“the involvement of those Provisional IRA ‘structures’ in the events leading up to, and including, the murder of Kevin McGuigan”

So, here. With a few notable exceptions, many commentators seem to be struggling with the particulars of the current crisis… For all the inattention of the London Press, the problem hasn’t eluded the Times of London, whose leader today is pretty unambiguous.

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In the Guardian Mary Dejevsky’s analysis appears to miss some of the more granular political detailing, describing “politics in Northern Ireland as singularly resistant to the ambiguity that oils the wheels of diplomacy”.

Her colleague the media critic Roy Greenslade points the finger directly at the Chief Constable for introducing a conversation that has made everyone at Stormont uncomfortable (not least because of the carnage in jobs that’s likely to follow any indefinite suspension).

Interesting, not least because it puts the blame on the agency which let the rabbit out of the hat first rather than those involved directly or indirectly with the killing.

However, as Pete has been repeatedly trailing the journalists rather than the commentators are the ones who have been flagging the real source of the current disquiet in a Stormont which has accepted killings and the organised cover up of child rape for the sake of peace and stability.

In this context here’s a reminder of Pete’s acute observation that…

It’s not the still-extant Provisional IRA structures that are the immediate cause for concern, although “stupid” questions could, and should, be asked about their ultimate purpose, it’s the involvement of those Provisional IRA ‘structures’ in the events leading up to, and including, the murder of Kevin McGuigan, and the continued denials[of that reality! – Ed] which have followed.

This is crucial since the fortunes and relative positions of the unionist parties (who still represent the majority opinion in Northern Ireland) will swing on such realpolitik… Tom Kelly is one of the few commentators on the nationalist side to demonstrate an appreciation of the precise cadences within the current powerplay:

The DUP are like rabbits stunned by the headlights of the Ulster Unionist robin reliant. It’s clear by the mixture of anger and speechlessness from their representatives that they have been wrong footed.

They had banked on the UUP tailing behind in their shadow at least until the Assembly elections. Whilst they talk big about leadership the reality is they needed UUP cover. It has taken the UUP a long time to realise that too. But the next move belongs to the DUP.

Nesbitt has proven that what he lacks in political dexterity he has made up for in guile. Timing is everything in politics and time after time both the DUP and Sinn Féin have milked every crisis or pressure point to the limit even paralysing two sovereign Governments into believing that there could be no progress without them.

Successive governments became poodles to their baying hyenas. The governments were happy to leave the carcasses of the SDLP and the UUP to both the predators and scavengers.

Seamus Mallon, the SDLP deputy leader and former deputy First Minister, understood the benefits of using resignation as a power play.

His political successors have never shown the same instinctive nous or bottle. Unfortunately whatever the SDLP chooses to do now is more or less irrelevant as the UUP has stolen the initiative.

Brian Feeney today seems to think Peter Robinson will produce a master plan for Assembly survival:

Robinson’s plan is to lob the ball into Sinn Féin’s court. They’ll have to make concessions because while Robinson doesn’t want to leave the executive Sinn Féin equally don’t want the edifice to crumble.

So they can’t make it difficult for Robinson to hang in given that most of his MPs oppose power-sharing and his assembly members know Robinson doesn’t want an election soon because he doesn’t intend to stand again.

Ending his political career after losing his Westminster seat and with the executive and assembly a shambles would too obviously fulfil the famous Enoch Powell dictum that all political careers end in failure.

Watch next week as Robinson, justifiably furious with Nesbitt, produces with the help to the two governments (and Sinn Féin) a coherent plan to save devolution, earn the praise of the media, and demonstrate conclusively that the UUP leader is a political novice.

Sinn Fein, whose actions (or inactions) triggered this crisis (but who have barely featured in most of the political debate which has followed),  probably can give Robinson what he (and they) need. But only by trashing the positions they’ve held in the last 18 months, and perhaps more.

The drain of talent to the south (and out of the party) means the northern party has none of the sparkle of the early naughties. The low vaudeville of the Westminster campaign shows a party bumbling along, and even losing a council seat (and talent) to the Alliance party.

Robinson and Sinn Fein have some time to resolve these matters. Standing Orders give Nesbitt seven days to replace Danny Kennedy. After that the position must be filled by re-running d’Hondt. But luckily for the OFMdFM partners there’s no time limit on that.

However the fiscal clock is running out on setting a budget.

It remains to be seen whether Feeney is right and a deal can be done between the DUP and Sinn Fein. It will have to be loaded heavily for the DUP if Robinson is to avoid being caned for the sake of another post dated promise as Trimble was before him.

The price for Sinn Fein is less tangible in Northern Ireland, but should Stormont collapse the “vote for us and we’ll pull the place down” strapline  is not the greatest platform for their first big push into government responsibility in the Republic.

And if it falls, the poor leadership jointly shown by Sinn Fein and the DUP have brought it into such abject disrepute (as low as a 9% favorability rating) that it’s very hard to see where the impetus comes from to bring it back again.

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  • kensei

    Interesting, not least because it puts the blame on the agency which let the rabbit out of the hat first rather than those involved directly or indirectly with the killing.

    Where was Hamilton’s evidence? Even if we accept that he is right in saying that former IRA members were responsible for McGuigan’s murder, in what way does that prove the organisation itself exists?

    I’m missing the link to the answer. Could you direct me to it? k thanx bye.

  • Brian Walker

    Perhaps the impetus needed will come out of that same poverty of performance,if the space is created to think about it? As a simple soul myself, I think that if only half the energy and ingenuity was devoted to working problems through as in positioning and comment, we’d be in nirvana.

  • Steve Larson

    That Guardian piece is written by someone who has no idea about what went on in the North.

    Talking about the IRA and the Provos as if they both were on ceasefire.

    That there is little room in Northern Ireland for constructive ambiguity.

    I’m thinking it is a bit of a fluff piece

  • Steve Larson

    More is lost in worrying about failure than failing and trying again.

    The 2nd is what makes a person succeed.

  • Steve Larson

    I am available for more spiritual advice, if needed.

  • Janos Bingham

    Has Roy Greenslade been as critical of senior officers in Wiltshire Police or the Met who have led a media bunfight on allegations against a series of high profile people?

    Were demands for the publication of the evidence made in those instances as now in this case? (Something that may prejudice any future court proceedings)

    However there are more pertinent questions for Roy: will his piece appear in An Phoblacht, and will it be under his own by-line?

  • Zig70

    There does seem to be a fine line between knowledge, hearsay, ignorance and bigotry in this place. Is any actual evidence required here? What’s the standard? On the balance of probabilities? Nobody seems to be asking how far the police have got with their investigations, rather creating their own answers to be dearly held in spite of any result. Have the PSNI evidence of current IRA membership? That is still an offence I think. If they don’t have the perp are they going to follow up these charges? The courts still haven’t recovered from Adam’s left off.

  • Mister_Joe

    I think that Hamilton was listening to the dogs in the street. Nothing else makes sense.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Why ask those sorts of questions Zig when the unionist hangers on can react with such glee? Our vaulted editor is loving the focus being shifted away from his beloved DUP. He misses a few key points that i) the infamous dogs in the street knew the score, ii) the DUP and UUP are happy to share the stage with loyalist paramilitaries (they haven’t gone away you know) when it suits their purposes, iii) the UUP’s actions were solely a political manoeuvre – they don’t give a feck about 2 old provo’s knocking each other off.
    The emperor is still wearing no clothes but luckily we have another manufactured “crisis” to consume the headline chasers and deflect us away from the fact that our governmental “system” is appalling and not fit for purpose.
    I’ll stand up and applaud the UUP if they change the governing dynamic, because it’s beyond a joke.

  • mickfealty

    Wrong. He didn’t just say former members…

    “Some current Provisional IRA and former members continue to engage in a range of criminal activity and occasional violence in the interest of personal gain or personal agendas.”

    Two problems you and Joe are ignoring. If a Cop cannot be trusted to share his intelligence honestly, why are we paying for tight political oversight?

    Two key material ‘allegations’ from the PSNI:

    One, the IRA (not dissidents, not anti drugs vigilantes, not former members) held its own secret inquiry into Jock Davison’s murder.

    And two current IRA personnel were involved in the murder. At least one of those members may be an office holder in Sinn Fein.

    Now, are the cops lying about any of this? (If so, why?) Are Sinn Fein?

    I can see the motive for the latter, I’m struggling to see what the cops would get out of telling a falsifiable lie.

    On the other hand, I can see just why the cops might get these embarrassing facts into the public domain. Perhaps they sensed a danger in remaining quiet on a matter they had briefed SF before the second murder took place.

  • mickfealty

    Brian Feeney was on Talkback today suggesting that the IRA should be made legal and that might deal with it. He then went on to undermine that somewhat by pointing out that when the UDA was made legal it didn’t stop them from continuing with the illegal stuff, like murder, torture, extortion, etc..

  • kensei

    Firstly, we don’t know what current IRA member means. Secondly, we don’t know what the IRA holding an investigation means. We dont even know what PIRA means these days. It is precisely that ambiguity that the article skewers him for. If he wanted to put that in the public domain, he has to be able to answer those questions clearly and precisely. Else the police force is politicking and none of us want that.

    Thirdly we do not convict on police intelligence. Intelligence of all sorts can be wrong and subject to other motives. If they have reasonable suspicion then they should arrest. If they have good evidence, they should prosecute. If that happens, there is a perfect test of SFs bona fides. If they suspend the person, urge cooperation with the police and expel on conviction, they’ve done what any other organisation would do. There cannot be one rule for SF and one for everyone else, that is also part of normalisation. No matter how people protest, they can’t prove a negative.

    If the police can’t clear either the normal bars, then bluntly thenly need to STFU, since all they have achieved is a Rorschach test that will produce political instability. Which is where we are.

  • mickfealty

    Is that a joke? Seriously? Sorry to be blunt, but you are just evading the question by pretending language never means what its supposed to mean. Nothing I can do with that, other than refer you to Orwell (http://goo.gl/xsXNov)…

    Already history has in a sense ceased to exist, ie. there is no such thing as a history of our own times which could be universally accepted.

  • Zig70

    Making the IRA legal is just trolling you’ll make some folk faint. The real thing that will damage SF is the links to criminality. SDLP should start asking questions about where the money comes from and I’d guess that would cause more than SF to shuffle their feet awkwardly. Criminality is mud that would stick more than murder esp down South.

  • mickfealty

    You must have skimmed the top of the Kelly quote and missed the concluding paragraph then?

  • kensei

    I’m neither joking or evading.

    Here’s the chief Constable’s statement:

    http://www.psni.police.uk/chief_constable_s_statement___psni_s_assessment_of_the_current_status_of_the_provisional_ira.

    The PIRA exists been but supports the peace process. There were IRA members involved in the murder but there is no evidence they were sanctioned. AAD is not linked to the PIRA but might have former or current PIRA members. It is isnso imprecise and in thebeye if the beholder it does no good.

    You’ve laid two “substantive allegations”. I’ve no idea what they mean

    1. When it is said the IRA held an investigation, what does this mean? How far up the chain of command did it go? Who sanctioned it?

    2. Did information pass from SF to the IRA, wittingly or unwittingly? Did the SF office holder act as an individual or as part of then organisations? Did anyone in SF know and withhold information?

    3. His do we know the intelligence is reliable? Where do the dissidents – apparently involved in AAD fit in?

    4. Did the governments know and sanction the current IRA structure as a means of control?

    Etc etc etc.

    There is clearly a difference *politically* depending on the answers to a lot of these questions. I cant see for the life of me why you’d pretend it didnt matter.

    If you can’t of are not prepared to tackle any of them, don’t get involved with things that have huge political repercussions.

    I’m not the one being imprecise with language.

  • chrisjones2

    “Firstly, we don’t know what current IRA member means.”

    Well we know it means a man lying dead in the Street with lots of holes in him

  • chrisjones2

    So you accept the bits that you like and reject the bits you don’t

  • kensei

    Which is roughly what everyone has been doing since this started.

    I’m open to clarification.

  • Mountjoy

    ‘..it’s very hard to see where the impetus comes from to bring it back again.’ There maybe sufficient impetus in the £18m worth of gravy that flows from the train to set it rumbling down the tracks again Mick.

  • mickfealty

    I welcome all manner of stupid questions Ken, as per the Baker quote/link above.

  • kalista63

    If a cop can’t be trusted? Where do we go with that one, Hillsborough, Stephen Lawrence, destruction of crucial evidence by the RUC and the PSNI, MGurk’s, Guilford 4, Mark Duggan, John Charles de Mezenes etc?

    Next to politicians, cops are the least trusted element in Britain, Ireland, the world. You can add to that, the former CC attacking HET findings, the cops falling back in to old habits and the exit of Catholic officers from the force. Have a gander on social media and you’ll see the bitterest of dissident republicans, loyalists and the worst elements of unionism unified in glee. Jump on this bandwagon and that’s your fellow passengers.

    We need solid facts and only solid facts. Brian Rowan filling his bank accounts with endless unkown sources and possibly made up conversations is a dangerous, cynical game that could cost us all dearly. People like to throw death stats around on Slugger, well here’s some death stats on what the implications of Stormont falling might look like.

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/aug/27/thousands-died-after-fit-for-work-assessment-dwp-figures

  • kalista63

    If his statement was an article by a journalist, it would only be fit for The Sunday World.

  • kalista63

    Slighly off topic but anyone got any idea what possessed Gerry Adams to say that the IRA didn’t exist anymore?

  • Mister_Joe

    He never said that; he said they had left the stage.
    Robinson says that he wants intensive discussions and McGuinness says he is up for it. Robinson is an idiot if he thinks that any such discussions will only be about DUP issues, SF have lots of bad faith decisions by the DUP to discuss too. Robinson is on the road to being Trimble Mark2 and fulfilling Enoch Powell’s dictum. Dodds is the one making the running publicly.

  • mickfealty

    Right back to the Policing Board Paul. Who’s guarding the guards?

  • Sergiogiorgio

    I have to admit to being bit of a skimmer but I do find your self righteous rants tedious and often give up prior to the last lines.

  • Granni Trixie

    Ever heard of Man playing rules?

  • Granni Trixie

    Taking IRA off the proscribed list would assist SF in their quest to legitimise the IRA campaign of violence.

  • Spot-on Brian.

    What is depressing about so many of the posts on this topic are that they could be summarised as “you haven’t condemned your own terrorists so you can’t condemn ours”.

    Wouldn’t it be great if people could move to a point of agreeing that we now need to condemn everyone’s terrorists?

    If the UUP’s move brings us even a little closer to that point that has to be a good thing.

  • kensei

    Maybe Kevin Bacon has the answers.

  • 241934 John Brennan

    The Times says ‘There is only so much longer a democratic party can run with the fox and hunt with the hounds.’ Wrong analogy and wrong assessment of the relationship between SF and IRA – both generically the same animal – sometimes wolves in sheep’s clothing – and sometimes just wolves

  • IRF

    Mick,
    Am I right in my interpretation of your allegation, namely that SF’s position on the Policing Board gave the IRA (through their links to/common membership of SF) access to privileged PSNI intelligence that linked McGuigan to the Davison killing, thereby facilitating their revenge attack?
    If that is the case (massive ‘if’), then surely SF’s position on the Executive (dealing with education, agriculture, etc) is a total red herring, especially since they couldn’t get their hands on the Justice portfolio without a cross-community vote? Surely the issue in that hypothetical scenario would be SF’s ongoing membership of the Policing Board, which no-one is talking about bringing down – indeed, the Policing Board continued to function during the last period of Assembly suspension did it not? (albeit SF had not yet joined it at that point, IIRC).

  • IRF

    Irish Language Act back on the agenda?
    If Robinson is going to make a formal break between the skeleton structures/old boys network of PIRA and SF into a precondition for further political progress, then the dissidents will be laughing all the way to the arms factory. We’re about to head into 2016, centenary of the Easter Rising. What better time to take on the mantle?

  • mickfealty

    I take your point re the Policing Board, but the political pinch point is the executive.

    If you read what the UUP is saying, they are arguing very strongly that responsibility for resolving this problem should lie with those parties which choose to remain inside the Executive.

    Indeed they also say that any attempt to collapse the Executive and the institutions more broadly would only be an attempt to bury rather than deal with the issue and that it would be profoundly anti democratic.

    As for your first point, no I don’t say that.

    The danger referred to arises from the possible perception that confidential PSNI briefings may have influenced key personnel the IRA in whatever course of action it subsequently decided upon.

    I suspect that’s what Geddes saw, and acted promptly and clearly to push the problem into the public domain. The fact that media commentators are just ignoring the problem highlights deep ingestion of PP journalism.

    You can see the problem, surely? Nesbitt’s action is deeply political, because in essence this is a deeply political problem.

    It helps him on the consistency front that the UUP thought it unsafe to devolve Policing and Justice for fear of just this kind of eventuality.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Ad nauseam Granni.

  • Barneyt

    The failure, in not addressing the issues below, is conspicuous.

    i) the infamous dogs in the street knew the score,
    ii) the DUP and UUP are happy to share the stage with loyalist paramilitaries

    There are two serious points here that many are not prepared to discuss.

    So why did the Northern Irish government collapse? Oh, they found out something that they already knew they knew…..as they say across the water….oh So Irish!

    Seriously though….come on. Sling mud at both.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    To me or Mick, Barney?

  • Barneyt

    Its the current IRA personnel bit that leaves many astounded. If the PSNI know who these folks are and wont act, I can understand calls for the legalisation of the IRA. If you have such intelligence, do you not act on it and go to camera later?

  • Barneyt

    Mick, you questions is, “Now, are the cops lying about any of this? (If so, why?) Are Sinn Fein?”

    I read Kensei remarks and I have to be honest they are fair. Whether Kensei gave you a direct answer or not, it must be said that if the PSNI can go so far as to identify current members of the IRA, they surely have names. Current SF office holder? They must have a name (over and above process of elimination).

    Is this more than a “we believe” or have they they intelligence they can pursue. When I say pursue, I mean individuals and not organisations.

    You see my point? Surely many unionist and southern politicians should be pushing for arrests based on the PSNI statements, which do seem quite progressed in their nature.

    I am curious as to why questions on lack of PSNI action are falling on deaf ears.

    Thanks

  • Barneyt

    Go on…I’d love to hear your thoughts on the effectiveness of the policing board 🙂 Is this not a talking shop and an avenue for social honour and habitial “boarders” (political members excluded of course)

  • mickfealty

    Well, to some extent yes. One of the first things they did was to reduce the number of private sessions in which they could interrogate the PSNI officers to within an inch of their lives and upped the number of reportable public sessions in which that was less practicable.

    The PB also has serious powers of independent investigation.

    My point is that you cannot have that degree of oversight and then claim senior constables are lying only when they reveal something that’s politically inconvenient to your own narrow party political interest.

    PS, how many independent members are there? The SF candidate for Foyle was one last time visited. So my guess is not many.

  • kensei

    Perception is an odd thing. You might want a bit more action than apparent perception of unspecified groups.

    This is a minefield in any case. Sinn Fein obviously have the right to exert oversight of the PSNI via the police boards as a result of their mandate. Unless it can be demonstrated that Sinn Fein is systematically as an organisation using the information gained there for nefarious purposes, then they can’t reasonably be excluded. If individual members are suspect, then have some sort confirmation hearings or prosecute after the fact rather than engaging in speculation or some sort of pre-crime.

    And am I reading this right? Nesbitt’s position is he’s leaving and it’s someone else’s problem? I am imagining SF do this in other contexts, and imagining your response. It’s odd, because it’s very different.

  • Barneyt

    general…but mostly Mick 🙂

  • mickfealty

    Which contexts?