The Indispensable Provisional IRA

Pete Trumbore with a sober assessment of the continued existence of the Provisional IRA and the functionality of the violence it employs.  Professor Peter Trumbore blogs @ Observations / Research / Diversions.

Much has changed in the past 21 years, but there is no such thing as a perfect transition from conflict to peace. How to fix what is broken is the next political challenge. — Brian Rowan writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Sept. 1.

The official acknowledgment that the Provisional IRA still exists and still retains key components of its organizational and command structures, and that its membership retains the capacity to engage in the lethal use of force, has thrown Northern Ireland politics into turmoil.

Turmoil at Stormont is hardly new. The institutions of government there, such as they are, tend to lurch from political crisis to political crisis. Pundits seem to daily predict the imminent collapse of power-sharing arrangements. On a seemingly daily basis one party or another declares that the crisis of the day constitutes the final straw that will break the back of the Executive.

Such are the claims being made now about the rediscovered existence of the Provos. Maybe this epiphany does change everything. Then again, maybe not. Instead of joining this debate, I want to change the conversation and argue the following:

Whatever happens to the existing political institutions, the continued existence of the Provisional IRA, and its willingness and ability to employ lethal violence when it deems necessary, has been indispensable to the continued success of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Let me be very clear at what I mean by success. I mean that the 30-plus years of combat between paramilitaries, police, and security forces, and murderous, indiscriminate attacks on civilians on all sides, is over. I mean that the armed conflict which turned city neighborhoods and rural countryside into war zones is over.

This is no small accomplishment. As I explain to my students and other audiences here in the US, the roughly 3,300 people killed and further 40,000 wounded during The Troubles would amount to 550,000 dead and 6.8 million wounded had the war been fought in the United States rather than Northern Ireland.

My assessment of the essential success of the Northern Ireland peace process is rooted in my perspective as a scholar who studies conflict and conflict management. I am neither a partisan nor a sympathizer. My assessment of the success or failure of the peace process is not driven by my assessment of whether the Provisional Movement, or the British state, or Loyalists “won” or whether the resulting political arrangements work to the advantage or one side or another. It is driven by the fact that the fighting is over, and has been over for nearly two decades now.

The continuing existence of the Provisional IRA has been a critical piece of the mostly unseen machinery that keeps the engine of the peace process running. The strategic and limited use of violence by the PIRA against Republican dissidents, which dates back to the earliest days of the peace process, has sent to others the very clear message that the costs of too-actively opposing the Provisional Movement’s leadership and political strategy are too great to make it worth the risk.

The killings of Charles Bennett, Eamon Collins, Joe O’Connor, Gareth O’Connor, Robert McCartney, Paul Quinn, and now Kevin McGuigan – not all dissidents, but all who crossed people it was unwise to cross – cast a long, dark shadow over anyone who might think about challenging the leadership and direction of the Provisional Movement.

When I interviewed him in 2013, Tony Catney described the killing of Quinn in South Armagh as “a marker being laid down” that would “put the thought into anybody else’s mind as well.” Of Collins’ murder Catney said:

I know some people who are still with the Shinners who have made reference to the death of Eamon Collins … The sort of thing as ‘this is what can happen’.

If a peace is to hold, then it must be enforced. And sometimes that enforcement will take the form of brutal violence and intimidation directed at those groups or individuals who might be perceived as threats to the peace, or who politically threaten one of the parties to the peace whose continued political dominance is viewed as essential for the peace to be maintained.

Certainly violence is not the only tool that the Provisional Movement has brought to bear to keep its critics and challengers in check. But it has been a fundamentally essential component of their strategy. If the Provos did not exist, that tool would be unavailable.

If the Provos did not still exist, if the Provos were not still armed, the leadership of the Provisional Movement, not to mention their rank-and-file followers, would be left vulnerable to liquidation by dissident factions that retained their weapons. The deterrent power of the specter of the kind of fratricidal bloodletting that characterized earlier perods of Republican feuding would vanish if the Provos were unarmed or out of the picture.

The Northern Ireland peace process has been far from perfect, neither politically, nor morally, nor ethically. But then, there is no perfect transition from conflict to peace.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

50 comments to ''The Indispensable Provisional IRA"

  1. I think your assessment is spot on Peter but surely the question has to be "is this acceptable?" Surely in a. Democratic state the sinners have to take their chances just like everyone else. The Police don't have the option of retaliation when their people are murdered, they have to rely on the law and the same rules must apply to the Provos. Otherwise we are in danger of tolerating murder and before you know it they will be murdering people for a lot less.

  2. Cue Bono, the answer to your question ought to be an unreserved "no." I spent a fair amount of time this morning going over the transcripts of interviews that I've conducted over the last five years of research trips to NI to look for exchanges that put some of this in context. I may try to write some of that up over the weekend.

    I guess I wonder what the alternative was, at the time, given the fraught politics of the North. Could the IRA truly have disbanded and the leadership of the Provisional Movement survive (both literally and politically) given the accommodations they made in order to transition into "normal" politics?

    But there ought to have been a phasing out of all of that by now. It seems to me that the survival of the peace process and the political survival of Sinn Fein as the dominant nationalist party have come to be treated as one and the same. This is certainly the line that SF spins, but it also seems to echo back from the party's partners in the British state. Twenty years on, is that really so anymore? If SF is expelled from the Executive, will the Provos go back to war? Will the armed dissidents try to reignite the conflict?

    Nothing that I have read, or seen, or heard from people much closer to all of this than I am lead me to believe this to be the case.

    The days when the Provisional Movement could be allowed to engage in "internal housekeeping" in the larger interests of maintaining the peace should be long over. Maybe someone smarter than me can explain why that's not so.

  3. Peter I would put it down to political cowardice and expediency, but things may change now. The sinners will have to take their chances with everyone else. They were always happier handing it out than taking it.

  4. Frankie the current police shoot to kill policy is either very secret or very crap. If they had shot a Provo back then for every police officer who was murdered there wouldn't be many Provos left.

  5. I had a former RUC man tell me in South Armagh that if there really had been a shoot to kill policy they could have cleaned things up straight away. A former IRA man in Tyrone told me that such things go both ways.

  6. Peter,

    your assessment hinges upon nothing more than presumption and your supposition is faulty at best. The hypothetical is always useful when applied in probability though when it reaches fanciful thinking it is unstable and unreliable.

    You believe PIRA exist now as a private militia to protect SF and only to defend from reprisal. That puts PIRA in a tight spot; I would like to hear their explanation of transitioning from the people’s army into the role of bodyguards and a necessity to enforce the queen’s peace.

    Internal feuds are nothing new PIRA at one stage had to back down and accept the INLA after a waste of lives over nothing more than they wanted to be in total control of republicanism. By your logic that would mean the INLA should be armed for fear of reprisal.

    The dissident factions cannot afford a war with PIRA and vice-versa, commonsense is probably the best keeper of that peace and the more practical reasons would apply given everyone knows everyone which would make for easy pickings. The bigger risk would be from community backlash and loss of support I doubt republicans are willing to do the work of the Brits. I doubt it but history would tell me not to rule it out as a possibility.

    The other sides of the coin do the loyalist paramilitaries exist only for defensive purpose much like their enemies PIRA does that make them equally indispensible to the peace. You refer to transitional peace, as never perfect democracy is not perfect either nothing-in life is perfect.

    Your assessment is pithy and weakly disguising peace in Northern Ireland as something that can only be maintained by the various paramilitary’s sounds like giving the keys to the henhouse to the foxes so they can decide at their leisure when a sacrifice is instrumental to maintain the transition.

    Scholars enjoy putting their own poetic spin on issues even if they have little or no experience of the issue. I picked your piece to the bone looking for something that did not contradict itself. The first weakness is the transition to peace, peace being the casual agreed term that replaces the proper term of an extended ceasefire, which has been broken by all paramilitary groups. Your article does nothing but point out there is no genuine peace but you politely pawn that off as transition.

    Paramilitary groups do not exist to maintain peace they exist to maintain control they have the power to collapse Stormont, which is nothing more than a waste of money puppet show in a Banana State.
    You may claim you are neither for or against and without bias but in essence, all you are doing is sitting on your comfortable perch condensing and excusing using some scholarly formula that may impress students in a classroom but would not hold up in Northern Ireland.

  7. I understand you are looking at the small picture and that is always a problem until we pan out and examine the full picture and frame. The British drafted a deal (not a guarantee of peace) the public version presented as a concrete solution. The private version is slowly leaking into the mainstream were the paramilitary factions are the law the problem for the Brits is how do they sneak out the backdoor with no blood on their hands. The deal essentially handed the paramilitary groups more power than they had.

    The chain of command did not work out so well MI5 and the PSNI can only play chase after the dissidents. Those groups with the strongest hold and support in their communities enjoy the dual role of being the unofficial law and the enforcers of a ceasefire. Nothing shocking about this menagerie the loyalists don’t trust the republicans and both groups don’t trust the Brits the Brits don’t trust anyone.
    The deal was rushed through not for any possible benefit towards peace but for a media circus for the British and American governments, I would include the Free State government but they have the least say.

    Saying PIRA has gone away is the same as saying the UDA has gone away the trick is inventing a peace culture that can safely remove the paramilitary culture and even the genius’s of the world will have a hard job doing that? After all the evidence is in how well the supposed peace deal did or did not work out depending on what you wish to believe or indeed what the media is flogging.

  8. Tain Bo,

    I'm trying to figure out from your comments where we actually disagree, other than in tone. The peace, such as it is, is no real peace. The transition happens after 2005 when the military structures that prosecuted the war are systematically dismantled, leaving intact command, intelligence, and internal security. I think the public record on this is pretty clear and convincing, and it confirms what I've been told both on the record and in private by folks who, as you point out, have the firsthand knowledge that I lack and whose credibility I trust.

    I think we agree that the PIRA exists today and in the years since 2005 in a form that is potent enough to deter the armed dissidents from directly challenging SF politically or following through on physical threats to its leadership. There are many reasons why it is in the political interests of the Provisional Movement to keep the dissidents around.

    I think that we would agree that the loyalist paramilitaries are a different beast entirely, especially in their potential motivations for breaking the "peace." Again, I have spent much less time talking to loyalists and ex-paramilitaries, but those that I have consistently argue that there has been no reason for them to go back to war given that they won, and that the Union is more secure today than it has been at any time since partition.

    I have not argued that the PIRA ever went away. Quite to the contrary. We knew all along that they were still here. For a host of reasons this was rarely talked about openly.

    And I agree wholeheartedly with your final point. The real trick is inventing a peace culture which would allow for the gun to be taken out of Irish politics entirely. That's been the trick all along, and I don't see anyone, on any side, offering any real suggestions how to get there.

  9. "I had a former RUC man tell me in South Armagh that if there really had been a shoot to kill policy they could have cleaned things up straight away. A former IRA man in Tyrone told me that such things go both ways."

    There is no way on earth would that have happened or been allowed to by the powers that be. The backlash from every quarter (Whitehall down) would have been too much for the then RUC to handle.

    Were certain Provisionals & INLA members "picked off" yeah....I also believe several were set up because the PRM leadership knew that when it got down to politics people like Jim Lynagh "wouldn't tow the party line"...

  10. Peter,

    exaggerated bravado after the fact counts for nothing more than wishful thinking. There was a shoot to kill policy; there is enough evidence in the public domain detailing unnecessary executions. One case is much clearer than others are when the SAS executed three unarmed people in broad daylight in Gibraltar. There was no plan to arrest them the orders were clear shoot first and we will fabricate the usual cover story.

    The former RUC man you spoke with would naturally deny the policy existed, perhaps he wished they could have had free reign to murder nationalists at will but republican retaliation would have been swift something Brit intelligence was not willing to gamble on. The Brits would not have been so dumb escalating a war in an area they were more than vulnerable in the cops would be dumb enough to want that but would have came out on the losing end.

  11. Cui Ball,

    you are a laugh but never in the funny way. Always happier handing it out and the loyalist were only brave as they had the RUC and Brits to do the fighting for them. Their specialty murdering innocent Catholics rarely hitting a Provo or Erp and even at that it was collusion with the LAW handing over information to loyalists. The same law you advised me not to break in my dreams.

    You would agree that this was spot on it is only when issues are condensed and critical of republicans that you chirp in with condensed and pointless observations.

    Slán go fóill

  12. Tain,

    "The deal was rushed through not for any possible benefit towards peace but for a media circus for the British and American governments"

    The GFA was "rushed through" because America needed to free up British troops in the six counties..

    If you have Voices from the Grave close by, go to page 405 and read what David Ervine was told by the Feds...

  13. Tain

    A few points. The dissident republicans regard the Provos as the lowest of the low. Traitors. Who sold out the cause and who now work hand in glove with the auld enemy. Common sense tells us that therefore the provos should be right at the top of their target list because these traitors are living right amongst them and dissident prosecution of their war is stymied by the spies in their own community. Why therefore do they not move against the Provos? Because they are shit scared of them that is why. They are not labouring under any false illusions about what would happen if they started whacking sinners or Provos.

    Peters ruc contact was correct. If the Provos had been taken out using the same rules of engagement that the Provos used themselves then the troubles would have been over in months. The police knew who they were and where they lived and they had the manpower and weaponry to do it. They didn't do it because it would have been against the law. The so called shoot to kill policy consisted of police and soldiers taking no chances with what they believed to be armed terrorists. Nowhere in the world would security forces risk their lives to try and arrest known murderers. If the troubles had taken place in America you would have seen a much more robust policy for dealing with terrorists and those captured would not have found themselves playing unsupervised pool with their chums in a communal prison.

  14. Frankie

    It was very smart of the Americans to foresee 9/11 in 1998.

  15. Peter, I dont think any of the killings you mentioned were due to critiques or challenges to the Provisionals direction. To give them a political dimension is to ennoble what were essentially avaricious motives.

  16. Cue,

    Read up on Operation Northwoods and then watch for example loose change ....

    Maybe if you get time, you could try reading up on why both Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi were both taken out of the game.

    It wasn't the first time they killed a President or Congergress man, for exposing the truth...

    Louis Thomas McFadden It was a piece of legislative trickery; it was a piece of work in the committee that was silent and secretive. Even members of the committee did not know what was being done, according to their own declarations. The President and Members of the House did not know they were acting on such a measure. But, as I have said before, the shadow of the hand of England rests over this enactment." (C R, January 8, 1934)

    John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy

    Abraham Lincoln

  17. Cue Bonio.
    Maybe they weren't forseeing 9/11 in 1998.
    Maybe they were looking at Clintons "Peace Dividend" in the early 1990s.
    In 1996 the US defence budget was cut 11 straight years in a row and the budget was at 40% less of what it was under Reagan.

    No wonder the USA was/is interested in a British Foreign legion
    Unfortunately in Afghanastan and Iraq has left the "special relationship" a whole degree less "special" altogether. As far as the USA is concerned.
    As for your other points..the more the RUC killed PIRA the more recruits would have joined.
    You may have heard the phrase "radicalisation" If the RUC played that stupid game ..The Irish in 26 Counties would have signed up and perhaps the Irish diaspora too. Not to mention the Free State might have collapsed and let in a more "Michael Collins" wing

    So, I shall leave you to your wet dreams of what the RUC say..But remember this..The Brit Army was sent in coz the RUC were quivering in 1969..And the RUC were incapable of control without the Brit army right up till the ceasefire.
    So "brave" words from a "police Force" which was scared of it's own shadow depending on an Army to hold it's hand..Doesn't impress me much.

  18. Also Cue.
    It has been said, to my mind it was said by Colonel Tim Collins that the NEW IRA are made up of relatives of those who were killed by the Brits during the conflict.
    Ergo. you may want to factor that into your calculations. And tell us how more body bags would give you a better result.

    TBH your RUC "Officer" reminds me of General "westie" Westmoreland.
    Perhaps the greatest American military failure this side of Custer.
    You will be familiar with him with such quagmires as Vietnam..Cambodia and Laos...Where he Only asked for an extra 100,000 troops to finish it off...Only he asked for 100,000 just after he already got 100,000.
    In Vietnam the CIA ran the Phoenix programme of targetted killing.
    It didn't work. America lost.
    And your blood lust also reminds me of Westmorelands' "body Count" statistics and it didn't work
    America lost.
    Perhaps you might take the time to learn from others mistakes rather than trying to have to go through your murder machine and learn the lessons at first hand?
    Also..Have you considered a job at Ford Motor Company?
    I think we will all sleep easier..knowing you don't work in police/ military appartaus.
    Wouldn't it have been better if Robert McNamara had of stayed there too.

  19. Cue Bono,

    surely it does not stand up to say that the British state security services did not kill republicans en masse because it was against the law. They had some other reason for not doing it but to suggest they refrained because it was illegal seems absurd. They consistently broke the law: even at a low level the continuous beating of young people in the early 70s was against the law; torturing people in Castlereagh and elsewhere was against the law, perjury was against the law; collusion was against the law; state terrorism was against the law - they engaged in the lot of it. I think if you wish people to listen to you and be perhaps be persuaded by you then you need to offer more than propaganda (not all of what you say is propaganda but there is that slippage when it comes to security services). Law breaking was widespread amongst the security services - endemic.

  20. Daithi,

    I think I would agree with you on most of the cases, with the exception of Joe O'Connor. What's more important than why any of them were killed is the message that the killings sent and continue to send. I believed TC when he said the the killings of both Quinn and Collins were used as explicit warnings. And those and other killings gave real substance to the implicit warnings that were made in 2011 surrounding the threats against Seamus Finucane.

  21. Anthony

    There is a huge difference between physical assault and murder. The law breaking you describe was low level in comparison to that being carried out by the Provos. I'm typing this from an iPad so I'm struggling to articulate myself properly but do you seriously agree with the suggestion that the only thing stopping the police from killing the Provos was fear of their mighty retaliation?

    Ozzy the army were brought in because nationalists were terrified that the b specials were about to. Be deployed to replace the exhausted police.

  22. Frankie,

    good seeing you back on the Quill.

    I do not think there is any direct association between the GFA and 9/11 though there is a good case if only coincidental for freeing up British troops for a possible war based upon what intelligence the CIA AND MI6 had at the time.
    As for 9/11, I highly doubt they were aware of that plan or believed they were far enough across the pond to be clear of harm’s way.
    I think the yanks might have been expecting truck bombs but I doubt the CIA give any creditability to the idea that America would be attacked with its own planes.

    Regardless if 9/11 did not happen Saddam was going to be dethroned.

  23. Peter,

    I will pen out a response after I read your comment a few times so I can think about my reply.

  24. Ozzy,

    good reference on Westmoreland only a body count will win the war. I wonder if he noticed the return body count.

    Mickey Henry logic.

  25. Cui,

    I would argue the opposite I can sit and yell traitors and SF can sit and yell criminals that sort of feud is tolerable, as no one will meet their grave at the end of traded insults.

    Hypothetically if a feud took place that would be a big risk for the Brits and SF it could possibly be a lynch pin that unites the various factions. Uniting would give them more power and support something neither the Brits nor SF wish to see. However, for unionists and loyalists it would be a great show watching republicans murder one and other.

    It is a possibility yet highly unlikely as feuds in the past served no purpose and no ground gained. As I mentioned to Peter, PIRA took a backset when they noticed INLA were not going away anytime soon.

    I would assume today’s factions have meet and discussed the issue of infighting. If an internal bloodbath did breakout the Provos would be facing severe scrutiny from the nationalist community as collusion might factor into their offensive. PIRA would need the green light from the Brits and that would become evident in a feud. The leaders of the various factions are vulnerable as they are not a protected spices and in a feud they would be first on the chopping block to go. The SF leadership would not suffer the same amount of loss.

    Perhaps, you should consider spies or agents being amongst the ranks of the dissidents who serve the SF agenda. They might be a greater influence on which way dissident winds blow. The old IRA within the new IRA a recipe for going nowhere.

    I could be wrong but it is only hypothetical reality always has a different spin.

    Incorrect, the cop held the mentality of a loyalist paramilitary perhaps his brief assessment might be a good indicator why nationalists did not trust the RUC. Over in months why not days, all that would have accomplished is an all out war. Cops would have been weighing up their prospects wondering if their pay packet was worth dying for; it is something that the Brits learned well never underestimate the tenacity and resilience of nationalist/republicans. Nevertheless, as you say we all are entitled to our dreams.

    You mistake the role of a police force in society they are paid public servants supposedly there to uphold the law and not there to protect one section of the community by wanting to execute the other section. That line blurred with collusion, which would be not upholding the law.

    The so-called shoot to kill policy consisted of police and soldiers taking no chances with what they believed to be armed terrorists

    You admit there was a shoot to kill policy and offer a feeble excuse for its existing. That runs in contradiction with…

    The police knew who they were and where they lived and they had the manpower and weaponry to do it.

    They indeed knew all that and more, the more being they would also know when certain people under surveillance were armed or unarmed. If they were armed and engaging the Brits that is one thing if they are unarmed and no threat that is completely different.

    Your take no chance is diluted, tactically from a Brit standpoint the shoot to kill policy was effective. They could have arrested unarmed active republicans at anytime; they did, though that routine of scooping and jailing was not an effective deterrent. They had used the UVF/UDA and found them to be ineffectual in going after active republicans instead they mastered murdering uninvolved people. The solution was using the security forces to do the job right and send shockwaves through republicanism.
    Why water it down and make the heavily armed well-trained Brits sound like a bunch of clucking hens.

    What is your position on loyalist paramilitary groups are they or were they not breaking the law or is it only republican violence that crosses that line

  26. Tain Bo
    The SAS didn't execute 3 unarmed "people", it was 3 terrorists intent on mass murder. Republicans then went gurning to the European court complaining of the violation of rights. Yet when republicans murdered 2 unarmed policemen in Jonesboro, with the help of Irish state collusion, republicans hold these terrorists up as heroes.

  27. Cue Bono,

    none of this is relevant to your point which is that the security services so respected the law that they refrained from breaking it, That is a wholly unsustainable assertion given the penchant for breaking the law on the part of the security services.

    Somebody once observed to me in the jail that as republicans we were lucky that we were white Europeans otherwise we would have been done in.

    Not do I think your argument benefits from setting up an Aunt Sally about retaliation - who apart from yourself mentioned it?

    Fear of international opprobrium (reputation is a substantial asset in the world of raison d'état (the latter always in my view helps explain British state behaviour in Ireland) probably figured I strategic considerations. Respect for the law certainly did not.

  28. Peter my friend,

    I see you got your haircut. Incorrect Peter as bitter as it may be to swallow even terrorists are people and unless the 3 died from instant kill shots then their final moments on earth were in terror from SAS bullets.

    3 terrorists, 3 members of Óglaigh na hÉireann, 3 Provos, 3 people still unarmed no matter what term is applied and all the labels cannot change the fact.

    The law seems to be convoluted when viewed through unionist/loyalist eyes. There were many opportunities to arrest the 3 from the moment they stepped out their doors right up to the last minutes before the SAS executed them.

    Then scooping them would only produce charges of conspiracy and IRA membership, which would carry at most a 10-year stint.

    You are explicit on intent but the only clear intent that day was the planned executions. How can we honestly say what the 3 people were intending to do. Would intent not be a matter for the courts to decide? Had they been arrested then we may well know by now what their intentions were.

    Call it what you will but clearly the law was usurped by a highly trained take no prisoners SAS death squad. Let us deal with the reality if the SAS are on your case chances are you will not remember it.
    The motto “who dares win” has a fine print of take no prisoners and that goes all the way back to world war 2.

    It is foolish to argue it was lawful based solely on intent by that logic the SAS would have run out of bullets given the amount of intent in republican areas.

    Two cops stiffed maybe with a little assistance from a sympathetic Free State cop or two does not add to State collusion. You are entering into tit’ for tat’ territory pigeons and statues why not just say the Free State was a handy arms dump and say all of the Free State colluded with the Provos.

    There are times when republicans mimic unionist and run gurning about this are that. It is a dead-end argument sure Lenny Murphy is hailed as a hero.

    My intention was to argue with professor circumstances altar intent so intent could have been altered simply by arresting the 3 people but that was not the intentions of the superiors who ordered a public execution. The Brits relied on shock value kills as much as the Provos/INLA did on what became known as spectaculars.

    Wars need heroes it is part of the mythical romancing of conflict.

  29. Tain
    Yes of course they are people. I was pointing out the semantics in you using the word to down play their intentions, hence the word was in inverted commas. I am not here to defend the SAS and it is irrelevant to my point. My point is that republicans profess to care soooo much about rights and justice, except for the victims of republicanism. Have a look at all the articles written in support of the Craigavon 2, not one asks for justice for the policeman. An innocent man serving his community by investigating a burglary and is shot in the back by low life, yet no call for justice for him? No, just for the dafties that joined an organisation of physcos and touts and expected a positive outcome! Why no outcry from the wider CNR community for the Craigavon 2? People know that republicans are deeply hypocritical when it comes to wanting justice.

  30. Tain,

    "I think the yanks might have been expecting truck bombs but I doubt the CIA give any creditability to the idea that America would be attacked with its own planes."....

    What I said to Cue was, check out what David Ervine was told by the Feds at the time the 1994 ceasefire was being muted. The yanks needed to free up British expertise in urban guerrilla warfare..Why do you think the FBI got involved with Omagh? Throw into the mix the Irish-American lobby with deeper pockets than the ECB saying to SF, "Listen, put the guns away and you can freely fund raise here"..

    A few weeks ago Tain on this blog I was asked..

    but why would it have ceased to exist? Should there be any more truth to the statement that it does not exist than there was to the statement that it did not kill Joe O'Connor or was not responsible for the DAAD killings

    And I said...

    In the same way, for lots of reasons, Directors of companies close down a firm (tax dodge, they go into liquidation...) and the following morning they open up a new firm, re-employing key personnel from the previous firm.

    I believe the Provisionals murdered Joe O'Connor. I believe it was sanctioned by the Provisionals at Army Council level. I reckon it went something like this.

    A few Belfast Republicans said to their OC, "What are we going to do about O'Connor?" Their OC went to "Belfast Brigade level" who went to Army Council who "gave the nod" to murder Joe O'Connor. And the sheeple bought into the official line that Joe O'Connor's murder was "OK" because it was simply house keeping. While the murders of Paul Quinn and Robert McCartney where like "Bloody Friday", PR disaster's for the PRM and Irish Republicanism, forcing the leadership of the PRM to "wind up" (although I have to throw into the mix what yourself and other's said how things would pan out year's before).

    And when Seanna Walsh asked all volunteer's to "drop arms", he was referring to "operators" such as Gerry 'Whitey' Bradley and not the "civil administration" who were by and large hand picked by the PSF/PRM leadership and "yes men."

    "Why would it have ceased to exist".....

    PSF knew it was counter productive to continue "the long war", not because it didn't advance Irish Republicanism but PSF's bank balance. And in the process of PSF putting "PIRA PLC." into receivership, they pulled off the Northern Bank robbery and a few key personnel got "redundancy money" and then quickly re-employed under a new job description. While the vast majority of volunteers (on both sides of the oxymoron's) were left asking themselves "Exactly what were the last 25/30 odd year's about?"


  31. Could the IRA truly have disbanded and the leadership of the Provisional Movement survive (both literally and politically) given the accommodations they made in order to transition into "normal" politics?

    That's exactly what happened Peter.

    The days when the Provisional Movement could be allowed to engage in "internal housekeeping" in the larger interests of maintaining the peace should be long over. Maybe someone smarter than me can explain why that's not so.

    Peter those days should be over but the aren't. I don't understand why anyone is shocked that certain people within the leadership of the PRM have access to guns. Lets face it during the ceasefire in the 70's weren't key personnel waved through check points and everyone knew they were armed.

    Chances are just prior to the last act of decommissioning there was a conversation that went like this.

    PRM Leadership Ok, here is an inventory and the location of all the hardware(M60's, rocket launchers, semtex, C4...) under our control.

    British Gov There are a few dozen "AK47's, hand guns" missing...?

    PRM Leadership You mean the personal protection weapons?

    British Gov. We didn't hear that.

    And everyone went their separate way's knowing were each other stood.

    I had a former RUC man tell me in South Armagh that if there really had been a shoot to kill policy they could have cleaned things up straight away.

    N'importe quoi!!!! The British knew for a long time that shooting dead every known O/PIRA-INLA volunteer dead was counter productive. Not only would it have lead to an influx in membership the RM would have been able to exploit British duplicity to it's full extent.

    I think we agree that the PIRA exists today and in the years since 2005 in a form that is potent enough to deter the armed dissidents from directly challenging SF politically or following through on physical threats to its leadership.

    I don't agree that the PIRA exist today. The PIRA were a guerrilla army formed just after the pogroms of 1969 until Seanna Walsh read out a statement to drop arms. And by and large most did. Those that didn't either drifted away, joined anti agreement groups or became absored into SF's civil admin. FFS the Provisional's get enough bad press. The Provisional's killed Joe O'Connor & Eamonn Collins. But they didn't kill Robert McCartney or Paul Quinn

    The SAS didn't execute 3 unarmed "people", it was 3 terrorists intent on mass murder. Republicans then went gurning to the European court complaining of the violation of rights.

    Exactly how many guns were found on Mairead Farrell and Danny McCann or Sean Savage? We both know they were followed and watched 24/7. We also know about the aftermath .... All the Mi5/6, the Spanish police or Interpol had to do was pay them a visit at their hotels on the morning of the 6th May 1988. They knew exactly where to look for them.

    Peter shortly after Death on the Rock was shown on British TV, Thames TV's license came up for renewal and they got refused and lost the right to broadcast....

    republicans hold these terrorists up as heroes.

    Peter, what is a "terrorist?" What would you call this

    Yet when republicans murdered 2 unarmed policemen in Jonesboro, with the help of Irish state collusion,

    Is that any different to British intelligence allowing RUC, Army, Republicans, Loyalist's....innocent civilians to bet killed in order to protect a source like Mark Haddock, Scap, Donaldson, Brian Nelson....

  32. If the numbers in the article are even fractionally true, why would the Provos need to keep Irish-America sweet for fundraising?

    They estimate the Provo wealth at nearly 1 Billion Euro ?! Thought War was for the profiteers?

  33. Frankie,

    Just to clarify, the PETER who comments here, is not me, PFTrumbore, who wrote the post above. Since you included his comments along with mine in your response, I just wanted to make sure everyone is clear on who is who.

  34. Anthony,

    The vast, vast majority of the security forces did indeed uphold the law. You can't surely judge them on the actions of the few who did not?

    The whole red herring about retaliation was in answer to Ozzy. I had thought you were agreeing with him. Apologies.

    I think the British could have been a lot more robust in how they dealt with the Provos without risking international opprobrium. Other European countries certainly dealt with their terrorist problems in a harsh manner without anyone raising an eyelid. The Provos of course were very fortunate in having Irish America, but even they would have found it difficult to spin the killing of terrorists into a bleeding heart story. Most people around the world see a story about terrorists being killed and shrug their shoulders. Nowadays they tend to celebrate the fact.

  35. "Incorrect, the cop held the mentality of a loyalist paramilitary perhaps his brief assessment might be a good indicator why nationalists did not trust the RUC. Over in months why not days, all that would have accomplished is an all out war. Cops would have been weighing up their prospects wondering if their pay packet was worth dying for; it is something that the Brits learned well never underestimate the tenacity and resilience of nationalist/republicans."


    The policeman was not suggesting that the RUC should have been murdering Provos. He was merely pointing out the fact that if the police had used the same rules of warfare that the Provos used then the "war" would have been a very short one. Dead terrorists cannot kill people, and there is absolutely no doubt that the Provos did everything in their power to avoid eing killed.

    I don't know if you were alive during the Troubes or not, but if you had been you would be well aware that policemen were being murdered on a very regular basis, so your jibe about pay packets is moot.

    It may surprise you to hear it, but republicans are not highly regarded for their teacity or resilience outside of their own support base. From a unionist/British perspective they had it very easy indeed. Killing people who were only allowed to kill them in self defence and often doing so in the most cowardly fashion imaginable.

  36. The vast majority of security forces broke the law at some level. The mass brutality in the early 70s was carried out institutionally, not individually; perjury was rampant (although it probably is for most if not all police forces) they most likely all withheld information or did not report a crime when they saw their colleagues break the law as in say prison brutality. There was not one prison officer who worked the blanket blocks who did not witness brutality. They did not all participate in brutality; some were opposed to it and in private would express regret that it happened but they still saw it and failed to report it (I am not condemning them for that); torture was policy; collusion was top down and the recent spate of documentaries suggest pervasive, There is simply no way you will persuade anybody who thinks about it that security force respect for the law was what prevented them killing more republicans or being more robust. They used the law to shield themselves and attack others. Bad apple theory is worthless. Respect for the law was not that prevalent. It is a unionist and British myth but that should not mean you must buy into it. If we want to be taken seriously there is a led to let go of myths no matter how cherished.

  37. I fundamentally disagree Anthony. In my experience the vast majority of security force members were operating from the highest motives of decency against what they saw as a brutal terrorist onslaught. I don't know anything about the Prison Service other than that they had to work day and daily with some of the most prolific murderers in western Europe, and they faced death everytime they went home. Did the prisoners provoke them? Mock them when their friends had been murdered? I strongly suspect that they did and I'm fairly sure that any of them who fell into the hands of the prisoners would have faced a severe beating.

    A telling anectdote I read somewhere (was it here?) was that when the news came throught that nine people had been killed in Loughall the IRA prisoners in the Maze were ecstatic. They assumed that in a Protestant village like Loughall the dead would be, at the very least, Protestants and they were cheering to the rafters.

  38. Cue Bono,

    we'll leave it at that. There is no point.

  39. Cue,

    what is the difference you are forgetting the Provos were fighting the Law not abiding by it.

    A pointless argument dead Brits and cops cannot kill anyone either. I think we all did as much as possible to avoid being shot or blown up, human instinct to survive.

    I think me using the term pay packet would age me as it was a wee envelope with your wages in it.

    If it is moot or a jibe then that is something for you to ponder. To me it is clear-cut cops are not above the law and when they enter into paramilitary thinking then they should not be a cop. The messy world of collusion is hardly a moot point.

    Again, you seem to share or at least employ the logic of Mickey Henry. You seem to ignore that the cops, the Brits and the vermin UVF/UDA were wiping out innocent Catholics.
    I think you need to accept that the CNR did not come out unscathed; you have a squeaky clean one-sided recollection of the past.

  40. Peter,

    it is not a question of me using semantics to lessen the alleged intent of Danny McCann, Sean Savage, and Mairead Farrell. Mairead Farrell shot 3 times in the back and once in the face. Now we know the SAS use high-powered kill weapons it would be safe to assume after three in the back that she was no longer a threat and could have been detained whether she would live from the initial wounds is debatable.
    Fact, you do not send in the SAS for anything else other than a Kill.

    Eyewitness accounts state that Farrell and McCann while wounded tried to surrender.

    A. They were unarmed so posed no threat.
    B. If they had been armed, they would have had no time to react to the controlled ambush.

    A mysterious set of alleged keys recovered from Mairead Farrell’s purse lead to a bomb in Spain. The SAS allegedly briefed that a bomb would be detonated via remote control. Apparently, Brit Intel knew every detail apart from the most lethal one the alleged bomb. It is odd that these mysterious keys brought Brit Intel right to a car in Spain.

    The story falls apart there, why would they not have tracked the bomb? Probably as there was no bomb, it is more possible that they were scouting the Rock for a possible future attack.
    If there was to be an attack then the Vol’s would have been armed and in the car.

    Yes, there is always hypocrisy though not just from Republicans. If there was a piece on the murder of the cop the Quill would carry it.

    The no outcry from the wider nationalist people is self-explanatory at this juncture they are not at war with the Brits.
    There was never a substantial outcry for republican prisoners the only effective voice they had was the H Block and Armagh Committee they went the way of the Dodo at the behest of SF.

    I do not support dissident militants they should end their futility and come join the rest of us in that other futile institution Stormont.

  41. Frankie,

    Intelligence Agencies deploy more misinformation than information if they told Irvine who didn’t have much pull in the north then I assume they were blowing smoke up his arse with the greater good yarn. I would bet they told many a yarn to many of the upper echelons’ one yarn or another to give them a false sense of importance.

    You are correct the PRM did close shop or more to the point changed the shop name. There is no argument on who Killed Joe O’ Connor or why. As for the sheeple buying into the Ra’s version for the less than hardcore supporter it would be matter of agree or you could be next.

    It signaled publically that the Rafia was now open again for business and anyone who might think about interfering with their business would have to think again. It is much of the same policy the Armalite and the ballot box. With the not so new spin of republicans killing republicans, in feudal war over control and the PIRA will not give up that comfortable seat lightly.

    Briefly, the Brits decided to cough up the money and buy them off as it works out cheaper than fighting with them.

    In 1981, the Brits quickly took advantage of the disastrous lack of negotiation skill SF had. The fact that Adams was having a nap getting his beauty sleep while men were nearing death was something that did not go unnoticed by the more seasoned negotiators. In essence, the motley crew was exploitable and worse willing to continue letting their comrades die.

    SF was quick to manipulate the vote for Bobby Sands and later Owen Carron as votes for SF and not so much for the hunger strikers.

    The door was now wide open for the Brits to pass by the thought of talking with PIRA and headed directly to the weakest link SF wineing and dinning them making them more important and making them offers they could not refuse. PIRA, were still on the fence until they got what they wanted out of the deal.
    Those that split did so with reason they knew they had been duped by the Brits and worse betrayed by their comrades.

    I stopped asking myself what it was all for as we all know it was not for SF to play meet and greet foreign dignitaries and bend at the knee.

  42. Professor PFT,

    I offer no apology on my tone in an academic environment your assessment is reasonable. Beyond the walls of higher education, your assessment is politely second and third hand, information that is and was already something the ordinary people are well aware of, as the street vine is more reliable than cautious pleasantries exchanged in the name of conflict resolution. I understand its academic value but when it appears in the public domain then it becomes fair game for scrutiny.

    That is not a slight on your work, I just do not see approaching those with much to hide with any expectation of gaining the truth other than the watered-down version. The obvious would be that the leader of SF is a pathological liar who fools only himself when he states he has no knowledge or hand in murder. His only responsibility during the war was to carry the coffins of dead volunteers.

    Then we have the First and Second ministers both tainted by war and both know they can muster the respective troops if need be. The whole process has no solid foundation built upon lies and chance, which drips all the way down through Stormont to the bottom run “community workers.”
    Employing a vast amount of “former” paramilitaries is not a poor way of keeping them happy and if they become disgruntled well the term you are “fired” might be part of the unemployment rule of leaving the firm early retirement to the grave.

    I would not say with any accuracy that PIRA’s role is peacekeeping granted they are paid to do SF’ dirty work. PIRA in private are as always very different from PIRA in public, for the time being the house of SF is guarded with the old guard aging and dying off their replacements may not be so willing to be the paid lackeys of the State.

    It is as simple as ambitious people can be extremely patient there is never a shortage of those who wish to be Caesar; it took Adams many years of deception and treachery to end up in power but a very distant secondhand power merely a governor under the rule of a greater Cesar.

    PIRA and SF put on a decent show but they both know that amongst them the Brutus’ smile is only a distraction for the long blade of the Pugio in the back.
    We differ Peter, as I trust some people and you find those you interview creditworthy. Change in northern Ireland will never come from the top down one day the people may work for true change from the streets and communities up.

    That might explain why the political system is faulty as it depends on the paramilitaries so they can keep their false paranoid sense of power.

  43. Tain,

    Perhaps I picked you up wrong, but I thought your point about the police woorrying about their pay packets referred to the mighty IRA coming down on them in great force and the owardly police shiteing themselves and resigning. In fact the Provos murdered a lot of policemen and there were queues in the thousands to join the police right throughout the Troubles.

    If you regard the UVF/UDA as vermin for killing innocent Catholics then presumably you also consider the Provos to have been vermin? After all they killed more Catholics than either of the loyalist groups.

  44. Tain what you have to remember is when the FEDs told David Erivne they needed to free up British expertise in urban guerrilla warfare it was only 3 years after the first war in Iraq and America knew there was unfinished business there (Iraq). And between 1993-1997 the Provisionals were blowing up the square mile in London, Manchester every 6-8 mths and costing 11 Downing Street billions in lost revenue. And the heads of industry went to 10 Downing Street and said "Whats going on here? Stop the bombs or we're pulling out." And the Bank of England couldn't afford that to happen.

    So the spooks on both sides of the Atlantic paid David Rupert to spy on the RIRA and they helped in the planning Omagh and the spooks didn't care how many people got blown apart or injured. To them the end justified the means. The GFA was only a few months old and Omagh was allowed to happen to cement it (the GFA) in peoples minds as the only show on the road. And to give "dissident Republicans" an own goal-bloody nose.

    David Ervine had more sway within the PUP/UVF than some people credit him.

  45. Cue,

    no worries, I know I rant a fair bit but my point was/is within reason. I did not imply that the cops or all cops were scared wee mice. It would be natural under the circumstances to weigh up the odds of a wage or the possibility of losing your life and what held more value. I do not put the romantic spin on the Provos/INLA; on that score, it is wiser to keep it in the proper perspective.

    The cop Peter spoke with allegedly was of the opinion that if they could have free reign they could empty out the hornets’ nest in months. A foolish line of though coming from this individual whom apparently seen himself as indestructible. I pondered even in his months scenario did he consider he might not see the end of a day or was it only going to be Republicans who would die.

    Again, a dead-end argument the RM had people lining up to join. I could question the unverifiable queues of thousands but a better question would be why did they not enlist in the BA in the tens of thousands?

    We are on opposite sides of the fence so vermin is accurate in my eyes as that is what they were. If you can argue different I would like to hear that. I did not make them criminals the law did and they accepted and wore that label well the RM was never so obliging. So by their own omission of supposedly fighting to uphold Brit law they accepted and done their time like ODC’. Did or do their overlords give them wee medals and parades for their disservice to the crown’s image.
    It is a weak argument flying the flag of the law alongside the flags of loyalist paramilitary factions.

    The RM is and was not exempt from acts of brutality I would be more than remiss if I denied they committed atrocities. Vermin would be an accurate description for some within its ranks a number of wee mice went on to morph into giant rats. They agreed to abide with the law but throw a public fit when the law wants to question certain giant rats. They are the worst kind of vermin now holding dual power one friendlier to the Brits but much of the same old enforced control of nationalist areas.

    This might help

  46. Frankie,

    A lot of tinfoil hat stuff going on there. A bit too much Homeland?

  47. Frankie,

    I agree with you, Ervine had pull with both, when he put away his gun he earned more creditability with the PUL.
    The free up resources might have been the line given to Ervine and others for the greater good though I would contend what it meant. The Brits did not need to free up much in the way of physical resources.

    If we weigh up the troop levels for operation Motorman roughly there would be 22 thousand British boots on the ground backed up with five and half thousand UDR and the cops already there. We could easily say roughly well over 30 thousand security forces. This was to mop up a few no go areas with a bit of exaggerated overkill.

    I believe the highest number of confirmed Brits on the ground was around 46 thousand in the sandbox that number dwindles rapidly. For a mop up in the north, they deploy 22 thousand troops for an all out war 46 thousand. Sounds like they feared the empty no go areas more than they feared the Iraq army, I should say makeshift barricades’ that were vacant.

    Even with the other wars the Brits always, have plenty in reserve. Getting the guns of the streets was more a matter of precaution for the just in case a Libya 2 was in the works as gifts from Saddam to the Ra. Which is also questionable as the Ra had more weapons than they literally knew what to do with?

    As for intelligence and greater experience in fighting in that vicinity the Israeli’s would be the ones to turn to saying they were not involved is much like saying MI5 had no hand in Omagh.

    That is my spin Frankie but I agree with your take, as I know you do the homework and give thought in your comments.

  48. Motorman was well enough advertised to give Marty and the boys time to take a well deserved holiday in Bundoran.

  49. Cue,

    I said that a few years ago here but in a more detailed manner.


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