Honorable Compromise or Republican Versailles?

Today The Pensive Quill carries part four of an article by guest writer Liam O Ruairc on Irish Republicanism and the Peace Process

Liam O Ruairc

On 10 May 1998 at a special Sinn Fein conference in Dublin, 331 out of the 350 delegates present voted to accept the Belfast Agreement. The Provisional movement claims that the Belfast Agreement does not represent a defeat for Republicanism. Danny Morrison, former Sinn Fein publicity director, claims that the British couldn't defeat the IRA nor could the IRA defeat the British, so the IRA did not win but had not lost either. (79) That is demonstrably wrong.
"The political objective of the Provisional IRA was to secure a British declaration of intent to withdraw. It failed. The objective of the British state was to force the Provisional IRA to accept - and subsequently respond with a new strategic logic - that it would not leave Ireland until a majority in the North consented to such a move. It succeeded." (80)
The Provisional movement claims that the Belfast Agreement does not represent a defeat but a honorable compromise. In the words of Gerry Adams:
"I'm recognising, quite clearly, that the Good Friday agreement is a compromise, it's an accommodation, it couldn't be anything else. The seismic shifts in republican theology, if I can use that term, was to argue for a negotiated settlement… and explicitly arguing for a negotiated settlement means that you're prepared to settle for less than your objectives at that time. But our objective of a united Ireland remains and we continue in a different mode of struggle to try and achieve that." (81)
The problem is less that it is a compromise than the fact that it is a bad compromise. (82) Agnes Maillot is therefore wrong to write that for Republicans "compromise is equated with betrayal". (83) As a matter of fact revolutionary movements, as Lenin showed long ago, do not emphatically reject all compromises. (84) There is such a thing as "revolutionary realpolitik". (85) It is wrong to frame the republican critique of the Belfast Agreement in terms of absolutism. The fundamental problem is that it was Nationalism and Republicanism that did the main compromising.

Danny Morrison reminds us that among the "bitter pills the peace process has required republicans to swallow" are:
"the deletion of Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution (the territorial claim over the North); the return of a Northern Assembly; Sinn Fein abandoning its traditional policy of abstentionism; reliance on British-government-appointed commissions on the equality and human rights issues and on the future of policing; and the implicit recognition of the principle of unionist consent on the constitutional question." (86)
He also adds: "Republicans sit in an assembly they never wanted. The British government never gave a declaration of intent to withdraw. There is still a heavy British army presence in some nationalist areas. The police have not been reformed. The equality and justice issues have yet to be resolved." (87)

"Yet" as academics Tonge and Murray point out "Morrison declined to draw from this catalogue of disasters the conclusion that the peace process was an abject defeat for Republicans." (88) To get a measure of how little has been ceded by unionists -- and by implication how much by republicans -- we need only view it through the following prism:
"If, for example, through the Good Friday Agreement, the unionists had signed up to a British declaration of intent to withdraw from the North and a Dublin declaration of intent to annex the six counties, no amount of wordplay and casuistry would have permitted this outcome to be regarded as anything other than a resounding defeat. Small consolation it would have been to them to have won outright on Strand One matters, such as keeping the RUC intact or the prisoners locked up. Unionism would have lost on the great philosophical question of consent." (89)
It looks more like a Republican Versailles than a honourable compromise. For all the Unionist scepticism about the Belfast Agreement, "the Unionists have won, they just don’t know it." (90) "Overall, it would seem that, in terms of the constitutional conflict between nationalism and unionism on the island of Ireland it was the latter that triumphed." (91)

Unionists won on the big philosophical issue. In return for Unionist concessions on power-sharing and an Irish dimension, Nationalism and Provisional Republicanism explicitly signed up to acknowledging that there can be no end to the union without the consent of the majority in Northern Ireland, and that it is legitimate for that consent to be withheld if that is the majority view. "Mr Trimble believes that any nationalist or republican who, accepting the principle of consent, becomes part of the governmental structures within the UK state, is –whatever the genuinely held long-term aspirations- structurally a Unionist." (92)

Mitchel McLauglin admitted in his Parliamentary Brief article (May/June 1998) that the Agreement legitimised British rule; and senior Sinn Fein member Francie Molloy conceded that his party 'are really prepared to administer British rule in Ireland for the foreseeable future. The very principle of partition is accepted.' (93)

As Eamonn McCann writes: "Both Republicans and Unionists will have to leave a lot of historical baggage behind in order to make the Belfast Agreement work, and it’s the Republicans who’ll have to abandon the more valuable items."

That is because while Unionists have stuck to their philosophy, "the Republican leadership have accepted that the Republican analysis is wrong." (94) Therefore Jonathan Powell is right to note:
"The paradox was that it was much harder to sell the Agreement to the unionists than to nationalists and republicans. In many ways republicans had to concede more. After all, if they accepted the principle of consent, that it was for the people of Northern Ireland to decide their future, what had the armed campaign and the suffering been for?" (95)
The Provisional movement has gone much further than a ‘compromise’, an ‘accomodation’ or a ‘negotiated settlement’:
"In endorsing the ‘principle of consent ‘ contained in the Agreement, accepting that Northern Ireland will, as of right, remain part of the United Kingdom until such time as a majority within the six counties decides otherwise, Sinn Fein had ditched the idea that lay at the heart of its own tradition and that had provided the justification in political morality for the campaign, indeed the existence, of the IRA." (96)

The Provisional Movement argues that the Belfast Agreement nevertheless has a progressive dynamic as it can provide the transitional mechanisms for Irish unity to happen by 2016, the one hundreth anniversary of the Easter Rising. (97) In 2009 Martin McGuiness even said that Ireland could be unified by 2014. "If it doesn’t happen in 2016 then we will be working to make it happen in 2017 or, as I am working towards, 2014 " he said. (98)

For Gerry Adams, by accepting the Belfast Agreement the Provisional movement was entering a "new phase of the struggle": while the Agreement "is not a settlement, it is a basis for advancement", "it could become a transitional stage towards reunification". (99)

Thus, the motion officially ratified by the party at its 1998 Ard Fheis read:
"The Good Friday document is not a political settlement. When set in the context of our strategy, tactics and goals the Good Friday document is a basis for further progress and advancement of our struggle. It is another staging post on the road to a peace settlement. (...) The Good Friday document does not go as far as we would have liked at this time but it is clearly transitional. (...) It can be a basis for pushing forward national and democratic objectives. In short, it allows us to move our struggle into a new and potentially more productive phase." (100)
This rests on two sets of arguments.

In negative terms, the Provisionals argue that it weakens the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Gerry Adams stated that thanks to the Belfast Agreement, there were no longer any raft of legislation to maintain Northern Ireland as part of the UK, with the British government's repeal of section 75 of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act. For Adams thanks to the Agreement, "What has been removed is the veto. The Government of Ireland Act 1920, gave a veto to unionism which was clear and succinct. What you have now is almost, from the British point of view almost like a couple deciding that they're going to divorce." (101)

Martin McGuinness also makes a similar point: "It is a bit like a partner in a relationship saying the relationship is over, but that s/he is willing to wait until the children have grown up. " (102) However, the replacement of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act was legally 'of no significance', rather it reconstructed British sovereignty. (103)

David Trimble, well read in legal matters, from early on had pointed that the legislation governing Northern Ireland’s place within the UK is the Act of Union of 1800 and the 1973 Constitutional Act, therefore the repeal of Section 75 of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act is legally of no significance. (104) Legally, the Agreement does not shift the balance of constitutional forces towards reunification. The only significant constitutional shift went in the opposite direction, the British state retained sovereignty in the North and the consent principle was embedded, whereas Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution were ammended to incorporate the consent principle. Thanks to the framework of the Belfast Agreement, it is the Dublin government, not the British, which has dropped its claim to jurisdiction, leaving Northern Ireland within the UK. The idea that the repeal of section 75 of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act and ammendment of articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution represent some "balanced constitutional accomodation" (105) is an intellectual absurdity.

In positive terms, according to Mitchel McLaughlin: "There is steady demographic, political, social and economic change, undeniably pointing in one direction, towards support for a united Ireland." (106) But do these changes really point in that direction?

The first argument is that demographics show that the Catholics will sooner or later be in a majority position in the North and will vote for a united Ireland at the earliest opportunity. Partition will supposedly come to an end when Catholics reach the magic figure of 51% of the population in the North. However, the idea that a united Ireland could be brought about by demographic change has been highly disputed and dealt a blow by the most recent (2001) census figures. (107) It could be decades before the two communities will have equal numbers and before this translates into votes.

In 2009, academic Dr Brendan O’Leary discounted the idea that Catholics would outbreed Protestants and use their numbers to vote for a united Ireland. The percentage of the Catholic population in Northern Ireland has now stabilised at 40-45 percent and is likely to stay that way for 30 years or more which is as far as anyone is prepared to predict. (108)

On top of that, the 2007 Life and Times Survey showed that 85 per cent of Protestants and 22 per cent of Catholics support Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom. More recently the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey showed that ten years on from the Belfast Agreement, almost one in four Catholics (23 percent) were willing to be tagged under the Northern Irish banner, compared with less than ten percent twenty years ago. (109)

This indicates that more Catholics identify with Northern Ireland , an implicit acceptance of the state of Northern Ireland. Partly for those reasons, senior Irish government sources have stated that they do not expect Northern Ireland's constitutional position to be raised again for "20 to 25 years". The Dublin administration opinion comes after Secretary of State Peter Hain told the Newsletter: "I think that, in a sense, the constitutional question is parked."(110) Moreover, according to the former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, a united Ireland could not be achieved by a simple majority poll in favour of constitutional change. (111)

The second argument is that the development of an all-Ireland economy will create a dynamic towards unification and therefore make partition redundant. According to Martin McGuinness:
"There are a number of identifiable trends leading to Irish unity within a meaningful timeframe. Ireland is too small for two separate administrations…There is a draw towards the greater integration of services, structures and bodies on an all-Ireland basis in order to deliver quality services and economies of scale…These all point towards the realisation of reintegration of both states presently on the island of Ireland into one independent country. " (112)
However, in 2006 Peter Hain, Northern Ireland Secretary of State, made the following comment on the argument that the 'all Ireland economy' is a stepping stone towards a united Ireland: "The interpretation that this is a kind of Trojan horse for a united Ireland is 100% wrong." (113) Economic and constitutional issues are separate. Says Hain:
"It has nothing to do with the constitutional future, that's entirely separate and dependent on the votes of the people and they've decided that through the referendum following the Good Friday agreement; so the border exists constitutionally, but in economic terms it doesn't; in economic terms it's about cooperating across the border and making use of best friends either side."
By way of example, Hain referred to counties Derry and Donegal. It was in the interest of both to be "joined at the hip" economically and for business purposes. However, "the constitutional separation will remain unless otherwise decided by the people." (114) The relocation of Aer Lingus’ Shannon to Heathrow route to Belfast in 2007 because staff based there will receive less pay and fewer benefits than colleagues in the 26 counties also shows that the border can be used as an instrument of economic competition rather than unification. The border with its differential tax and grant regimes can be used as a source for mutual enrichment. (115) According to some analyses, the border even "may have helped boost business ". (116)

The third argument is that the development of cross border institutions will generate a political dynamic towards unification. Cross border bodies cannot and will not lead to reunification and an end to British rule. In his address on 30 September 2000, Martin Mansergh, Northern Advisor to three successive heads of Dublin government and one of the main architects of the peace process, stated that 'there is no evidence, let alone inevitability, from international experience, that limited cross border co-operation necessarily leads to political unification.' Such bodies have existed for decades and have not brought a united Ireland any closer. (117)

Unionists also have a virtual veto on cross-border arrangements. The recent economic crisis also means that North-South bodies are facing the prospect of cash cuts from the Dublin government. Any reduction by Dublin could bring an equal response from the North because the bodies are funded on a 50:50 basis. (118) The economic crisis in the south of Ireland since late 2008 had pushed back the prospect of a united Ireland well into the future.

In June 2009 Martin Mansergh stated that the arguments for a united Ireland were less compelling now. He told the annual conference of the Institute for British-Irish studies that the 26 counties state
"is engaged in a major struggle to maintain, within the EU and the euro zone, its economic viability and sovereignty. It is hardly the moment to press claims to the North which we have renounced, and it has to be said, the advantages and flexibility of joining up with a small sovereign state in the present global turmoil are for the moment a lot less compelling today than they were two or three years ago." (119)
This is why the Provisionals are now more cautious about their predictions of a united Ireland by 2016. In a 2009 interview, Gerry Adams now spoke of a "40-year span" to end partition. (120) "In fact, the dream of a 32-county socialist republic is further away than ever, rejected by the souther electorate and substituted by a power-sharing deal with the DUP under British rule " concluded a Belfast Telegraph editorial. (121) That the Agreement is non-transitional and that republican strategy is no longer designed toward destabilising the northern state which would possess the potential to create transitional structures can both be ascertained from the following exchange between Frank Millar of the Irish Times and Gerry Adams:
Millar: "For wasn't the act and fact of suspension rooted in the legislation establishing a devolved Assembly at all times subject to the authority of the British Crown?"
Adams: "Oh yes, and, in terms of the realpolitik, we have accepted entirely, it's obvious, partition is still here, that the British jurisdiction is still here."
Millar: "Is this a peace process, about reconciliation with the unionists, accepting the existing constitutional parameters until such time as there is consent to change them? Or is Sinn Féin's real game -- struggle continuing by other means -- to destabilise Northern Ireland and show it to be irreformable?"
Adams: "No, that isn't the case, the second scenario isn't the case." (122)
The rhetoric of transition is still there. In 2010 Adams attempted to sell the Agreement at Hillsborough as another "staging post on path to greater equality ". (123) But this was just "diversionary therapy" for Adams’s supporters because the elements dealing with issues such as the Irish language and beefing up North-South co-operation were rather vague and woolly. (124)


Clearly, by its own admission, it is no longer Sinn Fein's intention to destabilise the northern state and seeks to administer it. "Decades of describing Northern Ireland as a failed and illegitimate state ended with Sinn Fein itself providing the legitimacy when it accepted office in the new government." (125) Ironically, it denounces as "traitors" republicans still engaging in armed actions today. (126)

Consequently all the central tenets of traditional republicanism have been jettisoned and those of constitutional nationalism adopted. In making the Belfast and later St Andrews agreements work now, the Provisionals "are working the same basic institutions and arrangements that they worked to undermine more than 30 years ago and refused to accept until very recently. They are also accepting that the SDLP’s policy, analysis and approach throughout the years were correct" declared John Hume. (127) "It should be clear that what they are doing is implementing the policies which have been consistently pursued by the SDLP. The Good Friday Agreement, again heavily negotiated by the SDLP is identical to Sunningdale" he added. (128)

The Belfast Agreement and the later St Andrews Agreement are "Sunningdale for slow learners", to use Seamus Mallon’s famous expression. (129)

In December 1973, the SDLP and the Ulster Unionist party had signed up to the Sunningdale agreement - an arrangement which arguably gave the political parties in Northern Ireland much of what was later on offer in the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

Under Sunningdale, power in the province was to be shared by the Northern Ireland executive, with ministers from both the nationalist and unionist communities, and a cross-border Council of Ireland was created, to stimulate cooperation with the Republic. The IRA emphatically rejected out of hand this constitutional initiative, viewing it as a British attempts to marginalize Republicanism and isolate their struggle. For Ruairi O Bradaigh, the Sinn Fein president at the time, the Sunningdale Agreement 'constitutes a step backwards rather than an advance' for the liberation struggle. (130) The Provisionals opposed the Sunningdale Agreement and when it failed to secure necessary unionist support and was brought down by the May 1974 Ulster Workers’ Council strike, this was praised by the Provisionals. (131) Constitutional nationalists who accepted the Sunningdale Agreement and saw it as a stepping stone to a united Ireland were denounced. (132) Gerry Adams accused the SDLP, because it had endorsed the arrangement, of being the first Catholic partitionist party. (133)

This raises the question of whether the IRA campaign, between its rejection of the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973 and the Belfast Agreement of 1998 was justified given that there is, objectively speaking, very little progress towards Republican objectives if the provisions of Sunningdale and the power-sharing executive and the provisions of the Belfast Agreement are compared.

Given the similar nature of the two Agreements how do the republicans justify not accepting the similar terms on offer at Sunningdale 25 years earlier? To this Gerry Adams responded:
"I think there were quite substantive and substantial differences. … In terms of the detail, the institutional and other requirements, the status of the constitution, the equality agenda, and more particularly the inclusive nature of this current process, there have been sizeable differences between what was on offer in '74 and what we negotiated out in more recent times… The detail, the safeguards, the guarantees, the overarching interdependent mechanisms of the Good Friday agreement - we're talking about rights-based legislation, that the equality provision, section 75, is at the core, and permeates every single clause of the Good Friday agreement- are well in advance of what was being offered up in Sunningdale." (134)
However, this is debatable. For example, Austin Currie, a minister in the 1974 power sharing executive actually feels that in many ways the Sunningdale Agreement was a better deal for nationalists than the Belfast Agreement, meaning that the Provisionals finally settled for less than the SDLP got in 1973. (135)

If Austin Currie is right, then Republicans were wrong to reject Sunningdale for accepting the Belfast Agreement. "In the intervening years, 2,000 people were killed. It must be asked, 'whatever for'?" (136) "Over recent weeks the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have addressed that question without providing a coherent explanation" noted the Irish Times. (137)

And if Republicans were right to reject Sunningdale, there logically is little justification for them to accept the terms of the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements. As Bernadette Sands-McKevitt said about her brother:
"Bobby did not die for cross-border bodies with executive powers. He did not die for nationalists to be equal British citizens within the Northern Ireland state." (138)


Have the ten years since the Belfast Agreement seen progression towards a united Ireland or a further copper fastening of partition and strengthening of the Unionist veto? Professor Roy Foster sums the historical trend in his 2007 book Luck and The Irish: A Brief History of Change 1970-2000 when he writes:
"A dominant theme of Irish history in the last 30 years of the 20th century has been the cementing of partitionism and the institutionalising of 26-county nationalism. At the beginning of the 21st century Northern Ireland is just as firmly entrenched in the UK (maybe more so, in fact) and Ireland as far away from reunification." (139)
After years of trying to implement the Belfast Agreement, St Andrew's Agreement was unveiled on 13 October 2006. (140) The essence of the proposals contained in the Agreement is that if the Provisional movement openly supports the policing and court systems, the DUP will have to share power with them with a DUP First Minister and a Provisional Deputy First Minister in devolved local government.
"So who won and who lost at St Andrews? Everybody's a winner, say the governments. In reality, Sinn Féin made most concessions. The DUP looked genuinely pleased as negotiations closed; despite Sinn Féin's positive words, the body language was wrong. As well as endorsing the PSNI, the party potentially must support MI5 and the British courts, which sits uneasily with republicanism." (141)

According to a DUP Document the St Andrews Agreement makes fundamental changes to the Belfast Agreement and offers from a Unionist perspective "undoubtedly a better package" compared to the 1998 Agreement. It secures:
  • Unionists setting the political agenda
  • DUP veto over all major decisions
  • DUP veto over cross border relations
  • Republicans jumping first
  • Republican support for the police, the courts, and the rule of British law
  • No Sinn Fein policing and justice minister (142)
On March 26 2007 the DUP and Provisional Sinn Fein finally agreed to share power. This was compared to a "Hitler-Stalin pact Ulster style" rather than a model for world peace. (143) It is ironic that Provisional Sinn Fein will go down in history as the party who put Paisley in power. Just reading what Danny Morrison was writing about the possibility of the Provisional sharing power with Paisley one year before the restoration of devolution gives a measure of the magnitude of the organization’s political and ideological shift:
"Increasingly I think we must need our heads examined. Just because he represents the largest party might entitle him to be First Minister - but, in truth, who could work with this one-man Executive? He is ill-mannered, arrogant, pompous and bigoted. … What an advertisement he would be around the world. We would be a laughing stock. We would be building on gas. I thank God that Paisley is terrified of being First Minister, and that the DUP by making the North ungovernable within is demonstrating that the North is a failed political entity. Ironically, that was one of the aims of the IRA’s armed struggle. Goodbye Sinn Fein/IRA, Hello DUP/IRA! Republicans should remember that they wanted to bypass a northern assembly and executive and work macro-politically towards unification. Sinn Fein should go back to basics and demand the abolition of the failed assembly. Even though Hain rule is misrule and unrepresentative rule, it is better than Paisley rule. We’ve waited for 800 years, what’s a few more?" (144)
It was not Paisley who had changed: "I did not change, it was Sinn Fein changed. And to be fair to them they have shown a real willingness to do work for Northern Ireland and to support law and order and I believe it." (145)

This is why Ian Paisley could boast with justification: "Monday 26th March was a day of great victory for the unionist people of Northern Ireland. That was the day that republicanism accepted the strength of unionism; that was the day that Irish republicanism adhered to our demands. That was the day that unionism secured its future."

Paisley says that the DUP made Sinn Fein realise "it was the end for republicanism":
"On May 8 Gerry Adams will sit in our Assembly - a British institution of the British state. He will take an oath pledging to support the police, the rule of law and British justice. … The IRA has finally been shunned from the politics of this Province. The DUP will ensure that it never returns." He concluded by saying that the DUP is in control: "Unionists are writing the agenda, we are dictating the pace of change and we are controlling the conditions for government." (146)
Ian Paisley was satisfied that he did "smash" Sinn Fein and that the party could no longer be "true republicans " because they were "in part of the British government ". (147)

For the DUP, Northern Ireland’s place within the Union has been strengthened. "I have not changed my unionism, the union of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, I believe today is stronger than ever" declared Ian Paisley in his inauguration speech as First Minister. (148)

The UVF stated that the reason it intended to go out of business was that "the constitutional question has now been firmly settled" as "the principle of consent has been firmly established and…the Union remains safe." The organisation also "accepts as significant support by the mainstream republican movement of the constitutional status quo." (149)The DUP believes that it has safeguarded Unionist interests through forcing the Provisional movement "to transform and conform" to use the expression of Peter Robinson. (150)

This is because Unionists will have an effective veto on Provo policies, including abolition of the 11-plus, in the new power-sharing executive, according to a leading constitutional expert. Rick Wilford, professor of politics at Queen's University, said changes to the Belfast Agreement made at St Andrews mean that unionists are able to torpedo policies they don't like, such as any attempt to strengthen north-south institutions. 'Under the new rules, if at least three ministers in the executive object to what a minister is proposing in a given department, they have the right to refer that policy to the overall assembly.’

So if the Catriona Ruane wants to abolish the 11-plus just three unionist ministers are needed to veto the policy and refer it to the Assembly. DUP MP for Lagan Valley, Jeffrey Donaldson, said, 'Anything unionists of either party find unpalatable will be referred back to the Assembly. Although there will have to be cross-community support unionists are in the majority and will have the ultimate veto.’(151)

Two years into the current assembly, SDLP MLA Alex Atwood confirmed this fact: "When you look at how the executive is run there is one overwhelming reality and that is the DUP are running government, and SF are running behind. That is the single biggest conclusion about the nature and culture of our government."

Every impartial observer of the political scene agrees that the DUP is the driving force in Stormont. "In that respect you could say from the unionist point of view it is working, from a nationalist point of view it ain’t working." (152) This is why at the end of 2009 an internal DUP document could claim that "unionism is winning" and that "a united Ireland is further away than ever". (153)


(79) Danny Morrison, The war is over…Now we must look for the future, The Guardian, 11 May 1998. Martin Mansergh noted that the whole premise of the process was that "no side had ‘won’, no side had ‘lost’, and no side was ‘surrendering’. " (Martin Mansergh, The Future Path of Peace, The Irish Reporter, February 1996, 49)
(80) Anthony McIntyre, Good Friday : The Death of Irish Republicanism, New York : Ausubo Press, 2008, 7
(81) The Nick Stadlen Interview with Gerry Adams, 12 September 2007
(82) Gerry Ruddy, "The Good Friday Agreement –revisited" in Models of Governance: The Good Friday Agreement and Beyond, Coiste na n-Iarchimi, Belfast, 2003.
(83) Agnes Maillot, New Sinn Fein: Irish republicanism in the twenty-first century (London and New York: Routledge, 2005), 174
(84) Cfr ‘No Compromises ?’ in ‘Left Wing’ Communism, an Infantile Disorder, V.I. Lenin, Collected Works: Volume 31, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1966, 66ff.
(85) Georg Lukacs, Lenin: A Study in the Unity of his Thought, London : NLB, 1970, 72
(86) Danny Morrison, Stretching Republicans Too Far, The Guardian, 13 July 1999
(87) Danny Morrison, Get on with the business of peace, The Guardian, 14 October 2002
(88) Gerard Murray and Jonathan Tonge, Sinn Fein and the SDLP From Alienation to Participation, London: Hurst & Company, 2005, 234
(89) Anthony McIntyre, Modern Irish Republicanism and the Belfast Agreement: chickens coming home to roost, or turkeys celebrating christmas? in Rick Wilford (ed) Aspects of the Belfast Agreement, Oxford University Press, 2001, 217
(90) Paul Bew, The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement (Dublin: The Liffey Press, 2007) pp. 28, 100
(91) Thomas Hennessey, Negotiating the Belfast Agreement, in Brian Barton and Patrick J Roche (eds), The Northern Ireland Question: The Peace Process and the Belfast Agreement, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, 55-56. David Trimble himself wondered whether the scale of his victory might not be too great to the point where the Provisional leadership might not be able to endorse the 1998 deal. (Dean Godson, Himself Alone: David Trimble and the Ordeal of Unionism, London: Harper Collins, 2004, 326-334 and 347)
(92) Paul Bew, The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement (Dublin: The Liffey Press, 2007), 61
(93) Quoted in Liam Clarke and Michael Jones, Trimble shows more flexibility over IRA arms, The Sunday Times , 28 March 1999
(94) Eamonn McCann, War and Peace in Northern Ireland, Dublin: Hot Press Books, 1999, pp. 236-239
(95) Jonathan Powell, Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace in Northern Ireland, London: The Bodley Head, 2008, 109
(96) Eamonn McCann, Historical Handshakes do not reflect street-level reality, The Sunday Business Post, 8 April 2007. For example Mitchel Mc Laughlin, Towards 2016 - A United Ireland, An Phoblacht-Republican News 22 August 2002
(98) Claire Simpson, 2014 ‘could be date for Irish unification’, The Irish News, 10 April 2009
(99) 'Preparing for a new phase of the struggle': Presidential Address by Gerry Adams, An Phoblacht-Republican News 23 April 1998. See also Gerry Adams, Agreement has delivered change, The Irish Times, 2 April 2008.
(100) Resolution Number 1, Ard Chomhairle Paper to 1998 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis,special supplement to An Phoblacht-Republican News 7 May 1998
(101) The Nick Stadlen Interview with Gerry Adams, 12 September 2007
(102) Martin McGuinness, Negotiating an Agenda for Change : Keynote Address on Negotiations and Agreement to Ard Fheis, An Phoblacht-Republican News, 23 April 1998
(103) B. Hadfield, The Belfast Agreement, Sovereignty and the State of the Union, Public Law, volume 15, Winter 1998, 615
(104) Thomas Hennessey, The Northern Ireland Peace Process : Ending the Troubles?, Dublin : Gill&Macmillan, 2000, pp.139-145
(105) British and Irish Governments, Propositions on Heads of Agreement, London: Prime Minister’s Office, 1998 (available at: http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/peace/docs/hoa12198.htm)
(106) Rosie Cowan, Census hits republican hopes, The Guardian, 20 December 2002
(107) Cfr. Malachi O Doherty, Breeding schemes, The Guardian, 13 April 2001 for a refutation of the theoretical basis of the demographic argument and Rosie Cowan, Census hits republican hopes, The Guardian, 20 December 2002 for an empirical refutation of the figures on which it is based.
(108) Liam Clarke, Irish unity is not top of any immediate agenda, The Newsletter, 16 June 2009
(109) Ben Lowry, More Catholics identify with Northern Ireland, The Newsletter, 6 July 2010
(110) Stephen Dempster, United Ireland is off the table for 25 years, The Newsletter, 29 June 2007
(111) Laurence White, 51% majority not enough for Irish unity: Ahern, The Belfast Telegraph, 20 November 2008
(112) Martin McGuinness, Time to debate a united Ireland, The Guardian, 19 February 2010
(113) Liam Clarke meets Peter Hain -Man with a north-south plan, The Sunday Times, 15 January 2006
(114) Ray O Hanlon, An all-island economy: It's Hain's way or the highway for North polls, The Irish Echo, 2-8 August 2006
(115) Liam Clarke, The border –economic asset for North and South, The Newsletter, 17 April 2008
(116) John Murray Brown, Irish boder united bargain hunters, The Financial Times, 18 November 2008
(117) Ed Moloney, Mansergh doubts the GFA will lead to unity, The Sunday Tribune, 1 October 2000. Nationalist commentator Brian Feeney noted that not only is there reluctance on the part of the Irish civil service to beef up all-Ireland structures, but the difference this time as compared to 1974 or 1986 is that Irish politicians are lukewarm too. (Brian Feeney, Ministers have lost interest in north-south links, The Irish News, 13 September 2006)
(118) Noel McAdam, North-south bodies face prospect of cash cuts, The Belfast Telegraph, 18 November 2009
(119) Fiona Gartland, United Ireland less compelling now, says Mansergh, The Irish Times, 10 June 2009. See also: Paul Bew, Roadblocks to unity, The Guardian, 19 February 2010.
(120) ‘Adams has yielded on 2016 united Ireland goal’, The Newsletter, 2 January 2009
(121) Editorial, Who are you kidding, Mr Adams? The Belfast Telegraph, 4 March 2008
(122) Frank Millar, Northern Ireland: A Triumph of Politics, Dublin, Irish Academic Press, 2009, 123
(123) Dan Keenan and Tia Clarke, Deal a staging post on path to greater equality -Adams, The Irish Times, 6 February 2010
(124) Gerry Moriarty, Peace process comes of age after awkward adolescence, The Irish Times, 6 February 2010
(125) Alex Kane, Let us go out and market the benefits of the Union, The Newsletter, 5 July 2010
(126) David Sharrock, Traitors, says Martin McGuinness the general, The Times, 11 March 2009 and Anthony McIntyre, Who is McGuinness to talk of treachery? The Independent On Sunday, 15 March 2009
(127) John Hume, Grasping chance for better future, The Irish Times, 8 May 2007
(128) Seamus McKinney, Hume regrets talks didn’t happen at Sunningdale, The Irish News, 27 March 2007
(129) Editorial, Sunningdale for Slow Learners, The Sunday Independent, 1 April 2007
(130) Ruairi O Bradaigh, Our People Our Future, Dublin: Sinn Fein, 1973, pp.31-32, 43, 50-52, 59-60
(131) Cfr: Tone-the navigator, An Phoblacht, 14 June 1974, p.6 where one of the UWC’s leaders, Jim Smyth, is described as being is ‘in the Wolfe Tone tradition’
(132) Richard English, Armed Struggle: A History of the IRA, London: Macmillan, 2003, 165-166
(133) Gerry Adams, The Politics of Irish Freedom, Dingle: Brandon, 1986, 110
(134) The Nick Stadlen Interview with Gerry Adams, 12 September 2007
(135) Austin Currie, All Hell Will Break Loose, Dublin: O Brien Press, 2004, pp.431-435
(136) William Graham, Why did it take 3500 killings? asks Ahern, The Irish News, 8 May 2007
(137) Gerry Moriarty, Day of ‘history without drama’ goes as planned, The Irish Times, 9 May 2007
(138) Suzanne Breen, Sister of hunger-striker denounces peace process as deception, The Irish Times, 8 January 1998
(139) Roy Foster, Luck & The Irish: A Brief History of Change 1970 – 2000, London : Allen Lane, 2007, 99
(140) British and Irish Governments, Agreement at St Andrews, Belfast : Northern Ireland Office, 2006
(141) Suzanne Breen, Will the St Andrew's Agreement bring lasting peace to the North?, The Sunday Tribune, 15 October 2006
(142) DUP flyer, St Andrews Agreement/Devolution Consultation: Your Verdict -What is it to be?
(143) Paul Bew, The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement, Dublin: The Liffey Press, 2007, pp.140-143
(144) Danny Morrison, Paisley just a blip in the ongoing peace process, Daily Ireland, 9 February 2006. By 2008, Martin McGuinness said he believed Ian Paisley was doing more for Irish unity than republicans opposed to the process: "I say give me Ian Paisley any day". Cfr. William Graham, McGuinness basks at Stormont, The Irish News, 6 May 2009.
(145) Stephen Dempster, Ian Paisley Exclusive Interview, The Newsletter, 10 December 2007
(146) Ian Paisley, We can lay the foundations for a better future, The Newsletter, 31 March 2007
(147) I did ‘smash’ Sinn Fein – Paisley, BBC website, 9 March 2008
(148) Ian Paisley, ‘Today we have begun to plant and we await the harvest’, The Newsletter, 9 May 2007
(149) UVF Stands Down: the statement in full, The Irish News, 4 May 2007
(150) Peter Robinson, The Big Man was right, The Belfast Telegraph, 20 April 2007
(151) Henry McDonald, Unionists will hold vote veto, The Observer, 6 May 2007
(152) William Graham, Political institutions are working…up to a point, The Irish News, 6 May 2009
(153) Maeve Connolly, ‘Unionism winning’ claims DUP document, The Irish News, 20 November 2009


  1. Liam,

    Enjoying this article immensely - impatiently awaiting the concluding part. Flawless presentation of your case and an incontrovertible indictment, from a Republican perspective, of the provisional movement. Very well researched and all the more comprehensive for that. As a Unionist therein lies my problem - the roll over of the Provisionals has been too comprehensive.
    The observation that,"the Unionists have won, they just don’t know it.", is entirely correct. Unionist's failure to recognise the outcome of the conflict is largely due to Sinn Fein's presence in government but moreover their continued electoral success.
    My one and only criticism would be your underestimation of Unionist compromise as per the Belfast Agreement. Cross border bodies and power sharing with a then armed and illegal organisation were enormous issues for Unionism, hence the fall of Trimble and the electoral meltdown of the Ulster Unionist party.

  2. Robert
    I would like to try and help you understand were Liam is coming from , Liam is setting out to explain mainly to people from the republican thinking what we as a people have accepted, myself I would included everyone and go a little further , to say that the “Unionist have won but they just don’t know it” is in my opinion correct. Go back to 1969 and see what the Armed Struggle really has achieved. The main aim of the Provo’s was to bring down Stormont and this as we all agree happened , they then wanted face to face talks with the British this they also achieved , and last but not least they wanted and craved for the elusive United Ireland which they did not and cannot now achieve , they cannot achieve because the Provo’s are gone ?. Now these were the three main aims of the armed struggle .
    Which all point to a resounding success for the Unionist people . Stormont never was in a stronger position, the Sinn Fein leadership are now fighting tooth and nail to keep the holy land open ,
    If the whole issue of sharing power with Sinn Fein is a loss I really think your judgement is clouded , Sinn Fein could have entered Stormont under the old system so really Robert what have you lost and what has the republican people gained .

  3. Liam, I have found this so extremely interesting to read. Even find myself agreeing with Robert, that this is so well researched and presented.

    I would go for the latter conclusion however, that the end result was very much a 'Republican Versailles'

    We got nothing and yet we were expected to give even more.
    Had Adams and Co had the courage to acknowledge that the only thing seismic was the extent of the surrender people may have forgiven that.
    Instead we had to listen to them banging on about transition, demographic change and all the other claptrap.

    The reality of people's lives now is nothing changed, if anything things have gotten worse.

  4. Interested,

    I think you misunderstand my position. I concur entirely with Liam and know exactly where he is coming from as his position is, as I have already stated, comprehensive and incontrovertible whatever your perspective. Unassailable truth with proof.
    I am aware that I am not his target audience, but my point, from a Unionist perspective, was that the Provisional's defeat and volte-face was so extensive as to arouse suspicions that, in the words of Tommy Gorman, this is a "dirty trick". Hence the comment, "As a Unionist therein lies my problem - the roll over of the Provisionals has been too comprehensive. Having agreed with the observation, "the Unionists have won, they just don't know it.", I provided two reasons why, in my opinion, that situation existed. Do you disagree?

    Yes Republicans have lost and Unionism has won on the main constitutional issue but the situation is more complex than reducing it to such simplistic terms. Sinn Fein's presence in Stormont creates a paradox for Republicans and Unionists.

    "If the whole issue of sharing power with Sinn Fein is a loss I really think your judgement is clouded , Sinn Fein could have entered Stormont under the old system so really Robert what have you lost and what has the republican people gained."

    Republicans in Republican terms have gained nothing, I could argue that in the words of Andy Williams' "The Impossible Dream" that is because the entire project was, "To dream the impossible dream, To fight the unbeatable foe". I would further argue that had unification been achieved you would still be in a position of questioning what Republicans had gained? In everyday human terms nobody is dieing on the previous scale and while I refuse to be thankful to anyone for that we should view it as a much more preferable situation. Many Unionists have lost family and friends - the, "resounding success for the Unionist people." has come at a high personal expense for them. I cannot but have sympathy for the lady who having lost her husband and daughter feels no sense of victory when the person ultimately responsible for that loss sits at the very head of government. Is her judgement clouded?

  5. Fionnuala,

    Nice to find something we can agree on and I say that with all sincerity.

    "I would go for the latter conclusion however, that the end result was very much a 'Republican Versailles'"
    Having failed to seize power via the 'Munich Putsch' Hitler adopted democratic politics to eventually destroy the Weimar Republic. Perhaps Gerry has adopted the same strategy regards N.Ireland?

  6. Robert, cannot even credit Adams with that one.

    Mainstream Republicans have created an illusionary utopia and people have actually bought into it.

    They actually convinced many people that surrender and disaster was in fact a victory, those they could not convince they called traitors.

    Maybe ignorance really is bliss?

  7. Thanks.
    I am working on a follow up article on the question of why those who have lost think that they are winning and those who have won are convinced that they are losing everything.

  8. Robert,

    I think Trimble fell because SF did not deliver on decommissioning and he lost credibility at the same time as the unionist electorate lost patience. I think that electorate were willing to put up with power sharing and cross border bodies. Strand 2 (cross border bodies) is where Trimble was most successful. He was essentially constitutionally enhancing the firewalling of the NI state against 'encroachment' from Dublin. I think he took his eye off the ball in Strand 1 - not that he played a bad hand but that he failed to get into the mind of the unionist electorate who were upset less at power sharing and more at the release of prisoners and the reform of the RUC.