Ahern: IRA allowed continue to prevent vacuum

Since he left office in 2008, Bertie Ahern rarely ventures into the spotlight or gives any real in-depth comments about Northern Ireland. However, even his most ardent critics would acknowledge his role in bringing about the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreement. Today he as spoken to Fiach Kelly in the Irish Times about the current crisis in Northern Ireland. Kelly gives his introduction;

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said it was envisaged the Provisional IRA would continue to exist as an unarmed group to prevent a vacuum emerging that could be filled by dangerous dissident groups.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Ahern, whose main achievement is the Northern Ireland peace process, said it is “time for cool heads” and a calm focus to ensure the Stormont institutions do not collapse.

Ahern goes on to highlight some of his own rationale about the IRA and how he viewed their activities;

“The bigger picture is the ongoing peace process,” Mr Ahern said. “It is always delicate. Cool nerves, think this through. It is terrible there are atrocities, but are those atrocities being done [by people] who might have been on the inside but are now long since on the outside?

“Unfortunately, there are always fringe players in the organisations,” he said. “People should keep it calm. We should never get lax about the bigger picture, and we should just keep that to the forefront and not talk ourselves into crisis. There is a bigger picture; the bigger picture is the ongoing process.

“These peripheral things, which I can only assume are not sanctioned, are going to continue to be a difficulty. That is something that has to be addressed.”

Mr Ahern also agreed with the assessment of former minister for justice, Michael McDowell, that the Irish and British governments allowed the Provisional IRA to continue as an “unarmed and withering husk” rather than risk a dissident group filling the void left by its disbandment.

Seemingly from Ahern’s comments there was (in his view anyway) a worry about how a possible power vacuum could be filled by dissident republicans;

“The bigger picture is the ongoing peace process,” Mr Ahern said. “It is always delicate. Cool nerves, think this through. It is terrible there are atrocities, but are those atrocities being done [by people] who might have been on the inside but are now long since on the outside?

“Unfortunately, there are always fringe players in the organisations,” he said. “People should keep it calm. We should never get lax about the bigger picture, and we should just keep that to the forefront and not talk ourselves into crisis. There is a bigger picture; the bigger picture is the ongoing process.

“These peripheral things, which I can only assume are not sanctioned, are going to continue to be a difficulty. That is something that has to be addressed.”

Mr Ahern also agreed with the assessment of former minister for justice, Michael McDowell, that the Irish and British governments allowed the Provisional IRA to continue as an “unarmed and withering husk” rather than risk a dissident group filling the void left by its disbandment.

We have not heard anything from Tony Blair to see if Ahern’s view of how the Provisionals would operate post Good Friday Agreement fits in with the British government’s approach.

Full article available here

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  • Croiteir

    Da Bert shows that he has a better grasp on the realities, lives do not come before electoral advantage

  • Barneyt

    This whole saga in my view will separate those who understand conflict resolution from those that do not.

    To resolve conflict, you need to have true insight into your enemies cause, or as an intermediary, both sides. You need to understand their drivers and raison d’etre, whether it sits uneasy with you or not. The ability to perceive and understand the rationale that a body has does not automatically place you in their camp, something the tribal NI mentality cannot accept.

    I believe the London and Irish governments tried to understand that a grievance existed within Republicanism. They understood that Republican leadership would have to take the IRA with them against a huge historical backdrop. The IRA would have to move into a territory that represented compromise, a degree of defeat or at worse, created a perception of accepting British rule in part of Ireland.

    This conflict has raised its head in Republicanism time and time again and caused split after split. Make a concession, a compromise or two, bear with us and eventually we will achieve our goal etc. The aim was peace and more equality for essentially the Catholic community in Northern Ireland. The guns and bombs had to be stopped, but surely the two governments could see that all of this was subject to progress (which we have seen), some reciprocal delivery from the British authorities. This was always going to be at risk of stagnation.

    The IRA had to go away, and not disband. It makes sense. They had to become ineffective (decommissioning). They had to remain as entity for more psychological and subtle reasons other than avoiding a vacuum within Republicanism. The ownership of the “struggle” would have passed to those that cannot see the change in the North and who do not understand that life has improved through peace and we now have equality, an evolved and more representative police force and the opportunity for the communities to settle, cross pollinate and perhaps understand they have a shared island identity.

    The UUP and now the DUP are playing dumb. I cannot accept that they believed the IRA had effectively disbanded. They would have known that they existed in some context surely, albeit without arms and an active paramilitary ambition. They cannot piggy-back on the assessment from the PSNI and the words of Villiers and cry duplicity. I could be wrong, but they have never separated SF from the IRA i.e. SFIRA remarks, and on that logical basis they repeatedly went into government with the IRA? This is electioneering and grandstanding at its worse and extremely dangerous.

    If the institutions dismantle, this will give succour to the dissidents. It may swell their ranks and thrust us into the start of a new more aggressive but intermittent conflict. The perception now is that Britain has given all it is willing to and nothing more will be achieved through politics. The Tory government will not inspire progress. The withdrawal of unionism from the Executive will for many send the message to the sceptics that politics simply does not and cannot work. How is that helpful?

  • Steve Larson

    There is no political gain for Da Bert in running with this.

    If there was then he would run with it. There is perceived advantage for Labour in Dublin and the UUP in Belfast.

    I think like so much “SF are bad” news stories it will have no long term disadvantage for them and may in fact lead to a bounce as people view it as just the usual electoral politics.

  • barnshee

    “I think like so much “SF are bad” news stories it will have no long term disadvantage for them and may in fact lead to a bounce as people view it as just the usual electoral politics”

    AS indicated elsewhere republicans could model Iraq- and conduct public executions and their support base would not blink

  • gendjinn

    One just rolls ones eyes at the faux moral outrage of Unionism. The amusing part this cycle is how the even the Conservatives have ditched them. We all know the PSNI is not a credible or reliable source when it comes to pronouncements on the peace process, they will issue whatever statement head office in London instructs them to.

    Stormont could be in tatters right now with SF bearing complete responsibility for that. But Cameron didn’t want to collapse the Assembly for Unionism.

    From Britain’s perspective, Unionism has become the really annoying little brother of their friend that won’t take the increasingly less subtle hints to just f off.

  • Steve Larson

    People realize there is nothing to see in this. Friends of a man who fought with him took revenge on the man who murdered him.

    It doesn’t make that a Provisional action.

    The 2nd paragraph is just nonsense from you.

  • gendjinn

    Unionism has been trying to cause a split in the PIRA since 1994. That was the entire reason for the post-facto requirements for a 3 month, 6 month, 12 month period ceasefire. When that failed to derail the process or split the PIRA, then the decom demand was introduced as this would violate the PIRA constitution and certainly cause them to exit the process or split.

    Well Unionism got their wish, there was a split, a small one but McKevitt took a lot of PIRA arms with him.

    Never forget that Unionism was more than happy to go back to the Troubles rather than proceed with the peace process and the GFA. They were dragged kicking & screaming into the Assembly and are only maintained there by the threat of Joint Rule should they collapse the Assembly.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Kinda reminiscent of the contrived scandal of the OTRs. What’s interesting is that the “we were sold a pup” argument has been wheeled out umpteen times yet some quarters still give it credence. How many times can anyone claim to be blindsided before they look foolish and gullible. But if you can claim we poor wee innocent folk are the victims, the NI political mill just grinds on the same as always.

  • Mister_Joe

    It wasn’t indicated elsewhere. It was a nauseating suggestion made by you. Why do you have such a hatred of some of your neighbours?

  • mary

    GFA, was based on deals done behind the backs of communities. No thought for lost lives just concessions OTRs No truth , no justice, no accountability!
    Those who have abused their position of trust power will one be made accountable.
    NI politics is a sticking plaster. Gangsters in power, planners murders – how could they even think that they could be trusted to run a country? Those who ordered killings bombings kneecapping, tarring feathering of children, beating to death young ones disappearance of innocent people. It is all wrong now the state is calling these godfathers honorable. What a sick dysfunctional country NI. Keep Ireland safe, do not tarish with corruption Mafia sociopathic liars.