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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Party or the Process

Dr John Coulter maintains the only way to viably break the present deadlock is for UUP boss David Trimble to talk directly to the IRA Army Council, and for Sinn Fein to formally take its seats at Westminster.

Dr John Coulter • 7 February 2005

The electorally hard-bitten Ulster Unionists may have been ironically handed a magic hat by the Provisional IRA following the republican movement's decision to withdraw from the decommissioning process.

For the first time since its formation in December 1969, the Provisional republican movement finds itself in what could be termed a 'political planetary alignment', namely both the Dublin and London governments as well as the North's constitutional political parties and the Bush administration in Washington are lined up against the IRA.

Proposed financial sanctions against Sinn Fein over the pre-Christmas Northern Bank heist, which Police Service Chief Constable Hugh Orde steadfastly maintains is the work of the Provos, as well as a never-ending list of republican criminality are not likely to put a massive dent in republicans' electoral hopes for May 5th.

However, the longer the 'blame game' continues to bog down the peace process, the bigger chance there is of the IRA being hemmed into a corner where it reacts in its traditional manner - a return to the bomb and bullet.

Many senior Ulster Unionists are privately worried Provo hawks are preparing a 'terrorist spectacular' on the English mainland as an 'Up Your's, Tony' after both governments publicly dismissed two recent IRA statements.

Whilst republicans have pulled back from the peace process as a tactical manoeuvre before, it has always been part of a strategy to try and maintain the moral high ground in any negotiations. But this time it is different. The two IRA statements confirming the republican movement was deadly serious about this specific withdrawal is primarily concerned with saving the Provisionals from splitting rather than putting a political gun to the negotiations.

Since its original ceasefire in 1994 and especially since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Provisional republicanism has been able to keep a firm control on the movement, thus preventing large scale defections to the Real and Continuity IRAs and the INLA.

Like David Trimble's ruling Ulster Unionist Council, there have always been troublesome dissident hawks within the IRA's ruling Army Council. From time to time, these IRA hawks have flexed their muscles, sabre rattled, and even beaten their chests. But for the sake of overall republican unity, they have not wielded their talons in the form of a concerted return to violence.

However, now the republican hardmen want to have their day again. They feel they are being 'retired' by the well-educated, smartly dressed up and coming 'trendies' in Sinn Fein. For the hawks, the time has come to reel in the political wing before Sinn Fein transforms into a carbon copy of the Scottish National Party and tells the Army Council - please go away, you are embarrassing our political image.

As for the Paisley camp, in spite of all it's posturing calling for the IRA to surrender, it must be really messing itself at the thought of another February 1996-style London bomb which ended the August 1994 ceasefire.

Ironically, an IRA blast in London might be the tonic to save Trimble's leadership. At least when Trimble was First Minister and leader of unionism's largest party, he managed to get a fully legislative devolved power-sharing Executive up and running at Stormont.

Trimble's unique brand of closet and clique leadership also managed to secure three separate tranches of decommissioning - to use Provo speak - on 23 October 2001, 11 April 2002 and 21 October 2003.

It's just a terrible pity Trimble lacks the advisers to help bring unionism's grassroots with him. That's why he's lost so much support within the party to the extent that even the once loyal doves on the Assembly party are plotting his downfall.

The only reason the DUP stalled on a pre-Christmas deal with Sinn Fein was because the Paisleyites thought they could stall the process until after they had killed off the UUP in the expected May elections.

The Paisley party was working on the now false assumption Sinn Fein doves would remain in firm control of the republican movement. Seems now like the hawks within the IRA's Army Council - and certain IRA units based in rural republican heartlands - are fed up with being the whipping boys of the peace process.

Similarly, the Paisleyite rant of being able to achieve in six months what Trimble could not obtain in six years would be in tatters if the Provos decided on a short, selective terror campaign of 'spectaculars' in Britain.

A massive Provo blast in London could tip the unionist electorate back into the UUP camp. Under the UUP, IRA decommissioning moved at a snail's pace - but with the DUP as unionism's negotiator, it could provoke the IRA to return to a 'limited war'.

Many republican hawks are fed up with Sinn Fein taking centre stage in deciding the movement's future direction and have decided to teach the doves a sharp lesson.

Given the condemnation of the Provo statements by the ultra conservative, anti-terrorist Bush administration in Washington, is it any wonder the IRA pulled off the pre-Christmas £26.5 million bank heist? Bush seems determined to crack down on cash aid coming from Irish America to the Provos.

Sinn Fein is almost certainly facing financial sanctions because of the heist and the Army Council's rhetoric of the past week. In spite of the abstention policy at Westminster, Sinn Fein is reported to have netted around £800,000 in allowances.

The Brits are talking about cutting this cash flow. The only tactic which Sinn Fein MPs can adopt to prevent this is to formally take their Commons seats.

In a perfect political world, Sinn Fein doves need to come up with some way of structurally distancing themselves from the IRA without sparking a bloody INLA-style internal feud.

This present crisis in the peace process is not so much about the need to deal with IRA criminality, but centres on who really runs the republican movement - the Army Council or the Sinn Fein leadership.

But the people who must feel really conned are the tens of thousands of ordinary nationalist voters who elected Sinn Fein candidates simply because they didn't want to see any more IRA violence.

With the Paisley camp demanding the IRA's surrender, Trimble could pull a white rabbit from the tatty magic UUP by talking directly with the IRA's Army Council. His main plank would be to persuade the IRA leadership to transform the organisation into an old comrades' association - the Irish Republican Association.

The hard reality which unionists must face is that the middle class doves of Sinn Fein no longer control the republican movement. They must talk directly to the IRA leadership itself if progress is to be made.

This is not a suicidal policy. After all, members of the Protestant Loyal Orders and nationalist residents' groups representatives have held face-to-face talks in the past to solve some of the North's contentious parades. If some in the Loyal Orders can hold direct talks, so can unionist politicians.

An IRA bomb blast might save Trimble, but does the Paisley camp have the courage itself to pull a real flanker on everyone by negotiating directly with the IRA's Army Council?

The DUP did manage to spend most of last year indirectly putting together a deal with Sinn Fein. If the DUP doesn't want to be outflanked again by Trimble, the Paisleyites have got to become involved in direct negotiations with the IRA Army Council as soon as possible.

The only trouble for Ian Paisley is, he mustn't tell his DUP's lunatic fundamentalist wing the party has been supping soup with the devil! That would place the DUP in the same boat the IRA now finds itself - does it save the party or the peace process?




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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

9 February 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Oderint dum Metuant
Anthony McIntyre

Life Amongst the Proveau Riche
Brian Mór

Can Republicans Succeed Without Upholding National Sovereignty?
Francis Mackey

The Party or the Process
Dr John Coulter

Sean Russell and the Nazis
Mick Hall

Counting the Bodies
Liam O Ruairc

Elections' Aftermath
Ghali Hassan

What did Aeschylus write in "Daughters of Danaus"?
Toni Solo

4 February 2005

Burdens Unbearable
Anthony McIntyre

The Generals' Dance
Mick Hall

One Year After the Kelly's Incident: Bobby Tohill Speaks
Liam O Ruairc

Loyalist Elements Feuding with UVF - Blamed for Attacks at Unity Walk
Sean Mc Aughey

The Possibilities With Brown
Dr John Coulter

Report of Bloody Sunday Commemoration in Glasgow
Seamus Reader

Uniting Against Radicalism
Harun Yahya



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