The Fenian Way ✒ concludes his exchange with Anthony McIntyre on the inferences to be drawn from John Crawley's book which detailed systemic shortcomings within the IRA.

AM: In assessments of how a former revolutionary body became compliant with British designs to secure an internal solution, the issue of infiltration invariably comes up. A Sinn Fein supporter who I was chatting with recently, in defence of the current strategy contended that the war was lost due to informers, and he flagged up the Castlereagh files in support of his belief.  Apparently, according to whispers emerging from within the Provos, the IRA intelligence people have managed to unveil 500 on the Special Branch payroll. That is a lot of people working for the RUC. How accurate it is and to what level the penetration went, I do not know. Against that, the former head of Belfast Special Branch when interviewed by me claimed “Belfast Special Branch never had 500 informers. I will not tell you how many but it was not even half that number.” These things are always difficult to tie down. Nevertheless, three of the commenters seem to agree that agents played a huge role in the defeat of the IRA.

Peter: How much of a hand do you think the British had on the tiller? Is there any possibility that members of the A/C were MI6 agents? Or is it more likely that they were agents of influence, with both parties steering the conflict in the same direction?  The Adams/MMG relationship with the British - there clearly was one, but was it coercive or did they just use each other to get what they both wanted? Was political power the goal or a reward?

Cam: Why would structural change be possible when the agent is in control?

Martin: Could it have been possible that the British with hundreds of years of colonialism and counter insurgency experience - and with the placing of well-placed traitors in the high positions in the army - could the internal security’s freeroll in all army matters have been conceived by the Brits and then introduced as having come from those leaders - military geniuses who were in fact never geniuses at all?

AM: Is all of this much too simplistic, and in its stead are there other factors more worthy of consideration?

TFW: Basically there are two types of agent, the one who infiltrates to thwart and frustrate military operations, capture volunteers, interfere with equipment, set up ambushes etc.: the other who infiltrates to influence policy and direction, turn the compromised - like Donaldson, advise government on political approaches and so on. I don’t subscribe to the view that members of the Army Council were British Agents in either of those senses. I do believe that because of the longevity of certain members on the Army Council, and their willingness to accept an internal settlement, it was in the interests of British Intelligence to keep them there. They were unconscious assets! Their political point of view was encouraged and, to a large degree, developed, not least of the hardman image deliberately fostered around Martin McGuinness and then, in its next phase, the brilliant negotiator. The question I would pose now, given what has transpired and settled for, were they ever republicans to begin with or just nationalists reacting to civil rights abuses? So the notion of leading ‘republicans’ being turned by British spooks to explain the acceptance of an internal settlement, the endless subterfuge within ‘Internal Security’, the John Le Carré route, set against the notion that they were northern nationalists to begin with, content with equality of treatment within the Six Counties - which satisfies Powell’s observation? Occam’s Razor certainly champions the latter.

AM: The upcoming comment does not go so far as to level any accusation of being agents at the leadership, but it does open the way for a view that some leaders were perhaps assets in that they had to have been aware of exactly what British state strategy was. And this is reinforced by the second and third comments.

Suil eile: Was it that easy for the British Govt to reinvent themselves as the benevolent peacemakers while maintaining the status quo? It's a fairly slick move but surely the Republican leadership was aware what they were at?

Gavin Casey: It has been often stated that the British identified Adams and McGuinness as people 'they could do business with.' The British business model has forever been founded upon exploitation. So I don't think it's unreasonable to conclude that when the Brits said this, they really meant people they could exploit.

Pete Trumbore:
Surely some of the issues that you and TFW are raising were visible to some higher up the ladder than the volunteers in the field?

TFW: Matters are never obvious when they transpire over a decade and particularly within a clandestine organisation like the IRA. The British knew a settlement was possible with Adams and McGuinness but they had to be sure they could take the IRA with them, or at least the bulk of it. Given the low intensity of the campaign the British could absorb anything the IRA could inflict on them irrespective of how spectacular republicans believed certain operations to be. The Long War was actually, from the British perspective, the Long Peace, and the British prevailed. It wasn’t a question of the British re-inventing themselves; it was more the case of the British stepping into the role that the stance of the IRA leadership allowed them to fill.

AM: On the issue of a military strategy we see the emergence of diverging views from commenters, particularly when the emphasis in on attacks in England vis a vis attacks against British troops in Ireland.

Christy: I don’t think any amount of new weaponry like AKs would have made much of a difference - the point of guerrilla warfare is to strike at high prestige and economic targets and not the defences they put up around those targets - like soldiers or cops. I think the IRA mindset was aspiring to replicate the Vietnamese approach of sending body bags back to the US. I think a better approach from an IRA perspective would have been to bring their war directly to the British elite and never let them feel safe.

Terry:
The Luftwaffe bombed every major city in England, not to mention the attacks on Belfast, over an 8 month period resulting in deaths of 40,000 people. In one period the bombed London for almost 60 consecutive nights. And yet they still won the Battle of Britain and ultimately the war. Do people really believe a few guys from South Armagh with mixes of sugar and fertiliser (I am jesting but you know what I mean) would somehow have any impact on the British establishment?

TFW: To the British, IRA operations, either in Ireland or Britain were an ever-decreasing irritant because they knew the endgame would be on their terms and within a finite timeframe. The viability of military operations is not just the calibre and frequency of them but the political intent behind them. When you consider a military campaign devoid of strategy being led by a leadership whose intent was an internal settlement, throwing AKs at it as some form of solution entirely misses the point. New leadership, republican leadership, was necessary to give effect to any military campaign with clear political objectives behind them.

AM: Here, Christy thinks a focus in England would have had an impact, but Terry argues that it would have been severely limited. How are we to strategically evaluate the possible impact? I think there is a danger that it becomes binary, an either/or choice. Either way, neither would view an upskilling in volunteers nor an increase in the availability of AKs, as being of much consequence. 

There is another way of looking at it, one that detects a sense a fear at the heart of leadership, which our exchange thus far has not given much consideration weight to. It suggests that the leadership was  concerned that the IRA would be defeated if it went into the field in the way that you and John Crawley think was possible.

Alex: Fundamentally, I believe the leadership feared the real possibility of a defeat for the IRA on the battlefield. Such an outcome would have left them bankrupt going into a future negotiation.

TFW: The question regarding potential defeat is interesting because it opens up a number of scenarios around such a possibility but, more pointedly, to the relationship between armed struggle and the electoral/negotiations strategy. Those promoting the latter required the demise of the former to justify the departure. Defeat of the IRA was never going to manifest itself, no more than a military defeat of the British army was. But the only price the Adams leadership could exact from the British in return for accepting an internal settlement was the appearance of a military stalemate. To give it another description, Adams and McGuinness surrendered the IRA and sold it as a victory.

AM: Your emphasis on the sovereignty question has prompted some reflection: The following four comments – explicit in the second and third and implicit in the first and fourth - suggest that the North-South divide within the Movement might have compromised the attachment to sovereignty as a core concept. I am taking a liberty here and presuming Steve R’s rural/urban divide might also reflect the North South one. This is based on my own understanding that the IRA in rural communities was more comfortably within a traditional republican paradigm whereas those in Belfast and Derry fit more into the category described by Dolours Price as sixty niners. The hostility of the rural republicans was against partition per se whereas the enmity of their city counterparts was more against the effects of partition.

Brandon Sullivan: the motivation of a typical volunteer was most probably, pre-imprisonment anyway, less political purist and sovereign nationalist and more, as Ed Moloney put it, in the Defenderist tradition . . . The IRA existed for sovereign reasons, but was propelled by a swelling within its ranks of those without a considered political allegiance to sovereignty. I think this explains in part why an internal settlement didn’t cause widespread splits.

TFW: Astute and to the point!

Martin: When the Republican Army split from a one nation army to a northern/southern command structure was that in fact not an admission that they accepted partition?

Mick Hall: why did the army council etc. gradually seep north from Dublin until almost all of the departments were based and controlled in the six counties by northerners. Was this a fatal flaw as far as sovereignty was concerned?

Steve R: How big was the difference in opinion between the clannish border volunteers compared to the urbanites?

TFW: The structure of the IRA, and Sinn Fein, did project a partitionist mindset with the Northern element viewing itself as more important than the south. It may well be the case that southern opposition to any moves towards an internal settlement ranked much less than any Six County counterpart hence the thrust of the GFA was geared toward their approval first and foremost.

AM: Elevating in importance the Army constitution has invited the following observation which I think might miss the point you are making but is there a strategic relevance to what is said? The comment seems to suggest that by delaying the break until 1997 and the leadership’s snubbing of the Army Executive and constitution, that the opportunity was missed by not having parted company in 1986. In the intervening years did the leadership not strengthen its grip on the entire movement to such a point that its position was unassailable from within?

MDB: I cannot understand how centering fidelity to the IRA constitution, the constitution of a secret army and therefore by definition secret, is any less esoteric … I am trying to understand the point of view those who see a decisive break over that issue and not the other … If the Republic was the objective, then 1986 should have been the breaking point not 1997.

TFW: This completely misses the point. Of course loyalty is to the objective but that can equate to nothing more than having the Proclamation over the mantlepiece as a measurement of it. The struggle upon which that loyalty is pursued requires a code of conduct as a form of self-regulation to ensure the struggle itself cannot undermine the ultimate objective. As outlined in the exchange once the leadership began to remove itself from that self-regulatory process their intent became clear and not merely speculative.

AM: you have identified what you think was the framework of an alternative strategy. While the next question preceded you outlining that alternative, it nevertheless has relevance to any ideas that imply the development of a dual power type scenario.

Donal O Coisdealbha: The key question is what basis would the alternative political power have had?

TFW: The pursuit of the military strategy as outlined in the previous exchange vis a vis undermining policing and criminal justice creates a vacuum that needs to be politically filled. In such circumstances all such political acts are expressions of Irish sovereignty. The political power basis is established by the struggle itself. It has to be built around a realistic strategy to achieve attainable goals.

AM: the next question is based on what I have described as the supposed impossibilist goal of the IRA achieving a united Ireland.

Henry Joy: "Structurally, the balance of political forces on the island was too strong to be toppled by the IRA. Ideologically, there was a far stronger commitment to the unity only by consent principle than there was support for unity by coercion." I wonder what TWF makes of your analysis ?

TFW: The majority of people on the island favour unity, this is denied through coercion. The consent argument works both ways. When we remove ourselves from the binary view of things political opportunities arise. This is the essence of how effective alternatives can be devised without any loss of principle or legitimacy.

AM: They favour unity but oppose the IRA methods of achieving unity. On what grounds can republicans pursuing armed struggle point to the majority support on the island for unity as something that gives right to an armed struggle while ignoring the majority support for peaceful means? Are armed republicans not open to the charge that they have an instrumentalist view of what the majority feel – use it when it suits but ignore it when it doesn’t? Do we not end up in a situation where the only rights the Irish people have are the rights the armed struggle lobby assign to them? And is the IRA violation of the right of the people of Ireland to be free from an armed struggle for Irish Unity not on a par with the British and unionist violation of the right of the Irish people to unity? Do we not end up cherry picking from the rights tree?

TWF: But the key point here is the British denial of that majority support through a coercive support for the minority view which dovetails with British interests in Ireland. In the aforementioned strategy IRA methods are not solely concerned with achieving the final goal but to undermine the built-in imbalance of unionist consent against nationalist consent managed by the British. To resolve that would negate the need for armed struggle. For all the hype of the GFA securing equality, a unionist vote has a triple lock guarantee that it will prevail over a nationalist vote. In essence there is no such thing as majority support in a political arrangement that perpetually disregards it.

AM: On the matter of armed struggle paradigm is there space for dissent from armed struggle within it? The following observation comes form a man who in all conscience could no longer support armed campaigning but who was told to be silent or leave.

Des Dalton: I resigned from Republican Sinn Féin when it was made clear to me that my view that continuing to support a largely non-existent armed campaign was serving only to continue to fill jails and possibly worse was not open to any debate and if I continued as a member I would have to remain silent on this issue.

TFW: Armed struggle is not a republican obligation, never has been, never should be. The right to engage in it is tempered by two practical realities; firstly our right to wage it does not automatically equate to it being right to do so. Secondly, the right to wage it, again, does not automatically equate with the ability to do so. Both criterion would have to be in play if the option of armed struggle is to be on the table. If you discharge a right in an irresponsible fashion, you cause irreparable damage to that right. Dalton’s position and actions are mature, pragmatic and correct. The points you (AM) raised concerning rights, support and armed struggle are pertinent to the stance that Dalton faced within RSF.

AM: Some have argued that the internal solution only really came on the after the big arms shipments from Libya arrived and the IRA was not up to the task of using them. The next question challenges that.

John Crawley: A narrative has been spun that in the mid-1980s the IRA were planning a so-called ‘Tet Offensive’ with the vastly enhanced military capacity they acquired from Libya. Leaving aside the glaring omission that the IRA were not trained or organised to carry out combined armed military manoeuvres of this scope and sophistication the narrative continues that the seizure of the Eksund arms shipment in November 1987 forced a re-think on behalf of the IRA leadership. If that were the case, what is TFW’s opinion on the fact that in the second week of May 1987 (according to Ed Moloney) Gerry Adams sent a letter to Charles Haughey via Father Alec Reid outlining IRA terms for ending the armed struggle? This was six months before the Eksund was captured.

TFW: The ‘Tet Offensive’ was an over-dramatized description of the expectation of an increase in military operations as a result of the Libyan shipments. The glaring omission pointed out by John regarding combined military operations is certainly pertinent but the expectation of an increase in operations was equally valid given the amount of munitions involved. That this didn’t materialise has absolutely nothing to do with the capture of the Eksund. At this juncture the IRA was never better armed in its entire history but equally, as the letter referenced by John proves, it was led by people whose minds were already made up regarding an internal settlement. In his book John makes the point that it’s not simply the role of leadership to supply such weaponry but also the proper training and direction of its use. This did not happen and wasn’t going to happen even if the Eksund arms were successfully landed.

AM: Finally, much has been said either in our discussion or via the comments about the deception routinely practiced by the leadership. The next comment suggests that this is much too simplistic, that people knew what was going on even if they pretended not to. One way of reading this is that after years of armed struggle the IRA had clocked up too many miles and was no longer roadworthy: it had simply hit burn-out.

Sean Bresnahan: I don’t buy the idea that it was all chicanery by Adams and McGuinness. People went along with it when the hard truth is that what was happening was there to be seen. They accepted that strategy, which you rightly have styled as the ‘long wait’. That is exactly what it was and all it was ever understood to be. With fluff and guff attached, for sure, but the fundamental remains.

TFW: Let me put it this way, some people actually believed that decommissioning was an exercise in freeing up dumps to get ‘better gear’ in. When all those people paraded down the Falls Road after the first ceasefire was announced they genuinely believed that something significant was going to be announced by the British. The cult of personality led to a critique system based on the premise that ‘if it’s alright for Gerry and Martin it’s alright for me’. As referenced in a previous exchange, the need to be relevant trumped the need to be right, and in an environment where blind loyalty was the key to retaining position what was obvious didn’t matter. I agree with the point that it wasn’t all chicanery by Adams and McGuinness, it didn’t have to be, the irreplaceable mindset was more than willing to play its part.

AM: On that I think we have reached the end of the road. From the people I have talked to and for those commenting it has been a worthwhile venture. Is there anything you want to add to close the entire exchange?

TFW: Central to my review of John’s book, and the subsequent exchanges with yourself, has been the observation of Johnathon Powell as to how he and Blair were astonished at how much the ‘republican’ leadership conceded in return for so little from the British. To my mind, any objective analysis of that period must commence with the veracity of that observation and work back through a lineage of events which explains it.

My own conclusions, from my experiences at leadership level, is that the Powell observation can only be explained by the inescapable fact that elements of the Movement’s leadership, most notably Adams and McGuinness, were not republicans, but northern nationalists content with equality within the Six Counties. When you cut through the hyperbole, the intrigue and the need to demonise, common sense must prevail.

I hope that both John’s book, and his qualified and professional opinions, and these exchanges with yourself, promote this common-sense approach, not least, because common sense is also required to address that other pertinent observation; where does Irish republicanism go from here? Many thanks!

⏩ The Fenian Way was a full time activist during the IRA's war against the British. 

⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre

In Quillversation 🎯 IRA Surrender Sold As A Victory

The Fenian Way ✒ concludes his exchange with Anthony McIntyre on the inferences to be drawn from John Crawley's book which detailed systemic shortcomings within the IRA.

AM: In assessments of how a former revolutionary body became compliant with British designs to secure an internal solution, the issue of infiltration invariably comes up. A Sinn Fein supporter who I was chatting with recently, in defence of the current strategy contended that the war was lost due to informers, and he flagged up the Castlereagh files in support of his belief.  Apparently, according to whispers emerging from within the Provos, the IRA intelligence people have managed to unveil 500 on the Special Branch payroll. That is a lot of people working for the RUC. How accurate it is and to what level the penetration went, I do not know. Against that, the former head of Belfast Special Branch when interviewed by me claimed “Belfast Special Branch never had 500 informers. I will not tell you how many but it was not even half that number.” These things are always difficult to tie down. Nevertheless, three of the commenters seem to agree that agents played a huge role in the defeat of the IRA.

Peter: How much of a hand do you think the British had on the tiller? Is there any possibility that members of the A/C were MI6 agents? Or is it more likely that they were agents of influence, with both parties steering the conflict in the same direction?  The Adams/MMG relationship with the British - there clearly was one, but was it coercive or did they just use each other to get what they both wanted? Was political power the goal or a reward?

Cam: Why would structural change be possible when the agent is in control?

Martin: Could it have been possible that the British with hundreds of years of colonialism and counter insurgency experience - and with the placing of well-placed traitors in the high positions in the army - could the internal security’s freeroll in all army matters have been conceived by the Brits and then introduced as having come from those leaders - military geniuses who were in fact never geniuses at all?

AM: Is all of this much too simplistic, and in its stead are there other factors more worthy of consideration?

TFW: Basically there are two types of agent, the one who infiltrates to thwart and frustrate military operations, capture volunteers, interfere with equipment, set up ambushes etc.: the other who infiltrates to influence policy and direction, turn the compromised - like Donaldson, advise government on political approaches and so on. I don’t subscribe to the view that members of the Army Council were British Agents in either of those senses. I do believe that because of the longevity of certain members on the Army Council, and their willingness to accept an internal settlement, it was in the interests of British Intelligence to keep them there. They were unconscious assets! Their political point of view was encouraged and, to a large degree, developed, not least of the hardman image deliberately fostered around Martin McGuinness and then, in its next phase, the brilliant negotiator. The question I would pose now, given what has transpired and settled for, were they ever republicans to begin with or just nationalists reacting to civil rights abuses? So the notion of leading ‘republicans’ being turned by British spooks to explain the acceptance of an internal settlement, the endless subterfuge within ‘Internal Security’, the John Le Carré route, set against the notion that they were northern nationalists to begin with, content with equality of treatment within the Six Counties - which satisfies Powell’s observation? Occam’s Razor certainly champions the latter.

AM: The upcoming comment does not go so far as to level any accusation of being agents at the leadership, but it does open the way for a view that some leaders were perhaps assets in that they had to have been aware of exactly what British state strategy was. And this is reinforced by the second and third comments.

Suil eile: Was it that easy for the British Govt to reinvent themselves as the benevolent peacemakers while maintaining the status quo? It's a fairly slick move but surely the Republican leadership was aware what they were at?

Gavin Casey: It has been often stated that the British identified Adams and McGuinness as people 'they could do business with.' The British business model has forever been founded upon exploitation. So I don't think it's unreasonable to conclude that when the Brits said this, they really meant people they could exploit.

Pete Trumbore:
Surely some of the issues that you and TFW are raising were visible to some higher up the ladder than the volunteers in the field?

TFW: Matters are never obvious when they transpire over a decade and particularly within a clandestine organisation like the IRA. The British knew a settlement was possible with Adams and McGuinness but they had to be sure they could take the IRA with them, or at least the bulk of it. Given the low intensity of the campaign the British could absorb anything the IRA could inflict on them irrespective of how spectacular republicans believed certain operations to be. The Long War was actually, from the British perspective, the Long Peace, and the British prevailed. It wasn’t a question of the British re-inventing themselves; it was more the case of the British stepping into the role that the stance of the IRA leadership allowed them to fill.

AM: On the issue of a military strategy we see the emergence of diverging views from commenters, particularly when the emphasis in on attacks in England vis a vis attacks against British troops in Ireland.

Christy: I don’t think any amount of new weaponry like AKs would have made much of a difference - the point of guerrilla warfare is to strike at high prestige and economic targets and not the defences they put up around those targets - like soldiers or cops. I think the IRA mindset was aspiring to replicate the Vietnamese approach of sending body bags back to the US. I think a better approach from an IRA perspective would have been to bring their war directly to the British elite and never let them feel safe.

Terry:
The Luftwaffe bombed every major city in England, not to mention the attacks on Belfast, over an 8 month period resulting in deaths of 40,000 people. In one period the bombed London for almost 60 consecutive nights. And yet they still won the Battle of Britain and ultimately the war. Do people really believe a few guys from South Armagh with mixes of sugar and fertiliser (I am jesting but you know what I mean) would somehow have any impact on the British establishment?

TFW: To the British, IRA operations, either in Ireland or Britain were an ever-decreasing irritant because they knew the endgame would be on their terms and within a finite timeframe. The viability of military operations is not just the calibre and frequency of them but the political intent behind them. When you consider a military campaign devoid of strategy being led by a leadership whose intent was an internal settlement, throwing AKs at it as some form of solution entirely misses the point. New leadership, republican leadership, was necessary to give effect to any military campaign with clear political objectives behind them.

AM: Here, Christy thinks a focus in England would have had an impact, but Terry argues that it would have been severely limited. How are we to strategically evaluate the possible impact? I think there is a danger that it becomes binary, an either/or choice. Either way, neither would view an upskilling in volunteers nor an increase in the availability of AKs, as being of much consequence. 

There is another way of looking at it, one that detects a sense a fear at the heart of leadership, which our exchange thus far has not given much consideration weight to. It suggests that the leadership was  concerned that the IRA would be defeated if it went into the field in the way that you and John Crawley think was possible.

Alex: Fundamentally, I believe the leadership feared the real possibility of a defeat for the IRA on the battlefield. Such an outcome would have left them bankrupt going into a future negotiation.

TFW: The question regarding potential defeat is interesting because it opens up a number of scenarios around such a possibility but, more pointedly, to the relationship between armed struggle and the electoral/negotiations strategy. Those promoting the latter required the demise of the former to justify the departure. Defeat of the IRA was never going to manifest itself, no more than a military defeat of the British army was. But the only price the Adams leadership could exact from the British in return for accepting an internal settlement was the appearance of a military stalemate. To give it another description, Adams and McGuinness surrendered the IRA and sold it as a victory.

AM: Your emphasis on the sovereignty question has prompted some reflection: The following four comments – explicit in the second and third and implicit in the first and fourth - suggest that the North-South divide within the Movement might have compromised the attachment to sovereignty as a core concept. I am taking a liberty here and presuming Steve R’s rural/urban divide might also reflect the North South one. This is based on my own understanding that the IRA in rural communities was more comfortably within a traditional republican paradigm whereas those in Belfast and Derry fit more into the category described by Dolours Price as sixty niners. The hostility of the rural republicans was against partition per se whereas the enmity of their city counterparts was more against the effects of partition.

Brandon Sullivan: the motivation of a typical volunteer was most probably, pre-imprisonment anyway, less political purist and sovereign nationalist and more, as Ed Moloney put it, in the Defenderist tradition . . . The IRA existed for sovereign reasons, but was propelled by a swelling within its ranks of those without a considered political allegiance to sovereignty. I think this explains in part why an internal settlement didn’t cause widespread splits.

TFW: Astute and to the point!

Martin: When the Republican Army split from a one nation army to a northern/southern command structure was that in fact not an admission that they accepted partition?

Mick Hall: why did the army council etc. gradually seep north from Dublin until almost all of the departments were based and controlled in the six counties by northerners. Was this a fatal flaw as far as sovereignty was concerned?

Steve R: How big was the difference in opinion between the clannish border volunteers compared to the urbanites?

TFW: The structure of the IRA, and Sinn Fein, did project a partitionist mindset with the Northern element viewing itself as more important than the south. It may well be the case that southern opposition to any moves towards an internal settlement ranked much less than any Six County counterpart hence the thrust of the GFA was geared toward their approval first and foremost.

AM: Elevating in importance the Army constitution has invited the following observation which I think might miss the point you are making but is there a strategic relevance to what is said? The comment seems to suggest that by delaying the break until 1997 and the leadership’s snubbing of the Army Executive and constitution, that the opportunity was missed by not having parted company in 1986. In the intervening years did the leadership not strengthen its grip on the entire movement to such a point that its position was unassailable from within?

MDB: I cannot understand how centering fidelity to the IRA constitution, the constitution of a secret army and therefore by definition secret, is any less esoteric … I am trying to understand the point of view those who see a decisive break over that issue and not the other … If the Republic was the objective, then 1986 should have been the breaking point not 1997.

TFW: This completely misses the point. Of course loyalty is to the objective but that can equate to nothing more than having the Proclamation over the mantlepiece as a measurement of it. The struggle upon which that loyalty is pursued requires a code of conduct as a form of self-regulation to ensure the struggle itself cannot undermine the ultimate objective. As outlined in the exchange once the leadership began to remove itself from that self-regulatory process their intent became clear and not merely speculative.

AM: you have identified what you think was the framework of an alternative strategy. While the next question preceded you outlining that alternative, it nevertheless has relevance to any ideas that imply the development of a dual power type scenario.

Donal O Coisdealbha: The key question is what basis would the alternative political power have had?

TFW: The pursuit of the military strategy as outlined in the previous exchange vis a vis undermining policing and criminal justice creates a vacuum that needs to be politically filled. In such circumstances all such political acts are expressions of Irish sovereignty. The political power basis is established by the struggle itself. It has to be built around a realistic strategy to achieve attainable goals.

AM: the next question is based on what I have described as the supposed impossibilist goal of the IRA achieving a united Ireland.

Henry Joy: "Structurally, the balance of political forces on the island was too strong to be toppled by the IRA. Ideologically, there was a far stronger commitment to the unity only by consent principle than there was support for unity by coercion." I wonder what TWF makes of your analysis ?

TFW: The majority of people on the island favour unity, this is denied through coercion. The consent argument works both ways. When we remove ourselves from the binary view of things political opportunities arise. This is the essence of how effective alternatives can be devised without any loss of principle or legitimacy.

AM: They favour unity but oppose the IRA methods of achieving unity. On what grounds can republicans pursuing armed struggle point to the majority support on the island for unity as something that gives right to an armed struggle while ignoring the majority support for peaceful means? Are armed republicans not open to the charge that they have an instrumentalist view of what the majority feel – use it when it suits but ignore it when it doesn’t? Do we not end up in a situation where the only rights the Irish people have are the rights the armed struggle lobby assign to them? And is the IRA violation of the right of the people of Ireland to be free from an armed struggle for Irish Unity not on a par with the British and unionist violation of the right of the Irish people to unity? Do we not end up cherry picking from the rights tree?

TWF: But the key point here is the British denial of that majority support through a coercive support for the minority view which dovetails with British interests in Ireland. In the aforementioned strategy IRA methods are not solely concerned with achieving the final goal but to undermine the built-in imbalance of unionist consent against nationalist consent managed by the British. To resolve that would negate the need for armed struggle. For all the hype of the GFA securing equality, a unionist vote has a triple lock guarantee that it will prevail over a nationalist vote. In essence there is no such thing as majority support in a political arrangement that perpetually disregards it.

AM: On the matter of armed struggle paradigm is there space for dissent from armed struggle within it? The following observation comes form a man who in all conscience could no longer support armed campaigning but who was told to be silent or leave.

Des Dalton: I resigned from Republican Sinn Féin when it was made clear to me that my view that continuing to support a largely non-existent armed campaign was serving only to continue to fill jails and possibly worse was not open to any debate and if I continued as a member I would have to remain silent on this issue.

TFW: Armed struggle is not a republican obligation, never has been, never should be. The right to engage in it is tempered by two practical realities; firstly our right to wage it does not automatically equate to it being right to do so. Secondly, the right to wage it, again, does not automatically equate with the ability to do so. Both criterion would have to be in play if the option of armed struggle is to be on the table. If you discharge a right in an irresponsible fashion, you cause irreparable damage to that right. Dalton’s position and actions are mature, pragmatic and correct. The points you (AM) raised concerning rights, support and armed struggle are pertinent to the stance that Dalton faced within RSF.

AM: Some have argued that the internal solution only really came on the after the big arms shipments from Libya arrived and the IRA was not up to the task of using them. The next question challenges that.

John Crawley: A narrative has been spun that in the mid-1980s the IRA were planning a so-called ‘Tet Offensive’ with the vastly enhanced military capacity they acquired from Libya. Leaving aside the glaring omission that the IRA were not trained or organised to carry out combined armed military manoeuvres of this scope and sophistication the narrative continues that the seizure of the Eksund arms shipment in November 1987 forced a re-think on behalf of the IRA leadership. If that were the case, what is TFW’s opinion on the fact that in the second week of May 1987 (according to Ed Moloney) Gerry Adams sent a letter to Charles Haughey via Father Alec Reid outlining IRA terms for ending the armed struggle? This was six months before the Eksund was captured.

TFW: The ‘Tet Offensive’ was an over-dramatized description of the expectation of an increase in military operations as a result of the Libyan shipments. The glaring omission pointed out by John regarding combined military operations is certainly pertinent but the expectation of an increase in operations was equally valid given the amount of munitions involved. That this didn’t materialise has absolutely nothing to do with the capture of the Eksund. At this juncture the IRA was never better armed in its entire history but equally, as the letter referenced by John proves, it was led by people whose minds were already made up regarding an internal settlement. In his book John makes the point that it’s not simply the role of leadership to supply such weaponry but also the proper training and direction of its use. This did not happen and wasn’t going to happen even if the Eksund arms were successfully landed.

AM: Finally, much has been said either in our discussion or via the comments about the deception routinely practiced by the leadership. The next comment suggests that this is much too simplistic, that people knew what was going on even if they pretended not to. One way of reading this is that after years of armed struggle the IRA had clocked up too many miles and was no longer roadworthy: it had simply hit burn-out.

Sean Bresnahan: I don’t buy the idea that it was all chicanery by Adams and McGuinness. People went along with it when the hard truth is that what was happening was there to be seen. They accepted that strategy, which you rightly have styled as the ‘long wait’. That is exactly what it was and all it was ever understood to be. With fluff and guff attached, for sure, but the fundamental remains.

TFW: Let me put it this way, some people actually believed that decommissioning was an exercise in freeing up dumps to get ‘better gear’ in. When all those people paraded down the Falls Road after the first ceasefire was announced they genuinely believed that something significant was going to be announced by the British. The cult of personality led to a critique system based on the premise that ‘if it’s alright for Gerry and Martin it’s alright for me’. As referenced in a previous exchange, the need to be relevant trumped the need to be right, and in an environment where blind loyalty was the key to retaining position what was obvious didn’t matter. I agree with the point that it wasn’t all chicanery by Adams and McGuinness, it didn’t have to be, the irreplaceable mindset was more than willing to play its part.

AM: On that I think we have reached the end of the road. From the people I have talked to and for those commenting it has been a worthwhile venture. Is there anything you want to add to close the entire exchange?

TFW: Central to my review of John’s book, and the subsequent exchanges with yourself, has been the observation of Johnathon Powell as to how he and Blair were astonished at how much the ‘republican’ leadership conceded in return for so little from the British. To my mind, any objective analysis of that period must commence with the veracity of that observation and work back through a lineage of events which explains it.

My own conclusions, from my experiences at leadership level, is that the Powell observation can only be explained by the inescapable fact that elements of the Movement’s leadership, most notably Adams and McGuinness, were not republicans, but northern nationalists content with equality within the Six Counties. When you cut through the hyperbole, the intrigue and the need to demonise, common sense must prevail.

I hope that both John’s book, and his qualified and professional opinions, and these exchanges with yourself, promote this common-sense approach, not least, because common sense is also required to address that other pertinent observation; where does Irish republicanism go from here? Many thanks!

⏩ The Fenian Way was a full time activist during the IRA's war against the British. 

⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre

26 comments:

  1. I really want to thank TFW and Anthony for putting together this exchange. It has been an illuminating conversation and I think, along with John's book, an invaluable resource for future students of Republicanism. The fact that there has been so little attention thus far on the strategic failure of the movement, both military and political, is really extraordinary for all the reasons TFW describes. I do hope they will continue to present their perspective in the public square.
    I also appreciate Anthony's framing of my comment which I admit I fired off without much careful thought. And TFW's response with respect to the importance of guardrails. I do think that any number of the issues raised in the discussion: the dangers of reformism replacing republicanism, flouting of the constitution, diminishment of a 32 county perspective, personality cult around leadership, and above all, the relegation of the republic in favour of a equality agenda were all there in 1986 to be seen. And that resisting the machination of the Adams leadership at that point crystalizing around the issue of abstentionism would have proved more fruitful than the doing so after further consolidation and the issue of the Mitchell Principles/breeching the constitution.

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    1. MDB - thanks for the generous comment. Happy that you found it a worthwhile venture

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    1. Thanks Boyne Rover - it is always hard to tell if such discussions are of interest but seemingly they are. I think it was harder for people to see back in the day what is staring them in the face now. The outcome being lucrative political careers and no end to partition and sovereignty residing in full with London.

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  3. It used to be Sinn Fein / IRA ...now its Sinn Fein / DUP its backwards the unification project has gone

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    1. I am sure you will get somebody to tell us that we are 54 years closer to Irish unity than we were when the Provisional IRA campaign started Doh!

      The British managed quite well their strategic objective of bringing the IRA leadership to a unity only by consent position and away from its position of unity by coercion. This exchange has tried to tease out how the British were able to do such.

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  4. A really interesting exchange. Many thanks. The similarities between Sinn Fein and religion are clear when you read through the history of the GFA, like the muppets driving around Belfast with tricolours on "Victory Day". Saviour worship blinds them from the glaringly obvious.

    "... the one who infiltrates to thwart and frustrate military operations, capture volunteers, interfere with equipment, set up ambushes etc." It is common knowledge that a senior spook officer was brought in to oversee the degradation of the threat in Mid-Ulster in 1986. He was incredibly successful, as you well know, a dozen big hitters and also some rising stars removed in just 5 years. Cui bono? It has long been rumoured that help was received from Northern Command. I just have the feeling that there is a big story yet to come out.

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  5. There were a small number of prisoners that questioned the camp staffs statements from outside leadership. Truth be told the vast majority of prisoners hadn't a clue what was happening and hadn't the privilege of having the ear of the leadership. The big Chiefs inside long kesh often spoke with 'the authority of the Army' and thus any questioning of them was seen as disrespectful and even treacherous. The common theme was 'trust the leadership'. Those of whom continued to question the trajectory being taken were eventually ignored and chinese whispered. Despite having heated debates within the prison after an Army comm was read out the narrative in An Phoblacht that week would be along the lines that the long kesh pow's had issued a statement 'fully backing/endorsing' the republican movement leadership.I.e no dissension here gov!
    P.s some of the big Chiefs didn't even see the GFA coming and yet they sat there with all their blue mug and their 'authority' implying they knew what was actually happening. In hindsight they loved the stripes bestowed on them and nothing else.

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  6. The holocaust survivor, psychologist and author Edith Eger says that all humans intuitively figure out what to do and whom to become to get needs met.
    We all learn early on, she says, how to get our A's, the A's of attention, acceptance and affection. Getting them met is a necessary part of everyone's childhood and adolescence. Once given in reasonable and bounded measure, secure adults emerge; deficits and excesses producing more vulnerable personalities. (Hence Powell's observation).

    These vulnerabilities may have existed in McGuinness & Adams and may have been recognised by Whitehall mandarins from as early on as Cheyne Walk. They most certainly also would have been aware of McGuinness's involvement with the Officials after 'the split' and also of Adams's hesitancy before deciding to throw his lot in with the Provisionals. Their actions after 'the split' may have suggested to the British a cocooned hankering for electoralism as compared with other members of that delegation.

    The Brits, I'd guess, knew long before Adams & McGuinness themselves did that these were the Guys they'd prefer to 'parle' with. Their game plan, responses and even reactions to events never overlooked that preference.

    Sure, some will argue my take is speculative ... but what is not speculative is both men's loose association with the truth. We know both have consistently lied about their level of involvement in the IRA so how can we be surprised at their unprincipled stances; their servicing of their own unmet needs rather than those of the Republic which they swore allegiance to.

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  7. If we remove sovereignty from the debate (and I accept that for some people, that is the beginning and end of the debate), I think that a number of things were achieved that favoured nationalist (and some republican) goasl. Some of these things may have happened anyway, but I think it's arguable that, because of the ferocity of the republican backlash, they are finished permanently.

    The RUC is gone, hundreds of their officers killed, thousands injured. Arguably discredited, even disgraced. The police service that replaced it was described by Joe Brolly as the most scrutinised on earth.

    The UDR is gone, (and before it the Specials). Hundreds of their soldiers killed, thousands injured. Considered an embarrassment even by the British army, it is considered a disgraced entity by almost everybody who knows anything about it, except a significant proportion of the PUL community. British state subsidised loyalist militias are unlikely to ever see active service in Ireland again.

    Perpetual one-party Unionist rule at Storming is gone, and won't come back. The Unionist domination of the North is finished, and will never happen again. The Orange state hasn't gained any ground that it has lost, and it has been losing for fifty years.

    The British state will never subject nationalists in Ireland to the brutality that it did previously. I believe that that is in no small part is due to the effective ferocity of the republican backlash.

    The British state want out of Ireland - a side-effect of the violent republican backlash is that the British could not be seen to be forced out at the barrel of a gun. But it's obvious to anyone paying any attention that the current political establishment wish rid of the North.

    Unionism is split. Militant loyalism is split, and split again. Loyalism has lost every fight it has started since Obins Road in the mid 1980s. I'm not sure that this could be directly linked to republican actions, but is an effect of conditions created by the republican backlash.

    In a nutshell, the republican backlash to UKG and loyalist violence smashed the Orange state, permanently ruining it, and delivered repeated, substantial, menacing, violent blows to British and loyalist agencies involved in violence and/or oppression against nationalist Ireland. That these blows were not decision to the sovereign question does not negate the traumatic effect they had at British and unionist corporate levels.

    Finally, I think, the sheer horror and brutality inflicted by republicans traumatised nationalists, as well as unionists: almost nobody wants a repeat of that which came before.



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    1. I don't think it is in dispute that the goals of constitutional nationalism were advanced as a result of the IRA campaign. It is just as likely that they would have been advanced anyway. The RUC has been reformed and renamed but carries on in spite of Joe Brolly's scrutiny thwarting inquiries and not cooperating on matters pertaining to the past. It remains above all else the armed police of the British state. Which is what it was for most of the conflict despite republicans describing it as the armed wing of unionism. The PSNI does what it has to do to combat any threat to the state and would not baulk at using the methods of old if the level of threat was the same.
      The IRA campaign produced nothing that was not broadly available in 1974. Had the British known how little republicans were prepared to settle for they would have moved heaven and earth to lock the unionists into it.
      Much of the brutality the British state subjected nationalists to was part of a dialectic of political violence which had the IRA not been fighting would not have been anywhere near as severe.
      The British state wants out of Ireland just as much as it wanted out in the 70s, 80s or 90s. What it has now is a way out on its own terms and not on any other terms.
      Unionism and militant loyalism have always been split. A more important point than it being split is that it is a diminished force relative to nationalism.
      Given the demographic shift, everything that has occurred would most likely have developed without any IRA campaign.
      That is not to blame the IRA for the conflict. But if the IRA campaign is to be measured against what its stated aims were and what it achieved (Powell on how little it settled for), then it is hard not to see it as a failed campaign. It was not an unmitigated failure - but it still ended up on the canvas, counted out.
      I agree nobody wants a repeat and nowhere in the above exchange was one called for. But in this type of game the rewards come from putting the ball in the net not over the bar and then claim to have scored points.

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    2. "Unionism is split. Militant loyalism is split, and split again. Loyalism has lost every fight it has started since Obins Road in the mid 1980s"

      Probably correct but when backed into a (perceived) corner the PUL community set aside the internal squabbles and become one. Issues over splits never bothered us because we knew this, but we did find it curious how the very first whisper around the Republican movement was "Is there any sign of a split?". It seemed almost to a degree of paranoia. Recent events shed far more light on the reasoning behind this thinking.

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  8. Hello, I'm not particularly republican (voted Alliance and sometimes SDLP when I lived in NI) but for the past two or years or so have taken up Wikipedia editing, and one issue I've devoted a lot of time to is documenting every single IRA action. I've focused on the 1990s because sources are most readily available for this period and I noticed some trends that may or may not be enlightening in the context of this discussion:

    1. The IRA at the beginning of the 1990s intensified its campaign in England, and in 1990 broadly focused on three targets; British military premises e.g. bases, recruiting offices, soldiers' vehicles, British "elites" e.g. Ian Gow, former Governor of Gibraltar Sir Peter Terry, Donald Kaberry, and economic disruption e.g. railways in the SE of England and the London Stock exchange, high street shops. The targeting of British "elites" seemed to cease in 1991, although the IRA did plant bombs in the vicinity of British government institutions in 1992, and attacks on British Army targets dropped off, but economic disruption continued and the IRA from 1992 began targeting the heart of the British service-based economy in London with very large bombs.

    2. Near-daily gun and drogue bomb attacks on the RUC and British Army continued through 1990, and through 1991 sniper and grenade attacks sometimes became very frequent. Coffee jar bombs began to supplant drogue bombs in 1991, and the homemade PRIG launcher and anti-vehicle horizontal mortar appeared in 1991 also. Horizontal mortars became a favourite of IRA attacks by 1994, and were also frequently employed when the IRA briefly returned to attacks in NI in the first half of 1997. Gun attacks were very uncommon in 1994 for whatever reason. Remote-detonation bomb attacks, usually by command wire rather than radio, were common place right through 1990-1994. The IRA's mortars became more powerful with the introduction of the "barrack buster" in late 1992 although the mortar campaign against RUC/BA installations didn't reach the intensity of the mid-80s. The South Armagh IRA tried a small number of sniper attacks using the .50 Barret sniper rifles in 1990 but without success; for whatever reason they didn't try again until autumn 1992, beginning a campaign which would last up until the IRA's 1994 ceasefire and briefly resume in Spring 1997. They killed seven RUC/BA in such attacks in 1993. Attacks on part-time security forces personnel in places like Fermanagh became less frequent, but machine gun, mortar and sniper attacks on border checkpoints occurred.

    3. Sophisticated incendiary devices began to appear in commercial premises in the greater Belfast area in the closing months of 1990. The IRA hadn't employed incendiary bombs so much since the late 1970s. November-December 1991 saw an intense incendiary device campaign against Belfast city centre. These devices were employed by the IRA in NI and England right up to the 1994 ceasefire, but didn't reappear in 1996-1997.

    4. In late 1991 the IRA also recommenced car bomb against Belfast city centre and (predominantly Protestant) town centres in the east of NI. The IRA had never totally dropped the tactic in the 1980s but it wasn't nearly as common as in the 1970s. These attacks continued through 1992 and 1993 but had totally ceased by the closing months of 1993. Sporadic small-scale bomb attacks against individual buildings, typically banks, were also carried out across NI in the early 1990s.

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  9. 5. Infamously in late 1990 the IRA began forcing alleged "collaborators" to carry bombs into British Army checkpoints. These attacks continued into 1991 with the last occurring in September 1991. Around this time the IRA also seemed to be investigating more "humane" methods of delivering large bombs to checkpoints: In June 1991 Gardaí in Donegal found an armoured lorry carrying a large bomb adapted to quickly release the trailer so the IRA driver could escape the checkpoint, in May 1992 the IRA modified a van to carry a bomb along a railway to the main Newry road checkpoint, it was destroyed and a soldier killed. In August 1993 the South Armagh attempted to guide a tractor bomb by remote control to a British Army border checkpointed but it careered off course.

    6. Attacks against RUC stations using large van/lorry bombs continued from the 1980s. These typically destroyed the base, following a warning, and caused widespread collateral damage. No such attacks occurred in 1994 nor 1996-1997.

    7. The IRA started carrying out regular attempts to assassinate senior loyalist paramilitaries in 1991, against a backdrop of intensified loyalist attacks, first in mid-Ulster then Belfast. On 13 November the IRA carried out a wave of assassinations in Belfast, killing four men (two of whom were uninvolved Protestant men shot at the former home of a UVF man) and injuring several other people. That month the IRA also bombed Crumlin Road prison killing two loyalist prisoners. In 1993 the IRA was fixated on Jonny Adair, climaxing in the botched bomb attack on the UDA's Shankill Road HQ in October. Attacks in mid-Ulster continued with the IRA killing prominent UDA man Alan Smith in April 1994 and injuring Billy Wright in one of many attempts to kill him in June 1994. In July 1994 the IRA killed Ray Smallwoods, a leader in the organisation and its public face. That month the IRA also (after several previous attempts) killed UDA man Joe Bratty and his colleague Raymond Elder. In June the INLA shot dead three UVF members on the Shankill Road.

    8. A lot of IRA attacks failed or were aborted in the 1990s, but a lot succeeded also. Even if an operation was successful this was no guarantee of not being arrested in the immediate aftermath. Comparatively, not many British soldiers or RUC personnel died in the 1990s although sometimes this came down to blind luck; there were attacks where a soldier was very seriously injured and possibly only survived because of improved medical care vs. early 1970s. IRA operators *seemed* to become more risk adverse as time went on and in 1994 and 1997 there was a sharp drop-off in attacks that could result in widespread collateral damage.

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    Pardon if these comments are both a bit long, I hope they can contribute something to the discourse here.

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  10. Bleakley - thanks very much for your comments, the time and effort put in. The detail will be of immense value to researchers.
    You are most welcome here whatever your political allegiances. This is a free inquiry blog and not a republican one.
    Much appreciated.

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  11. Having read Bleakly's comprehensive list off operations carried out by the Republican Army dating from the late 80s until the cessation. How many operations would have happened if volunteers who knew then how much they were prepared to give up compared to how little the leaders accepted.If Volunteers knew the truth then would any of them have happened?

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  12. @ Bleakley

    That's an impressive compilation. Just wondering, do you have any stats on arrests/convictions of IRA personnel?

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  13. A slither of a factor that has been missing in this discussion is 'were any of our 'peace process' negotiators previously compromised and how did the British apply themselves in such a situation. Take one scenario, or two, Donaldson or Scap. Might the British have taken one or two of our leaders to the one side and revealed what recorded conversations they had on them and with the threat to reveal all and pursue our 'leaders' in the matters?

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    1. The reason for that a whole lot of other angles or slithers not being included is down to them being methods of how people might have been turned. The discussion was more about if they actually were turned and not how they were turned.
      Could what you suggest have happened? Very much so.

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    2. Don't know about Scap but DD was caught in a gay brothel in London. Different times back in the 70's.

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  14. A massive shout out to Anthony and TFW on a very personal insight , that started from, correct me if I am wrong a review of John Crawley s book The Yank. Surely the rank and file like yourself Anthony and TFW must look back and think what was it all for. The loss of life, all the years of incarceration, removed from loved ones, enduring the blanket protest, the hunger Strikes and the hell holes of the H Blocks.
    Ordinary people who lived through extraordinary times.
    I really hope history will judge you well , and that this particular topic, along with TPQ and the Blanket will be used as a reference in years to come .
    go raibh maith agat

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  15. VFP - I don't dwell on it much. There are winners and losers in all conflicts and we lost on this one. The bamboozling and careerism makes it more difficult to digest.

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  16. @ Steve R

    "Probably correct [unionist/loyalist splits] but when backed into a (perceived) corner the PUL community set aside the internal squabbles and become one. Issues over splits never bothered us because we knew this"

    You may be right, but the powerhouses of unionism/loyalism are simply not as powerful or as monolithic as they were even 20 years ago. The Shankill - in part due to "redevelopment" is depopulated and demoralised. Nowadays, it isn't a case of the UDA vs UVF, it's subsections of geographical areas of each organisation against each other. I don't think there is the military capacity for any loyalist organisation to get off the ground, and there isn't the stomach for the fight, either. I would say pretty much the same for republican paramilitaries as well. There could be a vicious sectarian fight, but I don't think it would last for a long time or gain much momentum.

    I think the days of paramilitary groups taking on the state are over.

    And go to back to my earlier point, by now, even joined-up unionism and loyalism have been beaten in every fight they started. Even if they unite, I don't fancy their chances of successfully opposing constitutional change.

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    1. Totally agree Brandon, I just don't see it happening as the causes that started all this crap are no longer there or at least not to the same extent.

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  17. Maybe I am being misunderstood or I am mistaken myself. My point really wasn't as to how people might have been turned but how those who were turned might have affected negotiations. And I'm talking about the very 'top' people,
    for example, say, Gerry Adams. The discussion seemed to me to lean towards the leaders not being good negotiators, using arm importments as bargaining chips (incredible, I think), etc etc. Thatchers No, No, No response to Garret Fitzgerald and the outworking of her 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement is the actual basis of the GFA. Shortly after the Anglo Irish agreement, and remembering this is all relatively fresh to 1981, Gerry Adams in 1987 started to sue for peace, we are told, by him and others. 1987 also coincides with the Adams family being accused of child sex abuse allegations. I am loathe to call anybody an informer or sex abuser. The discussion was by and large excellent. But any discussion of the struggle and its outworking that does not appear to take into account that the leadership may have been compromised isn't doing justice to the discussion in my humble opinion.

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    1. Eddie,

      It was Gerry himself who accused his own father and brother.

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