“easily fooled by symbolism and rhetoric..”

A timely quote from Anthony McIntyre in a Sunday Times article by Liam Clarke on the publication of Good Friday, The Death of Irish Republicanism, as the Sinn Féin leadership struggle to reconcile themselves with the “indigenous” ground rules.

“Republicanism is effectively dead. It is dead as a strategy that can deliver anything. It can’t cope with the principle of consent, it can’t out-manoeuvre it and it can’t overcome it, so it has had to reconcile itself with the British ground rules,” he told me. “Republicanism is just an aspiration — that’s what it has been reduced to. Although there are still republicans, we are just the survivors of the wreck.”

Btw, there’s a reference in the article to Jonathan Powell.

And Liam Clarke ends the article on an interesting note.

McIntyre paints a picture of a republican leadership who were reformists from the outset, being secretly protected, groomed and eventually steered into Stormont by the British forces they claimed to be fighting. All the while, a supine membership cheered them on from the sidelines, easily fooled by symbolism and rhetoric.

McIntyre’s analysis is acute, and informed by deeply felt republican convictions. But, as he has already observed, republicanism is now dead as a practical strategy and survives only as a critique and an ideal.

In the real world, what would have been the alternative to winding up the IRA and settling for the reform of the northern state, with Irish unity reduced to a long-term aspiration? What would have been the alternative to accepting the principle of consent enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement?

To his credit, McIntyre doesn’t dodge this awkward dilemma: “The major question historians will ask is not why the republicans surrendered, but why they fought such a futile long war,” he writes. “It has not been unconditional surrender. And it has been infinitely better than continuing to fight a futile war for the sake of honouring Ireland’s dead, yet producing only more of them. But let us not labour under any illusions that the conditions were good.”

That may indeed be the verdict of history on the Provisional IRA.

As always – Read the whole thing.

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