“the symbol is almost as important as the substance..”

The Guardian’s Henry McDonald on the competing interests behind the ‘are they/aren’t they’ question of the Provisional IRA army council that the IMC report attempted to resolve.

The trouble with Northern Ireland politics is that the symbol is almost as important as the substance, if not more so. Unionists such as Peter Robinson need the symbol of the army council’s dissolution to convince supporters they are not selling out. Conversely, the men who run an IRA that is no longer active do not want their members to perceive disbandment of the body once believed to be the true government of Ireland as being a humiliating defeat.