Myth Of Demilitarisation A Ruse And A Lie

Sean Bresnahan of the 1916 Societies takes a critical look at demilitarisation.

Recent depictions of British Army house raids in Lurgan and Derry put pay to longstanding claims that the political process, ongoing since 1998, has successfully delivered the complete removal of the British Army and its physical apparatus from the Six Counties.

17 years from a political agreement promising full demilitarisation and 10 years from the supposed end to Operation Banner, under which the British Army was deployed in Ireland throughout the Troubles, we can see now the reality of the situation. Britain has not in fact demilitarised but simply returned to levels of troop deployment consistent with her needs during ‘peacetime’.
They haven't gone away, you know

Despite the rhetoric of some within the Nationalist community, who suggest the 1998 Agreement ushered in ‘a new dispensation’ – that concessions on the Nationalist side regards the British sovereign claim carried a quid pro quo relating to matters including British disarmament – recent days have shown that despite the hype and bluster, the only thing ‘new’ in any of this is the support our political representatives now offer the structures of British rule in Ireland, in the guise of Stormont, in the guise of the PSNI and in the guise of the British military’s continued presence in our country.

Of themselves the images coming out of Derry and Lurgan, of British Army ‘boots on the ground’, are a worrying development, but they also belie a more casual truth, that this is in reality nothing new and that contrary to popular belief, the British Army has never physically left Ireland. 5,000 British soldiers remain garrisoned in the Six Counties, despite claims of full demilitarisation, and British Military Intelligence, in the form of the ubiquitous MI5, has long been granted primacy and operational control over key areas of policing, despite the myth of a ‘new beginning’. Indeed a recent report from renowned NGO, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, determined that vast swathes of PSNI structures and personnel in some way or other fall under the command of MI5, a clear demonstration of a military presence at the heart of both policing and the wider political process.

Given how the Nationalist parties in Stormont agreed to all of the above, their description of the current political reality as a ‘new dispensation’ or a ‘new beginning’ is difficult to fathom. This is the same MI5 who ran collusion, who played a critical role in state-sponsored murders as those of Kathleen O’Hagan, Roseanne Mallon, of Pat Finucane and countless others. This is the same PSNI who collude to this day in obstructing truth and justice regards the role of its predecessor in that same collusion war. This is the same British Army who upheld a decades-long campaign of terror on behalf of the state, who likewise were never held to account for the long litany of criminal acts engaged in throughout the recent conflict. A new dispensation? As we can see from recent events in Lurgan and Derry, the more things change the more they stay the same.

If anything, wishful claims regards demilitarisation stand exposed for what they are: a ruse and a lie, whose purpose is to construct a facade of normalisation, to deflect and sweep from view the British sovereign claim. The reality is that Britain’s physical presence in Ireland was never ended, it was simply scaled back to engender perceptions of the North as a normal society, as though partition-rule were now of little consequence in present-day Ireland. Occupation though does not require standing armies on foot patrol, even where these remain in effect. Over the long-term it is more stable and sustainable to have visible signs of occupation removed from plain sight and buried in the political process. Better again if former opponents can be co-opted into that process.

With the representatives of Irish Nationalism firmly ensconced in such an arrangement, with their acceptance of PSNI, Military Intelligence and the British Army as worthy institutions within our society, it’s hard not to see it as job well done. With the British content to expand the remit of their ‘regiments-in-residence’ two things are now obvious: they are intent on flexing their military muscle, a political statement that Britain remains fully in charge and a two-fingered salute to those who believed they were serious about change in the North; but perhaps of greater significance, the illusion of normalisation of itself is now coming apart at the seams.

How this plays out remains to be seen, but with Stormont in crisis, soldiers on the streets and Westminster intent on claiming victory where none can ever be, then the failing deception that is normalisation may well herald a more systemic crisis in the political process. As such, republicans must position to influence the turn of events. Our thinking must be to shift the narrative away from that which currently serves Britain, setting out a republican analysis and a republican political strategy to advance Irish Unity, rather than one in line with the needs of the occupier and its ongoing excesses, which serves only to hold Unity back.


  1. I was looking on the internet for pictures of vol Kevin lynch i saw one of a young looking man one i hadn't seen before so i clicked on the picture and to my surprise it took me to an article about this young man to Sinn feins news paper but it wasn't the article for me to read it asked me to subscribe to the news paper and then i could read about vol Kevin lynch i was offered a free trial but i never did so i never got to read what it said so whose holding vol Kevin lynch to ransom now

  2. Sean
    Under the provisions of the GFA the Army have every right to be here. As in all parts of the UK, the government has a right to billet troops and was only obliged to reduce numbers commensurate with the level of threat. Sean, there would be no Army on the streets if there was no threat from dissident republicans. You fail to mention the threat. What about the people planning the murder of innocent Irishmen to force a united Ireland? What right do they have to murder? What mandate do they have? Trying to restart The Troubles to "force" the Brits out is madness. It failed in the Border Campaign, it failed in the Troubles and as Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
    Republicans cannot force a UI, you are going to have to convince and negotiate. Planting mortars in built up areas isn't going to get you what you want, but it will keep the Army here.

  3. Sure you're after saying they're here anyway - so don't blame the mortars. It can equally be held that without the continuing presence of Britain and her security forces there would be no mortars. What it really comes back to then - and the real question you should be asking - or answering - is what right has Britain to be in Ireland in the first instance. The reality is it has none and all else flows from there. I had a self-made poster on my wall as a teenager, the words of which, though uttered by a traitor, hold true to this day: 'British troops must go, the Unionist Veto must go, partition must go'. Nothing has changed on that score - Good Friday Agreement or no Good Friday Agreement. This is Ireland: Ireland for the Irish - yes, including those Protestant men of the North, who are as much a part of this country as the next. One Ireland - one people

  4. Nicola a cara I have been led to believe that Vol Kevin Lynch INLA gloves and beret were being held in quisling $inn £einds office in Dungiven, it seems that this may be true if your post is accurate, if so then its a snub to this good man,s memory ,

  5. What came first the chicken or the egg? quisling $inn £eind sprouted from rotten egg,s they and the useless bastards in the successive Dublin government,s are more than partially responsible for the presence of brit,s and their bigoted agencies remaining on the N.E of this island of Ireland,

  6. The vast majority of the people of this island don't want the dissident's mortars, the internicine feuding or the organised crime that sustains it. Again I ask: what mandate do these people have to kill Irish men or commit crime in the name of Ireland? Republican (and loyalist) "armed groups" are the bane of this society not the Army. They tried to defeat the British twice before and failed, though they made a fair fist of it. This time is quite pathetic, they promote unity by not one jot. You complain about the Army but not these collections of touts and phycos? One Ireland- one people? These groups care FA about Ireland or its people.

  7. Again, what mandate or right has Britain to be in this country? None. All else flows from there. Without Britain none of the things you are talking about would be an issue here. How about this for an idea, Britain stick to herself and Ireland likewise... Jesus man it's not rocket science. We can cooperate where it suits and where it's appropriate but respect the right of the other to determine our own internal affairs. Britain has no democratic title in this country - it's honestly as simple as that. British rule in Ireland is founded on conquest, pure and simple. The bottom line is that Ireland is Ireland, Britain is Britain. When Britain recognises this simple reality maybe then we'll have peace

  8. Sean

    In 1998 concurring majorities throughout the island of Ireland agreed in simultaneous referendums in NI and the Republic that Northern Ireland remain part of the UK (and thus to a retention of a "British presence" of sorts) until a majority of the populace of Northern Ireland requested otherwise. You may reply that because Ireland is one island it can never be part of Britain; well it cannot because it isn't as "Ireland" and "Britain" as islands are mere geographical entities which are part of the wider archipelago known as the "British Isles". You would probably further advance the principle that because Ireland is one island then, ergo, it should form one sovereign unitary polity regardless of whatever the totality of wishes of all the inhabitants of the island are. Taking the principle that the nation-state should be contiguous with territory, then Scotland can never be an independent country because it is geographically part of the island of Great Britain. Better still, the Basque and Catalan peoples cannot have independence because they form part of the Iberian Peninsula and there should be a single European state because Europe forms a continental landmass.

  9. So innocent Irish people will continue to die and the young will fill the prisons with zero chance of success "cos the brits made us do it"? The fact that the vast majority of Irish people don't want you has no bearing? You know best? Pathetic.

  10. Can somebody give Sean Bres some cheese to go with his whine ... please?

  11. It has nothing to do with 'you know best'. The simple fact is Ireland is one country, it always has been and always will be. Unfortunately for ourselves we happened to be subject to external interference by a more powerful and domineering neighbour, who held it was acceptable practice to invade other lands and take what it pleased by force. Much of this involved a resort to massive violence, not only in Ireland but around the world. We should though be conscious that no crime was committed anywhere by Britain not first endured by the Irish.

    So yet again we come back to it, what right had Britain to do any of this and what right today has it got to remain in Ireland? If you believe, as seems to be the suggestion, that the will of the Irish people should dictate this matter then let's ask them, surely they have that right. Again, it's not rocket science and no-one needs to die or go to prison as claimed for anything I advocate. The 1916 Societies encourage an all-Ireland, single constituency, yes or no referendum on the matter of partition, which is without legitimacy given that it was set out in violation of the democratically expressed will of the Irish people. That is the only democratic position, anything beyond that - 1998 included - is a fudge predicated on British military might and the ability thus arising to prevent the Irish people from deciding matters for themselves.

    To decide matters for ourselves we must be free to do so how WE choose, not as dictated to by a more powerful state who frames the terms of reference to exclude such a possibility, that we might work according to our own will, to ensure it (Britain) remains in control. That's not democracy and your position, regardless of anything else, is based on the right of force and no more than that. If anything it's your position and not mine that encourages further use of force.

    Or is it do as I say not as I do? Sounds like it. I am a democrat who wants only peace for my children and my country. We've seen enough violence here to last 10 lifetimes, some of us are looking another way forward. Are you? Most likely not. It seems for you British military force has some sort of entitlement to trump the will of the people - a position bordering on fascism and with nothing to do with democracy. If you say it is otherwise then by all means, point out to those following on what right Britain established its presence in Ireland other than force. Like the Nazis in Poland in 1939 British rule in Ireland is without legitimacy and founded solely on conquest. Pathetic.

  12. Ah gee's if it's not the boul' Henry Joy crawling out from under his rock (great contribution a chara - zzzz). Slan folks, that'll do me, entertaining trolls is not why I contribute here. Enjoy the week Peter, likewise yourself Tony

  13. Once again you fail to mention the mandate for violence by republican micro groups. We can go round and round in circles over partition and its legitimacy, but we are where we are on that. The GFA (imperfect tho it is) was a slam dunk on that. The nub of my question to you is: what right have republicans got to murder Irishmen in the name of Ireland? This has nothing to do with the Anglo-Norman invasion in the 1100s or partition. If the Army are used to save the lives of innocent members of the community in Lurgan or Strabane how can you complain? How will the deaths of a few policemen and/or passers-by achieve a 32 county socialist republic?

  14. In your next comment Peter tell me what that has to do with me and the campaign I help promote. Understandably you can't answer the question put to you because we both no the right of conquest has nothing to do with democracy

  15. "We've seen enough violence here to last 10 lifetimes, some of us are looking another way forward."

    I believe the vast majority of us are in agreement with you Sean about the extent of violence witnessed ... far, far too much and all for no extra gains over and above of what would have been achieved without it.

    And for the sake of the argument I'll accept your good intention with regards to seeking another way forward. However most citizens will want clarity about as to where exactly you're moving 'forward' to. They'll want to appraise your strategy in order to reassure themselves that we're not going to be unintentionally dragged back into the quagmire and pain of the violent past already referred to . Its a mammoth task you've set yourselves. Any strategy that doesn't in the first instance actively address and accommodate concerns of PUL's about their identity and security is doomed. Even the most cursory analysis of your proposal will leave most thinking people on the island firmly averse to what they will consider an ill-timed, ill-conceived and an unnecessarily risky plan. You're up against it, big-time. The 26 counties has changed considerably over the last few years; far more diverse communities exist throughout the state and a much more pluralist interpretation of historical events, much more so than the old exclusive republican/nationalist narrative, is now well on the way to being broadly accepted. I wouldn't have much hope of success for your efforts.

    I'm inclined to agree with Peter; warts and all the GFA is maybe as good as it gets!