It been a long march to the signing of the Good
Friday Agreement. When was it clear for the Republican
movement that it could not win the war and had
to move toward a political solution to end the
Anecdotal evidence suggests that Gerry Adams had
plans for an unarmed strategy in 1982. Some in
the Republican Movement today still don't believe
they lost the war. The acceptance of the departure
has been uneven.
Since the hunger strike, Sinn Fein and the IRA
have embarked on a new strategy, "the Armalite
and Ballot Box". Now that the Armalites are
gone, can the ballot box strategy work, since
it is clear that the British government, the Protestants
and the Irish government are not ready to work
with Sinn Fein?
The ballot box strategy can never unite Ireland.
But it can help SF expand and it can produce communal
goods for the constituency SF represents.
Was the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) welcomed by
By the bulk, but not them all.
Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, sister of Bobby Sands,
said about the GFA that her 'brother did not die
for that.' What was the POW position on the GFA?
The POW position on the GFA was to follow the
leadership. Many POWs would have acquiesced for
pragmatic reasons as it substantially reduced
their time in prison.
What was your position on the GFA?
I was resolutely opposed to it. It was a celebration
of everything we had opposed. I could accept defeat
but not a defeat tarted up as something else.
Has people's perception of the GFA changed over
It is not as popular as it once was. In the past
year it has left Sinn Fein looking weak and directionless
The GFA, or the Belfast agreement, as the Protestants
call it, is presented in some Republican circles
as a step toward United Ireland. What can it offer
to the Protestant people in the long term?
It offered nothing of the sort to republicans.
The Sinn Fein leadership put that spin on it for
internal management purposes. It offers the unionists
exactly what they were offered in 1974
NI will remain in existence until a majority within
NI decide otherwise.
Gerry Adams has declared that United Ireland could
be achieved by 2016 (100th anniversary of the
Easter Rising). What is your thought on that?
Same as my thoughts on his denials that he was
ever a member of the IRA. Absolute nonsense.
What do you think about the claim that demographic
trend favouring Catholics will bring united Ireland?
It will not. While virtually all nationalists
are Catholic, not all Catholics are nationalists.
A substantial minority seem prepared to maintain
the union. Virtually all Protestants are unionists
and with the level of Catholic support for the
union it will be sufficient to maintain the union
for quite some time to come.
Eight years after the GFA, sectarian violence
is still present. Have things really changed?
The GFA could never ease sectarianism but things
are improved. We have a cold war or a war of position
rather than a war of manoeuvre, to borrow Gramscian
With the outing of Scappaticci and Donaldson (and
now his murder), how can the leaders of Sinn Fein
pretend that they were always in control of the
It is an interesting question as it takes us to
the heart of the peace process. But, as is implicit
in the question, there were more than them involved
in directing the peace process. One possible reason
for the SF leaders claiming that Denis Donaldson
did not reveal anything to them about his time
working for the British is that the same leaders
do not want the grassroots to know just how in
control of the peace process the British were.
Can we now say that they have been manipulated
by the British?
It seems a foregone conclusion that the British
and Sinn Fein were singing from the same hymn
sheet. The problem for SF is that the hymn they
sing is a very British one.
Is the political solution adopted by Sinn Fein
in line with the tradition of the Republic movement?
Not at all. It is the movement learning to love
what it once hated. It is a major departure from
the tradition of the Republican Movement. There
is nothing in its history that would lend legitimacy
to its current actions.
There always have been dissidence in the Republican
movement; the numerous splits over the years are
a good indication of that. Since the GFA, however,
dissidence does not seem to be anymore about "betrayal
of the first Dail Eireann". What is it new
Theological dissidents would hold to that view.
Others are unhappy with what they see as the betrayal
by the current SF leadership. Some are incorrigible
armed struggle adherents.
If the path followed by Sinn Fein in not in accordance
with Republicanism. Are there people ready to
create a new political organisation that will
not be associated with the armed struggle?
Republicanism is so fragmented. There is no real
willingness on the part of those disaffected.
The left in the Republican movement seems to be
in some crisis, why and what are the solutions?
There is no effective left within the Provisional
Movement. The republican left outside it are ineffectual
such as the IRSP.
If Sinn Fein is no longer the first political
party of the Catholic community, what will happen?
Will the armalite reappear?
The armalite will never disappear, but it is highly
unlikely that it will become the cutting edge
of mass insurrection as it did in the 1970s.
What is the future of Republicanism in Northern
It will eventually become a constitutional party.
While Adams remains leader, he will push it to
the right in a bid to gain more votes and power.
He knows there is a ceiling on any leftist posturing
which is considerably higher when it comes to
adopting a rightist stance.
Why did you create The Blanket journal?
Because SF were so censorious that a new vehicle
to allow discussion was necessary. Also, because
I enjoy writing and the web provide new opportunities
How is your journal received in the Republican
community, or more generally in the Catholic community?
It is not well received within the SF community.
It seems well known about and the last figures
I received indicated that it was taking 15,000
hits a day. It is hard to gauge just how popular
it is within the nationalist community. Given
that SF is the favoured party of that community
I imagine it is not very popular. People stop
me on the street and compliment The Blanket.
But maybe that is because they are of like mind.
Have you received some comments from the Protestant
community on your journal?
There seems to be an interest in The Blanket
from within the Unionist community. Many of those
who read it seem to find it a genuine attempt
to comment honestly on political affairs.
Have you received threats for your opinions?
Yes. From the IRA and Sinn Fein.
How many people collaborate on it (The Blanket)?
Not many. The writers and the editor.
How do you decide which article will be published,
and which one will not?
Usually everything is published, except those
which are libellous.
Is The Blanket associated with a political
None at all. It is a free speech website.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.