“a considerable proportion of their members are still bound by the secrecy oath they swore when they joined the IRA”

Sinn Fein pulled an initial blinder last night: one, by not turning up for the Nolan Show and letting Gregory Campbell explain the nuances of the Panel Report all on his own; and two getting the host Stephen Nolan read out their key messages on their behalf.

However, in the longer run not speaking about it, leave the field open to your opponents to define the ground on which this issue gets unpacked. The problematic linking of ongoing IRA criminality with the party is not likely to go away anytime soon.

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell echoes Micheal Martin’s line of questioning yesterday:

“It is a pity the Panel did not follow the money trail a bit further. The money from those robberies did not just evaporate, it was invested in front businesses and it funded further illegal activities such as diesel laundering which is being carried out with PIRA personnel, infrastructure and muscle.

“The Sinn Féin leadership say there is no evidence for all this and of course they are right. There is no evidence because a considerable proportion of their members are still bound by the secrecy oath they swore when they joined the IRA. If in fact the party is not controlled by the Army Council, which all the old Provos seem to believe it is, then why does the party not simply tell the truth?

“When  we hear them saying in public that people should come forward and tell the police or Gardai what they know, what are they saying to their own people? How come none of them has come forward, never once? Is it because of the IRA oath? Gerry Adams could set them all free, if it is true that the party does not take orders from anyone else.

Sinn Fein needs to turn its back on its dirty past and its dirty war and tell its own people to come forward and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That is what the people of Ireland want them to do.”[Emphasis added]

, , ,

  • How does a peace-loving and law-abiding man like the good Doctor know so much about who did what with which money, and other inner workings of the RA? Impressive, Alasdair. Perhaps he’s a mind-doctor.

  • Acrobat_747

    Perhaps people tell him stuff. Al is probably on close terms with a good few patients from the markets who are in the IRA.

    My guess is that he knows pretty much everything. Love him or hate him, but he’s no dozer.

  • mickfealty

    It kept the Freemason’s safe from the long arm of the law for long enough Jude. Good for the Masons good for the Ra, I suppose.

    We do know that Research Services Ireland charged the public purse for work it could never prove it had actually done: http://goo.gl/4grXX2.

    There’s also the secretive cultural societies that own their own properties and charge SF above market rents for their office accommodation.

    So the suggestion the money trail should be followed a little more assiduously than it has been done heretofore is hardly unreasonable, or much of a surprise, is it?

    Martin is also on to something about getting some visibility on just how much is being settled via the Asset Recovery Agency Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB)* by people who have associations with the movement.

    The AGS report says £28 million from around just 50 people. That’s an awful lot of smoke for there to be absolutely no fire whatsoever

  • Robin Keogh

    ‘ Associated with’ is a pretty loose term dont you think. It is easy to use it and make it sound important in practically any situation. Association simply is not enough, as you pointed out yourself in relation to accusations against Peter Robinson; without evidence there is nothing. Creating suspicion by leveling manufactured accusations is a very old crow bar used by all and Sundry , particularly in politics. It has no legs without evidence.

  • Robin Keogh

    Greg was torn asunder last night, i actually felt a bit sorry for him. But ultimately he is doing what the majority of folk seem to want; and thats to get back to work and ditch his party’s lanigans ball shenanigans.

    Sinn Fein for their part are correct to keep a low profile only because there is simply no point constantly trying to defend yourself to people who have no intention of believing you.

    Its time to move on and let poliicians do what they do and let the police get to the bottom of republican and loyalist violence. It should be clear to most intelligent people that after years of intensive bombardment, breaking Sinn Fein is simply not possible without hard evidence.

  • mickfealty

    Yes. It is. Very loose. But in data set of over 50 people, that’s a shedload of cash, so to speak. A couple of shedloads in fact.

  • Megatron

    Maybe one of these posts could attempt to have a reasoned debate about the issue and take some account of the complexity. We might just have enough posts saying the same SF=IRA=Criminality=Bad line

  • mickfealty

    I don’t think so. Keeping quiet is good for SF, particularly if the only defence they’ve got is to lie about what’s happened heretofore.

    The problem we all have is that paramilitaries of all sorts have been indulged (and as Claire Hanna pointed out last week) been given money to encourage them to come in from the cold over and over again.

    That has worked to some extent, but we are getting less and less product for the waiting and the paying.

    David Ervine told Slugger in early 2003 that eventually the UVF would just go away, but in truth the UVF has stayed and eaten away almost all of the potential of the PUP to take a bite out of the bottom end of the DUP.

    What’s happened is that we have created an ecosystem that means these paramilitary structures are still living a half live, half legit and half bent.

    And, as I have argued here, it is a single culture, not two separate ones in competition with each other. And they have to be dealt with (harshly or gently) in the same equal manner across the board.

    Everywhere has crime.

    Ours is twofold worse: one, it has the name of being political; and two that enables it to get close to power and aside from any direct issues with corruption, it prevents anyone from dealing with the problem.

  • mickfealty

    Be my guest Mega…

  • Zeno

    It’s IRA/SF now since the revelation. Not SF/IRA, that was pre Back To The Furure day.

  • Granni Trixie

    He is!

  • Sharpie

    I agree with Megatron here. The way the focus falls on some things and ignores others is arbitrary. There is no consistency and the result is that by the time something of value is uncovered any impact is totally lost. Minute details backed up by mostly opinion, innuendo and then leaps of logic mostly go nowhere, no enlightenment, no impact.

    What is the best way to deal with this stuff? If we are ever to move forward we have to agree the approach rather than continually drop in another seemingly significant nugget of information we happened to think of or hear someone like us say, or in reaction to a current story, hoping that one of them will gain traction. It’s too scattergun.

    The result of continual soft blows landing near a genuine story is an increasing immunity for the party (whichever party), an increasing apathy by the reader and further away, the typical voter, and an increasing standard of proof that is required.

    Take this one for instance – we know the IRA exists, everyone has been saying it for years and now the intelligence services say it we are supposed to be shocked. The response is “somebody do something”. We know (suspect) there is rampant criminality and corruption – everywhere, and that our politicians are a bit smelly by association with it (on both sides) – yet we remain unmoved.

    We know that the secret services by their actions in NI have handed a get out of jail card to the paramilitaries to not have to ever face up to their past except if they choose to do voluntarily which they won’t because why should they if there is no reward or gain and just lots of pain?

    We suspect that social agendas in Government have become intertwined with sectarian ones (like schooling, investment in sport, infrastructure etc) yet we don’t rage.

    There is so much we know in the real world but will remain unprovable in the face of the law. We live in a marshmallow world where we blob around mushy issues never finding stable ground and just punching marshmallow politics with marshmallow sticks. Do we just repeat a mantra, totally predictable before its even written: Same posts, same agenda, no matter the topic. You could hide the poster’s names from most the posts and you could probably tell who it was wrote it.

  • Ernekid

    Does anyone think that this constant focus on the presence or non presence of paramilitary gangs a bit tiresome? They affect a pretty insignificant number of people in a limited geographical area. They aren’t too different to any other organised crime organisation that would be found in any other city or region in the world.

    At the end of the day does it matter if a couple of old lags continue to call themselves an army council? Who really cares?

  • barnshee

    Part of the answer -at least- is a robust exercise by HMRC to hold these individuals and organisations up to the light. But that would require balls– safer and easier to pursue the local self employed plumber or fast food outlet.

  • Megatron

    OK I’ll bite….
    Disclaimer I am generally a SF voter.
    I think what the report says about the IRA is correct – it still exists, does some bad stuff but mostly asks/directs its members to support SF. I think the key point here is that it is a very small number of members. I personally know a lot of former members (convicted members) just from where I live and the majority couldnt be bothered with political project. Obviously they are not following instructions any more. I would guess it is a three way split between moved on to legitimate activities / political &community activist / criminals. Maybe that is different in different areas (I am in South Armagh).
    On the other hand there are huge, huge numbers of young people (not me) who have signed up to be members of SF. Most of these are very nice personable intelligent people from all walks of life. The idea that these people are sleepwalking into policy decisions controlled by an Army Council is some combination of ridiculous and insulting. The idea that some members of the IRA contribute to policy decision is very very likely in my view.
    I think most SF supporters and members would like the issue of smuggling and crime in the border to be addressed. I dont like living in an area where if my house is being burgled the police wont arrive for days. Nobody does. But there are obviously some SF members / supporters actively involved. Not sure how you deal with this other than by the police going after such individuals whatever the consequences. Again I could be wrong but the impression I get is SF would broadly support this.

  • I had a vague idea that what I told my doctor stayed with my doctor – have I got that wrong? I love the phrase ‘no dozer’ – but I don’t think Alasdair would be the first person I’d think of when it came up

  • James7e

    “Does anyone think that this constant focus on the presence or non presence of paramilitary gangs a bit tiresome?”

    Considering we are discussing a poltical party which may well have its own army of organized criminals, your question is astonishing.

    Would anyone really care if the Liberal Democrats had a secret army of various types of criminals specializing in extortion, robbery, silencing dissent and the occasional brutaluzing of the civilian population…..

  • Robin Keogh

    But there are no lies, that is no more than accusation and as you have yourself said so on numerous times accusations are worthless without evidence. On the other hand politicuans of all breeds can be economical with the truth, we have all come to terms with that but it is only when that economy crosses the line into provable illegality do we have substance and credible leverage. So far none of the above exists in relation to the current issue, and if it does why are the DUP back in government and why are there no arrests and charges brought. Are we to terminaly live with so-called SF involvement in criminality alongside a permanent refusal by the authorities to act? I dont think so.

    McDonnell thinks a considerable proportion are bound to secrecy etc. Roughly how many of the ten thousand SF members is he alluding to? Modern Sinn Fein might have its silent crooks no more than any party but it certainly is not enough to affect the flavour of the broth.

    And of those tens of thousands of members activists and representatives alongside the half a million voters; what could SF possibly hope to gain by supporting murder and general criminality? It would be political suicide on a scale never seen before on this island.

    There is nothing political about the current crime in the North. Murdering busterds and thieving lickheads sucking from the nervous legacy of a conflict, the physical side of which is done, over… while local politicians and civic groups have to tread carefully to avoid assault or worse. The harsh reality of criminal gangs operating in a divided society is a disturbing and worrying culture of micro manipulation and intimidation.

    Politicians placing electoral concerns above truth and justice in this particular type of situation poses a far greater danger. While politics flounders on charge and counter charge gangs grow and attract admiration from dissafected youths radicalised by the romance divilment.

    All parties on this island, all of them need to unite on policy, enact emergency legislation and launch a furious assault on the gangs until they are crushed. And if a few shinners get caught up in the rubble… i will happily bury them myself.

  • whatif1984true

    “there are obviously some SF members / supporters actively involved”
    Do you not expect/demand that the SF leadership throw out those who are involved in criminality or tacitly supporting it.

    You are in denial about SF’s behaviour both now and in the past. SF of course is in denial about large numbers of things.

  • Acrobat_747

    To me Alasdair always appears as one of those bumbling men that could wander aimlessly through a shootout deep in thought and neither get hit by a bullet nor even realise that it was happening.

    And that’s exactly what I really like about him.

  • whatif1984true

    How many of the 10,000 members can affect policy and strategy?

  • kalista63

    But don’t forget that there was a coup in the PUP. You’d remember the details better than me but we had Dawn walking away after the Moffet shooting, who was then replaced with either Irvine or Kyle and then came the coup by the hard nuts.

  • Thomas Barber

    Its a pity then that someone didn’t tell the good doctor one of his properties was being used as a drug factory but then again maybe a man of his wealth neither cared who he rented his property to or what went on behind the doors as long as the rent kept pouring in.

    Its amazing how “individuals” involved in criminal actions are just individuals when they are connected to the security forces but when it comes to the IRA or Sinn Fein they seem to not be individuals but rather part of a group.

  • I’ll buy that, A 747….

  • Robin Keogh

    We all have imput at cumann level and a vote at ard fheis

  • Megatron

    This times a million

  • Cosmo

    Meanwhile, 40% of West Belfast children are described as living in poverty…

  • kensei

    I attended a Republican funeral recently. The vast majority of the people wearing colours or waving flags or whatever were in their 50s, maybe 60s. There wasn’t one below middle age. I mean I could see them directing SF to make sure they get their knee replacements but I’m not sure what else. Just let it die out.

    Plus the “oath of secrecy” thing is bloody stupid. Do you think if P O’Neill issued a statement calling on all volunteers to go to the police station and tell all they’d actually do it? These are real people, not drones.

  • kensei

    Ye. If there is evidence and a conviction. There is no other standard that works.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I imagine nobody would care, unless someone came up with some kind of evidence that the Liberal Democrats were doing any of those things.

  • Granni Trixie

    That’s vey encouraging to know,Megatron.

  • Granni Trixie

    I cannot believe that “The oath of secrecy thing” is not invoked strategically by some in SF . This militates against creation of trust with other parties.

    Yes it is not meaningful to most but you would make a mistake to underestimate what it still means to Volunteers.

  • kensei

    My point is that it is meaningful to those people pretty much irregardless of what SF or P ONeill says.

  • Granni Trixie

    So, SF “have its silent crooks” but no more than any other party? Therein lies a problem as most people have expectations that the political party they support have NO “silent crooks”. If I knew that a politcian was dishonest I simply would not vote for them and if I knew that a party tolerated its representatives being dishonest I would aggigate until somethng was done about it. And in such circumstances I certainly would not be an activist.

    You,however, seem to be suggesting that sure we all tolerate “crooks”. Well we don’t. I am realisic enough however to appreciate that SF had the job of dealng with the legacy of its past. But denial of the problem – or at its worst – exploiting it to attract resources – ought not to be tolerated.

  • Zeno

    “Who really cares?”

    Most sensible people and all unionists.

  • Robin Keogh

    The SDLP lost a member due to dodgy dealings as have many parties and thats what i mean by silent crooks. Large political organisations include the odd bad apple and sure i agree that if they can be found out they should be turfed out. But that can onky come about with hard evidence, not by way of smear, supposition or unfounded accusation.

  • Zeno

    “On the other hand there are huge, huge numbers of young people (not me) who have signed up to be members of SF. Most of these are very nice personable intelligent people from all walks of life.”

    Why would anyone join SF? It’s not like they have achieved anything for their communities. All the areas that were living in poverty under Unionist Governments are still in the same boat.

  • Mary Anna Quigley

    Once your in your in, many were murdered trying to break free. Used the name he / she was a informer, tout collaborators soldier dolls and disappeared PIRA ARMY COUNCIL PSF made an example out people step out of line, you are dead. Brainwashed beat thousands into submission. You get what you vote for Hilter Army, he got power look what happen, you get what you vote for fascists dictatorship.

  • Mary Anna Quigley

    ARMY COUNCIL PSF PIRA ARE SCARED TO ADMIT EVERYTHING COWARDS . Scared of prison, want to be the top dogs dictators, Mafia whatever it takes sociopathic liars money power greed need to control.

  • Mary Anna Quigley

    Denial .

  • Mary Anna Quigley


  • Robin Keogh

    … is in Egypt

  • Robin Keogh

    .. is in Egypt

  • Granni Trixie

    If you’re talking about SF, the one bad apple doesnt cover it. Recognising the problem to address it is what people are looking for.

  • Granni Trixie

    Like the kind who hang out in the Felens Club? Agreed. But we ought to care about extortion and racketeering across the board. Don’t claim to know much about the extent of criminality but do know that some working class areas are tortured – so we ought not to tolerate that either.

  • Gingray

    Still obsessing with SF I see – catholic haters are going to hate I suppose

  • Gingray

    Most people dont care Zeno

  • Zeno

    Still obsessed with me Ginger and still making sectarian slurs. Only a matter of time.

  • whatif1984true

    There are no leaders just figureheads who follow what the members tell them. Pull the other one.

  • Robin Keogh

    Quite untrue, in my constituency of Wicklow the entire county membership get to vote on who will stand for election. Unlike Fianna Fail for example who interfere from head office. Moreover, all cumman pick a policy issue for discussion at ard fheis for inclusion in the party policy document. A rep from each cumann speaks on the topic and a vote of all attendees at ard fheis either accepts or rejects it. In fact it is a far more more open, tranparent and democratic system than most parties operate.

  • whatif1984true

    Thank you I appreciate all you say. My point is that once all that is finished I believe the rank and file do not control the SF leaders policies and direction. I also believe that is true of other parties but I cannot believe that the SF leaders with their past history of smoke and mirrors/actions have any credibility in being lead by you the members. I appreciate your belief in the system but regard it as political naivety.

  • Robin Keogh

    Well the proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say. If you have time, look back on previous SF ard fheiseanna then compare proposals by local cumann to party policies. You will see where the ideas springfrom.

  • William Carr

    All unionists seem pretty relaxed about the loyalists!

  • Zeno

    Do you mean Unionist Politicians or unionist people?

  • William Carr

    Both, Unionist people vote for the politicians who at the least turn a blind eye to loyalist groups.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Brilliantly put by McDonnell. If only the SDLP had been critiquing SF as forcefully as this years ago; but better late than never. The SDLP holds the key to isolating SF and forcing an end to its double life. All the proper parties should speak with one voice on this. Well done McDonnell.

  • Zeno

    That’s true, but most people despise terrorists and murderers.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    who cares??
    You underestimate the impact of the IRA campaign on Northern Ireland by about 100 per cent.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It seems we all distrust politicians and think they are making a shambles of things – but now when there’s an opportunity to demand that they work to a higher standard of transparency and honesty, suddenly we change tack and say it’s all OK after all … doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    I’m unclear what you see the role of paramilitarism in politics as being. Are you saying it’s OK for paramilitaries to carry on and if they have links to political parties, that’s fine? Because to try and bring an end to that has become “tiresome”?

    I sometimes wonder if some people really care enough about human beings to really want things to improve at all for the place. Yours is a counsel of despair.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    some fair points in there, but the question remains: what do you want the future to look like? Once we’ve decided that – and most of us will agree on 90 per cent of it – let’s make sure it actually does happen. But I agree, there are a lot of issues at the moment, not just the IRA, and they all need to be dealt with.

    But the IRA one is a no-brainer, it’s low-hanging fruit, so let’s bag that one and move on to the more difficult challenges like building more of a shared society. Challenging attitudes to paramilitarism and building a zero tolerance towards it – as Germans did after the war towards Nazi-ism – has to be part of that future, surely.

    We all know the answers, what needs to be done as a society, if we’re really honest with ourselves. We just need to be disciplined and consistent in following through and do it fairly across the divide – same rules for all. So please, no more nonsense about paramilitaries being a side issue. It’s all got to be dealt with, so what’s stopping us?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “The idea that these people are sleepwalking into policy decisions controlled by an Army Council is some combination of ridiculous and insulting.”
    … unless they don’t realise the IRA is connected to SF? Or have fooled themselves into thinking it’s of no consequence. I suspect the latter.

    The rest of us may ask whether we consider their decision to vote for the party of the IRA ridiculous and insulting to everyone else in Northern Ireland.

    I welcome your honesty about the criminality surrounding SF. That being the case, the obvious thing to do would be to quit on a matter of principle and support someone else. As long as people keep supporting them while the criminality goes on, they will continue to think they can get away with it.

    The rest of us have been watching in frustration for decades wondering what it’s going to take for decent SF voters to see through the party they vote for. There are some I know – but they need to wake up. While they sleep, politics is debased for everyone else.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I hear too from people I know that awareness of even big Republican historical events like the Easter Rising is surprisingly low among younger people in those areas. I hope it is a sea change among younger people away from all that. Maybe not ready for the Labour message quite yet, but we live in hope 😉

  • William Carr

    But if most unionists despise terrorists and murderers why do they vote for parties who have a long history of supporting terrorists and murderers! you really cant claim to despise terrorists and vote for people who attend terrorist organized commemorations or parties who take no action against members who participate in such events!

  • Zeno

    Maybe they have no choice because not voting lets SF in and that would be much worse in their view. Does supporting SF automatically mean you support the IRA or voting DUP mean you automatically support loyalist paramilitaries? I don’t think so.

  • William Carr

    Perhaps not, but it does mean that you are willing to ignore the terrorists on your side to keep the other side out!
    since both sides are as guilty as each other there is little cause for backslapping on either side.
    And of course you have a choice, Alliance, the greens,and plenty of independents have no links to terror groups.
    Your original post stated that “Most sensible people and all unionists.” despise terrorists is not held up by voting habits.
    Alas most unionists and nationalists vote for those who deal with terrorists with the excuse that we have to keep themmuns out.

  • Zeno

    “Your original post stated that “Most sensible people and all unionists.” despise terrorists”

    That’s not my original post. My original post said “Most sensible people and all unionists.” It was a reply to a post that said

    “At the end of the day does it matter if a couple of old lags continue to call themselves an army council? Who really cares?”

    I think you have made a mistake.

  • Zeno

    “But the IRA one is a no-brainer, it’s low-hanging fruit,”

    You would think but when the Intelligence Services tell us that The members of the IRA believe the IRA Army Council control SF and SF claims the IRA don’t exist it becomes a tad more difficult.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes, “ought to be low-hanging fruit” would be more accurate. Intellectually and emotionally, getting them off the stage and out of the theatre is surely one of the things there is now almost unanimity on. Actually I think flags and parading isn’t beyond the wit of man either. So let’s sort those without making too much of a song and dance about it and get onto the really tricky stuff – and the stuff that matters most – which I think is the Troubles legacy stuff. Genuinely hard and long work to be done there and a lot of education work, some big shifts in attitudes needed.