“‘Discourage’ is a lovely word..”

The Irish Examiner picks up on comments by Sinn Féin TD, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, in questions to the Taoiseach on Northern Ireland in the Dáil yesterday – after Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, said “we do not need a structure like the army council of the Provisional IRA.” Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin response was

Will the Taoiseach, Deputy Kenny and others not consider for a moment that this is exactly what dissident republicanism want them to do? Will they ponder the possibility that the IRA, in whatever way it exists today, represents a bulwark against dissident advance in many areas on this island, not least of all in the Border counties in the North?

I’m sure MI5 appreciate the assistance..The comments came after Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said

In the course of the statements in the House on the murder of Paul Quinn, I made the point that if the peace process is to work and the Good Friday Agreement is to be implemented for the benefit of all communities, we do not need a structure like the army council of the Provisional IRA. I made that point based on evidence given to me by people living across a broad swathe of the south Armagh Border region where, on a continual basis, punishment beatings are being carried out in apparent accordance with that particular structure. Does the Taoiseach agree this is something that should be abandoned? I would love to get a letter from P. O’Neill indicating that such a decision was taken in the light of being serious about the development of the country from here on.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s response, on that particular point, was

As I said yesterday, the building blocks of bringing devolution of policing and justice to Northern Ireland is local involvement and participation by communities. That is the best way of bringing an end to such activity for ever more and of getting away from having any types of paramilitary groups, power groups, heavy gangs or whatever new umbrella they devise. I get reports from time to time of groupings that are still operating on that type of heavy gangs basis. Whether they are doing so with any authorisation – which I am told by intelligence they are not – or doing it off their own bat, it is not a good thing and we must see the end of it. It is not unreasonable, ten years on, that we should see the end of this once and for all. The best way of achieving this is through proper local policing in these areas, so that we bring back a level of normality. If we do not do that, we will continue to have these sporadic events by either side, whether in loyalist areas or republican strongholds. We must try to get away from that and anything that helps in this regard is welcome. I do not want to dictate to any organisation how it should move into the future other than that I want to see it moving into the future.

Later in the debate, Labour TD, Eamon Gilmore, sought a clarification of what Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin had meant by “a bulwark against dissident advance”

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I have a brief question for the Taoiseach since the Ceann Comhairle told us Opposition leaders cannot ask questions of each other. What does the Taoiseach understand Deputy Ó Caoláin to mean what he says the Provisional IRA is acting as a bulwark against dissident republicans? Does he know what that means and does he agree with that assessment?

The Taoiseach: I think I have already answered that and I have taken the same line. Perhaps Deputy Ó Caoláin meant to put it slightly differently.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I though the Taoiseach was the only one who had that problem.

The Taoiseach: Since I have to try to chair the Opposition—–


The Taoiseach: I think what Deputy Ó Caoláin meant to say was that in the peaceful role the IRA now plays, as supportive of the peace process, is to try to discourage those who might get involved in paramilitary activities from doing so.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: “Discourage” is a lovely word.

The Taoiseach: I am sure Deputy Ó Caoláin meant discourage by peaceful, lawful and good community means.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: What other interpretation would Deputy Gilmore put on it?

The Taoiseach: I would not put any on it.

  • Gum

    Why so cynical Pete? Can you really not conceive of any scenario whereby the remnants of the IRA could play a peaceful role in preventing violence?

  • joeCanuck

    Describe for us, Gum, how the existence of the Army Council, or remnants as you term them, might have prevented the death of young Quinn.

  • Dec

    Describe for us, Gum, how the existence of the Army Council, or remnants as you term them, might have prevented the death of young Quinn.

    Given the context, the above makes no sense whatsoever.

  • DC

    Yea we wouldn’t want any new Croppies on the Bloc.

  • Gum

    Thanks Dec. JoeCanuck – wise up would you? I’m not suggesting that they are stamping out every violent act. I do think that there would be a lot more former IRA members using their skills to make a few illicit bob than there are currently if the army council had evaporated too. Not much help to the grieving Quinns of course.

  • joeCanuck

    Excuse me, Gum, for asking the same question of you that you asked of Mr. Baker.

  • good ol joe

    good onya joe well asked and well replied to watch you dont get any ol gum on youe shoe now lol.God help the poor Quinn family if all they everhad tp depend upon for support was gum and the gombeens.

  • nineteensixtyseven

    Eamon Gilmore does make a good point. I wonder in what sense Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin was saying that the Army Council represent a ‘bulwark’ against dissident republicans. Do they call them in for a cup of tea or is it more in the form of traditional provo ‘community policing’?

  • good ol joe

    Good onya joe well asked and well replied to watch you dont get any ol gum on youR shoe now lol.God help the poor Quinn family if all they ever had to depend upon for support was gum and the gombeens.
    Using a roller glasses cleaned lol.

  • shoot to kill

    O’Caolain is Proof that evolution is wrong. Does Eire need Goodfella apologists in seats of power? Whatever happenned to No Free Speech for Fadcists?

  • Socrates

    “Why so cynical Pete?”

    When did it become cynical to report on proceedings of the Dail?

  • Twinbrook

    another attempt at an anti-SF thread by….

    the T`internet warrior pete…

    I can smell and taste all the bile and hatred here…

    get out more.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    It will be very interesting to see if the vote for Sinn Féin fluctuates in the next election(s) in the 6-cos. If it goes down, all the constant dreeps and whingers on the ditch will say ‘We told you so. The people have finally seen through Adams &co;’ But if it stays solid or even rises, it will draw down opprobrium etc and the voters will have proved themselves to be even stupider and more gullible than the hot shot pundits on here thought they were. You can’t win.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    …. and the dissolution of the Army Council, the legitimate Government of Ireland, will not be at the behest of any political party – even Sinn Fein!

  • arse

    [Keep it civil – edited moderator]

  • Pete Baker


    “another attempt at an anti-SF thread by….”

    If Caoimhghín didn’t want to be quoted then he shouldn’t have said it on the record.. in the Dáil.

    As ‘Socrates’ said

    When did it become cynical to report on proceedings of the Dail?

  • Gum

    Dont be clever Pete 😉 You know it wasn’t your reporting on Dail business that I was describing as cynical. It was obviously your tired sarcasm and refusal to envisage a scenario where republicans could possibly play a constructive role.

  • DM

    Gum – like what?

    What he said amounts to little more than a crude threat – don’t tell us what to do, we keep those nasty boys in check. A roundabout threat of violence by proxy, pathetic. And they wonder why they can’t get elected in the ROI.

  • Gum

    DM, you [i]seriously[/i] think that Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin was threatening Ahern and the Dail? I know I’ll probably be accused of being an IRA cheerleader now but does your hatred of SF reallly go so far that you cant belive that they’d ever say anything that is not a threat of violence?

  • Gum

    I [i]have[/i] actually stated on Slugger that I cant see how there is any need for republicans to shelter those that would kill in such a way or that smuggle, steal or intimidate. Anyone with info SHOULD work with police – but I am fed up with unhelpful and inaccurate statements that are founded on nothing but a lack of interest in moving on.

  • DM

    Actually GUm my interes is very much in moving on. As suc I’d love to see the end of the Army Council – an anachronism in post-Ttroubles NI. I don’t believe he was threatening the Dail; I believe he was using the threat of dissident violence to shore up the argument for the continued existence of the PIRA structures. But please do tell – how exactly are they keeping these dissidents in line?

  • Gum

    Thanks for clarifying your point about his ‘threat’. I see what you mean, and agree to a point. Basically, the reason I reckon the IRA army council continues to sit (and with the quiet blessing of both govts and IMC) is to stem the flow of former IRA members from drifting into the dissident camps. If they ARE preventing violence on a wider scale, and the govts are satisfied they arent doing anything themselves, then I dont see any need to make a crisis out of the fact they still meet.

    Unless Fine Gael need to score a few political points of course…

  • DM

    Well the need would come from the basis of law and order in civil society – we can’t endorse vigilantism or private police forces, if in deed this is the case with the PIRA ‘policing’ current or former members.

  • Gum

    Vigilantes are the last thing I would want DM. So far there have been no claims about private police. I dont know how its working but if its helping at all and as long as they are not adding any extra violence or intimidation then I dont mind them remaining in place for a while.

  • Rory

    It might help to remember that the IRA ceasfire, the standing down of the IRA units, the dumping and final decommissioning of weapons and finally the disbandment of the army itself and the decision to commit to purely political means to work towards Republican goals were all acts carried out on the authority of the Army Council of the IRA. The volunteers did not abide by these decisions because the British government or the Dáil or the Unionist Party, the SDLP or even Sinn Féin itself said they must, they did so because of their loyalty to the Army Council which was ratifying decisions taken at general army conventions. It was therefore quite appropriate that the Army Council itself remain in order to oversee the implementation of these decisions and it is clear, as Ahearn indicates albeit obliquely in his response, that this was recognised by the British and Irish governments at least.

    I can understand how this might upset some people – since they were opposed to any agreement they of necessity must be opposed to the process of building upon it and implacably opposed to those such as the Army Council who have worked hardest to make it a success.

  • DM

    What has the agreement got to do with it? There’s two legitimate armies on this island and neither of them is the IRA. As you say the AC carried through various massive changes, but it’s no longer needed after disarmament and political consensus – time for peace, time to go.

    The PSNI can deal with dissident republicans, as is their job.

  • joeCanuck

    You make good points, Rory.

    I wonder if the real problem with the Army Council is that they are the current holders of the Mandate from the surviving members of the first Dail (although others will dispute that – was it a written mandate and who holds the paper?).
    If they go away, who then holds the Mandate?

  • Pete Baker

    On the question of whose authority such a body might assume themselves to be acting upon..

    Which, despite the distractions, is a relevant point.

    We might have an indication of how Sinn Féin think on that.

  • kensei

    We might have an indication of how Sinn Féin think on that.

    Fuck Pete, it’s like you’ve got a new toy. No doubt this will appear on every thread for the next three months. In any case a short story with I hope some relevance to the point you are making.

    There are three men on a train. One of them is an economist and one of them is a logician and one of them is a mathematician. And they have just crossed the border into Scotland (I don’t know why they are going to Scotland) and they see a brown cow standing in a field from the window of the train (and the cow is standing parallel to the train).

    And the economist says, “Look, the cows in Scotland are brown.”

    And the logician says, “No. there are cows in Scotland of which one at least is brown.”

    And the mathematician says, “No. there is at least one cow in Scotland, of which one side appears to be brown.”

  • Pete Baker


    Unlike you, as a Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan does speak on behalf of the party – especially in the Dáil since there aren’t that many of them.

    And, once again, if he didn’t want to be quoted, he shouldn’t have said it on the record.. in the Dáil.