Peace Process At Risk From Whom?

Pete Trumbore with his thoughts on the peace process being under threat ... again. Professor Peter Trumbore blogs @ Observations/Research/Diversions.

Actually, the Provos pretty much have gone away.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams warned today that any coalition deal between Britain’s grievously wounded Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party would put the Northern Ireland peace process at risk.

Given that the Provisional Irish Republican Army, which Adams denies ever being part of despite all evidence to the contrary, has been on ceasefire for more than 20 years, to call this a hollow threat seems generous at best.

Or, as Adams frequent critic, former Republican prisoner and blanket man Thomas ‘Dixie’ Elliot, put it on Twitter:

Certainly there was a time when the kind of warning Adams gave carried real menace. But that was before 2005, when the Provos stood the vast majority of their activists down and dismantled the bulk of the operational capabilities that allowed them to prosecute their war against Britain and the Northern Irish statelet.

While command, intelligence, and internal security structures were allowed to be remain mostly intact after 2005, as British security services were compelled to acknowledge in 2015, what armed capability the PIRA retained in the years since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement has been largely used to cow – and occasionally quiet – opposition to the political direction taken by Adams and the leadership of Provisional Republican Movement.¹

None of this is to say that a deal between the Tories and the DUP is a good thing for Northern Ireland in general or for the stability of the Six Counties in particular.  It’s just that the time is long past when Adams or any other leading figure in the Provisional Movement could credibly warn that  peace there is threatened if they don’t get their way.

This is not to say that the peace that has held for two decades is assured. There are any number of armed Republican dissident groups (sometimes derisively referred to as “alphabet soup” IRAs) fully capable of causing some degree of mayhem even if not on the horrific scale of the Troubles.

And Loyalist paramilitaries like the Ulster Defense Association, while also on ceasefire, never went so far as the PIRA in dismantling their structures and remain active to this day, primarily menacing their own communities.

But it’s really hard to say what Adams is driving at in his warning. The Provisionals are not about go back to war, and Adams and his comrades neither speak for nor have influence over the armed groups that could.

So while Sinn Fein and its supporters have good reason to vigorously protest any arrangement that further empowers the DUP, they have little actual leverage to apply.  Claims of a threatened peace process hardly qualify anymore.

¹I go into some detail on this in research I published last summer in the journal Terrorism and Political Violence.

Share This:

Anthony McIntyre

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

13 comments to ''Peace Process At Risk From Whom?"

  1. Adams wouldnt squander the internal settlement he says the Hunger Strikers gave their lives for would he? Only 'traitors to island of Ireland' would countenance such a measure surely?

  2. It's indicative of just how slavish the media are that I can't think of a time when a ballsy journalist or TV interviewer didn't put it to Adams as what this threat to the peace process would be...

    Or do they know that he's simply full of shit?

  3. Has anybody got a reference to Gerry saying the Hunger Strikers gave their lives for the internal settlement? Not trying to stir the pot. Just generally interested in the quote and the context, if any, in which it was said.

    It seems a pretty daft thing for him to say. I understood they gave their lives for better conditions in prison and the associated five demands. Of course, by extension they died, like many volunteers, for a United Ireland. A socialist, 32 County Republic. Not a capitalist, racist right wing state. And not, of course, an internal settlement under the Crown.

    I also understand there are competing narratives of why the Hunger Strikers were allowed to die with some saying it was to further Sinn Fein's political ends and to seek power in a partitionist settlement.

    If Gerry said the Hunger Strikers died to get the current internal settlement would people read that as supporting O'Rawe's position?

    If there wasn't that sacrifice by all we might all have been slaughtered in our beds or the status quo mightn't have changed quite so much but I doubt we'd be in the current situation as it is today. Perhaps that's what he meant. I don't know so a reference would be useful to make up my mind.

  4. Simon,

    I doubt very much Adams would use the language "internal settlement" to describe the GFA. (He has always tried to feign its transitional character). I don't think DaithtiD is saying he did describe it as that. I think DaithiD is describing the end result which Adams supports and to which end he has recruited the hunger strikers.

    I think in the case of Richard O'Rawe, the evidence is compelling that what he said happened did happen. The real difficulty is that we can't say why it happened. I have never bought into the assertion that it was to get Owen Carron elected. Initially I regarded it as a gamble they made which didn't work out. But with Morrison demonstrably lying so much and while desperate to smear O'Rawe, has led me to thinkthere is no innocent explanation.

    So, either way even were Adams to say the hunger strikers died for an internal solution, it would not prove the view that they were sacrificed by the leadership for that end. We would need to show intent and I don't think we are in a position to do that.

  5. AM. "I doubt very much Adams would use the language "internal settlement" to describe the GFA...I think DaithiD is describing the end result which Adams supports and to which end he has recruited the hunger strikers."

    I realise Adams wouldn't have used the term "internal settlement" but DaithiD stated that Adams said the Hunger Strikers gave their lives for the current administration or the GFA or whatever. I was looking for a reference to when he said that. I thought it would have been a clumsy thing for Adams to say.

    Thanks for your take on Richard O'Rawe's position. I don't mean to bring up the entire discussion at length again as it has been brought up many times before and examined in much detail and with much commentary on the Quill.

    I guess the question would have been did Gerry know there was going to be an internal settlement in 1981 or 1991 etc, when recruitment was still going full pelt. It would make for interesting analysis.

    At the time the first ceasefire collapsed was there any certainty that a second ceasefire would be called? I know it was the end game but if the British government didn't have a change in administration at Westminster or if they dug their heals in perhaps the conflict would have lasted longer and/or ended on different terms. Maybe more favourable, maybe less so. Major mismanaged his side and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that a conservative party would have kept mismanaging the end game.

    My point is whem was peace definitely going to last and when was the internal settlement inevitable? I guess even if it was in 1981 a stronger negotiating team could have stuck closer to Republican principles but not have gained the support that they enjoy today. A win-win situation would have been unlikely.

  6. As AM says its almost impossible to irrevocably attribute motivation and intent.
    What we're left with is that which definitely happened and that which didn't.

    Ten men sacrificed themselves by starving themselves to death in pursuit of their endeavour not to be criminalised.
    And that acceptance of an agreement, which was for the largest part the same as one later approved by the effective external leadership, was initially subjected to delayed sanction.

    One can attribute explanations and excuses, or one can excoriate, as we speculate as to the reasons for those delays.

    The fact also remains that that leadership was allowed to further strengthen its hold and that its thinking and authority largely endures.

  7. Now thats explained, onto "me" calling Republicans traitors to the island of Ireland....

  8. This is a bit off topic from the original post, but Simon raised the issue of recruitment. I've often wondered to what extent the PIRA "recruited" vs admitted individuals who self-selected in and sought to join. There's some recent academic work on this but I'd be curious to hear the perspective of folks here.

  9. DaithiD "Now thats explained, onto "me" calling Republicans traitors to the island of Ireland...." So you're saying Gerry didn't say it. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Martin McGuinness' comment was made in reference to the fact that the majority, North and South voted for the GFA and that continuing to use violence was against their wishes and they are therefore traitors. I agree the PIRA didn't have the support of the majority either. You're quoting skills are getting better though, DaithiD.

    Peter, I can't help with that but would be interested in the research if it's published? Although academic works tend to be pricey.

  10. Simon, your form is for reading a multitude of other meanings into things ive written, usually the most unflattering possible constructions. Now you insist on holding a literal interpretation.Progression of sorts at least.
    Its quite clear Adams wont admit what we have is an internal settlement, neither will he stop buttressing the settlement with dead hunger striker politics.
    You dont waste any part of the day I hold precious getting me to respond you (when I can do so at a time of my chosing).

  11. DaithiD "You dont waste any part of the day I hold precious getting me to respond you (when I can do so at a time of my chosing)."

    Don't know where that came from. DaithiD feel free to respond when and if you like. I never hold people to respond nor do I put a timescale on it.

  12. Well in that case Simon I will just ignore all your questions from now on wherever they appear. My sarcasm on here (e.g victory to the banquetmen) was retweeted by people like Eamon McCann and Des Dalton , they even made a BBC radio show with that title, but it consistently confuses you. If I am not bothered with our interaction, and neither are you, we are wasting AM's time getting him to post this sort of thing. So its probably best to leave it there.

  13. DaithiD, I am interested in what you say but I won't force an answer or hold you to answer something I ask. I am interested in your response but you don't literally "have to answer". That's all I meant.


  • To add an Emoticons Show Icons
  • To add code Use [pre]code here[/pre]
  • To add an Image Use [img]IMAGE-URL-HERE[/img]
  • To add Youtube video just paste a video link like