdoms.”

    The mind boggles at the architecture of your understanding of current issues. Again, your comment sounds as if it comes from someone without any recent experience of the North.

    “corrupt, depraved revolting sectarian sewers”

    Given you mention SF, I assume you mean nationalist areas. No nationalist area that I know could be described as corrupt or depraved. I don’t know loyalist areas well enough to comment. I really don’t know what if any any action by SF is needed to address difficulties in such areas. You may have seen footage of SF leaders trying to defuse tensions at interfaces recently, and being attacked for doing so.

    On sectarianism, it’s not quite dead yet in nationalist areas, but it’s on the way. I guess Ardoyne is about as bad as it gets (at least for external consumption) And even then, those people have been brutalised recently by being humiliated a couple of times a year with sectarian parades and watching their children subjected to horrific abuse on their way to school.

    Can you give us an indication of what more SF need to do to “embrase (sic) genuine power sharing (and responsibility sharing)”, and your view on mr Paisley’s call today for them to be banned from ANY future administration?

    Is your moniker a reference to this country?

  • felix quigley

    Alex Kane is essentially correct in his view of the situation. It seems to me that the Treaties which set up the two states in 1920-21 were fair, in that the Catholic and Nationalists did manage to have 26 Counties, the protestants and unionists 6 counties and recent developments show that the Southern state has been pretty successful.

    The great evil to me has been the outside interfering by Britain, the South and America in the political situation in the north. With power-sharing you have an undemocratic mechanism.What happened to one man one vote which was what the original civil righters concentrated on?

    That is the basis of bourgeois parliamentary democracy. That has been tampered with here by the US, the South and by the EU also. (It all reminds me of the pressure put on Israel, continually and the Irish republicans remind me of the PLO) It can never work. With this power-sharing there can never be a government governing on an agreed programme which was put to the electorate and decided by election.

    Anyway everything has to be brought back to 1921. It (the establishment of the 2 states) was either legal in international law or not.

  • Dessertspoon

    When and where did Paisley say that MCT? And in what context? Not a dig just interested to know.

  • circles

    DessertSpoon:
    Check here for the good Doctor’s prescription:
    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/050803/344/forx0.html

  • middle-class taig

    Dessertspoon

    not taken as a dig – I myself was shocked at his loose (BrianCowen-esqu you might say) lips

    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/050803/344/forx0.html

    Today he said:

    “It will be my business and the business of my colleagues to lay it on the line to both the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister that there can be no place in any future government of Northern Ireland for IRA/Sinn Fein. As the representatives of the majority of the Ulster population, we will not be engaged in any negotiations with that aim.”

    Do you think I’m reading that wrongly? Seems pretty definitive to me.

    Also I love the “representatives of the majority of the Ulster population”. It’s incorrect in so many different ways it’s delicious.

  • Dessertspoon

    Thanks Circles.

    Typical fire and brimstone stuff from the Doc. Just when you think the doors are finally opening someone slams them shut again. If I only believed he really had a point or a genuine concern about terrorists in government (name a governement that doesn’t have a few either overtly or covertly). It just always comes across as his own personal vendetta against Republicans/Nationalists…SF in particular. I don’t think a full Hollywood spectacular with music and SFX documenting the destruction of each piece of IRA weaponry and a huge flag waved at the end saying “WE GIVE UP. IT’S ALL YOURS IAN!!” would convince that man.

    I don’t want people like him leading and influencing anything in NI. I hate to wait and I’m sick of waiting for this interminable process to reach a conclusion but if it has to wait until he is no longer with us then so be it.

  • Dessertspoon

    Thanks MCT..too

  • slackjaw

    middle-class-taig

    Have you ever lived in the North?

    Yes. But whilst I am a Northern Catholic, I don’t presume to speak for Northern nationalists; I leave the demagoguery and propaganda to the professionals and impassioned amateurs.

    It’s by no means an uncommon view among nationalists that the only reason

    Are you speaking for yourself here, or saying simply that the view exists? The view is incorrect. If you share this view, then you are incorrect.

    I think the DUP would deny us oxygen if they had power to do so….

    How come the DUP is so popular anyway? Don’t you think that the IRA might have something to do with it?

    Is the Protestant perception that the IRA was the principal cause of ‘The Troubles’ really nothing to do with the IRA? Despite the fact that it was killing RUC men (who had ordinary ‘innocent’ wives, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters – the type Irish Republicanism supposedly cherishes equally) to bits on a regular basis?

    It’s staggering that within 8 minutes of Mick’s post, you should post as you do..

    It’s only a comment thread FFS. But it’s staggering that people actually believe the IRA has a driving force for progress among Catholics. It’s as if they are living in a parallel universe.

    Maybe they’ve never been stopped and searched by the thickest eejit in their class, now out protecting the ‘community’ on the 12th of July.

    Maybe they’ve never seen a Catholic teenager going click-clack click-clack like the clappers on crutches past a chippy by balaclava’d dudes wearing marigolds in hot pursuit, out to dish out a second kneecapping. Of course his subsequent suicide can be blamed on the British state and the unionists.

    Maybe they’ve never been caught up in a shoot-out between the RUC and the RA where the RA threw a blast bomb into the back of a landrover and the RUC started firing indiscriminately back down the street in their direction.

    Maybe they’re just too young. Or brainwashed.

    Own goal by you, one-nil to nmc. Are you going to chase an equaliser?

    You can wise up and all.

  • slackjaw

    Oops sorry didn’t mean to say ‘killing to bits’

  • circles

    Classic double-talk slackjaw:

    “Have you ever lived in the North?

    Yes. But whilst I am a Northern Catholic, I don’t presume to speak for Northern nationalists… “

    Followed swiftly by..

    “Are you speaking for yourself here, or saying simply that the view exists? The view is incorrect. If you share this view, then you are incorrect.”

    So if you don’t presume to speak for nationalists, how can you so emphatically refute MCT’s suggestion – which I am also aware of and recognise it as an existing point of view. Indeed many of the people I know who hold this view are the very ones who were there when “the RA threw a blast bomb into the back of a landrover and the RUC started firing indiscriminately back down the street in their direction”.

    And being a norther catholic has clearly not provided any insight into republican communities. Some of your little motifs (the pathos of the kneecapped teemager for example), are caricatured beyond all recognition. I don’t know where abouts in the north you live, but it sounds like a long way away from anywhere I know.

  • Paul O

    Quick! (And be honest!) – Who comes to mind first when you read: “cannot face genuine power sharing with erstwhile political opponents”??

  • Dessertspoon

    Tony Blair…no…Gordon Brown…no wait Ian Paisley…Gerry Adams…..pretty much every politician wants it all their own way. Power Junkies – no-one WANTS to share.

  • middle-class taig

    “The view is incorrect.”

    Is this want you offer by way of argument. I don’t see any whay in which one could engage with that, other than to say open your mind.

    It’s obvious you feel the need to blame the RA for the whole situation in the North. That’s a pity, but there’s not much one can do with that kind of argument, other than roll one’s eyes.

    “Maybe they’ve never been stopped and searched by the thickest eejit in their class, now out protecting the ‘community’ on the 12th of July.”

    The thickest eejit in my class is now in the PSNI. You’re other “anecdotes” are meant to do what exactly, because they don’t make any coherent point? Of course the RA did bad stuff. The question is whether the existence of the RA led to changes in society here. I think they did.

    Btw, the DUP is now at it’s most popular. The IRA has not attacked anyone in the unionist community in 8 years. Care to explain how this fits into your “its all the provies’ fault” thesis.

    “You can wise up and all.”

    Another own goal. You’re not a Celtic fan, are you?

  • slackjaw

    circles

    I was asking if MCT shares the view that the only reason we have the range of equality measures etc that we do is the IRA’s campaign.

    To say that the view is incorrect is not to speak for all Northern nationalists. I didn’t dispute that the view exists. Why don’t you tell us if you share the view?

    And being a norther catholic has clearly not provided any insight into republican communities.

    I’m sorry. You’re right. That wasn’t really the IRA at all. What on earth was I thinking? The IRA are good.

    Some of your little motifs (the pathos of the kneecapped teemager for example), are caricatured beyond all recognition.

    Sorry about that. But I did see it. Now I know it might be a little bit Sindo-lite, but I don’t have time to describe things in line with your narrative tastes. Perhaps the next time I could try a nouveau roman-inspired snippet told from the point of view of the curtains in the chippy.

  • circles

    Slackjaw:
    Its not my view SJ – but like I said, I do know quite a few people who share it. And I wouldn’t be so presumptious as to label anybody’s view incorrect simply because I do not agree with it.

    And your revisionist assertions that somehow the RA were the feared oppressors in republican communities just doesn’t correspond to the view of many of the people who grew up and live there. Everybody knows that the RA were not the salvation army, but trying to portray them simply as the evil part of a good versus evil struggle is far from reality.

  • slackjaw

    MCT

    open your mind

    Open your mind to the possibility that the IRA is not responsible for you becoming a middle-class taig.

    It’s obvious you feel the need to blame the RA for the whole situation in the North.

    I don’t. The IRA weren’t responsible for the discrimination and inequality in Northern Ireland. They didn’t just come into existence because they were ‘bad people’.

    What I do reject is the view that they are somehow responsible for ending discrimination and creating equality of opportunity.

    The thickest eejit in my class is now in the PSNI.

    Touché.

    The question is whether the existence of the RA led to changes in society here. I think they did.

    Well of course it did. And when they stopped killing people, things got a lot better.

    But what’s the point of arguing that their ‘existence’ brought about anything? The existence of fundamentally rotten things throughout history has often led to progress. It’s not enough to merely argue, well, because these guys existed, and progress happened, they are therefore responsible. That’s just nuts. By that reasoning we could have Hitler to thank for the British welfare state or The Sixties.

    The IRA has not attacked anyone in the unionist community in 8 years. Care to explain how this fits into your “its all the provies’ fault” thesis.

    I haven’t provided any such thesis. It isn’t ‘all the provies’ fault’.

    Another own goal. You’re not a Celtic fan, are you?

    Not particularly. Although last night’s performance was impressive, I suppose.

    circles

    And I wouldn’t be so presumptious as to label anybody’s view incorrect simply because I do not agree with it.

    You are a gentle soul. So you wouldn’t call the view that we should nuke the Arabs ‘incorrect’ then?

    revisionist assertions….trying to portray them simply as the evil part of a good versus evil struggle is far from reality.

    I have done no such thing. Indeed it is the revisionist assertion that the IRA is simply the good part of a good versus evil struggle that needs to be challenged.

  • circles

    Slackjaw:
    I saw your response coming when I wrote my reply to you.
    The particular example you gave is hardly worth addressing – the point is that opinions are exactly that, and basically cannot be right or wrong. Its a subjective judgement on a situation and one persons view out the window is as valid as anyone elses. You can agree or not, but thats a different thing from absolutes.
    Actions are the problem, not opinions.

    As far as I can tell, nobody has tried to assert that “the IRA is simply the good part of a good versus evil struggle” – so theres no need ofr you to be getting excioted about that. No need to redress a scale thats not imbalanced.

  • Hektor Bim

    The thing that Alex Kane doesn’t seem to acknowledge is that it was entirely within the power of the British government to prevent the emergence of the IRA. The hysterical reaction to the civil rights marches and the clear desire to keep the Unionist community in complete control fed the growth of the IRA and Bloody Sunday really sealed the deal.

    One should not portray the Troubles as entirely a product of crazed “united Ireland” people among the Republican community.

    Kane says that a united Ireland is as far away as it was in 1970. I’m not sure how he can be sure about that, but the rise of nationalist political power is clear. Having 7 MPs, power sharing and devolution (though interrupted), the end of the RUC, civil rights protections, Sinn Fein strong on both sides of the border – these are clear political wins for nationalism relative to what unionism was in favor of in 1970. One can argue whether these make a united Ireland closer or not, and I think that is an interesting argument, which I am not sure I know the answer to, but one can’t say that no change has happened.

    So, I feel that this analysis is useful, but it is also telling. He wants the IRA to apologize, but as far as I can tell, no one in Northern Ireland has ever apologized for anything. The British government hasn’t apologized for Bloody Sunday or internment, the UUP hasn’t apologized for running a sectarian state that denied civil rights to a large minority of its citizens, the DUP hasn’t apologized for Ulster Resistance or reading the names and addresses of Catholics to mobs, loyalists haven’t apologized for their murders and punishments, and the IRA hasn’t apologized for their bombings, murders, and punishments.

    That suggests to me that people feel like they don’t have anything to apologize for. As long as people continue to feel that way, I don’t think writing articles pointing out the mote in someone’s else’s eye while ignoring the plank in your own are helpful.

  • slackjaw

    circles

    one persons view out the window is as valid as anyone elses

    I don’t think so. If you and I both look out the same window, and I say it’s raining, and you say it’s not, it isn’t raining and not raining at the same time. Anyway, that could be another discussion thread entirely.

    No need to redress a scale thats not imbalanced.

    Sorry, I was just responding to your observation that I was making revisionist assertions and portraying the IRA as the evil part of a good versus evil struggle. That wasn’t what I was trying to do at all.

  • circles

    “one persons view out the window is as valid as anyone elses”
    Well I guess you knew that that was not to be taken literally.
    And it looks like we’re in agreement then in the good against eveil thing too.
    Sweet.
    Wouldn’t it be great if it could be like this all the time?

  • slackjaw

    circles

    *What the world needs now/Is love/Sweet Love*

    Anyway, moving on…

    Hektor Bim is right when he says that writing articles pointing out the mote in someone’s else’s eye while ignoring the plank in your own is not helpful. But people don’t generally read NI newspaper columnists for the surprises, so Alex Kane is hardly worth singling out.

  • 6countyprod

    ‘Personally, I think the DUP would deny us oxygen if they had power to do so.’

    Is MCT really saying that the DUP would murder every last Irish nationalist if they had the chance? If that is not the product of a paranoid, brain-washed mind, tell me what is. Will there ever be reconciliation in NI when people continue to hold to such ridiculous preconceptions? Check out the Real McCoy.

  • The Beach Tree

    6countyprod

    Not so much murder as happily allow to die. A small distinction, but important from a moral point of view, no?

    And yes, I suspect many members and supporters of the DUP would simply wish northern nationalists out of existance if they could. Not with actual traceable blood on thier own hands, of course, massa, but still. Large scale emigration, loss of any or all political rights, mass conversions? Yes, I’d say they’d love any of those.

    Or at the very least consign them to utter and silent abjection.

  • Fraggle

    well I read,

    ” I think the DUP would deny us oxygen if they had power to do so.”

    and thought, “Yup, they probably would, and find some reason to be self-righteous about it too”.

    I’m sure I’m not alone.

  • 6countyprod

    Beach Tree,

    and here I was thinking he meant gas chambers or suffocation, and all that. How silly of me. It’s just all hyperbole, then?

    Well, somehow I don’t think so. He probably means every word of it.

  • DCB

    MCT

    I accept that many people do share the view that the IRA somehow created equality for Catholics. But because many people believe it doesn’t necessarily make it right.

    Of course an army that’s fought for 30 years and not achieved it’s main objective is going to furiously seek for any crumbs of victory. So we get the Provo revisionism which says that Catholic progress is mainly down to them.

    The first employment legislation was introduced in 1976, following from measures proposed in the Sunningdale agreement. Gerry Fit had far more to do with it than Garry Adams.

    The reason why it took years and years for Catholics to get anywhere is that you can have all the equality legislation in the world but if you have no economy and no job creation you will get nowhere.

    And the state of the economy in the 70s/ early 80s had of course nothing to do with the RA’s campaign of economic warfare.

    Our at times annoying Irish American cousins had a lot to do with making sure that the legislation was tightened and implemented correctly. They were mobilised by the SDLP and the Irish government.

    So absent the IRA, then yes you would still have had discrimination, but you would have had it solved a lot quicker. The civil rights movement in the North, the Irish government and the Irish American pressure groups were powerful enough to force change on the British government.

    I can understand why your defending the RA to some unionists who do think that the our whole problems arose as a result of republicans. If any one individual can take the blame then Paisley is a good candidate. But that doesn’t mean that any good came about as a result of the armed struggle.

  • Mick

    Relevant to the reluctance of some of our commenters to actually make an argument: from a piece (subs needed) on how conspiracy theories can distract and obscure, in the FT last weekend by Lawrence Freedman:

    “…attempts to prove that policies were shaped by hidden agendas tend to be futile and distracting, interfering with the development of credible critiques and neglecting the wealth of material that is readily accessible”.

  • DCB

    hecktor

    I think Blair did actually say sorry for Bloody Sunday. The first loyalist ceasefire contained the words “true and abject remorse” IIRC , though I’m not sure if that counts as an appology.

    So it’s not impossible

  • yoda

    But Mick, are you seriously suggesting that there are no such things as conspiracies or hidden agendas?

    Slagging off conspiracy theories/ theorists is *also* a good way of distracting from and obscuring full discussion. Label someone as a member of the tin-foil hat brigade, and they become much easier to dismiss.

    I suppose the problem has to do with how a so-called “credible critique” remains credible if it starts off by ruling out possibilities that are known to exist.

    Poor William of Occam’s name has been used vainly and in vain so often. How can one know how many assumptions are necessary?

  • middle-class taig

    DCB

    And because you disagree does not make it wrong.

    “Of course an army that’s fought for 30 years and not achieved it’s main objective is going to furiously seek for any crumbs of victory.”

    Yeah, you can content yourself with that line if you want. If you care to look how smug the Shinners are, how impressed m-cts are with recent events, and how confident this has made republicans, I think you’ll revisit the “crumbs of victory” thesis. Frankly, it’s the lamest act on the circuit right now.

    “The first employment legislation was introduced in 1976, following from measures proposed in the Sunningdale agreement. Gerry Fit had far more to do with it than Gerry Adams.”

    introduced, but not enforced. There still isn’t fair employment.

    And let me second you on your acknowledgment of the fine and honourable role played in the emancipation of northern nationalists by Lord Fitt. Absolutely.

    “The reason why it took years and years for Catholics to get anywhere is that you can have all the equality legislation in the world but if you have no economy and no job creation you will get nowhere.”

    Irrelevant obfuscation. Differentials tell the real story.

    “Our … Irish American cousins had a lot to do with making sure that the legislation was tightened and implemented correctly.”

    Or rather, not implemented.

    “They were mobilised by the SDLP and the Irish government.”

    No, they were mobilised by a sense of injustice which the armed campaign kept at the forefront of their minds. Without it, they’d have done diddly. If anything, they were coralled by the SDLP and thwarted by Dublin.

    “So absent the IRA, then yes you would still have had discrimination, but you would have had it solved a lot quicker.”

    I simply demur. That doesn’t make the IRA campaign right or noble, but I believe that we’d be in the same position as our parents without it. I feel a genuine sense of gratitude to those who sacrificed for me. [I hope unionists reading this try to uinderstand where that’s coming from, and look at the world through my eyes on this]

    “The civil rights movement in the North, the Irish government and the Irish American pressure groups were powerful enough to force change on the British government.”

    The only meaningful change has accompanied the RM-led peace process. Blair’s arrival was a fortuitous coincidence.

    “I can understand why you’re defending the RA to some unionists …”

    That’s not what I’m doing. I wish you would refrain from patronising me. I haven’t done that to anyone else.

    “If any one individual can take the blame ….”

    No one individual can. Every one of us put a brick in the walls between us. Paisley is a human being just like all of us, with all the weaknesses and pettinesses inherent therein. His problem is he’s also a moral coward.

    In general, read my post on the “devil’s in detail” thread if you’re interested in what I think the outworkings of the armed struggle have been.

  • Levitas

    I suppose Alex would have us believe that we would have simply seen the moral, political, and economic collapse of unionism as is clearly observable between 1969 and 2005 if people like himself had just wished really really hard for it to go away? What observers like Alex Kane find so difficult to accept is that it WAS the cutting edge of the IRA’s armed struggle which forced the changes we see in the 6 counties between 1969 and today…without the war, bloody, painful, and as heart rending as it undoubtedly was there would have been little or no serious imperative for Britain to change its attitude to the governance of the 6 counties,and the attitude of Britain in the days of the late Edward Heath is I think fairly indisputably different to the observably different approach currently being exemplified by the sterling work of Peter Hain MP.

  • DavidH

    Levitas: … it WAS the cutting edge of the IRA’s armed struggle which forced the changes we see in the 6 counties between 1969 and today…

    So do you accept it wasn’t the IRA that secured electoral reform in 1968?

  • Alex. Kane

    Levitas (re your 12.32am posting, August 4th):

    There is clearly an argument for saying that it was IRA activity in the period from 1970-85 which forced successive British governments to make changes which wouldn’t, otherwise, have happened (although it is an argument championed by IRA apologists who need to justify their activities).

    I happen to be one of those unionists who believes that we brought many of the problems upon ourselves and I accepted that changes were necessary. As an atheist I have never had hang-ups about religious outlooks and as a democrat I believed that every citizen of the UK should have enjoyed the same rights and opportunities.

    There is an argument, too, that once the reforming ball started to roll, British governments (after consultation with the SDLP and Irish governments) would have continued to roll it. So it didn’t actually need the IRA’s “cutting edge.”

    But the IRA was never interested in making Northern Ireland a better place for nationalists/Roman Catholics, and it wouldn’t have mattered what the UK government did in terms of societal change, if that change stopped short of unification

    But it was also quite obvious that Irish unification wasn’t going to come from the so-called “armed struggle.” That being the case, I would make the argument that the IRA’s decision to continue with that campaign was simply brutality for the sake of brutality. Last week’s statement has been inevitable for at least 20 years. And that, perhaps more than anything else, is why an apology was required.

    Best wishes,

    Alex

  • BogExile

    SORRY (GERRY)

    We shot one
    We shot two
    We shot 1500 more than you
    We did it for the cause
    And we did it just because
    And I really think i’d rather
    Still wear a balaclava
    We really had a blast
    But we know the time is past
    Cause after 9/11
    We were never going to heaven
    So we’re slightly out of date
    With our highly polished hate
    But we’ve acted with impunity
    And fucked up Irish unity
    So with regards to Gerry:
    Are we sorry? Very.

  • abucs

    Alex,

    you talk as if the violence was all from the IRA. Can i remind you of army curfews of nationalist areas, nationalist interment leading to deprivation, humiliation and severe beatings, brutal army and police involvement on nationalist areas including BS.

    Violence begets violence, and that is from both sides. Once these things start they are hard to stop.

    I would pay tribute to both the IRA and the British Government in putting their culture of violence behind them and to be working together now in finding a new shared politics. They have been moving in this direction now for well over ten years. It is a shame, but understandable that they are now doing this without consulting the representatives of unionism.

  • Alex. Kane

    abucs:

    Good morning.

    I have never believed that the violence was all from one side and have written, on many occasions, that there was wrong-doing on the other side of the fence, too.

    But that wasn’t the subject of either the column or the earlier post.

    The problem for those of us in the pro-Union community can be boiled down to two simple questions: How much more are we expected to concede? When is it ever going to be “enough” for republicans?

    Best wishes,

    Alex.

  • middle-class taig

    Alex

    It’s impressive that you are prepared to defend your position in correspondence on here.

    Your article reveals no small measure of hurt and frustration. I am sorry for that, but I think it is wilfully self-deluding. You seem, simultaeously, to want to cast republicans as the big winner and the big loser. It is neither. There has been no winner and no loser. There has been compromise. There will be more.

    I was struck by the Jerusalem Post’s article “the IRA’s capitulation” last Friday. It seems that “what-we-have-we-hold” peoples the world over can see these things only in terms of victory and defeat. That locks them into a cycle of pain, hurt, abandonment and resentment as the modern world catches up with them and drags them painfully into the harsh light of equality and human rights.

    I’d like to make a few comments on your posts, rather than your article, if I may:

    “There is clearly an argument for saying that it was IRA activity in the period from 1970-85 which forced successive British governments to make changes which wouldn’t, otherwise, have happened”

    Don’t you think it was the later violence, the major economic targets, which forced such change?

    “it is an argument championed by IRA apologists who need to justify their activities”

    I think that’s unfair. A good argument is a good argument. Reality is reality. I appreciate you have a “hinterland” constraining your submissions though.

    “There is an argument, too, that once the reforming ball started to roll, British governments (after consultation with the SDLP and Irish governments) would have continued to roll it. So it didn’t actually need the IRA’s “cutting edge.”

    I think that’s a hard argument to make. These were very right-wing, tory governments in hock to the far-right press, constrained by micro-majorities, shamefully beholden to unionist support in the Commons, shackled to law-and-order and support-our-boys-in-uniform images. I think the proof of the pudding against your argument is in the eating. There was no rolling process of reform. It never ‘appened, guv.

    Or do I misunderstand your argument? Do you accept that there was minimal reform here and that catholics/nationalists continued not to “enjoy the same rights and opportunities” as other “”citizens” of the UK” right up into, say the late 90s?

    “But the IRA was never interested in making Northern Ireland a better place for nationalists/Roman Catholics”

    Hmmm. Hard to accept again. The IRA’s view was that the only effective way of “making Northern Ireland a better place for nationalists/Roman Catholics” was eradication of the Northern State. They have proven flexible when it has been demonstrated that other effective ways exist. Don’t you think you’ve overextended yourself a little on this point?

    “and it wouldn’t have mattered what the UK government did in terms of societal change, if that change stopped short of unification”

    but it transparently has mattered

    “I would make the argument that the IRA’s decision to continue with that campaign was simply brutality for the sake of brutality.”

    In the political context, I would agree that the armed struggle continued beyond the point that anyone believed it could achieve a United Ireland
    (although I am reminded of the Chinese ambassador’s view of the success or otherwise of the French Revolution – too early to say). Certainly it alone. That continuation was, to my mind, without question, morally wrong. However, the corrollary was the continued refusal of all sections of British and Unionist thought and power to afford catholics/nationalists their rights as equal members of society (including what may have been a state sponsored terrorist campaign against them). One fed off the other. The most vicious of vicious circles. Which came first? Which caused which? Do you keep chickens?

    “an apology was required”

    Only by the unrealistic – the only apology needed has been given. Soldiers don’t ask other soldiers for apologies. No side won and no side lost.

    “The problem for those of us in the pro-Union community can be boiled down to two simple questions: How much more are we expected to concede? When is it ever going to be “enough” for republicans?”

    The answer to the first question is unpalatable. “Concession” is going to be the natural unionist state of being for the considerable future. The peace process has become like an abusive parent who, having rewarded one child over another, subsequently sees his error. But instead of taking all the toys away and dividing them up equally, the parent has turned the peace process into an endless mediation between a child who will of course never be satisfied until he has his full half share (and harbours malign fantasies of that little bit extra, just to teach his sister a lesson) and a child for whom every toy relinquished (even boys’ toys which should have been her brother’s in the first place) is cause for a screaming fit.

    We’re a long way from even yet. There’s a lot of screaming to come.

    Part of the problem though is that the sister has gotten herself into such a state that she can’t stand to see the brother get anything nice, even if she gets it too. So it’s not just long overdue policing reforms and security cutbacks that set her off, but silly things like the HRC which is just as nice for her and speaking rights in the Dail which she’s not going to wear anyway.

    Frankly, she needs a slap, and to be told to grow up and learn to share. (That’s very shrill coming from the increasingly smug brother, but good parenting is good parenting).

    The answer to the second question is less difficult. The theoretical answer is dead easy: never – all Parnell’s ne plus ultra stuff. The practical answer is somewhere in teh neighbourhood of joint authority. What is needed to lance the boil of all our troubles is some genuine shift in the constitutional status of the North. Until that happens, nationalists will always see the North as illegitimate. The North needs to be as much part of an Irish state as part of a British one. Then the appetite for “concessions” will be sated.

  • yoda

    The answer to the second question is less difficult. The theoretical answer is dead easy: never – all Parnell’s ne plus ultra stuff. The practical answer is somewhere in teh neighbourhood of joint authority. What is needed to lance the boil of all our troubles is some genuine shift in the constitutional status of the North. Until that happens, nationalists will always see the North as illegitimate. The North needs to be as much part of an Irish state as part of a British one. Then the appetite for “concessions” will be sated.

    I have to agree with this. Joint authority has to be the minimum: otherwise, nothing in essence on the constitutional issue has changed. It needs to remain in place until the bitterness on both sides has largely died away.

    Once the bitterness has died away, it will be possible to let the next generation make its own mind up and shape its own political imagination.

    The elephant in the room is the fact that these decisions will have to be made by people on this island. The truth is we’re on our own.

    I think that the British government will have absolutely no problem with moving forward. And sooner rather than later.

  • G2

    “Violence begets violence, and that is from both sides. Once these things start they are hard to stop.”

    Abucs,

    What ceases to amaze myself and many Unionists is that the penny never seems to drop with republican/catholics that when the IRA (and other republican terrorist groups) stops killing Soldiers, Policemen and protestants alike in Northern Ireland they stopped getting killed themselves.

  • Levitas

    A chara Alex,
    Thanks Alex for taking the time to reply, a couple of points in response to your comments,I’m sorry for the delay in replying…but like yourself I don’t spend my life on this website!
    I am not an IRA “apologist” which suggests that there is something inherently illicit in their campaign in the first place. The problem lay, and still lies in the deliberate decision to ignore the democratic wishes of the majority of the people on this island to secede from the UK, as evidenced by the massive SF majority which led to the formation of the First Dail. The unionist statelet established after forced partition, was founded on violent coercion, and sustained by religious intolerance in coinjunction with British and later US strategic locational needs in pre and post WWII Europe. This state was illegal and unjust, and those citizens of the Irish Republic, left within its borders held every legitimate right to resist it. When peaceful opposition was crushed as witnessed at the many events such as Burntollet Bridge it was inevitable that armed might would be met with an armed response.
    I may well agree with you, that it is in the nature of armed conflict , that it becomes attritional, and that reason dictated that only an attritional “eye for an eye” would continue until none could see at all!
    This is PRECISELY why the vision and courage of leaders such as Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness should be recognised. They saw the fact that the “war” could not achieve its stated aims, but the political battle to win that position within Republicanism obviously would take time …too long perhaps you may argue….but the reality was that the hatred and hurt had run so deep on both sides, especially after the hunger strikes, that any attempt to replace armed struggle without a Political alternative strategy, would I suggest have consigned the much maligned Gerry and Martin, to a fate not dissimilar to M.Collins.

    Thankfully that did not happen, what is needed now is leadership from within unionism to move forward for the sake of all of us who dwell on this island, there is room enough for all of us on this beautiful part of God’s earth.

    Mise le Meas
    Levitas

  • Alan Anderson

    Hi, i used to post here about a year ago im glad to be getting back into it anyways im from Ebor parade just of tates ave, id just like to say that the DUP dont have an ounce of deacency and any propper protestant could not possibly such blatant bigotry, sure the IRA had to you they got that but still more problems. I hate to say it but their are clearly ALOT of my own people who dont have a clue about Christianity or protestantisim. And before we stard being a “true blue”(not dublin fan) does not make a protestant. Pack of bigots.

    Can nationalists power share probably they never had a propper go of it yet, unlike the unionists its either their rule or London rule no WAY could good Prods let catholics join in governing!!!

    It makes me sick how Paisley is such a talented deciever.

  • G2

    “The unionist statelet established after forced partition, was founded on violent coercion, and sustained by religious intolerance in coinjunction with British and later US strategic locational needs in pre and post WWII Europe.”

    I dont see anything forced about the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty between representatives of the British government and envoys plenipotentiary (i.e., negotiators empowered to sign a treaty without reference back to their superiors) of the Irish Republic on December 6, 1921.

    2 Negotiators of the Treaty

    The negotiators included

    * David Lloyd George, MP ( British Prime Minister)
    * Lord Birkenhead (UK)
    * Winston Churchill (UK)
    * Austen Chamberlain (UK)
    * Sir Gordon Hewart (UK
    * Arthur Griffith (Chairman of the Irish delegation)
    * Michael Collins, TD ( Irish Republic’s Minister for Finance and head of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
    * Robert Barton (IRL)
    * E.J. Duggan (IRL)
    * Charles Gavan Duffy (IRL)

    http://www.economicexpert.com/a/Anglo:Irish:Treaty.htm

  • abucs

    Good morning Alex and thankyou for the reply.

    ‘The problem for those of us in the pro-Union community can be boiled down to two simple questions: How much more are we expected to concede? When is it ever going to be “enough” for republicans?’

    I agree with other nationalist posters here that joint authority would be the ‘enough’ that you refer to. i think as time goes on and the running of NI continues to be shared then the reality will be that NI will be run by groups of people with a British and/or Irish focus which will mean an informalised joint authority. Hopefully, over time these two focuses will come together and form a mature new focus that is comfortable and not threatened with either state.

    I think the concentration should be on allowing citizens in NI to participate in both Irish and British affairs (and European) instead of stopping the other side from participating in their politics and heritage.

    I would like to see a more confident and participating unionism. For example, instead of arguing strongly against MP’s speaking in the Dail unionism should investigate the possibilities of this and work with the two governments in suggesting that a way be found to include/encourage SF to attend Westminster. That is the real opportunity that they seem to be passing up right now in their opposition to something that will probably happen anyway.

    Partnership politics rather than adversarial politics is what is needed. There are of course decent people on both sides and they are the ones that need to get together in shaping the new focus i refer to above.

  • thomas

    I think we should turn the spotlight on the Loyalists. This is getting out of hand – UDA are happy enough to peddle soft drugs whereas the LVF (younger generation) wants to peddle harder kinds. Understandably the army doesn’t want to get involved but surely the IRA and UDA are opposites of the same coin.

  • DCB

    MCT

    Sorry if I came over as patronising, I didn’t mean to be.

    Just because Shinners are smug and M-CT’s are impressed doesn’t mean that republicans won the war. It’s very easy to lose the war and win the peace, and on the whole I’d say that the Shinners have excelled themselves at that.

    We could argue all day about this one, but I still can’t see what part of a united 32 county socialist republic was achieved when the provies called their ceasefire. In the 70’s and 80s we were told that there would be no let up till the Brits withdrew.

    Your right no one individual can take the blame, but some are guiltier than others, and I would put Paisley close to the top.

    Remember that the American civil rights movement was a huge spark behind the mobilisation of the NI CR campaign. It’s worth comparing the trajectory of both movements. In the latter you had the black panthers but they never gained any momentum and despite eminence provocation Martin Luther King prevailed. Civil Rights were won for Black American’s without 30 years of “armed struggle”. Britain and America are, albeit far from perfect, democracies. Northern Ireland was Britons little Alabama. In short I really can’t see how it was at all necessary to have the cutting edge of the armed struggle.

    The importance of the state of the economy in resolving decades of sectarian employment practises is not irrelevant obfuscation. There are two ways of rectifying historic discrimination. There’s the Mughabe approach which relies on social engineering, in a NI context this would have been kicking a considerable portion of protestants out of work.

    If your not going to rely on this zero sum approach then you need equality legislation, effective monitoring and fair recruitment practises. But for this to work you need economic growth, without it there’s no new jobs to give to Catholics.

    With it’s low wage economy, and in the 1980s it benefited from looser regulation, NI would have been a great place for multi-nat’s to invest, multi-nationals would have had absolutely no interest in discriminating. But why invest in somewhere where your likely to have your factory bombed. The IRA actually murdered a German business man in the early 80s; (IIRC) who was trying to invest in NI (or bolster the illegitimate British state as the ra would no doubt have seen it). Basically the only real investment we got was from a dodgy US car salesman who saw it as a great wheeze to con the British government out of few subsidies.

    And of course there’s the great assistance that the IRA gave to young catholic entrepreneurs. One in the knee if you don’t share your profits.

    So rather than assist equality the IRA’s campaign actually held it back.

    You also argue that the armed struggle changed British policy in Ireland. I fail to see who Willie Whitelaw’s approach differed significantly from any of his successors. Apart from the early release of prisoners there was little on the table in 1994 that wasn’t there to be had in 1974. And the Council of Ireland with executive powers as originally proposed in Sunnigdale was far more like an embryonic united Ireland than anything brewed up in the 90s at Storemount. Sometimes just because unionists are paranoid doesn’t necessarily mean that they weren’t about to be sold out

  • middle-class taig

    DCB

    I didn’t find your whole post patronising. Quite the contrary. Just the bit where you questioned the genuineness of the view I expressed.

    I appreciate your considered, genuine response.

    “Civil Rights were won for Black American’s without 30 years of “armed struggle”.”

    That, to me, says as much about the civil rights granters than the armed strugglers.

    Other than that, I’d like to reply to and explore a lot of interesting points you make, but I’m heading off for the weekend. Can we pick this up on Monday?

  • barnshee

    “The problem lay, and still lies in the deliberate decision to ignore the democratic wishes of protestant people on this island to secede from the republic as evidenced by the continued campaigns of violence agaist them”