“If it is no longer an obstacle..”

At the Guardian’s CommentisFree, Malachi O’Doherty picks up on an interesting detail in the IMC report.

The BBC flatly reports as fact that the IMC has said that the army council is “defunct”. Actually, the IMC’s assessment includes the largely unnoticed detail that the IRA is still gathering intelligence on dissident republicans but that the means by which it is doing so are not necessarily illegal.

So it does exist, it does function and it does have a project in hand. Its wider project, even if it does nothing, is to maintain an old and revered republican tradition.

So, more than just symbolic then? Malachi goes on to argue

I suggest that if the governments are so confident that the IRA does not function illegally they have a hand to play. They could simply legalise the IRA on both sides of the border. Well why not? Why should it be illegal to be a member of an organisation which does not function in any perceptible illegal fashion?

If it is no longer an obstacle, in the eyes of government, to the devolution of policing and justice powers, then let it be a legal organisation and that will remove from the DUP much of the reasoning by which they continue to regard it as a problem. If the governments can’t do that, then surely they are conceding that the DUP has a point.

For the record, that detail from the IMC report. [pdf file]

PIRA is not recruiting or training members and the membership continues to decline, and there is some issue as to what membership means in the absence of activity. In so far as gathering information or intelligence may continue in any limited way – not in itself improper if it does not involve illegal methods or intent – we believe that it is mainly for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of any threat from dissident republicans.

And, naturally, they’ll be passing on that “information or intelligence” to the appropriate authorities..

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  • Steve

    LOL legalise the IRA that would make Turgons head explode lol

    I think they should do it because it is the right thing to do as well as damn entertaining to see the fall out

  • Mark McGregor

    It’s easy enough for someone to make an application under the Terrorism Act 2000 for an organisation to be deproscribed and given recent British government comments on the IMC report the PIRA does not fit the definition of terrorist so it’d be hard to reject.

  • barnshee

    love it malachi

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    Absolutely sensible idea, they should be legalised.

    I reckon that there should be farewell parades in any towns in cities that want them. Perhaps like the proposed Belfast homecoming for the British soldiers.

  • doctor

    Does anyone really think that legalizing the IRA will actually “remove from the DUP much of the reasoning by which they continue to regard it as a problem”? Given that a lot of the DUP’s “reasoning” on the issue could come out of a Monty Python routine… and I’m sure Allister will just love that idea, which means Robinson and company will no doubt love it even more.

  • Suilven

    “I reckon that there should be farewell parades in any towns in cities that want them. Perhaps like the proposed Belfast homecoming for the British soldiers.”

    Yeah, let’s do that. We’d see what kind of reception these ‘brave soldiers’ of ‘the legitimate government of Ireland’ got, especially in the Republic, if they skulked out of the shadows. Haven’t seen a tarring and feathering in a while now.

  • Steve

    Sulliven
    Haven’t seen a tarring and feathering in a while now.

    Really? Didnt the loyalist terrorists have one last year in Belfast?

  • I’m sorry but what a lot of crap. Check out Malachi’s other posts on the Guardian and you will see he is by no means an unbiased commentator on the ‘Troubles’: he has an agenda. Anyway, here’s that quote again.

    ‘PIRA is not recruiting or training members and the membership continues to decline, and there is some issue as to what membership means in the absence of activity. In so far as gathering information or intelligence may continue in any limited way – not in itself improper if it does not involve illegal methods or intent – we believe that it is mainly for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of any threat from dissident republicans.’

    Gosh, well I’ve just put in the phrase ‘dissident republicans’ into Google, a legal method of ‘gathering information’. According to the dark hints of Malachi, that is in itself a somewhat mysterious or underhand or suspicious activity.

    ‘And, naturally, they’ll be passing on that “information or intelligence” to the appropriate authorities.. ‘

    Because of course the police are too stupid to work out how to switch a PC on and do an internet search. Or whatever other ENTIRELY LEGAL activities the PIRA are currently engaged in, according to a report published by the British Government: not a neutral source.

  • Big Maggie

    I think Malachi’s idea has legs, which is more than can be said of many IRA victims. Would they need to change the name though, or could they have a status similar to the Salvation Army’s? Or what about changing the meaning of the A? Irish Republican Ambassadors anyone?

  • Veritas

    Hidari

    So it would be OK then if the IMC had said the IRA was using legal methods to gather information on PSNI members, loyalist paramilitaries or (quietly) the daily routines of local bank employees.

  • hotdogx

    How about “The IRISH REDUNDANT ARMY” anyone?

    Legalizing could take the wind out of the DUP’s sail but how could this be justified to IRA victims. Does the organization remain guilty as a whole or is it its members who are separately accountable for the disgraceful actions of the organization. How could we justify this? it would be an interesting tactic. Ideas anyone?

    As was said in an RTE report the DUP are obsessed with the IRA, almost rubbing salt into the wound. However unionist/loyalist terror groups don’t seem to count to them, maybe since they are on the same side?

  • Big Maggie

    hotdogx

    Yes, Irish Redundant Army I like!

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Poor Malachi. Still, at least his comedy blog has generated:
    “The IRISH REDUNDANT ARMY” and “Irish Republican Ambassadors”

    Cutting satire is alive and well on slugger. Nuala McKeever eat your heart out.

  • for f**k sake

    at 1st glance yes this is a humorous notion PIRA legalised etc. haha.

    but it just amuses me that these commentators with their own wee agendas (non of which ever seem to be adding productive thought or taking the difficult option of actually getting involved in trying to make politics work, as opposed to sniping from the sidelines) will always sh*t stir and twist everything.

    For god sake, has no-one looked at the the fact that the reason the PIRA withdrawal from a violent footing (and to paraphrase the IMC, is basically defunct with no ability to go back to war) has by and large been universally accepted and followed by their rank and file, is not only due to the will of much of its members and leadership but *heres the key point* because of the way the PIRA is structured, and because of the discipline amongst its structures. If the Army Council had not been in place to oversee this transition to a fully peaceful mode, could it have happened at all? – In various interviews by Jackie McDonald of Brigadier fame, and others, they have admitted that due to the structure and indiscipline of loyalist groups, coupled to their lack of real political involvement, they basically don’t know how to stand down or get rid of their organisations, and they fear (not half as much as the rest of us), that the various units will all just discintegrate into “super criminal gangs” – great.

    Of course former PIRA will be keeping an eye on what other Republicans are up to, both politcally and militarily, because politcally obviously they will, because at some personal levels individual members are under threat from these same groups and thirdly because they are from the same communities, go to the same bars, are members of the same GAA clubs etc. how could they not gather intelligence of some discription on what these people are up to. As for all other politcal groupings in Ireland or the UK for that matter, do those parties not try to find out information on opponents using legal means, of course they do, this is ridiculous. The PIRA is gone (no sackclothe and ashs, sorry) so can that not just be accepted so we look to the future and work together to sort this sh*thole of a country out, maybe even get all these polical commentators real jobs doing something useful…

  • Hidari

    ‘So it would be OK then if the IMC had said the IRA was using legal methods to gather information on PSNI members, loyalist paramilitaries or (quietly) the daily routines of local bank employees. ‘

    If they’re not going to do anything about it, who gives a shit?

    Incidentally, as part of my work I DO sometimes do research on information as almost as dull as the daily routines of local bank employees. As I’m not going to blow them up (and neither are the PIRA) who cares?

    ‘For Fxxk Sake’ has it right. This is a non-story and Malachi O’Doherty is a twat. End of.

  • spanishroomscrumpy

    Hidari

    Re your use of the word “agenda”

    One of the ways in which knee-jerk apologists could adapt themselves to the ways of civil society is to avoid the use of the above word when they go on the attack.

    In my experience the phrase is nothing more than a cheap shot that people use when they want to discredit someone without putting their head over the parapet to take fire for their own ideas. It’s especially relied on by parties or campaigns that don’t want to come clean on their own plans, or lack of them.

    It’s a Rovean tactic designed to imply that there is a secret plan afoot than will be revealed only after the person “with the agenda” gathers enough power to influence events.

    So the ‘dark hints’ are yours, I would say.

    What commentators such as Malachi (and others like him on all sides of the question) clearly have are points of view; you can think what you like about those points of view but they are a matter of public record, not of dark design.

  • Big Maggie

    Billie-joe

    “The IRISH REDUNDANT ARMY” and “Irish Republican Ambassadors”

    Cutting satire is alive and well on slugger

    Satire? I was deadly serious. So was hotdogx I believe but he can cut his own mustard.

  • for f**k sake

    slightly off topic i realise…

    aye fair enough there will always be political commentators and they do have a place to raise questions, but for people who are involved in politics to genuinely improve life for people (under whichever ideology they believe in) it can become tedious, asking yourself how can some of these people know so much about politics and clearly have such passionate views on various issues not get off their holes and do something productive for society other than criticising what other people and groups do. Of course some groups just have bad policies and some individuals are useless, but there are alot of genuine people (who incidentally all have individual views which usually aren’t 100% party line either) on all sides trying to do their best, i’d love to see some of these intellectuals involve themselves to groups with the closest views to their own and give something back to society,
    you can’t eat satirical comments

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “the IRA would continue to be a catalyst for the peace process” – Gerry Adams, March 2007.

  • Big Maggie

    Hmm. Dictionary definition of catalyst: ‘a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.’

    Was Gerry sending out a coded message there?

  • ‘One of the ways in which knee-jerk apologists could adapt themselves to the ways of civil society is to avoid the use of the above word when they go on the attack. ‘

    Whereas of course the phrase ‘knee jerk apologist’ is a perfectly reasonable and civil comment which no rational person could possibly take offence at.

  • Rory

    By some strange quirk of lateral thinking all this fol-de-rol has somehow reminded me of one of the better (I thought) jokes from the 60’s relating to The Mamas and Papas:

    “Heard the latest about Mama Cass?”

    “She’s split up to form a group”.

    Which at least shows I suppose that all this silly faffle is good for something, even if that something is only triggering fond reminiscence of old chestnuts.

  • cynic

    Isn’t there an of fence of possessing information likely to be of use to terrorists- whatever the source?

    In any case if I was in PIRA I would want to watch very closely what the dissidents were up. given Republican history some of their first targets are more likely to be former colleagues (damn splitters) than Unionists.

  • Big Maggie

    triggering fond reminiscence of old chestnuts.

    Know what you mean, Rory. I had an old chestnut once. When he died I sold him to some knackers who turned him into a pot of glue.

  • Dave

    Cynic, processing information without a central processing unit is a novel concept. If the Army Council doesn’t ‘meet’ to process the information that its intelligence department… err, individuals acting on the own initiative sans command structure is gathering… then presumably the individuals concerned are seeking to top-up their dole payments with cash-for-touting payments from the ‘republican’ movements main employers, MI5.

    Of course, it remains a crime to launder and control the proceeds of crime, so the Army Council commits a multiplicity of criminal activity each and every day by profiting from its array of investments – and turning a blind eye to the wealth of this organised crime gang is one of the primary tools used by the State to control them.

    As for legalising these scumbags, I suggest folks seek the counsel of that other group who the State turns a blind eye to in order to enable the new political careers of the otherwise unemployable and unemployable agents, the tens of thousands of people who have been maimed by this degenerate filth.

  • spanishroomscrumpy

    Hidari

    I suppose a “rational person” can show that they are so in several ways; one is that they show themselves capable of constructing their own argument instead of muttering cryptically about those they disagree with having an agenda.

    Then again, sometimes it’s perfectly rational to do just that, especially if their own ideas lack coherence and they know it.

    Nonetheless, if the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t bother wearing it.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]Hmm. Dictionary definition of catalyst: ‘a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.’

    Was Gerry sending out a coded message there?”[/i]

    Most definitely Big Maggie. On the same show he tried to undermine a member of the audience by referring that he was too young to understand anything.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    2[i]In any case if I was in PIRA I would want to watch very closely what the dissidents were up. given Republican history some of their [u]first[/u] targets are more likely to be former colleagues (damn splitters) than Unionists.[/i]

    You might even want to look at the relationship between the dissidents and the PIRA. The PIRA entered democratic politics in 1998 and they were opposed by Unionists, until Omagh.

  • WindsorRocker

    [i]”maintain an old and revered republican tradition”[/i]

    This line is the crux of this whole argument….

    The refusal of republicans to accept the legitimacy of Northern Ireland was built on a number of pillars of principled symbolism

    1. Resort to periodic violent campaigns and the means to do that.
    2. Refusal to recognise Stormont and Westminster and subsequent authorities.
    3. The conferment of the title of legitimate government of a 32 county Ireland given to the Army Council by the last surviving member of the Second Dail….

    The violence is gone, the means of violence are gone. Stormont has been recognised and Westminster partially recognised with the drawing down of allowances. The police have been signed up to. All of this was enough for the DUP to go into power with SF administering most of the main functions of the day.
    Devolving policing and justice is the endgame, all the other issues like ILA, Maze etc are just resolving little sectarian issues between the tribes in NI…. So it’s only fair that for the final endgame that the Army Council is dissolved and with it goes the last plank of republican assertion of the illegitimacy of this little part of the UK…..

  • Big Maggie

    Hidari

    Malachi O’Doherty is a twat

    So this is NEWS?

  • Driftwood

    Whatever happened to the Official IRA?
    Did they go the way of the Official Unionists?

  • Dave

    Incidentally, contrary to how others on this thread have presented it, Malachi isn’t saying that PIRA should be de-proscribed. He is saying that the British government isn’t putting its money where its mouth is when it engages in its familiar two-step media routine of propping up the latest findings of its mouthpiece, the IMC.

  • Big Maggie

    Dave

    What a spoilsport you are. Where’s your sense of humour?

  • Dave

    Maggie, you know what… I’m not cynical after all. I’m just a realist observing political reality in NI that is profoundly cynical. Therefore, I just sound cynical because I’m calling it as I see it. How’s that?

  • Big Maggie

    Dave

    Yes, that works for me. Last week I tried to draw up a mental list of politicians who were not cynical. It wasn’t a long one. In fact it wasn’t a list at all.

  • David Boothroyd

    It’s often forgotten that IRA membership wasn’t illegal in Great Britain until after the Birmingham bombings in November 1974; in other words there was a period of more than a year when the IRA was active in bombing London and it was legal to be a member.

    Deproscribing and legalizing the IRA now would have to be done carefully because the current proscription of the splinter groups (Continuity, Real IRA etc) derives legally from the proscription of the ‘Irish Republican Army’. However there is a strong logic for it in the light of the IMC reports.

    I can imagine though that deproscription might pose a dilemma for the Sinn Fein leadership. They were able to participate in talks in their own right and also as channels of communication to the IRA leadership. If the IRA can communicate as itself, that cuts out part of the Sinn Fein role.

  • Granni Trixie

    I will be forever grateful to malachi for representing the persepctive of some people from West Belfast whose views are usually obscured by the dominance of SF.