“The Provos can still “put them to bed” if they try it…”

Three accounts out today worth highlighting. All of them treat with the murder of Kevin McGuigan and explore the ramifications. Each seeks to put it in a wider context. All reach different conclusions in varying degrees.

The first is a well researched piece from Ed Moloney, who has been re-reading Mary Alice Clancy’s 2013 Peace Without Consensus (the title hints of those poisonous foundations Peter Preston spoke of back in 2007) to good effect.

Moloney’s hobby horse for much of the latter part of the Peace Process™ period has been the defective reporting of the many inherent problems in the settlement that have arisen. His recapitulation reveals material that seems somehow to have eluded our collective memory.

The whole thing is worth reading from top to bottom, not least his illuminating timeline. But Moloney also usefully recycles a hard to get ball (buried towards the bottom of an extremely tangled ruck) by quoting George Bush’s then special envoy Mitchell Reiss:

In July 2005, the IRA had finally agreed to decommission all its weapons. At the last minute, [Gerry] Adams called No 10 to demand that some of the weapons not be destroyed so that the IRA could arm itself against possible attacks from dissident members. Unless this was allowed, he threatened, decommissioning would not proceed.

The Blair government conceded, but wanted to check with Dublin. Irish Minister for Justice Michael McDowell refused to acquiesce in the backsliding, despite enormous pressure. Powell told Adams of the problem, and Adams gave way. Decommissioning took place as planned.

This may explain McDowell’s recent account in the Irish Times, in which he described the IRA as an unarmed husk of its former self. Husk maybe, but recent events suggest it remains anything but unarmed.

As Moloney notes of this disclosure, Mr McDowell did not explain how an unarmed IRA could counter armed dissidents. Over on the Pensive Quill, Professor Peter Trumbore (via Lord Alderdice) provides one possible answer from 2011…

As much as the dissidents brand the leaders of the Provisional Movement traitors, Alderdice said:

“They haven’t the guts to take the Provos on, because the Provos will put them to bed. And in fact, it is ironic. It is because the Provisional IRA is effectively over in a meaningful sense that these guys popped their heads up. Because otherwise they’d have got their heads cut off.”

What Alderdice seemed to be arguing back in 2011 was that the PIRA retained enough military capability to defend itself were it to be challenged directly by the dissidents. What it had given up, however, in standing down from its wartime footing, was an ability to prevent open challenges to its authority.

This, added to what we have learned after the last several weeks, seems to me to offer a compelling explanation for the current landscape of “alphabet soup” IRAs and their apparent unwillingness to move against a leadership whom they have branded the worst kinds of traitors.

The Provos can still “put them to bed” if they try it.

A sort of night watchman role for the Process™, you might say. At the time of Alderdice’s speaking this was a latent assumption. Now it may be much more than that.

The last piece is from Professor John Brewer who views the reaction from Unionism as…

…comedy [which] has been ably provided by the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), which has withdrawn its one minister from the executive – the last hurrah of a party that has already made itself largely irrelevant to the peace process by its lukewarm commitments to working with Sinn Fein.

Under Mike Nesbitt, the UUP has tried to out-DUP the DUP in its appeal to traditional unionists – but the DUP is rather good at doing that itself.

What’s more, the UUP managed to let the DUP off the hook by allowing its leader, Peter Robinson, to appear relatively statesmanlike with his suggestion that withdrawal from the executive was the last rather than the first resort.

It is a ‘comedy’ which may yet prove resonant with the home audience. For the professor the core matter is little more than a “confected IRA threat”. That, of course, depends on what precisely you consider to be a ‘threat’.

On the pragmatic reality of the Stormont powerplay Brewer concludes:

The DUP’s goal is less delivering a shared, united community than trumping the UUP – and the spectre of the Provisional IRA serves wonderfully the purpose of reproducing the identity politics of the past. Those who want a better future, it seems, can go hang while the battle over sectarian unionist loyalties rages on.

Herein is Sinn Féin’s problem. The party has not sufficiently convinced enough people that the war is over, which it needs to do if it wants to squash the farcical idea that the Provisional IRA wants to return to war.

The DUP and Sinn Féin need each other, because there is nowhere else for each to go. But even as they both recognise this, they will not admit it. Ethnic tribal divisions still triumph, and prop up a paradoxical status quo – at the cost of a better future for all. [Emphasis added]

In fact very few unionists still consider a return to war a likely (or even practical) prospect for the vestigial remains of the Provisionals. But some may have good reason to consider McGuigan’s murder, and the message it sends other (Loyalist) paramilitaries, unnerving.

It’s not the prospect the return of war that may exercise the plain unionist people of Ulster, but an odd tight-lipped tolerance for criminality. Not to mention the severely delayed arrival of the peace.

To quote the poet, “that longed for tidal wave of justice” is [still] noticeable mostly by its absence.


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  • chrisjones2

    …aw yes…the era when Gerrys mates were fire-bombing hotels full of dog lovers, kidnapping innocent mothers of 10 children and killing them and and murdering educationally subnormal children

    I can almost feel the drooling nostalgia for something to grieve over

  • chrisjones2

    The voters have spoke ……the bastards?

  • chrisjones2

    ….well it was promised and hasn’t been delivered so it looks like the plug will finally be pulled . One murder too many

  • chrisjones2

    I believe most unionists do as do most nationalists

  • chrisjones2

    “So no, I’m not really minded to take it very seriously when unionists start quoting the rule of law at me.”

    Thats up to you. Frankly, tough

  • chrisjones2

    Are there many Republican paramilitaries who are not State agents?

  • chrisjones2

    “kill IRA men who had decided to give up their weaponry”

    So was McGuigan murdered with a stick of celery

  • Robin Keogh

    Look, have u not figured out already that mainstream Unionist association with violent loyalism is perfectly acceptable on any level at any time and for any reason? Its their wee country remember.

  • Steve Larson

    I think SF will accept a pause in power sharing. Their main focus is now on the South and the elections in 2016 for Leinster hse. A break opens up a lot of extra resources that can be marshaled south.

    Add in that it will still only be a matter of time before power sharing returns and Unionism will lose ground in that intervening period.

    It really is Win Win.

  • submariner

    Chris you asked for examples of Unionists standing shoulder to shoulder with loyalist terrorists and i provided exactly that so what is the problem?

  • mac tire

    Same type of celery Davidson was murdered with.
    I hope you all have the same concern about who committed the first murder and why. I see so little analysis of that, yet it is linked and of as much importance.

  • barnshee

    I suggest you ‘re read them terrorists are terrorists of whatever hue

  • paulgraham7567

    Not really. You are making assumptions upon which you have no proof, as yet.

    We have an ongoing murder investigation, due process of law.

    Until a court of law finds anyone guilty, everything else is simple allegation.

    Let’s be honest here, and not take sectarian sides. The IRA/UDA/All the rest of the gangsters have no respect for law or democracy.

    Both Unionist and Nationalist politicians have pandered to paramilitaries when it suited them. And whilst SF may have a more overt link to IRA, the Loyalists were linked to the British/Unionist side just as much.

    Unionism needs to get off it’s high horse, because they are fooling no one.

    And as for Twaddell, get real. Nothing happens on the Shankill road without UDA/UVF involvement. The same UVF that has broken it’s ceasefire how many times?

  • paulgraham7567

    Question then? Did u vote for him?

  • submariner

    oh so there is no such thing as counter terrorist then? You must have seen the light.

  • paulgraham7567

    Right here. You have questioned the statement “standing shoulder to shoulder with terrorists”.

    Now u say u didn’t. Honestly it seems to me u will defend the Orange, come what may, but have no time for anything green.

    This is the main issue I have with this particular side to Unionism. It still doesn’t accept any wrongdoing. “It was all the IRA’s fault”.

    Both sides were wrong. Seriously wrong. Until we can agree that, we’re screwed.

  • paulgraham7567

    I believe the Nationalist Socialist party were elected in Germany in 1933, if my memory is correct.

    The voters have spoken.

    Just because bad politics are popular, doesn’t change the fact they are bad politics?

  • paulgraham7567

    Might not be a bad idea. And a few more immigrants too. Water down the bigots numbers a bit!!

    Or perhaps a moderate Alliance/UU/SDLP coalition?

    I’d vote for that. Leave all the red herrings/fearmongering at the door.

  • paulgraham7567

    1 Republican murder too many?

  • mac tire

    Paul, welcome to the realm of kangaroo courts, where Chris proclaims without evidence and accepts what he is told – like a good little sheep (as he is wont to tell others).

    He (and others) proclaimed that assault rifles were used in the murder of Mr Mc Guigan – gleaned by the Indo and Belfast Telegraph, no doubt.

    Last night’s Spotlight claimed different. This is the type of garbage we are dealing with.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    No, you said “politicians actively directing terrorism. ”

    Name the politicians who are directing terrorism or withdraw.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Why are you asking me this ?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I was hoping you would take the point about the hypocrisy of the unionist position on board. Obviously not.

    You want to believe that the Agreement which we all signed up to was entirely about securing an end to IRA violence and nothing else. This is a selective view. IRA violence was supposed to end, and it appears that this hasn’t been delivered. But support for law and order was supposed to be an absolute, and that hasn’t been delivered either. Martin McGuinness called has referred to these murderers as traitors and criminals. Peter Robinson has yet to use any such language in the case of loyalists or in the case of those who tried to attack the democratically elected MP for East Belfast.

    Unionism has had a great deal of flexibility extended towards it. Flexibility that a lot of people thought was excessive. It’s not unreasonable that unionists should be more flexible in their approach to the current situation with the IRA. That does not mean tolerating IRA violence – but what it does mean is working together to address the outstanding problems and agreeing a strategy to finally deal with the IRA and all the other paramilitaries. Unionism appears to have abandoned the opportunity to do this in pursuit of short term political goals, which of course means that it is not really serious about dealing with paramilitarism at all.

    “frankly, tough” is the immature response of a teenager to an argument he is unwilling to get to grips with. It shows that you are a poor debater and that you have no serious interest in discussing solutions to problems. “frankly, tough” certainly sums up the obstinate position that unionist tried to adopt over the decades that progressively saw it lose its position and influence. If you wish to continue that – be my guest.

  • Zeno

    They opposed the Government by murdering innocent people. They really could have found a better way.

  • Zeno

    “So the fact that ‘loyalists’ didn’t have the balls to go for ‘the enemy’ and targeted innocent civilians 87.2% of the time, whilst the IRA went for ‘hard targets’ 64.4% of the time doesn’t show you which set of murdering bastards had the biggest cojones?”

    You do realise that there were over 25,000 Military here including the Police? That’s not counting ex police or Army. Also not counting the IRA’s other legitimate targets like workers who did work on Army Camps , Census Collectors and the like. Remember Teebane or Patsy Gillespie or Jean Mc Conville? Hardly hard targets for the brave freedom fighters.

  • Bill Slim

    Colum Eastwood of the SDLP carrying the coffin of INLA terrorist Seamus Coyle. Does this mean that the SDLP stand shoulder to shoulder with republican terrorists?

  • Bill Slim

    Let’s be clear about what is going on here. The Submarine character is attempting to portray mainstream unionist politicians as being every bit as bad as Sinn Fein when it comes to terrorism. That is palpable nonsense. Sinn fein is the political wing of the Provisional IRA. Both organisations work hand in glove with each other. Not a leaf falls from a tree in either organisation without the leadership of SF being aware of it.

    There is a massive world of difference between that and unionist politicians standing on platforms with or attending the funerals of loyalist terrorists. Either the Submairine’s periscope is incapable of seeing that or he is deliberately trying to muddy the waters in order to try and provide cover for SF.

    The current situation is that the Provos have returned to murdering people and if a stand is not made they will continue to do so.

  • Bill Slim

    So it was okay tio stand beside terrorists 20 years ago when they were engaged in mass murder, but not now? Consistency please.

  • Bill Slim

    So my point exactly. Hume was opposed to terrorism and attempted to use his influence to bring Provo terrorism to a halt. Unionist politicians are also opposed to terrorism and have used their influence to reduce violence from the loyalist groups. By standing with them on platforms they showed leadership and as a result the violence around Twaddell etc has been vastly reduced.

    Sinn Fein on the other hand is the political wing of the Provisional IRA and are subordinate to their military command. The only thing that we have to prevent the Provos from murdering people is the threat that their political wing will be booted out of government if they do. That is all that is tying their hands at present.

  • Bill Slim

    For an Englishman you seem to very au fait with the standard Sinner excuses. For the record no one believes them. No one.

  • Bill Slim

    At this stage I am just laughing at you.

  • kalista63

    Here;s Robinson refusing to call loyalists terrorist, preferring to call them ‘counter terroeists’.

  • Janos Bingham

    I am. Check out Maria Cahill’s Twitter feed for the photographic evidence. 😉

  • kalista63

    Yep but I meant unionist politicians

  • Janos Bingham

    I rather expected you to go for deflection and play the whataboutery ball down the wing.

    The murder of Pat Finucane was reprehensible, unjustifiable, callous and brutal. I condemn it without reservation. Any person found guilty of involvement should go to prison for a very long time.

    Should any member of the police or Army be proven culpable not only should they serve a long sentence the sentencing by the judge should have the tariff increased to reflect the guilty party’s perversion of their public office. Additionally, if possible, any public monies they are in receipt of, such as a pension, should be removed.

    Yet no word from you about the Hugh McCormac and his murder?

    Hugh McCormac’s murder, just like the majority of police and UDR victims, occurred as he went, unarmed, about his private life. Those murders by the IRA happened as the victims attended church, went shopping, visited relatives in hospital or took their children to school.

    Those are the victims who constitute a significant proportion of the IRA’s 64.4% of “accurate” murders that you were so keen to point to. Shot down as Pat Finucane was or blown up by under car bombs, a favoured IRA tactic.

    At times family members died alongsid their loved ones. Were they also ‘guilty’? Collateral damage I expect for those who take comfort in promoting the myth that the IRA fought a “war” against “enemy soldiers” – although even that in such terms fails as it is surely a war crime to kill unarmed ‘enemy forces’.

    Did it take “balls” (your word) to kill Hugh McCormac and the many like him? Were his killers “heroes” (your word)?

  • submariner

    So thats where Barnshee got it from.

  • kalista63


  • Reader

    Anglo=Irish: In the case of the link I provided it was a survey carried out by the University of Ulster.
    Your link was to an article by Liam O Ruairc in a dissident republican website (his usual habitat); who selectively quoted figures from the Sutton study after first complaining about selectively quoted figures from the study.
    Under the circumstances, taking his outrageous spin at face value was naive at best.
    The link I provided was to a tool to analyse data from the Sutton study. If you stitch together the right query, you can reach whatever conclusion you wish.

  • Janos Bingham

    “So the fact that ‘loyalists’ didn’t have the balls to go for the ‘enemy’ and targeted innocent civilians 87.2% of the time, whilst the IRA went for ‘hard targets’ 64.4% of the time doesn’t show you which set of murdering bastards had the biggest set of cojones?”

    You would seem to be the one who is not able to “comprehend simply English”. Unless you post comments without any understanding of what message you are conveying.

    The above quote from you unfavourably compares loyalist terrorists to IRA terrorists (itself a strange argument, unless that is you wish to open an opportunity to applaud the ‘cojones’ of one set of killers). You therefore did take the opportunity, helpfully provided by yourself, to express, as noted in the point I put to you in the final paragraph of my post, your point that the IRA had the “cojones”. So clearly no “misunderstanding” on my part.

    I am also aware that you employed the word ‘heroes’ sarcastically. I returned that the word could equally be applied to the IRA in just such a sarcastic fashion. Unfortunately you wish to appear to be unable to grasp that simply point and avoided the question.

    As usual your response was wilfully obtuse and avoided actually addressing the points . That is your style of argument. Together, naturally, with taking every opportunity to express your hatred for one section alone of the NI community: unionists.

    As an obvious Sinn Fein supporter, something that also comes across in most of your postings, your sneaking regard for the IRA is evident. Yes of course you throw in the odd “murdering bastards” comments in the deluded belief that such shrouds your true position; or perhaps you merely lack the ‘sphericalls’ to post what you actually think?

  • Janos Bingham


    So just more of the same from you.

  • Granni Trixie

    It muddies the water.

  • Granni Trixie

    All I know is that I was very moved at the St Mary’s occasion. I never thought I’d see a CC in my old college. The room was full of troubles victims-survivors critical that their loved ones cases had been inadequately dealt with. He was v impressive not to say courageous in taking on such a venue and judged his responses just right. Which is why the audience gave him such a warm reception I suppose. It was the falls rd. GA et al were there. So?

  • Granni Trixie

    I’m honestly not sure if UUP will gain or lose from their shinnanigans. Many see through their faux fight with DUP whilst some DUP voters might switch to them.
    As for “putting country before party” talk,pass the boke bag.

  • Granni Trixie

    Moderate UUP? and do you think UUP would be comfortable with a key Alliance values of anti sectarianism or compromise? Look, people belong to different parties for good reasons – they see and analyse things differently.