Totally Outmanoeuvred And Neutered

In the wake of the British general election William Johnstone looks at the curious position now occupied by Sinn Fein. William Johnstone is a Ballymoney unionist with an interest in history and politics.

So the progressive voice and, indeed, embodiment of Republicanism, Sinn Fein saw their vote drop in the recent Westminster election. Not a major slump, though a massive 17% in West Belfast, the electorate checked the Sinn Fein bandwagon and brought it to a halt.

We have been consistently reminded how great an achievement it has been to bring Sinn Fein in from the cold to embrace constitutional politics but, in reality, what choice did they have? The PIRA was infiltrated at the highest echelons by various security agencies. Freddie Scappaticci who headed the 'nutting squad', charged by the Army Council with identifying and executing informers was himself an informer.

Think about that. The Security Forces were using the PIRAs own security department to target and execute Republicans. You couldn't make it up! How many Republicans executed by Scappaticci or on his word, were innocent of the charges laid against them. Surely the families of every person murdered by them now wonder if their loved one was merely targeted by Scappaticci's handlers.

Politically the man in charge of Sinn Fein administration, Denis Donaldson was unmasked as a highly paid informer. Throughout the entire talks process, the British government were a step ahead of Sinn Fein. Donaldson kept his paymasters fully informed. 

Militarily and politically, Sinn Fein / PIRA were compromised so, in the end, what choice did they have but cave in and join the other constitutional parties. They aren't supermen and wonder women. They were totally outmanoeuvred and neutered and remain toothless tigers from a war they lost.


  1. A little harsh though essentially correct. Their vote went down because they don't take their seats. I expect it to go up for the Stormont election. As for them being neutered, if you read Godson's "Himself Alone" and Maloney's "Secret History" it is blatantly obvious that the whole peace process was a carefully choreographed affair. How far back did the choreography start and to what level of collusion? I can't wait to find out!

  2. William,

    your contribution is welcome here regardless of what you choose to write about. Hopefully, we will have you back.

  3. Is this it, William? Sinn Fein may have espoused republicanism in the past but they do not currently represent republican ideals, principles and arguments. There are many other genuine, coherent and compelling voices which are still active.
    Also, any student of history knows that there is no limit to the activities that a state like Britain will undertake to achieve its goals especially when supporting the likes of the loyalist ‘Old Testament warriors and prophets’ in the north of Ireland.

    The war was fought by a small, impoverished community against all the forces of a modern nuclear state fought the war. Sadly, you are correct; many people did betray the cause of republicanism. Yes, it appears to have suffered a severe setback in Ireland. That does not invalidate any of its ideals or arguments.

    The year is 2015, William, not 1515. Humanity is faced with climate change, environmental degradation, loss of species and land, fascism (including loyalist varieties), austerity and inequality and you write this nonsense.

  4. Not a bit harsh at all I would contend. Probably erred on the diplomatic side. I think the entire SF/IRA leadership was most likely on the pay roll. The British played a blinder and wrapped up what had effectively become its own organisation. In permitting Adams McGuinness and Co. to play the political game for the optics they 'neutered' any real alternative emerging. That for me was a master stroke. Although the population had long past had enough of conflict so the timing was perfect also.

  5. Larry
    When do think it all started? After Enniskillen or before?

  6. Peter

    Having read a little about GB counter insurgency in Malaya I would say probably during the civil rights eruption in the late 60s and turbo charged early 70s onward. It struck me as interesting that Adams hesitated before opting for the provos eventually. May be extreme but would anyone be surprised?

  7. @ larry.
    The Brits played a Blinder.
    Yeah sure they did..So much so they even believed their own propaganda and went off to teach the Americans how great they were.
    Unfortunately it didn't quite go to plan.
    So much so that when the British army Officers in Iraq Started off a conversation with " In Malaysia and Ireland We did this..."
    The US army high command told the Brits in no uncertain terms that if they said that again..they would be asked to leave the tent.
    American Patience ran out with the Brits when US soldiers started to turn up in body Fallujah..And the Brits who were supposed to prevent guns been smuggled by the Southern Marsh Arabs..Totally failed.
    When the US took over from the Brits in the South..They built up a great rapport with the Marsh Arabs..And they slowed the gun running to a trickle.
    Point is..It's amazing the type of people who buy into Brit Crapola..Yanks Know better. Ask them. Put it to you this way..The "special relationship" is virtually broken..If it ever even existed in the first place

    As for playing a blinder.
    The IRA had 500 members and the IRA could always "get lucky once"
    Brits weren't able to stop it.
    The Hagiography of the Brit army needs to be revised.
    BAsra and Helmand were complete fuck ups.
    In Ireland there was 1 secirity force member for every 4 Catholic males between the ages of 16 and 45( IIRC ) And the result was a stalemate.
    Hardly playing a blinder whatsoever.

  8. Ozzy
    So the Marsh Arabs (Shia) were smuggling guns to Falluja (Sunni)? Can you get me some references?
    If the US hated the Brits why did they ask for the SAS and SBS to get preference in Iraq and Afghan? A number of my mates did the Afghan tour with the Royal Irish in 09/10 and they tell a different story. Don't let your prejudice cloud the truth. There are always frictions between allies and even between regiments but ib general the BA is well regarded in America.

  9. Ozzy

    they wrapped up the conflict on their own terms with zero concessions that were not already available under UK law. ie electoral participation in UK elections and full participation in the state. Bit of a blinder indeed considering the Provo agenda pre piss-process.

    All that Libyan gear in the wake of the hunger-strikes and Gerry, Marty et al 'choked' if you want to be kind to them.

  10. Ozzy

    they yanks are not interested in hearts and minds, superior firepower brought to bear immediately is their motto. British military spending cut backs are what has strained relations in the USA/UK global menace alliance.

  11. Peter.
    The claims I have made came from the book
    "losing small wars" By Frank Ledwidge.
    He makes a convincing case.
    The British had as their objective the military defeat of the IRA.
    They didn't achieve this.
    In 1987..Thatcher went so far as to ban a British tv programme because a senior British Army officer admitted that they couldn't defeat the IRA.
    World in Action was the programme Death on the Rock IIRC.
    As for the Libyan gear
    The modern Nato bullet proof vest is well "bullet proof" to the AK 47 round
    One reason why the Barrett Sniper rifle was imported.
    So for every measure there was a counter measure. i.e stale mate.
    But to say it was some sort of magnificent victory by the Brits is pushing it.
    Why did it take so long to stop 500 people when they had every possible thing going for them?
    They had the "loyal Tribe " they had the ratio of 1:4 which I mentioned earlier.
    They had the language..they had the colour of their skin ( to blend in )
    They had all the money you could ask for...And all's they got is a draw...
    Sounds piss poor to me.
    About what you can expect from an Army that see Dunkirk as a great Victory.
    And North Africa where Rommel had no fuel..but still managed to Run rings around them.

    Same old British army. never as good as the Brits let on.

  12. Ozzy

    I see where you are coming from. But whilst a guerrilla campaign by the Provos could possibly have been whittle down to the odd big bomb in England and selective assassinations keeping McGuninnes and Co. on board meant that they really could see the 'Death of Irish Repulicanism' become a reality. Hearts and minds worked here in Ireland. Why was that? Military opposition to the Union is none existent, why is that Ozzy?

  13. Ozzy
    I would love to hear more about the Marsh Arabs smuggling gear to Al Qaeda in Falluja, do tell.
    As for the standard of the BA, all major armies get campaigns badly wrong-the Brits in Gallipolli, Yanks in Vietnam, Ruskies in Afghan, that says nothing for the standards of the soldiers only the top brass for that campaign. The Yanks in Iraq and Afghan were super aggressive- shoot first ask questions later. The BA had much tighter yellow cards. My mates in Helmand told me about a company op to iris scan a whole village. The company headed out with the scanner but a few Taliban started sniping at them. The OC left one sniper team to suppress while the rest continued on. The yanks accompanying them were outraged that the BA didn't seek and destroy. The OC told them that he was not going to walk into an ambush or IED field just to get some $10 talibs, he had negotiated with the tribal elders to iris scan the village and that was his objective. The yanks would have persued the talib snipers and called in airstrikes and all sorts probably losing a man or two and killing some locals in the process. Accusations of cowardice started. Would you accuse the BA of cowardice or the yanks of stupidity in that case? The BA top brass's performance in Iraq and Afghan was patchy, I admit, but the professionalism of the fighting units was excellent.

  14. Larry
    The Brits couldn't defeat the South Armagh brigade, the rest of the IRA were poor in comparison and were being worn down very successfully. The spooks and the SAS largely stayed out of South Armagh, why was that?

  15. Peter

    probably out of sound tactical logic and not presenting squaddies as sitting ducks in a hostile setting.

  16. Peter, the Bernard McGinn thing never really played out in SA because of the final cessation. Its likely it would of crippled them just as much as say Belfast.

  17. False Logic there Daithi.
    The IRA got sloppy Foresnics etc ) because of the ceasefire.and the Brits only got their hands on Mcginn because the IRA in Belfast and Derry were on ceasefire. Most Likely they would never have attempted such a large scale incursion into SA if they didn't have to worry about Belfast.
    Peter there is a few articles in the press.
    And I stand by my claim that many US troops were killed by the Brits failing to win "hearts and Minds " of the Marsh arabs.Resulting in weapons from Iran reaching the insurgents.
    A group of tribes who were hostile to Saddam and should have been easy allies.
    I don't have a copy of that book..otherwise I would quote you some pieces from it.
    But do search out a BBC 2 part documentary. Afghanistan the Lions Last roar.
    It starts off with the Brits (The Big bad Paras IIRC) Getting a lift on civvy trucks after calling a humiliting Musa Qala
    The Locals wanted shot of the Brits and they got it.
    I have heard the residents in various parts of Helmand preferred the Yanks.
    Also, as for your example the Brits weren't slow to use heavy artillery and Harrier jumpjets to flatten bazaars.
    Here's the proof by Dr Mike Martin

    Even the docile Brit Press which has witness the sacking of Piers Morgan because he dared take on the British Army. have published 1 of 2 reports.
    But generally the British army is untouchable as far as the media is concerned.
    It's not a great career move.
    Some democracy, eh?

  18. Ozzy, where is the false logic? Peters contention was the SAS etc stayed out of S.Armagh, Im saying that over time that might not have always been the case, but we wont know.
    There are some excellent anecdotes in Toby Harndens book about S.Armaghs ingenuity.One that made me laugh was the conversion of a muck spreader into a diesel spreader, it had a dummy sitting on the tractor that pulled it, they remotely got it to reverse into a British watchtower, and sprayed it with diesel before igniting. The soldiers inside were too scared to exit it incase of sniper fire, so they took it in turns in the shower to cool down until they were rescued by other soldiers.

  19. DaithiD
    I'm not saying they weren't in S.Armagh just that the operations were very different by the mid 80s. In other areas, most notably E.Tyrone, they were very active. Why not in S. Armagh? They took on AQ in the Tora Bora mountains so it wasn't fear. In the army at that time there was very much the feeling that there were 2 IRAs-S.Armagh and the rest, and ops were very different with regards to both.

  20. Peter

    full on military onslaught into S Armagh by the British military would hardly play into the law and order criminalisation policy. Not to mention engaging in a war with a community it claimed as British. There was a lot of weaponry in the country and all those decades of assassination and positioning touts in Belfast would have been for nothing if an attack on S Armagh unleashed a new genie.