It’s not 1968/9; but we remain stuck in the past…

There’s some pretty wild talk going on at the moment about the possible redeployment of British troops in the wake of dissident Republican paramilitaries last week in Meigh. It’s understood that the reason the PSNI backed off is because there simply aren’t the numbers in south Armagh to tackle such breaches of the law. We are effectively in a post decommission era. Loyalists are still manoeuvring to gain government largesse out of offering up theirs in return. Guns have still not, as was so often promised, left Irish politics. A new generation of Republicans may now be looking for what the last generation got, and, presumably, more… That they are highly unlikely to get it will hardly figure in their calculations any more than the likelihood of not getting a united Ireland ever figured with the Provisional IRA.

Yet these latter day rebels lack something vital which the Provos did have: a genuinely popular public grievance off the back of which they could launch their ‘armed struggle’. 1968/69, it is not.

But the ongoing fascination and glorification of guns and the ever backward gaze to where we have come from rather than to where we are supposedly heading from both leaderships of our two main political parties sending out conflicting signals to those they publicly lecture to leave the past behind.

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  • Coll Ciotach

    Let us all be honest with ourselves, no matter how much you dislike it the reality is that there will always be those wishing to take up arms to either defend or destroy the enforced link with England.

    The only end will be a defeat of the link, for once lost it is lost for ever, as unionists know.

    That is why every inch must be fought for.

    So to say that the use of force is backward looking may be correct in one sense it is not in another. It just depends on how you want to view things.

    I suppose the trick is to create circumstances were the rational for use of force is diminished from both sides.

  • Mick Fealty

    cc,

    This gives me an idea for a Guardian piece. This focus on kicking people out rather than building concept broadly and attractively enough to draw people is the trick you’re missing. The growing alienation from the south is northern Irish nationalism’s biggest existential problem.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Mick

    Would not agree with that extrapolation being ascribed to me. I believe that the problem is that there are people on both sides see achievemnet only in terms of beating the other side. The sackcloth and ashes mentality. The Abe Lincoln approach of “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends” is beyond their ken.

    I would hazard that the ascendancy attitude among unionists make the former prevalent in their analysis in which the croppies must be kept down or they will over run the place.

    Partition was really a maintenance of the ascendancy and a retreat to a defendable position.

    Republicanism has traditionally tried to make the enemy a friend, and it is interesting to see what progress will be made by FF when they move north, I predict many more Harvey Bickers.

    Of course there are nationalists who want to defeat the British but they see this as a militaristic victory. That is their shortcoming.

    (yes I am a northern FF member)

  • Greenflag

    mick ,

    ‘Yet these latter day rebels lack something vital’

    Indeed . Others less charitable than yourself might say what’s missing is a brain 🙁

    ‘The growing alienation from the south is northern Irish nationalism’s biggest existential problem. ‘

    What’s growing about it ? There has always been alienation from NI ever since 1922 . Not just from Northern nationalism but from the whole gamut of NI politicians with a singular exception for the SDLP in the run up to and post Sunningdale . This ‘alienation’ stems from lack of comprehension and a sense of powerless at being unable to have more than a minimal influence on NI matters and also the understandable concern not to make matters worse.

    coll ciotach,

    ‘I suppose the trick is to create circumstances were the rationale for use of force is diminished from both sides.’

    The ‘trick ‘ has been in place for over a decade and perhaps longer. It started with Sunningdale then went into ‘hibernation’ or should be ‘ulsteration’ for 24 years before reappearing as the GFA . Even that stuttered and started several times until finally it got ‘going’ just a couple of years ago in 2007.

    By reason and not by force is a laudable concept but human beings are not always rational and events, circumstances, external forces and even political personalities can all lead to the unthinkable and irrational becoming the order of the day . The history of any country will provide countless examples of the folly of of leaders and peoples .

    The fact that ‘force ‘ was used in NI in the end is a ‘tribute’ to the blinkered thinking of both sides -the hard men on the republican side and the head in the sand ‘ostrichism’ of the Unionist political establishment 🙁

    It happened . Time to move on and try not to let it happen again . Tears will only be shed by people within NI . For the rest of the people in these islands any major resumption of violence will just be confirmation that there will always be those in NI who only ever want to learn the hard way , and who eventually don’t learn anyway .

    The world won’t miss them .

  • John East Belfast

    CC

    “I would hazard that the ascendancy attitude among unionists make the former prevalent in their analysis in which the croppies must be kept down or they will over run the place.£”

    What total tripe – the ascendency attitude among unionists is a total myth and if you believe it then you choosing to do so to justify either your own mopishness or – more sinisterly – violence.

    “Republicanism has traditionally tried to make the enemy a friend,”

    How can you expect to be taken seriously with nonsense like that.
    Even in the 26 counties they are just about to have their first visit of the Queen after close on 100 years and the notion of erecting a memorial to Lord Mountbatton in Sligo has prompted a storm of protest from republicans.

    As for the hand of friendship extended by armed republicanism to northern unionism …..wise up.

    “it is interesting to see what progress will be made by FF when they move north, I predict many more Harvey Bickers.”

    If I recall James Stewarts imaginary friend in “Oh what a Wonderful Life” was a 10 foot rabbit called Harvey – those are the only kind of Harveys FF will make progress here with among the unionist community.

    “Let us all be honest with ourselves, no matter how much you dislike it the reality is that there will always be those wishing to take up arms to either defend or destroy the enforced link with England”

    You only betray your own prejudice.
    For starters the only people taking up arms at the minute are Dissident Republicans. It is pretty clear from the ballot boxes that they are doing so against the overwhelming wish of all Irish people north and south of the border. They have no mandate and they are criminals.

  • JR

    Without the Army in South Armagh the dissidents have no-one to fight. Continuing to target the PSNI, now nearing 50% catholic and serving a vital and impartial roll in Northern Ireland for the sole reason that they are instruments of the British state is equivalent to targeting post men, teachers and doctors. No-one but the few hundred dissidents will support this.

    “The growing alienation from the south is northern Irish nationalism’s biggest existential problem.”-I couldn’t agree more.

  • kensei

    JEB

    If I recall James Stewarts imaginary friend in “Oh what a Wonderful Life” was a 10 foot rabbit called Harvey – those are the only kind of Harveys FF will make progress here with among the unionist community.

    Actually, that was Harvey.

    “It’s a Wondeful life” has Clarence, an Angel.

  • Driftwood

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/Fianna-Fail-to-hold-meeting.5613155.jp

    Horrors! These ghastly people are attending one of my favourite watering holes this weekend.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Mick: “It’s understood that the reason the PSNI backed off is because there simply aren’t the numbers in south Armagh to tackle such breaches of the law. We are effectively in a post decommission era. Loyalists are still manoeuvring to gain government largesse out of offering up theirs in return. Guns have still not, as was so often promised, left Irish politics.”

    Then, apparently, we are *NOT* effectively in a post decommission era, save, perhaps, for the PSNI, whose illusions of being in a “post-decommissioning era” are being dispersed as we speak by events such as the one in Meigh.

    So long as the pols kow-tow to the gun-men, there will be guns in Irish politics.

    CC: “Partition was really a maintenance of the ascendancy and a retreat to a defendable position.”

    Partition was the recognition that there were nettles that no one was willing to graps at the time of the formation of the Irish Free State. By the time the Irish Civil War was over, there was no one with the energy to grasp the nettle, let alone the fortitude.

  • borderline

    There is a (by far too) long history of extreme nationalist movements in Ireland. Each of them greener than the last bunch of traitors. Initially they are dismissed as crackpots, idiots with no support or weapons.
    The next phase is usually a ‘crackdown’, which usually ends up in injustices to feed the new movement.

    Of course the Northern authorities are in a dilemma. They know full well the consequences of an abortive crackdown, but the extremists know they know it. So they push it a little bit further, provoking a bit more. Though, from their point of view, they’re only trying to rule themselves.

    Corporal Fraser was right along.

  • exile

    “Fianna Fail to hold meeting in Ulster”, screamed the News Letter. As I have never read the paper in my life, can I ask regular readers whether or not the paper reports in a similar hysterical fashion when Biffo’s boys (and girls) hold meetings in Letterkenny and Castleblaney?

  • oldruss

    The article at the top predicated the re-deployment of British Army troops on the appearance of armed dissident republicans near Meigh, south Armagh. Fair enough, the PSNI is understaffed and apparently unable to deal with this upswing in armed activity.

    That said, what was the PSNI’s excuse for not intervening in Coleraine last May when Kevin McDaid was beaten to death? (I know, he died of a heart attack, but that beating he was given by some of Coleraine’s finest flute band members and their buddies surely didn’t do him any good.)

    Oh no, not “Whataboutry” again?!

    The point, if we can avoid getting our knickers in a knot, is that there IS violence originating from BOTH sides of the aisle, which the PSNI seem unable or unwilling to address adequately. And, not to put too fine a point on it, no one died and no one was injured in Meigh, south Armagh, unlike Coleraine.

    Rather than redeploying British Army troops in south Armagh or in north Antrim for that matter, perhaps a crash course in “manning-up” the PSNI would be the better route to go. Whether that means more members, more weapons, better deployment of existing personnel, or whatever, get the Police Board on track, and make a concerted effort snuff this out this before anyone else is needlessly killed.

  • Exile, unionists often use Ulster and Northern Ireland interchangeably.

    I don’t detect ‘screaming’. Unless you count FF quotes as screaming 😉

  • oldruss, contentious day-to-day and policy decisions on policing and justice are ‘regulated’ by officials acting on behalf of London and Dublin. The Policing Board provides a bit of a democratic fig-leaf.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    oldruss: “Rather than redeploying British Army troops in south Armagh or in north Antrim for that matter, perhaps a crash course in “manning-up” the PSNI would be the better route to go.”

    Too bad the Republicans are more inclined to celebrate the closure of police stations, throwing “recreational riots” to mark the occasion… “Manning up” is the last thing the Republicans want the police to do. What would the lads do on a Friday night if their “recreational riots” were prevented?

  • oldruss

    Dread Cthulhu,
    I don’t think closing the police station in east Belfast materially affected the PSNI’s non-response to the dissident republicans in south Armagh; nor did it affect the PSNI’s failure to deploy personnel in Coleraine in the run up to Kevin McDaid’s murder.

    There’s no room for political point scoring anymore. Whatever gains that have been made as result of the PIRA having decommissioned, and the partial implementation of the GFA, things seem more and more to be slipping backwards of late.

    So what if SF had a community “celebration” over the closing of the police station? Is that excuse for the riots? Same thing as Kevin McDaid having displayed a Tricolour up in the Heights district of Coleraine. No excuse for the loyalist mob to have beaten him to death, is it?

    Somewhere along the way all sides have to take responsibility for themselves, and get off the merry-go-round. If toughening up the PSNI is what is needed to avoid the redeployment of the British Army, then that is what needs to be done. As long as the nationalist community perceives that it is being treated fairly, more and more people will come to support the PSNI, particularly if policing and justice powers are devolved, but it will take time. The days of the B-Specials and the RUC and the UDR aren’t so long past that the memories don’t still haunt.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    oldruss: “I don’t think closing the police station in east Belfast materially affected the PSNI’s non-response to the dissident republicans in south Armagh;”

    *rolls eyes*

    Completely beside the point, oldruss. By their antics, the Republicans have demonstrated they are anti-cop and want less policing, not reinvigorated policing.

    oldruss: “There’s no room for political point scoring anymore.”

    Someone obviously forget to tell the recreational rioters, rocket-toting dissidents and other point-scorers, neh?

    oldruss: “Whatever gains that have been made as result of the PIRA having decommissioned, and the partial implementation of the GFA, things seem more and more to be slipping backwards of late.”

    Sure — because neither side has the brains or balls to lead, the humility to follow or the sense to get out of the way. The SF/PIRA crowd doesn’t have the moral authority to do much of anything on matters of policing and do as much to slow the process as they do to speed the plow. Unionist formations, don’t have any more real credibility than Republicans, beyond enjoying a majority position that is meaningless in a forced coalition government. I suspect that they lack the vision to lead as well.

    oldruss: “So what if SF had a community “celebration” over the closing of the police station? ”

    Surely you’re not that dim, oldruss.

    Publicly celebrating the closure of a police station loses them, among other things, whatever marginal trust the PSNI might have had in them as a party, is evidence of Republican anti-police attitudes and, potentially, agendas and, frankly, throws another log on the fires of cross community distrust.

    oldruss: “If toughening up the PSNI is what is needed to avoid the redeployment of the British Army, then that is what needs to be done. ”

    Sure… and who among the Republicans has the balls to be the one to go bell the cat and announce that, rather than closing police stations, there will be more coppers on the dissident’s patch? I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath while they try to figure out who gets to carry that bit of news to the masses.

    oldruss: “particularly if policing and justice powers are devolved, but it will take time. The days of the B-Specials and the RUC and the UDR aren’t so long past that the memories don’t still haunt. ”

    oldruss, blow hot or blow cold, you’re not going to have it both ways.

    You cannot wheeze that the PSNI needs to “man-up” whilst whinging that “The days of the B-Specials and the RUC and the UDR aren’t so long past that the memories don’t still haunt” with any credibility.

  • barnshee

    “If toughening up the PSNI is what is needed to avoid the redeployment of the British Army, then that is what needs to be done. “

    Not a chance the cops will not allow it–they will not do front line stuff like that ever again. let s armagh and down go its de facto make it de jure.

  • latcheeco

    Barnshee,
    Derry City,South Derry, North Antrim, Fermanagh, Tyrone, half of Belfast, and half of North Armagh called. They wanted to know if they could be let go too?

  • Faolchu

    Borderline probably put this argument within its most accurate context. The amount of times we’ve had to listen to “but they’ve got no serious mandate” and “they go against the wishes of all the people of Ireland…” Obviously not all or these events would not be happening. The PSNI are next to useless. ‘Delivering effective policing’ it so inadequatley states in their annual report. I cant remember the last time I seen a police man in South Fermanagh. Put simply these people may be seen as ‘nutter’s’ and ‘crackpots’ now, just like the Officials seen the Provos, but seriously how long does anyone think that will last? The Provos are losing ground left, right and centre, not just in my area, but all over the North and the Dissidents now can mop up any type of Republican support that is left over. With only 6 officers serving the whole of West Fermanagh and the state of ‘effective’ policing in South Armagh that we seen last week it plays right into the Dissidents hands. Its a free for all. An all this with another 80 million pounds worth of PSNI cuts to follow! Because the police already can’t, and sometimes won’t, deal with the threat already existing from Republicans, then you don’t need a crystal ball to see that eventually the redeployment of British troops, first on the border and then on the streets, is inevitable. And what is even more inevitable is that some young squaddie from Bolton or Colchester will do something stupid one day and we’re right back in the heyday of the Bay City Rollers! And the final inevitability is that all Sinn Fein can do is sit back and watch from the sidelines as all this goes on around them.

    “(Sinn Fein)… were at the flash point on Monday night, their concerted effort to keep the young hotheads at bay were less visible. Either they wouldn’t stop the youngsters, which is worrying; or they couldn’t, which is yet more worrying.” (Irish Times report on disturbances over the 12th).

  • Secret Squirrel

    I’d have thought those british army chaps are jolly well busy enough in Sand Land without having to contemplate deploying additional personnel in South Armagh.

  • Faolchu

    Just another bonus for the Dissidents! And for the Afghans…

  • Jim

    Faolchu,

    I think the media can hype these people up to much. 1 percent to 3 percent support in Northern Ireland, IMO the IRA border campaign of the 50’s had more support. It is very similar in the ability to cause death and destruction. Compare that to the PIRA campaign in the early 90’s when they were heading for a ceasefire. Attacks nearly every other day. Let alone we look at the bomb and gun attacks of the early 70s.

  • ed

    Why is every one concentrating theit attention on the nationalist disidents when most lethal violence is emanating from unionist paramilitaries

  • Faolchu

    Jim,
    Granted your point is valid as we speak, but I think everyone is looking at what is likely to come in the future. 1 to 3 per cent currently, but if the British do deploy soldiers back on the streets that ‘small percentage’ is going to rise rather rapidly. And for all the faults of the border campaign it did produce an awful lot of propaganda material that was readily used by the next lot (Provos), and even Hollywood! Sean South of Garryowen, The Patriot Game… and so on. If the Dissidents can even match the intensity of that campaign (which they easily have the capability of doing) then they can cause a serious headache for Westminster and closer to home down the line.

    Ed,
    I agree also on your point about Unionist paramilitaries, or lets face it, gangs. But the reason why the Dissident threat is hyped up more often is two fold. Firstly the media is obviously British orientated and the Dissidents pose a much greater threat to the policy of ‘normalisation’ than the Loyalists do. Secondly, the Loyalists even at their prime were never much of a theat. The Dublin/Monaghan bombings were obviously handled by their British backers and the most they could effectively manage on their own (in between their constant fueding) was the odd taxi driver killing and opening fire in a remote catholic bar. They never got above the level of a street gang. Any of them. But we all seen what the Provisionals were capable of. 2.1bn worth of damage (and probably more) in 1996 alone. The Brighton bombing. The attempt at 10 downing street. Dealings with FARC, ETA and Libya. So its clear that while currently there is not much difference in size or strength of the Dissidents and Loyalists, the potential for Republican growth is there in vast measure, while in Loyalists sections, their probably as big as they ever going to get.

  • ed

    Faolchu

    So your premise is basically that unionist criminal murder gangs are the norm and can just be ignored?

    Admitadely unionism was formed on and by unionist murder gangs, why should they be allowed to go unchallenged?

  • Faolchu

    Ed,
    Look around. Every country on earth suffers from gang crime. However not every country on earth suffers from heavily deployed paramiltaries capable of portioning entire sects of the state via ‘no go areas’. I’m not saying that you let them go unchallenged but its a futile fight and quite frankly up to the communities themselves to sort out. What we’re talking about on here is the extent to which Militant Republicanism can grow. In my opinion the Loyalists aren’t worth a second line in this paragraph. Their no different than any other worldwide criminal gang apart from the fact that could be worse, because while real gangs are explicit in their pursuit of money, Loyalist gangs hide behind the veil of ‘protecting their communities’.

  • oldruss

    Dread Cthulhu,

    Your response (Sep 03, 2009 @ 09:14 PM) to my earlier post necessitates a surrebuttal. I’ll not go through each and every point you made, but rather, attempt to cover the most salient points.

    The republican dissidents in south Armagh, if left unchecked, will only grow bolder, and tensions will increase. Assuming that one does not choose this outcome, then either the PSNI or the British Army needs to step up. Better if the PSNI does so, IMHO.

    Events like the murder of Kevin McDaid in Coleraine under the PSNI’s nose does little to build confidence in the PSNI within the nationalist community.

    That said, it was not contradictory (“blow hot or blow cold…”) when I suggested that history makes it difficult for the nationalist community to trust the PSNI, but that the PSNI can earn their trust. Even handed policing should be the PSNI’s first goal. Tragedies, like the murder in Coleraine, do not help to say the least.

    Devolution of policing and justice powers would also strengthen the PSNI’s standing in the nationalist community.

    In the end, it is better, IMHO, for all the people of the six counties to have a stake in their future, and the less interference from Westminster the better. (But keep the subsidies coming from the Exchequer).

  • Scaramoosh

    Whatever the issuue that is being discussed in N.IRELAND, the following quotation from GRAMSCI seems somewhat pertinent;

    “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born.”

    We are stuck in a moment of permanent stalemate, with each and every participant putting their own spin on events, whilst nobody is actually moving forward.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    oldruss: “That said, it was not contradictory (“blow hot or blow cold…”) when I suggested that history makes it difficult for the nationalist community to trust the PSNI, but that the PSNI can earn their trust. Even handed policing should be the PSNI’s first goal. Tragedies, like the murder in Coleraine, do not help to say the least.”

    Obviously denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

    For starters, any effort by the police to bring loyalist and/or republican enclaves into the twenty-first century will be undercut by the politicos — neither side, Unionist or Republican, has the political will to back the police to the hilt. Your denial of the obvious — that the political set hasn’t the balls to paint over murals or enforce simple regulations without asking the godfathers of the street with a mother-may-we — undermines the whole of your “argument.”

    Throw in the fact that the police operate under a ROE that pretty much ties one hand behind their back and puts one foot in a bucket of cement. In the states, the police have the right to use deadly force to protect the citizenry — that power doesn’t exist in N.I.

    You can’t seem to understand that dissident Republicans don’t want PSNI policing and SF Republicans don’t have the stomach to back the police, your wishful thinking not-withstanding.

  • oldruss

    Dread Cthulhu,

    Perhaps I was not as clear as a should have been, as you have badly misunderstood (or misconstrued)what I have been saying.

    First, of course, I understand that, “dissident Republicans in south Armagh don’t want PSNI policing.”

    What do you suggest happen next? Everyone throws up their hands, abdicating to the “dissident Republicans”, and to the loyalist paramilitaries like the UVF and UDA who remain fully armed?

    Why did the PSNI not intervene in Coleraine, and prevent the murder of Kevin McDaid?

    It’s too easy to simply say that the “politicos” lack the will to effect change. If the politicians do not support reasonable, fair, effective policing, then those politicians should be replaced. Again, better that the people of the six counties take charge of their future, rather than disengage and defer once again to Westminster to carry the water.

    As I see it from this side of the pond, it is in SF’s interest to limit the dissident republicans’ activities; and in everyone’s interests if unionists/loyalists were restrained in the future from egregious attacks on innocent Catholics. Continuing violence directed at the nationalist community is not the way forward. Don’t you agree?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    oldruss: “Why did the PSNI not intervene in Coleraine, and prevent the murder of Kevin McDaid? ”

    Screwed up ROE. They aren’t permitted to use deadly force to protect the public, unless they’re under assault. So, unless they were willing to A) interpose themselves between the mob and McDaid (assuming, arguendo, they had the opportunity to do so), the most the could do legally would be to order them to stop, unless of course, they were willing to wade into the melee, 2 on 30. The political set wouldn’t have the balls to back the police to do more and faintly damn them when they do nothing. Until the political hacks in this scenario grows a pair and backs the police, its going to be SSDD, except on those special occasions when dissident Republicans lay out quarter-ton bombs.

    oldruss: “It’s too easy to simply say that the “politicos” lack the will to effect change. If the politicians do not support reasonable, fair, effective policing, then those politicians should be replaced. Again, better that the people of the six counties take charge of their future, rather than disengage and defer once again to Westminster to carry the water.”

    Bullshit. It is the truth, oldruss. Pretending otherwise isn’t going to change the truth, not matter how hard you wish it were otherwise. The thing that is too easy is to give some mealy-mouthed pat answer on what the solution is without the slightest idea on how to get from here to there. If the best these idiots can do is re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, then pretending that they can do better is asking the band to play another tune while you push the lounge chair.

    The politicians keep getting re-elected, the merry-go-round keeps spinning and no one goes anywhere.