Shankill bomb: As the fog of war lifts welcome to the hall of smoke and mirrors

In all the understandable controlled angry over destruction the Shankill bomb wrought, both on the day and the weeks after, Anthony McIntyre, then an IRA volunteer, reminds people his organisation was on a war footing at the time, and no amount of hindsight can change the circumstances under which Kelly and Begley planted that ill fated bomb:

Wax ethical and sigh at the terrible loss of life, as we might today, three quarters of we who came through the ranks of the IRA would have been queuing up to plant that bomb: the remainder, waiting to tell their handlers. The pot of gold at the end of the black rainbow – the pernicious figures behind the anti-nationalist killing machine – was a tantalising prospect. I would have been jostling for my place. Misgivings, if any, would have been confined to the suitability of the fuse and runback. And that is how it was. We were part of a guerrilla army primed for something other than social work.

As such, there was every intention to kill on the day. The killing was to be restricted to the UFF leadership believed to be above the premises, not the non-combatants going about their daily business. I suspect the volunteers tasked with entering Frizzells were under instruction to be the last to leave the premises. A dodgy fuse put an end to that. Thomas Begley is dead and Sean Kelly, as far as I know, has yet to tell us what the instructions were. In any event, transferred malice secures little in the way of mitigation.

He concludes:

As a deeply divided society continues to play its endless blame game about the past, seeking truth not for reconciliation but recrimination, the victims of our collective war making have been invited not into any meaningful tribunal or truth recovery process. Instead, their lot has been a worthless ticket that secures them admission to the theatre of smoke and mirrors where, from ringside seats, they can watch the daily dance of deceit that pirouettes around the past. Meanwhile, those behind the lot of it seem to be doing just fine, determined not to be unsettled by discomfiting truths.

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  • Pete Rock

    At least one of the dead and one of the badly injured were outside the shop when the bomb went off. Republicans can spew all the rhetoric they want but at the end of the day they committed a despicable atrocity on men, women and children doing their shopping on a busy Saturday afternoon.

    Their operation was deeply flawed and those behind the planning and sanctioning have never been brought to task and probably never will.

    With Gerry and Martin already proven as totally unreliable as witnesses in court and enquiries, what would a “truth and recovery process” achieve when the leaders of Irish Republicanism have already been found wanting in that department?

  • “Anthony McIntyre, then an IRA volunteer, reminds people his organisation was on a war footing at the time”

    I think Anthony’s own use of the term ‘guerrilla army’ is more apt though ‘paramilitary’ is more commonly used. Paramilitaries on both sides wrought havoc, destruction and death and some members of the police and army joined the affray. ‘Combatant’ has entered the narrative as a means of sanitising the actions of the paramilitaries.

  • Son of Strongbow

    This tosh from McIntyre illustrates the futility of any ‘truth’ process. Any “fog of war” only exists between his ears.

    He rails against “smoke and mirrors” after liberally shovelling his own odorous contribution. He avers that murder gang members would have been “under instruction to be the last to leave the premises”.

    When did nationalist terrorists ever ape the captain of a sinking ship and ensure all “non-combatants” (that’s men, women and children; other human beings to you and me) left before they did?

    I could list the many, many bombing attacks on town and city centres, so-called ‘commercial targets’, that targeted shops and restaurants and other places where a mass of people congregated. On every instance the first it run to save their own skins, and to hell with the innocents left in their wake, were the “soldiers” of the “guerrilla army”.

    I Ran Away (first). Time and time again.

  • paulG

    I can’t see any volunteer, being asked to get a shop full of hostile civilians out before him, through his only escape route, with a ticking bomb behind him.

    That would be an even crazier variation to their already foolhardy plan.

    Did no-one watch to see if the UDA leaders had entered the building? Did no-one think it would be pose more risk to the UDA and less risk to civilians to get the bomb up the stairs?

    Such a poor plan, one would wonder about the loyalties of the person who formulated it.

  • Reader

    The redeeming feature of dissident republicanism in my view has tended to be their frankness about what went on in comparison with their ex-comrades who remained with the provisional wing. With his single sentence “I suspect the volunteers tasked with entering Frizzells were under instruction to be the last to leave the premises.”, Anthony McIntyre has completely blown any such reputation.
    As SoS pointed out, that had never been their practice beforehand; and as paulG implied, they sure as hell weren’t going to start doing it on the Shankill Road.
    Maybe AMcI has decided it is time for him to move back into the mainstream?

  • One of my brothers was in a premises when two IRA men entered, one wielding a pistol and the other carrying a bomb. The gun was held to my brother’s head and the gunman said “Anyone move and he is dead. There were about a dozen people present. The bomb was left on the counter and the bombers ran to the door shouting “You have 20 minutes to get out”, and they were the first out. That would imply that McIntyre is talking tosh.

  • Turgon

    As Reader above has noted there has at times been a degree more honesty by Dissidents about their actions: only a degree though and certainly no more honesty about what clearly motivated many of the IRA’s murders: raw sectarian hatred. Anyone who doubts me needs a dose of whataboutery: Kingsmills, Enniskillen, the failed mass child murder of Tullyhommon complete in its case with the command wire bomb so a “volunteer” could watch blowing the children to pieces and no doubt watch any survivors shrieking for their mothers. If anyone thinks the above is hyperbole: no it is not. That was the IRA campaign.

    Turning to McIntyre. It is difficult to discuss his comments without man playing.

    I am sure he is right that most IRA “voulunteers” would have lept at the chance to plant the bomb: clealry he would. However, it is almost certainly because it was a chance to get some of themuns: pure sectarian hatred which in McIntrye’s case anyhow certainly resulted in him murdering at least one person.

    He was not part of a gurellia army: he was part of the most effective terrorist organisation in Western Europe but terrorists they were and terrorists they remain (in McIntyre’s case murderer as well).

    We should not expect honesty from the likes of McIntyre. When he talks of victims he is no more honest. The ones I have met do not want to be part of truth and reconcillation: they want to be part of the criminal process which condemns their loved ones’ murderers to gaol. It might only be for 2 years but at least it would be two yeras: that and the social opprobium which attaches to murderers is justice in this life for them. Little chance as they may have of justice they seem to prefer that (sunsrprisingly) to the cloying sanctimony of the likes of Eames Bradley and “truth and reconcillation”.

    It is, however, good that McIntyre has posted this as he has exposed his pseudo honesty for what it is: a murderers sham.

  • Turgon,
    Are you sure as to those facts. I note that Wikipedia states McIntyre was in prison for 18 years but does not state a specific crime, which seems a bit odd.
    The thing about ex-combatants is that they sometimes get adopted by people with an agenda…if they say the right things and aspects of their past can be airbrushed.
    McIntyre is a PhD. I dont like him obviously but as long as he says the right anti-SF things, some people will be prepared to overlook his credibility.
    I’m not.

  • Turgon

    FJH,
    It is hard to find on the internet but Anthony McIntyre was convicted in 1977 of the murder in 1976 of William Lenaghan. When sentence to life in gaol he laughed at the judge.

    The man he murdered was apparently a low ranking UVF member who was acting as a bouncer outside Victor’s bar off Dongela Pass when he was shot by McIntyre from a car.

  • Turgon

    Sorry without typos:

    FJH,
    It is hard to find on the internet but Anthony McIntyre was convicted in 1977 of the murder on 27th February 1976 of William Lenaghan (35). When sentenced to life in gaol he laughed at the judge.

    The man he murdered was apparently a low ranking UVF member who was acting as a bouncer outside Victor’s bar off Dongeal Pass when he was shot by McIntyre from a car. As far as I am aware mcIntrye has never denied the conviction.

  • Turgon

    Or less typos anyhow

  • Turgon,
    Thank you. I knew you were right of course and that Wikipedia was curiously less than a full picture.
    I find it odd that people like McIntyre, Brendan Hughes (deceased) and that Sean fella that Trimble liked….suddenly become reliable.

  • Granni Trixie

    Gerry Bradley’s account of being an “ops” volunteer is consistent with careless planning by the IRA,infact it would make you marvel that more people were not killed,given the lack of expertise in the IRA.

    On one hand I have a degree of sympathy with McIntyre in that he stood up to the IRA and SF to assert his right to voice a different view to theirs in working class WB? On the other I do not like his ambivalence regarding IRA violence. His educational attainment does not appear to have helped him alter his original moral view.

  • Suzanne Breen – Ex-IRA man interrogates Orde:

    In 1977, when he was 19, McIntyre was sentenced to life for the murder of UVF man Kenneth Lenaghan. He spent over three years on the Blanket protest in the H-Blocks.

    “I was guilty but dozens of people I met weren’t. They were there because the cops had beaten ‘confessions’ out of them. We sat in jail seething as we watched police attack republican funerals and kill children with plastic bullets. I thought they were bastards and fuckers.

  • Ruarai

    “The killing was to be restricted to the UFF leadership believed to be above the premises, not the non-combatants going about their daily business.”

    This preposterous line perfectly captures one of the indefensible aspect’s of the IRA’s campaign.

    Even a highly competent military machine would not have the competence to bomb a commercial premise like that fish shop to smithereens on a busy Saturday afternoon while restricting casualties to some but not others.

    And this obviously goes well beyond just the Shankill atrocity. How many bombs killed “unintended” targets? If you’re are going to bomb public places, you’re going to kill “unintended” targets.

  • Granni isnt your own comment a bit ambivalent?
    You quite like the fact that McIntyre stood up to the IRA andSF. In West Befast.
    But you dont like that he is an unrepentant killer.

    I presume you support your Alliance Party being joined at the hip with some of the people that McIntyre stood up to.

  • Alias

    Given that the bomb had an eleven second fuse (which, supposedly, detonated prematurely), there was no intention by the bombers to allow people enough time to escape the blast – least of all those on the floor above the shop. It was inevitable that many people would be killed and many more injured. At least if the bomb makers set the bomb to go off when it did without informing the bombers then they would have a plausible claim that it was ‘an accident’ – even if it meant that the two mules who delivered the bomb would also end up among its victims.

  • Rory Carr

    “How many [IRA] bombs killed unintended targets ?” asks Ruarai in light of the Shankill bombing slaughter.

    The inference is that there must have been lots and lots. But, while indeed even one would have been one too many, and that in fact there were a lot more than that, there would have been surprisingly few in relation to a ratio of IRA explosions carried out. Indeed one of the hallmarks of the campaign was the low number of civilian casualties than might have been expected in such a campaign. The Commander of Land Forces N.I., I believe, once remarked on the military excellence of the IRA bombing in Derry which destroyed the city but left the inhabitants untouched (rather in contrast to the ‘smart bomb’ that so enthralled President Reagan, that staunch defender of property, insofar as it could wipe out a city population while leaving the buildings intact).

    Indeed it is because of this policy and care generally taken by the IRA that such horrors as the fish shop bombing and the Enniskillen Memorial bombing stand out and indeed stand out so much that, for example, the orgy of Catholic slaughter by Loyalist terror groups that followed were able to be played down, indeed even justified and, worse, still celebrated today by repulsive sectarian Orangemen on the Protestant Coalition Facebook page.

    Indeed so few are such atrocities that Turgon above was even obliged to invent one of such staggering obscenity that he feared that people might think “it was hyperbole”. Despite the fact that no such incident occurred and that it was all in Turgon’s mind, he assures us, “No it is not.” Right, Turgon, whatever you say.

    I really don’t see McIntyre’s purpose in all this other than to illustrate a propensity for flowery prose on a par with Turgon and an over-eager attempt to be all so correct (who can ever imagine anyone from Belfast other than some prissy Malone Road matron desperately struggling to avoid using ‘ussuns’, come up with, “…three quarters of we…” ?

  • Granni Trixie

    I wouldn’t call it ambivalent, more like honest.

  • Aye. “Honest” thats it.

  • Turgon

    Rory,
    Right so the IRA rarely killed civilians in IRA bombs?

    Okay the following list is not exhaustive:

    9/2/1971 5 killed in IRA bomb Trillick
    2/11/1971 1 civilian and 2 RUC officers at Red Lion Bar in Belfast
    11/12/1971 4 killed in Balmoral furniture shop Shankill Road Belfast
    5/2/1972 1 killed in bomb Castle Lane Belfast
    3/3/1972 2 killed Abercorn Resturant
    20/3/1972 3 killed Donegal Street Belfast
    26/5/1972 1 killed Oxford Street Belfast

    I could Rory go on and on. Alternatively I will call you on the lie you told. The IRA frequently killed civilians in bomb explosions. Enniskillen, Bloody Friday, Coleraine, LaMon. The list is only not endless because there are episodes one after another sometimes infamous others forgotten. Each involved the IRA murdering civilians with bombs. Those were people even by the IRA’s warped standards who were innocent and who were murdered.

  • Alias

    Rory’s apologetics for his favourite murder gangs bombing activities are the same as The Great Leader’s apologetics for his brother’s kiddie-fiddling activities: “ah, shure.. he only done it the once.”

  • Alias

    Incidentally, what was unusual about the Shankill bomb was its alleged targets: leaders of an opposing murder gang. The murder gangs had a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ where they would not target each other gang’s leaders. On the one occasion this was broken, the leader of the UDA, John McMichael, was killed in response for that gang’s attack on the leader of the opposing PIRA gang.

  • Turgon

    As can be seen above the IRA rountinely murdered civilians in bombs (as well as via other means). I could have spent an hour or more putting dates, places and numbers of people innocent even by the IRA’s standards whom they murdered.

    The problem with the likes of Rory is that there is a constant attempt to rewrite the facts of the Troubles and alledge that the IRA did not do things like for example routinely murder civilians in bombs. Rory is only one example of this dishonest revisionism. Hence, every time these lies are repeated it is necessary to demonstrate that they are indeed lies.

  • Son of Strongbow

    Of course some nationalists will continue with their rewriting of history project. No matter how ludicrous and offensive it gets.

    Thus we have the bhoys (who could have killed even more ye know – I doff my cap: thank’ee kind sirs) putting themselves in harm’s way to save the innocents, even themuns let us not forget.

    Whereas themuns indulged in an “orgy of Catholic slaughter”.

    So we are presented with a hierarchy of terrorists. The plucky young croppie ever ‘regretful’ of the death he dealt out as opposed to the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal Prod revelling in the kill.

    Here’s a belated news flash for those without a moral compass and lost in the swirls of green Celtic mist: they were all scumbags.

  • Jack2

    MisterJoe
    ““You have 20 minutes to get out”, and they were the first out.”

    I had a similar experience, terrorists leave the bomb and are the first to go. Will never forget seeing them run away, their blue jeans and dirty trainers seemed to me like a uniform.

    Complete tosh that the bomb planters may have been the last out. Complete and utter lies!

  • iluvni

    I wonder if Sean Kelly sometimes reflects upon that 11 second fuse, and how his own life meant as little to his IRA boss as the lives of the innocent people he murdered meant to him.
    I hope he is tormented.

  • Carrickmoreman

    -“On the one occasion this was broken, the leader of the UDA, John McMichael, was killed in response for that gang’s attack on the leader of the opposing PIRA gang.”

    What about the attack on Adams? Does he not count b/c he “wasn’t in the IRA”?

    -A 20 minute warning to those inside is quite a bit of time to finish a pint if it’s a pub.

    -Turgon:VF

  • Carrickmoreman

    -“On the one occasion this was broken, the leader of the UDA, John McMichael, was killed in response for that gang’s attack on the leader of the opposing PIRA gang.”

    What about the attack on Adams? Does he not count b/c he “wasn’t in the IRA”?

    -A 20 minute warning to those inside is quite a bit of time to finish a pint if it’s a pub.

    -Interesting to see how easily Turgon writes off the “low ranking UVF member” McIntyre was convicted of killing. a “low ranking PIRA member” is who took down the fish shop.

  • SDLP supporter

    I so loathe, detest and despise the apologists for violence, of whatever ilk, who infest this site, in particular this thread:

    “…Fall to thy prayers.
    How ill white hairs becomes a fool and jester!”

    Henry IV, Part 2, act 5, sc. 5, l. 47-8.

    As SoS says “they were all scumbags”,

  • redstar2011

    Sdlp supporter- including those in uniform your party told the Nationalist population to support and to inform to????

  • ThomasPaine

    SDLP supporter – is violence ever justified in your opinion?

  • Alias

    You can almost picture them stopping to carry some old dear’s shopping bags to the bus stop in-between setting a world record for the fastest emergency evacuation and improvised cordon…

    In Anthony McIntrye’s narrative, the ‘brave volunteer’ is always betrayed by a quisling leadership that simply uses it to promote its own ends rather than the ends that the volunteer seeks to promote.

    While he is certainly one of the best bloggers on his subject, his ‘concern’ is always for the victimiser as victim. His regret for a squalid sectarian murder campaign that achieved the exact opposite of its stated goals is always about the ‘suffering’ that PIRA members endured, either in prison on by betrayal by what they see as a quisling leadership.

    There is no concern expressed for the suffering they inflicted onto others during their utterly wasted – and ultimately self-betrayed – lives.

  • ThomasPaine

    Does anyone honestly doubt that there were sectarian scum in the PIRA?

    That many within the Provos would not have jumped at the chance to blow up a lot of people who lived and shopped on the Shankill Road?

    That there were many Provos more interested in general criminality than in a Republican struggle and used the cloak of the IRA to stock up on ill-gotten gains?

    No doubt the Shankill bomb was designed to take out UDA/UFF combatants but as per the vast majority of Republican operations dating back hundreds of years, the plan of attack was an absolute shambles, with the high probability (almost certainty) innocent protestants were going to be slaughtered. This in itself is shameful, never mind the actual bomb.

    People like McIntyre may never admit this – maybe he would although others like him I’m sure wouldn’t – but it’s the truth that seems so important to him. Regardless of his actions, his conclusion above is spot on.

  • Turgon

    Carrickmoreman,
    The reason why I described Lenaghan as a low ranking UVF mans is because that is what the media report of his murder stated. McIntyre was not killing some terrorist lynch pin. It was probably good luck from his point of view that he killed a UVF man. Anyone near that bar would probably have done. I very much doubt McIntyre was or is much different from yabba, dabba too any Prod will do.

    As to Lenaghan: being in the UVF deserved (and deserves) gaol usually it was about 5 years. It did not justify an arbitrary death sentence summarily carried out by a sectarian thug like McIntyre. Equally I have never supported the murder of IRA members by loyalists (on the rare occasions they did anything other than yabba dabba doo any Taig will do).

  • redstar2011

    Love all the sanctimonious and holier than thou claptrap being spewed out here

    Tell me any armed group in or out of uniform who were not associated with atrocities.

    There were no good guys inc those in uniform

  • sean treacy

    HavFitze to agree with Fitz that the only reason McIntyre is given attention by the Micks of this world is because of his anti Sinn Fein stance.Anthonys vitriol is never critically analysed or the hypocracy exposed.He railed against the peace process from day one yet when his insane Boston Tapes project hit the rocks,he claimed that the release of the tapes would damage the peace process! He ranted about “big house republicanism”while at the same time being employed as Tom Mcfeelys batman.However that was ok as long as he made himself available to further the agenda of oReilly, Obrien and Fielty

  • “Does anyone honestly doubt that there were sectarian scum in the PIRA”?
    In reply, was there ever one loyalist paramilitary who was not sectarian scum. hatred of Catholic’s was all that was required and given what we have seen recently is alive and well were a home has always been found for that type of person in OO halls and band halls in the Shankill.
    Butcher’s of children, women young and old ” any taig will do” no debate as to what exactly their intentions were. Putting a gun to an 8 year olds head and firing as in the attack on the Devinish Arms and the scumbag who done that has a mural of himself adorning a wall on the Shankill. lets also acknowledge as fact that the UVF and UDA at the time of the Shankill bomb were allowed to carry on their attacks on innocent catholics unhindered and were openly bragging on the tv and radio about their murderous attacks, maybe special branch was too busy and didn’t know what they were up to, as they hadn’t time to watch tv.

  • Turgon

    markeets12,
    Lots of unionists would certainly agree with you. The loyalist terrorists were undoubtedly sectarian murderers: butchers of children, women, young and old.

    Exactly the same is true of the IRA. They murdered plenty of men women and children by bullet and bomb. Hatred of “Brits” was the only qualification which seemed necessary. The sectarianism was absolutely no different: it just described in slightly different terms the dehumanising of their perceived enemies helping to “justify” their indiscriminate acts of murder.

  • Carrickmoreman,

    20 minutes: Given the extent of the IRA’s fuse making abilities, would you have stuck around to finish your pint?

  • redstar2011

    Turgon do you reckon lots of unionists also agree on the murderous systematic assistance unionist killer gangs were given by the crown forces

  • Turgon,
    the bomb in the Shankill should never have happened and God help all those families who have to pull themselves through life after what happened.
    hypocrisy is rife in this sad wee place no more to be said

  • SK

    “It was probably good luck from his point of view that he killed a UVF man. Anyone near that bar would probably have done.”

    Yes I’m sure it was just a massive coincidence.

    Tell us Turgon, as a card carrying supporter of TUV, how do you feel about you dear leader buddying up with PUP boss/UVF terrorist/Sectarian double murderer Billy Hutchinson on a regular basis? It’s obvious that you abhor terrorists of all hues, but what of the unionist politicians who bask in their reflective glory?

  • ThomasPaine

    Of course markeets12, of course. I have absolutely no doubt that if it was at all important (it’s not) and/or would help in any way (it wouldn’t) to quantify levels of sheer sectarian hatred in Republican paramilitaries vs Loyalist paramilitaries, then the LVF/UVF/UDA/UFF win hands down.

    The IRA’s goal was to make Northern Ireland too expensive for the British government to justify it’s continuation within the UK, so they blew up businesses and cities across NI and murdered who they deemed legitimate targets, like security forces. Innocent protestants were intentionally killed rarely, but it did happen. Many more were killed unintentionally.

    The LVF/UVF/UDA/UFF wanted the IRA to stop its campaign so murdered innocent Catholics all of the time in order to achieve this.

    But just because one side targeted more innocent civilians than the other, does that make one side somehow better?

    All this though is whataboutery. This thread is talking about an IRA man’s take on among other things the Shankill Bomb.

  • aquifer

    “The murder gangs had a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ where they would not target each other gang’s leaders.”

    So the little people are the ones who end up face up under a sheet in black binbags or being hosed off the street.

    Why am I not surprised.

    The victims’ lot “a worthless ticket that secures them admission to the theatre of smoke and mirrors”

    Thanks Antony I think those words are going to stick.

    Aren’t you ever sorry you got involved in the Provo political pyramid selling scheme?

  • Alias

    Courtesy of Ed Moloney:

    “The Adams’ shooting had an interesting sequel. The late Tommy Little, who some years later succeeded Andy Tyrie as Supreme Commander of the UDA, told me that later on the day of the Adams’ shooting an angry Joe Haughey rang the UDA’s headquarters on the Newtownards Road demanding to know what had happened to ‘the top men’s agreement’. Haughey was an IRA leader from the Unity Flats area, incidentally, who was later charged with, but acquitted of killing Mary Travers, the daughter of Belfast magistrate Tom Travers a few weeks after the attempt on Adams’ life. So why was an IRA commander making angry phone calls to the guys who had just tried to kill his boss? How come he even had their number?

    Tommy made some inquiries and discovered that ‘the top men’s agreement’ was just that, a deal between the leaders of the IRA, UDA and UVF that while their respective ‘grunts’ were fair game, none of their leaders would ever be touched. It apparently had been struck sometime in the mid-1970‘s when Belfast’s sectarian slaughter was at its height. Such were the ethical rules of Northern Ireland’s dirty little war: kill the other ranks whenever and wherever you can, but we officer-types are off-bounds! Anyway the Adams’ assassination effort marked the end of the ‘top men’s agreement’, although it is remarkable how many of the ‘top men’ nonetheless came through it all with nary a scrape.”

  • DC

    In Anthony McIntrye’s narrative, the ‘brave volunteer’ is always betrayed by a quisling leadership that simply uses it to promote its own ends rather than the ends that the volunteer seeks to promote.

    I dunno maybe there is something in that…Gerry Adams couldn’t the republic of Ireland to come to him, so he has gone to it.

  • The intended target at Fizzle’s Fish Shop–the UDA/UFF leadership– was a legitimate target and justified taking risks of some civilian casualties. But the incompetent method in which the IRA carried out the attack demonstrates their lack of concern about minimizing casualties. An 11-second fuse is inexcusable. What would have made more sense is much longer fuse, a quick evacuation of the shop, and posting someone to shoot anyone emerging from the room upstairs where the leadership was supposed to meet.

    “I think Anthony’s own use of the term ‘guerrilla army’ is more apt though ‘paramilitary’ is more commonly used. Paramilitaries on both sides wrought havoc, destruction and death and some members of the police and army joined the affray. ‘Combatant’ has entered the narrative as a means of sanitising the actions of the paramilitaries.”

    Outside of NI the term paramilitary refers to a force or members of such a force who are equipped with small arms and have undergone some military training but are not part of the regular military structure of the state such as police SWAT teams and anti-terrorism units, village protection forces, and other specialized forces. Guerrilla army is not an appropriate term for either the republicans or loyalists because they made no real effort to reproduce themselves at an exponential rate so that they could eventually take on the state forces that had been weakened through attrition. The IRA also did not restrict their attacks to the security forces but also targeted civilians on a regular basis. No one seriously argues that the loyalists forces were other than sectarian terrorists.

  • Harry Flashman

    I’ll skip right over Rory’s apologia for the sectarian element of the Provos, for an oul’ lefty he sure has a blindspot when it comes to the troglodytes of the Boys of the Old Brigade. I recall his heart rending piece on the grief and angst suffered by the murderers of Kingsmills at the painful necessity of their slaughter of unarmed civilians, I must have missed his similar piece on the Parachute Regiment.

    But what is perhaps the most uncomfortable aspect of the Shankill bombing, and an aspect of the peace process that is, for understandable reasons, never fully examined is that they both came about in large part due to the fact that the Provos were demonstrably losing the “war” and worse yet the unspeakable huns were beating them.

    I recall watching the release of that ghoul Johnny Adair from prison, surrounded as he was by his ghastly entourage of tracksuit wearing, gold-medallioned, greasy haired acolytes, hallooing and yelling like they’d won some football tournament.

    I mentioned in passing the contrast some time earlier of the release of Brian Magee, the Brighton bomber, who left prison looking like a polytechnic lecturer popping out for a copy of the Guardian. A colleague pointed out that for all his great ingenuity Magee had less impact on the Troubles and the subsequent peace process than the bullet headed, beer-bellied Adair.

    A truly repulsive and unpalatable thought.

    By 1993 the RUC were rolling up the Provos’ financial and logistics infrastructure, the SAS had wiped out (with a little assistance from certain elements in West Belfast) the toughest and most effective units in East Tyrone, the British Army dwelt happily and securely in their watch towers examining every move the Provos made. Worst of all the Loyalists were outgunning them. From being the toughest hombres in the block the Provos were now locking themselves up behind steel shutters in their bedrooms at night.

    Frizzels was the Provos’ last desperate throw of the dice, they didn’t give a fiddler’s fuck if they killed a load of old (and young) Orangies buying fish so long as they could hit their target.

    They missed, and within a year they had thrown the towel in.

  • latcheeco

    Flash,
    Alternatively one might look back on that time as a period when, despite HMG trying to close them down for a quarter century, said steel shuttered hombres were nevertheless busier than ever in the city of Westminster, were seemingly able themselves to close down Heathrow runways at will, could drop in on the pm at the office, and Mr. Barrett and some reconditioned boiler tanks were causing no end of concern and reconstruction all along the frontier and the only card her Majesty’s government could come up with in reply was to arm and employ certain chain bedecked loyal subjects to randomly slaughter other innocent subjects, or where possible have them murder democratically elected ones .

  • Harry Flashman

    Yeah sure latcheeco, if that’s what helps you get through the night.

    The Downing Street mortar attack occurred a couple of years earlier and like the Haethrow attacks were just spectaculars designed for the optics rather than any really strategic attempts to actually win a war.

    The bombs in the City were certainly effective but they were not being made by the boys in Belfast but rather by the lads in Armagh and they sure as hell weren’t running the Provos were they?

    Otherwise there’d have been no peace process. Anyway it would only have been a matter of time for that particular operation to have been busted, just like the sniper. Seriously dude, how many did the sniper get, six, eight cops and soldiers over a period of what, four years? the Brits would lose that in an afternoon in Basra for flip’s sake, and not give it a minute’s thought.

    Face it, the Provos were on the run, their best men had been handed on a plate to the SAS by the men of West Belfast, they couldn’t sleep safely in their beds and all that they faced was another quarter of a century of pointless, futile, violent gestures and more of their colleagues, friends and family dead or in jail.

    They packed it in and went for the best deal available (the same deal available a quarter of a century before).

    But listen, keep telling yourself the Provos were winning by the early 1990s I understand the need for self-justification but I have to tell you my friend no one else is buying it.

  • babyface finlayson

    tmitch57
    “The intended target at Fizzle’s Fish Shop–the UDA/UFF leadership– was a legitimate target and justified taking risks of some civilian casualties.”
    I assume you mean it was justified in the minds of those who planned it.That can hardly be your own view?

  • “I assume you mean it was justified in the minds of those who planned it.That can hardly be your own view?”

    @babyface,

    It was legitimate both in terms of republican ideology and in terms of the prevailing rules of the terrorist war between the loyalists and the republicans. I don’t think that the republican war was justified, but I believe that given the war the “military” leadership of the other side is a legitimate target.

  • latcheeco

    Flash,
    No need to get so animated, it makes for a poor response, and only betrays your own neurosis and sense of inferiority as a Derryman.The point I was making was that your suggestion that the Shankill Bomb was the last throw of the dice was arrant nonsense when the same organization could otherwise be said to have been more capable than ever during that period. I think first class first division was how one of their Sandhurst educated opponents in South Armagh descibed them at the time. The Shankill bomb was in that context an aberration and more of throw back to the mid seventies. Your analysis is usually more savvy than that. As for “self justification”- you can go ahead and explain that any time you’re ready.

  • paulG

    “Kingsmills, Enniskillen, the failed mass child murder of Tullyhommon complete in its case with the command wire bomb so a “volunteer” could watch blowing the children to pieces and no doubt watch any survivors shrieking for their mothers. If anyone thinks the above is hyperbole: no it is not. That was the IRA campaign.”

    Turgon,

    To be fair, the retalliatory sectarian mass murder at Kingsmill was defined by the way certain members of the RUC and UDR in Armagh, wanted the war to be fought, rather than the IRA.

    The unit who carried out the Eniskillen bomb were soon forcibly disarmed and disbanded, signalling that such civilian casualties were not acceptable to the IRA leadership in the 80’s and 90’s.

    As for Tullyhommon, I don’t buy that interpretation at all. Nobody in their right mind, not even that unit, would go to the effort of planting a 200 lb landmine (the kind of size used against armoured vehicles) to blow up grouped and unprotected schoolchildren and risk being caught by having to be so close by using a command wire. It just doesn’t add up at all. Obviously intended for security forces prior to the event. I’m surprised people still believe that one.

  • gendjinn

    The Shankill fish shop bombing was inexcusable. There was no way it wasn’t going to kill civilians and almost certainly a lot of civilians. Even if they had wiped out the entire UFF leadership the cost in innocent life would have been unacceptable.

  • Harry Flashman

    Funny you should mention Derry latch because if any unit showed the utter collapse of effective strength, capability, morale and man-power in the Provos by the early 90s it was surely the once-mighty Derry unit which was now completely infiltrated and manipulated by British intelligence.

    So what does that leave you?

    East Tyrone, another once formidable unit, a true guerrilla army able to take the war to the Brits, wiped out completely due to the machinations of West Belfast.

    West Belfast, living in terror of the huns, lashing out in mindless sectarian reprisals, defeatist and wanting to get on with the peace process and also, like Derry, utterly compromised by British intelligence.

    South Armagh, the last redoubt, able to make massive bombs every couple of years to get into the City of London but already that was becoming a one-trick pony with the elaborate security apparatus being implemented in London. Surrounded on all sides by watchtowers with sophisticated electronic surveillance watching their activities, and checkpoints that could only be taken out using proxy suicide bombers a tactic that even the Provos hadn’t the stomach for. Meanwhile their fuel smuggling operations were being rolled up on both sides of the border.

    The rest of Northern Ireland barely had contact with the IRA from one year to the next.

    No, the idea that the capabilities of the IRA, who only twenty years earlier looked like they were running the British ragged, was at its height in the 1990s is sheer unadulterated balderdash, sure they had tons of rusting Libyan weaponry but nobody wanted to use it.

    From the very top down the organisation was in full retreat and had no option but to go for an honourable armistice while they still had the chance.

    Truth hurts, I know, but facts are facts.

  • Harry Flashman

    Paul, you may be correct that the IRA didn’t specifically wake up with the idea of massacring the Boy Scouts and the Girls’ Brigade in Tullyhommon, in exactly the same way that they probably didn’t “intend” to murder a student nurse, a headmaster and a bunch of pensioners in Enniskillen.

    The fact remains however, as is shown by Enniskillen, those are the sort of people you kill when you bomb Remembrance Sunday commemorations.

    There were no armoured vehicles at the tiny ceremony in Tullyhommon, the Provos have never claimed there were (I believe they claim three soldiers were standing nearby when they attempted to detonate the bomb). The two bombs were aimed at the respective celebrations, the fact that horrific civilian casualties were caused and would have been even greater if Tullyhommon had gone off are quite simply undeniable.

    You can’t look at Enniskillen and then look at Tullyhommon, prepared for precisely the same time by precisely the same unit (a unit with a particularly nasty sectarian streak to it), and then say that somehow the two cases are different.

  • Charles_Gould

    There are intentions that one states, but then there are the repeated outcomes of the actions one repeatedly chooses. These outcomes were that ordinary people died inexcusably.

    The IRA campaign was morally wrong.

  • paulG

    Harry,

    I agree that both bombs were planted by the same unit and that they had a nasty sectarian streak (the reason why they were disbanded).

    But I don’t accept Turgon’s claim that it was a deliberate attempt to kill children or that it was typical of IRA operations or even tolerated by them and republicans in general.

    Fortunately, we’ll never know quite how low that unit were prepared to go, and really, it should have been clear after Enniskillen, that they should have been disbanded immediately.

  • paulG

    Charles,

    The state’s forces killed Civil rights marchers at the start of the Troubles, which were also against their stated intentions, also inexcusable, also morally wrong.

    The State also declined to wind up it’s campaign of oppression.

    Sometimes you have to fight for your freedoms. How you then conduct that fight is another matter.

  • Charles_Gould

    Yes state killing civil rights marchers morally wrong, still IRA campaign morally wrong. Strategically stupid too.

  • fordprefect

    Charles, yes, and it was/is also morally wrong for the SDLP to call on people to tout on Republicans to the RUC and British army, so that they could set them up and kill them, you know just like SF is also doing now. I was going to say maybe SF had more practice at it, but the SDLP were at it for ages too. Seamus Mallon could have said: “it’s touting for slow learners”.

  • latcheeco

    Flash,
    Of course the one glaring problem with your analysis is that if it was true and the game was up, the British would hardly have bothered negotiating, would they? You still haven’t explained “self-justification.”

  • Harry Flashman

    Sorry, self-justification was the wrong term, I shouldn’t have used it, maybe I meant post-rationalisation.

    The Brits are past masters at getting themselves out of sticky situations and Northern Ireland was an ongoing pain in the ass, nothing more, just something that the local colonial administrator had to tidy up.

    Sensing the desire (sensing it? The Provos were virtually trumpeting it) to exit the conflict with a modicum of “face” what would you have expected the Brits to do? Call in air-strikes on Ardoyne? Of course the Brits jumped at the chance to wind up this tedious conflict and they offered precisely the same deal as they had in 1974 with a release of prisoners (at great saving to the British exchequer) as a sweetener.

    Bingo, they got the deal.

    Tough negotiations eh? All those tons of rusty Kalashnikovs and seeping Semtex buried under the Bog of Allen that nobody in the Provos actually wanted to touch with a twenty-foot pole were such an ace up Sinn Fein’s sleeve weren’t they?

  • fordprefect

    Latcheeco, I think Harry Flashman is nearly on the money there. I remember (as a Republican) when I stood watching all those people driving about beeping horns, cheering and waving tricolours, wondering, what did we get out of this? Gerry handed bunches of flowers outside Connolly House, surely Republicanism had won! Did it F***! People were conned into thinking that Republicans had got a great deal from calling a ceasefire, you know, we fought each other to a standstill etc. The actual truth was, as Gerry said himself (at his brothers trial) that the “peace process” was going on in 1987. I would aver that Adams and co. were running down what they called “the cutting edge” of the movement even before 1987. I know some people will say that if Adams and co. had tried a move like a ceasefire sooner there would be splits and feuds and so on, but what do you think happened in 1986 and 1997? What really sticks in my craw is that the same people (Adams and McGuinness and co. were telling people at rallies that the war would never stop until the Brits gave a declaration of intent to withdraw from Ireland, absolute bollocks, as we see now, and then so many IRA vol’s, cops, brits and civilians needlessly dying when the people in charge knew what was going to happen. Trying to dress it up other than a defeat for Republicanism (by Adams and co’s own hand) doesn’t wash with an awful lot of Republicans and it stinks to high Heaven!

  • latcheeco

    Flash,
    Thanks for the reply, you can be quite gracious when you calm down. I think no matter how nonchalant they pretended to be about it, it was more than a pain in the ass to them if they were having to turn the city into a fortress while competing with other global financial centers for business,or close down the world’s busiest airport on successive nights because some chaps embedded mortars all around it’s hugely indefensible perimeter . I think unionist leaders understood this best when reading the Brits and Republicans were less appreciative of it or downplayed it because it ran against their strategic vision. It was their most effective weapon, not running about the Creggan in an anorak with an AR or firebombing Woolworths and certainly not coming up with hair-brained schemes that risked the wholesale slaughter of decent innocent people-men women and even children- going about their lives. Whether they made the best of their hand in negotiations when they did occur is another question, but they had the gear and recruits to have continued indefinitely and that ran the risk for the Brits of the equilibrium eventually changing internally and those ambitious for SF losing ascendancy. It’s more arguable that without a ceasefire the strategy for political growth was ultimately doomed and the Brits could eventually foresee a more militant leadership who because their knowhow had developed and they were relatively tooled up could perhaps turn a severe a pain the ass into full blown hemorrhoids. The ebb and flow of the six counties was marginalized by the Baltic Exchange. All special branch FRU ,the M&M’s and their loyalist triggermen were doing was driving up recruitment for the militant arm hence Mull of Kintyre.

  • latcheeco

    Fordprefect
    Maybe maybe not but its not as if a lot of people promoting themselves by crying foul now didn’t shun, relegate and ignore much earlier Jeremiah’s.
    But Childe Harold’s suggestion that the Shankill bomb was the last throw the dice doesn’t hold up. At the time they were in a position in terms of weapons and capabilities that they could only dream about a decade before. His assertion that security service and special branch directed assassination was quashing the chucks was surprising because being a native, he should have known the historical mindset better.It might be temporarily effective but eventually they were going to come back-usually worse/better. The smarter Brits could see this and the demographics and gave the SF equal billing in the province with their own loyal citizens as a way out. SF were not going to grow without an end to the war so any deal suited them-didn’t matter as long as it was presentable at the time and gave them space to grow. For the moment they were in the ascendant, the only thing that could upset the applecart were those who had learned nothing from Irish history and thought Republicanism could be quashed by force even though they had spent twenty-five years failing against the most prolonged campaign in two centuries

  • fordprefect

    Latcheecho
    First of all, who is Childe Harold? I agree with you that the IRA were far from finished, as you said they had the weaponry etc. And, as you said, if the Brits thought that targeting Republicans (by the Branch and MI5) was going to dull or stop Republican resolve, they were sadly mistaken. That old adage: those who don’t learn from history are damned to repeat it, comes to mind when I think of Gerry and co. I won’t dwell on that, let history judge them. Whatever the F*** they negotiated, it didn’t do anything for ex-prisoners (especially lifers), nor OTR’s as was witnessed in the case of John Downey. My personal take on it now, is that the Brits have them by the balls and they can do whatever they like (the Brits) and there won’t be any comeback, except, maybe a stiff letter to the “secretary of state”, but that’s about it. What makes me laugh now is, the way SF try to beat their way to the top of the condemnation league. Did Adams and co. really think that people that they had egged on for decades to “keep up the fight” were going to go away (you know) like shrinking violets? As I said earlier, it’s the waste of life that’s sickening, no matter from where, when these bastards knew that the war, conflict, or whatever anyone wants to call it was over, bar the shouting.

  • Harry Flashman

    “First of all, who is Childe Harold?”

    I think he’s referring to me.

    Right, while we’re in this conciliatory mood let me concede that perhaps Northern Ireland wasn’t simply a pain in the ass but compared to Suez, Korea, the Falklands, and Gulf Wars I and II, Kosovo and Afghanistan, you’ll have to admit by the 1990s the Brits weren’t on the rack militarily. If the North presented anything to the Brits it was a usual live-fire training ground for the NCOs and junior officers and a handy place for the spooks to try out all their latest tricks.

    I accept the Provos could have gone on, they had the capability and the manpower but in their heart of hearts they knew they were on a hiding to nothing, plugging a squaddie every eight months or a spectacular in Britain every two years was never going to persuade the Brits to leave. They were becoming as irrelevant as ETA or the Corsican nationalists, a quaint local terror group who every so often appeared for a brief while on the national agenda.

    I should give the Provos more credit for calling it off than I did, achieving peace with honour, when you know that to go on fighting is pointless, is no mean feat.

  • Charles_Gould

    Gerry Adams who ran the IRA didn’t want the humilation of calling a ceasefire under MrsT so he waited until she went. Then in 1990 he waited to see if he could get a Labour PM, but when Major won he thought it was time. So he called it off then.

  • fordprefect

    Harry, yes, but it was the lying that Adams and co. indulged in that really angered/angers people. Remember, it was Adams and co. who ran the IRA into the ground, not the Brits.

    Charles, agreed.

  • Harry Flashman

    Its hard to say fordprefect what was cause and what was effect. A republican friend of mine said the war was lost at Motorman, by abandoning the No Go areas and simply letting the Brits roll in with their tanks to restore British rule without so much as firing a shot the Provos admitted they weren’t serious in fighting a war. Even if they were crushed it would have been better than simply walking away, the Long War strategy was merely window dressing to cover up that fact.

    Would the die-hards’ call for a Tet Offensive have been successful? Again from a military perspective probably not (although a bunch of illiterate goat herders in Helmland have successfully tied down a substantial proportion of the British frontline military for ten years now) but morally there’s no escaping the logic that if you’re going to fight a war you actually have to fight it to win.

    Wars of attrition in which the smaller side is not actually having much impact on the enemy are rather pointless.

    Anyway truth is I don’t know, Adams did know what the IRA was capable of and like Collins before him decided that a compromise peace was much better than an all-out war he could not win, who’s to say he was wrong? From a tactical rather than principled point of view I mean.

  • fordprefect

    Harry
    Re: Motorman, it would have been insanity for IRA units to stand their ground, after all they were fighting a guerrilla war. What do you think morale would have been like in N/R/C areas had those units stood their ground?they no doubt would have inflicted casualties on the British, but facing superior man and firepower the units would have been wiped out.

  • Alias

    “As I said earlier, it’s the waste of life that’s sickening, no matter from where, when these bastards knew that the war, conflict, or whatever anyone wants to call it was over, bar the shouting.”

    Was it? That depends on whether you view it as a war against a murder gang or a war against republicanism. Given that republicanism was an ideology which, from the British point of view, made a competing claim to its sovereign territory and challenged its national interests on the island of Ireland, it was the ideology that needed to be defeated rather than any particular gang that advanced it. After all, you can kill the man but not the idea. Kill one man and there will always be another to take his place. Therefore you need to re-define the ideology so that it supports your claim to sovereignty and promotes your national interests. Republicanism no longer asserts a claim to sovereignty over British territory. That was downgraded from a right to a mere aspiration. It no longer challenges British national interests on the island of Ireland, seeking merely ‘parity of esteem’ with them and an ‘Ireland of equals’ where British nationalism is equal to Irish nationalism. So no claim is made to be a sovereign nation and no claim is made to a nation state. Re-defining the ideology also required the Irish government to play along in regard to its claim to British territory. It really only became possible to do that after 1985. The agents on influence within the Shinners couldn’t have defeated republicanism without those other factors being in place. Indeed, the top men in the Shinners could have been taken out any time the Intelligence Services chose leaving the sheep to wander around in circles but they had another agenda in play.

  • fordprefect

    Alias
    Your definition of a “Republican” differs from mine. Quite a lot of people (including myself) don’t see SF as Republicans, they are at best, constitutional nationalists or at worst unionists (like Alliance) with a small “u”. My socialist republicanism would tend towards Eirigi. that is a legitimate political party (that Bobby Storey disgracefully lumped in along with what he called “dissident republicans” at the last council elections).

  • Alias

    There are as many definitions of that ideology as there are people to define it but there is only one mainstream version. In Northern Ireland, the mainstream version is the re-definition given to it by the state sponsors of the Shinners, e.g. one that denies that the Irish nation has a right to national self-determination. Rights, of course, are not subject to the veto of others.

    Prior to the redefinition, for example, that veto did not exist as a core principle of republicanism. It existed in direct violation of a core principle. Now there is merely an aspiration (which isn’t even shared by a majority of so-called nationalists or republican). The aspirational goal of unity is another example of redefinition. Unity was never a goal of republicanism. That only came into play after partition. The actual goal was extension of the right to Irish national self-determination from Ireland to Northern Ireland. The redefined goal is the removal of the right to Irish national self-determination from Ireland by extending the veto to that jurisdiction as a condition of unity.

    The veto itself has been redefined: it is now a veto that is to be extended to the British nation, and not to the ‘Orange’ (which is in the process of being eradicated by the British state and replaced with ‘Britishness’). The British Irish Agreement, for example, declares that any citizen of the unified state can be “Irish, British or Both” and that the government of the unified state is to operate with “rigorous impartiality” between the two nationalisms.
    Rather obviously, any such government cannot be partial to Irish nationalism and therefore the Irish are not be self-governed and cannot operate their state in their own national interest. They are to be reduced to the status of ‘co-inhabitants’ with the British nation of the British Islands (redefined as “These Islands”).

    In all of these gangs, once infiltrated, an attempt is made to place agents of influence who purport to advance the shared interests of the gang but who are actually promoting the interests of their handlers. These agents build up capital in the gang and its followers by posing as hard-core strongmen. The compromises they are placed there to make are then seen as ‘hard-core’ demands even when, in the case of the Shinners in Northern Ireland, they are abject and blatant sell-outs of the gang’s core principles. The “historic compromise” had to be made with republicanism (as it was seen in the mainstream) and to that end the historical names “Sinn Fein” and the “IRA” were stolen by the agents of influence. In reality, they are unionists (or rather, more British than the unionists).

  • Morpheus

    Christ, the world you live in Alias. Let me guess, you are one of those people who see the GFA as ‘the end of the line’?

    The future of Northern Ireland will be decided by the people of Northern Ireland so, leaving aside an independent Northern Ireland that means that the future is now one of 2 options: a united Ireland or a Northern Ireland where Catholics are the biggest group.

    You, like so many others, seem to take solace in the fact that appetite for a UI is low at the minute but in all seriousness, would you expect any different in this economic climate and with so few facts on the table? Let’s take a longer term look at the united Ireland option for a second. The recent BT polls indicate that only 44% reject the idea outright so 56% are either for the idea within a generation or are open to persuasion – all without anyone lifting a finger to persuade anybody of anything. Imagine they did lift a finger.

    In the meantime Catholics will be the biggest group in NI – and what do Catholics not in in any great numbers? That’s right, they don’t vote DUP/UUP/TUV. If the future of NI is as part of the UK then Catholics might as well move the furniture around a bit, get comfy and make it a Northern Ireland where they are not second class citizens.

    If all this was some Machiavellian plan spanning decades devised by the intelligence services then it hasn’t worked out too well has it?

  • looneygas

    The Machiavellian plan’s aim was to rid themselves of six counties which they no longer wanted and had no use for. When the demographic worm finally turns and the people of Northern Ireland vote to leave the union, the British. government at the time will gladly pay out some sort of severance package(say 80% of the subvention), wipe their hands, and say good riddance.
    This is what really burns the arses of Loyalists, but there’s nothing they can do about it.
    Too bad. So sad.

  • Alias

    “The future of Northern Ireland will be decided by the people of Northern Ireland so, leaving aside an independent Northern Ireland that means that the future is now one of 2 options: a united Ireland or a Northern Ireland where Catholics are the biggest group.”

    That was always the case. The so-called ‘Unionist Veto’ was simply redefined as ‘The Principle of Consent’ (and elevated to the status of a principle).

    The Ireland Act 1949 states the Unionist Veto/Principle of Consent as “It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of His Majesty’s Dominions and of the United Kingdom and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be a part of His Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.”

    The only difference between that version and the GFA version is that plebiscite rather than parliament will decide it. The change was made to prevent the Catholics from changing the status via parliament if they overtook the Protestants in seat numbers.

    So all that the so-called nationalists were led to do was sign up to the Unionist Veto and to endorse partition with fully constitutionally legitimised and internationally unchallenged British sovereignty. They wouldn’t have signed up to that if the Shinners didn’t assure them (falsely) that they were doing nothing of the sort. This is an example of how agents of influence within a gang use that influence to serve the interests of their handlers while purporting to serve the interests of the gang (and its followers).

    “You, like so many others, seem to take solace in the fact that appetite for a UI is low at the minute but in all seriousness, would you expect any different in this economic climate and with so few facts on the table?”

    I don’t expect anyone to buy a pig in a poke – which is why those seeking to change the constitutional status quo (just a handful of non-Shinners) are on the losing side. Likewise, improving the status quo just not increase desire to change it: it reduces that desire. Further, making people state dependent (when the state they are dependent on is the British state) is also a means to preserve the constitutional status quo rather than to change it. That’s the losing game.

    I wouldn’t vote for unity under any circumstances but I might be persuaded towards repartition of some sort or else a quasi-federal link. I’m quite happy to keep two irascible and self-serving tribes out of my everyday political world.

    “Let’s take a longer term look at the united Ireland option for a second. The recent BT polls indicate that only 44% reject the idea outright so 56% are either for the idea within a generation or are open to persuasion – all without anyone lifting a finger to persuade anybody of anything. Imagine they did lift a finger.”

    Pig in a poke stuff…

    “In the meantime Catholics will be the biggest group in NI – and what do Catholics not in in any great numbers? That’s right, they don’t vote DUP/UUP/TUV. If the future of NI is as part of the UK then Catholics might as well move the furniture around a bit, get comfy and make it a Northern Ireland where they are not second class citizens.”

    I think that the assumption that all or most Catholics will approve unity is one that is built into the arrangement (hence removing the right of parliament to unify with the GFA) but it is a very dodgy assumption. The tribes don’t vote for each other’s parties for tribal reasons, nothing to do with where those parties stand on unity. The irony is that the Shinners and the SDLP are both unionist/British parties within the spirit of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 (and the GFA is the Government of Ireland Act 1920 for very slow learners).

    “If all this was some Machiavellian plan spanning decades devised by the intelligence services then it hasn’t worked out too well has it?”

    It has worked brilliantly. Even if unity does occur, and it has been nobbled as effectively as a kneecap victim, it can only occur on terms that will see Northern Ireland annex Ireland rather than vice versa. Parity of esteem, after all, is a post-nationalist concept for those without self-determination, so it’s just conditioning the Irish for how the British are planning their future. Beyond what is promoted by agents of influence, the rest of the intended dismantling of the Irish nation-state is constitutionally locked into the British Irish Agreement.

    Indeed, even the spin that unity would occur ‘organically’ via this demographic or that unexpected event and therefore wouldn’t require any effort to achieve was designed to neutralise such effort. Every detail is planned (right down to phrases such as ‘these islands’ rather than ‘the British isles’), and not a single iota is left to random occurrence.

  • Alias

    “If the future of NI is as part of the UK then Catholics might as well move the furniture around a bit, get comfy and make it a Northern Ireland where they are not second class citizens.”

    The problem with that – or, rather, the in-built advantage of it for British national interests – is that ‘an Ireland of equals’ and ‘parity of esteem’ etc with all this ‘both flags or none’ stuff is that it is all expected to be maintained in any unified entity. The Shinners and ilk can’t expect parity with British nationalism within Northern Ireland without extending that self-serving hogwash to any unified entity. Hence these agents of influence will be used to demand ‘an Ireland of equals’ and ‘parity of esteem’ for British nationalism and its interests in the unified entity and all of this is just about promoting British nationalism and its national interests to the whole island of Ireland.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Re: Motorman, it would have been insanity for IRA units to stand their ground, after all they were fighting a guerrilla war. What do you think morale would have been like in N/R/C areas had those units stood their ground?they no doubt would have inflicted casualties on the British, but facing superior man and firepower the units would have been wiped out.”

    Oh I agree they would have been beaten militarily, as the men of the Easter Rising were, but what would the long term effect have been?

    As I say I don’t know, the Clougher Valley Tet Offensive would also have been beaten, as was the original Tet Offensive but the whole point is that it so sickened the enemy that despite achieving a military victory they lost the will to fight.

    In 1972, colour TV pictures being beamed around the world of youngsters armed with antiquated weapons and nail bombs defending their streets and homes against British Centurian tanks for a brave summer week would surely have had more of an effect than twenty years of a background hum of an “acceptable level of violence” (interestingly a British phrase) which the British media and foreign service could easily handle in the international media.

    A guerrilla war can only have an effect if it’s getting serious media coverage and there’s a steady stream of flag-draped coffins going back to the homeland. Let’s face it, post 1972 that was never going to be the case.

    You either fight the war 100% and accept heavy casualties and all the collateral horrors that entails, civilian deaths, sectarian pogroms, massive military onslaught, hundreds killed, thousands arrested, or you do as Adams did and get peace with honour.

    Another twenty five years of the Long War was simply not an option.

  • Harry Flashman

    As an example of a desperate urban battle that was fought against impossible odds by young Republican independence fighters and which was easily won by the British, but ultimately led to victory because the world realised the Republicans meant business, I think of this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Surabaya

  • Morpheus

    Alias, I find your analysis a stretch at the very least. If how things stand is the result of a brilliantly worked plan to help Unionism then I would hate to see one that didn’t work.

    Despite your protestations about The Ireland Act of nearly 65 years ago the reality is that the people of Northern Ireland will decide the future of Northern Ireland in a referendum and the British and Irish Governments are bound to implement the outcome. If ‘Yes to reunification’ gets a single vote more than ‘No to reunification’ then (after a successful vote in RoI) it will happen so I am not sure what Unionist Veto you are talking about. Are you under the impression that if the ‘Yes to reunification’ camp are successful Unionism has some sort of veto as to whether it can go ahead or not?

    Dismissing differing views as ‘pig in poke’ is typical of unionist mentality at the minute unfortunately. Heaven forbid Unionism should address the issue – never mind lead it – by proving that a Northern Ireland within the UK is the way to go because its must easier to stick their collective heads in the sand. The fact that the majority of people in Northern Ireland refuse to dismiss the prospect of a UI even in this economic climate and without knowing the answers to key questions should be a real concern to Unionism but instead we get the usual pseudo-intellectual nonsense which dismisses any analysis which differs from their own as ‘pig in a poke’.

    For the record, I did not say that just because a person is a Catholic means they want a united Ireland for the simple fact that I don’t believe that to be the case. I mention that Catholics will be – in fact more than likely already are – the largest group because they will be able to make the changes required to make NI more homely but the bottom line is that a Northern Ireland within the UK will not the same Northern Ireland within the UK of yesteryear when Catholics knew their place and the OO had free reign to do what they want, where they want and when they want, there will be big changes.

    But let me ask you this do you think the performance of political unionism – or should I say lack of it – over the past 12 months, the refusal of the political classes to invest in Catholic areas to address social deprivation, the behavior of extremist loyalism during marching season, the denial that collusion even took place and the unwillingness of the State to prosecute those who took part in atrocities despite a mountain of evidence is likely to reinforce Catholic desire to be part of the union or do you think it is physically pushing them towards a UI?