Security chiefs admit lack of preparedness

An interesting piece by Dean Godson , Conservative guru and author of the monumental biography of David Trimble, in this week’s Spectator. The piece seems informed by a high level security briefing, (though he’s under the misapprehension that British welfare payments are higher than the Republic’s). Godson is reluctant to state outright that it was wrong to dismantle so much of the security system – and that applies to the IRA of Adams and Mc Guinness as well, which might have been expected to bear part of the load of neutering the dissidents. Like much recent comment in Slugger, the piece reflects the understandable degree of uncertainty about how big a task lies ahead. No doubt the ultra-pessimists will relish his criticism of Eames/Bradley’s line on informers.GODSON QUOTES
Were too many senior Special Branch officers, especially agent handlers, let go too quickly
under the Patten report of 1999? Is it right that they be left to face the
music before a set of costly inquiries? And were too many informers let go
in the reviews of the early to middle years of this decade? Will any
intelligence officers take the same kind of risks for state security that they
did during the last round of Troubles?

The Joint Intelligence Committee recently discussed whether
this was the start of a major new campaign or the death rattle of
irredentist republicanism and the balance of opinion came down more on
the side of the latter. Senior officials on both sides of the Border reckon
the dissidents might manage a few more attacks, but are still very far from
panicking. Neither the scale of the raids, nor the technology employed, is
yet deemed serious enough to warrant a major reversal of security
?normalisation?.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Existing European legislation allows for Gardai involvement in investigations into criminal activity in the North – as evidenced by their role in the Quinn killing in South Armagh. It is surely sensible for the PSNI and Gardai to set up joint teams and to operate alongside each other particularly in the border areas. Joint patrols would send exactly the right message to the dissidents – they are not wanted and that we are now in a new era where the Northern police have the complete unambiguous support of everyone – North and South.

  • Brian, 2016 is just around the corner – in historical terms. That places a huge burden on Irish republicans, militant and republican, socialist and conservative. As I’ve already said, for some the ‘war’ is over, for others it continues or hasn’t yet begun.

  • “the Northern police have the complete unambiguous support of everyone – North and South.”

    I’d have to take that assertion with a massive pinch of salt. Also, the police take political direction from London acting in association with Dublin. Any uncomfortable truths about recent events are likely to be covered up – all in the name of the ‘peace process’.

  • jone

    Without getting all ad hominem on anyone’s ass there does appear to be large ‘Daily Telegraph tendancy’ alive and well among the majority of the London commentariat who are still a bit sore about the Third Home Rule Bill, never mind the Belfast Agreement.

    Consequently a fair bit of the analysis seems to start from the position of ‘never trust a bog-wog’ and proceeds accordingly.

  • jone

    Though I should add that Godson’s analysis is in a different league.

  • The piece seems informed by a high level security briefing

    It’s also informed by not really understanding Ireland, Northern Ireland and especially nationalist Northern Ireland. The ‘welfare payments’ line was a real howler; not necessarily important in and of itself, but an example of where Goodson’s impressions of Ireland, North and South, seem to be stuck in about 1987.

    As for the comparison between the dissidents’ position now and the Provos in the 1970s, that’s fautuous. While SF may not have contested elections pre-1982, support for them was far from negligible (and electorally demonstrable by the uniquely pathetic election turnouts in Republican strongholds in the 1970s; a bit like the blank votes cast for banned Batasuna in the Basque Country today). The IRA effectively ran fair swathes of Northern Ireland in the 1970s and has substantial, albeit far from universal, support in many of the communities which they did run.

    The situation with the dissidents today is simply not comparable, nor is it easy to see how the dissidents are going to develop the sort of support the Provos had in the 1970s. Few nationalists feel anything like the sense of alienation from the state that was almost universal, even among avowedly peaceful nationalists (indeed even among Alliance voting Catholics) in the 1970s. A heavy-handed security response might start something serious, but even that might not set fire to the tinder and it’s not going to happen because the people running security policy have too much wit.

    The Border Campaign analogy he uses is, at this stage, the better one; although I’d argue the dissident position is even weaker than that of the 1950s IRA. The IRA launched the border campaign based on the huge votes for SF in much of rural NI in the 1955 Westminster election. They correctly read that as terminal exasperation with a bigoted, corrupt and venal establishment at Stormont, but incorrectly read it as a mandate for war (that took another half a generation). The dissoes don’t even have that level of frustration to build on, because even if the economy goes down the toilet, people know that is because the world economy is going down the toilet and not that they’re unemployed because they aren’t getting a job because they’re a Catholic, and someone else is because ‘he’s on the square’ with the foreman.

    There always seems to be a temptation among the English, or at least those to the right of the centre-right, to see conflict in Ireland as a result of some hot-blooded Celtic temper that makes the Scots good soliders and the Irish good bombers. That is, frankly, bullshit (and annoying and offensive bullshit at that). While smart dissident operatives might cause problems for some years (although one hopes not), the social and political context to create a paramilitary movement on the scale of the IRA and with the depth of support of the IRA simply do not exist and are unlikely to exist. And if the Loyalists can manage to keep their guns under control (or better yet, dump them in wet concrete), the proportion of Republicans willing to stick their neck out will only grow during a dissident campaign, regardless of the religion of the police officers being killed. And there will be ‘mistakes’, like Anto Watson on Saturday night, like Emmett Shiels, the pizza man murdered in Derry last year who everybody has forgotten about.

    Obviously we have to take the dissident threat seriously but let’s not make them into something they aren’t just because they got lucky twice in three days after 11 years of failure.

  • joeCanuck

    Great piece of analysis, Sammy.

  • “the people running security policy have too much wit.”

    “Security chiefs admit lack of preparedness”

    BTW, Sammy, who is running security policy?

  • Though I should add that Godson’s analysis is in a different league.

    In fairness, Godson ought to know something about paramilitary organisations, given that his brother financed one in the 1980s.

    http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/walsh/chap_13.htm

  • BTW, Sammy, who is running security policy?

    Who is briefing Dean Godson? The people running security policy or upper-middle management pissed off at budget cuts.

  • “There always seems to be a temptation among the English, or at least those to the right of the centre-right, to see conflict in Ireland as a result of some hot-blooded Celtic temper that makes the Scots good soliders and the Irish good bombers. That is, frankly, bullshit (and annoying and offensive bullshit at that).”

    Agreed. I am getting rather sick of these cowardly couch-warrior columnists in the tabloids railing against ‘gutless’ British politicians and their supposedly incessant list of concessions to Republicans. Simon Heffer’s (and what an apt surname!) piece in the [i]Telegraph[/i] yesterday is a case in point. It is utterly incomprehensible why he would use the recent atrocities to attack the peace-process and the sweeping away of the RUC. The overwhelming majority of Catholics felt utterly alienated from Ulster’s ancien régime. His railing against power-sharing is equally senseless. NI is a deeply fractured and tribal society. A devolved assembly under Unionist rule would realienate even the most constitutional of nationalists from the rule of law. It would be manna from heaven for the dissidents.

  • Driftwood

    cowardly couch-warrior columnists

    Like Colonel Tim Collins presumably? Who wrote probably the best piece in any paper in recent days. And who knows the mindset of people here better than anyone else.

  • ArchiePurple

    Sammy McNally…..You are wrong on one point….Paul Quinn was murdered in County Monaghan not South Armagh….hence the reason why the Gardai are investigating it….although I believe that they crossed the border to interview some people. And of course, Paul Quinn was murdered by your ‘friends’ in Sinn Fein / IRA…

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Archie

    “as evidenced by their role in the Quinn killing in South Armagh. ” Not that it matters much but the SA reference is to role of the Gardai not the killing.

    We need more of the same.

  • Gregory

    “Godson is reluctant to state outright that it was wrong to dismantle so much of the security system – and that applies to the IRA of Adams and Mc Guinness as well, which might have been expected to bear part of the load of neutering the dissidents.”

    Like pro-state terrorists? That sounds like an undrstandable version of the Six Counties, how may of the dissidents are dissidents, because they don’t like Gerry Adams?

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