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Another Fine Mess

Mick Hall • 19 November 2004

If the leadership of the PRM agrees to it, as seems increasingly likely, not only will the senior members of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning oversee the destruction of PIRA weaponry, but also selected members of the Clergy, who due to their past associations, cannot but be regarded as tools of the British and Unionist Establishment. If this happens it will be difficult to disagree with those Republicans who have for some time been claiming that not only were the PIRA defeated, but their leadership is willing to publicly accept this defeat, something which is unique in Republican annuals. It also must be conceded when back in the early 1990s a very senior British Government Minister of the day paraphrased Martin McGuinness as saying, “We (PIRA) wish to know how the war can be brought to an end”, this individual was not, as was then claimed from within Republican circles lying, but had been speaking the truth. The anti PIRA wag who recently commented on the internet that"Paisley will shortly be raffling tickets to his loyal followers to watch the Ra handing in all its weapons” was not that far off the mark. It also appears demands are being made of the PRM leadership that they concede the right of these Christian Ministers, who have correctly been described by Suzanne Breen in the News Letter as non-entities as far as the troubles were concerned, to take photographs of any decommissioning they witness. Which, presumably, will some time later be passed around within the Unionist community; in much the same titillating manner as the snaps that were once taken of the wretched victims of the Kincora children's home scandal?

It is very difficult to understand what brought Mr Adams to this sorry impasse, as he is as aware as any that to allow your British enemy to gain access to Irish weaponry goes against hundreds of years of Irish Rebel custom and practice. If the fight reached the stage where the Rebel leadership concluded that victory at that time was unachievable, then the order went out to dump arms and for volunteers to return to everyday toil and await better days and opportunities. Indeed even these days ancient pikes and flintlocks are still occasionally found in the lofts or thatch of old houses and barns. It was not that long ago when Mr Adams and his fellow Shinners themselves contemptuously referred to the Official IRA, from which their own organisation had sprung, as the rusty rifles for doing just this. Yet it seems Mr Adams is prepared to go one step farther and allow the British State to oversee the destruction of the weaponry of the movement he leads and for what, a united socialist republic or indeed any kind of unified State for which the fought? No, simply the opportunity to participate in a Stormont Government from which the British State can pull the plug as and when they wish.

It is true that almost all of the PRM prisoners have been released, but this was always par for the course when previous IRA campaigns came to an end; even the most reactionary of Stormont governments in the North eventually released imprisoned Republicans once the IRA had been stood down. Yes, SF has made political gains and if the war was indeed lost, then Mr Adams is to be congratulated for this achievement, which is considerable, for without this political turn and taking into account past history, there would have been little to show for the enormous sacrifice Republican activists and the communities they came from made during the last thirty-four years. Plus, it has to be said, the suffering they in turn have inflicted upon the unionist communities within the North.

Having recognised these political gains and I will say again they are not to be scoffed at, unless there is something that Mr Adams and his colleagues have not made public, it seems to me that in all probability the vast majority of what has been achieved since the second ceasefire could have been achieved without going down the road of decommissioning as demanded by the British State. Often tradition becomes just that for very sound reasons and if the order to dump arms and stand PIRA down had been issued say some time after the second ceasefire, we may not have had to go through the tortuous period of negotiations etc that the people of Ireland have had to endure of late. Never forget the Unionist community like their Nationalist neighbours had in the past always recognised that standing the IRA down and dumping arms was the traditional method of bringing IRA campaigns to a close, if only until another generation takes up the challenge. Back then unionists had few doubts about this procedure as they or their fathers before them had personal experience of it. It was only when the British brought the decommissioning of PIRA arms into the political arena that the idea entered their heads. Unionists quickly saw that this would be an added embarrassment to their Republican opponents as only a defeated army hands over its weaponry to those it has fought; to the victors go the spoils. When they factored in that they had everything to gain and nothing to lose from raising this issue of decommissioning, it quickly became, as the British intended, the centrepiece of all future negotiations. Once the decommissioning genie was out of its bottle, it was never going to be put back until the very last ounce of semtex and the last bullet within the PIRA armoury had been destroyed to the (Unionists) satisfaction. Thus it is difficult not to conclude that this is another fine mess the PRM leadership has got itself into. It is worth asking, if only briefly how the leadership of a movement so steeped in history and tradition should find themselves in this position, which goes against all they previously believed.

To be honest I find it bit rich for Gerry Adams to claim, "Every negotiation, particularly as it comes to a crucial point is rife with rumour and speculation. This one is no different, though the reporting of speculation as fact is irresponsible journalism,” surely this is another case of Mr Adams blaming the messenger, something he increasingly does these days. After all, it is not the media who has spent endless hours negotiating with the British as to how they can oversee the destruction of PIRA's weaponry.

Much of what he mentions above (rumours and innuendos) has come about because his leadership have from the start allowed the British State and their loyalist partners to set the agenda as to how these negotiations are conducted, i.e., in total secrecy and behind closed doors (As to the Fianna Fail Government in the South it is beyond their imagination to even think of another way of proceeding). For all SF's leadership's railing against the secret state it is on this issue guilty of encouraging it. To me this has been one of the most incredible and dispiriting aspects of all the negotiations that have taken place around the Good Friday Agreement. Of all people, Irish Republicans are more aware than most of the double dealing and duplicity of the British State when it has engaged in negotiations with rebellious Irish men and women. Yet the leadership cadre, presumably, on the advice of their new found friends in the Catholic Church and from within the US political and business community, who encouraged them to go down this, the same road that has been the very undoing of previous generations of Irish rebels. Mistakes, I might add, that generations of Irish people have subsequently suffered dearly for.

All such negotiations should have been open and in front of the SF party membership and those they represent, no secret agreements, cosy one to one chats, back stairs manoeuvring etc. The last thirty-four years of trauma and suffering of both communities in the north of Ireland cried out for it to be so. As it was clear Unionists were never going to go down this road voluntarily, SF had a revolutionary duty to propose doing so. Not, I might add, solely because the situation demanded it, but also because of the lessons of history. The British State is past masters of secret negotiations having had eight hundred plus years of experience to draw from. That they were able to entice SFs leadership into participating in them gave them the upper hand from the start.

In case some may wish to claim open negotiations are not possible, I suggest they look at the example set by Lech Walesa in 1980, when he was the shipyard workers' leader in Gdansk. Encouraged by Jacek Kuron, Adam Michnik and other socialists he demanded that all negotiations between Solidarnoshc (Solidarity) and the Stalinist government of Poland be open to the public and broadcast live. Whilst the Stalinists where dumbstruck by the very thought of negotiating in front of the very people on whose behalf they claimed to govern, they had little choice but to agree and were out-manoeuvred by the Solidarity team. Of course, much as the British have with the GFA, they renegaded on what they had agreed to, introducing martial law one year later. However, because all negotiations had been out in the open, when they did so it was clear to all why they had resorted to this extreme measure and where the blame lay. The Zapatistas in Mexico are another excellent example of how, if you trust those you represent, open negotiations are not only possible but are a positive advantage and a powerful weapon in the hand of the non governmental side, as there can be no future talk of having sold out etc, and it forces the State to place their cards upon the table for all to see. Thus, if these negotiations had been conducted from the start in this manner, Mr Adams would have had no need to make the kind of statement I quoted from above, nor as he has continuously done, return to his political and military base to reassure them that he and his colleagues involved in the negotiations were not selling the movement out nor getting too far ahead of it.






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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

19 November 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Another Fine Mess
Mick Hall

Dr. John Coulter

Address to QUB Vigil for Fallujah
Brian Kelly

Hearts and Minds
Fred A Wilcox

Smell the Coffee, not the Latte
Kristi Kline

Arresting Vanunu While Burying Arafat
Mary La Rosa

Weary of those stubborn indigenous resistance stains? Pretend they're not there...
Toni Solo

The Village
Anthony McIntyre

15 November 2004

Scapegoats & Swastikas
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Death of a Leader
Anthony McIntyre

Ruairi O Bradaigh, RSF Ard-Fheis Address 2004
Ruairi O Bradaigh

Anyone But Kerry
James Davis

Rubber Boa Studies
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

'8 years in The Belfast SWP - A fraternal parting', and Part 2 of 'The ARN, - A Movement'
Davy Carlin



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