In a further occasional article for Slate.com, Scott MacMillan looks again at the developing situation here and sees unionists[of various hues], in addition to witnessing a failure of political leadership, learning from “a public-relations campaign on the part of IRA leaders”.
He concludes by pointing out that the PR campaign, culminating in the IRA’s July statement, relied heavily on the reaction to that statement from the British and Irish Governments –
In fact, the IRA’s July statement was no breakthrough: It was, rather, the culmination of a brilliant public-relations campaign on the part of IRA leadersmost notably Adams, who, according to authoritative accounts, was a senior member of the IRA’s seven-member Army Council until just before the announcement, even while serving as president of Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political wing. Rather than playing along with this PR game, a wiser course would have been to welcome the IRA’s statement while holding to the line that, regardless of any extraordinary “internal discussion” that has gone on within the organization, republicans must put an end to criminality and violence in their midst if Sinn Fein is to be accepted as part of the political mainstream.
The world bought into the charade. Belfast’s Protestant working classes learned a different lesson, and their repugnant leaders have done little to dissuade them from it. Gunfire, wrote Fintan O’Toole* in Dublin’s Irish Times on Tuesday, is “the one form of eloquence that, in the strange world of the peace process, is sure to be heard.” The lesson is that violence, and the threat of more violence, is the surest way to remain politically relevant.
It’s a generally fair assessment of the state of things, although I would point out that, rather than supporting the view that there is “no reason to call into question the very basis of the peace process”,
the Fintan O’Toole article he references, had a slightly different take on the underlying process –
The governments can try to restart the process as if nothing had happened, giving us two more years of posturing in which all excitement about the agreement’s radical ideals is stripped away. Or they can acknowledge the futility of trying to build shared governance on mutual hatred and begin a new political process that puts sectarianism where it should – not as a solution but as a problem.