Be Honest, Mr Adams: You no longer have a strategy for a United Ireland

Parliamentary Brief. April 2009

Political violence has returned to the streets of Northern Ireland with a bang, or a series of them, with three members of the British military and policing forces being shot dead in two separate incidents over a 48 hour period.

The groups who claim to have carried out the attacks are the Real IRA, which killed the soldiers, and the Continuity IRA which took the life of the police officer. The Real IRA is best remembered for its bomb attack on the town of Omagh in August 1998 which resulted in the deaths of 31 innocent civilians including many children. Alongside similar atrocities, simply remembered as Bloody Friday, Enniskillen, the Shankill, La Mon House, Claudy, and Coleraine, Omagh joined the long list of disaster sites where unspeakable acts were perpetrated by IRAs on unsuspecting civilian populations going about their daily lives. Enniskillen apart, the casualties were largely due to the incompetence of the organising minds behind the attacks rather than what the Sinn Fein boss Gerry Adams has termed ‘ethically indefensible terrorism.’

The Continuity IRA is remembered for being the Continuity IRA. There is little from its history that would distinguish it one way or the other. With the killing of PSNI member Stephen Carroll in Craigavon last week it achieved for republicans the first police fatality in almost 12 years; an achievement most people regard as an unmitigated disgrace.

Both groups hail from the republican physical force tradition which has a long history in Ireland, proving from one century to the next a bane for British political and security figures. That tradition holds that while there is a British presence in any part of Ireland republicans will have an inalienable right to carry out armed attacks on Britain’s forces and its interests. Hiving out from their initial home in the Provisional IRA at different junctures because of a sense that the Sinn Fein leadership was betraying hallowed principles both groups were earlier nurtured on the ideology of physical force by the leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. Both men insisted that armed struggle, which involved the killing of policemen and British soldiers, was a necessary and morally correct form of resistance. This logic continues to govern the Continuity and Real IRAs’ actions to this day. So when they hear McGuinness and Adams putting on their best Finchley accents, so that Sinn Fein may echo Margaret Thatcher from the days when she was labelling Bobby Sands a criminal, to criminalise last weekend’s actions, they become even more entrenched in their belief system.

It seems clear that a large factor in the motivation of armed forced republicans is a feeling that they were cheated rather than defeated. They take the view that the Sinn Fein leadership lied to them from the outset, the evidence for which is overwhelmingly in favour of the physical force school’s claims.

An essential difference between the Provisional IRA and the recent crop hardly comes down to prospects for success. The Real and Continuity IRAs will be as comprehensively defeated as the Provisionals. The difference lies in the size of the minorities willing to lend support to their campaigns against both the British state and the democratically expressed will of the Irish people. The minority support for the Provisionals was considerably larger than anything so far mustered for today’s rivals.

Furthermore, they look with disdain on the Sinn Fein leadership of Adams-McGuinness when it tells anybody willing to listen that the party has a strategy for a united Ireland. It told them the same thing for holding onto IRA guns and this has led to a firm conviction that the united Ireland objective has been sold off in the same way that the guns were. It is virtually impossible to find anybody outside Sinn Fein itself willing to claim that a united Ireland is on the cards. The rhetoric of a united Ireland ‘always in the process of becoming but never in the state of being’ does not gel with the increasing drift of Sinn Fein into the orbit of British state strategies for the management of Northern Ireland. Adams and McGuinness, should they live the long lives of octogenarians or more, will die British citizens in a British run Northern Ireland. From listening to Martin McGuinness it seems he will be happy enough with that.

Sinn Fein really needs to tell its armed critics that the struggle for a united Ireland was abandoned because there was no strategy either armed or otherwise to secure it. Moreover, that the activities the party is now involved in are designed to gain a better deal for Northern Irish Catholics under British rule. That way the armed critics might be content enough to wear the republican mantle as a means to express their uncontested republicanism rather than wave their guns.

Can the armed republican groups expand? There is an interesting divergence of opinions on the matter being expressed by knowledgeable commentators. Brian Feeney, author of a history on Sinn Fein, has expressed misgivings about the ease with which the physical force groups might be expected to fade away. He draws attention to areas where Sinn Fein has lost both support and control, ceding the republican ground to the armed IRAs. The recession he argues is expanding the size of the recruitment pool. But he predicts no campaign on the scale of that waged by the Provisional IRA.

Tommy McKearney, a left republican with vast activist experience, and who was once approvingly quoted by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern when he said republicanism must be uncompromisingly democratic, takes a view that would give less cause for confidence amongst the advocates of an armed foray. Having lost three brothers to the conflict he monitors events with the eye of a seasoned observer and sees no popular support whatsoever for a return to republican political violence.

The safe money would be with McKearney on this one. Any armed republican confrontation with a government housing Sinn Fein is likely to run aground on the rock of popular sentiment. It would be akin to an armed assault on a government in Dublin firmly rooted in the people the insurgents need to win over if they are to make any impact.

Northern Ireland will have its politically violent moments that explode in a blaze of publicity. But the hours, days, weeks and years will tick past as unobtrusively as they do peacefully.


  1. It's true, there is no popular support for the other IRA's but both tommy and brian are right, in that SF is losing support. Only the other day I was talking to a guy who does the political tours, and who doesn't want to fall out with anyone over politics said to me that he wasn't going to the Easter parade and that most people thought he was nuts and wanted to know why not.

    His reasons he didn't want to swell any numbers with his presence because his support for SF had evaporated, especially after the 'tratiors' remark.

    Tommy said on Hearts and minds that Sinn Fein had no where to go except to the left, and I don't see them going left, I see them settling down nicely into the establishment.

    Interestingly in the angry town news I read that they are calling on the Polish community to register to vote. While I'm not saying there is anything wrong in that it shows I believe an understanding and belief on their part that support among their own base has dwindled and they will need the votes of newly arrived immigrants to boost their mandate in areas like this one of west belfast.

    I don't see why adams and mcguinness need to fess up that they've no strategy for a United Ireland, I think we've all worked that out by now.

    I'd take Tommy up on his suggestion (and Brian too) that the recession will fuel and fill the ranks of various IRA's but wouldn't that also swell the ranks of young loyalists too, and could poverty lead us back to square one?

    Poverty though is relative, and there is not the same sort of poverty that there wwas in the late sixties, but it could get there. If we ever do, and it looks like poverty will increase, do you envisage a campaign beginning again?

    About the murders of the police man etc. Most I've spoken too say they've no sympathy, but still don't support the IRA's, so a vacuum exsists, and if not the various IRA's what will fill it?

  2. Sophie, if ‘most people’ think the tour guy is nuts then the support SF is losing seems to be minimal. Your point about the Poles is interesting but would it make much difference to their position in West Belfast? I suppose with what is happening in St James’s the vote might start to haemorrhage.
    The traitors remark has annoyed more in the party than outside it. Those on the outside laughed at it because it made McGuinness look foolish and desperate. Those inside felt uncomfortable because of ‘context and company’ as one poster so usefully put it.
    I have talked to Tommy frequently and he does not seem to be of the view that SF will go left. I think he feels that is the only space it could move to but won’t. You are absolutely right, the establishment is the only home for it now.
    That SF has no strategy for a united Ireland - it is not really about us all having worked it out. Everybody but those in SF seem to have done that. The reason they could come clean on no strategy for a united Ireland is that it might help make clear that there is no strategy for achieving it anywhere; that it beyond republicans to achieve it; that the republicans are not in SF but outside it and should not by their military actions be in competition with SF because SF are not republican. The republicans could then demonstrate their republicanism by something other than the gun. But it is a long shot and you are most likely right.
    I don’t think the recession will fill the ranks but it will increase the size of them. By how much? No idea. Even though there are those who failed to learn from the defeat of the Provisional IRA I can’t see any resumption of an armed campaign.
    I have noticed that there is little sympathy for those killed; even less for the military casualties than the police. People I suppose have too many bad memories of British Army repression. Yet there is no war on and there is no such thing as a legitimate target.

  3. Your point about the Poles is interesting but would it make much difference to their position in West Belfast?

    I think so. I think they are aware of dwindling support among their base and I know you made the point that the 'most people' I wrote could say that the support SF were losing was minimal, but I think 'most people' this guy spoke of were of people he knew, and would have been more than surprised at him not turning up as he is/was a very staunch supporter of SF, and that is what I meant.

    Re the point of newly arrived immigrants boosting SF support. I was reading the Angry town news and came across an article called register to vote (written in english) and two whole columns after it in polish. I glanced through it and it speaks of electoral cards and passports and ID's for voting and flagged up this hyperlink:
    which is a translation of the electoral form.

    I've never seen anything before refering to just one of our ethnic communities like that. And it looks like, the Polish community are being targeted by them in particular because of their numbers here and if they voted SF could indeed mask any drop in support from their usual republican/nationalist base. Thats all I'm saying. And that any analysis of their electoral success or otherwise should take this factor into consideration.

  4. Anthony, you say that SF are not Republicans.
    I think that is a disgracefull remark.
    The vast majority of ex-prisoners and people who fought the war still support Sinn Fein and indeed are active within it.
    I know you disagree with their strategy but to say they are not republicans is a bit too much in my opinion.
    Furthermore you reckon they have no strategy for unification.
    I think their strategy is quite clear, they aim to bring about unity through maximising Political strength and garnering the support of the diaspora world wide and by outreaching to the unionist community.
    Sounds straight forward to me.

  5. You and your readers may be interested in the NI parallels with the Chamorro family of Nicaragua and their complex relationship with the press in and out of favour with the ruling parties over the past forty years:
    "The Many Stories of Carlos Fernando Chamorro" by Tina Rosenberg, 22 Mar 09, NY Times Magazine.

    I was immersed in Nicaraguan-linked activism in the late 70s into the 80s; it's instructive in inevitable hindsight how like SF, the Sandinista saga's taken similar lurches into authoritarianism, capitalist capitulation, and press censorship amidst a declining power base and a settlement into strongman rule. They too abandoned an increasingly contradictory ideology for the market economy and deals made to stay within the status quo as a power broker.

  6. Anonymous, nothing disgraceful about it. In any event it is an observation rather than a criticism. Much like saying Paisley is not a Catholic; hardly being critical of him not being one by merely saying it. I always smile when I hear ‘disgraceful.’ People used to write letters into the papers describing me as a disgrace for predicting decommissioning. Used to it by now.
    ‘The vast majority of ex-prisoners and people who fought the war still support Sinn Fein and indeed are active within it.’
    What proof is that of republicanism? Many Sticks fought in the war and did time but once their movement reached a certain point we openly ceased regarding it as republican. Cathal Goulding was once a republican but by the time he was calling for the supergrass system to be supported he was hardly regarded by us as one. Even if we set aside SF’s support for touting today, the essential primal ground of republicanism is opposition to the administration of British rule and opposition to the consent principle. Once we support the consent principle we support the principle by which the country is partitioned. Sinn Fein are part of the British administration and support the consent principle. Now we can debate whether they are good or bad things but they are hardly republican and are much more easily described as non-republican if not anti-republican. The point I am trying to make to you is that there is nothing inconsistent with my view of the thing. If I err it is for other reasons.
    What you claim is strategy is in my view waffle. Reaching out to the unionists – even as a reformist strategy this hasn’t worked too well. And for all the Diaspora will be able to do or are willing to do, unity will be a long time coming. In all my years of watching this or being part of it I have never seen unionists so sure about unity being a non issue. At one time they were very edgy but not now. For those reaching out to unionists you would imagine they would know what unionists actually think.
    The SF strategy outlined by yourself is as hollow a strategy as the physical force republicans who claim up the war to a point where the Brits will withdraw. It isn’t going to happen. The one advantage of the SF strategy is that it leaves no body bags on an Omagh street.

    Outside of SF there is nobody that I speak to who thinks unity is a possibility. The recent outburst of political commentary is indicative of what is being thought in the wider world. Try talking to Brit or Irish officials and put the issues to them; same result. None of them think in terms of unity. They simply say it does not feature on the agenda.
    I suppose having watched SF being forced to abandon so many positions over the years I don’t pay a great deal of attention to their forecasts. Ultimately if I am proved wrong good on SF. But I wouldn’t want to hold my breath on it.

  7. Fionnchú, will read this when I get a chance. Same old story with revolutionaries. They are consistent in that sense. Will be in touch soon.


  8. Am could you define what you mean by republican. To me I see debate after debate with people calling group a republican adn group b as not being. As a result I would be interested in a defintion, or better still a checklist!

    You are an Irish republican if you support
    a) non monarchy form of government
    b) a government based in ireland that will have authority over the whole of Ireland

    I think a piece by you on these lines may well be interesting adn challenging to many.

  9. Cambridge 96, normally when I speak of being republican I operate from within our own tradition of republicanism. That too was open to challenge as to how republican it actually was. Putting together an article is something that myself and Tommy McKearney have been talking about doing for some time but so much else intervenes and it does not get done. I addressed it to some extent in the article but it needs much more than that. The two criteria raised by you would form part of it.

    In the republican tradition where I cut my political teeth the primal ground of republicanism was Irish unity/no British involvement/opposition to the consent principle-cum-partition principle/national self determination as the expression of the people throughout the country uncontaminated by partitionist caveats or qualifications/unremitting opposition to British administration rather than participation in that administration/opposition to British policing structures rather than endorsement of them.

    At the same time any article would need to address the issue of obligatory nationalism, which I dislike because of my belief in the right to dissent, and how the dialectic between that and the consent principle takes shape and is informed by the right of people to dissent from nationalism and a nationalist outcome.

  10. 96cambridge, apologies for messing up you posting name - got it back to front!

  11. na bac mo chara.

    I think an article from yourself and Tommy on it would be great to see.

    You mentioned in your tradition, the consent-cum partition principle. How central would you consider that to be in terms of a wider definition of republicanism.

    Also, I'm not sure if you live in the south now, but if you do could you give me some links to your articles about the failure of republicanism down here. Also what you would see as the key areas republicanism need to address this failure.

  12. What proof is that of republicanism? Many Sticks fought in the war and did time but once their movement reached a certain point we openly ceased regarding it as republican.

    Thats true. I have a brother did eight years for the sticks. I think he'd argue differently, and argue that he is a republican. I've no doubt of his desire to have the country united,maybe what we need is a broader definition. The provisional position of republicanism in which you cut your teeth cannot now be held as a standard bearer for republicanism, and haven't you yourself said that many of them were sixty niners and not truly republicans at all? Perhaps that was its downfall. And yet this Sunday its Adams who will be giving the oration at the graves of the dead.

    I think the only sure thing about republcianism is that it's truly messed up since adams and his hench men got their dirty paws on the levers of power within it.

    It's sad really when you think of it. I see some flags out already, the desire of a united ireland hasn't gone away within republican heartlands. It's the so called leadership within stormont that has put it away no one else Anthony.

  13. 96cambridge, I never actually meant that myself and Tommy would write a joint piece although it might be worth a try. We have discussed the need for a piece on the topic.

    ‘You mentioned in your tradition, the consent-cum partition principle. How central would you consider that to be in terms of a wider definition of republicanism.’

    Strangely enough myself and Tommy were discussing that very topic this morning – he made the point that unity (the overcoming of partition) is more of a nationalist demand than a republican one. A wider definition of republicanism would open up a range of possibilities. I am not convinced that it could ignore the issue of partition because anti-partitionism is so central a tenet of republicanism. How to live with it without legitimising it is probably worth looking at.

    I would need to look back over the articles for you to see which ones deal with the failure of republicanism in the South where I do now live. I think its biggest problem is tailing the northern leadership and allowing radical politics which it is capable of developing to be deferential to the peace process which is anything but radical.

    But generally I take the view that republicanism as we knew it has failed and cannot succeed. Republicans need to decide if they can develop a new republicanism or if it is just going to be a case of republicans engaging in a range of radical causes which need not necessarily be republican but can be considered progressive. If you revisit the five isms of republicanism, even if one is defunct and another is questionable (separatism and nationalism in that order) you are left with three which are worthy in themselves – secularism, socialism and non-sectarianism.

    Can people like O Broin change the party? We have been waiting a long time on it happening. Does he provide it with a left veneer or is he making a left challenge?

    I think he has gone too far with the politics of the peace process to be able to effectively halt the decline of radicalism. He has made some very interesting observations and I always like to talk with him or read him when the opportunity presents itself. Under the Northern leadership I doubt if the party will ever change for the better. Lots who stayed there long after I left told me they could change it but they are now out of it as well.

  14. Why do some people have a difficulty in distinguishing the difference between 'accepting' and 'supporting.'
    Does a dissident republican who pays taxes to the Queen or who uses the Queens's money or works for Her Majersty's Government stop being a rebublican because they do all those things?
    You could just as easily say that that person is recognising British rule and that unless they refuse to have anyting at all to do with the British state they 'support' British rule.
    That would mean that virtually all the dissidents in the North aren't republicans according to a strict definition.
    They'd probably argue they have no choice but to recognise British rule in the North but that they were trying to end it, the same as people in PSF and the SDLP they would call sellouts.

  15. sunday is old timer uniform again

  16. Thanks for the response and I have plenty of other questions for you, but for now I'll just keep on reading.

  17. Sophie, fine if your brother argues that he is a republican. The right to believe what he wants about himself can’t be taken away from him. But the Sticks ceased to be a republican body long ago. That is an observation rather than a value judgement. I spoke at one of their conferences on ex-prisoners a lot of years ago in Newry and became quite friendly with a few of them after it. I think republicans remained in the Sticks after it ceased to be republican. I think the same can be said of SF. So, while I commented somewhere that the republicans were in the dissidents not SF that was much too rushed and not an accurate reflection of what I felt. It would have been more accurate for me to have said that the republicanism is in the dissidents and not SF. There are people SF who I regard as republicans. I don’t accept that they are promoting or defending republicanism while there. That does not mean that they don’t have good reasons in their own minds for being there. Some of them stuck their necks out and defended me while they were there and I appreciate that.

    ‘The provisional position of republicanism in which you cut your teeth cannot now be held as a standard bearer for republicanism’

    I think this is true. It allows us to measure between two points but as a prescription it is pretty much defunct. At the same time whatever changes it undergoes it cannot become its opposite as it has with SF

    I don’t think the desire for unity is as strong as you suggest. I don’t think it is anywhere near as strong as say the desire for partition on the part of unionists. I believe that nationalists would settle quicker on London’s terms than unionists would on Dublin’s. All of which means a united Ireland is aeons away.

  18. Anonymous,
    This has long struck me as the fool’s gold of political analysis. When first discovered as a critique it has the appearance of a handsome nugget but ultimately flatters to deceive.

    ‘Does a dissident republican who pays taxes to the Queen or who uses the Queen's money or works for Her Majesty's Government stop being a republican because they do all those things? … You could just as easily say that that person is recognising British rule and that unless they refuse to have anything at all to do with the British state they 'support' British rule.’

    No, they don’t give up their republicanism. Nor for that matter would a Sinn Fein member. And when SF members were doing all those things they were not viewed as having dropped their republicanism. It would be a very strict definition indeed. One so strict that it probably have no social diffusion. The areas you refer to are largely depoliticised and where they have any political or symbolic connotations it is at the periphery rather than the centre of the contested issue. They are not sites of political significance, meaning, or legitimacy in terms of the republican odyssey. They do not possess the politically contentious properties of say the police. A unionist for example who might work in the South and pay taxes there or do the double hardly ceases to be a unionist. If he joined the garda and became part of the Dublin government and supported any principle that prevented partition then he would have given up his unionism.

    ‘Why do some people have a difficulty in distinguishing the difference between 'accepting' and 'supporting?'

    In expressing the view that there is a difference you are right. In political science there is a distinction between pragmatic acquiescence and normative endorsement. SF could for example, in fact would have no choice given the balance of political forces, pragmatically acquiesce in policing or partition or British rule. That would take them into places which dissident republicans would probably call them traitors for but I think they could comfortably defend themselves. But if they support the police rather than accept it, support the partition/consent principle rather than accept it, then it becomes a qualitatively different matter.

  19. Was I the only one laughing at Gerry getting caught out yesterday on telling lies about his time in the H-Block, how he and all his mated used to sing 'Always look on the bright side of life' as they waited for beatings from the screws? Of course, the song hadn't even been written then...
    Poor Gerry. Is this what it's all come down to?

  20. Anthony

    I was wondering about your take on the recent Election results, north and South? Many of your posters over the past months have predicted that Sinn Féin would lose ground and that the SDLP (up here) would close the gap. Alas, even with a very low turn out, Barbara's vote held up very well.

    I was out doing a bit of canvassing, and there were many who raised legitimate questions and I was happy to debate the issues they raised, but very few said they would not continue to support the party because they felt they were the only ones who were working hard on the ground at local issues such as anti social behaviour, working for better facilities for the youth etc, and they also believed that Sinn Féin is the only party who portrays a nationalist identity (through language, culture and politics) and a desire to have a free and united country some day. That would be equally true when taking into account the parties in the 26 counties.

    It has always been frustrating looking at the latter jurisdiction from a West Belfastt perspective - I'm sure you have asked yourself the question as I have; 'Why do you people not seem to care as much as we do whether your country is United, Gaelige and Free - perhaps you have a better insight into this now that you are living down below? The vote wasn't a disaster in the 26 but I sense that people are reticent to move away from their old traditional FG and FF base, although much like the british electorate, they do seem to sway in large numbers from one to the other when the timing suits.

    As for the Strategy, it is difficult to pin it down to specifics, I do believe it is about playing a fairly long game of retaining and building political strength throughout the country and using that influence to promote Unification as a major Agenda item on the political front. It is about educating our youth and not allowing the issue to disappear into a fading memory - I certainly don't see the desire dimishing within my own social circles and I believe it is up to everyone who feels that way to keep the debate and issue very much alive in hearts and minds. I also think, perhaps through time, and with less and less hand outs from the british government, that people from the unionist community might start to think that they could be better off being 'Irish' than devoting loyalty to a government and nation that neither cares for or wants them - who knows? I don't think that Sinn Féin is a consent party - it may be part of the GFA but the party still very much feels that it should be up to all of the people in Ireland to decide.

    Anyway, that's me for now.



  21. Hello Westie,

    No great surprise in either election. I never noticed so much that posters on the blog were predicting ‘that Sinn Féin would lose ground and that the SDLP (up here) would close the gap.’ But I am not surprised. Wish tends to be father to the thought. Each election over the last lot of years I have heard about the SF vote about to go down. Hasn’t really happened.

    I suppose the sectarian nature of society in the North guarantees nationalists a strong vote and SF being better put together than the SDLP and rooted in the communities is better positioned to reap that vote. That is not to take anything away from what you say about the issues they deliver on – ‘local issues such as anti social behaviour, working for better facilities for the youth etc.’ Although it does seem that where the party takes its greatest criticism in the North is not on its ideological position but on the anti-social question.

  22. Westie, had to do this in two parts. It wouldn't allow me to use so much text.

    In the South the North is not a real issue for the electorate. SF is not seen as a left wing party, more as a sort of Northern Catholic Fianna Fail. I think that was why Joe Higgins got the vote. He has a Left demeanour which is hard to spot in Mary Lou. At a time when many people are moving away from Fianna Fail, with a substantial swathe of those moving looking for a Left alternative, they go to Labour or Joe Higgins. I think this is result of a belief that the Northern leadership of SF would jump into coalition with the blue shirts in the morning. People in the South want more than platitudes from politics; and sound-bites about the peace process don’t cut the mustard. SF is not really trusted down here from what I can see.

    On the election in the South not being a disaster for SF, if you watched John O’Dowd on Sunday on the Politics Show he probably convinced people that it was a disaster. While he had the answers he rushed his responses, got confused, allowed Ian Paisley jnr to appear reasonable and cerebral. He could have saved himself a lot of bother by saying it was a poor election but far from disastrous.

    While not disastrous on its own the election compounded the disaster that the 2007 election was. Gerry Adams on TV claiming that the latest result showed that the party had recovered from the hit it took in 2007 just doesn’t wash.

    SF had a chance to expand down here a number of years ago. Adams trounced Ruairi Quinn in a TV debate and had an opportunity to position himself as a potential leader of the broader Left. Then in 2007 he himself was trounced. Up until then he had not been publicly tested and that woeful performance was made worse for the party by the timing. The aggregated effect of the Northern Bank robbery and the McCartney killing had a deleterious impact on how the party was perceived. So it was essential that Adams put in a great performance to get it over the hill. It was probably asking too much of him giving the sea change in opinion but the weakness of his performance is still talked about down here. There are not many TV interviews remembered two years after they take place.

    Now he is becoming a figure of fun to growing numbers of people. Not as pronounced as say the Hartley factor in Belfast but there is a sufficient whiff of ridicule to make it a cause for concern to those in the party seriously examining the problems SF faces. They don’t do ‘Great leader’ politics down here.

    I think for SF to be a force in the South it would need to develop pretty much autonomously from the Northern party. But then that would confirm partition rather than challenge it. It really needs to set the Northern leadership aside, introduce democracy, open all issues up to discussion and discourage a reliance of leadership.

    I think your outline of the strategy is wishful thinking. I suppose I would wish it to be true but know it is not going to happen. Wanting the future of the island to be decided by all the people on it is a verbal position once you sign up to the consent principle. That was why Blair was so adamant that the unionists should concentrate on forcing SF to embrace consent; once that was achieved republicanism was defeated as a philosophy.

    That’s about it for now. Hope there is something there you can chew over.

  23. Anthony

    Plenty to chew over as always.

    Just two small points. You are right to an extent about people voicing concern about the response to anti-social activity up here, but as always it is a vocal minority who basically would wish for a return to kneecapping and punishment beatings. When it is explained to them that those days are gone, they don't seem to grasp it, and some have said to me, sure what's the point in having a political party then? The mind boggles at times, it's as if the priority for the Republican Movement was always just to get rid of Hoods - what can be done is being done in most areas, and mainly by SF activists and supporters through Neighbourhood watch schemes etc. It is a serious problem but it is a primarily a policing and social issue which isn't going to go away and which most societies have to continuously work at. I'd say it's a lot worse in some towns and cities down 'South'.

    On Adams, I think he has been a courageous Irish Republican who has given most of his life to his country and the pursuit of it's Freedom. I know that puts him in a large category with many others, and many of those have paid the ultimate price, as he nearly did back in the eighties. I wonder how people would have remembered him if he had perished in that assassination attempt. Anyhow, I think he has been a tremendous asset to the struggle, and whilst I fully understand those who raise questions about the direction he has lead the party and provisional movement in recent years, I don't subscribe to the view that this is for selfish or material gain.

    Maybe 'wishful thinking' or 'blind loyalty' in some peoples' eyes, but sure if we all felt the same, there would be no craic at all....



  24. Westie,

    I think the bulk of people in nationalist communities don't give a toss about punishment beatings and kneecappings. It goes against the human grain to have sympathy with bullies and thugs. And if you think about it most of those shot or beaten by the IRA over the years were simply that. I think a return to it in areas like your own would cause no lost sleep amongst the bulk of the people living there. They would be much more unhappy if there were a return to war.

    However, I think it is the wrong way to go and accept fully that everybody has rights. But I don't pretend to feel sore when they get the short end of the stick in the way that I would feel anger at the plight of their victims; defend the legal and human rights of a rapist but don’t get upset when he gets his comeuppance. I think it is just a human feeling I have.

    I think the anti-social problem down here is probably worse than up there. Depends on where you are but what goes on in Dublin and Limerick seems to have no equal in the North.

    On Adams I think we can only agree to differ. What you feel for him I do not. And what I feel against him you do not. Were the bullets that hit him not doctored to ensure that they would not be fatal? I don’t know if that is a myth but I came across it somewhere. Despite the claims in court by Brigadier Gordon Kerr there were only two lives saved by Brian Nelson. Adams and Scappaticci. Both were useful to British state strategy although in different ways. Scap was a tout determined to stop the war. Adams was a politician determined to stop the war.

    I think one of my problems with SF was that they did want us all to be the same. They could not tolerate difference.

    Anyway, we’ll talk again



  25. "It would be akin to an armed assault on a government in Dublin firmly rooted in the people the insurgents need to win over if they are to make any impact."

    Surely that's exactly what the insurgents of 1916 did ? Contemporary sources have locals spitting at them as they were led away from the GPO.

    Not that the situations are similar, obviously but history denies the assertion that Republican groups will or should fade away because they don't have an electoral mandate or popular appeal. Both FF and SF have only craved this bourgeois respectability after they have shot their way to the top table.

    I believe that so-called dissident Republicans - dissident only of a SF that has abandoned Republicanism - harbour no real hope of a military threat to British rule in the medium term but will consider themselves successful simply by enacting the primary directive - to maintain the army.