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Pay attention Liam Clarke January 18, 2008

Posted by franklittle in media, Media and Journalism, Republicanism, Republicans, The North.
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Liam Clarke of the Sunday Times has an interesting piece here on the dynamic between the DUP and Sinn Féin but a bit of a howler at the end. He puts a great deal of weight on the fact that the IRA didn’t issue a New Year’s Message this year, suggesting his security sources think it is a signal the Army Council is thining of disbanding.

Yet the IRA did issue a statement, carried in An Phoblacht, several days before Clarke’s piece appeared.

I suspect the Sunday Times needs to renew his subscription.

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Comments»

1. John - January 18, 2008

Interesting. Is it unusual that such a message got so little attention in the media?

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2. Joe - January 18, 2008

No chance I suppose that the self-styled IRA Army Council might be really thinking of disbanding? I guess not. In my view they should, what say the CLR forum?

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3. franklittle - January 18, 2008

There’s not a lot in the message to pay attention to I suppose. Also, I think because it came out quite well into the month the media might have decided it was too out of date to run with. IRA statements don’t attract the same media attention they used to.

As for disbanding the IRA Army Council, I’m not really sure to be honest. The IMC suggested that the maintenance of IRA structures was a way of keeping their members from joining Dissident organisations. Honestly, I see the creation of the disbandment of the IRA’s Army Council as a new pre-condition or demand from unionism to prevent movement on things like the Bill of Rights or devolution of policing.

They’ve no guns, no intention to return to violence. I’m not losing any sleep over them.

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4. Joe - January 18, 2008

Good point Frank. If the disbandment of the “IRA Army Council” would lead to some “members” going over to the dissidents, then on balance I’d be against disbandment. Have to say though that the disbandment of the IRA Army Council is not just a unionist demand, it is a demand of the state (the Republic of Ireland or whatever it’s called) and I presume of most democratic organisations North and South. But not one, as you say, to lose much sleep over.

Just to be smart for a minute. The IRA obviously didn’t want to get much publicity for their statement. If they did, all they had to do was ring it in to CHARLIE BIRD.

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5. Garibaldy - January 18, 2008

Just out of curiousity, what’s the logic that the presence of an army council would stop people joining the dissidents? This seems to me silly. If people wanted to leave and join groups involved in or planning for violence, they would. The presence of an Anrmy Council that has given up on violence wouldn’t change that

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6. Ed Hayes - January 18, 2008

I suspect a lot of people think that the IRA has actually disbanded. Whatever happens to them, its going to be messy. A lot of people seem to have just retired but I would imagine that security/intelligence/fund raising needs will ensure that some sort of structure remians intact. It also is useful in impressing youngsters that some sort of ‘freedom struggle’ is still ongoing, albeit with different tactics. The potential for more Paul Quinn cases remains as does the potential for more crime.
Plus there are about 3 or 4 rival IRAs to join if thats your thing.

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7. Redking - January 18, 2008

Yeah-the existince of the OIRA Army Council certainly didn’t stop the creation of dissidents such as the Provos and the IRPS, nor later did the Provo AC prevent the CIRA and RIRAs being set up.

Of course they should disband, the continued existence of militaristic groups is a major problem but I guess the entrenched control of illegal income generating operations and the existence of fiefdoms prevents that.

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8. Joe - January 18, 2008

I would say that probably the major reason why they won’t disband is that they believe they are a legitimate army with some kind of right to bear arms and fight for “Irish freedom” if and when they choose to so do. And they would not rule out a return to what they describe as armed struggle at some time in the future.

On Garibaldy’s question: the logic is that if you are a member of PIRA, you are a member of something. If PIRA makes the decision to disband and you disagree with that decision and you still want to be a member of something, you might decide that the something you want to be a member of is RIRA or CIRA or whatever else is going.

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9. Roger - January 18, 2008

On a slightly related point, is the Official IRA Army Council still in exisitance?

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10. WorldbyStorm - January 18, 2008

That’s something I’ve often wondered Roger, but I’d suspect it’s unknowable. In a way I’d think not, that it kept going through the decades then slowly the meetings tailed away…

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11. Mick Hall - January 19, 2008

Out of interest did the Officials A/C have the same type of pull in the workers party as the Provos A/C did in SF?

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12. WorldbyStorm - January 19, 2008

Difficult to say. I’d have said not…

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13. Peter Regan - January 19, 2008

From – http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/organ/oorgan.htm

Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA)
There have also been allegations during the 1980s and 1990s that the OIRA was still in existence. The alleged connections between the OIRA and the Workers’ Party (WP) in early 1992 led to a split in the WP and the formation of Democratic Left. During the period 1969 to 1979 the OIRA killed 49 people of whom 13 were members of the security forces. During the same period approximately 21 members of the OIRA were killed.
Membership: The OIRA called a ceasefire in 1972. There have been a number of incidents since then attributed to the ‘Officials’ and it is possible that a small number of people still belong to a remnant of that organisation (the Irish Times, on 14 May 1998, referred to this remnant as ‘Group B’ but the term was coined as far back as the 1970s).
Arsenal: The OIRA may still possess 300 – 400 rifles; a small number of heavy machineguns; and dozens of hand guns.

Official Republican Movement (ORM)
A group which formed early in 1998 following a split in the Workers’ Party in 1997. The ORM drew its support from those who had supported the Offical Irish Republican Army (OIRA) which has been on ceasefire since 1972. The group was believed to have supporters in Belfast, Newry, Dublin, and other areas in the Republic of Ireland.

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14. Starkadder - January 19, 2008

That’s interesting Peter. I always wondered what happened
to the OIRA. There were long rumours they were involved in
things like racketeering and forging money as well.

The more paranoid Shinners used to say RTE were delibrately
ignoring the OIRA’s activities because of the “Stickie” influence,
but I think this was only a conspiracy theory.

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15. franklittle - January 19, 2008

Around the ORM split in ’98 a couple of guys I knew in Newry were saying there was still armed members of the ‘Official’ movement in the area and the possibility of clashes with the newly formed ORM. Whether this was the ‘OIRA’ or just the remnants still holding onto their guns as a kind of enforcer wing for the WP but without a command structure so to speak, I couldn’t tell you.

Stark, it might be very well be a conspiracy theory but there’s no denying the WP had a structure in RTE pushing their line on Irish politics, especially on the North. Harris & Co have boasted openly about it and other journalists in the time have written and spoken about it. Whether this also included ignoring alleged OIRA activities I couldn’t tell you, but as the cop shows put it, they had motive, they had means and they had opportunity.

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16. yourcousin - January 19, 2008

I seem to remember a piece awhile ago (last couple of years) on the BBC site in which a Communication Workers union official was threatened by some men who claimed to be from the OIRA. I don’t remember whether or not they were armed, but I believe the threat was treated as genuine.

On the issue of the disbandment of the AC. I think that many people believed that once the paramilitary stuff went away then so too would the sectarian stuff and that all of NI’s problems stemmed from bad men in balaclavas (yes that’s very simplified but its a comment, not a post in and of itself). The Orange hall burnings, the apparently resiprocal burning of a GAA hall and continued illegal smuggling operations shows that while the Troubles enlarged the pool of that kind of behavior it was no means the originating point. So I don’t see what good the disbandment of the AC would to stem that kind of behavior, which is the only “real” threat now that the guns have been given up.

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17. WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2008

That’s interesting yourcousin. Any links?

I’d second franklittle. It’s inexplicable to me how little was made of the OIRA in the 1980s despite the efforts of Magill and V. Browne… And then how much was made of PIRA when it was moving to a much more open process of disarmament. Granted the two weights of the respective organisations were very different… but… even so…

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18. Starkadder - January 20, 2008

I wonder what the average WP member thought of both the
OIRA and the activities of Harris’ “Ned Stapleton Cumann”?

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19. WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2008

I was interested… yes, very definitely interested. :) But internally it was couched in the language of ‘attacks by the capitalist media’… ‘OIRA has gone, but in the North safety of members means that some actually have licensed weapons…’ … difficult situation, etc, etc.

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20. Starkadder - January 20, 2008

I used to be suspicious of the WP because I thought everyone
in it was like Harris…..Did most of the OSF/WP agree with say,
internment or Section 31?

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21. WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2008

Not as I recall.. I’ve just been looking through old General Secretary’s reports, and can’t find info on either, but I think some people went soft on the latter.

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22. yourcousin - January 20, 2008

WBS,
Not that I’ve found, but its not for want of trying. The BBC search tool is pretty crappy. Will keep digging.

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23. WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2008

Cheers…

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24. Sunday Life - January 20, 2008

OFFICIALWARNING;
Union boss condemns Stickies’ threat to tribunal witness

BYLINE: JOE OLIVER

BODY:

THE leader of the UK’s largest telecommunications union has launched an angry attack on the Official IRA.

It follows mounting concern among postal workers in Belfast over threats made to a local trade union official before he was due to give evidence at an industrial tribunal.

The incident happened last November, but resurfaced in recent weeks when leaflets were distributed criticising the lack of response from the CWU to what was described as ” trade union intimidation”.

At the time Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communications Workers Union (CWU), described comments in the leaflets as a “gross inaccuracy” – but also ordered members to refrain from discussing the matter if approached by the Press.

Now, in a letter to all members of the CWU’s No 1 branch, Mr Hayes revealed that he had met with the victim and his family and was doing all in his power to ensure their safety.

He said he was “convinced that these threats are real and extremely disturbing”.

The tribunal case – lodged by a postal worker against the Royal Mail – had to be adjourned when the CWU official told of the threats.

It’s known that three men, purporting to be from the Official IRA or ‘Stickies’, called at his home on the night before he was due in court and told his terrified partner he would “end up in every ward of the Royal (Victoria Hospital).”

The official later stepped down from his union post.

Mr Hayes rounded on the Officials in his latest communique, stating: “CWU headquarters unreservedly condemns this act and is committed to actively oppose all forms of discrimination in industry, the union and society in general.

” To this end, the CWU shall actively oppose any organisation, political or otherwise, whose aims are racist or fascist.

“Therefore any members associated in any way, shape or form, however tenuous, with this activity should immediately desist.”

He added: “I trust that upon reading this letter you will offer your support to our member and his family and

do whatever you can to ensure that the union’s values are maintained and upheld.”

One member of the union’s No 1 branch in Belfast told Sunday Life: “It may have taken time, but the general secre-tary’s comments have been warmly welcomed.

“In the wake of his condemnation, we now want the senior branch officers to call an urgent meeting and add their voices to the outrage felt by many ordinary members.”

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25. WorldbyStorm - January 20, 2008

Cheers for that Sunday Life. Very odd. Any details – of the sort that won’t get us sued – on what the original dispute in the Tribunal case was about?

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26. yourcousin - January 21, 2008

I knew I wasn’t crazy. Thanks Sunday Life. I don’t have any details on the incident other than what I read (obviously) but it’s simply so odd that it has always stuck in my mind.

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27. Joe - January 21, 2008

Starkadder: “I used to be suspicious of the WP because I thought everyone in it was like Harris…..Did most of the OSF/WP agree with say, internment or Section 31?”

I was a WP member from 86-91. As far as I recall, at that time the WP was formally and officially opposed to Section 31. It certainly was opposed to internment. Harris didn’t introduce Section 31 – it was either FF or an FG/Lab govt. And those 3 parties supported it. Yet somehow non-WP people on the left seem to attach more blame to the WP and the Harris faction re Section 31 than to the parties that actually brought it in and supported it.
Having said that, personally at that time and for some years after, I would have no problem with Section 31 nor, indeed, with internment if I thought it would work i.e. if I thought by interning sectarian gunmen, lives could be saved in the short, medium and long term. It worked against the IRA campaign of the fifties. Yep I am an unholy mass of contradictions

Frank Little: “Around the ORM split in ‘98 a couple of guys I knew in Newry were saying there was still armed members of the ‘Official’ movement in the area and the possibility of clashes with the newly formed ORM. Whether this was the ‘OIRA’ or just the remnants still holding onto their guns as a kind of enforcer wing for the WP but without a command structure so to speak, I couldn’t tell you.”

I was 7 years inactive politically by then. I do remember reading in the Irish Times that houses and property belonging to ORM people in Newry were attacked one night – cars set on fire, windows broken and shots fired at doors/windows, if I recall correctly, but nobody hurt. I remember an ORM person from Newry was quoted blaming it on “a gang based in Bessbrook using weapons brought down from Belfast”. Which seems to imply that Bessbrook stayed with OIRA while Newry went ORM…

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28. Sunday Life - January 21, 2008

No one was hurt in the WP vs. ORM clashes – old comrades falling out. But when the Provos made a move on the ORM in Newry they found a couple of their boyos with holes in their legs and thought better of it. I believe at the same time some Provos, how would latter make their name in a pub incident in 2005, had a go at the weakened WP militants. Similarly they thought better of it when one of their hoods found himself in a compromising situation with a few lads from the Lower Falls. As someone once said ‘they haven’t gone away.’

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29. Starkadder - January 21, 2008

Joe- “I was a WP member from 86-91. As far as I recall, at that time the WP was formally and officially opposed to Section 31. It certainly was opposed to internment. … Yet somehow non-WP people on the left seem to attach more blame to the WP and the Harris faction re Section 31 than to the parties that actually brought it in and supported it.
Having said that, personally at that time and for some years after, I would have no problem with Section 31 nor, indeed, with internment if I thought it would work i.e. if I thought by interning sectarian gunmen, lives could be saved in the short, medium and long term.”

That’s a fair point. I would be against internment myself, but I
can respect your argument for it on the “saving lives” ground.
On the other hand, I could never see the point of Section
31. It betrayed a lack of faith in the people, and as the
Jenny McKeever case showed, an authoritarianism straight
out of Joe McCarthy’s America.
In an age when news programs regularly broadcast Osama Bin Laden’s latest rant, it seems especially pointless

I have seen the Eoghan Harris faction of the WP referred to
as the party’s “right wing”. Is that accurate?.

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30. WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2008

Re your last question, it’s certainly true that Harris leapfrogged the parliamentary group towards a sort of FG version of social democracy in his ill fated ‘necessity for social democracy’… or more likely the necessity for him to stay relevant (actually I think I made that crack before). I think Smullen went with him which I always found puzzling in the extreme. It was as if he was asking the WP to shift into a stronger version of Labour. But that change of heart came about 1988 IIRC. I think Harris simply fell in love with the idea of change for changes sake and never stopped (despite his own and his cheerleaders that he has somehow remained constant across the years).

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31. WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2008

Thanks again Sunday Life. Interesting background material.

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32. Starkadder - January 21, 2008

I would agree with you about Harris moving towards a “FG
verision” of social democracy, but it seems the “FG” element
he wanted was a strong hostility to any form of Irish Nationalism (SF,SDLP, FF, etc).

On another note, I always thought FG without Garrett Fitzgerald-
just like Soft Machine without Robert Wyatt-were nothing ;).

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33. WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2008

Brilliant! Starkadder… that made me laugh (the Soft Machine comparison! But it’s all true)… As it happens… prog alert, I’m partial to a bit of Soft Machine every now and again…

Yeah, wasn’t Garrett a strange exotic bloom cultivated atop FG (albeit he was culturally of it)? Whither the social democratic tendency within the party? Instead we’ve got a very very different group asserting themselves… and one much more in line with the old Cosgrave style.

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34. Starkadder - January 21, 2008

I had the good fortune to meet Fitzgerald years ago. He struck
me as a brilliant if slightly scatter-brained thinkier.
He was friendly, charming and wore his learning lightly.

I’d go so far as to say he was our third greatest Taoiseach
after Lemass and De Valera.
I suspect if FG don’t find someone who shares Fitzgerald’s
strengths soon, they’re in big trouble.

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35. WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2008

Completely agree. I think he was a reasonably good person as well, or as good as one can be coming from his background, cultural and social milieu…

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36. Joe - January 23, 2008

Sunday Life: “No one was hurt in the WP vs. ORM clashes – old comrades falling out. But when the Provos made a move on the ORM in Newry they found a couple of their boyos with holes in their legs and thought better of it. I believe at the same time some Provos, how would latter make their name in a pub incident in 2005, had a go at the weakened WP militants. Similarly they thought better of it when one of their hoods found himself in a compromising situation with a few lads from the Lower Falls. As someone once said ‘they haven’t gone away.’”

The tone of your post is a bit macho for my liking, Sunday Life. I would have read the fact that the Provos stopped the incipient feud in Newry at the time more positively i.e. the Provos decided that engaging in that sort of stuff was bad for their political project and so they stopped it – for which they deserve praise.

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37. Sunday Life - January 23, 2008

Not at all. The Provos stopped it because if they didn’t some of them where going to end up dead

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38. Garibaldy - January 23, 2008

The Provo ceasefire was reinstated shortly after these incidents (I note Sunday Life has missed out the two ORM people the provos kneecapped) and that it was stopped it. And while we’re talking about the Sunday Life, its report on some incidents cited above was that they were the response of local people fedup criminality. The report was written by someone from Newry, unlike the Irish Times report.

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39. Solpria Review - July 11, 2013

I seldom create remarks, but i did a few searching and wound up here Pay attention Liam Clarke | The Cedar Lounge
Revolution. And I actually do have 2 questions for you
if it’s allright. Could it be simply me or does it look like a few of the comments come across like they are coming from brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are posting at additional online sites, I would like to keep up with anything fresh you have to post. Could you list of all of your communal sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

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