The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Return to Conflict No Alternative

 

David Adams • Irish Times, 1 September 2006

Dissident republicans are undoubtedly correct when they accuse their mainstream rivals of settling far short of a united Ireland.

Self-evidently, the Belfast Agreement does not amount to a 32-county unitary state nor provide any guarantee there will ever be one. Beyond these basic points, however, many dissidents part company with rational analysis.

In their unwillingness or inability to recognise the circumstances that made such an agreement inevitable, they seem to exist in a parallel universe. Those advocating a return to conflict, for example, claim that the republican movement betrayed the past sacrifices of IRA volunteers and their families by ending its armed campaign before a united Ireland had been achieved. (I do not mention the suffering of many thousands of others in the conflict because it appears not to be a factor in their deliberations.)

This is an emotionally loaded argument that does not address fundamental realities and is, in fact, dangerously circular. It infers, erroneously, that the IRA could eventually have achieved its aims by violent means. The truth is, it had been apparent for at least a decade before the 1994 ceasefire the IRA campaign was going nowhere.

After 35 years of sustained conflict and almost 4,000 deaths, republicans were no closer to a united Ireland than they had been in 1969.

For people to argue for a resurrection of that campaign in the full knowledge that it now has even less chance of success than before, is outrageous. For them to use past sacrifice as an excuse for the re-creation of more needless suffering, is nothing short of obscene.

Rather than questioning whether the conflict should have been brought to an end, republicans along with the rest of us should be asking why it took so long. The choice facing mainstream republicanism was clear, either continue with a self-destructive, self-perpetuating unwinnable campaign or sue for peace and a settlement.

With a sizeable electoral mandate that held untold potential for further growth in a post-conflict environment, it was a choice that hardly needed making. Other dissidents have reluctantly accepted that an end to armed struggle was inevitable, but seem convinced that Sinn Féin could have got a better deal.

This is self-delusion of the highest order.

Though Sinn Féin's negotiating position was bolstered by its close association with the IRA, the influence this gave has been exaggerated.

By the time of the negotiations, the IRA's best days were long gone. Though having weaponry and still capable of the odd "spectacular", it could no longer mount a sustained campaign of the breadth and intensity of former times.

By 1994, the IRA was heavily infiltrated by informers and operating in circumstances that had changed dramatically, politically and socially, over the previous 10 years. The Anglo-Irish agreement of 1985 marked the beginning of an ever-improving relationship between the British and Irish governments and this, in turn, led to increased co-operation between police and security services on either side of the Border.

By the early 1990s, no longer could the Republic be considered a "safe haven" for republican activists. Closer to home and from a republican perspective of equal importance, was the changed attitude of nationalist communities that for decades had provided a support base (and cannon fodder) for republican groups.

They were heartily sick and tired of the conflict: they wanted an end to violence and a political settlement. It was, therefore, with the imprimatur of an IRA that had virtually run its course that Sinn Féin came to the negotiating table at Castle Buildings, Stormont.

It was not entirely accurate for Sinn Féin to insist they were negotiating solely on the basis of their political mandate, but it was far from a totally dishonest claim either. On political and constitutional matters, they had no more clout than their electoral mandate allowed.

Unfortunately for Sinn Féin (or, considering the compromises that had to be made, perhaps fortunately), such was the SDLP's electoral strength at that time it was they who held pole position within nationalism and led all negotiations on their community's behalf.

It has been in the attempted implementation rather than the negotiation of the agreement, that the IRA - its activities, weaponry and continued existence - has given extra leverage to republicans. Thankfully, not all dissenting republicans fall neatly into one or other of the above categories.

There are highly intelligent, anti-sectarian republicans who oppose a return to violence and recognise that political compromises had to be made, but disagree fundamentally with Sinn Féin on a range of social and political issues.

Not least, they baulk at the continued dictatorial and totalitarian tendencies of the mainstream republican movement.

If, as some spokespeople have recently claimed, dissident groups are genuinely interested in providing a viable and realistic political alternative to Sinn Féin, it is from these people they must take their lead.

 

 



Reprinted with permission from the author




 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

 

 

There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa



Index: Current Articles



3 September 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Sinn Fein: Or the Party of Symbolic Republicanism
David Kruidenier

Public Commitment or Public Relations
Martin Galvin

Suits You, Sir
John Kennedy

False Memory Syndrome
Ray McAreavey

True Faith
Eamon Sweeney

Not the Cathal Goulding I Knew
Liam O Comain

Dark Days Ahead
John Kennedy

Return to Conflict No Alternative
David Adams

Sir Reg's Party Games
Anthony McIntyre

A Secret History of Irish Music
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Unionism's Favourite Nationalist
Dr John Coulter

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 7
Michael Gillespie

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 8
Michael Gillespie

Trotsky and the Ghetto of the Sects
Mick Hall

Global Conscience Not US Capital: The Case for Liberal Intervention
Gabriel Glickman

Letter to Bertie
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign


27 August 2006

The Price of Our Memory
Anthony McIntyre

In the Balance
John Kennedy

The Time for Revolutionary Marxism is NOW
Darren Cogavin

No! To A Holy War
Liam O Comain

Rendition Collusion
Eoin McGrath

Rendition Flights
John Kennedy

An Open Letter to Martina Anderson
Dr John Coulter

An Honest Writer: Cristóir Ó Floinn
Seaghán Ó Murchú

A Dual Presidency: An Improbable Solution to the Irish Problem
Michael Gillespie

Federalism
Michéal Mhá Dúnnáin

Petition Calling for a Referendum on Irish Unification
Patrick Lismore

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 5
Michael Gillespie

Federal Unionism—Early Sinn Fein: Article 6
Michael Gillespie

Number Crunching
Dr John Coulter

PFI Ventures Show the Con in all its Sordid Splendour
Anthony McIntyre

 

 

The Blanket

Home

 

 

Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
Letters
Archives
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices