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Questioning Collusion


Mick Hall • 29 October 2004

There has been an increasing amount of speculation of late about possible British State collusion down the years with middle ranking and senior members of the Provisional Republican Movement (PRM). Before we try and unravel this conundrum, it might help if we put aside any prejudices we may hold against and disappointments with the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). Over the last decade and more, a considerable momentum has been built up which has resulted in British State collusion with Loyalist paramilitaries being brought to the fore of the political stage. The most infamous case, amongst many, to gain prominence of late has been the now deceased senior UDA/UFF ‘intelligence officer’ Brian Nelson's link with the British military's intelligence-gathering unit the Force Research Unit (FRU). The main driving force behind these exposures and the calls for Public Inquiries into State collusion with Loyalists have been the families of the victims of this collusion and behind the scenes the wider PRM have given what help and advice they could.

However just when it seemed the work of the families was beginning to bear some fruit with the publication of the Cory Report and the belated announcement by the British Government that there would be a public inquiry (of sorts) into the murder of Pat Finucane, something occurred which members of the PRM leadership must have been dreading. For what had been over looked or more likely deliberately pushed to one side by the leadership of Mr Adams and his colleagues was that once this Brit-Loyalist paramilitary collusion came into the public light of day, it was only a matter of time before people would pose the question: if the Brits were colluding with senior loyalists, why would they have not been doing the same with senior Republicans?

Such theories have long been bubbling just below the surface within hardline Republican areas of Belfast and on the internet, but by and large the PRM leadership managed to dampen any such talk down within their core communities. However the pressures considerably increased after the Stakeknife allegations became so persistent, and when Stakeknife was finally named in the press as being Fred Scappaticci, a senior, long term member of the PIRA security department, the bubble burst forth. The naming of Scappaticci as an FRU informer/agent of influence was followed by a flood of accusation that named other Republicans as informers/agents of influence. These accusations were often totally unsubstantiated and they periodically continue to this day. Nevertheless, in some quarters this hardly mattered; what was of prime importance was that this particular genie was well and truly out of the bottle, to which it was never going to be returned.

At first the PRM leadership denied any Collusion between the British State and any of their membership. They were ready to admit the odd informer here and there as this was a matter of public record, but to suggest that anything more serious went on was condemned as felon setting by leading Republicans, with all the menacing implications these two words can conjure up within Ireland. When this failed to satisfy many former members of the RM, the leadership then resorted to past form and tried strong arm/smear tactics against those who were either raising this issue publicly or asking questions about State Collusion with the Republican movement. In the end the movement became somewhat Machiavellian and few outside of the small leadership loop really knew what the actual position of the PRM on this issue was. Names, at times, were being chucked out into the proverbial Belfast gutter like confetti; some of these names seemed to have emanated from within the PRM leadership itself, presumable on the pretext if you throw enough people's names into the public gutter as being possible informers/FRU agents of influence, then some of them will turn out not to be and by not being so will discredit all of the accusations. As I said, Machiavellian!

Things have quietened down somewhat of late; cooler heads may have prevailed both within the PRM and amongst the 'dissidents'. Perhaps some ‘dissidents’ are beginning to realise that now is not the best time for this debate to explode into the public arena, as at the moment the Adams leadership clique is juggling enough balls in the air without expecting them to add more. For if they were to do so, the odds against them dropping the lot would not be good and if they were to do this, more that just this leadership would come crashing down. Now it appears Mr Adams and co are pretty confident of keeping the balls marked GFA and standing PIRA down in the air, especially if they get a little off camera help from the most unlikely of allies. Although even on this they have looked a little shaky of late. But to attempt to force into their somewhat arthritic fingers, additional juggling balls marked Republican Collusion would be more than the most gifted juggler from Moscow State Circus could handle. Any help from the man who has quietly been giving advice off stage would undoubtedly cease, because he would be doubled up with laughter having turned his attention to the clowns who had entered the peripherally of the circus ring. Far better all round then to carry on watching the current pantomime and wait to see the new show the next time the circus hits town.

The demand for a full examination of and a public debate about whether British State collusion with Republicans took place or not is not something that is going to go away. The fear which any talk of State collusion strikes in the upper reaches of the Provisional Republican Movement is patently obvious for all to see and with good reason. For if the British were running a number of agents of influence over and above the normal type informers that the RUC Special Branch, etc ran at lower levels within the movement, then rightly or wrongly it would for some answer the conundrum that many Republicans have long puzzled over since before the first ceasefire and all that has happened since, i.e. IRA military disasters like Loughall, the second ceasefire, the recommendation by the Adams leadership of the Good Friday Agreement, acceptance of Ministerial seats in a Stormont Government with all this entails, decommissioning overseen by British nominees and perhaps finally the standing down of the IRA on the British State's terms.

Although the aforementioned is what makes this subject so dangerous, there may well be perfectly logical answers to all of the above questions which have nothing to do with British Collusion with agents of influence in the PIRA. However, unless this matter is at some time in the future fully aired, some will prefer to accept the collusion theory as to why the war was lost, instead of the simpler explanation that once Adams and Co found themselves on the peace process treadmill, they could not quite keep up with the momentum at which the British were driving it. Thus, despite SFs best endeavours they were unable to keep it to the course they believed all parties had agreed to chart, refusing to recognise that the British, behind their backs, had originally charted a totally different course, which was intended at the journey's end to see SF shipwrecked on the rocks. Thus, Sinn Fein have found themselves forever going through the next door the British have opened, before they (R.M.) had enough time to firmly shut the door they had just past through, let alone pause to collect their thoughts, before deciding whether or not to proceed any further. Thus they ended up reaching the stage when the series of doors they thought they were required to pass through one at a time, all swung open at the same time, having evolved from a series of interconnecting rooms into a single long corridor with a gale blowing down it, which drove the SF leadership helplessly forward.

Those who have accepted that armed struggle is no longer a viable option as far as either removing the British presence or bringing about democratic and economic equality in Ireland, have to place the interest of working people at the fore-front of their strategy. This in reality means electorally, in the majority of Ireland's constituencies, north and south, working people at this time have little real choice for all of Sinn Fein’s imperfections but to rely on it to represent their political interests. Those on the Republican left, whilst having been proved perfectly able to correctly analyse the failings and mistakes of SFs current leadership, have been less successfully in building an alternative political party or even an embryo of such an organisation. Thus, in the foreseeable future Sinn Fein will be the main political advocate for Ireland's less well off economically. This being so it is surely not in the interest of the Republican left at this time to help discredit and bring about the demise of this party. For I say again, if the Adams leadership is brought down it would not be all that comes crashing down; the generations of Republicans who have invested so much in this struggle over the last three decades and more would in the main close their front doors and withdraw from political activities, angry and demoralised. The wider working class Republican/nationalist communities, especially in the North, would be left with no one to represent their interest politically. In all probability the likes of some sort of SDLP/FF combination would move in to fill this void, returning to the days when middle class ‘nationalist’ parties patronisingly represented the working classes. Surely it would be far better to hold fire and see what opportunities open up when the PIRA is stood down, when hopefully there will be a far more level and democratic playing field. Plus, the socialists within Sinn Fein may well feel more able to abandon the iron discipline that they see as obligatory whilst PIRA still exists in its current military formation. Apart from satisfying our own curiosity is there any real urgency to push this matter of British State Collusion with Republicans to the hilt at this time? Tiocfaidh ár lá.




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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

29 October 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Questioning Collusion
Mick Hall

Mary Kelly’s Protest ‘An Act of Passive Resistance’
Ruairi O Bradaigh

Death and the Pool
Anthony McIntyre

John Kerry: The Wrong Choice on November 2nd
Patrick Hurley

The Emerging Case for a Single State in Palestine
Todd May

The Clash Thesis: A Failing Ideology?
M. Shahid Alam

25 October 2004

European Social Forum
John O'Farrell

Democracy and the Internet
Mick Hall

Resistance And Survival: The Case Of Education And Free Software
Toni Solo

Jacques Derrida
Anthony McIntyre

'The Impact of the Middle East Conflict on Palestinian Children'
Queens University Friends of Palestine and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC)



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