The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


Mick Hall • 10 January 2005

Like the vast majority of people, bar those who actually robbed the Belfast branch of the Northern Bank, I have no real idea who actually looted the bank's vaults to the tune of £26 million. However, I am sure I'm not alone in thinking SF’s response to the raid lacks credibility. Simply to quote an anonymous PIRA leader stating his organisation was not responsible for the robbery at the northern Bank is pretty thin meat. As to the word of Gerry Adams, rightly or wrongly it is worthless on something like this, for the simple fact that he publicly denied IRA membership. Whilst one can well understand his refusal to admit membership, to actually deny it was to degrade whatever he says in the mind of many —and not only those who oppose SF— for it placed him in the position of acting like a cute hoor.

There is little that happens in Belfast which does not eventually reach the ears of PIRA intelligence. Whilst no one expects them to act as felon setters, if they had no hand in the bank robbery it is surprising that they have not suggested an alternative culprit for this robbery, beyond, that is, the usual securocrats' conspiracy. Leaving this particular theft to one side, many are beginning to believe SF is doing enormous damage to itself by its refusal to check, or even acknowledge, that sections of PIRA are engaging in politically counter-productive criminal activity. Whilst due to the historical nature of the six county statelet foundations many nationalists are prepared to turn a blind eye to this type of thing in the north, as long as it does not impact detrimentally on their own lives, a different attitude is taken as far as the RoI is concerned. The majority of Irish people, both north and south, now regard the southern Irish Republic to be a legitimate State in which the rule of law should prevail. If anyone doubts this they only have to look back at the killing of Garda McCabe by members of the PIRA and the response it provoked.

Indeed, one of the reasons why SF has experienced electoral growth in recent times in the southern State is that when they first burst onto the political scene there, they claimed to represent a more honest and open type of politics than what had gone before, i. e., Charlie Haughey’s FF, etc. Instead, since the second ceasefire, a section of the PRM has increasingly been engaged in criminal enterprises, the modus operandi of which would be recognisable to any US mafia gangster or criminal organisation anywhere else in the world. In all crime of this type there is linkage between politics, business, police and violent criminal elements. Any electorate, that allows a political party to rise to the top of the greasy pole, that turns a blind eye to such behaviour, is mortgaging its future at a very dodgy bank indeed. If the leadership of SF truly wishes to become a fully integrated participant in the democratic process, then they owe it to their electorate to cast this type of criminal activity into the Republican equivalent of history's dustbin.

It is worth analysing just how the above situation may have arisen, as it is clearly creating enormous bitterness; and I don’t only mean in the usual places. Discontent is smouldering beneath the surface within sections of SF’s core communities on both sides of the border. To understand this one only had to see the willingness of some people to post to the recent Dundalk blog phenomenon the names of members of PIRA in the Dundalk area. Such behaviour would have been unthinkable within that community 15 years ago. I do not doubt that many who are beginning to feel discontented with the PRM themselves voted for SF at the last elections and in most cases still support the Party. However, by so doing they did not vote for a criminal conspiracy. People like Gerry Adams have written or spoken about the disastrous descent into sectarianism which took place within the PRM during the ceasefire of the mid 1970s. It is ironic that what has taken place within the PRM since the ceasefire of 1997 may well eventually have far worse consequences and may possibly destroy Irish Republicanism or at least the Provisional version of it.

An organisation like PIRA, which was formed to fight the British and drive them from the north east of Ireland, simply cannot maintain a ceasefire for any length of time intact without its leadership finding viable ways to occupy its volunteers' time. If they are unable to do this, then the only alternative left to them is to stand the Army down, otherwise the danger of it imploding into belligerent factions or descending into criminality is very real. Under the terms of the GFA militarily fighting the British army was a no-no. So volunteers had to be found work that somehow was linked to the national struggle. Intelligence gathering was an option for some, who carried out this type of work on the premise that information was vital if the ceasefire was ever called off. But this alone could not take up all of the manpower slack. The PRM leadership was well aware from the 1970s ceasefire the devil makes work for idle hands. So many volunteers were put to work, 'fund-raising', which the leadership clearly felt was an ideal way for some of the more able and daring volunteers to spend their time usefully.

Gradually over time, PIRA Head Quarters Staff must have been spending more and more of their energies over seeing this type of stuff, as to it appears did others at a more local level. Money laundering and buying up legitimate businesses and properties, plus the more tradition type of scams operated by criminal gangs the world over all came under the criteria of fund raising for the movement. One does not need a crystal ball to know that over the past six years or so, the turnover from these activities has become considerable. Thus those volunteers engaged in such work, whilst perhaps not out-rightly demanding a larger cut for their endeavours, would be less than human if they had not griped amongst themselves about such things. As PIRA is such a tightly controlled organisation, word of this inevitably got back to the Army Council, who to keep all on side and to keep those who might siphon off monies to a minimum, probably agreed to those engaged in this type of work receiving a larger cut than the average volunteer would have received during war time. I suppose by doing this, we could say the Army Council has followed the example set by New Labour and F.F. whilst governing their respective states, and thus the A/C privatised part of the PIRA.

Things for a time must have seemed fine; SF’s vote was increasing north and south, cash was rolling in, feeding the ever-hungry political side of the movement. The majority of volunteers were content with being on ceasefire, as many of them were beginning to attain a standard of living they could never of imagined whilst fighting the Brits. Plus, as an added bonus there was little real risk of arrest or imprisonment. The spanner in the works however turned out to be the very nationalist communities from which the PRM first emerged. For those who lived in these communities saw volunteers who had lived amongst them all their lives as equals suddenly having extensions built on their homes, outside of which in the street stood a newish car. Kids from well-known Republican families or their acquaintances were forever knocking on their doors with knocked off goods from the latest highjacking that had been reported in the newspapers. Every pub had someone who was close to this or that member of PRM selling smuggled cigarettes or in rural areas fuel, etc. As to most of the latter low-level crime, people simply did not mind that much, as it allowed them to buy what they needed at knock down prices. They did though resent the new wealth that certain republicans had attained and the more so when they saw SF politicians denying all knowledge of the activities that allowed them to come by it. But what they resented most of all was the PRM leadership within their communities and beyond expecting them to give them the same support and loyalty as they had when PIRA were daily fighting battles with the British army. People well understood the reason for giving support to the PRM back then, as they too had supported the war to remove the British from the six counties and had often found themselves on the wrong end of Tommy Atkin's boot. But they see no reason why they should give the same degree of loyalty to people whose main aim now seems to be to enrich themselves and then lie about it by masking this enrichment in patriotism. I'm sure many sincere members of the PRM will see this on my part as a harsh, insulting and unfair judgement. So be it, but they should ask themselves when their leadership blame the securocrats for driving the media agenda to criminalise the PRM membership, where the peg which allows sections of the media to hang their hats on, originated.




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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.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

10 January 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

SF - Securocrat Fantasists
Anthony McIntyre

Mick Hall

Merge Ahead?
Dr John Coulter

DPP Cover-up RUC/PSNI Malpractice Yet Again
32 CSM Press Release

RSF Are The Sole Inheritors of the Sinn Fein Mantle
Des Dalton, RSF

Óglaigh na hÉireann New Year Statement 2005

The Caged Men
Ruairi O'Driscoll

Changing Fortunes
Anthony McIntyre

7 January 2005

Northern Bank - Open All Day Monday
Anthony McIntyre

2005: New Year's Statement from the 32 County Sovereignty Movement
Francis Mackey

In the Underworld with the Trigger Men
Sean Mc Aughey

Racism as a Prelude to War Crimes
Ghali Hassan

Palestinian Elections: Charting the Future of Palestine
Haithem El-Zabri



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