deputy First Minister tells Oxford Union the IRA could have murdered ‘thousands’…

Though justice be thy plea, consider this-
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy

ByWilliam Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

I’m never sure why Sinn Fein wants to focus so resolutely on the past rather than, in the jargon, ‘enlarging the shadow of the future’. It’s never been as strong a card for them as they seem to imagine, since they as an organisation attached to the Provisional IRA were the most professional (and prolific) killing machine of the entire Troubles.

At 1700 killings, the IRA topped the murder league for the entirely period of the Troubles. And yet, speaking in Oxford last night, the deputy First Minister told an audience that the IRA could “have killed thousands on the streets of London and in Northern Ireland”.

Well, unless he just means rounding it up to an even 2000, that’s at the very best a moot point.

From 1987, when the IRA leadership was apparently preparing for a final ‘Tet’ like military offensive, not only did the increasing violence not happen in some places the IRA found itself on the decidedly wrong end of a major military counteroffensive from both state and officially outlawed non state forces.

Missions began misfiring. Most notably in east Tyrone, south Derry and north Armagh, where the local UVF (which had been pretty useless in targeting active Provisionals) suddenly started getting lucky with both military targets and civilians close to the local IRA hierarchy.

In the inquest of the brutal murder of 74 year old Rose Ann Mallon yesterday, there was apparently unambiguous evidence of collusion between British security forces and the local UVF. Mallon was not the only Republican civilian to be killed by the UVF at this time.

Kathleen O’Hagan was seven months pregnant when she was gunned down. Patrick Shields and his son Diarmuid (according to Moloney, Diarmuid’s girlfriend committed suicide within a month of his assassination) were all civilians and socially close to local provisionals.In the case of Shields senior, in a way that would not have been broadly known to outsiders.

This runs against the longer term pattern of the long war in which paramilitaries either found it difficult or inconvenient to to target one another. So you have to ask how such level of detail got into the hands of the UVF if not from information passed to them via the security forces from sources inside the IRA?

And at this time, before during and after the IRA had planned its big push, Ed Moloney estimates that of 83 people killed, 40 fell victim to the UVF in this mid Ulster area. The evidence is that far from doubling or tripling its kill rate, the IRA was in fact being slowly curtailed through intelligence and  collaboration with key actors inside the IRA itself.

A few years ago, Alex Evans posted this paraphrasing of a conversation he’d had with a retired British colonel from the Paras in Geneva back in 1995:

…the struggle in Northern Ireland cost the United Kingdom three thousand casualties in dead alone. Of the three thousand, about seventeen hundred were civilians….of the remaining, a thousand were British soldiers. No more than three hundred were terrorists, a ratio of three to one.

Speaking very softly, he said: And that is why we are still there.[emphasis added]

Mark Hennessey notes that McGuinness also “insisted that civilians died where the IRA made “huge mistakes” in operations that went wrong, but they had not been deliberately targeted”.

A natural cynic might also add, ‘like the Paras at Ballymurphy, or in Derry, perhaps Martin?’

In a post conflict world, mercy and compassion for the many victims of both state and anti state violence might serve us better  AND take us further than idly boasting about how much worse we all might been…

  • Charles_Gould

    Sounds like a very interesting debate at Oxford.

    He was confronted about the 1990 IRA murder of Patsy Gillespie, from Derry, who was forced by the IRA to drive a car-bomb into a British army check-point.

    According to the Irish Times report, a victim of the troubles, Mr Victor Barker, confronted M McGuinness as follows, to loud applause from the audience:

    “Patsy Gillespie’s widow is still alive today. She knows exactly what happened and who ordered the death of her husband. Everybody would have more respect if you accepted your position and started telling the truth,”


  • Charles_Gould

    Patsy Gillespie a Catholic from Derry was essentially a “human bomb” ordered by the Derry IRA – which Martin McGuinness was in charge of – to drive to his own involuntary death as the van he was driving was detonated by the IRA with him at the wheel.

    It is called “forced suicide” for obvious reasons.

  • Mick Fealty

    erm, any chance you could take the time to pull your thoughts into one post Charles? Otherwise you create the impression there’s just a one man conversation going on… 🙂

  • socaire

    Witty, Mr Fealty. Reminds one of the Single Transferable Post.

  • “I’m never sure why Sinn Fein wants to focus so resolutely on the past rather than, in the jargon, ‘enlarging the shadow of the future’.”

    Mick, this is the Oxford Union tweet:

    a few members only spaces on the door for tonight’s @AJHeadtoHead event: @M_McGuinness_SF v @mehdirhasan – ‘Terrorists or freedom fighters?’

    The spotlight was on the past, including Martin’s role in it.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mick Fealty

    I love your line “both military targets and civilians close to the local IRA hierarchy.”

    As one who had visited Rose Ann Mallon daughter at the time visited (House opposite to the one the murder took place) it is nice to know that you would have taken me to have been someone close to local IRA hierarchy. I did not know if he was in the IRA as she is the sort not to wear her “my brother is in the IRA” badge.

    Living in Tyrone is a dangerous thing as you make friends with all sorts UDR, bus driver who get his brains blown out. If you get killed on that day are you one who associates with the British forces.

  • Bubbygee

    “insisted that civilians died where the IRA made “huge mistakes” in operations that went wrong, but they had not been deliberately targeted”.

    Like Bloody Friday, Claudy, La Mon et al…..

    Is Martin trying to rewrite history or was the PIRA really so incompetent? I think the former.

  • Mick Fealty


    Dangerous indeed. And of course it wasn’t just in Tyrone.

    The Mallon ref: “[she] was related to the most senior IRA figure in Tyrone”, pg 322, Death in Tyrone, Secret History of the IRA, Ed Moloney.

  • sean treacy

    Mick,as I asked you on a previous thread: what are you on about regarding south derry.What missions misfired and what military targets were attacked by the uvf.?Your failure to respond previously would seem to indicate you don’t know what your talking about.

  • If the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army killed 1700 who killed the other 1800+?

    150 odd to the OIRA, INLA, IPLO, etc.

    But that still lives 1650 deaths? Would the responsibility for those casualties lie at the feet (or hands) of the British Occupation Forces and their allies in the British Terror Factions?

    85.4% of those killed by the British Terror Factions were civilians.

    51.5% of those killed by the British Occupation Forces were civilians.

    35% of those killed by the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army were civilians.

    So who holds the moral high ground?

    By the by, what is a “Republican civilian”? A legitimate target? Like the 85.4% and the 51.5% above?

  • aquifer

    “the IRA could have murdered thousands”

    and the Brits could then have harshly suppressed, or simply interned them, with few complaints from other nations.

    Marty seems to be saying ‘be grateful’.

    And his men with their get out of jail free cards, and him in charge of the place?

    No wonder he smiles so much.

  • Charles_Gould

    The IRA did murder thousands.

  • Mick Fealty


    This one:

    Could you be more specific?

  • Mc Slaggart


    The IRA in Tyrone was organised on a county basis? I would pay to be at the meeting when someone from East Tyrone told the IRA/brass band contest/… in Strabane what to do.

    The question one must ask in this case who do you trust wikpedia: or Ed Moloney?

    “In 1977, the IRA moved away from the larger conventional military organisational principle owing to its security vulnerability. A system of two parallel types of unit within an IRA brigade was introduced in place of the battalion structures. Firstly, the old “company” structures were used for tasks such as “policing” nationalist areas, intelligence gathering, and hiding weapons. These were essential support activities. However, the bulk of actual attacks were the responsibility of a second type of unit, the active service unit (ASU). “

  • Mick Fealty

    Not intending to be funny (ha ha, or peculiar), but what is ‘a Republican community’ ASF?

    I’ve seen arguments over numbers go on since I first started engaging in online conversations, and I still don’t see how it is possible can bring about unification of the people by endlessly arguing about who was more wrong than whom.

    I, like McS, knew good people on both sides (some I went to school with and who had been friends, found themselves on entirely different ends of the IRA’s ‘armed campaign’).

    There is often much to admire in the character of a soldier despite the base things they feel they have to do for a larger cause.

    But I think that appeal to Shylock not to insist on his pound of flesh is somehow appropriate in the midst of the current unravelling (such as it is).

  • JoeBryce

    20 years on from the end of The Armed Struggle, I think it’s possible to say that it failed in its own terms for being counterproductive. There was scope for political change in the late 60’s and The Armed Struggle stifled it. Molyneaux spoke truly when he described the ceasefire as the worst day for the Union since the foundation of the state. Compare the distance travelled by exclusively peaceful nationalism in Scotland with the still bitterly divided populace of NI. But it’s also necessary, I have come to think, to acknowledge that political violence is not the Original Sin only of Irish republicanism. Partition happened in the first place only because of the awful threat of armed bloody rebellion by unionism in the years before the Great War. It’s not helpful, because it is not true, to see republicanism as being uniquely guilty of bringing murderous cruelty into politics. The further The Armed Struggle recedes into history, the greater the prospect of consensual political change. I have the impression the DFM sees that, and I am inclined to give him credit for it.

  • sean treacy

    Mick,instead of answering my question,you referred me to some obscure link which just directed me back into this thread.Was this a mistake or was it a deliberate response to your being caught out bullshitting?

  • Technically Mr McGuinness is right.
    The IRA COULD have killed a lot more civilians in massive explosions…a church for example, a state school or an Orange March.
    Arguably these fictional mass killings would have been a response to mass killings or could have provoked mass killings.
    And there are examples of mass killings….Kingsmills, Ballymurphy massacre, Loughinisland…which can be laid at the door of the three guilty parties to our Troubles.
    I suppose we can congratulate ourselves on not being Rwanda or Bosnia but McGuinness can be taken at face value…technically correct and factual….or merely crass.

    Either way a nightmare for Sinn Feins Press Office …on the back foot…texting journalists to say ” come off it…you know what he meant”
    but thats surely linked to the fact that the roll of luck Sinn Fein has been on since 1998…in some cases aided and abetted by journalists too anxious to please SF and NIO…..that luck shows signs of running out.

    SF might think that its unfair for its enemies and rivals to put a particular spin on what McGuinness said….but its an open goal for SDLP.
    But theres a bigger narrative surely.
    The Media are not exactly playing ball….theres too much bullshit around SF at the moment and a fair percentage of it in The Mayors Parlour.
    There are open goals there.
    If the Media is serious about getting SF, they should not be distinguishing between “nice SF” and “not so nice SF”.

    And it does raise the bigger question of how long this farce can go on. And if the alternative to the farce is unpalatable.

  • Dixie Elliott

    When a charge of IRA membership between August 1973 and February 1976 was dropped against McGuinness he said…. “his release came as a complete surprise.”

    It certainly was a surprise given that the BBC had video evidence from 1972 of McGuinness speaking on behalf of the IRA…. See tape 02:00 mins in.

    McGuinness: “…But as far as the Provisional IRA is concerned in Derry and in Dublin the fight will go on until the four demands are met…by the British Government.”

    Interviewer: “So you’re going to continue the campaign?”

    McGuinness: “We will certainly yes…”

    People were interned in 1972 for less.

  • Barney

    There is a problem with all troubles porn publications, there is no verification of anything published. The golden and perhaps only opportunity to present information that could be tested was during the Smithwick tribunal and the star witness refused to testify.

  • @Mick,

    It is a slippery slope from “Republican community” to “Republican civilian” to “legitimate target”. That was the tacit argument of the British Occupation Forces and the actual argument of the allied British Terror Factions who viewed the families, friends and neighbours of IRA Volunteers as combatants.

    We wouldn’t need to argue about who is in the wrong if it were not for those who claim that there was in fact only one side in the wrong. A trap I may say that you fall into in the second paragraph of your own post above. No one is denying the moral culpability of the Irish Republican Army for its actions 1969-2005. If those who wish to speak on its behalf choose to defend or explain those actions how is that any different from what is being done by other contributors to the conflict?

    Your appeal is a fair one if all put aside their butcher knives instead of carving up history as they see fit. History is written by the victors and at the moment all are scurrying for the pen – or the keyboard.

    Perhaps the bigger question to ask is why? And why now?

  • Mick Fealty
  • Charles_Gould


    An interesting and astute post.

  • Alias

    Moloney is, of course, correct: the Shinners didn’t like it up ’em (so to speak). The tactical targeting of Shinners and sympathizers worked wonders in generating support among that ilk for the ‘peace process.’ The Shinner rank-and-file preferred to kill for their cause rather than to die for it, whereas the hierarchy were state protected.

    Which begs the question, with all of the alleged collusion going on, why didn’t the state target them earlier? There were only a dozen or so capable people that would have to be taken out in order for the gang to be rendered useless. Probably because its agents of influence within the Shinners needed that time to build up ‘ownership’ of republicanism and to strip it of all its core values and principles as they had existed in opposition to British sovereignty and its national interests. When they had defeated the ideology of republicanism from within, it was time to also defeat the murder gang from within (and, as Moloney alludes to, with a more than a little targeted help from without).

  • Barney

    Of course your post is just a reflection of a fully referenced and peer reviewed publication you are undoubtedly going to link to.

  • Alias
  • Barney

    Are you unable to formulate an argument?

  • Gopher

    Conflict usually boils down to will and logistics despite what one might read about military geniuses. Unfortunately an increase in activity brings an increase in losses, fine if your the Red Army or a country in South East Asia, not so clever if you have marginal support.

    The trouble with finite manpower as Brian Horrocks describes is the enthusiastic or fanatical in our case get killed, wounded and captured first leaving the less motivated. If as seems to be the case a relatively accurate picture of your organization is known and informers are in the hierarchy the demise of the enthusiasts can be readily engineered.

    I do not doubt the IRA’s ability to have increased the death toll exponentially, I would however very much doubt their capacity to sustain it.

  • Mick,

    The line “We could have killed thousands…” can be understood in two very different ways: first, that we were capable of it but did not; and second, that we possibly did kill thousands. I didn’t get anything from the context to assure us which meaning was intended although you and the posters here seem to take it as the first meaning was intended. Could you clarify, please.

  • Charles_Gould

    They did kill thousands, tmitch57, i.e. a figure north of 1000. But what he meant was he could have killed double or triple as many as he did.

  • Mick Fealty


    Creative ambiguity again?

    I hadn’t thought of that intrepretation. What it evoked for me was there appears to have been an intention to kill more, but the British used a range of fair and foul methods to stymie that intention.

  • Alias

    “But what he meant was he could have killed double or triple as many as he did.”

    What he actually meant is there is a hierarchy of terrorists, with those targeting civilians at the bottom. Essentially he was saying “We’re not like those terrorists in Iraq. We’re gentleman terrorists. You should be grateful for that.”

    It’s a rather bizarre plea in mitigation, rather like a rapist saying to the judge. “Ah shure, I could have raped many more than I did.” How many women does a have to rape before he is deemed to be a rapist?

    Unlike the 10 protestants murdered at Kingmills, Marty and ilk only had to murder one before he and ilk are deemed to be sectarian murderers.

  • mac tire

    Charles Gould: “They did kill thousands, tmitch57, i.e. a figure north of 1000.”

    Your grasp of maths is as bad as your grasp of politics here. Keep going there, Charlie, you give us a laugh at least once every day.

    Off course the IRA could have killed so many more. I’m glad they didn’t. One civilian is too many. Although (in the spirit of whataboutery that pervades this site) the British don’t try to condemn civilian deaths (remember they are collateral damage, deserved it, lived close to those who may have deserved it, were the same nationality as those who deserved it, etc).

    But I love all these bleeding hearts on here who profess insight into the IRA (and only the IRA, it seems) – yet most only knew someone who knew someone who may have been related to an IRA member.

    On topic – nothing to see here about Roseanne Mallon’s murder…move along now to the next Republican bashing topic.

  • Alias

    “Your grasp of maths is as bad as your grasp of politics here.”

    Actually, he’s correct. Thousands is “a figure north of 1000” and south of 1 million. The rest of your post is just the usual mix of man-playing and whataboutery, with a weak persecution complex to sign it off.

  • gendjinn


    Actually, he’s correct. Thousands is “a figure north of 1000″ and south of 1 million.

    Aye, we always talk about 1.7 thousands…..

  • Alias

    Have you ever heard of a thing called a dictionary?

    3. thousands, the numbers between 1000 and 999,999, as in referring to an amount of money: Property damage was in the thousands.

  • looneygas

    I really can’t believe that McMandela’s meaning is so difficult to decipher. He’s saying that the IRA were not the bloodthirsty, wanton killers that many like to make them out to be. He’s not saying that anyone should be grateful to them for not killing more. He’s saying that if the IRA were the monsters they are portrayed to have been, the death toll would’ve been much higher.
    I don’t believe he’s saying that fair and/or foul British tactics stymied them. He’s saying that, yes, civilians were killed by IRA bombs, and while he is unwilling to explain or apologise for individual deaths, he’s saying that if the IRA’s goal was simply to kill as many of themmuns as possible, the figure would be much higher.
    Mick likes to cite Moloney’s book. From what I remember of that book, Adams apparently spent a lot of time and effort trying to reign in the looser cannons. God knows, he did this out of concern for bad press, not for any humane motives.
    General note: if one mixes black and white together, the resulting shade is called “grey.”

  • Son of Strongbow

    Those happy campers marching along in the nationalist terrorists’ baggage train, singing lustily the canon of rebel songs, are, if nothing else, always predictable.

    When the IRA tried to engage the enemy on the ‘field of battle’ each and every time they were destroyed by a better trained and better equipped force. During the early 70s they quickly learned that playing at real soldiers was not the healthy option (no matter the modern day erection of fanciful images of ‘uniformed’ IRA ‘soldiers).

    The terrorist quickly settled on the ambush or quick shot at soldiers or police going about their business; fake calls to burglaries, traffic accidents or more commonly when out of uniform and easy targets for a doorstep shooting at home, church or elsewhere. Not forgetting the continuing favourite of the under-car bomb when both ‘combatants’ and their families where targeted.

    The nationalist terrorist bombing campaign was indeed curtailed. In a situation where themuns and usuns where potentially at the same place how could it have been otherwise without the possibility of killing large numbers of the terrorists’ ‘host community’?

    Of course on many occasions when it was felt the balance was probably heavily in favour of themuns being the sole victims, such as the bombing of Coleraine, the Provos displayed much less of the measured approach Marty would wish to have us believe.

    The period of the murder campaign was underscored by the terrorists’ concentration on saving their own skins. The lessons learned early on, that the other side might just fire back if fired upon, were well learned and despite the recently published nonsense of IRA bombers shepherding civilians away from their bombs they invariable mimicked Usain Bolt and got offside PDQ.

    Similarly following the long range shot at the soldier or the up close shot in the back to a soft target the guns were stuffed down the knickers of the nearest comfort-girl and the gunman was off and running.

  • Sp12

    “He’s saying that if the IRA were the monsters they are portrayed to have been, the death toll would’ve been much higher.”

    yup, kinda like when people say ‘if collusion existed why are there not more dead IRA men’?

    ““We’re not like those terrorists in Iraq. We’re gentleman terrorists. You should be grateful for that.””

    Like Sindo writers like RDE trying to explain to us we should be grateful it was the English who invaded and subjugated us and not the Dutch.

  • Alias

    Sadly for Marty, his weasel attempt to portray his murder gang as gentleman terrorists who didn’t harm civilians came undone when someone inconveniently mentioned how Marty and his local gang murdered Patsy Gillespie:

    “The IRA booby-trapped the car to ensure that Mr Gillespie – who had worked as a British Army civilian cook, could not escape without detonating the device. It exploded, killing five soldiers.

    However, Mr McGuinness said he disagreed with the condemnation voiced at the time of the attack by the Catholic Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly, who said the IRA had been involved in “the work of Satan”.

    “I don’t agree with that view,” he said. Asked how the killing of Mr Gillespie was “anything other than cold-blooded murder”, Mr McGuinness said: “Obviously, people will have their own interpretations of that.”

    Denying that he knew who was involved in the killing of Mr Gillespie he said he could not discover the identities now of the killers, saying that that is a matter for the police.

    Here is how such ‘gentlemen’ operate:

    On 24 October 1990, members of the IRA’s Derry City Brigade took over Gillespie’s house. While his family was held at gunpoint, he was forced to drive his car to a rural spot on the other side of the border in County Donegal. Gillespie was then put in a van loaded with 1,000 pounds (450 kg) of explosives and told to drive to the Coshquin permanent border checkpoint on Buncrana Road. An armed IRA team followed him by car to ensure he obeyed their commands. Four minutes from the checkpoint, the IRA team armed the bomb remotely. When Gillespie reached the checkpoint, at 3:55 AM, he tried to get out and warn the soldiers, but the bomb detonated when he attempted to open the door. IRA bomb makers had installed a detonation device linked to the van’s courtesy light, which came on whenever the van door opened. As a safeguard, the bombers also used a timing device to ensure the bomb detonated at the right moment. Gillespie and five soldiers were killed. Witnesses reported hearing “shouting, screaming and then shots”.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Regarding McGuinness’s presentation of the “Armed Struggle” as an act of kindness, Stewart Lee comes to mind (as others have alluded to). Here he is on the 2005 London Al-Qaeda bombings:
    “Who are they, these inhuman bombers that strike at the very heart of our society with no respect for human life, without even the courtesy of a perfunctory warning? It makes you nostalgic, doesn’t it, for the good old days of the IRA. ’Cause they gave warnings, didn’t they? They were gentleman bombers, the finest terrorists this country’s ever had. We’ll not see their like again. Let’s have a little clap for the IRA . . . ’Cause the IRA, they were decent British terrorists. They didn’t want to be British. But they were. And, as such, they couldn’t help but embody some fundamentally decent British values.”

  • It would appear from Phil Bradfield’s account of the grilling in the Oxford Union that Martin is being subjected to the same sort of pressure that Gerry has been experiencing:

    Victor Barker, whose 12-year-old son James was killed in the Omagh bombing in 1998 by the Real IRA, received loud applause after saying to Mr McGuinness: “Everybody would have more respect if you accepted your position and started telling the truth.” ..

    Martin McGuinness looked distinctly uncomfortable when fielding questions about one of the IRA’s most gruesome murders, according to an Oxford undergraduate from Northern Ireland who attended the debate.

    The history student, who did not wish to be named, said the senior Sinn Fein figure also raised gasps of disbelief when asked about the murder of Patsy Gillespie.

    Perhaps Haass’ mission is dead in the water, especially when it comes to the fate of victims.

  • fordprefect

    I saw that Stewart Lee stand up, and I laughed my head off! He didn’t just get a wee clap from the audience, he got a big round of applause (though looking at their faces, they didn’t know why they were clapping for the IRA) genius! I love you Mainland! LOL.

  • Greenflag

    Well at least neither McGuiness DFM nor Robinson FM can be accused of being sectarian rapists well not like this gobshite

    I’ve stated before on Slugger several times that NI could have been a lot worse in terms of overall numbers of deaths and property destruction . The only reason it never rose to Balkan or Syrian /Middle Eastern /Palestinian levels of carnage is simply due to geography and the fact that NI shares a land border with the Irish Republic and is part of the nearby UK . The fact that both sovereign states are also representative democracies and part of the EU was also a factor as was USA involvement from Reagan and Clinton on. . We can expect continuing USA monitoring of the peace process when Hilary Clinton becomes the USA ‘s first female President in 2016.

    And it hardly matters that Haas’s mission is dead in the water .

    People seem to forget that war be it civil or otherwise is never fought by Queensberry rules . Never was and never will . Perhaps in the one on one medieval jousts but even then there were always those who disobeyed the rules to win advantage

    To repeat . McGuinness’s comment may have been crass but he is correct -it could have been a whole lot worse -which is not to dismiss the grief of those victims and their families but NI’s troubles were not WW1 nor WW2 nor the Iraqi War nor the Balkans nor Syria nor Palestine .

    It was a local sectarian uncivil war at worst which was contained 99% plus to NI and indeed to particular areas within NI such as North Belfast etc.

  • looneygas

    Son of Strongbow,
    I didn’t expect you to justify the Shanlkill fish shop bombing.
    ” In a situation where themuns and usuns where potentially at the same place how could it have been otherwise without the possibility of killing large numbers of the terrorists’ ‘host community?” SOS 8:28.
    I’m sure that after unification, when the Loyalists become the rebels, they will demonstrate how to conduct a nice, decent urban guerilla war.

  • Greenflag

    There are only two types of terrorist .Those who win and those who lose .

    Winning terrorists : George Washington’s Continental Army , Nelson Mandela’s ANC , Israel’s Irgun , Ireland ‘s Old IRA . Northern Ireland’s IRA , Vietnam’s General Giap and his Vietnamese anti colonial forces , and no doubt many others across the former colonial world .

    Losing terrorists : Black September , East German and Hungarian uprisings , Spain’s Basques , Indonesian (Chinese Communists ) , Matabele’s in Zimbabwe , and no doubt many others .

    One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter or so they say .

    The jury is still out on the Taliban .They may yet return Afghanistan to the 8th century when the USA leaves or the USA could be left with a remaining garrison in a country 95% ‘ruled ‘ by fundamentalist maniacs .

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s an attractive approach that’s going to get you the necessary votes from the Catholic middle class looneygas. Or should I say, it will actually have exactly the opposite effect.

    This relates to that problem I mentioned about focusing on the past rather than the future. Unification is an impossible democratic sell if you don’t first consider how republicanism over the last 100 years has failed (as Carson sort of predicted it would) to reintegrate Northern Ireland.

    I listened with interest to the accusations above over who ratted first on democracy and went to guns first, unionism or nationalism. It’s an interesting question which if honestly pursued should make all of us uncomfortable.

    But I think the real challenge for unionists and nationalists (although I think the latter in particular) is to reassess past failures, yes, but more importantly to assay the opportunities offered by the future to expand an inclusive, and in the case of Irish republicanism all island agenda.

    Unionists will always treat an ideological pitch with contempt the same contempt as a failed armed struggle if it that’s all it is. There has to a practical outworking. Instead you could be forgiven for thinking (possibly wrongly) that the all Ireland agenda is actually going backwards, now we learn today that milk from Tyrone is no longer to be considered Irish.

    The focus on the past brings us all back to inevitable failure. Failure of unionism to build an inclusive six county democracy, and failure of nationalism to engage politically without the crutch of a gun. Shifting to the future does not mean we won’t fail, but it allows us to at least begin to craft new templates beyond arguing over who played the worst.

  • looneygas

    “If collusion existed, why were there not more dead IRA men?”
    Maybe because the Brits wanted to be able to keep a somewhat straight face while mouthing words like “democracy” and “rule of law.”

  • Alias

    Marty still has to explain why it was okay for him to murder people for a political purpose (the right to assist in the internal administration of British rule) but isn’t okay for others to murder people for a different political purpose.

    It doesn’t matter whether Marty and his gang murdered civilians or not since they had no right to murder anyone. The notion that gangs have a right to determine what is right is of course wrong. The harm done to civilians isn’t limited to those they murdered: they decapitated and maimed thousands of them and bereaved tens of thousands more.

    Also, the containment policy wasn’t his and neither was the low-intensity nature of it. It was his the bosses of his handlers who decided that 99% of murders should happen in a place no one cared about (Northern Ireland) and who decided that no senior officers or military personnel should be harmed, merely low-rank soldiers and plods.

    But as Marty and the other gang bosses did all right out of it, all’s well that ends well.

  • Framer

    The IRA could have killed thousands and were prevented from so doing by the British Army and RUC (1,000 of them died).
    The result if they had been allowed to behave like the FLN in Algeria would have been a civil war with repartition. They are probably grateful that the Army was in place to hold them back. The campaign was fuelled largely by rage and anger not by oppression and took an inordinately long time to burn itself out.

  • “Have you ever heard of a thing called a dictionary?

    3. thousands, the numbers between 1000 and 999,999, as in referring to an amount of money: Property damage was in the thousands.”

    @Alias, Charles_Gould,

    The Collins English Dictionary gives it as “the range of numbers between 2000 and 9,999.

    This is common sense–you have to be at the level of two of some number before it becomes plural. And I tend to instinctively think of hundreds to mean at least 300 or thousands to mean at least 3,000. This follows the primitive counting rule of one, two, many.

  • “He’s saying that if the IRA were the monsters they are portrayed to have been, the death toll would’ve been much higher.”


    Lincoln once said in regard to slavery that his goal was to preserve the union and that in order to do this he would either free all the slaves, free none of the slaves, or free some of the slaves. McGuinness’s goal was a united Ireland and if killing thousands would have accomplished this he would have done it, if killing hundreds would have done it he would only have killed hundreds.

    Re loose cannons, Yitzhak Shamir, the one-time operations officer of the Zionist Lehi terrorist organization and later prime minister of Israel, once killed one of his own operatives because he was a loose cannon and Shamir feared that he would endanger the organization. He then named his first-born daughter after him.

  • Republic of Connaught


    “Yitzhak Shamir, the one-time operations officer of the Zionist Lehi terrorist organization and later prime minister of Israel”

    You’ll make many unionists dizzy reading that, Tmitch.

  • between the bridges

    SF/IRA in turmoil as the dinosaurs clash, not long after putting the boot into Gerry over his activities, Marty defends what happen on his patch while he was away fishing…

  • Alias

    “This is common sense–you have to be at the level of two of some number before it becomes plural.”

    Oxford defines it as:

    the numbers from one thousand to 9,999:

    Cambridge defines it as:

    numbers between 1,000 and 1,000,000:

    Whereas Random House gave it as:

    the numbers between 1000 and 999,999

    It would make sense in the plural to be any number greater than 2000 if the increment was 1000 but it isn’t limited to that.

    Does it really matter with a living language?

  • Charles_Gould

    OK I am happy to modify my post to say, the following

    The IRA *did* murder thousands, according to the Oxford English Dictionary definition of thousands.

    Note: he was speaking in Oxford.

  • Reader

    Greenflag: Winning terrorists : … Northern Ireland’s IRA
    They fought for a United Ireland. They didn’t get a United Ireland.
    Maybe they forgot to mention it while the GFA was being negotiated?

  • Charles_Gould

    SDLP didn’t kill anyone.

  • BarneyT

    No no no. We could have killed thousands means ” you chose to call us terrorists but we saw ourselves as freedom fighters. Terrorists specifically target civilians and we didn’t. Military campaigns sadly brings collateral damage as it did with British offensives. As terrorists and only terrorists we would surely have taken many more lives and could have. ” I believe they could have and argued that the British were warned and they brought it upon themselves. His argument is meant to emphasise that they chose military targets over civilian although not very well at times. Surely that’s the point?

  • looneygas

    I was not campaigning for middle-class votes. I’m sure that middle-class voters have already considered that certain Loyalists would react poorly to unification. As I said in my rhetorical point, I’m sure that they would with much more decency than the Sons of Satan(IRA).
    As Mr. Gould pointed out, the SDLP never killed anyone. I’ll bet that they could convince middle-class voters that although a united Ireland is favoured by the murderous Martin McGuiness et al, that doesn’t necessarily make a united Ireland a bad thing.
    I sometimes think about becoming a vegetarian. The fact that Hitler was one doesn’t really matter.

  • looneygas

    Hypothetical Loyalist/Rebels would BEHAVE with more decency….

  • Charles_Gould

    The SDLP have moral integrity and seek Irish Unity.

    Sinn Féin seek Irish unity.

  • looneygas

    Could the SDLP quit hogging all the moral integrity?

  • Charles_Gould

    SDLP do not hog it. Others eschew it.

  • Mc Slaggart


    “The SDLP have moral integrity”

    and the “Brits had none.”

    or as Mick puts it more politely ” British used a range of fair and foul methods”

    As I see it today the areas were the latest branch of the IRA is strongest is the very places the “Brits” used “foul methods”.

  • “Shifting to the future does not mean we won’t fail, but it allows us to at least begin to craft new templates beyond arguing over who played the worst.”

    Mick, I’ve suggested a template. Can we please see yours?

    “speaking in Oxford last night”

    I think ‘being grilled’ is a more apt description of that seemingly bruising head-to-head encounter.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Greenflag said:

    “Winning terrorists : … Northern Ireland’s IRA”

    I’ll be nice and only say that Greenflag is deluded…

    Perhaps he actually believes it was all about sharing the running of the 6 counties on behalf of Britain…Then again why did comical Marty say in 1986 that they would never sit in Stormont?

  • Greenflag

    “why did comical Marty say in 1986 that they would never sit in Stormont?”

    That was the Old Stormont pre GFA .

    why did Doc Paisley say 1966 – 1998 that they would never share power with the SDLP /Nationalists /Republicans and yet in 2007 he shares power with Martin McGuiness .

  • Greenflag

    @ Reader ,

    “They fought for a United Ireland”.

    I’m sure some did and died for their cause . Others fought even though they knew it was impossible to defeat a world power by armed struggle .

    “They didn’t get a United Ireland.”

    Yet . They won enough to make further armed conflict irrelevant .

    They’ve won politically . Ask the SDLP and UUP . SF may even elect the next NI FM . The UI is just a matter of time and demographics and economic recovery . There are far bigger issues facing both jurisdictions in the here and now .

  • Gopher

    Outside the vacuum the cult status of SF is looking really amateur in real world politics. If you did not think Martin had insulted your intelligence enough the other night at Oxford the dissidents remind you the next day making your righteous indignation completely hollow. You could see that coming like Christmas after the Oxford speech. Coupled with explaining how Gerry is different than Brady makes you wonder how far a former politician of the year has fallen.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Greenflag I don’t actually believe you are Cllr Michael McIvor aka michaelhenry but there are times I have my doubts, like with your last few comments…very michealhenryish.

    “That was the Old Stormont pre GFA .”

    Theres no difference. In the old Stormont circa Sunningdale Gerry Fitt was Deputy Chief Executive, much the same role as comical Marty.

    You claim rather amusingly that SF won politically because they replaced the SDLP and Marty could be NI (dropped the North thingy have we?) FM…

    And all that bloodshed so that shinners could walk, talk and condemn like the stoops before them…Thats some victory.

    Then you said…

    “why did Doc Paisley say 1966 – 1998 that they would never share power with the SDLP /Nationalists /Republicans and yet in 2007 he shares power with Martin McGuiness …”

    Firstly Stormont has no power it still lies with Westminster, the only change being that instead of Direct Rule we have Indirect Rule.

    Secondly Paisley stripped you lot down to the underpants and forced you to wear sackcloth and ashes before you could darken his door. He seemed to revel in the knowledge that he had Marty following him around like some wee lad who was allowed to tag along by the big boys.

    In actual fact, some of Marty’s comments have smacked of childish over eagerness to please.

  • ” The UI is just a matter of time and demographics and economic recovery . ”


    That was as true back in 1974 as it is today.

  • Reader

    Greenflag: The UI is just a matter of time and demographics and economic recovery .
    The GFA has made it harder to get a United Ireland. In the first place, it has largely resolved the ‘cold house’ problem.
    Just as significantly, the GFA has introduced a higher electoral hurdle. Pre GFA, there would have been a UI once there was a nationalist majority in Stormont. Now, even those people who expect to see a UI in the future through demographics, expect a Nationalist majority in Stormont long before there is a Pro-UI-Now majority in the electorate.
    As for the motives of the IRA, while many of its recruits may have joined out of hatred or seeking revenge, they would have been told they were joining an institution with a single substantial aim – a United Ireland. The senior decision makers and negotiators would have had that as their motive, wouldn’t you agree? Then how did they turn victory into defeat at the talks?

  • Greenflag

    @ tmitch57,

    “That was as true back in 1974 as it is today”

    Perhaps in the world of political theory -In the world of actual political activity and harsh reality there was no GFA and Unionist parties with the help of the UWC had run the Sunningdale Agreement out of town and Northern Ireland was facing into -in retrospect- a generation long period of no talks about no talks -increasing conflict and economic stagnation .

    The only prospect from 1974 looked like increased sectarian tensions , and further violence stretching out for another quarter century -and thats what happened .

    NI is in better place today -perhaps not by much but from any neutral observer’s perspective certainly better .

  • Greenflag

    @ Reader,

    ‘Pre GFA, there would have been a UI once there was a nationalist majority in Stormont.”

    Again in the world of political theory . In fact any number of scenarios could have taken place in the unlikely event of a nationalist majority in Stormont .

    All out civil war and a demand for repartition by Unionists is just one that comes to mind . Just as now with the GFA a simple democratic majority may not be enough for a UI to come about . The response of ‘Unionism ” in Ireland to any demands for Irish sovereignty by a majority of Irish people on the island has always been to deny such right and only accept such a right as long as they were not included -i.e 1920/1922.

    I would contend that the GFA has despite your comment above made it more likely that any UI will be achieved sooner rather than later .

    As for the motives of IRA recruits pre GFA I cannot speak for them but as with all such groupings on all sides of the divide I’m sure their motives would have been many and varied and amongst some there would have been no doubt that they could never defeat the British Army without winning the political war .

    As for turning defeat into victory or vice versa -you may have made a typo there ? if you know enough Irish history you ought to understand that in any political war between British politicians and those committed to Irish independence whether it be (26 ) or 32 county -the British side is destined to lose .

    No matter how long it takes .

    And even if there is no prospect of a UI within the next generation what matter ? There will never again be Unionist one party or even a multi party majority at Stormont ever again .For many non active Irish nationalists and republicans in NI that in itself is a victory probably worth more in their personal lives than any withdrawal of HMG from NI .

    Thats how I see it anyway -others may disagree .

    In the meantime the GFA is as good or as bad as it gets and you can take your pick on that as well .

  • Greenflag

    @ Dixie Elliot ,

    Greenflag remains Greenflag. There is just one of me and I’ve no need for alternative identities .

    As to your comments .

    “Theres no difference. In the old Stormont circa Sunningdale Gerry Fitt was Deputy Chief Executive, much the same role as comical Marty.”

    Quite a difference .The GFA has been in operation now since 1998 and the current NI Administration since 2011 . 13 years including temporary suspensions .

    Sunningdale only lasted a couple of months ? if that .

    ” (dropped the North thingy have we?)”

    Never used it .Perhaps you are confusing me with somebody else ? My terminology is usually Northern Ireland or NI for short or sometimes the province .

    “And all that bloodshed so that shinners could walk, talk and condemn like the stoops before them…”

    Unionist politicians either ignored or never took the SDLP seriously apart from Brian Faulkner and we know what happened to him .
    This is why the DUP has been forced into mandatory power sharing with SF and everyone understands they don’t like it .

    “Secondly Paisley stripped you lot down to the underpants ”

    Your ‘you lot ‘ would suggest I’m an SF supporter or even member neither of which is correct .I refer you to my profile which will inform you of the facts.

    “Firstly Stormont has no power ”

    Your own very words should inform you of the significance of the SF “political victory ‘ but for one reason or another you choose not to see it .

    The very fact that it has no power or very little and doesn’t even have an opposition are of course all cogent reasons as to why it will remain a temporary band aid solution to the constitutional difficulties of the NI State which will remain until it goes out of existence at some point .

    In the meantime NI politicians will continue to enjoy power sharing ‘no power ‘ as you put it for they all know and accept that beyond the GFA there is no Stormont .