One of the characteristics of this IMC report, which differs substantially with its past output is its notable reliance on narrative, rather than detailed analysis. But there are a couple of graphs beatings and shootings (darn – links not working) on the record of Loyalist and Republican (not simply IRA) paramilitaries over its term in office which are worth examining in detail. Given the headline analysis is focused on the very near past, this is detail that Unionist sceptics will be looking at closely.Two things to note. One, Loyalists have been consistently the worst offenders by a huge factor. Two, Republican violence has all but stopped. In fact the numbers on the Republican side have been derisory since just before the big deal with Trimble collapsed in early 2003, but, in general terms, they do also show a much greater sensitivity to important political events. This is more obvious in the shooting figures than in those of the beatings. Note how the shootings drop in September 2003 as the run in to the November ’03 elections, and stay low or non existent until just after Christmas. We see a similar, but much less pronounced trough a year later in the period between Leeds Castle and the calling off of the Comprehensive Deal.
This is what the IRA’s critics refer to ‘a capacity to turn it on and off’ and points to the essentially political nature of the IRA’s operation – not to mention its internal discipline. Contrast with the apparently random patterning in the loyalist figures. No doubt the DUP and other sceptics will see this as a severe qualification to an otherwise upbeat assessment of the IRAs management of it’s standing orders of July last year.
Though the optimists are intitled to point to the general trend towards a continuing trend towards a collapse in uncivil behaviours.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty