“Paramilitarism is now deemed more legitimate…”

In a Guardian report which features a Continuity IRA member’s description of Sinn Féin as “British ministers in a puppet government”, Robin Wilson makes an important point.  Now that “the guerillas” are the people in power…  From the Guardian report

“In theory, the ‘peace process’ culminating in the 1998 Belfast agreement was meant by the inclusion in the political arena of representatives of paramilitary organisations, principally the IRA, to lay the basis for a peaceful region in which all significant political forces, including Sinn Féin, would share power,” Wilson said.

“This should have implied that the ensuing periods from 1999 to 2002, and 2007 to the present, when power-sharing has operated at Stormont, should have seen paramilitary violence diminish, while in the intervening ‘political vacuum’ of direct rule, violence should have risen. In fact, the opposite is the case. The number of shootings and bombing clearly increased in both periods of devolution, while falling in the interregnum of ‘direct rule’ from London.

“Paramilitarism is now deemed more legitimate than when the [Good Friday] Agreement was promulgated. Evidence shows that nearly twice as many people now give credit to the reasons given by paramilitaries for their violence as in 1998, with support strongest among youth.

“This is because the alphabet soup of ‘republican’ and ‘loyalist’ organisations – responsible, along with state forces, for grievous crimes against international human rights and humanitarian law – have been legitimised after the fact as ‘ex-combatants’, reinventing themselves as peacemakers but pilloried as ‘traitors’ by their young challengers.”  [added emphasis]

No “complacency” there.

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  • michael-mcivor

    Yes- a lot of people want to fight now that the armed brit army is of our streets- 25 years of the continuity and reporters are still to yellow to ask them why they have never killed any british soldiers- like what is the reporters problem- they don’t need to hack into any phones for this story-

  • ranger1640

    Question, of all the political parties sitting up at the big house on the hill, which one will gain more politically from a resurgent IRA in whatever guise?

  • Nunoftheabove


    That’s a good question. Not sure about who would gain the most but there may well be more than one or two losers were that to happen.

  • DC

    I think more generally people have trouble relating to Stormont, well relating to it as something which is effective and actually has anything meaningful to contribute to their lives.

    There is a lack of leadership there – collective leadership – and the stuff on the street tends to take over, despite Stormont being well-resourced for the purposes of providing community leadership. (For instance, it would seem the best that Stormont can do is add another 10 minutes onto the driving test, despite young people when passing being unable to afford insurance – this just seems like more pointless social regulation on young people given insurance is prohibitively expensive; hardly makes Stormont more attractive and relevant.)

    I think the image of the police also suffers from the same fate as that of politicians at Stormont, it has lost touch with local communities it purports to serve, except with the police it is in the name of providing a ‘service’ – which is a marketisation term, far removed from the language of community. What price or costs from having a police service that lacks local people in its employ? Is it not time to consider community policing, than policing with the community?

    I think also if there could be a more locally accountable and recruited police that its style could match the area it serves.

    For instance, I’m sure that given the recent violence in and around Ballyclare and Carrick that people there would rather have more assertive policing that cracks down on this poor behaviour, than the hands off policing which seems to have become the norm. I’m thinking Unionist areas may appreciate a more hands on approach given its past appreciation of it!

    Horses for courses and all that.

  • carl marks

    ranger1640 (profile) says:
    15 July 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Question, of all the political parties sitting up at the big house on the hill, which one will gain more politically from a resurgent IRA in whatever guise?
    the party that wll gain the most from a new (not resurgent as the provos are out of play) armed republician campaign would without doubt be the TUV, my reasoning is as follows,
    SF will gain nothing as the dissidents wil be competing for the support of the nationalist community
    SDLP will gain a little as SF suffer part of there vote will return to them
    UUP not a lot of difference they are a lost cause,
    ALLAINCE again not a big change as both tradittions retreat into the old comfort zones
    DUP major loss here will be seen as having slept with the enemy
    TUV the big winners unionists will see them as having kept the faith
    THE PEOPLE biggest losers as both sets of terrorists catholic and protestant will as usual go for the easy targets

  • USA

    Carl Marks,
    Well said.

    The article itself is rubbish. How about we compare the violence from 1970 to 1990 (approx 20 years), with the violence from 1991 to 2011 (approx 20 years).

    That gives a much more accurate portrayal of the intensity of political violence in Ulster, and also the real value of the current political process in place at the Assembly.

  • Damian O’Loan

    “Evidence shows that nearly twice as many people now give credit to the reasons given by paramilitaries for their violence as in 1998, with support strongest among youth.”

    There is no source for this in the linked article.

    Would anyone have one?

  • slmccni

    This is a genuine question that I would like answered. Has political violence flared up again because people see how effective it is in getting them what they want?

    It has to be said that the very worst elements in our society here in NI are those most heavily rewarded and their tactic is always the same – throw toys out of the pram, cause havoc and the government give in and we get more money and maybe even a good job! (for me and my mates/special advisers).

    I am definitely not an advocate of a police state and we all know the failings of internment etc. but there must be a path between reward and punishment.

    Or is our situation just a creation of the NIO to ensure they stay in their job whilst government cuts ravage the rest of the civil service. I still think that the greatest contribution that our assembly could make would be to call for the NIO to be abolished and its staff redeployed away from NI related positions, but then Sinn Fein and the DUP would be nowhere without their writers etc…

  • michael-mcivor

    Who would take the word of a continuity person without asking it why they have killed no british soldiers-
    outside of the Guardian and pete that is-

  • Pete Baker

    I’ve added emphasis in the original post to highlight the point.

  • michael-mcivor

    As Martin McGuinness once said- the brit loving continuity are traitors-

  • Damian O’Loan

    Given your point, though it has been made before and as such is hardly insightful, is here tied to “evidence”, I’ll repeat my question:

    Does anyone have a source?

  • Mark McGregor


    Given it’s from Henry McDonald, I’m sure the evidence is something as concrete as comparing two of Jonathan Tonge’s surveys from the conflict cockpit at Liverpool University – until clarified, that’s the best you can hope for in what may turn out a total BS claim.

    Loads of people here know Henry, so an email to request he stands up the claim shouldn’t be hard – unless he can’t?

  • Pete Baker


    The quote is from Robin Wilson.

  • USA

    As usual you copied and pasted large tracts from other people and tried to put your own spin on it.
    Don’t arrogantly come back into the discussion approx seven and a half hours later to add emphasis to “the point” because your deem us to be so beneath you that we need help in understanding the “point”.
    We can all read the Guardian along with a swathe of other publications. We will respond to what we see.
    If you have something to say then say it, if you have a “point” son, then make it.
    (Emphasis added)

  • Nunoftheabove

    Son, Son, Pete Baker’s Son,
    Pasted text from Robin Wilson,
    The point got missed,
    The yank got pissed,
    And Pete went quiet having been dissed

    Sorry about the ‘yank’ bit USA….round hole, square peg….

    (all together now…)

    “It was said of the Bishop of Birmingham,
    that he… (etc)”

  • tuatha

    Just another in the long line of young bucks wanting their whiff of cordite. Quel bloody surprise!

  • michael-mcivor

    tuatha- like them young bucks [ fucks ] looking their whiff of
    cordite in iraq and afganistan- wait – hold on- the brit army has sold out their dead by pulling of the streets of iraq-
    we can’t hear you pete-

  • Toastedpuffin

    “Question, of all the political parties sitting up at the big house on the hill, which one will gain more politically from a resurgent IRA in whatever guise?”

    Depends on how they can spin it. I can see how the DUP could opt for a “well, we tried, negotiated in good faith and our Republican partners in government let us down” slant, SF can doubtless come up with a mirror image approach centring on Unionist intransigence on X, Y and Z. Then they wait and see how the people, media, London and Dublin react to whatever BS they concoct.

    It’s difficult to see how any would benefit though, and if one broadens the question from parties to “causes”, it’s equally tricky in identifying a winner.

    Hopefully this question will remain hypothetical.

  • carl marks

    i see your argument but stand by my previous post. The DUP and SF are dependant on the peace process staying ontrack both having invested to much in comprmise to reach were they are in the big house, on the nationalist side the dissidents have no politcal pressence being little more than green romantics with guns(pearse you shit more teaching less crap poems and things would be better)
    so the SDLP being the only alternative would come out better.
    The OUP (is that still the right name ) are a thing of the past a party with no future either way they they are going the way of the dodo,
    the DUP have like SF hardly covered themselves in glory in the big house so with a return to widespread violence they can spin all they want few will accept it. the TUV will go into full rabble rouser mode and to see how well that works inside unionisn look to Ian Paisleys rise to power.
    but i agree with you in Hopefully this question will remain hypothetical.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Or is our situation just a creation of the NIO to ensure they stay in their job whilst government cuts ravage the rest of the civil service.

    The NIO is a small office servicing the remaining handful of powers retained by the Secretary of State. Don’t blame the NIO for the situation we have created ourselves. The rioting in Ballyclare and the attendant response should put to bed the notion that accomodating paramilitarism as part of community life is somehow a practice that is restricted to republicans.


    Depends on how they can spin it. I can see how the DUP could opt for a “well, we tried, negotiated in good faith and our Republican partners in government let us down” slant

    I don’t believe that DUP voters regard the dissidents as being on the same side as SF; moreover and I don’t think there is an appetite (not to mention the financing) within republicanism/nationalism to return to pre-1994 violence.

    The riots we have seen lately aren’t good but they are nothing compared with what we had even post-ceasefire. The Drumcree business during the mid 1990s got very serious and there was sustained rioting for nearly a week when marches were forced through in different parts of the country. We saw something similar again in 2005 when the Whiterock thing happened, again that was a lot worse than we have seen lately.

    The election results show an endorsement for continuing to make the process work, and so far it has withstood a number of police officers and soldiers being killed or seriously injured. I don’t think the wheels are coming off yet – but I suspect things will be put in jeopardy if the administration doesn’t come up with a way to deal with marching and rioting.

  • Toastedpuffin

    carl marks,

    I think you’re rating the TUV too highly – Jim A may have brains to burn (and indeed I’ve been glad for his presence in Stormont), but he comes across as cold and nasty, he’s no major votewinner regardless of the situation. The DUP and SF have as you say invested a lot in the process, but I get the impression they’re operating a “keep your enemies closer” policy and both would eye up any major unrest for its potential to wrongfoot the other.

    Comrade Stalin,

    I think there’s still a suspended judgement on the links between dissident and mainstream Republicans in the unionist community generally, DUP voters or otherwise, but I agree that the scenario we’re discussing here is an unlikely one. The chances of Stormont collapsing are remote – for better or worse.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Agreed on the TUV, although Jim may yet be an asset. There may be enough potential voters who just like seeing someone being effective at hurting the DUP, and he may well corner that market.

    It would be interesting if voters started to think a bit more about the links between the DUP and dissidents (bored, anti-ceasefire loyalists that is).

  • aquifer

    Allowing political violence to have apprarrent success is a bit like the Euro really. Allowing somebody to default on their debt (undesirable behaviour in an interlinked system) introduces the moral hazard that they might do it again, or that someone else may do it again.

    Trouble is that Paisley and the DUP never really seemed to have a problem with coercive and violent behaviour for their own politcal ends: Civil rights marches, Burntollet, UWC strikes I and II, Third Force, Drumcree, advocating the use state violence against nationalists.

    And locally we seem bereft of convincing opponents of political violence. The SDLP reject the means but seem to applaud the Irish Nationalist end. The UUP are so addicted to Orange that they are clearly ill with a skin colour that cannot be considered true blue.

    Labour and left parties in these islands had an aversion to theorising, so that the revolutionary strain was never really exorcised even as they practiced social democracy in office. Fainna Fail raised revolutionary expropriation clientelism and cronyism to an art from before market economics ruled them null and void. They were comparatively recent sponsors of traditional irish terrorism. Males and risky behaviour. The womens’ coalition did not coalesce politically despite their popular front..

    So it is up to liberal Alliance to grow a steel backbone.

    A big ask when their members might prefer the freedom to enjoy the same pursuits as other Europeans, rather than face down ethno-fascists in an economic backwater stuck fast in barnett formula aspic.

    With Naomi Long an East Belfast,MLA and a civil engineer, can she diagnose and fix civil structural failure.?

    Or is it up to our new commissioner of rights to name and shame wrongs?

    Maybe it will just be up to the PSNI to pay a sore price in injuries to make street violence boring.

    Enjoy the overtime pay while it lasts.

  • earther

    You got it backwards: moral hazard is not allowing defaults.
    Defaults are an essential part of the system. If there’s an implicit or explicit guarantee against defaults, people will lend to the irresponsible as well as to the responsible. That’s how we got here.

  • Nunoftheabove

    earther, aquifer

    Lending to the naïve and/or irresponsible borrower is naïve / irresponsible lending. The lender can lend to whoever s/he wants but s/he faces the consequences… or should do. The only two numbers which really matter in sanctioning a loan are (i) the probability of default ;and (ii) the potential for loss given default. Anyone not knowing with a reasonable degree of certainly those two calculations is not in banking in the traditional sense, they’re in professional gambling where they’ll lose quite a bit of the time. That’s fine if it’s your own money and you choose to live with that possibility; you make a living from trading risk with reward. If the banks don’t provision for these eventualities having done the diligence/calculations improperly to begin with (or just not materially bothered due to a risk-miscalculated punt on asset price movements) then again they’re not banking in the traditional sense…or hopefully shouldn’t be for long.

  • carl marks

    i agree that Jim A is a unlikeable little man and would also add that the TUV is very much a ragtag bunch of backwoodsmen at the moment, but if the disadents either nationalist or loyalist (by the way i think perhaps there is a bigger danger from loyalism owing to the mealy mouthed response from the PUL community when they go ape) manage to destablise the present setup defections from the DUP or OUP may give them a more presentable frontman

  • Comrade Stalin

    I wish people would stop using that horrible term “PUL”. It reminds me of its equally repugnant cousin “pan-nationalist front”.

    On the subject of Jim A .. I suspect like a lot of politicians he’s itching to get in and actually get stuff done. He’ll discover, as others before him have, that there are severe limitations on how much he can do while outside the tent. That’s why in the assembly he is sitting on committees and participating in the work of the legislature, all of which to my mind sounds rather indefensible for someone elected on an essentially anti-devolution ticket. I’m sure it won’t be long before Jim will get himself involved in something which allows the DUP to show him agreeing or working with Sinn Féin.

  • streetlegal

    There is a problem. The PSNI command – taking their lead from Stormont – have been pursuing a ‘softly softly’ approach to paramilitary activity. This has been regarded by the paramilitary leaders as appeasement and recognition of their authority within their own areas. Increasingly the PSNI are being challenged directly by the UVF and UDA brigadiers in Belfast and South Antrim. If the PSNI continue to back off, the only option will be a deployment of British troops to hold the line. We have been here before in 1969 – Belfast is right now just on the edge of another Bombay Street.

  • Nunoftheabove


    I think the latter is something of a exaggeration and I can’t see it happening any time soon however I have a feeling there’s something to your first point and it isn’t sustainable. The dithering and soft-soaping over the ‘true’ standing down of the UVF in particular must end and the blind eye being turned to the criminality can’t go on, leastways when it looks as if they’re gaining traction in terms of memership and/or active adolescent support in some areas.

    Whatever about the public flim-flam from the cops and the policing boards, a higher degree of transparency needs insisted on in relation to the higher-ups and who, what and to what extent their decisioning and direction (if not their ground-level operations per se, necessarily) is being influenced, whether by Stormont and/or by the NIO and/or by the spooks. The mainstream media aren’t by and large half-interested enough in this area either for my taste, too content to tow the consensus line.