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Roundup on the IRA Statement

Liam O Ruairc • 31 July 2005

On Thursday 28 July 2005, the Provisional IRA issued an important statement.

What does the statement say? The leadership of the Provisional IRA declares that their war is over. "The leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign. This will take effect from 4pm this afternoon. All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms."

For the first time since 1922, an organisation claiming to be the IRA has publicly declared that there is no need for an armed campaign as it believes that "there is an alternative way" to achieve its objectives, namely "the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement". This goes much further than a cessation and dumping arms, which the IRA had done a few times before, in 1922, 1945 and 1962 for instance.

"All volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means. Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever." In other words: "Now they promise to be nothing more than an old boys' club for former volunteers. As of 4pm yesterday, promised republican Danny Morrison, the IRA will be about as threatening as the British Legion." (Jonathan Freedland, A nightmare ends, another nightmare begins, The Guardian 29 July) Consequently, the statement confirms the Provisional leadership's intent "to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use in a way which will further enhance public confidence and to conclude this as quickly as possible," and informs that they "have invited two independent witnesses, from the Protestant and catholic churches, to testify to this." It will thus complete the destruction of its arsenal. (IRA statement, An Phoblacht Republican News, 28 July 2005)

Prime Minister Blair welcomed the IRA announcement as a "step of unparalleled magnitude ... The statement is of a different order than anything before." But how significant is the Provisional statement? "This morning's (Friday) headlines should read 'excitable hacks go orgasmic over IRA statement.' But such headlines are 'not helpful to the peace process' and therefore long suffering readerships will have to endure the guff about seismic shifts, historic developments and whatever else takes the fancy of the scribbling class. Yesterday's statement by the IRA on its future merely formalised what we have known for quite some time - that the organisation's armed campaign against Britain ended in failure. The British are still here, the consent principle is safely enshrined and partition entrenched. Commentators can openly speculate on current IRA volunteers eventually becoming British bobbies. Hardly the heady stuff of revolutionary success." (Anthony McIntyre, Nothing has changed, The Daily Mirror, 29 July)

That is why the 32 County Sovereignty Movement is correct when remarking the Provisional statement is "neither surprising nor historic": "If Provisional Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA, who supported them at every turn, truly accepted the terms of the GFA, then today's statement cannot be viewed by republicans as surrender but rather as the final act of a surrender that started many years ago. " (32 County Sovereignty Movement, PIRA statement 'neither surprising nor historic', Press Release 28 July 2005) After all, the Provisional IRA had been on ceasefire since 1997, had accepted the legitimacy of the institutions it was supposed to destroy and decomissioned its weaponry. Therefore it was useless: "An army is an entity licensed by the State for one purpose: to fight... When it denies itself the option of force it becomes irrelevant." (Eric Waugh, How does an illegal army become a 'lawful' organisation?, Belfast Telegraph, 29 July)

Why was this statement issued? In the short term, it is to regain political initiative for the Provisional movement. In the wake of the Northern Bank robbery in Belfast, the money-laundering scheme that was then uncovered in the South, the killing of Robert McCartney and the subsequent attempt to cover-up Provisional complicity, Sinn Fein's advance in the 26 counties had stalled. Mr Adams's own personal rating - the key to their advance - had dropped. The Provisional leadership hopes that their statement should contribute to reverse that trend and increase their electoral appeal.

The new move is also intended to put pressure on the Democratic Unionist Party to form a government in the North with Sinn Fein. (Paul Bew, Regaining Initiative for the Republican Movement, The Yorkshire Post, 29 July) But more fundamentally, Sinn Fein's aim of taking part in a power-sharing executive in the North and of forming a coalition government in Leinster House made such a statement inevitable.

There is a fundamental contradiction between accepting the legitimacy of a state, of its laws and institutions, the constitutional system and the rules of parliamentarism and agreeing to operate within their framework; and armed insurrectionary politics dedicated to overthrow them. One cannot accept that the state has the monopoly of legitimate force and at the same time have links to an illegal army refusing to recognise the legitimacy of two Governments and ready to kill the servants of both. There is no chance that Fianna Fail or the Unionist would ever consider having Sinn Fein in government as long as they retain links to an illegal organisation carrying unlawful activities. That is why sooner or later the Provisionals would have to issue such a statement.

Back in 1986, Ruairi O Bradaigh had issued a blunt warning: 'The armed struggle and sitting in parliament are mutually exclusive', O Bradaigh said as he forecast that those who followed the Adams strategy would be 'signing their own extinction as revolutionaries'. "The O Bradaigh prediction finally came true last week", concluded the Sunday Tribune. (Kevin Rafter, Where to now for 'former revolutionaries'?, Sunday Tribune 31 July)

Incidently, there is consensus amongst allies and critics, that the statement was the logical outcome of the Provisional's gradual transition into parliamentarism and constitutional nationalism. "How Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, and McGuinness, his chief negotiator, succeeded in taking an armed revolutionary movement and placing it on a road to peaceful political activism is an extraordinary story." writes Niall O Dowd, the Provisional's main ally in the US. "The IRA decision to abandon its armed campaign was an inevitable outgrowth of the long-held plans of Adams and McGuinness." (Niall O Dowd, The Men who tamed the IRA, Los Angeles Times, 29 July 2005) This is the same conclusion reached by former IRA Chief of Staff and President of Sinn Fein Phoblachtach, Ruairi O Bradaigh, for whom the Provisional's statement "is the logical outcome of the change of direction they made in 1986 when they deserted the revolutionary road and started out on the constitutional path through the partitionist institutions north and south. As Republican Sinn Fein has forecast they are being slowly and steadily absorbed into the English system in Ireland... Eventually they will be unrecognisable. The Provisionals should discard the trappings of the Republicanism they once served. Like Cumann na nGaedheal\Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Workers Party they have betrayed it. They are no longer Republicans." (Ruairi O Bradaigh, Provisional IRA should disband completely, Statement 28 July)

Interestingly, historians not just agree with Kevin Bean that 'the soldiers of the legion of the rearguard follow the soldiers of destiny', but point out that Adams actually outdid De Valera. (cfr. Brian Feeney, Adams succeeded where Dev failed, The Irish News, 29 July). Eamon Phoenix writes that the Provisional movement "has opted for the de Valera path of purely constitutional means but crucially, it has surpassed the Fianna Fail founder by carrying the IRA with it." (Eamon Phoenix, Modern movement surpasses de Valera by taking IRA with it, The Irish News, 29 July)

What now? Logically, once the Provisionals agree not to oppose the armed forces of the state, they will have to explicitly accept the state's monopoly of armed force and agree to observe its laws. In practice, this means supporting the police forces North and South of the border. There is a contradiction between Sinn Fein involved in a Stormont Executive and making laws for Northern Ireland, but withholding support for the police service which enforces those laws. "It would be a massive step. It's even bigger than going into Stormont. Policing is what it's all about -it's what we fought a war against," declared a former high-ranking member of the IRA to the Irish Times. (Dan Keenan, 'It's what we fought a war against', The Irish Times 30 July) The question of the Provisionals backing the Northern police service is not a question of "if" but of "when". This is a necessary preliminary to Sinn Fein going into power sharing executive and going into coalition government.



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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

1 August 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

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

31 May 2005

Justice is the Right of All Our Victims
Gemma McCartney

Quis Separabit? The Short Strand/Markets UDA
Anthony McIntyre

Civil Law as an Instrument of Resistance
Peter Mason

A Salute to Comrades
Dolours Price

Behaviour of Young Gets Worse
David Adams

Recognising Similarities, Delivering for the People
Mick Hall

One Republican Party
Dr John Coulter

Venezuela: A Common Brotherhood
Tomas Gorman

May Day versus Loyalty Day
Mary La Rosa

One Eyed Morality
Anthony McIntyre

Lying in Wait for the Dutch Tsunami…After the French Earthquake

Michael Youlton



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