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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Failed Entity

Anthony McIntyre • 10 August 2005

It is almost two weeks since the IRA announced a conclusion to its failed campaign to achieve a British declaration of intent to withdraw from Ireland. Despite a resistance that was both robust and ruthless Sinn Fein's cutting edge was confronted by forces way too superior and was ultimately compelled to settle for a British declaration of intent to stay. The terms offered mirrored those upon which Britain for decades had premised its intent to remain - until a majority in the North of Ireland would consent to the British going. It is some time since the British state harboured any opposition in principle to the reunification of Ireland. It opposed the terms stipulated by Provisional republicanism - by-passing the consent principle.

The Provisionals ended their campaign in return for what was on offer in 1974. Arguably, what was agreed at Sunningdale in November the previous year had more dynamic - even if ultimately every nationalist advance against partition is predetermined to flounder on the rock of the consent principle - to move towards a united Ireland than the Good Friday Agreement. When stripped of its customary alarmism, unionism's battle cry of 1974 - 'Dublin is just a Sunningdale away' - indicated that unionism saw within the Sunningdale Agreement mechanisms that could threaten the union. Its venom in the first five months of 1974 was animated much less by the power-sharing executive than by the proposed Council of Ireland.

Second time round, 1998, things were different. A growing nationalist population has been acknowledged by John Taylor as the basis upon which the North could no longer be governed as before. This did not, however, result in political bangs for bucks when the Good Friday Agreement was negotiated. David Trimble secured what was in essence an internal solution in which he had to make substantive concessions. What he ceded internally he compensated for on the external Irish dimension. According to Deaglán de Bréadún, writing two years after that agreement, Trimble scored a major victory on North-South bodies: 'the final list was anodyne and unthreatening.' Garret Fitzgerald in recent days has flagged up the lack of concern within unionism over such bodies.

For its acceptance of Sunningdale, the SDLP earned for itself the put down from Gerry Adams that the November 1973 agreement had produced for the first time a Catholic partitionist party. If so, it is hard to argue that the Good Friday Agreement did not produce a second.

Consequently, in making the case for concessions to republicans Eoghan Harris in 1999 highlighted the extent to which the IRA campaign had failed: 'Look, Sinn Féin fought for 30 years. It's like a kid wanting a bike for Christmas. The bike they wanted was a united Ireland. They didn't get the bike. Please give them a few stickers.'

There is no need to look exclusively at advocates of the unionist cause for evidence of the futility of the Provisional IRA's Long War. In their unguarded moments Sinn Fein spokesmen - either upfront or undercover - can be very revealing. Those tuned in to Tom McGurk's Sunday show on RTE last week may have taken cognisance of Danny Morrison's response to a McGurk probe as to when the former publicity director realised the armed campaign was on the road to nowhere. Rather than dispute the explicit assumption in the question Morrison stated that it was around 1991 - ten years after his armalite and ballot box comment - when the IRA failed to up the ante despite having access to a massive arsenal, courtesy of the Libyans. If he is being genuine, Morrison has certainly been a slow learner or a late convert. Others more senior had almost certainly arrived at the same conclusion almost a decade earlier. However, for present purposes it is more important to make the point than score it - the armed struggle had proved futile long before last week's IRA statement announcing its conclusion.

As this sentiment becomes more voluble in public discourse, Sinn Fein has stretched itself to pretend that 'the struggle' still continues and that the task is to bring more people into that struggle. This is just the same waffle that was muttered by the Worker's Party, and Fianna Fail before them, when they decided to disguise their retreat from the field and accept a partitionist outcome.

Charlie Haughey once described the Northern state as a failed political entity and as such was irreformable. The campaign of the Provisional IRA was firmly rooted in that logic. Perhaps the Provisional IRA's most notable achievement lies in having proved itself wrong. Provisional republicanism has emerged as the failed entity and the Northern State is now a permanent feature of our political landscape.


















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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

10 August 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Failed Entity
Anthony McIntyre

Towards Justice: Damien Walsh Lecture
Fr Sean Mc Manus

Where Terror Reigns
Fred A Wilcox

Lack of Trust — Or Courage?
Mick Hall

Process of Consulting Loses Sway
David Adams

Unionism Can't Run on Empey
Anthony McIntyre

Another Side to the Surrender
Brian Mór

Provisional Surrender A Sell-Out
Joe Dillon

The Greatest Betrayal of All
Proinsias O'Loinsaigh

Censorship at the Irish Echo
John McDonagh & Brian Mór

Take Ireland Out of the War: Irish Anti War Movement News
Michael Youlton

Venezuela: Factories Without Bosses
Tomas Gorman

1 August 2005

An Open Letter to Gerry Adams
Dolours Price

The Inevitable
Anthony McIntyre

PIRA Statement 'Neither Surprising nor Historic'
32 County Sovereignty Movement

'Provisional IRA Should Disband Completely'
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

A Momentous, Historic, Courageous and Confident Statement
Jimmy Sands

When History Was Made
Brian Mór

Roundup on the IRA Statement
Liam O Ruairc

The Way of the Apache and Lakota
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Strange Bedfellows?
Eamonn McCann

Rewriting the Past to Suit the Present
Mick Hall

Shoot to Kill: Getting Away with State Murder
Eamonn McCann

Parents of the World Unite
Fred A Wilcox



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