“It would all be funny if it were not so tragic.”

Also via the indispensible Newshound, in Saturday’s Irish News Patrick Murphy handed out some awards to the winners of “an unnecessary and obscene sectarian bloodbath, often displaying excessive inhumanity and barbarity.”

It was a shameful period in Irish and British history and it ended only when the main protagonists traded what they called principles for what Britain called power.

It is now the winners’ prerogative to write history on their own terms. But who will write the history of those who lost? Some lost their lives; some lost loved ones. Others lost their limbs or their sight or their sanity. Our entire society lost its dignity.

What began as a struggle for civil rights was hijacked into a war to end British rule in Ireland. It ended in an argument over how British rule in Ireland should be administered. On that basis it is not difficult to conclude who won.

, , , ,

  • joeCanuck

    A very concise and insightful essay by Mr.Murphy.
    It should be included in primary school history lessons.
    Still, it’s hard to believe that any side can be called a winner.

  • Garibaldy

    Murphy has repeatedly called a spade a spade, exposing the lies and hypocrisy of all sides. If any columnist should be in the Seanad, it should be him.

  • That article nails too many home truths for the serried ranks of self-oppressed Republican MOPE-fest wannabies and knuckle-dragging steretype-fulfilling Unionist bigots to drive this one up to 200 posts.

  • Cuchulainn

    very good article,

    and hes right, the Provos used the peaceful civil rights movement to start thier murder campaign, thery werent wanted nor were they needed, as showing by the fact that civil rights was got by the leaders of the marches and not leaders of the IRA

    sadly it seems that SF attempt to re-write history is in full swing, im sure in the next hundred years it will be martian mcguinness and gerry adams as leaders of civil right and not john hume, ivan cooper and paddy duffy etc etc

  • Damien Okado-Gough

    That is the best article I’ve read in yonks. I’m sorry he stopped at the politicians and paramilitaries and didn’t go on to treat with the same decisiveness that ‘most sophisticated electorate’ who have put them into office.

  • Gavan

    Don’t speak too soon Sammy. I’m sure they’ll be along any minute..

  • Terry Doherty

    Talk about simplistic. The civil rights movement was hijacked into an anti British campaign. Yeah, they stood around waiting for a civil rights movement and then hijacked it. Nothing to do with the unionist response to the civil rights campaign, or the actions of the unionist and then British authorities.

    As for who won, thats equally complicated. Former IRA commanders running Stormont, when we were told they were nothing but a tiny criminal conspiracy who were going to be crushed, squeezed, smashed and everything else. Who would have thought it?

    Equally, doing so in the company of the DUP, whilst recognising the fact of the British presence in Ireland, if not its legitimacy.

    IMO strange times and strange events that evade simplistic analysis, but then again, that shouldn’t interfer with a good rant.

  • kensei

    Three main problems with the article.

    1. The idea that the EU is kind of federal superstate:

    “From then onwards the Provos could achieve Irish independence only by bombing the north out of the UK and the south out of Europe.”

    EU countries interests diverge all the time, and it has stayed fairly wide of meddling with the detail of the peace process. Could you apply this argument to an independence scenario to Scotland. Bollocks.

    2. I know it is terribly fashionable to profess it, but Sunningdale is not the GFA or St Andrews. Broad brush you might be able to point to an Assembly and cross border institutions but the devil is in the detail and its significant. We have voluntary coalition and contrary to the article, the powers of North South bodies were advisory, and limited after Unionist opposition. Moreover, it’d didn’t actually deal with the main parties to the conflict, and it didn’t go for a referendum for popular support or moral authority.

    1974 is also not 2007 or even 1998. I 1974 both sides thought they could win, so they kept fighting and didn’t compromise. If they both felt they could still win, they’d still be fighting. To decree sober realisation of the realities of war as sellout sickens me. It only encourages the wilder fringes, and Irish history has teeth.

    3. “It ended in an argument over how British rule in Ireland should be administered. On that basis it is not difficult to conclude who won.”

    The argument of how to end British Rule in Ireland have been decisively won by those that say it can only come through peace and politics. It doesn’t mean the argument is over, or the current arrangement is the be all and end all.

  • Dewi

    That article nails too many home truths for the serried ranks of self-oppressed Republican MOPE-fest wannabies and knuckle-dragging steretype-fulfilling Unionist bigots to drive this one up to 200 posts.

    Lol Sammy – it don’t mention Soccer or Gaelic so ain’t got a chance !

  • oldruss

    Who won and who lost is usually debated after any protracted conflict, especially when one side does not gain a commanding and easily seen victory. Nevertheless, history has a way of rewriting the ending in most cases in any event. In 1945 Germany had indisputably lost W.W.II, I would think most historians would agree, but today, Germany (reunited) is an integral part of the E.U. and the equal of either France or Great Britain.

    Did the Irish republican movement gain everything it has sought? No, of course it has not. But, are the unionists in the same position of dominance that they enjoyed 30 years ago? Clearly they are not.

    The power-sharing government at Stormont forces the DUP/UUP to share power with “Sinn Fein/IRA” and Martin McGuinness sits as the equal of Ian Paisley in the executive. The Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement have created quite a different relationship among the players in the north, and they have created quite a different relationship between the north and south as well.

    The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland does not march down the Garvaghy Road as a matter of Divine Right any longer; and if they ever do march there again, it will be as result of a compromise with the residents of the nationalist community. People about whom the Orange Order, and the unionist community at large, have heretofore never had to give a second thought.

    That may well be indicative of who won or who lost, but history will give us a better answer. Come back in say 20 years.

  • Former IRA commanders running Stormont, when we were told they were nothing but a tiny criminal conspiracy who were going to be crushed, squeezed, smashed and everything else. Who would have thought it?

    That’s right, Bobby Sands died to see Stormont resurrected with his comrades Gerry and Martin in charge. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the Shinners have travelled down the road they have but that doesn’t mean this was what the war was for. Terry Doherty plays his own small part in the airbrushing of history.

    it’d didn’t actually deal with the main parties to the conflict

    As defined by who, Ken? Those parties themselves. Power flows through the barrel of a gun? Getting a bit Maoist in our old age, aren’t we?

    Of course Sunningdale was different in specifics than Good Friday but how significant are those differences really? Sunningdale may not have had an enforced coalition, but the Brits would have collapsed the institutions without Nationalist support, so that’s a fairly semantic difference; if anything, the principle of consent is even more copper-fastened now than it was then, so that hardly counts as a victory for Republicans; and the cross-border bodies aren’t self-sustaining now, either, they need an Assembly and ipso facto Unionist consent to function.

    Were those differences really worth 2000+ dead and a wasted generation? I think not.

    Did Bobby Sands die for a cross-border Food Safety Agency? I don’t think so. I can see why orthodox republicans feel this line of argument gives succor to dissidents but facts don’t cease to be facts just because one doesn’t mention them in front of the children.

  • Garibaldy

    Oldruss,

    Murphy’s whole point was that NICRA had achieved real and very important changes in NI by 1970 without the use of violence, but that the reform pogramme was knocked off course by those on all sides determined to use violence. For example, one man, one vote had been won, the B Specials abolished, the RUC disarmed, the Housing Executive was in the offing, gerrymandering was being ended, and new political arrangements were under consideration (a process of rethinking that would produce the type of arragements seen in Sunningdale and then again in 1998).

    However, the RUC was re-armed and the B Specials effectively recreated as the UDR because of the violence. So the violence achieved nothing that was not already available.

    So the gains PSF appear to have made are in fact the re-emergence of things that could have been acheived decades earlier.

    What he is also getting at is the completely disingenuous rewriting of the past by all involved. So rather than often ignoring and frustrating NICRA, and then setting up the Northern Resistance Movement as a rival to it, the Provos claim their violence up was not directed at British withdrawal and sectarian revenge but rather was about civil rights. While the extreme unionists can claim they were all about law and order and British rights for British citizens while they were in fact all about bigotry and domination. The British can claim they were about keeping the warring sides apart, and try and absolve themselves from their responsibility for encouraging sectarianism and violence.

    Murphy is exposing the squalid reality, both of the past and the present, and is to be commended for doing so on a regular basis. He and Newton Emerson make a good team.

  • But, are the unionists in the same position of dominance that they enjoyed 30 years ago? Clearly they are not.

    More Republican self-delusion. Let’s start with basic historical errors. 30 years ago, in 1977, unionism did not have a postion of dominance; the Brits were in charge, Unionism was weak, divided and led by low-calibre woodentops like Harry West, and they were busy tearing lumps out of each other over the fallout from the Constitutional Convention.

    I’ll assume you actually meant to say 40 years ago. The old Unionist edifice was looking difficult to sustain as soon as the British deployed troops in August 1969 (before the modern IRA existed) and had essentially collapsed by the Spring of 1972 (by which stage the PIRA was just really getting going) and gone entirely by 1974, when the Sunningdale executive was in operation.

    Everything the IRA did from 1974 until 2006 was to lead to them signing up to a deal that was different only in details from Sunningdale. All the worst IRA war crimes – Kingsmills, Le Mon, Enniskillen, Teebane – were carried out after a deal remarkably similar to what we ended up with was put on the table. You can indulge in fantasy world history suits about the IRA liberating us from the Unionist jackboot if you want. It might, however, be more fitting to grieve a little for those who were victims of war crimes even in the IRA’s own terms and to whom the current settlement is, frankly, irrelevant.

  • kensei

    “That’s right, Bobby Sands died to see Stormont resurrected with his comrades Gerry and Martin in charge. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the Shinners have travelled down the road they have but that doesn’t mean this was what the war was for. Terry Doherty plays his own small part in the airbrushing of history.”

    Lets nip this one in the bud. Did Bobby Sands go on hunger strike for a United Ireland? No, he went on hunger strike to try and regain political status for Republican prisoners. The prisoners are all out as part of a political settlement.

    And again, the argument is only valid if we are living at the end of history. We’re not and republicans will continue to work for a United Ireland. Just by different and more effective means. I’m sure Bobby Sands would have supported that, if the argument had have been made correctly. you know, like it has been.

    “As defined by who, Ken? Those parties themselves. Power flows through the barrel of a gun? Getting a bit Maoist in our old age, aren’t we?”

    Nope, it’s just common sense. If you are trying to end a conflict, ignoring those actually perpetuating it isn’t going to work.

    And shush, don’t tell anyone, but violence is a very effectively way to gain power. Particularly when it is not straightforward to end it or gain control. That’s why states typically demand monopoly of force. It’s not the only power or necessarily moral or right but it’s there. I know you are in the Alliance Party but please, for me Sammy, show some grasp of the real world.

    “Of course Sunningdale was different in specifics than Good Friday but how significant are those differences really? Sunningdale may not have had an enforced coalition, but the Brits would have collapsed the institutions without Nationalist support, so that’s a fairly semantic difference; ”

    Not over the long term.

    “if anything, the principle of consent is even more copper-fastened now than it was then, so that hardly counts as a victory for Republicans; and the cross-border bodies aren’t self-sustaining now, either, they need an Assembly and ipso facto Unionist consent to function.”

    The cross border bodies were staying reghardless of a deal or not. I don’t think we should have anything to fear from oversight, though. As for the Principle of Consent, it’s certainly improvement from “Unionist Veto”. Unionism has handed away the keys to the Kingdom, and I’m happy with that. And yes, republicans would have argued for 32 county sovereignty, but theoretical principles unsupported by the powers that be don’t help you much to changes things.

    “Were those differences really worth 2000+ dead and a wasted generation? I think not.”

    Worth it? No. Necessary to get everyone to the point where it could happen? Apparently so, unfortunately.

    “Did Bobby Sands die for a cross-border Food Safety Agency? I don’t think so. I can see why orthodox republicans feel this line of argument gives succor to dissidents but facts don’t cease to be facts just because one doesn’t mention them in front of the children.”

    See above. Bobby Sands is dead. I can’t tell you how he would have contributed to the debate within Republicanism, but then again neither can you.

  • Yokel

    Sammy

    I do have to step in here and correct you

    Cross border Food Safety Agency efforts is a glorious and public step on the way to Unity.

    History will show this and its a key part of Republican strategy. In fact I believe there’ll be a mural up down the Falls Road about it soon enough.

    On it will be a soon legendary quote from a member of the modern Republican movement:

    ‘Our revenge will be the well cooked food of our children’

  • jerryp

    Kensai, the problem with your argument about Sunningdale v. GFA is it presumes that things would never have developed further if Sunningdale had prevailed. Even a direct comparison, however, has to ask if all the grief and suffering was worthwhile. The line that many shinners take seems to be that it was simply because they are now in power.

  • kensei

    “Cross border Food Safety Agency efforts is a glorious and public step on the way to Unity.”

    “Well, you know what they say.”
    “What do they say?”
    “A billion dollars here, a billion dollars there, sooner or later it starts to add up to real money.”

    And a cross border food safety agency here, a cross border road development plan there and sooner or later it adds up to real change. Cross border bodies don’;t exist in isolation.

    Is this crap argument day or something?

  • Yokel

    It wasn’t an argument which kinda..well..I’ll let you read it how you wish…who am I to explain it.

  • Wee slabber

    What simplistic rot by Mr Murphy. It ignores many questions: why did so many people feel they needed to take up the gun? Why did people feel doing prison time, or even, dying on hunger strike was a noble cause? Why did so many turn a blind eye, if not openly support, the “armed struggle”? Why did Thatcher et al seek a miltary solution to what was clearly a political problem? And why berate those who had the decency to negotiate a settlement when the opportunity wss eventually proffered. We could all take Murphy’s simplistic view of history. It’s a comfortable way to look at things. But it does no-one any favours not to analyse these things in more depth.

  • Quaysider

    It’s a newspaper article, you pillock, not a PhD thesis. As newspaper articles go there isn’t much in it anyone could argue with, except Kensei, which only tends to suggest it’s bang on the money.

  • Yokel

    Thatcher’s military solution?

    You mean the Anglo Irish Agreement?

    UK Troop numbers in NI, including the UDR, falling from 21000 in 79 to less than 17-18 000 in much of the mid-late 80s…(RUC numbers were not a whole whack different during that period)?

    Both those represent clear signs of a military solution being attempted.

    Indeed I can remember the large scale miltary sweeps of the early 70s being repeated in the 80s under Thatcher…yeah she was going to bring tanks in she was that determined.

  • kensei

    2It’s a newspaper article, you pillock, not a PhD thesis. As newspaper articles go there isn’t much in it anyone could argue with, except Kensei, which only tends to suggest it’s bang on the money.”

    I do believe you’ve caught my shins there. Have you anything to add to the debate other than how self evident it all is?

  • Wee slabber

    Ouch, I do believe I have just been nipped at by an intellectual flea! Must have been something I picked up on the quays!

  • Lets nip this one in the bud. Did Bobby Sands go on hunger strike for a United Ireland? No, he went on hunger strike to try and regain political status for Republican prisoners. The prisoners are all out as part of a political settlement.

    Why was Bobby in jail in the first place? What was he off doing bombing that furniture factory in the first place? I tell you what, I bet it wasn’t for cross-border adverts telling you to cook the stuff on your BBQ properly and a ministerial Skoda for Catriona Ruane.

    I’m sure Bobby Sands would have supported that, if the argument had have been made correctly. you know, like it has been.

    Of course we can’t tell how Bobby Sands’ thinking may have developed over the past 26 years, one of the reasons why dissidents brandish his memory as a shield against reality leaching into their world.

    But trying to pretend that he was absolutely guaranteed to have supported changes in orthodox Republican thinking is just rewriting history. Trying to pretend that the minor changes from Sunningdale to Good Friday made a huge difference to Republican thinking is just rewriting history. Republicans did not reject Sunningdale because it was based on a voluntary coalition. Republicans rejected Sunningdale because they weren’t interested in any deal that didn’t involve British withdrawal inside two years.

    Similarly, the IRA didn’t buy into the GFA because it was so much better than Sunningdale; they bought into it because the leadership of the IRA realised how badly riddled they were with British agents and knew it was the best deal they were going to get, and over the years had developed the political skills to manoeuvre the rank and file into buying into it against their better judgement.

    If you really think that Good Friday was so radically different from Sunningdale from a Republican point of view that it merited a complete reversal in strategic direction, then you are deluding yourself. It is to the credit of the IRA’s leadership that they chose to negotiate a realistic settlement that didn’t even come close to realising their war aims, rather than have another generation of massacres and another generation of young Republicans wasting their best years in jails. It is to their eternal shame that they were too short-sighted to buy into essentially the same deal in 1973.

    Maybe it is a more effective strategy for Republicans to deliver a United Ireland. Maybe not. But pretending that’s why Sinn Féin and the IRA sued for this deal is window-dressing the past.

    Worth it? No. Necessary to get everyone to the point where it could happen? Apparently so, unfortunately

    I don’t accept this, Kensei. The IRA’s war was conducted from start to finish despite, rather than as a result of, the wishes of the Irish people. If Harold Wilson had have shown some balls in ’74 and faced the Jaffas down, how would the IRA have reacted to a working power-sharing executive when in military difficulties in the late 1970s? Similarly, how long would Paisley have resisted the aphrodisiac of real power? Again, all stupidly counterfactual but it just illustrates the point that The Troubles were not inevitable, their continuation post-1974 was not inevitable, and pretending they were simply serves to excuse the most apalling crimes of our recent past.

  • “And why berate those who had the decency to negotiate a settlement when the opportunity was eventually proffered.”
    a good point wee slabber, oft forgotten in the rush to blame the IRA for everything.

    Indeed wasn’t it Paisley who rejected the early peace agreements, as he figured that an armed IRA was his best card.

    Sammy you might get to 100 at the rate you’re going, but you’re starting to go down hill with “crimes/shame/massacre” talk… blame blame blame; axe-grinding..rabidity.. is that even a word?

    Interesting how your no:3 superiority post
    is starting to blow up in yer face.

    [play the ball! – edited moderator]

  • kensei

    “Why was Bobby in jail in the first place? What was he off doing bombing that furniture factory in the first place? I tell you what, I bet it wasn’t for cross-border adverts telling you to cook the stuff on your BBQ properly and a ministerial Skoda for Catriona Ruane.”

    On this basis, what’s the difference then between Bobby Sands and any other IRA volunteer? Fuck all. And there is plenty of them about, and plenty of them happy with current arrangements. Not all of course, but if it was a significant section we’d be in a fair bit of bother.

    Anyway, this is a separate argument to “What did Bobby Sands die for?”. That was political status for prisoners. The argument you are making is emotive, destructive and plain wrong.

    “But trying to pretend that he was absolutely guaranteed to have supported changes in orthodox Republican thinking is just rewriting history.”

    There are no guarantees. Why would he have been different from most of the other volunteers, though?

    “Trying to pretend that the minor changes from Sunningdale to Good Friday made a huge difference to Republican thinking is just rewriting history.”

    No, trying to pretend they are the same is rewriting history. Republicans weren’t dealt with in Sunningdale, so it had no impact on their thinking. Being involved in a process of which the GFA was part certainly impacted thinking. And they still aren’t the same. And consider factions on this island have killed people for more minor differences.

    “Republicans did not reject Sunningdale because it was based on a voluntary coalition. Republicans rejected Sunningdale because they weren’t interested in any deal that didn’t involve British withdrawal inside two years.”

    Sure. And the Brits and Unionists weren’t much interested in seriously cutting a deal in a fashion that would bring the IRA in. Both sides thought they could win. When they realised they couldn’t, they both compromised. Going for the “it isn’t what all those volunteers died for” argument is pointless. That’s what compromise is.

    “Similarly, the IRA didn’t buy into the GFA because it was so much better than Sunningdale; they bought into it because the leadership of the IRA realised how badly riddled they were with British agents and knew it was the best deal they were going to get, and over the years had developed the political skills to manoeuvre the rank and file into buying into it against their better judgement.”

    It bought the GFA because it helped negotiate it. It bought the GFA because it dealt with things like prisoners and the RUC and demilitarisation and a load of other things that weren’t on the table in 1974. It bought it because politics was paying dividends which it hadn’t in 1974. The GFA was more than just the institutions.

    “If you really think that Good Friday was so radically different from Sunningdale from a Republican point of view that it merited a complete reversal in strategic direction, then you are deluding yourself.”

    Nope, I don’t. I think the futility of the conflict merited a complete reversal in direction.

    “It is to their eternal shame that they were too short-sighted to buy into essentially the same deal in 1973.”

    It’s more complex than merely “they were short sighted”. In context decisions were made given the knowledge and experience of people at the time. Part of it was personal failures. But part of it was a lack of experience of 30 years of conflict. Remember that these weren’t professional soldiers or officers, just people off the street.

    “Maybe it is a more effective strategy for Republicans to deliver a United Ireland. Maybe not. But pretending that’s why Sinn Féin and the IRA sued for this deal is window-dressing the past.”

    Nope, it isn’t. The IRA could have continued more or less indefinitely. And almost any actor at any point could have pushed us into a much nastier conflict and a much more complete breakdown of society. Part of the reason for the change is because the military option was clearly deadlocked . But that only affected change because there was another option for progress. If politics offered no advantages we’d still be fighting.

    And if fighting offered any advantages we’d also still be fighting. Too many people would go for it, even if the current bach didn’t.

    “I don’t accept this, Kensei. The IRA’s war was conducted from start to finish despite, rather than as a result of, the wishes of the Irish people. ”

    It doesn’t take support from everyone to be inevitable. There were enough people with enough grievance and enough hate on both sides to make it inevitable. Fatalistic, but I just don’t see where the change was going to come from in 1973/4.

    The problem with counter factual stuff is that it we don’t know what blunders the Assembly would have made.

  • Dewi

    What did Goulding say about being right too early and Adams being right too late.

    The key thing is what happnes next. There are now peaceful mechanisms to work toward nationalist constitutional aspirations. Whatever the next 50 years the next 10 is bringing about not only a parity of esteem through institutions but a parity of power through numbers.

    A United Ireland will only come through consent and a consent of 50+1% catholics only could I suggest lead to some violence whilst sovereignty is transferred.

    Thus the Unionist outreach so derided by many commenters here is a logical and central part of any Nationalist strategy. During the conflict such outreach was obviously farly difficult. Now, given some time, it could be possible.

  • Dewi

    Nice succinct article by the way.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Excellent debate from two of the best contributors to slugger., apart from myself of course!

    Sit back and enjoy the debating as it should be done, sans invective or prevarication. C’mon kensei!

  • Dewi

    “Sit back and enjoy the debating as it should be done” As if you will Prince !

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what to done it

    Sammy Morse,

    comparing the GFA/STA with Sunningdale is a trickey business – the old food agency chesnut harldy reperesents the extent of the now contstitutional link with ROI. You have to also take into account the British government would have had to guarantee the release of all IRA prisonsers,the abolition of the UDR and RUC, the devolution of police and justice, the removal of the right to march
    into Nationlaist areas and a guarantee of the insurgents ( Provos ) being allowed into office to make a fair comparison with Sunningdale.

    The outcome from this ‘war’/’terrorist campaign’/’other’ is a recognition of the failure of previous status quo i.e. partition to deliver peace and reconcilliation. The fact that the majority of nationlaists vote for SF seems to indicate that they believe that the outcome was worth the fight – otherwsie they wolud vote for the SDLP.

  • Turgon

    Kensei,
    Actually an interesting and well argued analysis of republican thinking.
    There are a few issues I would question mainly out of interest rather than to snipe.

    Do you really feel that the hunger strikes were purely about political status. Yes that was the stated initator but do you not feel that there was also a desire by republicans to gain political propaganda in what was for the leadership a no loose (either Thatcher gave in – victory, or martyrs – victory). When the FST election popped up it allowed more propaganda and an ability to begin to get involved in politics.

    In terms of prisoner releases with GFA do you not think it possible that the British government would have released people pretty quickly after Sunningdale had violence ended. They certainly have a track record of that eg Kenya.

    In terms of the IRA being able to continue I am sure you are correct but I would suggest their ability to effectively operate had been severely undermined, they were riven with informers and had relatively limited popular support outside a small number of areas.

    If hypothetically the IRA announced it was going back to violence and SF stated their support for that do you think that SF would not suffer at any subsequent election?

    My take I must admit is that SF/IRA snatched a remarkably good deal (in their terms) from what was looking like the jaws of if not defeat irrelevance for the IRA.

    Now to the evil; unionist carping bit (well Prince Eoghan I would not be me if I did not do it).

    I (and I am sure I am not alone) find it difficult to so unemotionally dismiss the campagin of the IRA. (Incidentally I saw a little anger from you Kensei when Sammy Morse questioned what Sands died for).

    From a previous post I suspect you were 16 or so when the IRA ceasefires were signed. Those who remember the events of the 1980s and 1990s (and though not in my case those of the 1970s) find a dry analysis of the actions of the IRA (and all the others) very difficult. Thankfully none of my close friends and no relatives died but people like my wife can rhyme off lists of friends, acquiantances and relatives who did die under the guns and bombs of the IRA for being protestants. As such a dry analysis with comments like “If politics offered no advantages we’d still be fighting.” may be factually accurate but is also a woefully inadequate one. Maybe you lost relatives and can rationalise that away but there are very many who cannot.

    You are clearly an articulate and intellegent young man but although this sounds condescending I submit you might learn wisdom. Certainly although intellectually interesting an analysis like you posted here will not help you in your previously stated aim of gaining an understanding of unionist thinking; let alone persuading unionists of the merits of your united Ireland.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what to done it

    Turgon

    “My take I must admit is that SF/IRA snatched a remarkably good deal (in their terms) from what was looking like the jaws of if not defeat irrelevance for the IRA. ”

    There is no doubt that a few years later – post 9/11 they would have got bugger all – but at the time of the deal London was exteremley vulnerable to IRA attack – with that aspect of their campaign sustainable for sometime to come. That, along with the lack of belief by the British that non iron was as British as Surrey were significant factors in British governments decision to jointly throw in the towel.

  • Turgon

    It was Sammy McNally what done it,
    I would agree up to a point. Whilst the British Government did not surrender I agree they made more concessions than they may have needed to (and of course many more than I would have wanted). And yes the British government did and do not view us as the same as Surrey. I do not think though they viewed us as the same as Kenya or Rhodesia in the 1960s or 1979/80 and I think though they may have a theoretical view as difference from Surrey it did not mean there was any realistic likehood of them just giving up and just pulling.

  • Dewi

    But Turgon – don’t you think that the republic government has more understanding of you than:

    a) British Government and people
    b) Sinn fein.

    Isn’t that the future ?

  • Turgon

    “But Turgon – don’t you think that the republic government has more understanding of you than:”

    In all honesty Dewi I do not think they have much of an understanding of us. They are being quite nice at the moment and it is a topic for another thread the various reasons why this might be so.

    I actually think Sinn Fein may have a fairly good understanding of unionists but that does not mean they want to help us in any constructive way.

  • Dewi

    It’s the bit I don’t get I admit Turgon. The Dublin Government are reaching out to Unionists – I don’t think London cares – what am I missing ?

  • kensei

    “Actually an interesting and well argued analysis of republican thinking.”

    Usual “I’m an idiot” disclaimer, and plenty of Republicans will disagree with me.

    “Do you really feel that the hunger strikes…..”

    You have to place political status in the wider context and what it meant to the Republican movement. All the reasons the British Government wanted to treat them as criminals are the same reasons they did not want to be. You also have the history of Republican hunger strikes. It is deeper than just propaganda. But there was clearly propaganda value in it, and the Conservative Government gave them an open goal. It was obvious where it was going to go.

    Basically, if you want to boil it right down, Bobby Sands died to further the aims of the Republican movement. And his death was one of the catalysts for the move into politics. Whether or his death was worth it, it’s too soon to tell.

    “In terms of prisoner releases with GFA do you not think it possible that the British government would have released people…”

    Not impossible but are republicans going to take that on trust, in a system they are outside of? There were also problems selling it in 1998. In 1974 it seems inconceivable.

    “In terms of the IRA being able to continue I am sure you are correct but…..”

    And it was more than enough to cause mayhem. They were also quite disciplined and inventive, and had already developed mobile phone detonators. Who knows how they would have developed that further, or how instant communication might have helped them find informers. Who knows what else the British Army or the Loyalists might have done, to give temporary surges of support? And society would continue to be splintered and polarised, which at least we have some hope of getting out of.

    “My take I must admit is that SF/IRA snatched a remarkably good deal (in their terms) from what was looking like the jaws of if not defeat irrelevance for the IRA.”

    How good was the deal, though? There’s plenty there I don’t like. Unionists merely have horrendous PR.

    “….(Incidentally I saw a little anger from you Kensei when Sammy Morse questioned what Sands died for).”

    Not so much on about talking about Sands, just the question annoyed me.

    “……Maybe you lost relatives and can rationalise that away but there are very many who cannot.”

    Personally, I don’t know anyone who died. Many of my relatives were burnt out of their homes, had close relatives and friends shot, were beaten up by the British army, raided and the rest. Some people in my wider family were in the IRA. The two sentences aren’t entirely unconnected. I don’t agree with doing that but I can understand some of the reasons and they aren’t animals or subhuman.

    It isn’t a matter of rationalising it. It is matter that we need to understand the reasons that fueled the conflict and what stopped it because that is the only way to ensure that it can’t happen again.

    If it was felt that violence would move us closer to a United Ireland, or improve people’s lot, then there would be people who would do it, and that would regardless of what SF or the PIRA did. But ignoring the morality for a moment, that idea has been tested to destruction and it doesn’t work. It is incumbent on Republicans to ensure that there is another outlet for people who want change and that it has the possibility of making progress and being successful in a way that violence doesn’t. If we can make progress to ensure the questions don’t arise, even better. If a United Ireland was a realistic possibility, what could we do to help prevent Unionism from falling into a similar trap?

    Equally, it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that no side has easy excuses for violence, as
    Nationalism had circa 1969.

    “You are clearly an articulate and intellegent young man but although this sounds condescending I submit you might learn wisdom.”

    I’m, always trying to learn. I doubt I’ll reach that lofty goal, however.

    “Certainly although intellectually interesting an analysis…..”

    Understanding is only part of it. I am never going to agree with Unionism’s analysis on a lot of things, no matter how well I understand it. I need also to be able to articulate my position in a way that makes it easier for you to understand me. Ultimately we need to be able to reach past mere understanding to compassion. Understanding is merely a prerequisite to that.

    It’s not that I necessarily agree that the IRA should have rejected the Sunningdale Agreement. I just dislike the easy but intellectually vapid arguments like “Is this what Bobby Sands died for?” (equally applicable to dissidents saying it) or “Well, it’s just the same as Sunningdale”. It seems to me if you want to learn the lessons and apply them elsewhere, that these are totally the wrong questions to ask and things to be doing but it’s important to have answers anyway.

  • Pete Baker

    “Actually an interesting and well argued analysis of republican thinking.”

    Well, it’s an interesting and well-argued retrospective rationalisation of the current position adopted by Sinn Féin.

    Not quite the same thing.

    And it’s not quite an effective counter to the contrast in the historical positions, as adopted by Paisley and the PIRA, pointed to by Patrick Murphy in the article.

  • On this basis, what’s the difference then between Bobby Sands and any other IRA volunteer? Fuck all.

    I’m not sure I agree with this – read his poetry. He had a big destiny thing going that was far removed from the average IRA volunteer. Anyway, you’re right this is a fairly futile, speculative, argument that is going to generate more heat than light so I’ll drop it except to reply to…

    Anyway, this is a separate argument to “What did Bobby Sands die for?”. That was political status for prisoners. The argument you are making is emotive, destructive and plain wrong.

    Emotive? Yes. Destructive? Arguably, especially from the point of view of a Republican movement that still needs to deal with dashed expectations in some quarters, although it seems to be doing pretty well on that score. But plain wrong? I don’t think so. Republicanism still hasn’t dealt with its own past, with actions that were just wrong, and this is the crucial point, even within its own frame of reference. And I don’t think it’s just possible to say that it’s all in the past, so let’s move on, much as it might suit the currently dominant political parties in NI to move on.

    Some of the issues that Republicans (although not exclusively) have raised about the past, for example regarding security force misbehaviour, are desperately important in building a peaceful future. But Republicans give the impression of wanting to deal with everyone’s ugly past but their own. At some point they’re going to have to unlock some of the more unpleasant skeletons from their own closet.

    No, trying to pretend they are the same is rewriting history. Republicans weren’t dealt with in Sunningdale, so it had no impact on their thinking.

    I think that’s too simplistic. Republicans weren’t operating in a vacuum and Sunningdale did have an impact on their thinking, although it was too short-lasting to do anything other than reinforce a naive “Brits Out” militarism. But even without the impact of Nationalist participation in government, the IRA was in deep trouble in the late 1970s, haemhorraging support, penetrated by informers and short on arms and cash. It doesn’t take a massive leap of imagination to wonder what might have been if Sunningdale had worked.

    And the Brits and Unionists weren’t much interested in seriously cutting a deal in a fashion that would bring the IRA in. Both sides thought they could win. When they realised they couldn’t, they both compromised.

    I don’t think the Brits and Unionists were necessarily on the same wavelength here. The Unionists didn’t show any signs of thinking it even possible to bring the IRA into the political fold, but the Brits made direct overtures and from what we’re learning about private Brit thinking at the time, they didn’t seem to think any settlement would be stable in the long term without Republican involvement.

    to be continued…

  • …cont’d

    It bought the GFA because it helped negotiate it. It bought the GFA because it dealt with things like prisoners and the RUC and demilitarisation and a load of other things that weren’t on the table in 1974. It bought it because politics was paying dividends which it hadn’t in 1974. The GFA was more than just the institutions.

    Prisoners weren’t an issue in ’73 in the same way it was later – there wasn’t the experience of a generation in prisons. Internment was, but it was clearly on the table and releasing people who hadn’t actually been convicted of anything would have been much easier. Besides the Stormont regime had no trouble quietly releasing IRA men early after WW2 (Gerry Adams’ Da, for example) and the end of the Border Campaign. Similarly, demilitarisation wasn’t an issue because everyone saw the British military presence as a short term measure bound to end, one way or the other, pretty soon, and the permanent military installations that became a feature of life in South Armagh didn’t even exist. Policing? Different times, different question, but again the settled Brit policy at the time was to move to a completely disarmed RUC as soon as the security situation permitted.

    Politics didn’t deliver for Republicans then because Republicans weren’t interested in politics. It was seen as poison, the trap that had caused Goulding to leave nationalist communities defenceless in ’69. The ‘Ra bottom line then was Brits Out in two years, although privately they were prepared to compromise to within the lifetime of a British parliament.

    There’s a danger in reading what we know today back into a time when it simply wasn’t known or relevant. The IRA wasn’t looking for a political road in 1973. And although Bobby Sands might well have died to further the political aims of the Republican movement, it’s doubtful that he saw winning a by-election caused by Frank Maguire’s death and acting as midwife to Provisional Republicanism’s entry into electoral politics as one of those aims.

    It doesn’t take support from everyone to be inevitable. There were enough people with enough grievance and enough hate on both sides to make it inevitable. Fatalistic, but I just don’t see where the change was going to come from in 1973/4.

    I do not believe in inevitability. Conflict was not inevitable in 1969. Nor was its continuation in 1974. Inevitability just makes us prisoners of our own worst instincts. It’s only acceptable as an analytical tool because of the worst of the twaddle pushed by Marxist historians in their heyday, and accepted by too many clever people because it’s now received wisdom. Was the IRA going to lay down their arms and buy into Sunningdale in ’74? Unlikely. But would better political choices then have shortened the conflict by decades and saved thousands of lives? Possibly. I would say probably.

    We don’t agree on the degree of difference between Sunningdale and the GFA, but neither of us is arguing they were worth a couple of thousand dead. And I doubt, if you put the question as baldly as that, many Republicans would argue they were, either. And that bring us back to the point of Murphy’s article. For many people, it’s just not good enough for Paisley and the Shinners to slap one another on the back and say let bygones be bygones when they played such a decisive role in sustaining the conflict.

    The problem with counter factual stuff is that it we don’t know what blunders the Assembly would have made.

    Fair point. Counterfactual speculation isn’t a perfect tool, although I don’t think it’s a useless one either.

  • You have to also take into account the British government would have had to guarantee the release of all IRA prisonsers (etc.)

    Hi other Sammy – see what I said to Kensei earlier – most of those issues weren’t on the table because they simply weren’t issues in 1973. Or, with those that were, like the RUC, UDR and devolution of security powers, the terms of debate were radically different.

    The fact that the majority of nationlaists vote for SF seems to indicate that they believe that the outcome was worth the fight – otherwsie they wolud vote for the SDLP.

    But the majority of nationalists didn’t vote for SF when the fight was actually happening. There are all sorts of reasons why people changed their vote to SF – support for the peace process, SF’s aggressive nationalism was always more their taste but they were put off by violence, more competent constituency service but previously put off by violence, vastly more successful in grooming a new generation of leaders post-1998, etc., etc. It’s pretty ropey analysis to try and read a sort of ad post hoc blessing on the war into the rising Sinn Féin vote since the war ended.

    Trying to read the past to suit the present might sometimes be good politics, but it isn’t good historiography.

  • kensei

    “Well, it’s an interesting and well-argued retrospective rationalisation of the current position adopted by Sinn Féin.”

    Occasionally you only get rationality after the fact. Emotion clouds too much otherwise.

    “And it’s not quite an effective counter to the contrast in the historical positions, as adopted by Paisley and the PIRA, pointed to by Patrick Murphy in the article.”

    Murphy’s article is simplistic and flawed. But I’m sure you could play the same game by pulling 1980’s manifestos and quotes from both parties. But compromise makes dicks out of everyone, and to be honest I’d rather be a dick.

    But seriously, what is the criticism? That they sold their principles? It ignores the realities of compromise. That all this could have been done in 1974 if only people professed then what they do now? That is to divorce history and personality from all context. There were situations and attitudes that were prerequisite to a deal – and if you are serious about building peace in the middle east or elsewhere, you’d be best looking at those before anything else.

    Could things have been resolved earlier – sure, but as an option the IRA merely declaring spontaneously that Sunningdale was great and they’d just go away is one of history’s least likely options. There is a lot of preparatory work that needs done and structures in place to get to that point. Useless when assigning blame, particularly atop that high horse there, but more useful when looking at how things get resolved and attitudes changed.

  • Pete Baker

    “But seriously, what is the criticism? That they sold their principles?”

    No. It would seem to be that Patrick Murphy’s criticism would be that “the main protagonists traded what they called principles for what Britain called power.”

    Emphasis on “what they called principles”.

    Of course, retrospectively that can be rationalised.

    But it doesn’t excuse the shift. Nor does it explain, nor authorise, any new principles.

  • The Dubliner

    Kensei, at least you discard the pretence that “republicanism” in the north was anything other than the use of violence to attain political power with an aggressive nationalism used as the social agitator, i.e. fascism.

    Maybe we can stop romanticising thugs once we accept what they are…

  • Harry Flashman

    Republicans were not excluded from Sunningdale, they chose not to participate. Even in the darkest days of 1970-75 there were open, free and fair elections in which anyone was entitled to participate, there was no ban on parties who advocated a 32 county, independent, socialist, Irish Republic. Unfortunately the party which did advocate this platform couldn’t bring themselves to stand in elections (mainly because they would have gained probably 150,000 votes tops and the almost total lack of a mandate for their campaign would have been exposed).

    Now I can understand why Republicans chose not to stand for elections but simply to shrug your shoulders and say fatalistically that there was no other option than the violence is to say that “you know sure we were all to blame weren’t we?”. Well actually no, we weren’t all to blame. Right from the get-go some people advocated a peaceful settlement, some parties never changed their position, they were sneered at and derided by Republicans, they still are. The Alliance Party and the “Stoops”, remember them? They achieved precisely what they set out to achive from the beginning, no member of the Alliance Party ever felt the need to kill his neighbour nor did SDLP people, despite Republicans organising mobs to burn their leaders out of their homes.

    We can now be relieved because the Republicans have finally, finally, come around to where John Hume was in 1970. But please spare us the inevitability of history argument, there was damn all inevitable about it. Republicans who are today middle aged grandparents can pat themselves on the back at how well they have matured into statesmen and I suppose we should feel grateful because they caught themselves on at last. We must pass over the years when they were gung-ho young rebels hyped up on the adrenaline rush of the armed struggle. “Give her another lash lads we’ll drive the bastards into the sea by ’75, er, ’76, 1980, aw fuck it we’ll have a ‘long war’ then eh?”

    We must just bite our tongues and for the sake of the future just put bitter memories to the back of our mind, but please don’t insult our intelligence, just because it took thirty years for Republicans to see sense it doesn’t mean the solution wasn’t standing out there, blinding everyone else with its bloody obviousness.

    It’s correct to say that Sunningdale couldn’t have worked because Republicans rejected it. But that’s a bit like a cancer patient saying “Sorry Doctor, surgery won’t work because I don’t like you and I feel a few more rounds of holistic treatment might do the trick so I won’t allow you to operate” and then when the cancer has spread saying “Oh alright I’ll take the surgery now because I’ve agreed in my mind that surgery is ok, but it’s your fault doctor because I wouldn’t allow you to operate back then! I am a decent fellow however and we’ll just agree to forget about all our mistakes (though maybe we could have an enquiry or two from the Medical Council about your ones)”.

  • The Dubliner

    Who were the minority ‘rebels’ going to drive into the sea, Harry? The “occupying force” wasn’t the forces of the Crown, ’twas their own Protestant neighbours – who happened to be the majority permanently ‘planted’ within. If the William Whitelaw flung the title deeds to Northern Ireland across the table to the IRA delegation in 1972, what then? Then PIRA would have engineered what was avoided by partition: a sectarian bloodbath between armed nationalists/Catholics and loyalists/protestants that would have left tens of thousands dead before the UN intervened and moved the catholics into the south, building a Berlin-style wall along the border (assuming the south agreed to take them). It didn’t take a political strategist of De Valera’s calibre to work that one out, did it? And folks as intelligent as Adams and McGuinness would have worked it one out from day one – the saps lower down the gravy chain took longer. PIRA could never have ejected an ‘enemy’ who was the majority and wasn’t going anywhere. PIRA never had an endgame as a militant ‘republican’ movement; and ergo, it can’t qualify as one. Rebels sans a clue don’t cut it as the real deal, just like millionaires without a dollar. The ease with which they jettisoned all of their ‘republican principles’ and agreed to co-administer British rule in Ireland shows that they weren’t held sincerely, but were an expedient disguise to the actual nature of their campaign.

    So, they’ve ended up where the NICRA began: willing to work within the system for change. In fact, NICRA and the SDLP fared better pre-1971 (with the SDLP merely a year old), it had already achieved the biggies: disbandment of the B-Specials, laws to prevent discrimination in the workplace, electoral reform, a new housing executive, universal suffrage, ect. It would have achieved more if PIRA’s murder campaign didn’t inflame sectarian tensions, making political agreement between the tribes almost impossible (naturally, PIRA stopped killing people when the time came for its leaders to do its own deal 20 years later, giving its party the advantage that it had denied to constitutional nationalists decades earlier). The Government of Ireland Act, 1920 forbids Stormont from making any law that seeks to discriminate on religious grounds, whether positively or negatively. So, all the SDLP had to do was point to the immorality of Stormont and NI work practices which contravened the spirit of the Act if not the Act itself – and that is exactly what they did when the British government introduced direct rule in ’72.

  • Wilde Rover

    “Britain won, not so much by superior military might but through the use of high-level PIRA informers and collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.”

    Patrick Murphy

    “But even without the impact of Nationalist participation in government, the IRA was in deep trouble in the late 1970s, haemhorraging support, penetrated by informers and short on arms and cash.”

    Sammy Morse

    It seems strange that the paramilitary groups are treated as independent groups pursuing their own agendas.

    Is the real question not about how infiltrated they were, and how far back?

    If Punch is beating Judy to death, do you blame the puppet, or the puppet master?

  • It seems strange that the paramilitary groups are treated as independent groups pursuing their own agendas.

    Is the real question not about how infiltrated they were, and how far back?

    Not really, unless you think the IRA were, at any point, penetrated to the extent that the Brits were calling the shots and setting the strategic direction. That implies the Brits were basically running Northern Command and the Army Council, by having a majority, or near enough, of both bodies as informers. Or possibly just key figures like Gerry, Martin and, oh maybe Brian Keenan. That doesn’t make sense. Besides, the Brits were fairly useless at running their agents in the early years of the Troubles.

    What you seem to be trying to do is absolve the IRA of any responsibility for their actions. Sinn Féin co-run the state and noone, not even Paisley, is disputing their right to do so. The prisoners have been out for years. The war is over. Isn’t it time for Republicans to ditch the defensive denial and deal with the ugly bits of their own past?

    It seems easier to get Republicans to deal self-critically with the Dáil election results than it is to deal with, what were in their own terms, war crimes. That’s sad.

  • kensei

    Sammy

    Don’t have time to go into everything.

    You have a point on the different times having different requirements. But I think the general point remains – the Agreement was more than just structures, and for any Agreement to work in 1974 it also had to be more than just structures. Pete likes to take the piss out of it, but in many ways the process itself was important.

    On inevitability, I don’t think violence was inevitable in 1969 (merely likely) but once that was passed it’s continuation became inevitable. There is a point where King Lear turns to his daughters and asks “Which of you loves me most?” and the rest is inevitable because of the people involved. Perhaps inevitable is the wrong term – it simply becomes the default state of things, and it requires a lot of energy to get change.First law of motion, and all that.

    HF

    I am not really interested in assigning blame. It is easy on one hand to say that politics was there, it is another given the situation to actually move people onto it and away from violence. The question I want to know is “How could you have moved the IRA to violence in 1974?” as opposed to “How evil were the IRA?”.

    Pete

    “No. It would seem to be that Patrick Murphy’s criticism would be that “the main protagonists traded what they called principles for what Britain called power.”

    Emphasis on “what they called principles”.

    Of course, retrospectively that can be rationalised.

    But it doesn’t excuse the shift. Nor does it explain, nor authorise, any new principles.”

    No, Pete, it can be rationalised at the time with analysis other than simply “they just wanted power”. This is simply a riff on Kevin Myers piece a few weeks ago this one which was sneering and ugly as this is. And really, how does it differ from cries “Lundy” or “Sellout”? Qualitatively, it doesn’t. People aren’t immutable, and there are motives for change other than simply wanting power.

    Basically whatever I say you’ll come off with it’s retrospectively rationalising so I’m not seeing the point this discussion.

  • Harry Flashman

    **I am not really interested in assigning blame. It is easy on one hand to say that politics was there, it is another given the situation to actually move people onto it and away from violence. The question I want to know is “How could you have moved the IRA to violence in 1974?” as opposed to “How evil were the IRA?”.**

    To be honest kensei I’m not that bothered about assigning blame as such and I certainly don’t subscribe to the “all Republicans are evil” line, I’ve too many Republican friends and family members to fall for that. However it is fair now that Sinn Fein are the majority Nationalist party and senior members of the Provisional IRA are sitting in government to hold them to account for past failings. They’re not the “excluded outsiders” anymore, they’re part of the establishment now and as such it is not unreasonable to question their past judgment (if I were debating an ardent DUPer I would do exactly the same thing regarding Papa Doc).

    It’s no longer good enough just to say ‘look we’re not killing people anymore let’s move the process on’ that phase is over, now we’re entitled to ask well, you know, why were you killing people? Especially now that you accept the position (of the SDLP) which you previously so virulently rejected (I’m not a member of the SDLP by the way).

    It’s like an alcoholic wife beater who finally gives up the booze. He was not evil per se but he’d got himself in awful mess, sure not entirely of his own creation but he was still responsible for dreadful abuse. We, his friends, family and neighbours are delighted that he’s reformed his ways and while he was in the recovery process we passed over a lot of terrible stuff that had gone on in the past. But we’re beyond that now, the reformed alcoholic is now our respected local community representative and that’s great, good for him, but a little bit of humility wouldn’t go amiss right now. A small show of remorse perhaps, not sack cloth and ashes but a recognition that the bad years were a terrible time, awful things were done and said and some sort of recognition of his responsibility would be nice.

    No, we’re not getting that, he’s still in denial mode; “It wasn’t my fault, society was to blame, why are you all picking on me?” Just once it would be nice to hear a Republican say “You know what? We, not them, not all of society, but we as Republicans, we really stuffed up big time back then”.

    I’ll not hold my breath waiting.

  • Wilde Rover

    “It seems easier to get Republicans to deal self-critically with the Dáil election results than it is to deal with, what were in their own terms, war crimes. That’s sad.”

    Dail election results are apparent to all. What has happened in the shadows is not so readily apparent, at least to me. I think you will find that I have made arguments here on previous occasions indicating my belief that practically all of the campaign pursued by the IRA was indefensible.

    It continued on for decades with no realistic chance of achieving a military “result” or a political “result.” I am not averse to the claim that these acts were war crimes.

    And I will go one further by acknowledging that these acts were not exclusively “political” as some might claim, but that the taint of sectarianism also hangs over them.

    I was in no way trying to demean the suffering of the victims of that campaign or offer a crablike justification for that suffering.
    Believe me, Sammy, I am not trying to absolve anyone.

    “Not really, unless you think the IRA were, at any point, penetrated to the extent that the Brits were calling the shots and setting the strategic direction.”

    I don’t believe anything, hence the question marks. I was merely trying to set down alternative parameters for discussion. That the IRA was infiltrated does not seem to be in doubt, only the degree of that infiltration.

    And where is the line between infiltrating paramilitaries to the point of ending a conflict and infiltrating them to the point of prolonging one?

    If it were found to be the latter then one would be dealing with a false paradigm.

    Pure speculation on my part, of course. Perhaps He Who Dings could row in on the subject.

    That is, if he is not too engrossed by the intrigues in Mesopotamia, where the rivers run red.

  • kensei

    “No, we’re not getting that, he’s still in denial mode; “It wasn’t my fault, society was to blame, why are you all picking on me?” Just once it would be nice to hear a Republican say “You know what? We, not them, not all of society, but we as Republicans, we really stuffed up big time back then”.

    I’ll not hold my breath waiting.”

    I don’t speak for anyone – but certainly Republicans stuffed up big back then. I do hope we get to the point where people can apologise for some of what happened, without demonising those involved in the conflict.

    But ignoring the fact that things didn’t happen in a vacuum and a lot of other people bear responsibility too is as much a lie as pretending you never stuffed up.

  • And where is the line between infiltrating paramilitaries to the point of ending a conflict and infiltrating them to the point of prolonging one?

    Again, another reason for putting pressure on all the main beligerent parties to take part in a process of reflection and openness. The Brits were running Freddie Scapaticci and may have been running Sean Mag Uidhir, who between them oversaw some of the most grisly IRA internal security operations of The Troubles. Legitimate anti-terror in a difficult situation or complicity in torture and murder? I don’t know, but I’d like us to have the facts to be able to make a judgement.

    And again, this isn’t just raking over the coals – yesterday’s Mark Haddock might be today’s sectarian psychopath in Basra. We don’t know. But people deserve truth, deserve justice, and deserve to know that what they went through won’t happen again. But unfortunately it suits none of the main actors to air their dirty laundry. That’s life. But it doesn’t mean we have to just meekly accept it.

  • kensei

    “But people deserve truth, deserve justice, and deserve to know that what they went through won’t happen again. But unfortunately it suits none of the main actors to air their dirty laundry”

    No one here will ever see “justice”. The prisoners are out, the British Government certainly won’t hang out the security forces to dry. Truth can help but it isn’t going to be what heals us. It’s too easy for people to pull only the bits they like into their own narratives. We need more than that – we need compassion, understanding and empathy.

  • It’s too easy for people to pull only the bits they like into their own narratives.

    People are doing that already, ken. That’s why we need truth.

    We need more than that – we need compassion, understanding and empathy.

    And that as well.

  • It was SammyMc Nally what done it

    Sammy Morse

    If you are comparing Sunningdale and GFA/STA you cant leave out crucial difference like the release of prisoners, reform of the security services etc by saying that they were not on the table at the time of Sunningdale. This is like saying “they are very similar if you disregard cetain important differences”.

  • Wilde Rover

    “But ignoring the fact that things didn’t happen in a vacuum and a lot of other people bear responsibility too is as much a lie as pretending you never stuffed up.”

    kensei

    “But people deserve truth, deserve justice, and deserve to know that what they went through won’t happen again. “

    Sammy Morse

    I fear that the unseen lies may be the only thing keeping the stitching of this grand charade from falling asunder and that the truth might prove to be too much of a bitter draught for too many.

  • Harry Flashman

    As regards Republicans being averse to criticism from Loyalist/Unionist/British sources I have some understanding, none of these actors can honestly claim their hands were clean but what gets me is the lack of remorse towards people who genuinely were blameless but who had all sorts of approbrium heaped on them for daring to suggest that the armed struggle might not necessarily be the best way.

    John Hume obviously, who despite vicious, hateful bile being poured on him and his fellow “Stoops” by the Provos (am I right in recollecting they actually planned to assasinate him?) still maintained the decency to reach out and drag them out from their own mire. But not just him, Gerry Fitt, Maireid Corrigan, Edward Daly, Paddy Devlin, Monsignor Faul, Betty Williams, Father Mulvey, Cahal Daly, Austin Currie, John Cushnahan, so many others.

    Not loyalists, not Unionists but decent people, mostly Catholic Nationalists who begged and pleaded with the Provos to stop and in return were spat on and shat on (in Gerry Fitt’s case, literally), were heaped with vicious, spittle flecked abuse for daring to suggest there was another way but who now are just left on the rubbish heap of history.

    I would love, just once, to hear Gerry Adams say to the family of Gerry Fitt “Sorry about how we treated your Ma and Da, it was inexcusable, and we now see he was right all along.” Too much to ask for?

  • kensei

    “I would love, just once, to hear Gerry Adams say to the family of Gerry Fitt “Sorry about how we treated your Ma and Da, it was inexcusable, and we now see he was right all along.” Too much to ask for?”

    Yes. The first half is fine, but Gerry Fitt certainly wasn’t right all along. He went to the House of Lords, FFS.

  • by saying that they were not on the table at the time of Sunningdale

    That’s not what I said. They weren’t even issues at the time of Sunningdale. Not for anyone, including the ‘Ra.

  • Diluted Orange

    Good article. A pretty concise and accurate portrayal IMO, apart from just a few minor points:

    [i]Britain won, not so much by superior military might but through the use of high-level PIRA informers and collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.

    They were helped by a changing Europe and an evolving Irish foreign policy. When the PIRA was formed in the autumn of 1969, the south was an independent state.

    In 1973 it joined the European Union along with Britain – an event largely ignored by the economic warriors in the north.

    Thus while the PIRA was seeking economic and political union with Dublin, Dublin was cementing economic and political union with Brussels, and through it, with London. [/i]

    Dublin had already a more than concrete economic union with the UK. It was only after joining the EEC that it was able to pull itself away from Mother England’s economic policies. Rather than cementing the Anglo-Irish economic relationship, joining the EU was the first step to the Republic actually achieving real economic independence from the UK. The punt was linked with the British pound up until and after this point. The Republic didn’t even have its own exchange rate until 1979.

    The most interesting few lines from Patrick Murphy’s piece, aren’t about the PIRA (surely it’s a given that they hijacked the CRA) but the stuff about Unionism:

    [i]The violence had its origins in [b]unionist[/b] opposition to the non-sectarian civil rights movement of the 1960s.

    It was opposed by successive unionist governments to preserve power and privilege. It was also confronted by Ian Paisley who, it is now clear, was seeking power and privilege.

    The first violence came from the RUC and Paisley’s supporters in opposition to Civil Rights Association (CRA) marches. [/i]

    Should [b]’unionist'[/b] not be in title case and preceded by the word ‘Ulster’ and succeeded by the word ‘Party’?

    Since the inception of the state until the collapse of the Stormont government in 1972 the ruling Unionist hegemony manipulated their own people to ensure their position of power. They in effect created a sectarian state, where politicians would be full of divisive rhetoric, so that the Protestant man in the street would always look over his shoulder for the ‘bogeyman’ Catholic who he feared was going to take his job and make him pray for the Virgin Mary in a United Ireland. Inevitably, this led to Protestants overwhelmingly voting for the UUP, thus guaranteeing their position in government, and closing the loop.

  • Harry Flashman

    **Yes. The first half is fine, but Gerry Fitt certainly wasn’t right all along. He went to the House of Lords, FFS.**

    Hmmm, let’s see the chief of staff of the IRA agrees to destroy the IRA’s arsenal in order that he might jointly administer British rule at Stormont along with Ian Paisley and Republicans accept that but they still won’t forgive Gerry Fitt (whose home they attacked, looted and violated in a most obscene manner) for taking a place at a political retirment home after a life time of dedicated public service to the people of West Belfast.

    As you’d say yourself “FFS!”.

  • kensei

    “Hmmm, let’s see the chief of staff of the IRA agrees to destroy the IRA’s arsenal in order that he might jointly administer British rule at Stormont along with Ian Paisley and Republicans accept that but they still won’t forgive Gerry Fitt (whose home they attacked, looted and violated in a most obscene manner) for taking a place at a political retirment home after a life time of dedicated public service to the people of West Belfast.”

    Yup. “A life time of public service”. He wasn’t that good a politician either – he lost his position as leader of the SDLP because he was out of touch with his party, and he lost his seat because he was out of touch with his electorate – not because of violence. He supported the RUC!

    Unionists like him because he wasn’t really a Nationalist. So, yes, an apology to his family for the violence directed against him his fair. But telling them he was right? Fuck off.

  • Wilde Rover

    “Since the inception of the state until the collapse of the Stormont government in 1972 the ruling Unionist hegemony manipulated their own people to ensure their position of power. They in effect created a sectarian state, where politicians would be full of divisive rhetoric, so that the Protestant man in the street would always look over his shoulder for the ‘bogeyman’ Catholic who he feared was going to take his job and make him pray for the Virgin Mary in a United Ireland. Inevitably, this led to Protestants overwhelmingly voting for the UUP, thus guaranteeing their position in government, and closing the loop.”

    Eloquently put. All the world’s a stage, and we are merely players.

  • Harry Flashman

    **But telling them he was right? Fuck off.**

    It’s nice to see that provies never change their spots, for all their seeming reasonability they’re still the spittle flecked bigots they always were.

    So what part of Fitt’s policy did the current SF leadership not adopt?

  • jpeters

    Kensai

    “I do hope we get to the point where people can apologise for some of what happened, without demonising those involved in the conflict.”

    Familiar?

    You started with quite a scholarly analysis (which i didnt agree with but respected) but something seems to have snapped.

    I’ve though in the past that republicans held in greater contempt not unionists but other catholics/nationalists who did not follow their idealogical line. I thought in recent times this may have changed and i certainly didnt expect to hear it on Slugger

  • Juan Corr

    A very good article, and some excellent posts, one of the better threads of recent times without a doubt.

    Just to add my tuppenceworth: It’s still a bit depressing that so MANY threads have appeared on Slugger arguing the toss over who ‘won’ and who ‘lost’…I know it sounds like paraphrasing a lame cliche like ‘there were no winnners/losers’ but anyone who tries to spin a ‘victory’ out of what has gone on in NI over the last 40 years is quite clearly deluding themselves.

    Get with the programme people – none of us are standing in the middle of a muddy battlefield in the middle of the 16th Century planting flags in the soil. This is 2007, a very, very different world from even 25 years ago, never mind 50 or 100.

    People in NI (or indeed anywhere else)who coat-trailingly flaunt the symbols and trappings of tribalism (like flags, painted kerbstones, jerseys, tats, murals) are sad and pathetic people, especially if they/you only do it because they/you know it annoys ‘themmuns’. By engaging in this kind of activity you demean and debase those very symbols, and yourself, in no small way.

    The armed republican campaign, as I’ve argued many, many times before on this site walked nationalism straight into a trap which maybe not strengthened but certainly cemented, the partition between the two parts of the Island. maybe it was a gamble but it was a very, very foolish one and should have been called off years before it finally was. It got nationalists absolutely NOTHING they wouldn’t have got if they’d stuck with peaceful campaigning over that time period.

    As for the whole British Army/British Administration argument, trying to argue that successive British governments ‘won the war’ against the IRA just because Republicans didn’t quite manage to achieve a 32-county UI is like AC Milan being taken to a replay, extra time and penalties by an under-12 non-league team and then celebrating a ‘victory’ because they eventually won 27-26 in the shootout.

  • kensei

    HF

    “It’s nice to see that provies never change their spots, for all their seeming reasonability they’re still the spittle flecked bigots they always were.

    So what part of Fitt’s policy did the current SF leadership not adopt? ”

    Gerry Fitt was prepared to get into local government without an Irish dimension, which lost him the leadership of his party. He was prepared to defend the hated RUC, which doesn’t really go down well with Republicans. He was prepared not only to sit in the House of Commons but also the House of Lords. He wasn’t really a Nationalist politician, the man himself would have described himself as a Socialist, though I don’t know enough about that aspect to comment one way or the other. He criticised the SDLP for becoming “too Nationalist”, for heavens sake. And politics is more than policy.

    We aren’t actually talking about Gerry Fitt. You simply want to say Republicans got everything wrong and Gerry Fitt got everything right, mainly because you want to punch republicans. There were certainly things he got right. Important ones, like non violence and compromise. But his politics and Republican politics are very different. S, no, I won’t be saying he was “right”.

    Honestly, you should have went with John Hume, because he was more right more of the time.

    jpeters

    “You started with quite a scholarly analysis (which i didnt agree with but respected) but something seems to have snapped.

    I’ve though in the past that republicans held in greater contempt not unionists but other catholics/nationalists who did not follow their idealogical line. I thought in recent times this may have changed and i certainly didnt expect to hear it on Slugger ”

    I’m not demonising Gerry Fitt. He seemed to be a perfectly alright person but I disagree with much of his politics and how he wenta bout it. He is perfectly entitled to an absolute right to his views, just like anyone else regardless of who they are. And I respect their views, just disagree. But the idea that he was “right” gets a deserved fuck off – he wasn’t. He was right about not using violence, but it’s hardly unique. And that he lost position both in party and Parliament because he got out of step with his electorate, it isn’t an attack, he’s just a fact. It’s what happens to all politicians when they do.

  • IJP

    On that basis it is not difficult to conclude who won.

    As Simon Sharma wisely answered: “Nobody”