“The Price of Peace”

The first part of a three-part series by BBC journalist John Ware, “The Price of Price”, has just aired on Radio 4 – it’ll be repeated on Thursday at 8pm, should be available online, and is well worth listening to [it’s currently listed as Choice of the Day – direct link to RealPlayer file here]. “Dealing with Gerry” follows a similar analysis to Mary Alice Clancy’s Phd thesis noted previously in identifying the effectiveness of the stick wielded by US envoy Mitchell Reiss – and the part played by now-presidential candidate John McCain – in moving Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams, and The Process™, forward after 9 years of prevarication as well as covering other ground as Ware’s article indicates. Next week’s part 2 focuses on Ian Paisley Snr and the DUP.

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  • slug

    Very interesting piece.

    The whole theme was suggestive of a weak British government wanting to concede much more to Sinn Féin than the Irish Government or the US.

    The role of presidential hopeful John McCain in saying “enough is enough” to Gerry Adams, in 2005 after the Northern Bank robbery and the McCartney murder, was highlighted. The swiftness of decommissioning after this intervention again suggested that the very much less tolerant approach of the US produced better results than the “indulgent” (their word) approach of the UK – and Tony Blair in particular — towards SF.

  • Big Goose

    what’s it all mean? Too deep for me

  • Greenflag

    ‘that there is simply no place in a democracy for a private army engaged in illegal activity.’

    McCain got that right . Whether NI is a ‘normal’ democracy or still aspiring to become one is of course the question.

    One wonders if Mr McCain will apply the same reasoning to another country on the far side of the world (Iraq) for the 160,000 American soldiers and the 100,000 plus ‘private army’ of subcontractors and body guards ? The Iranian President today made aa statement to the effect that ‘It’s funny that the the same people who accuse Iran of interfering in Iraq are the same people who have 160,000 troops in Iraq ?

    With 3 trillion dollars in the ground already in Iraq and another 2 trillion earmarked for the next 2 years ,Mr McCain must be hoping at this stage that Obama is elected in November . At least then Mr McCains grandchildren may not have to be sold off into slavery to pay for the war adventures of the American Republicans ?

  • Mark McGregor

    What jumped out to me was the level of concern over getting the SF leadership to a place they clearly wanted to be anyhow. Adams’ answer on if there was a genuine chance of a split or if raising it was a tactic seemed the most telling, almost an admission that things were being played/acted out rather than real in some instances.

  • slug

    Mark – I agree with your assessment, including Adam’s answer. I was kind of struck by that.

  • Mark McGregor

    Slug,

    But hindsight is 20:20, I thought something completely different at the time myself.

    That’s why I’m looking forward to the rest in this series, that had an excellent start, the chance to compare the stated positions then with the realities that transpired.

  • Mary Alice C. Clancy

    Pete,

    I think Ware did an excellent job with this programme–he contacted me last year about using my article in his forthcoming programme about the 10th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement. Bravo to Ware (and Reiss)for being so frank.

  • Pete Baker

    Thanks for that confirmation, Mary.

    The overlaps in analysis seemed obvious, but I thought it worthwhile to link back to the post where we noted your, also excellent, article as you’ve focused on some other areas which Ware didn’t cover in that first part.

    I agree he did an excellent job – with some much needed frank interviews.. even from Mandelson.

    Looking forward to the other two parts in the series.

  • Mary Alice C. Clancy

    Pete,

    Thanks to you for mentioning my article on several occasions. Other media outlets have been somewhat reluctant to touch this story, which is unfortunate as I think that it is one of the most important stories of the post-Agreement period. So bravo to you and the rest of the Slugger bloggers for not shying away from it.

  • Pete Baker

    Thanks again, Mary,

    We try not to shy away from good analysis.

    Hopefully Ware’s series will encourage others to do the same.

    “one of the most important stories of the post-Agreement period”

    I completely agree.

  • Mark McGregor

    Why do you two see the American influence as so important? Money? I don’t buy that. What was their carrot/stick? This visas and fundraising stuff doesn’t work for me, while I was a member of SF I never had a perception of a need for US funds. I think his is external, uniformed analysis pretending authority.

  • Pete Baker

    “I think his is external, uniformed analysis pretending authority”, Mark?

    Who he?

    But I suspect you’re missing the point – as you often did, as I recall, when you were a member of Sinn Féin.

    It’s not about the US funding, per se.

    It’s about how the US, the Irish, and the UK governments reacted to various pronoucements by Sinn Féin – or rather by Gerry Adams.

    And, in particular, about how those reactions impacted on the public perception of the various players at particular points in The Process™.

  • Garibaldy

    Mark,

    I don’t think it’s an accident that the Americans were heavily involved in the South African, Israeli/Palestenian, and NI efforts all around the same time. We could throw in Bosnia too.

    It seems to me fairly clear that the US was trying to mop up various conflicts now that the Cold War was over. And it was applying a fairly similar map. Conflict management through the awarding of influence to each group in each area, as long as the correct social and economic arrangements were in place. Hence why Croatia got US help and Serbia got bombed.

    I don’t think it was necessarily the cash. But it was certainly the influence that came with support from the US, and perhaps more importantly the media coverage that came with it. Which greatly enabled the growth of the number of voters, especially in the south.

    Let’s not forget how extensive US involvement was and still is. Things like training politicians from virtually every party and “community leaders” in the US; not just the US government is involved, but some leading universities, and many businesses. Then we have people from the chattering classes of NI getting jobs training Bosnians etc in how to be democrats. There is a lot more to US involvement than outlined in the article.

    I also think there is little doubt that the envoys cracked the whip on several occasions, and got results.

  • Dewi

    Fascinating stuff – Reiss the hardliner against softie Blair eh? A new line – nice prog – remind us about the next episodes Peter!

  • New Yorker

    John Ware produced a fine program. As time passes it is clearer that Blair messed up from the beginning by not applying the stick, and applying it hard from the time of provo capitulation. When you have the strong hand, only a fool does not use it in such situations with the type of people involved. Blair’s handling of the negotiations turned what should have been ‘you will do this, or else’ into a ten year garden party.

    Our Mitchell Reiss did what he could but would not risk the US-UK relationship. He saw things much clearer than his predecessor which, I think, Mary Alice C. Clancy covered in her important paper. It’s incredible Tom Kelly proffers that history will judge #10 getting it right when even now the evidence is mounting that they got it wrong from the very beginning.

  • Mary Alice C. Clancy

    ‘I never had a perception of a need for US funds’

    Mark if you are a member of SF I would imagine that you would realise that the loss of your party’s largest source of legitimate income would be fairly catastrophic in terms of SF’s electoral expansion plans.

  • Wag

    Ware did a good job of illustrating the value of Washington’s input, which you can imagine as a lever on the controls of power. That’s where it becomes important to Sinn Fein: with Washington’s approval, more concessions slide their way; without the approval, nothing comes their way. Put it to you like this, if it did not matter, why would Adams have lied to the Brits about going to the White House? It’s like a sneaky teenager who knows that Daddy won’t let him but tells softy Mum that Daddy changed his mind at the last minute so can he go to the party after all, please? Hoping that Mum won’t call Daddy to verify.

    In addition, having Washington and the appearance of Irish America on sides gives great bluff value for Sinn Fein, makes them appear more important than they actually are. When they are out in the cold of Washington and Irish America, they are quite naked, and it is possible to seem how irrelevant in the big scheme of things they truly are.

    It’s not just about funds but as was pointed out, losing the main legitimate source of millions has got to hurt.

  • Wilde Rover

    ‘that there is simply no place in a democracy for a private army engaged in illegal activity.’

    I guess the people of New Orleans just imagined the foreign mercenaries that took over the city after Hurricane Katrina.

    Greenflag,

    “At least then Mr McCains grandchildren may not have to be sold off into slavery to pay for the war adventures of the American Republicans ?”

    Why does everyone seem to think that the Eternal War will end under Obama? A brilliant orator, true, but his words are bland nothings and others pull his strings.

  • The essential problem is with Reiss and his self-aggrandisement.

    Consider his version (which is specific to his term of enstoolment, i.e. the interim between Haass and Dobriansky):

    President Bush’s former special envoy to Ireland has signalled his distaste for what he regarded as No. 10 Downing Street’s indulgence of IRA demands during the Northern Ireland peace process.

    Dr Mitchell Reiss says he had “some pretty violent disagreements” with No. 10 over how much “pain to inflict” on Sinn Fein to push them into delivering their side of the Good Friday Agreement.

    Now put that alongside George Brock, reviewing three long-way-less-than-perfect books for last week’s Times Literary Supplement:

    We can also now grasp some clues to the central mystery: why did the IRA settle for so little?

    … Many accounts of the “peace process” suggest that Adams turned the IRA towards elections; many leave his exact motives for this switch mysterious. Somehow the hard man softened. By the early 1990s of course, the climate made violence less appealing: a healthier economy gave more people more stake in a peaceful life (not least in the Republic), Catholics learned that the logic of “armed struggle” looked better in theory than practice, and 9/11 dealt a fatal blow to help and money from the US. Adams may well have been inclined towards politics; but he had no choice. There was no fallback to force if politics failed; force was over…

    The defeat of an organization dedicated to political murder comes at a colossal price; governments are naturally not keen to stress just how high that can be. From the mid-1990s onwards, London was single-mindedly committed to ensuring that the IRA went out of the murder business. As they inched towards the finish line, John Major and Tony Blair could take risks with the deadlines and the small print of the arms decommissioning timetable because they were intimately well informed about what was going on inside the IRA and Sinn Féin. They could afford concessions because they knew for sure from the inside that the long-term trend was in their favour.

    Brock’s analysis (that of a professional journalist who reported from “on the spot”) seems to me to be infinitely preferable to a State Department desk-man, flying in-and-out on whims and reliant of third and fourth hand assessments).

    We are not going to get any definitive answer to Brock’s opening question there (despite any small wash of memoirs, especially those sanitised by Downing Street) in my life-time. However, his conclusion seems as valid as any, and particularly appropriate to a Bush apparatchik and Mitt Romney wannabe:

    If there are lessons from counter-terrorism in Ulster, they seem to be this. Recruit very good spies; then hire some more. Then give it time to work. The murders, the long wait and the compromises of the exit strategy may well grind the moderates to dust. Then wait some more. After that, the politicians can make their entrance.

  • Garibaldy

    Malcolm,

    I think you’re putting way too much credit on Brock’s analysis, which relies, at the end of the day, on Maloney’s Adams had the whole thing planned since 1979ish, and everything that happened afterwards was aimed specifically at achieving what happened since then thesis. With heavy hints that Adams and/or Mc Guiness was a tout.

    There clearly was heavy penetration of the Provos, but not enough to stop the campaign, which could have gone on indefinitely, both at home and in bombings in Britain (in fact, that the Canary Wharf bombing came as such a surprise suggests that the penetration was exaggerated).

    The real reason for Provo movement to peaceful means is simple. More influence and power was available through the ballot box, especially in the south, and to prop up the ballot box, the violence had to go. It had little to do with British spies, and nothing to do with loyalist murders, despite what those like Johnny Adair like to tell themselves.

    I also think it entirely possible Brock is pushing a British neo-con agenda heavily associated with people who once clustered around David Trimble, and especially Dean Godson. That is to say, the way to achieve peace is through military and not political means. Through naked power and not compromise. This attitude is typified by the workings of the Henry Jackson Society.

    As for Brock’s reporting on the spot, to be honest I’ve never heard of him. The Times correspondent for much of the peace process was David Sharrack, while for the Observer it was Mary Holland, Henry Mc Donald and others. So he may well have been on the spot, but not I would suggest for many years.

    In short, there is a very flawed and very dangerous thesis at work here, that is not so much about NI but has quite a lot to do with Israel and Palestine and the Middle East.

  • kensei

    John Ware produced a fine program. As time passes it is clearer that Blair messed up from the beginning by not applying the stick, and applying it hard from the time of provo capitulation. When you have the strong hand, only a fool does not use it in such situations with the type of people involved. Blair’s handling of the negotiations turned what should have been ‘you will do this, or else’ into a ten year garden party.

    Except….. the original IRA ceasefire broke down because of a lack of progress. It is almost certain that at the start, at least, applying more “stick” would have had the same result and played straight into the hands of the hard liners.

    If Adams used the threat of dissidents to squeeze out concessions, it was only effectively because to an extent that threat was perceived to be real. I wonder how much Omagh fed into that perception.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    I think we’re talking about a period sometime well after Omagh. From a non-republican perspective, the British were ‘all carrot and no stick’ despite knowing that SF did actually respond to tactically-applied pressure.

    Reiss perhaps realised that a ‘good cop, bad cop routine’ was more likely to achieve results.

    On the issue of the British having inside knowledge on SF’s position on policing, I think most people could see that it was inevitable that SF would eventually support the PSNI. It was more a question of when, and there appeared to be much dilly-dallying over minutiae. This was possibly to extract more concessions without giving much in return – an understandable tactic if you know that the British know you’re going to take the plunge at some point. From everyone else’s point of view, this was damaging to the Process (TM) and confidence in SF to deliver.

    Reiss playing hardball because SF played hardball. I’m not sure if his moves were decisive, but they certainly moved things along. Love him or loathe him, McDowell echoing Reiss’s line complemented that effort. It totally pissed SF off, but there was simply no other political protagonist who could put pressure on at that point in time, as the British had kid gloves on.

    In a way, Reiss’ line merely helped SF to where they were going anyway, by giving them a boot up the backside.

  • kensei

    I don’t disagree that a harder line helped push SF along (and the DUP too, for that matter) but I think the timing also helped. SF had taken several knocks e.g. the McCartney’s, the Northern Bank which arguably they still haven’t totally recovered from. I can’t picture how SF jump on board with policing in 2003 and I think there had to be at least the appearance of more concessions a la St Andrews for them to get it through without SF taking more political damage.

  • Dr OhBoil

    The DUP and SF were an unsightly boil on the arse of society here and needed to be lanced. That has happened now and after a period of convalescence, society will return to full strength again, (after having been forced to carry with it a pain in the arse for over 30 year ;-).

  • Belfast Gonzo

    kensei

    Don’t think I really disagree with your 12.35, especially re timing. I do think that SF (leadership) had psychologically prepared itself for policing long before 2003, but of course, convincing rank and file takes longer.

    SF’s reluctance to take the final step on policing reminded me of the nervous groom who makes it to the alter, then suddenly wonders if he’s ready to make a lifetime commitment. Reiss was a bit like a best man who takes him aside and tells him to get a grip on himself.

    Bad analogy, but sure…!

  • Garibaldy on Mar 03, 2008 @ 11:55 AM:

    … Brock’s analysis, which relies, at the end of the day, on Maloney’s Adams had the whole thing planned since 1979ish, and everything that happened afterwards was aimed specifically at achieving what happened since then thesis. With heavy hints that Adams and/or Mc Guiness was a tout.

    That’s your take on the piece; and you are entitled to it.

    However, some quick and disorganised thoughts;

    I certainly do not read Moloney as arguing that Adams had a “plan” since 1979ish. I’d like citations on that (to save a lot of flicking through some uninspiring text). If such a plan existed, kudos to whoever pushed the plan as far as a dream of Áras an Uachtaráin. I’m not an adherent of the “great man” cult-of-personality theory of history, so:

    Humint
    While I do not want to be seen as a parapolitical nut, there is a key dimension to be explored here. Who had the effective intelligence system on the ground? The best by far, over two key decades, seems to be the British securocracy — with or without that rumoured “tout” (who, ultimately, would be unreliable because of being self-serving). If he (or she) existed, that would merely be the cherry on the cake. We are learning, drip by drip, how extensive the network was: that is also Brock’s point through the middle part of his essay. We’ll never get the full details.

    Sigint
    In another context, why do you make (excessive?) play of the Canary Wharf bombing? It was (from the UK authorities’ point of view) cheap-at-the-price (which was mainly borne by the over-stuffed insurance companies, anyway). One question: who was the ultimate beneficiary thereof? Five million CCTV cameras should give a clue.

    The fact that the British intelligence system was so effective (and so secure) implies that a significant section of it was run quite independently of any US “co-operation” (which probably means a long way away from GCHQ, Menwith Hill and the rest).

    My bottom line is that the British strategy, which controlled Major and Blair (rather than vice versa), worked. It got a result. I’m quite sure that it did no harm to have the US State Department monstering, but both Washington and Dublin were kept “on side”. London didn’t need the stick, could afford the carrot: it alone knew what the donkey was thinking.

  • Garibaldy

    Malcolm,

    The overall thesis of the Moloney book is that there was deep planning and thinking by Adams from the 70s that made the Provos give up violence for the ballot box. I read it at the time, but never bought it and didn’t take notes, so can’t give you citations. But if you read the reviews from the time at say Newshound or the blanket I think they read the book the same way.

    I agree entirely that the British strategy was very successful. But the point I’m making is that Brock and others are exaggerating the extent of its success by ignoring other – and in my view more important – factors pushing the Provos towards politics exclusively in order to serve a present-day political agenda. For example, no-one reckons that FF was pushed into politics by Free State spying. It was because they saw politics as a more effective way to achieve their aims and exercise power. Looking at PSF and FF, and the social forces they represented at each time, I’d say this is a much more instructive way to view the issue in historical and comparative context than simply saying it was the spies what won it (and will win Iraq, Afghanistan etc).

  • Greenflag

    ‘Why does everyone seem to think that the Eternal War will end under Obama? ‘

    It’s hope based on despair . Now that Ameircin ‘casualties’ are down there appears to be a glimmer of hope which McCain will bank on ! The truth however is that the USA can’t afford this war going on for another few years . With a declining dollar , higher oil prices , millions in foreclosures , a health care system in tatters , social security funding facing bankruptcy the next USA President will have to find a way to leave Iraq simply for financial reasons.

    ‘A brilliant orator, true, but his words are bland nothings’

    Time will tell . I doubt if he has the political nous to deliver his promises but I hope I’m proved wrong . America may have had enough of ‘experienced’ politicians considering what they have delivered this past 8 years or more !

    ‘ and others pull his strings.’ Not just his strings . Any politician in the USA who gets as far as Obama has – has others pulling strings .

  • Wilde Rover

    Greenflag,

    “Now that Ameircin ‘casualties’ are down there appears to be a glimmer of hope which McCain will bank on !”

    Yes. I think they refer to what the troops are doing now as “search and avoid” missions, much like what happened at the end of the war in Vietnam.

    “With a declining dollar , higher oil prices , millions in foreclosures , a health care system in tatters , social security funding facing bankruptcy the next USA President will have to find a way to leave Iraq simply for financial reasons.”

    Possibly around the time when the North American Union stops being something on the North Carolina drivers license and starts being reality for everyone in Canada, USA, and Mexico.

    In the interest of the people, of course.

    “Not just his strings . Any politician in the USA who gets as far as Obama has – has others pulling strings .”

    Yes, puts me in mind of Ken Livingstone’s famous quip.

    “If voting ever changed anything, they’d ban it.”

  • Greenflag

    ‘Yes. I think they refer to what the troops are doing now as “search and avoid” missions, much like what happened at the end of the war in Vietnam. ‘

    Not quite . What has happened in Iraq is that relative ‘peace’ has emerged from the ‘ethnic cleansing ‘ of Sunnis from Baghdad and the surrounding area. The American toppling of Saddam allowed the Shiites (60%) to emerge from political subservience to the Sunnis (20% ) . The Kurds (20%) have ‘removed’ themselves from the Sunni/Shiite conflict . What Americans are interpreting as success is nothing other than a rump of defeated ‘Sunnis’ having nowhere to go except to hope that the Americans will now see that the ‘new ‘ democracy will protect the interests of the now smaller Sunni minority .

    It would not be too far off the mark to attribute much of Northern Ireland’s present peace to the effective ‘ethnic cleansing’ which has taken place across the province over the past 35 years .


    Yes, puts me in mind of Ken Livingstone’s famous quip. ‘

    “If voting ever changed anything, they’d ban it.”

    Livingstone has a point in particular in ‘normal’ times and in a ‘normal’ democracy. I would just add however that there are times when even the string pullers run out of string as they vainly attempt to stop the unstoppable . The USA may now be moving into that mode.

    They need to IMO not just for their own sake but for the sake of the rest of what is called ‘The Free World ‘ .

  • New Yorker

    Tying two strands together – Both NI and Iraq demonstrate Blair’s extreme gullability. Adams sold him, then Bush sold him. The easiest person to sell to is a salesman.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Adams sold him, then Bush sold him.’

    You omitted the Pope 🙂

    Whatever about Iraq -there is no question in my mind that had Major/Hague or Thatcher been in power – Northern Ireland would today be without even the minimal hope it now appears to have won!

  • New Yorker

    Greenflag

    I agree with you that Major and Thatcher would not have done much and Labour deserves credit for taking the issue on. But to then handle it so poorly serves no one interested in developing a true peaceful democratic society. NI today is as sectarian as ever, incompetents are ministers of government, the corruption of the political class seems insatiable and endless, paramilitaries continue killing, etc. The results thus far are not very impressive. So much could have been done better and Blair was the hands-on ship captain. There is hope in correcting mistakes for the better.

  • Greenflag

    ‘NI today is as sectarian as ever’

    Realistically what can you expect ? The State itself was/is based on sectarianism . Yes there were a few Unionist Ministers who tried to adopt a broader view but they either got back into line or were forced to leave politics. The hope that ‘religious’ sectarianism will reduce as more young people turn away from religion is a false one as ‘religious’ sectarianism has been replaced by political sectarianism .

    ‘incompetents are ministers of government’

    The assumption here is that NI has never had incompetent Ministers in the past . Have a read of Henry Patterson’s Ireland since 1939 or Prof Joe Lee’s Ireland 1912-1969 and you’ll find more than enough ‘incompetence’ to make the present power sharing Govt seem almost competent . Remember the present crowd have been in power less than a year ? Where would they have learnt ‘Governance’ these past 30 years ? Those who were elected to Westminster had no role in government being members of numerically insignificant parties. Even when Unionists had some ‘influence’ on John Major’s wafer thin majority Govt their basic political objective at the time ‘integration’ was totally ignored by the Tories .

    ‘the corruption of the political class seems insatiable and endless’

    This is no different from emerging political classes anywhere else on the planet . After a generation of conflict /strife/uncertainty/ perceived discrimination/ lack of investment in the private sector , there is not a lot on offer in NI outside of making a living on the ‘public purse’ . It’s in this respect similar to what happens in Africa where ‘Government’ is seen as where the best prospects lie for making ‘money’ and looking after one’s family .

    ‘paramilitaries continue killing, etc.’

    Nothing surprising here. It took several years for the ‘paramilitaries’ to disappear in the Irish Free State post 1922 .

    ‘ The results thus far are not very impressive.’

    Again what would you expect following 40 years of farting around while the economy goes down the tubes ? You have to be realistic . The fact that the DUP and SF actually talk to each other without going for their guns is ‘impressive’ IMO. Hopefully if that continues for long enough then there won’t be a return to ‘old ways’.

    ‘I agree with you that Major and Thatcher would not have done much and Labour deserves credit for taking the issue on. But to then handle it so poorly serves no one interested in developing a true peaceful democratic society.’

    This is the point at which differing ‘unionist ‘ and nationalist /republican expectations from HMG in Ireland (historically) or in Northern Ireland (presently) come into focus . Irish Republicans /Nationalists expect very little from British Conservative administrations and as a rule have not been disappointed in their expectations . They understand that the UK as a minor world power or formerly as the world power has more important interests than Ireland or Northern Ireland . This almost changed when Mr Heath suspended Stormont in 72 but under Thatcher the ‘status quo’ of British ‘disinterest’ resumed . This ‘disinterest’ stems ultimately from the British belief that NI was/is and will be a running sore almost regardless of what any British Government does . Britain tried to longspoon Ireland in 1920/22 only to be forced back to do the same again in 1969. By ‘devolving ‘ to the present DUP/SF they are hoping to again ‘longspoon’ the problem .

    As for ‘developing a true peaceful democratic society’ well it certainly sounds good . But take a look at the world around you and you should note that it’s not something that grows on trees . Firstly such as society has to be built on firm constitutional foundations . Northern Ireland was never (IMO) built on such a foundation. Secondly such a society has to have enough economic prosperity and hope in it’s longer term political future to bind it’s community/communities together in a common goal . I’d suggest that NI has some way to go in that area too.

    ‘So much could have been done better and Blair was the hands-on ship captain.’

    Again I would go back to British interests . Blair may have been the hands on ship captain but he took over a ship which had been holed repeatedly by several icebergs for the previous generation and more . I don’t see how Blair or anybody else could have done any better given the circumstances . In fact I’m still frankly amazed that the man put in the effort he did on NI . Not since Gladstone has any British Prime Minister put in so much effort to resolving the ‘irish question’.

    ‘There is hope in correcting mistakes for the better.’

    Indeed there is . There’s also the unhope that in trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear that you upset the sow to such a degree that she goes right back to eating her farrow .

  • Greenflag @ 12:47 PM

    I think that’s the first time I’ve been able to applaud a Greenflag posting in its entirety.

    Am I getting too old for this stuff?

  • Greenflag

    ‘Am I getting too old for this stuff?’

    Naw – It just means that eventually everybody agrees with me sooner or later even if they’d rather not? I find this scenario also applies to myself 🙂

  • New Yorker

    Greenflag

    A good post but I have a different perspective on some matters.

    Regarding the sectarianism in NI since 1920, I think the Brits ignored NI, did not encourage participation of both communities and stood by as a sectarian state developed. Then they had to pay and are paying for their mistake. If they had taken measures from 1920 onward to expand the nascent Catholic middle class – many of the issues NICRA raised and then some – NI would be a better place today and perhaps ‘united’ in some way with the ROI.

    Regarding the competence of government ministers, there were some good ministers (Kevin O’Higgins for too brief a time)in the ROI once the government settled in. The problem, as I see it, is that in NI only the middling people go into politics, the ‘best and brightest’ go into other fields and part of the reason may be that NI has been a political pit for so long. Just look at the CVs of ministers and MLAs, do you find many outstanding individuals? I’m familiar with Joe Lee’s work and Joe himself, as you probably know, he’s been a big asset to Irish studies in NY for many years now. I have not read Henry Patterson’s book but intend to.

    I agree that Blair was the best PM for Ireland since Gladstone. But they should have gotten more things right. For example, on another Slugger thread, the issue of prisoner releases is discussed and that was not well thought out. Blair got the big things right, such as power-sharing, the relationship of the ROI and the UK, but the implementation was flawed in many instances, which would be the contents of a long essay I will not compose this evening.

    Regarding the sow eating her farrow, a good pen and an alert minder is always a good idea.

  • Forgive my lack of adulation for the truncated career of Kevin O’Higgins: we soggy liberals deplore statements like:

    We were probably the most conservative revolutionaries who ever put across a successful revolution”.

    His notion of a revolution being based on repression (including the execution of the Best Man at his own wedding), censorship, and abusing the judiciary as an instrument of the state.
    Let me also reflect on O’Higgins’s admission, when accused that Dublin had sold the north, that it was “no more than a half truth” (for which see Enda Staunton’s essay on the Boundary Commission in History Ireland, vol 4, no.2).

    But, yes, there have been admirable Ministers in the Republic. In my lifetime I would propose:
    Seán Lemass, for his clear-eyed view that Ireland must evolve into a modern economy;
    Patrick Hillery and (outstandingly) Donogh O’Malley for what they did to radicalise Irish education to make that evolution possible;
    Garret Fitzgerald for sheer omniscience;
    Dick Spring, for making the Labour Party electable in 1993, and holding together the 1993-97 Coalition (when arguably, for electoral reasons, he should not have done). Any applause for the Major/Blair policies in the north should include Spring.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Regarding the sectarianism in NI since 1920, I think the Brits ignored NI, did not encourage participation of both communities and stood by as a sectarian state developed.’

    The Irish Free State and later the Republic also ignored NI . The world in 1920 was a different place . Britain was still the world power although fraying a bit at the edges .

    ‘If they had taken measures from 1920 onward to expand the nascent Catholic middle class – many of the issues NICRA raised and then some – NI would be a better place today and perhaps ‘united’ in some way with the ROI.’

    In 1920 women did not have the vote in the UK . Government involvement in steering the economy or engineering societal change was still very much in it’s infancy . Prior to the economic depression of the 1920’s economic policy by all governments British and otherwise was laissez faire i.e raw capitalism . Even so British Government policy in Ireland from Catholic Emancipation (1829) to the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland and the Land Reform Acts in the 1870’s was enabling the emergence of a strong RC middle class across all of Ireland . Ireland was the first ‘country’ within the Kingdom to actuallty have ‘national’ schools

    ‘problem, as I see it, is that in NI only the middling people go into politics, the ‘best and brightest’ go into other fields and part of the reason may be that NI has been a political pit for so long. ‘

    There is some truth in what you say here but the reason why NI has been a political pit for so long is because that’s what it is and IMO it’s unlikely ever to be anything else despite the ‘recent’ new found hope among some DUP & SF . It’s difficult to envisage NI ever becoming a ‘normal’ democracy given it’s political demography. Just look at what they have had to concoct as a power sharing solution ? What they have at the moment is a very fragile institution that is utterly dependent on the English taxpayer and will remain so for the foreseeable future IMO.

    ‘Kevin O’Higgins for too brief a time in the ROI once the government settled in.’

    Some would say it was not brief enough and others believe him to have been the ‘saviour’ of the Free State . He was a man of his time and is recognised justifiably as one of the founders of a separate Irish State . A hard nosed ‘realist’ in an Ireland that had all too recently ( 1916 – 1922)fallen in ‘love’ with idealist poets and romantic nationalists.

    ‘Though many of his (O’Higgins) opponents characterised him as having fascist tendencies, O’Higgins was to the fore in resisting the small wing of Cumann na nGaedhael who looked to Italy for inspiration. He was not a strong proponent of gender equality and when asked by Irish Labour Party leader Thomas Johnson in the Dáil whether he believed giving women the vote had been a success, O’Higgins replied, “I would not like to pronounce an opinion on it in public.” He famously derided the socialist influenced Democratic Programme of the First Dáil as “mostly poetry”. Before his death, he toyed with Arthur Griffith’s idea of a dual monarchy in order to end the Partition of Ireland.

    Personnally I’d rate Sean Lemass as the most effective and far sighted Taoiseach in our short history . He took a ‘defeated and despondent semi independent banana republic and set it on the road to sustainable economic and social development . He achieved this in spite of considerable opposition from the old brigade within FF . Malcolm Redfellow above does a good job of listing the other ‘best’ performers in the Republic’s political arena .

  • Greenflag

    ‘I agree that Blair was the best PM for Ireland since Gladstone. But they should have gotten more things right. For example, on another Slugger thread, the issue of prisoner releases is discussed and that was not well thought out.’

    Should have ? Might have ? Honestly given the long history of British political ‘errors’ in formulating policies to terrorise/placate/appease and vice versa the ‘Irishy’ over the past two or three centuries – I’m just impressed that Blair got anything right for long enough to make a difference and leave NI better off than it was when he came into power. No other British Prime Minister in history can claim that singular achievement .

    ‘Blair got the big things right, such as power-sharing, the relationship of the ROI and the UK, but the implementation was flawed in many instances, which would be the contents of a long essay I will not compose this evening.’

    This remains to be seen . If the present power sharing lasts then what you see as Blairs flaws will in the light of ‘future’history appear minimal . I don’t believe there would have been any longer term ceasefire without prisoner release and if you see Blair as flawed in that process then Ahern was flawed too. There are times in history when the ‘log jam’ can only be broken by going outside the traditional ‘box’ thinking . Could both Prime Ministers have demanded more from Republicans at the time . Probably . But then hindsight always demands more of decision makers.

    No matter what one thinks personnally of the present mechanism of power sharing in Northern Ireland (and frankly I believe it will sooner or later prove inadequate to the problems of NI) there is no question in my mind that any other ‘political ‘ solution is possible at this time .

    I’d say history will be kinder to Mr Blair than to Mr Bush .

  • Anorak-wearing small correction to Greenflag @ 01.01PM.

    He meant that some women had the vote from the 1918 Qualification of Women Act, but not on the same basis as men. Women below the age of 30 were not enfranchised until the first Labour Government’s 1928 Equal Franchise Act.

  • Greenflag

    ‘He meant that some women had the vote from the 1918 Qualification of Women Act, but not on the same basis as men. Women below the age of 30 were not enfranchised until the first Labour Government’s 1928 Equal Franchise Act.’

    In the Free State women over the age of 21 were given the right to vote in the 1922 Constitution. Women in Britain had to wait a little longer IIRC.

    I don’t know exactly when Tom Johnson questioned O’Higgin’s on this issue but it’s obvious from his answer that O’Higgins may not have been totally in favour of extending the suffrage to all women . But then his attitude would not have been untypical of many people at that time .

    I believe one of Hillary Clinton’s main impediments to winning the Democratic nomination is none other than disempowered males in the western world struggling to maintain whatever vestiges are left of patriarchal society .

  • Ahem, yes: Homer nodded over the franchise in Saorstát Éireann.

    However, I question whether Greenflag @ 02.39 PM has quite explained the detail.

    First, though, it is worth noting the other effect of extending the franchise in 1918, by amending the property qualification: the electorate in Ireland trebled from 698,000 to 1,931,000.

    The June 1922 Election had to be run under the 1918 Qualification of Women Act. Kate O’Callaghan put up a Bill in March 1922 to amend this to all women over 21 (i.e. an equal suffrage). She was the widow of the murdered Michael O’Callaghan, Mayor of Limerick. De Valera supported the Bill, explicitly because equality was in the 1916 Proclamation. Arthur Griffith said he agreed with the intention of the Bill, and that it would be implemented as soon as possible: however, to avoid postponing the June Election, O’Callaghan’s Bill was defeated. The complications were that the new Register would take three months to compose; and that the Constitution (including an equality clause) would first need Westminster ratification. Hence, O’Callaghan’s Bill was seen as an anti-Treaty delaying tactic.

    Credit where it is due: the inclusion of full adult suffrage in the 1922 Constitution was progressive. In previous threads I have compared the secularism of 1922 favourably with the confessionalism of 1937: let that be for now. We should appreciate how unusual a democratic state was in the early 1920s. As Tom Garvin [1996] has pointed out:

    At the time of the First World War, democracy was everywhere still a rare form of government … Of forty-eight independent states in the world … only eight … were substantially democratised (United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, Belgium, New Zealand, Australia, and Norway). Similarly, of sixty-four independent states in the world in the early 1920s, only twenty-one … were substantially democratised (the above states together with Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Uruguay). Many of these precipitately abandoned democracy in the twenties and thirties. Even in the established democracies it was still uncommon for women to have the vote.

    He then makes a telling comparison between Ireland and the other newly-democratic states of the time:

    … only Costa Rica, Finland and Ireland preserved their democratic institutions uninterruptedly, unaided by outside forces, to the present day. Costa Rica and Ireland preserved their democracies because of isolation and because, in different ways, they managed to tame their armed forces. Finland had a different solution: instead of demilitarisation, it became a democratic but heavily armed camp …

  • Greenflag

    ‘ Malcolm Redfellow’

    ‘However, I question whether Greenflag @ 02.39 PM has quite explained the detail. ‘

    There’s no question I did’nt and I think I admitted as much :). Thanks for your detail . Interesting about Costa Rica . We normally don’t associate Central American countries with any long standing ‘democratic’ institutions. Finland’s geographical location next to the USSR was obviously a factor in it’s militarisation.

  • Dewi

    “Dick Spring, for making the Labour Party electable in 1993”

    Blasted useless fullback though Malcolm…

  • Dewi @ 08:18 PM:

    Only three caps, but — savour this — Lansdowne Road, 2nd February 1979: Ireland 12, England (including Bill Beaumont, etc) 7.

    Just because Ireland had previously been taken to the cleaners in Cardiff: that’s what you’re getting at, I know it. [sotto voce: Poltroon!]

    Incidentally, there was a retrospective on Spring as a sportsman (soccer, Gaelic football, hurling and rugby) in the “Irish Times” last Wednesday. Sorry I didn’t keep it.

    Anyway, when Olly Campbell was there, who needed a full-back?

  • Dewi

    Campbell superb player I have to admit…better shut up cos slightly off topic…….

  • New Yorker

    Malcolm

    Do you think O’Higgins had any role the new democratic state not becoming a military dictatorship like several of the new democracies you mention above?

    Greenflag

    London had to know of electoral gerrymandering, discrimination against Catholics in areas such as education and employment. I agree about Catholic emancipation, land legislation and national schools, but after 1920 it seems to me that they did not monitor the majority community’s non-inclusive behavior in NI. The importance of protecting minority rights in democracy were well understood at the time, Westminster had primacy and should have ensured basic democratic principles were adhered to in NI.

    We’ll see how Stormont works out but unless the two extreme and fairly incompetent parties are moved to the margins, where they belong, I would not be optimistic.

    Of course Blair will fare better in history than Bush. There is a growing opinion in the US that this Bush has been the worst President in US history, and there have been some less than superlative occupants of the White House. But part of Blair’s legacy will be for some inexplicable reason joining up with Bush on Iraq.

  • Garibaldy

    New Yorker,

    More likely O’Higgins’ death helped prevent the Free State becoming a dictatorship in the 1930s.

  • New Yorker

    Garibaldy

    What scenario do you propose if he had not been murdered in relation to dictatorship?

  • New Yorker @ 11:18 PM:

    At this distance any speculation on O’Higgins’s personality has to derive from what he is recorded as saying and what he did.

    That means, in one direction, we have to take on trust what he said in suppressing the 1924 Army mutiny: “neither he nor the institutions of the state would ever again take their stride from a soldier’s boot.”

    On the other hand, he acted and spoke as the Cumann na nGaedheal strong-man, and exploited his power. It is too uncomfortably short a stretch from defending O’Higgins to exculpating Eoin O’Duffy. Tom Garvin’s assessment (page 205 of my previous reference) is:

    Cosgrave, O’Higgins and Mulcahy were unusual [among Irish leaders] in being unconditional democrats, and they killed people for the nascent Irish democracy that they saw as menaced by the anti-Treatyites.

    By January 1923, O’Higgins was arguing for executions in every county as a means of civil discipline: if we are into rhetorical questions, how far is that from state terrorism?

  • Garibaldy

    Like Malcolm says, he was highly authoritarian, and respsonsible for the murders of numerous republicans. Garvin may wish to see this as defending a nascent democracy. Others, such as John Regan, view it differently. There seems little to suggest that O’Higgins would have meekly accepted FF’s victory in 1932, and given the direction other authoritarian conservatives were taking in the 1930s, including many of his closest political allies, it is not implausible to suggest he would have done the same.

  • Greenflag

    ‘it is not implausible to suggest he would have done the same. ‘

    It’s not . But hat is plausuble is that had the Irish Free State Government not defeated the IRA irregulars in the Civil War – Britain’s army would have returned and that would have been an end to the Irish independence experiment . With Irish Republicans and Free Staters killing each other up and down the country – it’s not implausible that a majority of Irish people would have ‘welcomed’ back British imposed ‘security’.

    The fact that O’Higgins was no longer around did not help assuage the feelings of many FF newly elected TD’s in 1932 -many of whom had concealed guns on their persons in the Dail just in case Cosgrove proved unwilling at the last minute to hand over ‘power’ democratically to De Valera .

    By handing over power peacefully Cosgrove secured Irish democracy at least in the Free State .

  • New Yorker

    Garibaldy

    If we are to play John Regan’s game of speculation based on psychologizing, I would speculate that O’Higgins valued the people’s welfare more than ideology due to his religious beliefs on the common good.

    For balance to Regan’s positions, John P. McCarthy’s “Kevin O’Higgins: Builder Of The Irish State” published last year should be consulted.

  • Garibaldy

    I’ve glanced at the new book, but haven’t read it.

    I don’t agree with a lot of what Regan says, but I don’t think his counter-revolution thesis is dependent on psychology. As far as I am concerned the idea that the Free Staters were democrats facing republican anti-democrats is laughable. Bill Kissane’s work is a useful corrective to the propaganda of other historians).

    O’Higgins’ religious beliefs may well have proven part of the problem in the 1930s if he perceived any threat to the position of the church. Look at the mad propaganda of Horgan and others linked to O’Higgins’ circles.

  • New Yorker

    Garibaldy

    I meant O’Higgins religious beliefs in the common good, as from Thomistic philosophy and theology that he would have gotten in his education.

    McCarthy’s book is well worth a read. He goes into creation of the Civic Guards, upgrading the armed forces, continuity of the civil departments, reform of the judiciary, etc. Things that must be done in the transformation from revolution to a functioning democratic society. That is not an easy task, as Malcolm cited above, only two countries were able to do it in most of the 20th century. So, that period of Irish history is important as a lesson on how to do it successfully for other countries at that stage of development.

  • Greenflag on Mar 06, 2008 @ 01:46 PM:

    One last thought, from:

    … many FF newly elected TD’s in 1932 -many of whom had concealed guns on their persons in the Dail.

    This is a canard that has been in circulation so long it’s become folk-legend. I’d like it to be substantiated.

    The only basis for it seems to be the unsupported statement of James Dillon, from Manning’s biography, that FF:

    …were swaggering around the place with revolvers bulging out of their pockets.

    This may well be extrapolating from the disgraceful 1932 last-minute Cumann na nGaedheal press campaign that:

    the gunmen and the communists are voting for Fianna Fáil today.

    If truth be told, too many politicians of that period had read a few too many Ned Buntline cowboy romances, and too little of anything else: the best example thereof being Dan Breen’s rollicking fable, My Fight for Irish Freedom.