How nationalism moved away from the gun…

Tom McGurk looks at the context of the IRA’s armed struggle, and how it has changed to bring Northern Irish nationalists to the point where armed struggle seems besides the point and even inimical to their future prosperity.

The peace process has fundamentally changed the Northern economic and cultural landscape and economic and educational demographics have produced a new nationalist population with burgeoning economic power and political expectations. In this context, the IRA had increasingly become an anachronism. As unionists this weekend survey the new post-IRA landscape, they might well consider that they have a unique, unfettered opportunity to do a political deal.

  • Veritas

    Tom McGurk’s political analysis, in this article, is by far the most insightful and honest examination of events, reasons and consequences that I have read for some time.
    As an “exiled” northern nationalist, in good contact with home, I have understood for some 15 years that the emergent dynamism of members of my community, previously regarded as second class citizens, has created profound social, political and economic changes.
    Those of us who are now, in business as in politics, living in a world that has few frontiers of any substance, regard the convulsions of the unionist leadership with some dispassionate contempt.
    If unionism, as seen in many postings in this and other blogs, consider the historic decision of the IRA as a defeat for that body, then where were the street parties to celebrate the victory?
    Tom Gurk understands the moment very well. It is no longer a question of who won the war but of who can win the victory.
    Recent days, since the truly historical statement, have shown two realities very profoundly.
    (1) The soild and developing confidence of Sinn Fein who have understood the political context and have leveraged their mandate to its fullest extent, with a clear, structured and entirely developed strategy for the future. This has been exemplified in, amongst other things, the choreography around the events of this past few weeks, engaging not only P. O’Neill in his video debut, but Tony Blair, Bertie Ahearn and most endearingly, Michael McDowell, to deliver one of the necessary messages, in the most effective channel (I wonder how much he enjoyed that particular role).
    (2)The chorus of reactive and atavistic horror with which the unionist leadership has reacted to the unfolding events as they realise that the British and Irish AND International political leadership is hastily abandoning their anti-deluvian positions. Hence the rapidity with which the demilitirization (including the ditching of the UDR/RIR colonial services) is to proceed. The article today by Bob McCartney, QC, in the Telegraph is one of the most plaintiff whines published in that journal in some time. This article reflects, however, the shock that is now occuring to the unionist sensibilities.
    In the weeks and motnhs ahead, it will be incumbent on the governments and the leadership of Sinn Fein to hold fast. If recent history is any guide, unionism under such devastating internal pressures, finds release in the usual directions.

  • Mick


    “unionism under such devastating internal pressures”

    Any current examples of such pressures?

  • Alex

    What no-one knew at the time, but has become progressively more clear, was that UK and Irish membership in the EEC as was defeated physical-force republicanism back in 1973…it just took time to become obvious.

  • veritas

    I stated on August 3rd. “If recent history is any guide, unionism under such devastating internal pressures, finds release in the usual directions”

    I was asked to give examples of internal pressures by “Mick”.

    Try the news story below from Tuesday August 9th for examples of what I meant. Vigilance by Nationalists is critical. Will the British government utilize the powers and forces at its disposal to do the necessary? Blankets do not cover this.

    “Police have issued fire-resistant blankets to Catholic families in a County Antrim village following fears about petrol bombings.
    It follows a series of sectarian attacks in Ahoghill which were carried out by loyalists.

    A PSNI spokesman said the action was “unprecedented”. However, it was taken after fresh intelligence suggested more attacks on Catholics were imminent.

    Security patrols have also been stepped up in the village.

    Last week, a senior police officer urged Ahoghill residents to rally round their Catholic neighbours after an arson attack.

    A woman and her 25-year-old son were rescued from their home after the attack in Laurel Hill Park.

    A window near the front door of their home was broken and a liquid set alight.

    The occupants, who were upstairs at the time, escaped the blaze by climbing onto a porch and were rescued by a neighbour.

    At that time, Superintendent Terry Shevlin said the attack was being treated as attempted murder.

    He said it was one of a number of incidents of a sectarian nature which had happened in the area.

    In July, a Catholic woman who had lived in the village for more than 50 years moved out after a campaign of intimidation.

    The windows at her home had been broken and paint and petrol bombs were thrown at it.”