The following piece is part 2 of a 4 part review of Great Hatred Little Room

There are many things that make the Jonathan Powell memoirs valuable as a historical document. Among them is their extraordinary inability to mask, despite the author’s professions to the contrary, the real strategic intent of the British state. When the Blair machine settled into Downing Street in 1997 it locked in perfectly with the backcloth strategically weaved four years earlier by the Tory Prime Minister John Major. The Conservative leader had made it abundantly clear to all and sundry that Britain would not negotiate with anyone on the basis of a British withdrawal from the North of Ireland. When Blair took over the leadership of the British Labour Party he abandoned even the minimalist position of unity by consent.

As soon as Blair and his crew team assumed office he began reassuring unionists that the new administration had no predilection whatsoever toward a united Ireland. If Powell and Blair were feeling their way around the political maze of Northern Irish politics their touchstone was never in doubt: all negotiations with Sinn Fein would without equivocation exclude a united Ireland from the range of outcomes that might be considered.

Despite the misgivings of Paddy Teahon, a leading Irish civil servant, Blair insisted on making the following statement in Balmoral shortly after he moved into 10 Downing Street in which he mapped the strategic parameters.

None of us in the hall today, even the youngest, is likely to see Northern Ireland as anything but a part of the United Kingdom … My agenda is not a united Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom alongside England, Scotland and Wales … I believe in the United Kingdom. I value the union.

There is not, nor was there ever, any room for ambiguity. From the earliest moment the Blair administration conveyed its strategic intentions. On the Sinn Fein leadership’s first visit to 10 Downing Street Tony Blair explained to Gerry Adams that there was no chance of a united Ireland and according to Powell the British Prime Minister ‘was pleased that Adams seemed to accept that he would have to live with something less than a united Ireland as the outcome of the process.’ How much less was never made clear to the republican grassroots. The Sinn Fein leadership, according to Powell, remained firm in ‘never revealing in full to the movement their eventual destination.’

A key republican demand – the demand which defined republicanism – had been kicked into touch. With or without the patronising ‘old boy’ style of delivery that rubs salt into the wound, the substance was the same. The administration would not even consider providing a discursive veneer as a fig leaf behind which Sinn Fein could conceal its strategic evisceration; the Blair machine rejected outright any suggestion that it become a persuader for Irish unity. It has never once deviated from that position.

Nor can it be claimed that the early Blair position was some New Labour innovation devised by a naive administration that could soon be persuaded to change its mind. There was strategic continuity from the days of Tory rule. From 1993, a year before the first IRA ceasefire, Sinn Fein fully understood that the British through the Downing Street Declaration had, in the words of Powell, stipulated that:

gone was the deadline for British withdrawal; gone was the demand that the British government be a ‘persuader’ for a united Ireland and gone the idea of an act of self determination for all the Irish people.

What outcome other than an internal solution could there then result from any negotiations? By 1998 Sinn Fein was ‘settling for much less in the Agreement than had originally been demanded by republicans in 1993.’

In spite of being fully aware of the boundaries of British state manoeuvrability, and being bereft of any strategic mechanism for dislodging the British from their commanding height, Sinn Fein, from a position of weakness, entered negotiations with the British.

The British approach to these negotiations was clear: they were into the business of wrong-footing and outmanoeuvring the Adams negotiators. ‘Tony again explained the aim was to call Sinn Fein’s bluff.’

All of this helps to shed more light on Sinn Fein’s own claim to have been great negotiators, without equal, if some of the party apparatchiks are to be believed. Even a commentator as experienced as Mark Devenport could recently be found buying into the myth of the party’s ‘negotiating prowess during the peace process’.

From Powell’s perspective:

There was a certain pattern to negotiating with Adam and McGuinness. First they would titillate and suggest things were possible, to get you interested. You would then have to go through a lengthy and tough negotiation on all the detail of what they wanted before, at the eleventh hour, they poured a large bucket of cold water over you to reduce your expectations.

Powell considered this a major weakness and believed that Adams and McGuinness were addicted to negotiations. This worked against the Sinn Fein duo because each time negotiations broke down the party paid a higher price to get them going again.

In terms of negotiating acumen Blair’s chief of staff felt Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds were much more skilful than Sinn Fein’s team. After a two day bargaining session in November 2006 Powell found it remarkable that he was able to find some crumb that made Sinn Fein happy ‘given all they’d to concede to the DUP in the course of the previous two days.’

It is not necessary to get bogged down in the detail to gauge the extent of the Paisleyite victory over Sinn Fein. The sheer visual impact of Martin McGuinness standing shoulder to shoulder with both the leader of the DUP and the leader of the British police in Ireland to condemn republicans as traitors for doing what McGuinness had long ordered them to do, says more than any in depth political analysis.

For anyone giving to thinking about the matter had McGuinness managed, as he previously promised, to put manners on the PSNI (something a republicanism victorious could have done), he would have Hugh Orde and Peter Robinson join him in condemning draconian police powers backed by repressive legislation. Instead, rampant unionism and a triumphant PSNI had McGuiness stand with them and excoriate republicans. Just do the maths; it takes no great intellectual prowess to figure it out.

Powell hints at a weakness in Sinn Fein’s position being the desperation of Martin McGuinness to get into government with the DUP because of the time and energy he had invested in the back channel to the ultra unionist outfit. While it does not seem plausible to reduce Sinn Fein’s strategic management at a key juncture to the psychological constitution of Martin McGuinness, Powell does invite further reflection on, firstly, how Sinn Fein acquired such a weak hand and, secondly, why the party played it even more poorly than was necessary when they got to the table.

Powell’s overall assessment of Sinn Fein’s negotiating ability was that the party had an eventual goal but lacked any medium term strategy. For this reason they kept running to the British. Sinn Fein, virtually lacking in all ideas, were reduced to rejecting the British ideas. It prompted the comment from Powell that ‘they were far less strategic than they were given credit for.’

The British were content to allow Sinn Fein to crow about its negotiating prowess, having already denied the party the space to negotiate for anything the war had been waged for. A conclusion the reader may be pushed toward is that the British used the Sinn Fein leadership in its own battle to successfully defeat the IRA and then used it again to whittle down all republican demands before the negotiations even began:

It was a remarkable act of leadership by Adams and McGuinness to talk the IRA into peace and to persuade them to settle for something far less than they had demanded in 1993, let alone when the Provisionals were formed in 1969. We were determined to aid them in this.

The greatest negotiators of them all it seems were the British.

Jonathan Powell, 2008. Great Hatred Little Room. The Bodley Head: London
Book Review in four parts:
1. Great
2. Hatred
3. Little
4. Room


  1. jaaysuss Anthony , Nuala, I apoligise for my earlier remarks ,no michaelhenry not the ones about you, that last piece has got me drooling Anthony,think if I can manage to mug a pensioner in the morning, this will be slome feat in this place the auld f,ers can fight,and I can aquire the cash I,m gonna get that book,one wee thing I kinda got from your piece Anthony, was that Blair knew that the prm were so heavily inflitrated and with all the previous comms to Major practically surrendering, Blair knew the knife was in the republican cause all he had to do was twist it and he did,this book may be worth a read after all ,hope its 5 million pages it,ll keep michaelhenry busy till the pub closes

  2. Ordered that book from the libary,yes I,m one of the lucky ones to still have one

  3. It is easy to criticise Adams and McGuiness (and there is much to criticise) but, Antony, the real question for Republicans is “What was the alternative?” The Provos had been fought to standstill. The war was going nowhere. Yes the Brits could not defeat the Provos, but the Provos where nowhere near beating the Brits or the Unionists. Yes, the killings and bombings could have continued but would that have brought Irish unity any closer? If there had been no GFA the 6 Counties would still be part of the UK but there would have been a lot more dead and maimed Irishmen and women and a lot of prisoners would still be in Long Kesh. Would that have been a better outcome? What would you have done in Gerry and Marty’s shoes?

  4. This is a rivetting review, Mackers. I haven't read that particular book yet myself. I would agree with Fingal here to a certain extent, in that there may have been very little real alternative. I don't think that the cause was lost in the actual negotiations, nor necessarily in the copperfastening of the unionist veto prior to the negotiations.

    For me, the cause was lost before we got to the table. Partition proved too strong and too complex a foe for us to overcome, and the British proved a lot more determined to stay than we sometimes gave them credit for.

    The Sinn Féin leadership, whether it is publicly admitted or not, were merely going to negotiate the best terms for our defeat. They did get a certain amount of reforms to the Orange State, and I suppose we could say that the Orange State is no more. Had they not taken part in negotiations, maybe they wouldn't even have achieved that. But we did not get our primary goals; a united Irish Republic.

    Reading Voices from the Grave recently, and finding out that Hughes, Bell and Adams were instrumental in reinvigorating the IRA and 'saving' it from a disasterous ceasefire, I couldn't help but think to myself... maybe it's a pity they succeeded at all. It might have been better to face defeat in 1975 or 1976 than to have to endure a 20 year war to face the same defeat. I would say the Orange State would probably have been ended in the 70s anyway.

    Regarding Sinn Féin negotiating skills, I would neither boast about them the way some people in Sinn Féin do, and neither would I patronise them in the manner that Powell does. The GFA was probably a well-enough negotiated largely internal settlement...which never lived up to its promise (within the 6 counties even). The St Andrews Agreement was probably the most dismal performance by a negotiating team ever, and was probably only accepted because Sinn Féin were so so so desparate to get the executive back up and running in the aftermath of a very tough period for them nationally and internationally following the McCartney debacle.

    Anyway, looking forward to the next instalment sir!

  5. Fingal- there are always going to be some people criticising a ceasefire. This might be for different reasons, for example people who criticise the 1994 one, because their complaint is based on the continuance of the conflict long after the end was being planned and managed, and also in the behaviour of Sinn Fein after the ceasefire was called. It may also be criticised by those who want it to continue.

    In "Soldiers of Folly" about the 1956-1962 Border Campaign the author quotes the IRA's then Director of Operations saying that "there were a few very active supporters at a grass roots level who were most displeased about the ending of the campaign and labelled the Army Council as traitors" when that campaign was unilaterally called off.

    This time Rebublicans achieved much more but are possibly criticised more.

  6. Mackers, another brilliant review.
    Bought the book yesterday morning however; I am currently reading "Voices From The Grave" therefore it will be a week or two before I get reading it.

    It totally beggars belief that Adams and McGuinness were quite happy to lie, spin and give false accounts about these negotiations when they already had a predetermined outcome.

    I think the people could and would have forgiven them their inability to deliver.
    I think people would have understood that they were duped and outsmarted by the past masters of spin and deceit.
    So why did they (Sinn Fein) lie and keep on lying?

    Something floated their failed political boat!
    Something appealed to their over inflated egos!
    Something motivated them to spin and lie and keep up the illusion.
    Was it the promise of money, personal prestige and the rest?
    Or maybe it was the fact they failed and could not admit it? Who knows?

  7. Think the point is missed that SF leadership deliberately steered the movement towards a rundown militarily and certain defeat. Yes the Orange state is no more and if that was the agenda then all we can hope for, if we aspire a united Ireland eventually, is a reliance on demographics.
    The problem a lot of former volunteers and activists have is in the way the Adams' clique were so slimey and sneaky about everything they did. It was nothing less than a prolongued Judas sell-out and as in the Hunger-strikes of '81, senseless loss of life was permitted to continue for no other reason than political expediency and timing for Gerry's scheme to be implemented.
    For that reason and the ruthlessness of his and McGuinnesses conduct..I for one hope they are not permitted to die of old age in their beds. No matter about a united Ireland.

  8. I agree this is a rivetting review, the main point i take away from it is the SF negotiators, like Collins before them, entered these negotiations time and again without a bottom line, over which they would not cross, something even the most inexperienced trade union shop steward would never do.

    It is also interesting how the British used their covert control of the media, to boast the ego of the SF negotiators to such an extent they began to see themselves as the way the British had got the media to portray them and not as the helpless saps they turned out to be.

    The release of republican prisoners, paid dividends for the British time and again over the course of these negotiations, and it seems it also made Adams and co believe their own press cuttings, i e what clever fellows we are.

    When in reality they should have paused and pondered why the British at that stage of the game were being so helpful and humane when it came to prisoner releases, etc.

    The release of the prisoners at such an early stage of the negotiations should have set alarm bells ringing in the Adams camp, as to the scale of British intel infiltration, as it would never have occurred unless the British were absolutely certain the PIRA's war was over. (remember this was years before the Provos stood down or even decommissioned its arms.)

    Instead Adams acted as if they had pulled off some massive feat, never mind the long tradition of no republican war, no republican prisoners. No republican war being the optimum for the Brits.

    OK, Adams had a difficult task, as history proves, but I believe he achieved much less than he could have achieved had he not used a strategy of secrecy and deceit towards his base, I say this not as an insult but a fact.

    The Bolsheviks at Brest Litvosk and Solidarity in Poland, proved beyond any doubt a weaker party gains most by publishing the negotiating procedures openly. Lech Wałęsa broadcast his negotiations with the Stalinist bureaucrats at Gdańsk live over the ship yard tannoy, imagine the advantage Adams would have achieved over the Brits if he had done something similar.

    To those who ask if Adams had an alternative, I would say this. If the war could not be won, as most rational folk now seem to believe, once the prisoners were released he had nothing to loose.
    The IRA could have still have dumped arms and be been stood down, and this would have left SF to oppose the Partitioned State by solely political means. Yes it would have taken time and needed delicate handling, but once the prisoners were released what was the hurry. Indeed once Adams went down this road he lost his ace.

    He could have even agreed to the Stormont Assembly, but entered it to wreck it from the inside, after all if you look how much of Sf's policy has been placed on the statute book from within 'government' I doubt SF will have done much worse out of it.

    OK, government funds would not in such a big way have flowed SF way, but even here, have these funds improved the lives of a majority of SFs core support base, I do not know, but I doubt it myself.

    I suppose if Adams aim was to be a middling player in governing part of the UK he can claim success, but I doubt even Adams went to war for that. To those who demand an alternative, well I have partially given one but my main point is the process of standing the Provos down in the manner I suggest would have thrown up other democratic avenues, surly; as history never stands still.

    Still it is all history now.

  9. Probably not in context with the article.
    I have not read the book yet though enjoying the review.
    Sinn Fein being merely an upstart party naturally they would be easier to manipulate and control by the far superior political minds in Westminster.
    The military campaigns certainly had run the course yet they could have continued on and still gained no ground.
    Perhaps an alternative question would be in order.
    Did Sinn Fein rush into the arena thinking they were ready to challenge the British political intellectuals and expect to gain a foothold in the shady corridors of power?
    With the British winning over Sinn Fein they effectively crippled republicanism knowing that the hardliners would remove themselves from the agreement. With the rise of the dissidents indirectly weakening Sinn Fein, the Brits having projected the future support levels of Sinn Fein knowing they will never amount to a serious political threat to Ulster and the Union.
    With the agreement it seemed like Sinn Fein took off running and now in 2010 it would appear they are learning how to crawl. I state that as Sinn Fein have no real opposition within republican circles yet much like the armed struggle they have gained little if anything.
    The British politicians have made Sinn Fein a paper tiger and Sinn Fein hold power in name only.
    Much like the other parties as proven with direct rule puppet governments have their strings cut once they try to run the show.

  10. Interesting analysis from Mick Hall. Its good to see someone discussing a few alternavies and having a rational debate rather than the childish name calling.

  11. heard it all now, tain bo thinks that the brits have far superior minds than SINN FEIN, why not go all the way uncle tom and say that the brits have far superior minds than all the IRISH people, because it does not seem by your post that you support any IRISH, the hardliners would remove themselves from the agreement, and the rise of the dissidents, are you a writer for the sunday papers, what act of war in the last 12 years after the agreement would warrent you calling the dissidents hardline, you also state that SINN FEIN have no real opposition with in republican circles, that is not the fault of SINN FEIN, and it is a lame excuse, people with questions to ask get fed up with those constantly name calling SINN FEIN yet have nothing to offer up themselves, if stormont is a puppet goverment of the brits tain bo then why is there no oath to the crown like the parliaments in england, scotland and wales have by law, a paper tiger has a lot more authority than some one on a keyboard to scared to say who they support,a few were needed to dissent on the republican side to make other things go smoothly, apart from a few bumps, this is what happened.

  12. Just my opinion...But I'm in agreement with fingal..what was the alternative....To continue the killing's???

    It was a stalemate..wether Adams and Mcguinness were right or wrong, one thing is sure there is a lot less dead bodies on the streets..

    marty,Nula,Anothy..put yourself in their shoes for one minute. What would you have done? Continue the war or try to bring about the end to senseless bloodshed??

    It's easy to critic from behind a computer screen..

    What would your soution be?

  13. They should have said the war is over, dumped arms and entered elections as they were entitled to do. Not drag it out and let the Loyalists kill at will with no response in order to 'up' the sympathy vote in the South.

  14. Beannacht Michael agus gabh mo leithscéal

    Where to begin?
    Actually I think your rant may indeed prove my point regarding superior minds.
    I will keep it simple and deconstruct my poorly worded criticism which I believe I made clear that it was out of context with the article.
    A basic fact the British have and still hold control in the six counties that would imply superiority?
    The British being the architects of the peace accord would imply control.
    On a purely political level it is not disputable that the masters of politics would have no difficulty in dealing with the shrewdest politician from Northern Ireland.
    Your sensitivity and pride may well be clouding your translation of my comment.
    Let me digress Shakespeare is considered to be the greatest writer in the English language I would disagree and say James Joyce would be superior to Shakespeare.
    I don’t think it is unfair stating Sinn Fein being inexperienced politicians facing off against seasoned veterans or career politicians. Common sense would dictate holding a healthy respect for and adversary is not a sign of weakness.

    I did not call the dissidents hard-liners British intelligence would have anticipated hard-line republicans would say no to any agreement, this indirectly weakens Sinn Fein and directly helps British policy of divide and keep conquered.

    “what act of war in the last 12 years after the agreement would warrent you calling the dissidents hardline,”
    What indeed would warrant an act of war? I said with the rise of the dissidents and only used hard-liners in a collective of those who oppose the agreement.
    Pro treaty and anti treaty still implies the same meaning.

    “, a paper tiger has a lot more authority than some one on a keyboard to scared to say who they support,a few were needed to dissent on the republican side to make other things go smoothly, apart from a few bumps, this is what happened.”

    Your comment is asymmetrical and confusing unfortunately this “someone” is using a computer and the keyboard is essential. I was unaware that I need to take sides though if I had to side it would be with the “Ulaid tribes” Cúige Uladh ancient Ulster.
    Glad you agree that the dissidents are there to benefit Sinn Fein and the British policy of making the accord work successfully as for the few bumps well contusions often lead to mental disorientation, in your case I would venture to say “this is what happened.”

    I did not post a comment to bash Sinn Fein that is pointless nor do I feel like bashing you
    You seem a little excitable “, why not go all the way uncle tom and say that the brits have far superior minds than all the IRISH people,”
    Bashing and name calling would be beneath a man of your fabric “why not go all the way and completely ignore and distort my comment?”
    Unfortunately it is my postmodernist outlook much like the Turtle and the Scorpion it’s in my nature.

    slán agus go raibh maith agat

  15. Fingal and Frankie,
    Thanks for the comments. These sort of questions will always feature in discussions of this type. In both comments there seems to be a shared assumption that to reject the SF strategy is to advocate armed force. It is very limiting in that it suggests republicanism is so intellectually unimaginative that it can conceive of only one unarmed strategy and that strategy had to be a state centred one. Yet the limitations of that state centred strategy are evident in the distance to which the Provisional Movement has been inexorably positioned to the right.
    The thinking in the comments implies that jail and death are the only outcome to alternative proposals. This overlooks the fact that some time before the Provisional Movement abandoned violence some of their republican critics had been calling for republicanism to never again use force in pursuit of its goals.
    Can any republican strategy succeed? I don’t believe so. Do all republican strategies have to manage the failure of republicanism so badly? Not in my view.
    Fingal, you argue that the Provos were not defeated. I think the underlying assumption of the review is that they were defeated. You also suggest that the GFA is synonymous with peace. Yet for a long time after the GFA the PRM still used violence. The point is that without the GFSA there could still have been peace. To suggest otherwise is to infer that republicanism had to ‘civilised’ by the British alternative to republicanism before it could be peaceful. That would not be my view.

    Frankie, how easy it is to criticise from behind a computer screen is in the eye of the critic. I suppose if your home is subject to the mob or if the thought police deploy their strategies of ostracism and marginalisation, it is not so easy. That is why so many people would rather be wrong than isolated. Reflect on your own position and think (you don’t have to comment publicly one way or the other) how easy or hard it is for you to criticise from behind your own computer screen. At the heel of the hunt you sitting behind your computer screen are doing what so many others have done over the centuries – write. And writers have paid a terrible cost for their writing.

  16. Great review. Great discussion (well apart from michaelhenry's contribution but I'm learning to skip input from this poster - Tain bo: great comeback to him/her!)

    Mick Hall, really interesting contribution.

    Frankie, my guess is that Marty, Anthony and Nuala, had they been at the helm and been involved in negotiations would have indeed brought an 'end to the bloodshed' by being open and honest with their groundbase and not have sent more young women and men to the gaols and to death in order to carve out a niche for themselves in the British government.

  17. The word 'defeated' has been used a lot here, including by myself. Defeat is a very highly charged word in any conflict situation, and I can understand the aversion of some republicans to accepting that we were 'defeated'. There is sometimes a thin line between accepting that you were defeated, and becoming despondent and defeatist in your outlook.

    Strangely, many republican comrades of mine in the current struggle had absolutely no problem talking about the 'defeat' of the 50s border campaign. Looking back, they could talk about the things that 'led to the defeat' of that particular campaign, or to its 'lack of success'. It becomes more difficult when you have to talk about your own defeat. I always thought it was a bit arrogant of our generation of republicans to somehow talk freely of the defeat of previous generations, yet seem incapable of considering the fact that we ourselves may have been just as unsuccessful. Delusion is more comforting than having to face the harsh reality. Many Sinn Féin members today think they were the first to have considerable electoral support, but they should remember that Sinn Féin got 152,000 votes in 1955 as well.

    I suppose another problem with using the word 'defeat' is that it sort of crushes any will to continue with the 'struggle'. And in this sense, I can understand Sinn Féin's desire to avoid the demoralisation of looking at the negatives from the campaign, and focusing instead on harnessing the positives and trying to move forward from there. Some of us might not like the way they are 'harnessing these positives' or the direction that they are going, but I have to admit, they do seem to have a lot more purpose, unity and direction than many of the fragmented republican alternatives out there. The community sense this, and that is why they vote for them, and flee from the rest.

    There is a lot of what Sinn Féin say and do that I find myself agreeing with. There are things that they say and do that I cannot abide. I would like to see a radical peaceful republican alternative emerge, not to challenge Sinn Féin because that is not important, but to give a proper voice and outlet to the not insignificant number of people who want to continue with a more traditional republican perspective on the situation here, including myself! Unfortunately, to date, it is only emerging in fragments.

  18. Frankie you asked me had I been in their shoes what would my alternative have been?
    Firstly can I say this, most of my life I have listened to republican alternatives. Get the Brits out!
    Bring down Stormont! Build an Ireland of equals! Fight for a Socialist Irish republic!

    People not only believed those alternatives were viable, they fought and died for them.

    There are few revolutionary movements that have ever attained their end goal. Most movements reassess and modify their goals.
    However, what they eventually achieve through victory or negotiation usually resembles, in part their initial aim.

    Unfortunately we never got the Brits out, they probably have more control here than at any time since partition.
    We certainly never brought Stormont down. For a party who promised they never going to take their seats , they do a fine job of keeping themselves well within the parameters of the British dictate.
    Equality and socialism! Look at their lifestyles and that concept disintegrates into a laughing stock.

    True the peace process put an end to the war.
    It also brought about a beginning of the lies, deceit, hypocrisy and spin.
    In the end, their alternative was, to embrace everything that we were once told we needed to overthrow.

    We could have been left with some credibility. The movement could have reformed and moved towards attainable goals via peaceful means. They could have steered a course that guaranteed the bulk of republican opinion remained on board.
    They could have held out for a credible solution, instead they sold.

  19. I think Sean Mor hit the nail on the head for most republicans when he said that there were many things which sinn fein did that he agreed with, but at the same time many of there actions he could not abide. Perhaps the greatest masterstroke of the brits in the 'peace process' was the omagh bomb, where they effectively neutered an armed alternative for ten years or more.

  20. Possibly it's a matter of trust for the older generation, who see SF leadership as cynical and severely untrustworthy. Am I happy to see any percieved SF political success...? YES, and I'm comforted and a little amused by Unionist discomfort. That may also be stage managed to a huge degree these days. On the question of trust, after what I've experienced and read on the SF leadership..I wouldn't let them near my life,never mind risk it,period. I'll watch from a very safe distance and see what they sell out on next. Safe from behind my PC lol.
    I had a very pleasent conversation with Delores Kelly [ SDLP ] on the train to Dublin one afternoon about 2004 and she was going to a Republican conference/debate, I was going to Korea to teach. I said, a 'Republican' conference? [in shock and surprise.] Lawrence, she said, "You don't have to aspouse violence to be a Republican".
    THAT WAS ME TOLD. Neither do you have to surrender completely to your enemy.

  21. Few people who have ever offered an alternative opinion or strategy to the one proposed by Sinn Fein have ever gotten away with it.

    Read in the paper this morning, that a former Sinn Fein councillor likened leaving the party to leaving the "Mafia"

    Citing his reasons for leaving.
    He said, he had become disillusioned with party's sexual abuse cover up and Adams continual denial of his IRA membership.
    He also cited problems with "Long Face" O Dowd. (Apologies for the childish name calling John P)

    Since he left he has been victimized, ostracised and harassed.
    He was even threatened when shopping in his home town.

    Mackers, I know people like yourself, "The Dark", Tommy Gorman and the rest all walked this walk for daring to speak out.
    In hindsight you were probably lucky your computer was the only thing they took away.

    So many people are grateful you had the courage to keep typing from behind your computer screen.
    Free speech was never yours for the taking you paid a high price.

  22. Anthony, did you see Kevin Myers's piece a few weeks back where he dismisses some of what Brendan Hughes said in Ed Moloney's book as "fiction". He even had the gall to compare his testimony to Gerry Adams's autobiography!!

  23. Kevin Myers?? He started out as a left wing student radical and tried his luck with every single party in the South before settling about three thousand miles to the right of Thatcher. Does anyone really care about his thoughts?

  24. Totally agree with you Larry, he actually denied there was a famine in Ethiopia and wrote an piece arguing that the West should no longer donate to these countries.

    Did not happen to mention that the West is partly responsible for the huge debt these countries run up through forced trade and so called aid.

  25. Nuala, I think it has a lot to do with failure. They know they were on the losing side. We all were. But some of us are frank about it rather than go though the ridiculous charade of pretending we neither won nor lost.


    ‘senseless loss of life was permitted to continue for no other reason than political expediency and timing for Gerry's scheme to be implemented.’

    I think this is a serious problem confronting many who took part in it.

  26. Frankie
    To continue the killings:
    In a time of peace there should be no dead bodies and if the measurement of a successful peace accord is fewer dead bodies then that is a strange commentary not exactly a great argument to be presented as progress. On the surface all looks well yet the Paramilitary underground is actually thriving in both republican and Loyalist circles the typical ace in the hole incase all else fails.

    As for the comment “ it is easy to be a critic behind a computer” that also holds no merit as engaging in alternative political thought is a learning process a beneficial political education that in time will have value. The standard political lines claim to be progressive thought though they are much the same as political parties would be happier if they had no critics.

    In perspective the alternative to war is peace however the alternative to unconventional war is unconventional peace. For the political parties involved to state that this is the correct way forward is unrealistic as it is still experimental and unproven. Maybe in a few generations when the militant mindset of Northern Ireland subsides genuine peace would be within reach.

    The transitional maneuvering of Sinn Fein works well in their agenda and for those who do not follow Sinn Fein the transition became a loss of political identity which is more severe than the decommissioning. Undoubtedly the rush to peace was necessary for the economic stability of Great Britain and secondary to the political unrest in the north.
    Sinn Fein decided to run the show their way and excluded all other republicans this could be viewed as political elitism; they gambled and lost a great deal of support within republican circles. A strange policy of strengthening republicanism by weakening republicanism which I believe 12 years on they clearly see that they were not prepared to engage the British on the highest levels of negotiations due primarily to their own inexperience, to date all they have accomplished is becoming a small part in that they opposed in days gone by.

    The alternative is not as complicated working towards republican unity and removing elitism from republicanism. Alternative thinking republicans face the usual ridicule of being war mongers and promoters of violence. I would see it differently as now we have forums to express and explore political matter which in turn means not only can we question those in power but question ourselves.

    I know that does not answer your question Frankie but republicanism has been through its militant stage and now the alternative is the political education.

  27. Mick,

    ‘It is also interesting how the British used their covert control of the
    media, to boast the ego of the SF negotiators to such an extent they
    began to see themselves as the way the British had got the media to
    portray them and not as the helpless saps they turned out to be.’

    This point caught my attention because over the years I would listen to their claims of how great negotiators they were but the results never seemed to stack up. I recall a conversation with a barrister once and he had forensically studied the negotiations. He made the point that there was not the slightest evidence that they were good negotiators and in fact had a poor record.

    I think they believed they were playing the long game when it fact it seems that the Brits were playing them.

    ‘OK, Adams had a difficult task, as history proves, but I believe he
    achieved much less than he could have achieved had he not used a
    strategy of secrecy and deceit towards his base’

    This too needs to be explored further. Deceit only takes you so far. The Irish government deliberately worked at minimising the size of the SF delegations it met as it did not want too many in the party knowing the plot and acting as a brake on the leadership.

    Tain Bo

    I thought your comment was in context with the review given that the review sought to trace how the Brits got to where they wanted to be.

    Seán Mór,

    I would agree with you here on the use of the term defeat. As well as being a descriptive term it is an emotive term. From the early 90s I regarded it as a defeat and felt it right to express my view on it. You make a very good point about how easy we rush our fences to call Harvest a failure or describe it as a defeat yet fall at the fence of the Provisional defeat. On the sense of purpose that SF have, they hold things together much better than the republican side. But office can be a great cementing agent. There are lots of things SF say that I agree with but I can never know if they can be trusted to hold to what they say. My instinct is to suspect they will ditch whatever they say at a suitable moment. And what is suitable for them is often far from progressive.

  28. Nuala,

    They certainly make it difficult for people who dissent. Same today as it always was with them and as you point out Dessie Ward is feeling the icy wind of disapproval. In our case we were absolutely determined they would not silence us. The rest is history

  29. Nuala,

    Of course. Feel free to send your views on Ed’s book.