"not with a bang but with a self-regarding whim."

From yesterday’s Irish Times, Fintan O’Toole gives his reaction to the IRA statement – “The most extraordinary thing about the IRA’s statement last week is that it shows how much joy has been drained out of the peace process”

He argues that the general feeling “of boredom, scepticism and apathy” that met the statement was in part a result of the overtly choreographed presentation –

So why was the moment, when it came, so anti-climactic? Why, beyond the realms of a media world delighted to have a story to fill space in the silly season, was the general feeling such a sour compound of boredom, scepticism and apathy? Some of the reasons are obvious enough. People know news management when they see it, and the staging of this event has been painfully transparent.

The other part in the reaction, he argues, was the lack of intellectual or moral insight –

More profoundly, however, there is a sense of unacknowledged futility. The decision to wind itself up is accompanied by neither intellectual nor moral insight. There is no recognition that, at the very least, the last 20 years of the IRA’s campaign was politically counter-productive, no acceptance that a political settlement based on violent coercion was as unattainable as it would have been unsustainable. There is no remorse, no pity, no shame.

He asks a question that hasn’t been raised elsewhere – namely why was the proposed IRA statement, previously published, in December 2004, in Annex C of the Proposals by the British and Irish Governments for a Comprehensive Agreement [pdf file], not used?

That draft included a very carefully calibrated formulation that had obviously been tested and found to be acceptable to both governments and to the other parties in Northern Ireland. It stated that the IRA would accept the “need not to endanger anyone’s personal rights or safety”.

It was a simple, comprehensive and straightforward phrase and one that must surely be acceptable to any organisation committed to furthering a political goal exclusively through peaceful and democratic means.

And so…

And so, a long history of conspiratorial republicanism comes to an end, not with a bang but with a self-regarding whim. There is nothing eloquent, no sense of grandeur, no epic moment of historical, emotional or moral truth.

And in that at least, the IRA’s departure is in keeping with its presence over the last 35 years – a small and sordid rebuke to the vainglorious rhetoric that sustained it.

  • CyberScribe

    Another item @ http://www.ireland.com that I can’t read without subscribing to. 🙁
    I’m glad that other columnists, writers, giving their reaction to the IRA statement and which available to read immediatley include:

    Anne Applebaum in the
    Washington Post writes
    “Since the bombing attacks in London last month, a welter of columnists, writers,
    talking heads and ordinary people have puzzled over the mystery of British
    Muslims, one in four of whom recently told pollsters that they sympathize with
    the July 7 suicide bombers.
    The idea that British Muslims, whose parents received asylum, found jobs, and made lives in Britain, could be so deeply affected by the “oppression” of Muslims in countries they have never visited seems incomprehensible. The notion that events in distant deserts should lead the middle-class inhabitants of
    London or Leeds to admire terrorists seems inexplicable. But why should this phenomenon be so incomprehensible or inexplicable, at least to Americans? We did, after all, once tolerate a similar phenomenon ourselves.
    I am talking about the sympathy for the Irish Republican Army that persisted for decades in some Irish American communities and is only now fading away.”

    and also Peter R. Neumann in the
    International Herald Tribune writes”The contrast couldn’t be greater: While the Irish Republican Army officially declared an end to its campaign, London’s Metropolitan Police is chasing the members of an Islamist network that is responsible for the greatest terrorist atrocity in British history. Ironically, the IRA now seem like the “good” terrorists: those who don’t blow themselves up; who issue warnings before they strike; and who are willing to sit down and negotiate about political demands that everyone can understand.

  • middle-class taig

    An ugly article from a journalist whose jaundiced view of northern republicans appears to be becoming increasingly bitter.

    So easily Fisked to death that it doesn’t even provide any sport. I’ll content myself with a couple of things:

    “So why was the moment, when it came, so anti-climactic?”

    It wasn’t. He’s trying to pretend it was.

    “There is no remorse, no pity, no shame.”

    So he wants sackcloth and ashes? Join the DUP, Finty. Nice fellow travellers.

    Then he tries to prescribe the actual words that the IRA should have used. In doing so, he reveals a political naÏveté which one rarely sees in journalists so experienced. The words he says should have been used were drafted and pushed by the Progressive Democrats. Does he seriously think for one minute that the IRA in its statement calling an end to the campaign were going to give Michael McDowell a huge poitical coup? Is this what passes for “analysis” or “insight” at the Paper of Record nowadays? Good grief.

    “And so, a long history of conspiratorial republicanism comes to an end…”

    O’Toole speaks of the whole history of Irish republicanism, of Tone, of Connolly, of Pearse, of Sands, of Emmett, of McCracken, of the liberators of the Republic and the heroes of our nations in terms of mere criminality. Britain need not “brand Ireland’s fight 900 years of crime” when the Irish Times will do so even more eagerly.

    “…, not with a bang but with a self-regarding whim”

    Can someone point me to the “self-regard” or “whimsy” in the IRA statement? I can see only one sentence “We are proud of the comradely way in which this truly historic discussion was conducted.” which could possibly be so described by an objective observer. The struggle is not glorified, merely described as legitmate – a deeply modest choice of words. The IRA dead are not lionised, merely described as patriots.

    “nothing eloquent, no sense of grandeur, no epic moment of h……..”(losing the will to live now)

    Had there been “eloquence” (by which I assume he means some rhetorical soundbite) or some “sense of grandeur” about the statement, he’d have accused the IRA of Pearse-like grandstanding.

    In reality, the IRA statement’s strength is its simplicity. It is a statement written by ordinary men and women for ordinary men and women. It is not some rhetorical bombast, but a straightforward statement of completed action and future intent. For that, it’s a thousand times more valuable that any “eloquent” begrudgery from O’Toole.

    This man’s view of northern issues is without insight or consequence.

  • SFM

    No your bigotry is of no insight. Your moniker which you seem to wear with pride rules you out of any real republicanism – Tone or Connolly’s Republic does not have a place for a man of property tied to the whore of Rome. Now that the Provo disgrace is over real Irish Republicanism can remerge.

  • Fanny

    Sounding a bit like a provo there MCT.

  • middle-class taig

    SFM

    Please point out where my bigotry reveals itself. My moniker is mere description. In speaking of bigotry, I would invite you to reconsider the second part of your secod sentence.

    F

    Where am I sounding like a provo?

  • Fanny

    You wrote – “There is no remorse, no pity, no shame. So he wants sackcloth and ashes? Join the DUP, Finty. Nice fellow travellers.”

    Forgive me if I am mistaken, but you sound very indignant at the idea that anyone should feel remorse, pity or shame for what the IRA have done – so much so in fact that you imply anyone suggesting this should “join the DUP”.

    In truth it is clear that a large number of nationalists also feel that the IRA’s campaign was worthy of remorse, pity and shame. This is surely a good thing – a positive, bridge-building attitude. By railing against it, Mod edit: Insult removed. Please stop doing this.

  • middle-class taig

    F

    Quite a stretch, even for you. So far as I know, only the DUP have been calling for unilateral sackcloth and ashes.

    And I’m not railing against anyone’s personal view of the IRA campaign. I’m just saying it’s ludicrous to expect the IRA to voluntarily put on sackcloth and ashes. But feel free to misrepresent me.

    Tellingly, I don’t see you calling for remorse or shame from any other quarter.

  • Fanny

    “Tellingly, I don’t see you calling for remorse or shame from any other quarter.”

    Oh please – do I need to say “and also the loyalists” every time I mention republicans on a thread about republicans?
    If so, then I’ll do it now: “and also the loyalists”. Happy?

    “So far as I know, only the DUP have been calling for unilateral sackcloth and ashes.”

    But you’ve just been made aware of the fact that Fintan O’Toole has called for some sense of remorse, pity or shame from the IRA – so it’s not just the DUP that’s calling for it.

  • middle-class taig

    “do I need to say “and also the loyalists” every time I mention republicans on a thread about republicans?”

    No, that would be meaningless platitude. In any event, there’s no equivalence between the IRA and the loyalists.

    I would want to hear you call for “remorse and shame” (who needs pity?) from the British State, from the remnants of the RUC, from the fading embers of the UDR, from the judiciary (NI and E&W), and from the unionist bloc for their abuse of the human rights of nationalists and republicans (and for using the loyalist thickos to do so). Then I might take your call for remorse and shame from the RM seriously. Only really the SDLP escapes the need for remorse and shame, if you open that box.

    Just to be clear. I don’t want anyone to wear sackcloth and ashes. I feel no need nor desire to belittle or humble my fellow man, even be he a human rights abuser. But if you’re going to call for it, call for it from everywhere it is due.

    As to you last balls-aching point, I think you could comfortably have inferred only the DUP among the “combatants” (ie, from themmuns, but not ussuns), but here you are anyway. Good grief, it was me pointing out that O’Toole was looking s&a in the first place.

  • Fanny

    So what you’re saying is: whatabout themmuns.
    Are you sure you’re middle class?

  • middle-class taig

    No, I’m pointing out your inconsistency, and that of O’Toole. A call for consistency could only be described as whataboutery through the most perverted reading.

    If you recall, I don’t want anyone to put on sackcloth and ashes.

    I’m very middle-class.

    If you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my bhakti session.

  • Henry94

    Poor Fintan has never really forgiven republicanism for the time the Wolfe Tones demolished him in a TV debate after he called for the group to disband. Why can’t everyone be more like me? is the self-regarding subtext of his articles on every subject.

    His limited understanding of any views outside his own off-the-self rightonory has made him a bore.

    Why, beyond the realms of a media world delighted to have a story to fill space in the silly season, was the general feeling such a sour compound of boredom, scepticism and apathy?

    And what would the Irish Times editors poodle know life beyond the realm of the media world? About as much as Nigel Dodds knows about disco dancing I suggest.

    It was a simple, comprehensive and straightforward phrase and one that must surely be acceptable to any organisation committed to furthering a political goal exclusively through peaceful and democratic means.

    As the Wolfe Tones would probably be able to tell him he is in fact accepting that what the IRA said means the same as what he wanted them to say. So his quibble is bth meaningless and pointless.

    I’m too bored by him to bother with the rest of it.

  • Levitas

    Fintan O’Toole…..never has a journalist been more appropriately named.I suppose we would have simply seen the moral, political, and economic collapse of unionism as is clearly observable between 1969 and 2005 if people like Fintan had just wished really really hard for it to go away? What observers like O’Toole 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.

  • BogExile

    I feel no need nor desire to belittle or humble my fellow man, even be he a human rights abuser.

    MCT – do you also absolve the same human rights abusers from any responsibility to acknowledge the total futility of their armed struggle/

  • middle-class taig

    You selectively misunderstand who I’m talking about when I say “human rights abuser” – but then, you’re doing that deliberately.

    I don’t think armed struggle was futile. I didn’t agree with it, but that’s a different matter. It has clearly been effective in parts. The armed struggle became futile. That’s why it was brought to an end, I think. It’s a tragedy that so much human rights abuse was involved.

    The really futile human rights abuse here was the attempt to deny catholics and nationalists our rights as equals in this society. We have many of those rights now, we’ll be getting more, and we won’t stop taking until we get all the ones we’re entitled to. And the boys in the lodge, in and out of uniform, suit or wig, will be unable to do anything about it.

  • BogExile

    ‘Tomorrow belongs to us’ was a very familiar refrain in Berlin in 1938.

    I think in your case, ‘all the rights you’re entitled to’ sums it up. Is there ever a point in this onward march where you’ll ever condider the responsibilities attached? For example to stop dreaming of the sunlit uplands of Unity and deal with the people who have as much moral and more numerical rights to this part of Ireland as you undoubtedly do. I’m away to make Tay.

    I’m struck by the latent bile contained in most of your posts. You have no banality about you – are you sure you’re middle class 😉

  • middle-class taig

    BE

    “I think in your case, ‘all the rights you’re entitled to’ sums it up.”

    Do you wnat to deny us the rights we’re entitled to? I find your approach to this most worrying and perplexing.

    “Is there ever a point in this onward march where you’ll ever condider the responsibilities attached?”

    Is that the responsibilities attached to the rights you wish to deny me? That’s the role you’d like to cas nationalists in, isn’t it – the eunuch – responsibility without power.

    In any event, how are nationalists not living up to their responsibilities right now, pray tell?

    “For example to stop dreaming of the sunlit uplands of Unity”

    So, I have a responsibility to stop being an Irish Republican. Why?

    btw I didn’t mention Unity. I was talking about equality.

    “deal with the people who … “

    We’re trying, they won’t deal. You might have read about it in the papers.

    “… have as much moral and more numerical rights to this part of Ireland as you undoubtedly do”

    … so they have more rights than us cos there’s more of them, is what your saying? What about the bits of this bit where there’s more of us than them? Do we have more rights than them there? I hope not.

    “latent bile”

    latent? is biliousness bad?

    I think my posts have been measured and reasonable. By bile, I hope you mean aggression, not hate.

    “You have no banality about you”

    Finally, someone who sees how special I am. 🙂

  • Dandyman

    I usually enjoy Fintan’s column although I think he and Kevin Myers are sometimes over the top with their “republicanism is evil” stance. It has often occurred to me that the Dublin-based media (and I say this as a southern culchie who has spent the last 5 years living & working in Dublin) are either completely clueless/hopelessly naive about the latent armchair republicanism that pervades throughout most southern counties, or else are just ignoring it in the hope that their message will eventually hit home. That is not to say that people in the south are in support of the IRA or that they would not welcome the events of the last week. But most people in the republic would deeply resent the type of one-sided view of the atrocities of the last 35 years, especially when it is decreed from on high as in O’Toole’s column.

    Many sections of the media predicted confidently that people in the south would be so revulsed by Robert McCartney’s killing that SF would be severely punished at the polling booth. it hasn’t happened and won’t happen. Dick Spring was persuaded to come out of retirement in 2002 (and not just by his own party) to prevent the embarrassment of Martin Ferris topping the poll with a huge majority. It made no difference whatsoever. And attempts by mainstream politicians to spin the situation by claiming that SF’s successes in southern constituencies is because because SF are more actively involved with working class areas are rubbish. Take a look around you. For every Celtic jersey you can see walking down the street in the republic, count a SF voter or a potential SF voter – and it isn’t just restricted to working class voters/areas.

  • Fanny

    Dandyman, I have always encountered such people on my soujorns south and, right enough, they always come up with the same crap about how we’re all the same sure and it’s the Brits isn’t it etc. all while glaring at you through gimlet eyes of horrified paranoia.

    Occasionally I’ve made the mistake of pointing out that I am British. It drives them crazy. If there are more of these people than there used to be then this does not bode well for anyone, I think.

  • Dandyman

    Well the thing is, most of these people are full of p*ss & wind, and most would never have been near the border, let alone across it. Their ideas & opinions in relation to the situation up north have been formed from an early age when they were pulling at their drunken fathers’ cardigans in the pub during late night drinking sessions while on holiday in a caravan & camping park when groups of sad middle-aged men sit around singing rebel and emigrant songs. They are armchair experts on everything, and after 8 or 9 pints always seem to have the solution to the world’s problems, i.e. Brits Out. The ridiculous thing is that when you meet people from the mainland of Britain – especially English people – under the age of 30 you realise that a lot of them don’t even realise that Northern Ireland is still part of the UK, couldn’t point out Belfast on a map, and have no idea what the hell the NI problems are about.