Smithwick December 11, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
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There’s no doubt that the human aspect of the murder of RUC Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchananby the IRA in March 1989 comes home in the testimony given at the Smithwick Tribunal. June Breen’s account of having the chops on when news of the murder was relayed to her by her husband’s colleagues is a striking insight into the manner in which the banal nature of ordinary enough lives was obliterated, and tragically so, by the conflict.
As well as confirming long-held suspicions of the IRA mole in Dundalk Garda station, Judge Peter Smithwick said there was collusion in the killings but was unable to point the finger at an individual and said he suspects there could have been another person passing information to the IRA.
Conor Brady had a particularly good take on that in the Irish Times over the weekend noting that:
…it is a far step from [Garda corruption] to participation in the murders of fellow police officers, albeit in a different jurisdiction.
That last part of the sentence brought me up short, and no doubt others as well. But the general point is clear.
And he continues:
The report concludes that “the passing of information by a member of an Garda Sнochбna was the trigger” (23.2.5) for the ambush operation in which Chief Supt Breen and Supt Buchanan were murdered. This conclusion would appear to be built upon a structure of deduction rather than any hard evidence.
Judge Smithwick acknowledges the lack of any direct evidence. “There is no record of a phone call, no traceable payment, no smoking gun.” (23.1.2). And when he considers the possible involvement of the gardaн who were examined by the tribunal, he rules each of them out.
Isn’t this very strange? The finding is there but as Brady notes it is not based on hard evidence.
Of former Det Sgt Owen Corrigan, he says: “While there is some evidence that Mr Corrigan passed information to the Provisional IRA, I am not satisfied that the evidence is of sufficient substance and weight to establish that Mr Corrigan did in fact collude in the fatal shootings of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan.” (23.2.11).
We are left with the possibility that some unknown garda notified the IRA of the RUC officers’ visit. This requires one to conclude (as the judge does) that the IRA’s claim to have mounted the ambush on the basis of its own surveillance and intelligence is false. But notwithstanding Gerry Adams’s maladroit comments about the murdered officers’ approach to their security, it should be borne in mind that in recent years IRA statements about past operational matters have been generally accurate.
If that conclusion is curious, albeit persuasive, there’s an simply astounding take on all this by Stephen Collins in the Times too. He argues that:
The Garda and the Army generally did their best to block the porous Border but the resistance by the courts and a broad swathe of political opinion to the introduction of normal extradition procedures between Ireland and the United Kingdom for almost two decades facilitated the continuation of murder.
Even when extradition was introduced in the late 1980s, in the aftermath of the Anglo Irish Agreement, it took an inordinately long time for the system to become effective.
The IRA clearly had sympathisers at all levels of society in the Republic, otherwise it could not have continued to wreak havoc for so long. The full story about that has yet to be told.
Many of us here reading this would have been – and many will still be – by any definition far from sympathisers to the IRA and yet will have found that reading remarkably partial. For some of us – despite profound criticism of the armed struggle – there were very genuine concerns about the nature of policing, the administration of justice and the state itself as it functioned North of the border. And it’s not as if Collins is unaware of such matters, in the very same piece he notes:
Many aspects of the Troubles, including the involvement of the British state in atrocities such as Bloody Sunday and collusion with loyalist paramilitaries have been explored in official inquiries. The Smithwick report has now put the spotlight on the State’s response south of the Border.
But it is as if there is a gap between that knowledge and an understanding of why the concept of ‘normal’ policing was near enough impossible in the 1980s.
That’s not to say that there was no collusion at various levels, but it appears more generally to have been as Gerry Moriarty writes in the Irish Times ‘localised… and at a low-ranking level’. It seems in that respect strikingly different in character to some of the events that occurred north of the border.
That said Moriarty’s assessment is telling.
In terms of fallout it seems unlikely that there will be a major negative political dimension to the Smithwick report.
The judge found there was Garda collusion but that it was localised and, it seems, at a low-ranking level. Such corruption is hard to come to terms with, but will hardly damage British-Irish or North-South relations.
Given the renewed focus on the MRF – and the levels of collusion noted earlier in relation to the North – it would seem that that’s extremely unlikely, but as has been noted elsewhere that renewed focus has been given remarkably little attention in this state in the past week or so.
Finally there’s a telling aspect to Collins piece, or a couple of telling aspects, not least that he is sharply against a Truth and Reconciliation process, but also the following:
Senator Paul Coghlan of Fine Gael has suggested that the best response to the Smithwick report would be for the Garda and the PSNI to set up joint offices along the Border to combat crime such as diesel laundering.
In his report Judge Peter Smithwick called for procedures to be put in place to allow for the structured and regular exchange of information and intelligence between the two forces. Such an initiative would be a small sign that we have learned something from the past.
Good idea re joint Garda/PSNI offices, though perhaps I’m being overly-cynical, but I wonder though what the response of Unionism would be to such an initiative? Would they see it as a sign of the recognition of partition or… as seems more likely, more than an hint of an increasingly shared future. It reminds me in a way of the idea that Conor Cruise O’Brien had, which saw him precipitously depart from the UK Unionist Party, of a united Ireland within which Ulster (six county, not nine-county, variant) would have an home rule set up with the retention of the RUC, Stormont re-instated and ironically a spin on the old Éire Nua line (not quite, but close enough), all in order to ‘thwart SF’ and PIRA. There’s a point during some political travels where you wind up meeting yourself coming the other way.
Many thanks to the person who forwarded the following from the Official Republican Movement:
Attached is an oration read at the Official Republican Movement’s Edentubber commemoration held on Sunday 11th November 2013 on the Louth/Armagh border, to mark the anniversary of the deaths of five republican activists killed when a landmine exploded prematurely.
The Volunteers who died at the Carrickarnon border crossing were Michael Watters, whose home was destroyed in the explosion, Paul Smith, from Bessbrook, Oliver Craven, from Newry, George Keegan from Enniscorthy and Patrick Parle from Wexford
The commemoration took place at Edentubber Martyrs monument at the foot of Edentubber Mountain. Francis O’Donoghue former Sinn Fein/Sinn Fein the Workers’ Party Councillor for Carrickmacross and veteran of ‘Operation Harvest’, the IRA’s 1956 to 1962 border campaign gave the oration to the Socialist Republican attendees.
Chairing the occasion was a representative of the 1950’s campaign Veterans Association, Oliver McCall followed by a social in Newry.
Interview with Liadh Ní Riada… November 29, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
…in the Mail conducted by Jason O’Toole. It’s a very interesting piece, well worth a read. Ní Riada is Sinn Féin’s candidate for the European elections next year in the new Europe South constituency.
She had a remarkable, and it would appear challenging, life, her father – Seán Ó Riada, perhaps as the article suggests ‘Ireland’s greatest ever composer and the man who was the single most influential figure behind the revial of Irish traditional music in the sixties’ – died when she was four at the age of 40 and her mother when she was ten. She was brought up by her siblings.
The interview notes that:
Ó Riada’s formation of the groundbreaking Ceoltóirí Chualainn and his score for the movie Mise Éire were the sparks that once again lit a fire under a part of our heritage that was all but dying out. Today, however, Liadh Ní Riada insists that being the daughter of a national treasure has never been a burden. ‘Some people would say: “Is it a burden to be living under the shadow of your father?” ‘I would be of the view that I’m living in his light as opposed to living in his shadow,’ Liadh says. ‘It’s fantastically positive. I’m very proud of being my father’s daughter.’
In relation to her own life and career:
At age 15, Liadh moved to Limerick to live with her aunt and study music there as part of her Leaving Certificate. After school, she worked in a variety of jobs before relocating to Dublin in her early 20s to work in television.
Since then, Liadh has worked in RTÉ and run her own successful company, Red Shoe Productions. But she’s most proud of the fact that she was put on the board to start up TG4 by the then-minister for arts Michael D. Higgins after the two became acquainted when she made a documentary about him and the Earth Summit in Brazil.
She’s highly critical of RTÉ
As an independent producer, Liadh says she’s less than impressed with the quality of homegrown shows on RTÉ. ‘A lot of the time I think they are inclined to copy a model that’s been done on the BBC. ‘As a station I think it leaves a lot to be desired. It’s missing originality and creativity.’ And she describes it as ‘outrageous’ and ‘obscene’ that taxpayers are funding the high wages of RTÉ stars when the government is imposing austerity on the rest of the nation. ‘You have the likes of Marian Finucane who gets over €400,000 a year for doing a few hours of radio work. She has a team of researchers. And then she goes on about the poor people of Ireland: “How can they afford to live?” And I find that quite obscene.’
Liadh was inspired to move into politics by her first husband Fiachra Ó hAodha. ‘He had a strong social conscience and a sense of injustice. He always stood up for the underdog and this would have influenced me in many ways.’ Liadh was 27 and at a wedding back home in Cúil Aodha when she first met 22-year-old Fiachra. The couple married two years later. Tragically, Fiachra was suffering from skin cancer and passed away just ten moths after the wedding. ‘He died suddenly two months before our first wedding anniversary from a brain haemorrhage as a result of malignant melanoma. That was much more traumatic than the death of my parents really.
She married again and now has three children. In relation to the political aspect of her life:
She has been chosen as Sinn Féin’s candidate for the new Europe South constituency which is expected to include most of Munster and part of south Leinster. Currently Sinn Féin’s Irish language development officer, Liadh says that she fully supports party leader Gerry Adams. As well as stating that she believes Adams’ declaration that he was not in the IRA — which most people find incredulous — Liadh also says that she believes the Sinn Féin leader had nothing to do with the brutal murder of Jean McConville, despite the fact he has been accused of ordering her death by former IRA members Bernard Hughes and Dolours Price.
‘It’s very easy to throw accusations and I don’t see any grounding or any basis for that and obviously I support Gerry 100 per cent. ‘It’s terribly unfair that they focus on these things with no basis and yet they don’t focus on all the good work he’s done for the Good Friday peace process. ‘It’s a terribly unbalanced, prejudiced view, which I think is completely without basis.’ She also doesn’t buy into the view that Adams has been damaged by the revelations about how he didn’t report his brother Liam to the police for sexually abusing his daughter Áine for some years after he first became aware of it. Liadh says that nobody ‘in their right mind would be supportive of any abuse or cover up’. She adds: ‘As far as I know, he was acting on his niece’s best interests. ‘It’s a family private matter and again putting it out in the public like that I think it’s again distracting from some of the good works that Gerry does. ‘He consistently tops the polls. He has 100 per cent support from the party. So it’s a no-brainer in that sense for me.’
And she continues:
… that she isn’t trying to get elected as an MEP to jump on the gravy train in Europe — pointing out that if elected she will only take the average industrial wage, with the rest of her salary going back to fund the party’s machine. ‘I’m not sure how much of a difference I can make in Europe but I’ll give it a damn good shot.’
Reviewing collusion November 27, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
..Here’s a new blog with a most interesting approach to the history of the conflict, not least a review of the new book on collusion by Anne Cadwallader, ‘Lethal Allies’.
To which there is this response:
In a review of Paul Larkin’s A Very British Jihad: Collusion, conspiracy and cover-up in Northern Ireland, Queen’s University academic Adrian Guelke argued that many of the author’s claims regarding allegations of collusion were “open to argument, to put the matter mildly” (Fortnight, May 2004). Indeed, he cites one of the cases highlighted by Larkin – when Guelke himself was shot by the UDA – and states “that my case hardly demonstrates the intimate level of collusion that he wishes to suggest existed among the Loyalists, elements of the security forces and the apartheid regime.” Ultimately, Guelke contends that much of Larkin’s work was made up of “foolish innuendo[es] … about a number of prominent figures in this society”; easily dismissible and easily dismissed.
Anne Cadwallader’s Lethal Allies also takes on the controversial issue of collusion in Ireland; her work isn’t so easily dismissible or dismissed. Still, in a lengthy review of her newly published book, Arkiv claims that but for the inclusion of HET reports, “there would be little to distinguish … [it] from a number of others that have claimed to uncover an over-arching British state policy to use counter-insurgency tactics … to deal with the IRA.” Here Arkiv mention Larkin’s A Very British Jihad. Yet Cadwallader never claims an over-arching British state policy per se. And, in fact, there is much more than HET reports which make this important and controversial work a cut above the rest.
From the onset, Cadwallader is explicit about the origins and remit of the project of which her book is the outcome. It is not – and is not intended as – a scholarly treatise on British state policy on the North, much to Arkiv’s disappointment. Lethal Allies covers nearly 120 different killings which took place mainly (though not exclusively) in what has been dubbed the “murder triangle” in Counties Armagh and Tyrone. These killings took place in the 1970s and Cadwallader convincingly documents how they were carried out by a particular “loyalist gang, and permutations of it, with tacit assistance from members of government forces” (p. 16). She does “not claim that every RUC officer or UDR soldier was collusive, or every loyalist was manipulated, or every judge or British cabinet minister mendacious” (p.16). Nevertheless, it is argued “that enough was known, or should have been known, by sufficient people in places of authority, to prevent many of the murders described” (p. 16).
While HET reports certainly play a major part in corroborating the author’s very serious allegations, so too does over 15 years of meticulous research. Lethal Allies is also based upon official government reports, on hundreds of hours of archival research at Kew, at PRONI, the Newspaper Library in Belfast and dozens of local libraries scattered across this island. It is based on years of back-and-forth correspondence between the Pat Finucane Centre and the PSNI (at various levels), the DPP, the Northern Ireland Courts Service, the Coroner’s Office, the Office of the Attorney General and Lord Chief Justice. It is based on countless meetings and correspondence between Justice for the Forgotten and Justice Barron, the Department of Justice and the Gardai Síochána in the Republic. Numerous interviews were carried out with victims, survivors, whistle-blowers, serving police officers, retired police officers, etc. Moreover, it includes damning ballistic reports which link many a “stolen” weapon to murder after murder after murder.
Arkiv acknowledge that “[t]he issues of collusion raised in the book are indeed profoundly serious ones” but deal very little with these issues (despite the fact that these issues comprise the bulk of Lethal Allies.) And unsurprisingly Arkiv make no reference to the “human side” of these multiple tragedies – the pain, humiliation, harassment, etc. suffered by those who lost their loved ones – this too is an important part of the book. Instead Cadwallader and the Pat Finucane Centre are taken to task for failing to recognize “the massive challenges faced by the security forces and the RUC in particular in the early to mid-1970s.” This is given as one of the main reasons why so many of the murders described may not have been properly investigated (evidence in the book often suggests otherwise.) The HET investigators do “note that applying the standards of contemporary best practice to the chaotic, pressurized and dangerous conditions of the Seventies is anachronistic and unfair” but it is the HET that “in report after report … goes on to criticize successive RUC enquiries” (pp. 260-261). Furthermore, while the author is accused of depicting arrest rates of “loyalist terrorists and rogue security force members [as an] unmitigated failure”, this is only partially true – a section of the book actually documents what happened to some of those arrested, what charges were filed and how the justice system then failed in its duties.
The review points out that “[m]uch is made of the murderous activities of the former member of the UDR Robert Jackson and the allegation that he worked as a hit-man for British Military Intelligence and the RUC.” The allegation is indeed made and it is based on far more than the word of Colin Wallace (perhaps the reviewer missed the whole discussion regarding Jackson and the Miami Showband killings – see pp. 103-108). Still, rather than focus on this allegation, emphasis is placed on the many opportunities the RUC had to arrest Jackson and many of his associates. What is more, it is argued that the evidence to effectively prosecute Jackson did exist – in fact it existed on a number of occasions – and this is pointed out time and time again. Why this did not happen, readers can decide for themselves.
Elsewhere Arkiv claim that Lethal Allies “resurrects the ‘Wilson Plot’ thesis of an MI5 conspiracy to overthrow the Labour Prime Minister”. In nearly 400 pages of text, the thesis is touched on in a matter of two or three sentences – not much of a resurrection. Arkiv also argues that “the logic” of the book results a number of “strange conclusions”. For example, the author’s views on the collusion supposedly lay “blame for the Kingsmill massacre … at the door of the British state” (Cadwallader clearly states that the IRA were responsible for the attack – something which the Republican Movement still refuses to do – and that it was “terrible and inexcusable”) (p. 158). It is even said that “Cadwallader and the PFC claim the IRA’s ‘Long War’ was a product of … British collusion”, yet the IRA’s ‘Long War’ strategy is never discussed in the book. What is said is, however, is that collusion simply prolongs conflict – indeed, “[t]he hard lessons learned in Armagh and Tyrone have a relevance as far away as Afghanistan, Iraq and other modern theatres of war” (pp. 372-373).
* * *
Hours after the Dublin/Monaghan bombings, the then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave (FG) argued; “Everyone who has practised violence or preached violence or condoned violence must bear a share of responsibility for today’s outrage” (p. 221). The Dublin/Monaghan bombings remain the greatest loss of life in a single day of the Troubles but there was no national day of mourning and no government minister visited the injured or bereaved. The deadly attacks were carried out by UVF personnel (many of who were either former or serving members of the security forces) and serious allegations persist that other British security force members also played a part. Much of this was known in the immediate wake of the bombings yet Cosgrave and other Irish government officials quickly shifted the blame for the bombings onto republicans.
Arkiv regard Lethal Allies as “but the latest manifestation of a one-sided ‘blame the Brits’ syndrome.” As noted above, Arkiv say very little about the 120 murders documented in the book. These brutal killings were carried out by loyalists who were aided and abetted by state forces; oftentimes there was no distinction between the two. The book documents this. The British government was well aware of loyalist infiltration of the UDR and of the frequent arms raids on Army bases in the North. This too is well documented. The “overwhelming majority of those specifically targeted were people who were progressing economically, socially and politically – people with aspirations their parents could only have dreamed of” (p. 363). Only one of the murders covered in this book was of a republican activist. No over-arching British state policy is alleged here, but in each of these cases blame is “laid at the door of the British state” and rightly so. Would Arkiv rather shift the blame?
– Dr. F. Stuart Ross
Activist, academic and PFC board member
Note: Arkiv’s review ends by accusing Cadwallader of “ungenerously rubbish[ing] the HET’s role in dealing with the past” – not true. Until very recently, the Pat Finucane Centre has critically engaged with the HET on behalf of families since it started reviewing cases in 2006. As the book notes, however, “many families have been bitterly disappointed by HET Reports” and the Centre has always maintained that this avenue is a deeply flawed and imperfect way for families to begin to learn the truth regarding the death of a loved-one during the Troubles (p. 17). Nevertheless, Cadwallader has very openly and publicly praised the “small team of very diligent officers of huge integrity and courage” who investigated many of the Glennane gang killings”.
Derry, Larkinism, Class War & Women November 25, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
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A loss of votes for SF at recent elections in the North? November 21, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left, Uncategorized.
The idea was raised in comments last week that SF might be losing votes to left-wing rivals, or that their previous voters in the working class might be walking away. It’s a very interesting idea and one well worth considering.
Just looking at the West Belfast figures for the locals, in 2011 the SF vote was 22,413 and that gave 65.1%. In 2005 at the locals the figures were 22.659 and 66.1%. The SDLP vote went down by 2% between those dates. The 2001 locals saw on SF vote of 24,358 and 60% of the vote. The SDLP vote was 20% (in 2011 it was 14%). The 1997 locals had SF on 21,544 and 59% of the vote while the SDLP was on 17%.
Rather than a decline that might point to a static vote – though another way of looking at it is that the SF vote doesn’t seem to have been that impacted across that 15 years – given that they’ve been in government throughout, in that particular form of political election. The éirígí vote was good, no question about it, and it would seem likely that if they run again in West Belfast they might get a seat in the local elections, but not necessarily good enough if it’s meant to symbolise a rupture between SF and its working class electorate (SF in West Belfast are clearly shovelling the vote in).
In South Belfast – not great territory admittedly, the SF vote has been growing. Likewise in North Belfast. East Belfast, well that’s another story again.
Another point is that in places where the SDLP has been strong they remain pretty strong at local level. In other words those who are SDLP loyalists at this point seem to remain with that party and as in South Belfast although there is an attrition in the SDLP vote SF broadly is keeping it’s core vote and adding to it rather than switching from one to another.
Where this leaves the situation at future elections, local and otherwise, is a different matter entirely. As, indeed, is the question of what happens in the Republic. So far their polling figures remain remarkably strong for a party that gained just under 10% of the vote at the last General Election. Those figures may be soft, but one way or another they are set for gains, and possibly significant ones, not least breaching the psychologically and politically important barrier of 20 TDs, and this in a Dáil with a reduced number of TDs.
After Adams… November 12, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
Backroom in the SBP has a somewhat fanciful conceit when s/he attempts to draw a comparison between the assassination of Ian Gow, Tory MP and confidante of Margaret Thatcher, and her fall some few months later, and the possible downfall of Gerry Adams.
It argues that:
One of the many reasons given for Thatcher’s fall in November 1990 was the assassination by the IRA earlier that year of her close friend Ian Gow. Though Gow had quit government in protest at the 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement, he remained very supportive of Thatcher, helping her defeat the 1989 challenge from Sir Anthony Meyer.
Despite passionate loyalty to Mrs Thatcher and the broad drift of her policies, he had in the last couple of years become convinced that her shelf-life was exhausted. He did not broadcast that opinion widely, but he remarked privately over a year ago that although she was owed a huge debt by the Tory party and should go “in a blaze of glory”, nevertheless she should go.
That doesn’t entirely invalidate the thesis, but it does open it to some question. Backroom argues that SF was discomfited by the documentary on the Disappeared that was aired last week, and that’s no doubt true:
You could sense it around the place. The groups of travelling Shinners you encountered in the corridors seemed larger but even more muted, than usual.
Though there’s some degree of hyperbole in the following:
Contrary to the common misconception, TDs are as likely to socialise and chat with people outside their own clan as those within it. There is one group, however, to whom this does not apply: Sinn Fйin. They remain the most tribal and self contained group within Leinster House.
Like a religious sect, they travel about in pairs or groups as if watching each other. They eat together in near monastic silence.
Those who have observed them when they assemble for food in the Dáil will perhaps find the idea of them eating in ‘near monastic silence’ somewhat unlikely.
And s/he continues:
Backroom had a small insight into the discomfort of some of their backroom people on this issue a week or so ago when one of Sinn Fйin’s most ardent supporters felt it necessary to tweet to mark the fact that neither Gerry Adams nor Sinn Fein had made the front page of a Sunday newspaper.
Party members usually want to see their guy get the headlines; not so lately.
It is interesting to note how a seemingly indirect event – the IRA’s killing of Ian Gow – helped topple a once unassailable party leader.
Perhaps history is about to repeat itself, though this time much more slowly?
Perhaps, but it doesn’t seem entirely likely given the other circumstances, unless Backroom is suggesting that SF itself will get rid of Adams, and that seems a dubious proposition. Backroom argues the almost but not quite release of new Anglo tapes by Pearse Doherty was part of a damage limitation effort. And s/he comes to the conclusion:
Maybe the Shinners are right. As harrowing and distressing as it was for us to see the hurt and distress still felt by the McKee, McConville, McVeigh and Armstrong families and to witness Adams’s responses, none of this was new.
But the Liam Adams revelations are new. So too is Gerry’s knowledge of the accusations against his brother and his slowness to act. These cannot be explained away with stock answers of a dirty war and terrible things done on all sides.
That’s true, and it is certainly correct that cumulatively all this is far from good news for Adams. So far the material emanating from the Liam Adams trial appears to have a low profile in the public consciousness, in part because I’d suspect few have bothered to read the transcripts now available. Perhaps that will change or perhaps some formulation of their contents will be found by those opposed to SF which will prove more problematic politically, and yet it seems that because it was an issue related to his wider family that has remained somewhat detached from broader public comment. I’ve noted before that in this polity there’s been very little (or would that be nothing at all) said about it from rival politicians.
The issue of a dirty war hasn’t achieved a critical mass either – and I’ve noted this elsewhere this week – not least because pinning individual responsibility on Adams is unlikely to occur (as well as the obvious point, not mentioned in the Backroom piece, that a dirty war was prosecuted on behalf of the state as well). Short of an admission it remains mired in conjecture and allegation. There’s also the thought that this is – broadly speaking – already known, and to some extent factored into the thinking of SF voters.
But it’s difficult to discuss these issues in terms of political ramifications without sounding either dispassionate to the point of utter detachment from the human misery at their heart or cynical in the extreme, and yet given that the SBP raises them it’s worth noting that an Adams damaged by such allegations but still in situ could be as useful for his and SF’s opponents as Adams having to retire from overt leadership, if only because it would keep the pot boiling and it would prevent the arrival of a younger generation of SF TDs as leaders facing into Election 2015/16. But unlike Thatcher, as of yet there’s no great cry for an alternative leader of SF from within SF ranks.
Whether these issues do impact on SF – as distinct from Adams – is perhaps open to question given that it has moved from being an organisation with a limited range of public faces – at least in the South – to one with quite a number of such faces. Moreover they tend to be from a generation without a direct connection to these events. Which is not to say SF will not incur certain political damage – the next raft of polls might be telling in that regard.
The larger question that remains to be answered is what sort of Sinn Féin emerges in the wake of the current leadership?
Anti-Internment March in Dublin – Saturday 9 November ‘13 November 5, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
DUBLIN ANTI-INTERNMENT COMMITTEE
Facebook @End Internment Dublin Committee
An Anti-Internment March is being organized in Dublin on Saturday next, 9 November, leaving Central Bank Plaza, Dame Street at 2.30 p.m.
Speakers: Councillor Cieran Perry, Malachy Steenson, Solr. and Cait Trainor, Martin Corey Campaign.
The Parade will be led by Pride of Eireann Flute Band, Portadown, and a rally will be held at the G.P.O. O’Connell Street.
Internment without trial has been used by governments in Ireland on both sides of the Border in the past. The last time was in 1971 in the Six Counties, and by 1975 when it ended, 1,981 people had been interned and Britain had been found guilty in the European Court of Human rights of “inhumane and degrading treatment” towards some of the internees.
But internment is back again in the Six Counties. Martin Corey has been in jail since April 2010, not only without a trial, but without even being charged or questioned. He has also been refused the right to know why he is being held, as well being denied any application for parole.
Marian Price was held for two years, mainly in solitary confinement, for two years and only released on bail in May 2013 because she was and remains extremely ill.
Other prisoners are being held at the British Secretary of State’s Pleasure, without being given a release date.
The Irish Government should not continue to ignore the human rights of its interned citizens north of the Border and should take up their cases and ensure their immediate release. For justice, for human rights and for our self-preservation, we need to oppose this back-door internemnt.
on behalf of the Dublin Anti-Internment Committee
Meanwhile, back in the North… September 26, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, The Left.
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Interesting piece in the current Phoenix on the Gilmore comments on the ‘perception that Irish governments had not done enough to defeat the IRA during the Troubles.’ As the Phoenix notes, this was singularly inept as an effort to ‘curry favour with northern unionists’, and as noted here earlier today, he [rightly] hedged his comments with so many qualifications as to the supposed culpability of said Irish governments that any serious analysis would hardly have left them satisfied. And as to the substance of his remarks, as the Phoenix also notes ‘all parties in the South ignored them’, which displays good sense on their part. When we’re into the realm of those sort of ‘perceptions’ we’re in deep trouble in terms of serious politics.
But be that as it may, another point that was made in the piece is pretty disturbing, well two other points. One is that Gilmore might have been using this tack to get back at an SF which is now poaching councillors from the LP and ‘basking in polling percentages twice his own’ and therefore add to that a dynamic that ‘the war is over and the bad guys won’ he is all too happy to ‘resurrect the ancient Stickie-Provo feud by trying to co-opt unionists to help him embarrass SF’. One can only hope that that analysis is incorrect, and not just because the issue is so toothless, and very clearly so in the way he made the comments. It’s probable that any negative effects are likely to come back to haunt him rather than SF.
But what of this?
‘Unfortunately, Gilmore’s antipathy towards SF means he has zero relations with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, which is bad for north-south cooperation and is one of the main reasons the Irish government has disengaged form the North during a particularly fraught period.’
If accurate that suggests an attitude towards the broader dispensation that is dangerously adrift of the realities on the ground. The very last thing Northern Ireland requires is any diminution of interest from Dublin. I’d go so far as to say that that would open up the potential for a critical breach in the dispensation. And the flags protests of earlier this year demonstrated how instability can feed back into the mix in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. According to the Phoenix at the recent Richard Haas led talks with the Stormont executive about various issues including those protests there was no Irish government participation, the first time since 1985 that that has been the case. It’s perhaps a sign of the complacency of this polity in relation to matters in the North that more has not been made of that.
By the way, one other thing from the Phoenix which sent me back to the main text of his speech. I’d missed this invite from Gilmore. :
Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said he hoped to host representatives of the royal family and the British Government, along with the leaders of unionism, at commemorations for the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016.
This should be interesting.
The past and the present… September 26, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
It’s interesting to reflect on Henry Patterson’s article on foot of Eamon Gilmore’s not quite, caveat laden, comments about the Irish state and the effort to ‘defeat’ the IRA. So many caveats in fact that any serious analysis of the text would suggest that he was acknowledging no real culpability on the part of the Irish state and effectively suggesting it was a matter of a problem of perception on the part of Unionism. Not that that is how the message has been received elsewhere. But the responses are fascinating.
Patterson’s can be summed up by the following quote:
Successive governments faced a dilemma. By co-operating with the RUC and British army against republicans, there was a risk of reigniting latent republican sentiment in a State with a nationalist ethos at its core.
This appears to be significantly lacking context. It is as if Northern Ireland was entirely uncontentious in and of itself, that the RUC and UDR were entirely uncontentious, and that such co-operation was entirely reasonable and that the only reason for problems would be on the part of those within the RoI who harboured some ‘latent republican sentiment’.
During the 1980s I thought that incredible in the face of evidence of widespread problems in the administration of justice and so on. In retrospect knowing what we do about the various levels of collusion it is remarkable that anyone would now seriously advance such a case.
There is also the inconvenient reality that the British government eventually disbanded the RUC and the UDR was amalgamated with the RIR. Disbanding a police and restarting it – even if there were continuities between the two – suggests an endemic problem with said force, and that is only partially indicative of just how for too many in the North the RUC was not and never could be a policing force that would come close to being acceptable, or even tolerable, for a significant number of people (just as an indication of this I recall being at a WP Ard Fheis in the 1980s where there was some emollient words about policing in Northern Ireland. One acquaintance, who would have been as far as I could judge deeply anti-PIRA, muttered at me something along the lines of ‘that’s good for the optics, but it’s a different matter on the ground’). If not the security forces then what of the state more broadly?
And this is underlined by a comment under the recent piece by John-Paul McCarthy in the Sunday Independent on the same topic. Even if we are willing to put aside those caveats, what more could the South have done given the fact that the structure of laws implemented in both North and South, right up to Diplock Courts and Supergrass trials were ineffective?
It strains credulity to believe that any measure or package of measures by the RoI would have been sufficient to seriously impact upon the IRA and the comparisons with the very limited scale of the Border Campaign are telling for their lack of applicability.
Simply put the situations in the late 1950s and the 1970s through to the 1990s were so radically different from one another, represented such a shift in the support for armed struggle, whether that support was passive or active, and indicated a rupture between significant portions of the Nationalist and Republican communities and the British state that no security approaches could possibly repair. That suggested an history that was overwhelmingly driven by dynamics extant within Northern Ireland and where the issue of the South was marginal.
And that merely points up a basic truth, that this was a political issue masked – and by almost all players within the mix at some point or another, in the military/paramilitary. Its only solution was political, that being to bring as many both in support and opposition politically to the then extant dispensation into a new one.
But there’s another issue too, and it points to a paradox. Unionism was never quite as comfortable, as it now portrays itself, with the idea of close co-operation between Dublin and London. Quite the opposite. For such co-operation contained within it the potential for approaches quite at odds with its own interests. What seems to have been sought was a sort of fortified border, quite beyond the ability of this state to deliver or police, with no political ramifications. But that was, in and of itself, utterly impossible – even given the obvious issues raised by a nationalist/republican population within the North. For such co-operation would by dint of necessity draw the two governments closer together. And one could argue that in some respects, albeit it went in a completely different direction, that was true of some of the 1980s where the governments did establish better relations and co-operation, and this fed into the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which again was anathema to Unionism. Now, as has been noted here previously, the AIA was essentially something of a cul-de-sac and largely unrelated to the later Peace Process, albeit I would argue it did break the crucial barrier of complete British sovereignty in Northern Ireland, something that was essential for any serious future progress. But it points to the potential for, ultimately perhaps, a non-Peace Process dispensation based on something approaching joint authority.
Patterson argues in conclusion that:
The role of the Irish State during the Troubles is more than an idée fixe of unionists, it is a question of major historical importance with a central bearing on any process of dealing with the past. While the Saville Tribunal’s inquiry into Bloody Sunday cannot act as a template for any broader mechanism for dealing with the past, it did demonstrate the immense value of a state making the vast majority of its records open for scrutiny.
To build on Eamon Gilmore’s speech, the Irish Government should consider opening the State archives on these contentious issues in as comprehensive a manner as Saville. This would not end the battle over history in Northern Ireland but it would at least cut down on the amount of permissible lies about the past.
In one way that’s fair enough. In another it seems deeply problematic given the lack of progress on other issues. It certainly would fit into a broader examination of the roots and processes and outcomes of the conflict, but whether that sort of exercise will be engaged with seems highly unlikely. And it reminds me of something I once put to a then WP TD, suggesting that an history of the Irish left would be no bad thing. The response was near incredulous, ‘why would you want to do that?’. Yep. One suspects that is the real attitude towards a comprehensive examination of the past.
Why would any of the players want to do that?