The Irish people, North and South have voted overwhelmingly for peace…

Chris Gaskin has a way of getting to the nub of the matter when it comes to Sinn Fein and it’s politics. It’s hardly rocket science, and to be fair it is precisely what Mark Durkan led with on the BBC whilst Sinn Fein was working that 14 hour stint to figure precisely which form of words it was going to use in the wake of the Massereene killings. In essence, whatever his own feelings, he believes his party has crossed the rubicon, and therefore the case is now relatively straightforward:

The people involved in this attack have no support; at least no more than one could fill in a phone box. The Irish people, North and South have voted overwhelmingly for peace. They have voted to unite this country through the ballot box as opposed to the armalite.

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  • I seem to recall the early Troubles when the IRA had no support in elections, and the SDLP had all the electoral support.

    What goes around comes around for those who brutalised their way to electoral prominence. Yes, they really should be feeling it hard now.

  • George

    You don’t need a mandate to be a physical force Irish republican, you just need a gun and a British ruling presence so the idea of anyone in SF throwing a lack of mandate at the RIRA is hypocritical in the extreme.

    Either you admit the British rule of Northern Ireland is legitimate or not. There is no halfway house.

    If it is illegitimate, then you can fight it by any means necessary or by exclusively peaceful means.

    SF say they are using exclusively peaceful means but I don’t actually know where SF think they stand on the question of the legitimacy of British rule.

    So far, SF have made clear they have left physical force republicanism behind them but what have they left it behind for?

    They have left it behind to administer British rule in Northern Ireland but still let on like they are working to dismantle British rule.

    They may say that only until such time as a majority wish otherwise but by their actions they are saying British rule in Northern Ireland legitimate at this moment in time.

    Pearse would ask whether they have been bought, pacified or intimidated.

  • Chris Donnelly

    I think your lack of sleep last night has got in the way of your judgement (3.40am and you’re writing opinion pieces???)

    After reading your thread intro above I decided to read Chris Gaskin’s own piece.

    I have to say you don’t really provide an accurate portrayal of what Gaskin says in his post.

    It seems pretty obvious to me from Gaskin’s post that his own emotions laid bare in the piece illustrate precisely why republican leaders used the precise wording attributed to Adams and McGuinness throughout the day.

    Suggesting that 14 hours is a long time kinda ignores the fact that most people were unconscious (through sleep) for the first nine or ten hours of that period (including myself.)

    For what it’s worth, I believe McGuinness’ media statements and performances have been very strong throughout the day- he certainly stood out on the Politics Show, even more so than Durkan (but perhaps that’s due to his stature.)

    It would appear quite evident that Adams was given the brief of condemning the event in a language to relate more directly with a traditional republican constituency, whilst McGuinness as DFM needed to provide more forthright leadership understood by the broader public against the dissidents and in favour of co-operation with the PSNI (though Adams was clear in calling for those responsible ‘to be apprehended.’)

    This is a dangerous time, and no doubt all of the political leaders are aware of that fact (and that could be detected by the body language and tone adopted by all of the main political players throughout the day.)

    It is not the first killing of recent years and certainly not from the dissident republicans- Martin McGuinness pointed out on The Politics Show today that several killings in Derry have been attributed to the dissidents in the pasy year.

    The deaths of these two soldiers are no more nor less tragic than any of the other individuals killed as a result of the political/ sectarian violence here in recent years.

    But in the clear targeting of British soldiers in a predominantly unionist town, and the specific targeting of those providing a ‘service’ for the soldiers, the dissidents have sent a message which instinctively touched everyone here old enough to remember life pre-ceasefires.

    It is not a period which any sensible person would want to return to, and I believe that the depth of popular sentiment across all communities will deliver that message in an effective way to those responsible for this deed.

    From Sinn Fein’s perspective, the die was cast/ rubicon crossed a long, long time ago, and pretending otherwise is fairly mischievous.

    Sinn Fein have been criticised by others for labelling dissidents as criminals and for supporting efforts to marginalise the dissidents (a la Derry after the Emmet Shields killing.) Indeed, Eamon McCann infers as much in his piece focused on another thread.

    At no stage have Sinn Fein leaders ‘vacillated’ with regard to dissidents; indeed the more common allegation directed at Sinn Fein is that the party has sought to marginalise/ demonise other republicans and refused to provide them with a platform (and a quick glance at the Slugger archives will find plenty of examples of the above.)

    Whether one agreed or disagreed with those allegations or the rationale for such a strategy, it is clear that the motivation behind any mainstream republican efforts to marginalise the dissident/ non-mainstream republican voice was to limit the potential for something like what happened in Antrim from ever occurring.

    There is, of course, an irresistible urge from political opponents to point out that Sinn Fein would not have condemned such actions just over a decade ago, when, for instance, the Thiepval barracks was attacked in Lisburn.

    As Chris Gaskin points out- and Martin McGuinness emphasised in an interview today- that can’t and won’t be denied (and shouldn’t.) The difference is the interim Good Friday Agreement and the political institutions and other developments borne out of that historic compromise (and before we get ‘all high and mighty’, we needn’t look far here for people who at one time supported violence for political aims- either in Ireland or abroad…)

    The fact that the dissident republicans have very little popular support (no elected representatives and not even a housing estate which could be deemed as a dissident ‘hot-bed’) and a small activist base is testament to the achievement of mainstream republicans in winning the argument and leading their community.

    But, as the past 24 hours illustrates, it doesn’t take many individuals to give us all a reminder of how things could be.

    I would simply hope- and earnestly believe- that cool heads will prevail.

  • kensei

    I also think the talk about difficulty and hypocrisy needs to be given a certain historical context. Hypocrisy is a charge that could have been levelled at Collins and Dev at various points, and both had difficultly detaching themselves from the forces they had helped build. In the end both were forced into turning very heavily on those against them, and SF will be forced into the same. But it was difficult. I don’t think you get out of these things without hypocrisy and mess.

    It’s worth noting Collins principle during the Civil War Republicans must ‘accept the People’s Verdict’ on the Treaty, but could then ‘go home without their arms. We don’t ask for any surrender of their principles’.. Obviously no one is “going home without their arms” but I think some variation on that line could work for SF, focusing on removing the threat. I think they could probably successfully call on the historical precedents. But SF’s problem is that they are looking for a surrender of principles.

    Having dissident republicans discredited by whatever means would be useful for everyone, but I can’t see that working. I suspect it’s more likely to hurt SF.

  • clonakilty

    John O’Connell has it right on the SDLP having the electoral support for many years of the ‘good’ ira’,s camapign but that didn’t cause the ira to quit or sinn fein to call for them to quit.
    Sinn Fein themselves for years propounded the idea that the only legitimacy an Irish person needed to take up arms was the presence of British forces in either armed or politcal control modes in Ireland. Why are they surprised when others still folow that maxim? How often did we hear them say things like “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace..”? Perhaps they never really meant any of what they said at any time.

  • clonakilty

    On the point of numbers to ‘fill a phone box’, it is worth pointing out that for some time there have been rumblings of discontent among the mainstream republican support base. Not from the newer supporters but from the long termers who find themselves in a situation of having to accept that which they fought against, went to prison against and sometimes saw their friends die for the same reasons. Sadly, more phone boxes may be filled, successful operations (from the point of view of the rira) may attract more recruits and especially more capable recruits from the section of the ira who walked away quietly when they saw the path the leadership was taking through the GFA.Just how many full phone boxes does it take? Not as many as you might think!

  • Henry94


    You don’t need a mandate to be a physical force Irish republican, you just need a gun and a British ruling presence so the idea of anyone in SF throwing a lack of mandate at the RIRA is hypocritical in the extreme.

    Traditionally you did need a mandate. The IRA claimed to be operating under the mandate of the second Dail.

    Republican Sinn Fein still claim that mandate based on the say-so of the last surviving member of the second Dail.

    The idea that any lone gunman had the right to represent the nation in war would be a considerable leap into nihilism in terms of republican ideology.

    It’s funny how those who appeal to the tradition of armed struggle are prepared to forget all about the traditional republican claim for legitimacy when it doesn’t suit them.

  • British Ulsterman

    I’m not Irish Mick, so what happens to me? where do you section me?