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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The Paravisional Alliance

I am shocked! I am absolutely stunned! I am so angry at what I witnessed just now. I am republican, and I just witnessed former comrades punch and beat residents off the streets and off Brits in my own community. People/residents, who like myself objected to a sectarian march being forced through nationalist area by armed RUC/Brits/SF!! – "MM, Occupied North Belfast", posting on Indymedia

Anthony McIntyre • 18 July 2004

The 12th of July Orange parade was permitted by the Parades Commission to strut right through the heart of a nationalist area. The march route – the Crumlin Road – is abutted on either side by the exclusively nationalist districts of Ardoyne and Mountainview. The cutting edge of the British state in Ireland, its police force, now renamed the PSNI, in the words of Brian Feeney, imprisoned ‘a whole nationalist community to ease the passage of their tormentors.’ Included in their number, courtesy of the PSNI but not the Parades Commission, were the likes of Miller, Mervyn and Melvyn Ten Bellies, freshly out of the pub, their limited vocabulary lubricated by alcohol.

Anne Cadwallader described the plight of the imprisoned residents in three words - ‘caged like animals.’ The mentality that inflicted such havoc and intimidation on the children of Holy Cross School, was given full license and free reign by the PSNI to openly flaunt itself in the face of the community that had frustrated it in its bigoted sectarian intent of three summers past. And the Neanderthals revelled in it. It was their long awaited revenge against the four-year-old ‘Fenian scum.’

The march of the miscreants was a goer only because those military forces and paramilitary police who had repressed Ardoyne for years, murdered its residents, tortured its activists, forced the foot stompers through and simultaneously coerced the local community at the point of a gun. Although Hugh Orde had earlier stated that he was ‘looking forward hopefully, to a quiet week next week’, it was a quietude to be attained through forced acquiescence.

Many in the community had ideas other than croppies lie down. This led to the emergence of what is in contention for the most bizarre alliance produced in over thirty years of conflict. As part of facilitating British policing of Irish areas in the face of fierce community resistance, the only purpose of which was to permit the tormentors of Holy Cross to strut past their victims, senior members of the Provisional outfit physically leaped to the defence of British paratroopers. Perhaps in future years this event will come to be scripted into the official history of the peace process as the gallant stand of the Paravisionals. According to the Irish Echo, chief amongst the Para protectors were ‘Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly and IRA spymaster Bobby Storey … one group of British soldiers, cut off from their fellows, were saved almost single-handedly by Storey.’ Not many republicans will have the ignominy of marching into history to the accompaniment of that dubious accolade.

Harold Gould once wrote about the war in Iraq, ‘there are reputations to be protected and egos to be saved.’ With paratroopers unrestrained in their praise for Kelly whilst talking to journalists, Sinn Fein, sensitive to the revulsion that images of its politicians and militia men protecting paratroopers could generate within working class nationalist communities, were quick to pour water on suggestions that the purpose of the ‘intervention’ was to save British military lives. ‘Mr Kelly was protecting nationalists.’ Kelly, for his part, added, ‘I was there because I have certain principles. We managed to save lives.’

While few would dispute the courage of Gerry Kelly, a forensic scientist would have insurmountable difficulty trying to find exactly what his chameleon-like principles are. Yet, it is dangerously naïve to think that without his intervention or that of Storey and whoever else waded in, the paratrooper lines would have been overrun. The tactics of Bloody Sunday would have been employed to prevent it. A Daily Telegraph journalist who had accompanied British troops throughout the day made it very clear that a point was reached when ‘the Paras felt their lives were under such threat that they considered opening fire at point-blank range with their rifles.’ There are nationalists alive today who would otherwise not be but for the Kelly/Storey intervention.

The emotive fog enveloping much of this has helped cloud and sideline an important political question, however. How has the Provisional leadership, ten years after the 1994 ceasefire, brought republicanism to a position where the British were only seconds away from perpetrating another massacre a la Bloody Sunday? What asymmetrical power relations have emerged from the efforts of the Sinn Fein negotiators that presented Kelly and Storey with a situational logic whereby they felt they could do nothing other than protect one of the British Army's most murderous regiments? They didn’t defend them because they liked them. They did so because the bizarre logic of the peace process handed them the task of both having to defend it and conceal its limitations. Their intervention was the product of a strategic bankruptcy.

In a bid to conceal this, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he had no doubt ‘this was Orangeism flexing its muscle.’ What muscle? The week previously, Liam Clarke writing in the Sunday Times made the point that ‘the Orange Order has been beaten and its defeat is largely of its own making.’ The same day in the Sunday Business Post Brian Feeney wrote in similar vein, 'in every respect, therefore, the Order's political clout has diminished.' Even the once awesome Drumcree protest has been dismissed by Portadown loyalist Ivan Porter as 'a joke now.' Ardoyne on the 12th showed not Orange muscle but a severely atrophied Provisional equivalent. It demonstrated that the institutional cul de sac into which the Adams leadership has taken republicanism was the inevitable outcome of having abandoned the ideological compass that guided it through the republican struggle. How the peace process, which that leadership still proudly rather than ashamedly proclaims to have fathered, has reduced Provisional options to a comic show in the theatre of the absurd is never explained. When the Provisional IRA announced its formation in 1969, had it stated as its objectives, the reform of the RUC, the retention of Stormont, the entrenchment of the partition principle – consent, the disbandment of the IRA and a British declaration of intent to make Paisley Prime Minister, who amongst us would have risked a day in jail for that? As the US journalist Jimmy Breslin observed of the lies of the US Government, ‘only the strong memory is an opponent, and there are few of them.’

Despite what Gerry Adams says, the Sinn Fein strategy is not being obstructed by securocrats who have regained the ascendancy. Nor is the NIO out of control while Tony Blair turns a blind eye. The power disparity between republicanism and the British as evidenced at Ardoyne is the essence of British state strategy. It was precisely why it strategically engaged with the peace process. While many may find the point churlish, it was Provisional leaders who were the harbingers of the situational logic that governed events at Ardoyne on the 12th of July. Once painted into a corner there was only one choice they could make, one choice they wanted to make, one choice the British state would allow them to make. And when it came to making it, they were not found wanting.




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Index: Current Articles

19 July 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Paravisional Alliance
Anthony McIntyre

Attack Against Antrim Bandsmen reports "Flawed" say Community Representatives
Sean Mac Aughey

A Firm Part Of The Labour Movement - The ‘Belfast SWP’ (Part 1)
Davy Carlin

Israel Builds Another Wall
M. Shahid Alam

15 July 2004

Helping the Brits
Geraldine Adams

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa
Dolours Price

Antebellum Antrim Town - still a cold house for Catholics and a fridge freezer for Irish Republicans
Sean Mac Aughey

Throughly Middleclassed Millie
Marc Kerr

Treating Opression and Depression
Sean Fleming

Wake up, Ireland!
Patrick Lismore

Response to US Designation

Fallen Generals
Anthony McIntyre

John Negroponte: Dorian Gray Goes to Iraq
Toni Solo


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