Sinn Fein has overplayed its hand

Ed Moloney reckons that the Republican movement has overplayed its hand in the last year and in doing so have landed Northern Ireland little more than a long peaceful period in which nothing much happens on the political front.

Throughout each phase of the process the demeanour and response of the IRA and Sinn Fein leaderships to events has been remarkably similar and consistent: do just enough not to lose the support of the British and Irish governments or enough to seriously unsettle their own supporters, but never do enough to satisfy unionists sufficiently that they will embrace the notion of sharing power with Sinn Fein.

he refusal or reluctance of unionists to share power over, for instance, the IRA’s unwillingness to decommission or to do so convincingly, allowed Sinn Fein to portray unionists as unreasonable bigots and to present itself to northern and southern nationalists as sincere seekers of peace constantly thwarted by irreformable political dinosaurs.

That this was a successful stratagem is beyond doubt. On both sides of the border nationalist voters flocked to Sinn Fein, the SDLP all but collapsed and it looked as though it would only be a matter of time before Sinn Fein knees were under the cabinet table in Dublin. The tribal imperative worked its way through unionism as well, leading to David Trimble’s fall and the rise of the DUP, a development which promised even more resistance to power sharing and was thus entirely to Sinn Fein’s liking.

An unambiguous judgement from the IMC, he argues, indicates that this strategy is still in force. But circumstances have changed. The previous nationalist consensus has broken down around the alleged actions of the IRA, whilst an opposing Unionist one has begun to emerge. And even the status of the IRA has changed. But Moloney states that Sinn Fein’s reputation as a reliable source has also suffered:

…more and more people recognise that the Provos tell lies in the way that normal folk breathe – that is all the time. This was the principal consequence for the IRA and Sinn Fein of the Northern Bank robbery and the cover -up of the McCartney murder, and it means that when Martin McGuinness fulminates about the IMC only the faithful really believe him.

Of course one man’s lie is another man’s economy with the truth. But there is a serious non political point here: the primary loss to Sinn Fein in the year since the Northern Bank has been it’s loss of credibility with previously friendly outside audiences.

If it is true that Sinn Fein has effectively lost the blame game then Moloney reflects:

Most people may be happy to settle for the peace, however imperfect. That’s one conclusion. The other is that the Provos have badly overplayed their hand.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘Evidence that the IRA still has guns, that its members (up to chief-of-staff level, incidentally) are still involved in criminality and that the IRA’s intelligence department is still at its work, albeit mostly on behalf of Sinn Fein ‘

    There was no such ‘evidence’ presented at all. Thus the Moloney article is based entirely on a falsehood.

    A more honest approach would have been to highlight the background of the IMC members and the fact they glean their ‘evidence’ from the Special Branch and MI5.

    But in Moloney land it is only SF who tell lies. No chance of the providers of the ‘evidence’ being labelled liars.

  • Jill Robinson

    “a long peaceful period in which nothing much happens on the political front”

    Um, this is a bad thing???

    Jill

  • Henry94

    do just enough not to lose the support of the British and Irish governments or enough to seriously unsettle their own supporters, but never do enough to satisfy unionists sufficiently that they will embrace the notion of sharing power with Sinn Fein.

    That is the exact opposite of the truth. In reality whatever republicans do is never enough because the issue of power-sharing is exactly what unionists can’t come to terms with.

    All we heard for years from unionism was decomissioning. Now that it’s happened it makes no difference whatsoever.

  • Mick Fealty

    On a point of order, the definition of the word evidence is considerably broader than that which might be admissible in a court of law. It may be as simple as, “a thing or things helpful in forming a conclusion or judgment”

  • martin ingram

    Pat,

    Quote”A more honest approach would have been to highlight the background of the IMC members and the fact they glean their ‘evidence’ from the Special Branch and MI5″Unquote

    Pat,

    Only a fool would argue that the vast amount of Information of Intelligence value that is available to the Security Services both North and South does not provide a comprehensive insight into Republican life both North and South of Ireland.

    The IRA has been forced into this position thanks entirely to the Agents within the IRA and of course the wonderful world Electronics. The IMC and others would be fools if they did not base their report upon these assets.

    Adams has known the extent of this problem for years.

  • Mick Fealty

    Martin,

    I’ve warned you before about playing the man!

  • martin ingram

    Mick,

    Help me on this one? when did I play the man here?

  • Mick Fealty

    Look at what’s missing from the post.

  • Henry94

    Which IRA are we talking about here. The one where the British know every move they make or the only one that would have been capable of pulling of the northern bank robbery why leaving their “tradmarktradmark” no forensic evidence.

    Furthermore if IRA members are keeping guns for their own protection they would need to be carrying them around or at least keeping them in the house.

    They wouldn’t provide much protection lying in a bunker in Munster. So it appears a straightforward matter to recover them.

    I have heard the figure of 300 handguns mentioned. Yet not a single arrest search or warrant.

    I have been waiting in vain for a unionist or even a journalist to raise this question.

  • Paul Rea

    Pat, you are right, they are all liars, presuming you do believe that SF are liars too. The problem for SF is that they seem to tell lies that are hard to get away with. If Orde was to say he was never a cop he would be laughed at. So if he lies he tells samrter ones. When Gerry lies about never being in the IRA, people just laugh. Although down in the Felons one night there was anger at this particular lie with activists giving off that there was no need for such stupid lies.

  • martin ingram

    Mick,

    No long ago we had a full debate on this forum about the issue of Senior Agents within the IRA, in this instance I did name him although he was named previously as a result of the Cryptome story . I did use a term that he introduced himself recently into the debate, nothing more nothing less.

    I am surprised by your censorship.

    Martin

  • martin ingram

    Correction.

    in this instance I did NOT name him

  • andy

    I may be being utterly naive her, but isn’t the best, if unspun, reaction to the IMC “big deal”?
    If there are peripheral elements of the IRA still involved in criminality, does it mean the DUP shouldn’t sit down with Sinn Fein, given their mandate, and attempt to do sometthing about health, educatino, economic etc problems?

    As Henry says, a lot of the conditions which Unionists have previously held up as being barriers to progress have been dealt with, but seemingly new (or at least down played) conditions are raised.

    I must stress that I think republicans often make mountains out of molehills, but in this case I’m left with the distinct impression the DUP are looking for a deal NOT to take place, rather than how they can take things forward.

  • martin ingram

    Andy,

    You can not fault the DUP if they do not want to go into a Govt with criminals, Bertie has made it clear he will not, so why Knock Paisley. He ( Paisley) received a big mandate from his supporters not that long ago to maintain this hard line position, you should not fault him for being unique in the current crop of leaders i.e. telling the truth.

    The onus is upon the criminals, he is a democrat albeit it a rather distasteful one.

    Martin

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Let’s be perfectly clear on this issue of lying, all parties to this have at one time or another lied when it has suited them. That now established let’s look at the actual article without the reactionary kneejerk.

    Now to the specific article, Moloney has stated that there is ‘evidence’ of the things the IMC has accused republicans over. I do not believe (please correct me anyone) that the IMC put anything that could be regarded as evidence into the public domain.
    Nods and winks may constitute evidence to some but that is a simple an indication of their rather low expectations.

    On the issue of arms they have been contradicted by the IICD and Gardai. Over the issue of rioting by IRA members at Kilcoo they have been accused of fantasy by a SDLP councillor who actually helped to calm the situation.
    The IMC may have put a lot into the public domain, but none of it constitues ‘evidence’.

  • andy

    Martin
    He is probably acting as his voters want him to, fair enough.

    However, despite their faults the SF leadership have drawn their constituency towards peace and inclusion in constitutional politics. (You may be right in claiming they are liars/ duplicitous/ riddled with informers etc but the fact is they have effected a change in tack of their political base).

    Paisley on the other hand has not exercised this leadership function – he has stayed in the same mindset he has been in for thirty or more years, indeed he and his party have maintained their ambivalent attitude to violence when it suits them(a certain series of street disturbances come to mind) .

    On a more philosophical level I wonder if that means you have to act in a duplicitous way to get a hard-core political support to swallow increasingly “moderate” policies…

  • martin ingram

    Pat,
    On the lying aspect agreed all parties have at some time done their bit.

    In respect to the IMC, come on Pat you must understand now that Intelligence by the very nature can not be deemed as evidence. The IMC does not need evidence to make an informed analysis. What you should not diminish though is the extent and detail that Intelligence provides.

    Quote”The IMC may have put a lot into the public domain, but none of it constitues ‘evidence’.

    Intelligence very rarely reaches the threshold of Evidence, fact.

    On a seperate note Pat, how highly do you rate Pearse Doherty?

    Martin.

  • spartacus

    mick f:

    given the difficulty you experienced last time of allowing something written by moloney to be debated on slugger, i’m surprised you would run anything of his again. for someone who is so protective of his own reputation, and for someone who has made a career out of journalism, moloney seems to define ‘evidence’ in fairly broad terms when its his nemesis (sf) on the receiving end… this is the original sin, axe-grinding approach to journalism at its worst, from someone whose professional work i once respected.

  • Paul Rea

    Pat, they all lie indeed. The difficulty SF face is that more people seem to believe the IMC than the party. I think this is as a result of the stupid lying that it does. And party members also know that they get lied to at every turn as well. SF are more easy to associate with lying than the others are even though they lie as well.

  • aquifer

    For supporters of an organisation that schools its members in withholding information and frustrating criminal prosecution, by murder if necessary, to talk of the sanctity of evidence is just plain old hypocrisy.

    Intelligence will have to do, and there seems to be no shortage of good stuff.

    There must be quite a few in the republican movement who prefer side deals and cash to supporting a movement whose vile methods doomed it to fail in its own inclusive republican terms.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Spartacus,

    I have had no trouble with the principle that Moloney’s work should be debated. Neither I have a problem with him making representations if he (or anyone else) believes he’s being defamed.

    I have had problems with some individuals who think that it is perfectly okay to forsake the content of an article and attack the man or woman who wrote it instead.

    If I took the defensive attitude you suggest, I’m not sure I would link to anyone at all.

  • heck

    MI

    Aren’t you part of the British intelligence team who was convinced that there were “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq? This was in spite of claims to the contrary by UN international advisors that this was not the case.

    Now these same spooks are claiming that there are “weapons of individual destruction” and that the international observers are wrong.

    To use the old phrase “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”

    You said, “you must understand now that Intelligence by the very nature can not be deemed as evidence. The IMC does not need evidence to make an informed analysis. What you should not diminish though is the extent and detail that Intelligence provides.”

    Given the record of British “intelligence” regarding weapons stockpiles I will believe the international observers until you do produce evidence.

  • Richard Dowling

    Many people could imagine the Provisional IRA losing the war.
    (And it came to pass!) But few could have envisaged them
    losing the peace. (And so comprehensively). Was it pride, or
    simply stupidity, which made them blind to the wide open
    ‘windows of opportunity’ which they refused to pass through
    when David Trimble was Unionist leader. Had they dumped
    their arrms then, the road to Dublin was wide open to them.
    And we would be the ones scratching our heads in wonder at
    the irony of it all.

    Instead, they allowed circumstances to overtake them. By the
    time Robert McCartney was murdered, the Northern Bank
    Robbery had occured and the Denis Donaldson spy scandal
    was just around the corner. It became obvious to everyone that
    there was something very rotten at the heart of the so-called
    Republican movement.

    The Provos have indeed overplayed their hand. And earned a
    derogatory little soubriquet into the bargain — the Morphia had
    finally arrived.

  • martin ingram

    Heck,

    Quote”Aren’t you part of the British intelligence team who was convinced that there were “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq? This was in spite of claims to the contrary by UN international advisors that this was not the case. “Unquote

    No I was not and for the record those that specialise in Northern Ireland tend to stay in that arena.

    Quote”Given the record of British “intelligence” regarding weapons stockpiles I will believe the international observers until you do produce evidence.”Unquote

    In the context of Northern Ireland the Intelligence community has a fantastic record indeed a record second to none anywhere in the world for the quality of its work.

    For testimony to that look where the IRA is today? say no more Eh Heck

    Martin

  • elfinto

    The story so far – Norn Iron continues to be a failed entity ruled from Westminister in spite of 10 years of IRA ceasefire, decommissioning, a statement that the war is over, etc.

    Meanwhile, the SF vote is at record levels and the demographic trend continues to weaken the unionist position. Republicans have always argued that NI is unviable and thanks to the DUP they continue to be proved right.

    The war may be over but the struggle goes on.

  • Belfastwhite

    “allowed Sinn Fein to portray unionists as unreasonable”

    They don’t have to work too hard when the DUP leader spouts his what we have we hold, not an inch, no surrender rhetoric!

    Elfinto

    “The war may be over but the struggle goes on.”

    I totally agree and no-one has to kill or be killed or face long periods in prison in pursuit of that struggle. The republican movement is arguably stronger now than ever before and strenghening it’s position throughout the country. Unionist and securocrat intransigence and the swaying of support against the agreement in Unionist areas would suggest that far from overplaying their hand Sinn Fein outplayed their opponents.

  • Glen Taisie

    “I hold the view that armed action is unlikely to secure any significant political advance, and certainly nothing to compare in importance with the political achievement to date. And the grave danger is that it could undo recent spectular gains. Will political activity achieve more? I think it probably will, given the climate that has been created,and the status and credibility which the republican movement now enjoys. I believe that peace now will garner a rich harvest of support for the republican movement such as it has not known for decades. Conversely,I think failure of the movement to seize this hour will in all probability mean a virtual collapse of Sinn Fein electoral support, and a rejection of the republican position all over Ireland and in America. I belivethe tide is at the flood, and is beginning to ebb. this is the hour.”

    Paddy McGrory (solicitor) spring 1994