Nick Cohen’s musings on the McGuinness Presidential campaign. September 28, 2011Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin, The Left.
We already discussed this tangentially at the weekend and many thanks to neilcalf for pointing the way, but even amongst the truly bizarre arguments Cohen propounds in the Observer, most notably a comparison between the IRA and continental Falangism, this paragraph following perhaps best demonstrates how partial, and arguably partisan, his reading of Irish history is:
Their war [the IRA] was futile because the power sharing and cross-border institutions the IRA settled for in 1998 had been on offer since 1974. All the people the IRA, Protestant paramilitaries and the British army killed in the intervening decades died for nothing. Sometimes, it seems as if the only person stating the obvious is the Guardian and Observer’s Ireland correspondent Henry McDonald, but his point needs repeating: the ranks of the IRA were filled with the world’s slowest-learning murderers. It took them a generation to realise their dream of uniting Ireland by violence was a malign fantasy.
This is ahistorical. Firstly both wings of Republicanism, Provisional and Official, were vehemently opposed to Sunningdale. Henry McDonald of all people one would imagine would be well able to tell Cohen this.
But that’s to reify but one element in the equation because Cohen ignores the unwillingness of vast bulk of political Unionism to share power with nationalism – not Sinn Féin but the SDLP, an unwillingness that was reiterated time and again through the 1970s and on into the 1980s. And this unwillingness wasn’t predicated by the activities of the IRA – though it didn’t help, but rather was an intrinsic belief on the part of unionism that power-sharing in and of itself, even with the mildest of nationalist formations was simply wrong. This issue was engaged to some degree here.
We’re hearing a lot about how Sinn Féin seeks to rewrite history, and there’s some truth in that. How could it be otherwise with an history that was at many points appalling. But it wasn’t an history that depended solely on the agency of the IRA and Sinn Féin. There were many players in this, and that is not simple ‘whataboutery’ but instead a recognition of the deep rooted dynamics that long predated the arrival of the IRA in its most recent incarnation.
One might say that it’s unsurprising that Cohen in a newspaper article would be unconcerned with such nuances, as well as clearly unacquainted with the facts, but to be honest I think it should be precisely the opposite way around when he considers it appropriate to make such stark and startling statements as he does.