“All a bit ambiguous..”

This UTV report might have been misled by the headline on the DUP statement – “An Amnesty Utterly Ruled Out Says Dodds” – but I’d agree with BBC’s political editor Mark Devenport’s more ambiguous take on the answer to the DUP’s Nigel Dodds’ question in the Commons today [scroll down] on the anonymously leaked proposals reportedly being considered by the Eames/Bradley consultative group

Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): Will the Prime Minister take the opportunity to pay tribute once again to the gallant service of the security forces of Northern Ireland in the fight against terrorism and crime over many decades of violence? Will he also take the opportunity to rubbish any attempt by the commission on the past in Northern Ireland to validate or vindicate terrorists and criminals in their sordid terrorist war by describing it as a war? Will he utterly rule out any suggestion of an amnesty for terrorists and criminals?

The Prime Minister: Yes, and it is important to say two things. First, our respect for the security services, the police and the armed forces for the difficult job they did over many years and for the loss of life suffered as a result of their difficult work is clear. Secondly, it is important to move forward with reconciliation. The efforts made by a number of bodies, including the one to which the hon. Gentleman referred, are an important element of building for the future. What we want is a safe, secure, peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland. [added emphasis]

Adds It’s probably also worth listening to Gordon Brown’s answer – via the 10 Downing St archive [Real Player file approx 16.38 mins in]

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  • He’s good, if the point of the post hadn’t been such, one wouldn’t have realised that he completely dogged the important part of the question.

  • Rory

    Abdul,

    Brown was merely responding in the hallowed language of Parliament that any errant drunk who took shelter in that place on cold pub-closed afternoons would have been able to interpret. He simply said to Robinson (if I may translate into the vernacular):

    “Fuck off, Bonzo! You know the score on that one.”

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Willows,

    I think you will find that the 1973 talks were also a response to Provo violence.

    It was unfortunate that all sides took so long to move their positions – Republicans, Unionists and Britsh and that it took a horrible little war to get us where we are today.

    re. Wars
    Do you consider the Irish War of Independence (1919-21) to be a ‘war’?

  • joeCanuck

    That’s exactly what I was thinking, Rory, except, of course, I don’t have quite as command of the language as you do. 😉

  • harpo

    It was:

    How exactly did the British and unionists move their positions?

    The only people who moved substantially are the IRs. They are now in Stormont helping run British rule.

    British rule administered from Stormont is where we started from.

  • Greenflag

    There’s nothing can be done for the dead only the living . The best thing politicians on all sides can do is to publicly resolve that never again will they allow NI to slide back to widespread sectarian conflict .

    Never mind the ‘reconciliation’ gumpf . That’s a matter for private individuals. A few will forgive and forget and move on -more will forgive and never forget . It’s the human condition . In the context of a world where probably 10 million plus have been killed in various wars and conflicts in the past 40 years -Northern Ireland probably got off lightly .

    Focus on the future for theres nothing can be done about the past . Rewriting it will not resurrect the dead either.

  • Rory

    Thanks Joe. The command of language does me no credit being a simple blind consequence of genetic inheritance. Me ma was a fishwife.

  • harpo

    “The best thing politicians on all sides can do is to publicly resolve that never again will they allow NI to slide back to widespread sectarian conflict .”

    Greenflag:

    How can any politicians anywhere promise that there won’t be widespread violence?

    It always comes down to the people with guns and bombs. If those fanatics decide that they want to start being violent on a widespread basis again, there isn’t anything that can prevent them from doing so.

    There are some of those folks about at the moment, but fortunately they are not having a widespread impact. That doesn’t mean that they won’t ever have a widespread impact though. If they got determined enough they could cause widespread trouble.

    “Focus on the future for theres nothing can be done about the past . Rewriting it will not resurrect the dead either.”

    So is that a call for all investigations into the past to be stopped. No more historical inquiries team? No Bloody Sunday report? No investigations into collusion?

    I see the merit of this, so long as it actually happens in full. There can’t be piecemeal investigations of the past.

    In that case let’s not have truth commissions, declarations about what the conflict was, amnesties. Just forget it all and move on.

    The various sides have already decided what happened anyway. There doesn’t have to be agreement about it, and never can be given the different political opinions. If these folks are looking for some agreed history of what happened that can never happen. Everyone sees it differently. That would be shown in any truth commission – everyone would stick to their own script.

  • John East Belfast

    Individuals cannot just take up arms against their fellow citisens at their own descretion and call a war.

    PIRA were only ever supported by odious regimes like Gadaffi, Cuba or Eastern European Communist countries where the KGB were out to destabilise the West.

    Every other civilised democracy imprisoned them when they caught them and outlawed their activities.
    Most damning of all was the ROI who to this day still imprison PIRA members for robbery and murder. PIRA never even recognised the legitimacy of the ROI State for many years.
    How can you say you are waging a war to unite people when the majority of people on that Island either reject your methods or reject your objectives ?

    In Ireland they were rejected by the majority of its citisens – not just unionists. Indeed SF only ever began to surpass constitutional nationalism when voters were certain they were decisively moving away from violence.

    There was no reason for violence when an internationally recognised treaty between UK & ROI defined the British Isles borders. Every citisen in NI had a vote and the arguments for nationalism could be and were put forward by constitutional politics.
    They have now peaked in NI and they got their asses kicked in the ROI which showed they were never recognised as the true inheritors of the ancient struggle between the British and Irish. That chapter had closed.

    Those who rejected all this and decided they had a “war” to fight which nobody else supported or recognised were nothing other than criminals.

    PIRA were terrorists because they tried to force by violence a policy they could not achieve through the ballot box in a democracy that had been recognised under International Law.

    If there was going to be a war fought it would be by the ROI Army against the British and that didnt happen once after 1921. Regardless of what it said in Articles 2 & 3 it was meaningless as far as actions by the Free State Govt.

    It wasnt a war and any attempt to define it as such will be thoroughly resisted by every right thinking citisen.

  • Dec

    …because they tried to force by violence a policy they could not achieve through the ballot box

    I think you’ll find they did in 1918. Of course, Unionism and the British establishment have had differing approaches to democracy throughout the years.

  • ulsterfan

    DEC.

    The election of 1918 was not a free election and is not recognised as such.

  • lib2016

    John E B,

    I think you’ll find that as recently as the 80’s even groups like the ANC were condemned as terrorists while fascist dictators like Pinochet were feted in Whitehall.

    Those days have changed. Britain is slipping ever further into it’s post-imperial decline and can no longer afford to alienate the modern democracies, many of whom won their democracy against fierce British resistance.

  • BonarLaw

    “Britain is slipping ever further into it’s post-imperial decline”

    *yawn*

  • John East Belfast

    lib2016

    There is no comparison between the respective environments of PIRA and ANC or achieving a UI via violence with 20m blacks denied basic dignity let alone a democratic right.

    Today PIRA are still be haunted by other countries – recent extradition moves by Germany – and not to mention Garda McCabe’s killers still in prison in Ireland for robbery and murder.

    Lets try and compare apples with apples.

    Dec

    1918 ?

    There is no point going down the route of whether Partition was right or wrong as we wont agree.

    However a 26 County civil war was fought that confirmed that Treaty after it had been legally signed by the Eire Govt and accepted by the majority of 26 county citisens. After 50 years it was well embedded.

    That certain anti Treaty Forces wanted to illegitimately continue that opposition via violence in the 50s and then again in the so called ‘Troubles’is the issue.

    They did not have the support of the majority of irish citisens and they did not represent any internationally accepted legal jurisdiction – hence they had NO RIGHT to wage a war and hence what they did was criminal.

    If the British Govt does try to declare this as a War I hope there is a campaign to bring such a statement to the Highest Court in the land to declare it illegal.
    The current Govt has no authority to make such a retrospective statement in my opinion for starters.

  • CTN

    I wonder when Michael Collins armed them post treaty and ministers of FF’s govt of ’69 attempted to, did either consider this type of action connected to a war or merely to “troubles”?…

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    JEB,

    Most Irish people on the island of Ireland did not accept partition. The British caved in to the right wing of the Tory party and paramilitaries in Non Iron. The treaty was agreed because of British threats. Articles 2&3;( though worthless in themselves) and the Provo campaign were expressions of Irish rejection of an unjust settlement imposed AGAINST the will of the Irish people. That is why referenda on both sides of the border were included in ratification of the GFA.

    The labour government and most people in the UK accept this view of the world. A majority of the Nationalist community backed this view by voting SF into government. Of course the British Irish in Non Iron, including your good self, understandably dont see it like this.

    The unionist community having been marched into a settlement they did not want (both Paisley and Trimble admit this ) are understandbly pissed off and cannot accept that those to whom they swear allegiance (the British) treat them ( quite rightly) as if they were from another country

  • Rory

    “There’s nothing can be done for the dead only the living” – Greenflag.

    Again and again I say this. It is the fundamental necessity of understanding in the Judeao-Christian imperative of that holistic rationality which embraces mind and heart and soul and which is able to say this in the absolute confidence that any sane honest man can but only concur.

    Le chaim, said the Jew before and Le chaim says the Jew today and Le chaim says the Jew since forever there were Jews. For that is what it means to be a Jew – not to be stupid – to see real life before one’s eyes – to respect the gift of life and always, always to move forward.

    Let the dead bury the dead said the fierce gentle Jew, Jesus of Nazareth and I wish to sweet Jesus that those who profess to live by his example would at least listen to what he had to say.

  • John East Belfast

    sammy

    “Most Irish people on the island of Ireland did not accept partition.”

    I didnt say they liked it – but they did legally accept it.

    The only people with the legitimacy to wage war against the British were the ROI Govt and they chose not to but instead eventually entwined themselves with them in the EEC. They also decisively helped them catch the criminals of the PIRA and imprisoned quite a few of them as well.

    PIRA had no legitimacy except in their own minds.

    If you feel they did then do you believe the current Continuity/Real IRA have the same legitimacy because they continue to oppose Partition with violence ?
    What is the difference ?

  • lib2016

    John E B,

    It is the ANC who claim the IRA as brothers and who erected a shrine on Robbens Island in memory of Bobby Sands and the inspiration he was to them in their long struggle.

    Similarly, although Britain had been the colonial ruler the ANC invited the French to open their first democratically elected parliament. Just in case they didn’t get the message when Mandela did get around to visiting all the Western European countries guess which was last on his list? And how they made Tony grovel.

    BonarLaw,

    Do you remember what a success the Queen’s last visit to India was? That was largely as a result of British diplomats entirely refusing to understand that the world has changed, and that an apology for British behaviour in India was the very least which was required.

    And of course the next super-power, rapidly moving towards democracy is China. As a result of British devotion to free trade over a million Irish peasants died and their relatives spread around the world remember that to this day.

    Do the British ever regret fighting the Opium Wars? They will, you know.

    Another part of the world where democracy is sprouting at last is South America. The British left some great memories behind them there, some of them surprisingly recent.

  • lib2016

    In the Far East, in the Middle East. Wherever one looks it’s the same story and it won’t be forgotten. Spain took 500 years to begin getting over it’s Empire. Will the British have so long?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    JEB,

    the vast majority of Nationalists North and South now accept the current deal as expressed via the ballot box in endorsement of the GFA. It is extremely difficult for CIRA etc to avoid this electoral elephant in the politcial sitting room.

    There has been a (historic as Tony might say)compromise which hopefully means the latest round of Irish/British conflicts/wars is the last.

    The settlement offered by the British has conferred legitimacy on the Provo campaign by granting them ( as the Rev was saying until a few months ago) concession after concession.

    What is with you guys and the British anyway – just what do they have to do to you before you tell them to piss off?

  • I watched PMQs yesterday live and I was struck that Brown refused to rule out an amnesty when he had every opportunity to do so. The statement is headed “AN AMNESTY UTTERLY RULED OUT SAYS DODDS” yet in the final line Dodds says, “I would urge the Prime Minister to utterly rule out any suggestion of an amnesty”. Looks like the Dundela Dissemblers don’t read their own press releases before pressing Send.

  • ordinary voter

    About THE on the runs its over it was awful it shouldnt have happened lets start again. lets start with three cheers for John Dallet come on Nevin lead off.LETS beat the pigs back from the feeders.Dont let them feast while we have all our attention on topics like this. Oh and tony blair has joined JP Morgan eat your heart out paisley.But some day you and sweeney might own it .

  • Reader

    iwsmcnwdi: The treaty was agreed because of British threats.
    The treaty was agreed as the balance point between British and Republican threats. That’s what a treaty *is*. Collins’ threats were less convincing than Lloyd-George’s threats, so LG called his bluff.
    But if you had got possession of the 6 counties against the wishes of the majority of people who lived there, do you think it would have made you happy? And then what about us?

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    The last 30 years of ‘the Troubles’ in NI was hardly a ‘picnic’, or a ‘pillow fight.’ The use of language is the issue here. Some fear by calling it a ‘war’ that it will give ‘credibility’ or ‘endorse’ the actions and murders commited by the IRA. But isn’t that what all wars are about, the murder or killing of people.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think you’ll find they did in 1918. Of course, Unionism and the British establishment have had differing approaches to democracy throughout the years.

    Republicans have a much more tenuous grasp. The 1918 was hardly a fair election, especially if you look at it in modern terms. It certainly wasn’t a democratic election. Leaving that aside, the predecessors of today’s republicans chose to ignore the results of the 1922 election.

    Reader:

    The treaty was agreed as the balance point between British and Republican threats. That’s what a treaty *is*. Collins’ threats were less convincing than Lloyd-George’s threats, so LG called his bluff.

    I think the other factor is that Collins knew that he couldn’t get any further than a stalemate with the British empire, and he didn’t want to fight a needless war of attrition. It took a while for Dev and the irregulars to figure this out.

  • Dec

    JEB

    1918 ?

    There is no point going down the route of whether Partition was right or wrong as we wont agree.

    As I said, Unionism and the British establishment have had differing approaches to democracy throughout the years.

    Ulsterfan

    Forget to take your medication again?

  • kensei

    “The treaty was agreed as the balance point between British and Republican threats. That’s what a treaty *is*. Collins’ threats were less convincing than Lloyd-George’s threats, so LG called his bluff.

    But if you had got possession of the 6 counties against the wishes of the majority of people who lived there, do you think it would have made you happy? And then what about us? ”

    The Government of Ireland Act was passed in 1920. The King opened the Northern Parliament in mid 1921, I believe. Treaty negotiations were not concluded until December 1921. Partition was reality and Craig did not have to negotiate; he simply had to sit on what he had.

    Some other points. Craig was also offered the entire 9 counties of Ulster, but rejected them on the grounds that there were too many Catholics. It was also suggested that the Senate would have more Catholics in order to provide oversight: also rejected. PR was also removed, in order to kill off the incipient Labour movement and ensure sectarianised politics that would vastly favour Unionism. And that’s aside from the gerry mandering that went on, of course. No, Unionism was not interested in Democracy. It was interested in creating a Protestant state.

    I’m almost certain that at least one of the six counties had a slim Nationalist majority at the time: presumably it should have been excluded by your logic? Perhaps Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh would be justified in repartitioning the North now?

  • willowfield

    McNally

    Most Irish people on the island of Ireland did not accept partition.

    Most Irish people in Northern Ireland did not accept an all-Ireland nationalist state.

  • ulsterfan

    dec
    I suppose you support the results of the election 1918.
    You must be the only one to consider this is a free election.
    Was it right for armed men to visit the homes of prospective candidates in the middle of the night telling them not to stand and those who were brave enough to do so shot in front of their families.
    Attention was then turned to voters of the unionist tradition and they were systematically driven from their homes particularly in West Cork Cavan and Monaghan.
    The activities of so called Republicans at that time make Mugabe a cheer leader for democracy.

  • Reader

    kensei: I’m almost certain that at least one of the six counties had a slim Nationalist majority at the time: presumably it should have been excluded by your logic? Perhaps Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh would be justified in repartitioning the North now?
    Republicans moving the goalposts again? Though repartition is a tricky topic for ideological republicans, and especially for those with eyes on every square inch. Probably a humanitarian disaster too, especially in marginal wards.
    Remember that Republicans also rejected Crossmaglen, etc when it was offered to them in 1925, for a collection of fairly dodgy reasons.

  • Dewi

    “I’m almost certain that at least one of the six counties had a slim Nationalist majority at the time”

    2 I think – Fermanagh and Tyrone (also Derry city borough)- interestingly and new to me (from Mansergh) was the consideration given by Craig and others to a 4 county statelet.

  • kensei

    “Republicans moving the goalposts again? Though repartition is a tricky topic for ideological republicans, and especially for those with eyes on every square inch. Probably a humanitarian disaster too, especially in marginal wards.”

    Personally, I dislike repartition as simply recreating the problem on smaller scale. I am simply following your logic to its conclusion: if it became clear that United Ireland was impossible, would the inhabitants of all counties with a Nationalist majority be justified in repartition? Include private armies and threats of violence in the equation etc as expedient.

    “Remember that Republicans also rejected Crossmaglen, etc when it was offered to them in 1925, for a collection of fairly dodgy reasons. ”

    Boundary Commission came back essentially recommending the border was unchanged. Political pressure was applied from the British side to ensure this was the case.

  • willowfield

    “if it became clear that United Ireland was impossible, would the inhabitants of all counties with a Nationalist majority be justified in repartition?”

    Why do you pose the question in terms of counties?

  • Dec

    Ulsterfan

    Interesting to see that you’re still swallowing 90 year-old propaganda formulated in Dublin Castle. No doubt you’re equally aghast at the Zinoviev Letter.

  • ulsterfan

    Dec
    I am not interested in what came out of Dublin Castle but rely on family history when members landed in Belfast with only the clothes they were wearing having their homes burned to the ground after being subjected to intimidation and threats of murder.
    Many present day families in the north can give similar examples We do not need others to speak for ourselves.

  • Dec

    No actual facts then? Thought not.

  • ulsterfan

    Dec

    The facts are there but hard to recognise by people who have their head in the sand.

  • Peter

    I thought Thatcher had called it a war at one point in the 80s and then quickly retracted the comment. Any one remember this?

  • FlybyDay

    @kensei

    Personally, I dislike repartition as simply recreating the problem on smaller scale.

    Well a united Ireland is just one particular repartition. There’s nothing magical about the existence of a water barrier. It would certainly recreate the original problem.