The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The End of the Road


Mick Hall • 21 January 2005

In politics, for a political party to reach a watershed is an unusual event, much predicted by media pundits, or written about after the supposed event has taken place. But at the time such a thing occurs, it more often then not passes by without so much as a murmur, only for it to be later recognised as a watershed by a future generation of historians. However, the robbery at the Belfast branch of the Northern Bank, as far as the Provisional Republican Movement (PRM) is concerned, is such an event. Whilst leading figures in the PRM such as Messrs Adams, McGuinness and McLaughlin have done their best to offset blame from the PIRA onto the ever-resourceful 'securocrats,' in the main they have made little headway in their attempt to move the blame from the shoulders of their own militia, and in the process have stirred up a great deal of murky water. Whilst it will probably make little difference to the PRM core constituency in the north whether or not PIRA actually committed the heist, the same cannot be said about the wider electorate, north and south, which SF has carefully cultivated of late, hoping it will bring them electoral growth in the forthcoming elections on both sides of the border. This group, due to the brouhaha in the media over the robbery, may well now pause before voting SF. This is especially true of communities which have no history of republican struggle or representation. Whether these individuals then go on to cast their vote for SF will in my view depend on the PIRA having been stood down between now and when these elections take place.

Unlike in the past when similar events have taken place and SF has issued denials, the current negative publicity has affected far more than those who normally oppose the PRM. Many left political activists, environmentalists, trade unionists and progressive minded members of the media who in the past were prepared to give SF the benefit of the doubt and indeed wished them well, have reached the end of their rope with Mr Adams and his immediate circle. They are beginning to feel their trust has been used, if not abused, and the SF leadership cadre has treated them as useful idiots just once too often. Due to the sheer hard work and personal sacrifice on the part of many rank and file SF party activists, that party had banked a great deal of good will in the consciousness of the aforementioned group. Many now feel Mr Adams and his colleagues have spent this recklessly and their account is in the red by a considerable sum. The only way that SF fortunes can be turned around amongst this group is by SF's leadership rejecting sleight of hand, top down, undemocratic politics, and by bringing to an end the criminal acts and illegal scams that PIRA are undoubtedly involved in. And just as important for those who live in the south, is recognition by SF that by entering the Dail the PRM also signed up to respect the institutions and the laws of the southern State.

But it is more than just the Northern Bank Heist that has brought these doubt and worries to the fore, and it is not only people who are outside the Party (SF) who are expressing them. The Adams leadership to outsiders is increasingly resembling a Trotskyite sect in the manner it oversees the party membership. SF local party cumann are tightly controlled from the centre; only those who give absolute loyalty to the leadership or acquiesce by keeping their thoughts to themselves gain a foothold on the greasy pole. Such a system of party management is specifically designed to stop alternative power bases emerging and unwelcome guests joining the top table.* SF activists are kept at a high level of activity, often on doubtful endeavours which have little real links to the struggle at hand. The centenary of SF is an example of such blind activism. Somehow over the last few weeks, Gerry Adams, whilst promoting his party's centenary, has managed to equate the politics of James Connolly and Arthur Griffith as being part of the party's heritage, despite the fact that their politics were diametrically opposed to one another and James Connolly had never been a member of SF. Griffith's political beliefs were light years away from the republican socialism Connolly advocated and, I might add, that which many rank and file SF members of today adhere to. The purpose of keeping Sinn Fein's membership at such a high peak of activity is to give them little time to think about current political events, read, study, and chew the fat from Party Policies and strategy. This low level of independent thought amongst many of today's SF members is demonstrated when one argues with them. At first they will remain polite, putting forward their party's policies, quoting various Ard Fheis resolutions or party positioning papers to back up their arguments. However if you persist on rejecting their points, for example by pointing out it is all very well to have a resolution opposing PPF, but it is little good if when SF Ministers are in office they ignore it and implement PPF, they then become angry and question your motives with clear hints that you have a 'pro-British agenda', if not something more sinister. Now if you live outside of SF's thief-dom this is laughable, but if you do not, this can be very threatening, as it more than likely is intended to be.

In many ways I no longer feel the question of who robbed the Northern Bank is the major issue. For SF it has moved beyond this. For what this robbery has highlighted via the Press and TV is what exactly the military wing of the PRM actually gets up to. True, to quote a Belfast wag, even the dogs in the street knew what PIRA were about. But many people were able to push such thoughts to the back of their minds, preferring the more sanitised version that had brought about the ceasefire and maintained it. Since the robbery this is a much more difficult thing to do, as it has never been so starkly placed before the electorate north and south. The fact that even those sections of the media which has been sympathetic to what they saw as Mr Adams' predicament have been critical highlights the fact that many members of the profession of journalism feel somewhat embittered with the PRM and have decided the days of giving SF what can only be described as a free ride due to its participation in the peace process are over. What has been portrayed in the media over the past three weeks is far from the sepia portrait of gallant freedom fighters that the PRM likes to portray itself as. Instead an unsavoury picture has been painted in which the PIRA's daily fare is the type of work that would have made John Gotti proud. Loan sharking, Tax/VAT scams, docks heists, counterfeiting consumer goods, money laundering, providing door security, kick backs and armed robbery.

Thus a large and diverse group of public opinion has been formed across the political spectrum which believes that PRM has reached the end of the road as a dual organisation. This includes former PIRA volunteers, who feel even if no member of the PRM were lining their own pockets whilst carrying out the above mentioned criminal acts and all money's were going into the PRM coffers, this would not make a ha'pence of difference. For the simple fact is the PIRA raison d'être was to remove the British State's occupation of the six counties by armed struggle. It was not set up to finance any political party. And to continue these criminal activities cannot but blacken the name of all those who have fought and died under its banner during the period 1969-97. Thus it is high time the current leadership of SF honestly decided if it really believes in the democratic process as practised by all the other parties on the island of Ireland who recognise the writ of the Dail and Stormont, both of which Sinn Fein have signed up to do. If they do, then they have no choice but to call the necessary army authority and propose to it that PIRA is stood down. If this were rejected then they (SF) would have no alternative but to formally break from the PIRA. If this happens there may be unpleasant consequences for us all, but this continuous drip, drip of criminality cannot but undermine the whole basis of our democracy and whilst it continues any hope of moving towards a more fair and equal society in either the Republic of Ireland or the north of Ireland, let alone advance the cause of reunification, is unrealistic.




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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

22 January 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

The End of the Road
Mick Hall

Reiss Pressed on Mark Thatcher Cautioned on Damage of Another Double Standard
Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Follow up on Saor Eire
Liam O Ruairc

Strong Resistance Felt at Bush's Second Inauguration
Christian Roselund, Patsy Crocker

An Old Friend from the Blanket
Anthony McIntyre

17 January 2005

Fed Up With the Lies
Michael Benson

Dolours Price

Brian Mór

Strategically induced crises pay rich electoral dividends for Sinn Fein
Anthony McIntyre

Old Foes Discover New Ideas
David Adams

Celebrate 100 Years by Undoing Betrayals
Dr. John Coulter

Saor Eire
Bob Purdie

‘At No Costs to Prisons': Three Books on Beckett
Seaghán Ó Murchú



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