Jonathan Powell “If the IRA is there as a veterans organisation why does that matter? Why not legalise it?”

Just on Nolan Live tonight

In the clip Powell says;

I don’t think it matters whether the IRA has gone away. If the IRA is there as a veterans organisation why does  that matter? Why not legalise it?

For clarity Powell stated in the interview his approach is reaching out to those who are seeking peaceful means and are committed to peaceful means.

  • Zeno

    Thanks for the head up Jonathon. Now we know how its all going to fall together to let the DUP back in.

  • Robin Keogh

    Its complicated

  • James7e

    Uhmm….like some sort of unrepentant serial killers’ social club?

    Certainly one of the stupidest ideas I’ve heard floated in 2015.

  • Mary Anna Quigley

    Labour not in power say what you like , means nothing.
    Matter of fact British people will never vote you in at the rate your going.

  • Sharpie

    Unionists commenters – can you not stop yourselves for a minute and think. If the IRA were legalised that would be the biggest signal in the world that it was all over, forever. It would be total unambiguous withdrawal, you would also have scrutiny and accountability.

    I wonder if he has an inside on this or is this just a random idea he is floating. I have to say its compelling. I wonder if they would apply for charitable status for tax purposes.

  • Dan

    we’ve had enough of the corruption of decency and democracy through the input of Powell. Time for him to sling his hook.

  • Granni Trixie

    If Powell aspires to be ‘an honest broker ‘ he’s blown it as he is nailing his colours to the mast in the struggle to legitimise the physical force campaign. I do agree with him that the important thing is that IRA and other like organisations are not involved in terrorism. We still have a duty to victims and the rest of us who lived through the troubles to have clarity about the nature of the IRA – it terrorised people.

  • Jag

    Back to the Cartesian question again: how do you know that PIRA exists? During the civil war, it was involved in recruitment, financing, intelligence, logistics and planning, operations against the enemy, propaganda. We knew PIRA existed because all of these things were happening.

    How do we know that PIRA exists today? What is the difference between PIRA and SF, in terms of activities.

  • Kevin Breslin

    If the PIRA were a legal organisation, they would have legal obligations, they may even have legal responsibility to deal with the organisation’s actions in the past. It would make it easier for police to monitor them, and easier for a load of “veterans” to be checked upon. Any psychopathic actions and it gets outlawed again. Any acts considered “War Crimes” they might even be financially liable. Any ex-prisoner who wanted to move on would be blacklisted if they registered as a veteran.

    In many reasons legalization would be doing a lot of British and possibly Irish Intelligence and security forces a favour and for this reason I don’t see any PIRA ever buying into being legalized.

    To me the idea is too stupid to be insensitive, and cleverer than its potential ability to work.

  • Turgon

    This is clearly an idea which would be comical were it not so insulting to victims: how about legalising the mafia in Italy or the Red Brigades in Germany etc. indeed maybe we should formally celebrate people trafficking gangs and pedophile rings.

    However, this is a very stupid idea floated by a very intelligent man in order to gain attention.

    I hope the following is not seen as man playing but the idea needs to be understood in the context of who is making it. Powell was a senior civil servant who became more a political adviser when he became Blair’s chief of staff. During that time he obviously became far too friendly with terrorists (see his invite of McGuinness to his wedding).

    However, more importantly since the fall of Blair Powell has not had as important roles in life. He has been involved in a few third sector organisations and then Cameron made him envoy to Libya but that is going nowhere for him at all. He may well also be criticised when the Chilcot enquiry finally comes out.

    As such raising his profile and trying to point to things he was involved in which were perceived to have gone better than Iraq, Libya and the like makes sense. It would help prepare for some other roles if and when the Libya envoy stuff ends.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The only beneficiaries here literally would be the British government … the victims of the IRA and even the IRA themselves would have nothing to gain from this.

  • Turgon

    Maybe but my point is the main beneficiary is Powell personally who is raising his own profile.

  • Kevin Breslin

    When have you ever sat down and support a politician over a “Golden Opinion” … the belief in an overriding all influencing Golden Opinions is a political superstition and always has been.

  • Mike the First

    Leaving the (massive) moral issue to one side, there’s a huge “legal” issue (excuse the pun) – the ban on “the IRA” applies not just to the PIRA but also covers all the Real IRA, New IRA, etc.

  • chrisjones2

    Poor Jonathan …just as the peace process days (“a little bit of housekeeping”) you have failed to notice that there is the odd teensie murder going on as well as all the crime, smuggling, fuel laundering, covering up rape and paedophilia, keeping members away from being arrested, etc etc

    I know its hard to admit ()as you flog it around the world) that you Peace Process was fatally flawed but for your information most of us in NI – from all sections of the community – want a peaceful AND LAWFUL society. We don’t want an old comrades association where some of the comrades feel free to carry on their extra mural activities

  • eiregain

    Tell that to the quarter million people voted for Corbyn as leader, are they not British?

  • Acrobat_747

    Exactly, what is the difference. And if no different then what organisation really killed McGuigan?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    An example of why we need to recognise there is more than one kind of human intelligence. People can be ‘mathematically’ clever without necessarily having much of an ability to make good human judgments in the real world. Jonathan Powell has long struck me as an extreme example of one particular kind of mind. Iain McGilchrist’s ‘The Master and his Emissary’ explains his way of thinking well: an RSA Animate on it here.

    As McGilchrist might put it, Powell’s style of thinking is great at manipulating a dead or fixed system; he’s probably brilliant at chess. But he may not be too good at understanding emotions, or making humane value judgments in grey, shifting areas. As we used to more simply put it, he lacks “common sense”.

  • babyface finlayson

    Who is the IRA you are talking about? If it is just a bunch of old guys getting together to play draughts and talk about the glory days what do they need any legal status for.No-one is stopping them.
    On the other hand if it is some kind of organisation with structure then what are they for?
    Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if they just go away as we are told they have done?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the other issue with it, as with the legalisation of hard drugs, is that it looks too narrowly at the activity/organisation itself and ignores the wider social signalling implicit in legalisation. Like it or not, an activity being legal carries a kind of public stamp of acceptability; at the very least it says society can live with this kind of activity at some level.

    It’s one thing society, in reality, having compromised and unclear attitudes around drugs, or in some errant minds within Northern Ireland, even terrorism. (There is room for the former, less for the latter). It’s another thing entirely for society, through the criminal law, to signal that it regards these areas as not really society’s business. As Michael Sandel argues persuasively in “Justice”, it’s a mistake for liberals to see the public square as somewhere that has to be value-free; there is an moral signalling we all pick up from what goes on there. If we care about society’s values, we can’t be shy about what moral assumptons we want our laws to be based on.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    were the PIRA around in the civil war? Before their time surely?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    exactly – if anyone is still in the IRA, why are they exactly? Can’t they just not be in the IRA? Problem solved. Legalising the IRA suggests we think it’s an OK thing to be a member of it in 2015.

  • IRF

    Well, when you consider that the British Government held the position that the UDA was a legal organisation for over 20 years during which time it carried out hundreds of sectarian murders (or “counter-terrorist activity” to quote Peter Robinson at the time), Powell’s idea doesn’t seem such a bad one.

  • IRF

    It’s not for the PIRA to “buy into it”. It’s not like there’s a form they could fill in to be de-proscribed.

  • James7e

    So your point is a) two wrongs make a right, or b) a wee bit of whataboutery?

  • IRF

    My point is that the designated of organisations as proscribed or otherwise is a political tool which the UK government can use as and when it suits its purpose.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    which is a bad thing, right? Surely it should be consistent, while trying to avoid past mistakes. So I think we agree

  • MainlandUlsterman

    they are; but I suspect it will soon become apparent that a quarter of a million members is great, but in a country of 65 million people, not necessarily the end of the story on Mr Corbyn’s public appeal.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it’s really not

  • MainlandUlsterman

    so it was a good thing the UDA was legal then? Most people thought that was quite a bad anomaly, after the initial mass membership phase. Not sure creating another anomaly makes any sense at all.

  • James7e

    Maybe, maybe not. But when the sole aim of an organization is to kill people to provide political leverage for one political party, it is probably not unreasonable to be classified as an illegal group. The fact that most of the chaps have for now diversified into political consulting and organized crime, or been shunted to the sidelines to lick their wounds while some former comrades get rich, seems to provide no justification whatever for legalizing the group. As far as I can see.

  • IRF

    No they should have been illegal from the offset, and I would also apply that to Carson & Craig’s UVF in 1912. Can we also agree on that for the sake of consistency?

  • IRF

    i hope we agree (see other comment re ‘historic’ UVF).

  • James7e

    “Unionists commenters – can you not stop yourselves for a minute and think. If the IRA were legalised that would be the biggest signal in the world that it was all over, forever.”

    Hmmm…..wasn’t that supposed to be the deal with power sharing? Going into government with Sinn Fein was the price for them becoming a real political party, closing down their military wing and stopping killing people.

  • Sharpie

    I dunno, there is something in it. You could give them collerettes and have them march up and down roads singing songs from the old days. Wee bit of money to open a museum where you can choose to be offended or vindicated depending on your point of view.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    On 1912, that’s less clear though; you’d also have to outlaw Redmond’s IVF. I do think the massive numbers of people involved, the fact of otherwise respectable mainstream politicians leading them, on both sides, and their lack of terrorist actions, makes it less than straightforward that making them illegal would have helped. I don’t approve of people arming and drilling like that, on either side; but dealing with truly mass movements like that, at a time when no violence has actually taken place, is a different scenario from dealing with the modern violent terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland.

    The UDA when it was first formed is an interesting one. It started as a series of separate neighbourhood organisations, like the WDA in Woodvale, that sprung up as loose collections of local men, ostensibly to protect their areas from sectarian raids from nearby Republican areas. The UDA was then formed as an amalgam of those local groups. So it wasn’t an unambiguously terrorist organisation at the start. It also had a very large number of members, the vast majority of whom had no terrorist intent or indeed guns in that initial phase. But that initial mass membership phase passed and it did harden into something much more sinister. At that point, it should have been outlawed. The UFF, it’s out-and-out terrorist component, was of course outlawed and the government’s logic may have been, if the UFF is the real terrorist part, we have it covered. But of course the UDA turned into a massive criminal organisation in its own right before too long. So yes, it should have been outlawed much, much earlier.

    I suspect the keeping it legal was part of a long game the intelligence services were playing to smother and neutralise the UDA. From the late 70s until the emergence of Adair et al in the late 80s / early 90s, the security services had a lot of success in limiting Loyalist violence. The IRA out-killed Loyalists by 3 or 4 to 1 in that period. So you could argue it was a tactic that worked. But I think it sent out very bad signals, and the UDA shouldn’t have been legal for as long as it was.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    … and historic IVF too in that case. But see my other post: yes it would be consistent to have outlawed them; but you can argue that both IVF and UVF of that era were fundamentally different in nature from the modern terrorist organisations we’re talking about now. But yes strictly speaking I’d like both to have been illegal.

  • IRF

    it;s funny how shades of grey and partial justifications creep in when it’s loyalist activity under discussion. Gun-running doesn’t count as terrorist activity (unless it’s Republicans who are at it); vigilante groups are ‘defence organisations’ (I thought that was the legitimate role of the British Army and RUC?); the interview which recently resurfaced in which Peter Robinson classified loyalists as ‘counter-terrorists’ (even thought the UVF started their sectarian killings in 1966, three years before the IRA campaign started up again)…

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Not really, the line between terrorism and legitimate residents’ groups is a fairly clear one. The UDA I think moved from the latter into the former and should have been outlawed when they did.

    Robinson’s words were off the mark in that interview, but I don’t think the term counter-terrorist is actually inaccurate, in that their terrorism was in the main a response to the IRA campaign. The ’66 actions of Gusty Spence were really an outlier and you could as well point back to earlier IRA murders and campaigns. The ‘Troubles’ are generally accepted as starting in 1969; and neither the IRA nor Loyalist campaigns proper started until some months later. Unless you’re seriously suggesting Spence’s murders started the Troubles. They were an early harbinger of what was to come, but they were not the only one and they didn’t cause it. I can see why it might suit a nationalist narrative to take them as the starting point; not really a credible narrative though, not least as it leaves the relative peace of 1967 a bit unexplained …

  • IRF

    i suppose loyalists killing random Catholics in the post-ceasefire period just because Orange Order marches got re-routed by the Parades Commission can be dismissed as ‘outliers’ too?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No – do you think they should?

  • chrisjones2

    many of us did that to wreck Labour

    And we are succeeding

  • Thomas Barber

    Your kinda of right, didn’t Gusty Spence reveal before he died that an Ulster Unionist Party politician informed him in 1965 that the UVF were to be revived and that he would control the Shankill. Its seems the UUP were the Sinn Fein of the 60snot really surprising for us nationalists as that sort of thing is par for the course with unionist politicians.

  • IRF

    Certainly not, but how do they fit into the ‘counter-terrorist’ narrative?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    … and there’s no justification whatsoever for any terrorism at all; and I’m not defending the progenitors of the UDA either.

    I’m just pointing out factually that the UDA at the very start was not what it later became and you can see why it wasn’t initially treated the same as the UVF or IRA and banned, though I don’t agree with that view – it should have been banned pretty darned quickly. Worth reading Steve Bruce on the early history of it. As I said, it was a big mistake. Not sure I could be any more clear about that.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    they don’t

  • MainlandUlsterman

    there were some dodgy characters for sure on the fringes of unionism at that time; not quite on the SF scale, but pretty awful for sure.

  • IRF

    Because the ‘counter-terrorist’ narrative, as once espoused by the First Minister, was at best a load of nonsense and at worst an attempt to justify a gang of sectarian murderers.

  • IRF

    Silly me, I’d forgotten about their early Ulster in Bloom awards for flower-arranging.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think it’s a bad phrase to use because there is that hint of justification about it; though it’s also deniable I think, he can reasonably claim he didn’t mean it that way. Problem is, it was taken that way and he should have foreseen it would be. Should have been more careful with his language.

    That said, reality is that overall, Loyalist terrorism was *mainly* a response to Republican terror. They were mainly motivated by a misplaced thirst for revenge. I think that is just factually the case. It doesn’t make it right though. Every one of their killings was wrong; it was the fundamentally a wrong response to the IRA, horrifically so, and what they did was no better than the IRA. Supporting restraint, peace, law and order were always the only right way.

  • Greenflag 2

    Thanks MU for McGilchrist’s piece . Fascinating – Since 1920 and indeed before, political unionism has been ( with a 25 year gap 1974 -1998) trying to manipulate a dead /dying fixed system . SF are following their example for now anyway .

    McGilchrist’s precursor may have been Arthur Koestler . His ‘Ghost in the Machine ” which I read aeons ago went into some detail into human dichotomy of ‘knowing’ whats right /true and real and ‘feeling ‘ whats right .

    A current example of the lack of common sense could be the obviously intelligent in his own specialty ‘surgery ‘ of GOP Presidential candidate Ben Carson who when confronted with the real problem of mass killings in the USA suggests as a solution that “people should charge ” the gunman who would then only be able to kill one or two or three people before being overpowered by the rest ? He did elaborate a that classroom of six year olds should do the same thankfully . And then he follows up with stating that if German Jews had guns the Holocaust would not have happened . In this case sticking to the day job is the best use of the man’s talents .

    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Arthur_Koestler

  • IRF

    Robinson’s weasel words regarding loyalist actions stand in stark contrast with his holier-than-thou attitude to republican activity. I’ll finish with this set of statistics, courtesy of Wikipedia:
    “The UDA/UFF was responsible for at least 260 killings during the Troubles.
    209 (~80%) were civilians, 12 of whom were civilian political activists
    11 (~4%) were members or former members of republican paramilitary groups
    37 (~14%) were members or former members of loyalist paramilitary groups
    3 (~1%) were members of the British security forces.”
    The numbers speak for themselves.

  • Sprite

    Just scanned the comments on this page and as usual there’s the tit for tat stuff from each perspective but I think Powell has missed the point completely. Whether it’s the IRA, UDA, UVF or anyone else it is a fact that those people do not need a legitimacy conferred by the state to exist or to act. They have already assumed their own legitimacy and in taking up the gun to pursue their objectives have unilaterally imposed themselves on everyone else. The only thing that legalisation would achieve would be to allow these organisations to meet and recruit in public rather than in secret. Is that really what we need right now? Legalisation would not help them depart the scene, rather it would provide a boost to those who want to persist in the public demonstration of the merits and justification of their particular cause. It would be much better that these entities are allowed to wither away and that their criminality is pursued vigorously by the police and security forces.

    A Northern Ireland without paramilitaries is what I want, not one which is perpetually haunted by them.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    well, just to be historically accurate (from Steve Bruce’s “The Red Hand”), the Shankill Defence Association actually started as a community group opposed to town planning proposals for the area. It became a vigilante group effectively though after only a couple of meetings. But fair enough, they should have been clamped down on much earlier.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    indeed they do – and I agree on Robinson, he had a reckless streak and is a damaged figure.

  • submariner

    There is no such thing as a counter terrorist,you are either a terrorist or you are not. The term was used by people like Robinson and our own Barnshee as some sort of soft soaping justification or sneaking regard as coined by John Taylor. As for your assertion that Loyalists were reactive is nonsense What we’re they reacting to in 1966 and in 1968 they also continued to commit sectarian murders long after the IRA ceasefire.

  • Sharpie

    Sprite – This is perfectly what everyone wants but which no one is going to get.

    The rest of this is general rather than directly about what you wrote…

    We may as well be honest about where we are and then have a grown up conversation about what next. Wishing the IRA away won’t make it so, just as wishing the UDA away isn’t going to happen. There are uncomfortable truths about what we have, where we are, and who we are as a people that too many continually seek to pretend don’t exist.

    So much of the language on this comments section is about victory – people actually convincing themselves that victory is possible. It is not possible for any of the three protagonists to win. There is no victory to be had.

    Now can we all admit to ourselves that the IRA exists and will for a long time, can we admit that the UVF and UDA are not going away any time soon, can we admit that the British secret service will be around for the foreseeable future, Northern Ireland will exist for decades to come, sectarianism, racism, and bigotry will be present here for years to come, Catholics will be here with their church and schools, as will evangelical Protestants who believe the earth isn’t very old. If we can admit all this unfortunate stuff is true then we can begin to get on with real stuff like talking to each other.

  • Jack Stone

    What are you talking about? There are people stopping them. I mean past membership in an IRA group can still send you to jail. Ivor Bell has recently been charged with membership in a proscribed organization and he hasn’t been a member of the IRA since June 1985.

  • eireanne

    read all about the key to the McGuigan murder! You’ll be shocked at the dénouement!!! https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/key-to-the-kevin-mc-guigan-murder/

  • Jack Stone

    The IRA was very active in the North of Ireland during the Civil War through the intervening years. Most of the founding members of the PIRA were IRA veterans that were heavily involved in The North (men like IRA Chief of Staff Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, Dáithí Ó Conaill and the like). For example, Joe Cahill (The great uncle of current Labor candidate Máiría Cahill) was sentenced to death in 1942 for the killing of Royal Ulster Constable Patrick Murphy. (Not a sectarian killing I’d like to add). It was the splintering of the IRA in the 50s that people like Gerry Adams, Tony Blair and Jonathan Powell were trying not to repeat by keeping the PIRA as an organization. There is a reason why it was never a condition of the British Government that the IRA be forced to disband.

  • babyface finlayson

    jack
    He was arrested in regard to unresolved matters I believe namely the Jean McConville case. And charged with aiding and abetting murder as well as IRA membership
    If there is sufficient evidence to charge someone for unsolved murders then I am in favour of that. Whether the particular individual is having a get together with his old mates or not would make no difference.
    Those released under the GFA are presumably not prevented from affiliating with one another are they?

  • IRF

    1998 not 1968 for the latter date you mentioned, surely?

  • Thomas Barber

    “Legalising the IRA suggests we think it’s an OK thing to be a member of it in 2015”

    No doubt then you’ll agree all those who represent the UVF, UDA and RHC on this new Loyalist Community Council should be arrested and charged with being members of an illegal terrorist organisation ?

  • submariner

    No I meant 1968, the UVF conducted a bombing campaign in 1968 which the Unionist junta of the time blamed on the IRA. Loyalist violence has never been reactive it is used by Unionists as a sort of comfort blanket to try to deflect the truth that Loyalism is nothing more than the outworkings of the supremacist attitude which prevails within the Unionist community

  • tmitch57

    Actually it was the UFF in whose name the murders were carried out and claimed, so one can argue that treating the UDA as a legal entity was no different from treating Sinn Fein as the legal entity of the Republican Movement.

  • tmitch57

    Keeping the UDA legal was the equivalent of keeping Sinn Fein legal, it gave the British legal entities to negotiate with on both sides while keeping the actual terrorists who were carrying out sectarian and anti-British terrorist operations illegal. There is no moral difference between allowing a large organization to exist legally while outlawing the small operational terrorist part of it and alllowing veterans of the illegal terrorst group to graduate into the legal p.r./political organization once they had decided to retire from their operational career.

  • tmitch57

    The UVF carried out a sabotage campaign against electrical pylons and other infrastructure targets in the run-up to the 1969 Stormont election in order to undermine O’Neill’s control of the UUP.

  • tmitch57

    The RHC was led by Johnny McKeague who was the leader of one of the Tartan gangs that carried out the ethnic cleansing of Catholics from predominantly Protestant and mixed neighborhoods in Belfast in 1969-70.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes he was certainly involved in that, according to Bruce. Also openly gay, which was unusual for the time. May partly explain his getting less than 500 votes when he stood in North Belfast; but also general disapproval of unionist voters of paramilitaries.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Definitely big UDA / SF parallels. SF legal while IRA not fits the pattern of UDA legal while UFF not. Though they aren’t mirror images of course.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes

  • MainlandUlsterman

    but it was a condition that SF sever all links with them, if they did exist, as otherwise they were in breach of the Mitchell Principles. That SF have clearly not done that even now is one of the interesting but not surprising facts to emerge from the recent IRA murder crisis.

  • Jack Stone

    Well that is the point right, Regardless of his guilt or innocence with his involvement in the targeted killing of Jean McConville, Ivor Bell has been charged with membership in said proscribed group. Also, IRA prisoners released under the Good Friday Agreement were released on license which could be revoked if they were found to be active members of a proscribed paramilitary group. If that “getting together” was construed by the Secretary of State as a meeting of “an” IRA then yes, their license could be revoked. Heck, active members of the “specified organizations” were ineligible for release under the Good Friday Agreement.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    possibly the continued existence and arming of the IRA? Their appearance at 1966 50th anniversary commemorations of the Easter Rising? And it wasn’t that long since their early 60s “border campaign”.
    There’s always something to react to if you want to react.
    For the record I didn’t say they were always reactive but that they mainly were. Steve Bruce, the leading academic analyst of Loyalist terrorism writes in the statistical appendix to “The Red Hand”:
    “Loyalists argue that their violence is a reaction to republican violence and Figure A1 [graph showing comparison of numbers of republican and loyalist murders over time] would appear to offer strong evidence for that claim, at least for the first decade of the Troubles. Statistical analysis of such data cannot prove which causes which, but it is possible to measure ‘correlation’ – the degree to which the two lines move together and are thus in some way associated – and it is extremely high.”
    He cites some statistical measure which mean little to me, but which I’ll take him at his word show a very high correlation.

    You might contend Repubs could have been as much copying Loyalists as the other way around – but that falls down when you look at the killing rates. The Repub killing rate overall averages about double the Loyalist one, so can’t be explained as merely reactive to Loyalist killings; and indeed the IRA rhetoric of the time did not position the campaign, outside the early days, as a reaction to Loyalist actions; rather, it set its sights on the state, not Loyalists, and talked of taking the fight to ‘the Brits’, by which they did not mean Loyalists. In their world, Loyalists were not really Brits but ‘lost’ Irishmen.

    So it seems clear enough to me. Though I know people write university essays on this topic now! So there is some room for debate. Things are never as clean as an action-reaction model might suggest. And I don’t buy the Loyalist self-justification at face value any more than I do the Republican one. Both guilty of campaigns of horrific sectarian thuggery dressed up unconvincingly as reasonable self-defence / freedom fighting. They were all wrong.

  • Jack Stone

    Quote it please. To the best of my knowledge. The Mitchell principles say that Sinn Fein agrees to just a verifiable disarmament (which was accomplished to the satisfaction of an independent monitoring commission) and To democratic and exclusively peaceful means of resolving political issues. Heck, according to the Mitchell Principles, Sinn Fein didn’t even have to end punishment killings just urge that they stop and take steps to prevent them. If I am wrong, please quote it but use exact quotes because your interpretation seems flawed.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Good point on the damaging emotional detachment of Ben Carson, I didn’t know about that.

    The thing about manipulating a fixed system though is more about decontextualised ‘mathematical’, ‘left brain’ reasoning, though, not about any particular political arrangement being dead or alive. It’s the thinking process that’s at issue – which is one that is necessary for complex problem solving (basically freezing the moving parts so the brain can get a grip on them), but which isn’t the whole picture – it is an artifice that needs to be checked back against reality. The subject matter can be anything – it’s the way of thinking that sucks the context and life out of it, leading to mistakes like Powell’s silliness here.

    It spoke to me because in my job in qualitative research, I am often taking the models of human behaviour come up with ultimately by statisticians, and road testing them in real life. Or, more often, trying to feed a more holistic ‘real life’ view of what’s going on into the models to give them meaning and bring them to life.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    From Wikipedia, where else. The Mitchell Principles: all involved in negotiations had to affirm their commitment:
    – To democratic and exclusively peaceful means of resolving political issues;
    – To the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations;
    – To agree that such disarmament must be verifiable to the satisfaction of an independent commission;
    – To renounce for themselves, and to oppose any effort by others, to use force, or threaten to use force, to influence the course or the outcome of all-party negotiations;
    – To agree to abide by the terms of any agreement reached in all-party negotiations and to resort to democratic and exclusively peaceful methods in trying to alter any aspect of that outcome with which they may disagree; and,
    – To urge that “punishment” killings and beatings stop and to take effective steps to prevent such actions.

    The key one was “To renounce for themselves, and to oppose any effort by others, to use force, or threaten to use force, to influence the course or the outcome of all-party negotiations.” The existence of the IRA as an active organisation linked to SF was and is an implied threat to use force that skews political calculus – other parties do not have private armies who might get restive if they don’t get their way, so it’s unfair for SF to retain links to one. If we could believe the IRA had really stopped, other parties could perhaps live with the IRA continuing to exist, in a moribund state; but an active IRA, still connected to SF, would be a clear breach of Mitchell.

    SF also committed to taking “effective steps to prevent” punishment beating and killings – something they didn’t do in the recent case. SF also committed to the IRA’s “total disarmament.” Yet seems to have maintained close links with it, knowing it was armed.

    Hence the crisis SF have plunged us all into – again. They need to pull their socks up, meet their commitments and act like a normal party.

  • Jack Stone

    So wait. Are you arguing that Sinn Fein did not renounce for
    themselves, and to oppose any effort by others, to use
    force, or threaten to use force, to influence the course or the outcome of the Good Friday negotiations? Because those ended in 1999 . So it seems that Sinn Fein did that. While it might be “unfair” the continued existence of the IRA is not, in and of itself, a violation of the The Mitchell Principles. Also, if you look up the actual text of the agreement (and not the summary on Wikipedia) you would find the phrases like urges and steps to prevent instead of phrases like prevent on it’s own. You might feel that it is a bad thing for a party to have links to a paramilitary group but those links themselves do not violate any of the agreements

    Finally, Sinn Fein did commit to the To the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations and to agree that such disarmament must be verifiable to the satisfaction of an independent commission. Last time i checked The Independent Monitoring Commission stated that it believed that the PIRA completed the process of decommissioning all the weapons “under its control” during the final act of decommissioning in 2005. So, that being the case, The Provisional IRA fulfilled their commitment to The Mitchell Principles to the letter. If the Provisional IRA has rearmed since then, well, if you would please show me the section on either rearmament or the part about it being a condition of the Mitchell Principles that Sinn Fein sever all links with the Provisional IRA. Because it just isn’t there. You are basing your opinions on an incorrect assumption.

  • Jack Stone

    According to the PSNI, it was perhaps a separate, independent group called Action Against Drugs which may have been aided by members of the Provisional IRA. The investigation is still ongoing.

  • Sharpie

    Yay, we can turn left and right politics into sectarian politics, go us.

  • Sharpie

    And people were shocked.

  • Acrobat_747

    Thanks Jack. I’m glad you sorted that query for me.

  • babyface finlayson

    jack
    Yes I suppose technically a SoS might take action against a group of ex prisoners meeting together but don’t you think it extremely unlikely that she would ever do so, unless they were actually bringing bags of semtex to their meetings?
    If any get together regardless of their status as ex IRA men or current IRA men or indeed Quakers was construed as being for the purpose of planning terrorist activities then of course there would be some concern.
    Out of interest when you mention the Ivor Bell case, are you aware of anyone being charged with membership without any related charges? My impression is that it is attached on to other charges maybe as a way of being able to hold a suspect for longer.

  • Kevin Breslin

    To me that’s exactly how it sounds, except the intelligence services would be the ones doing the form filling and they’d be the ones co-operating.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I can see the intent, sending someone to jail for providing inside intelligence or evidence on a paramilitary attack just because they were even the most casual member of the IRA is a deterrent that keeps people holding onto the truth. A lot of victims won’t get justice, many of the perpetrators have or will take their secrets to the grave, whether that’s from republican, loyalists, state or security forces.

    Forgive me for being a bleeding heart lefty but I can see Jonathan Powell’s intent. We do have amnesties for knives, guns and hard drugs so they can be disposed of safely. I can see how an ex-paramilitary network could be extremely useful in finding where are the Disappeared are, who was responsible for certain acts, who might be the anti-peace dissidents. I really don’t see why they’d need to be branded The IRA to do such tasks however … it’s insensitive and illogical.

    In the past loyalist paramilitaries were decriminalized in order to gain their co-operation and it failed entirely. They simply don’t buy into it.

    We also have to remember it was Margret Thatcher who decriminalized the IRA, but she never gave them their wish of full military legitimacy, I suppose in a “careful what you wish for” way the worst that IRA men and woman caught would face if they were captured was UK and Irish courts and UK and Irish jail cells.

    While if they were really treated like military combatants some would be facing The Hague where acts of torture and abduction like Serbian War Generals and could be prosecuted in front of the world. In some ways I think the trade-off was made so UK paratroopers didn’t face any slight threat of the same fate over Bloody Sunday.

    We do have to find means of restorative justice, I simply don’t believe it’s valued simply let the paramilitaries take their secrets to the grave and think the PSNI has any chance of getting access to their own private thoughts and affairs. I’d rather see guilty consciences pass on information to people who can act even through clandestine and confidential means, than to be ostracized completely and thrown to jail, to preserve some illusion of society’s morals and share the odd bad feeling with a therapist, if they ever open up about it.

    Victims are dying of old age conditions, Witnesses are dying of old age conditions, Perpetrators are dying of old age conditions, Forensic evidence is becoming more unreliable with each passing month, add to that there’s a young generation who want to attack “those living in the past”, who’d cut all efforts, draw the line, stop the cold cases thinking that the generational shift and the deaths of bitter people is going to fix everything.

    The Natural “Normalisations” such as death, decay and future decedents to some extent will be a greater enemy to the truth than Proud Provos giving some insights into what they did.

    If there’s a laissiez-faire approach, there is a real fear that the truth on many more attacks, killings or personal injuries will simply die through normalization. Of course these acts are unacceptable, but is it any more unacceptable than leaving the fears of victims undressed.

    There does need to be some restorative justice, and there has to be some abnormal ways to deal with it. I just don’t think legalizing the IRA (who to some extent were decriminalized anyway) is the way to do it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I didn’t look up the Belfast Agreement on wikipedia, I wasn’t quoting the Agreement, I was quoting the earlier agreement to abide by the Mitchell Principles. Parties aren’t bound by them now, as such, as they were introduced as ground rules for a fair negotiation in the lead up to the GFA. But I’ve been saying for a while we need to remind ourselves of them, because they are the best principles we have for fair talks and things worked when parties were held to them. We’ve had a drift back into sloppy behaviour since then and trust has eroded as a result. In seeing what was agreed by everyone then, when the Troubles were still raw, ongoing even, we may well ask why our politicians should be held to some lower standard now in 2015.

    Your second paragraph above is I think symptomatic of where we are now with the breakdown of trust in Sinn Fein. I’m a former lawyer, so well aware of the difference of effect of different types of provision in agreements etc. But your approach is a minimalist, legalistic one when what is needed is goodwill. I quoted Mitchell because it encapsulated some of the spirit of Good Friday – the agreement to deal with each other fairly and allow no special favours to anyone – which I think needs to be recaptured.

    You’re looking for a way, it seems to me, for SF and the IRA to carry on as if nothing has happened. But SF’s credibility is shot over this and trust with other parties it needs to work with has broken down, frankly because it’s not been open and honest enough about what’s been going on with the IRA. It’s not a choice any more, the McGuigan murder has finally forced us all to address this.

    Your argument doesn’t really work either, by the way. The IMC was removed because it was assumed decommissioning was complete. It’s clear now it either wasn’t complete, or we need new acts of decommissioning. Is there a loophole that lets the IRA re-arm after decommissioning? I don’t know and can’t be bothered checking to be honest, but if SF is thinking it’s OK to rely on some ruse like that, it understands nothing about trust-building and the whole reason we needed decommissioning in the first place, viz people still being quite traumatised and untrusting of it after its “armed struggle.” It wasn’t our idea but we had to suffer it. The least SF can do now is listen when people say they need a lot of reassurance on its links to new violence.

    I happened to quote Mitchell too because whatever loophole the IRA does want to use, it would be against the spirit of Mitchell. If parties had to agree to those principles to get into talks, a fortiori they must implicitly agree to abide by them in the much more serious business of government. I’m using in the absence of knowing the detail of things like the Ministerial Code and not being a legal expert in that area. I don’t think that’s much of a stretch. So it is there that SF can’t be linked to an actively violent IRA; I’m not saying in a legally enforceable way, but in an agreement of fair play all the parties entered into and, we all hope, still believe in.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    like others who see Northern Ireland only through the prism of its paramilitary violence, rather than having the more mundane experience of living, loving, working and everything else there, he forgets that paramilitaries are not the only people to think about when designing the future. In fact they should be the last priority.

  • Thomas Barber

    So why dont Jim Allister and all the other various unionist politicians from the DUP and UUP who meet with representatives from the above illegal terrorist organisations regularly demand that the same people be arrested. If its good enough for the Podrick Wilsons of this world to be charged with IRA membership when its claimed he represented the IRA then why no calls from unionists or the PSNI for the likes of Jim Wilson to be arrested and charged when he openly attends meetings publicly representing the RHC’s.

    Would you not agree that the UVF, UDA and RHC already have in place what Johnathon Powell has in mind for the IRA and unionist politicians obviously agree with it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    you left the IRA itself off that list – and I think that’s the reason politicians generally (not just unionist ones) have not been pushing much for these people, on either side, to be arrested. There seems to be some kind of agreement they won’t be – which I take massive issue with. When was that ever agreed?

    But yes I agree absolutely, you can’t have one rule for Republican paramilitaries and another for Loyalists – bung them all in the slammer. And they should withdraw those OTR letters too. And get some historical prosecutions going against former IRA and UVF leaders who haven’t served time yet for it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “the biggest signal in the world that it was all over”
    Isn’t it over anyway? We were assured it was … not sure why we need further signals.
    Scrutiny and accountability? Of the IRA? Yes, a legalised IRA would be throwing the doors open I’m sure. And with their reputation for straight-talking, they could be relied on to give the public honest answers to all our questions … what could possibly go wrong?

  • tmitch57

    The counter-terrorist narrative was genuinely believed by many if not most of those who joined the ranks of the UDA and its predecessor organizations in 1971-72, when it became clear that the UDA was mainly about sectarian murders of ordinary Catholics and running protectionist rackets these drifted away. This accounts for the large reduction in numbers from the early 1970s to the mid-1970s.

  • Thomas Barber

    I see you also left out all those members of the security forces who no doubt received Royal Pardons for their roles in the murder of innocent people along with those UVF personnel who you want arrested. I left the IRA out because the PSNI proactively attempt to arrest and charge anyone who represents the IRA, if you’d like some recent evidence its not too hard to find. When has there ever been public meetings in nationalist areas where nationalist politicians including the SDLP have sat around a table with people who openly declared they were representing the IRA, INLA or whatever proscribed republican paramilitary group ?

  • barnshee

    Counter terrorism ?? Unsuitable?? Then try copy terrorism or answering terrorism or responding terrorism or return of the serve Tec etc

  • submariner

    Or try terrorist apologist,admirer,excuser sneaking regarder You are fooling no one