News Analysis

Friday 19 September 2014

Frightening men haven't gone away

The majority of people in Northern Ireland remain doubtful that the IRA Army Council has stood down, says Emer O'Kelly

Published 07/09/2008 | 00:00

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Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, was heard on Morning Ireland on Wednesday morning. His main purpose for being on air was to drop his "Republican colleague" Caoimhin O Caolain, TD, in the mire. O Caolain said recently that Sinn Fein/IRA would pull out of government in Northern Ireland if they didn't get their own sweet way, without checks or balances, when it came to the issue of devolving justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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Adams was clearly petrified that this open threat might give the British and Irish governments pause, and cause them to reassess their wide-eyed acceptance of every unsubstantiated assurance of future good behaviour from the men and women who spent more than two generations murdering their fellow citizens in the name of democracy. Perish the thought! He and his fellow members of the IRA Army Council must have thought that the two governments might accept little Caoimhin's simple statement at its face value.

So it was clearly time for the "Republican leadership" in the form of the bould Gerry to get in there and do some more of the verbal twisting he's been getting away with since the abolition of Section 23 of the Broadcasting Act, which forbade the freedom of the airwaves to named subversive organisations. And, although he is not a Minister in the Northern Ireland government, Adams was able to assure Cathal Mac Coille that Sinn Fein/IRA had no intention of pulling out of that government; their aim and purpose was to look to sorting out the economy, in the Republic as well as in Northern Ireland. This, Adams said, would be what his colleague, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, would be concerned with when he and First Minister Peter Robinson and their party colleagues met to try to sort out the deadlock on the devolution of justice and policing powers. But pull out of government? No way.

He was helped along his mendacious way, unfortunately, by a report the previous day from the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) which said that, in its opinion, "the IRA Army Council is neither functional nor operational, and poses no threat to constitutional politics now or in the future". You see, Sinn Fein/IRA are great defenders of democracy: they're interested in fighting crime and being Europeans.

The IRA bit of their title is "redundant", according to another statement made by the same Mr Adams. "The IRA left the stage some time ago," he said in reaction to the report from the IMC. It's nice to know that he is so certain. And indeed he should be, given that he is widely believed to be a member of the IRA Army Council, as is his esteemed colleague Martin McGuinness -- who is also widely believed to have been the Chief of Staff of the IRA in the not too distant past. So it seemed odd that when pressed by Cathal Mac Coille, Adams claimed not to know when the IRA Army Council last met. When Mac Coille asked if Martin McGuinness knew when the IRA Army Council last met, Adams told him that he'd have to ask McGuinness that.

And the British and Irish Governments have the brass neck to blame Peter Robinson's "intransigence" in refusing to accept that this pair of smirking tulips and their subversive friends have gone far enough for justice powers to be devolved to them. Peter Robinson says that the DUP's bottom line is that Sinn Fein/IRA will state unequivocally that the IRA Army Council has been permanently stood down. Refusing to say so, Gerry Adams says merely that "the issue of the IRA has been dealt with definitively. This issue is gone".

But has the Army Council been stood down? Republicans are "totally committed to peaceful political methods". But has the IRA Army Council been stood down? "The IRA left the stage some time ago." But as theatre-goers know, stages have wings and flies, and an awful lot of people can gather there out of sight of an audience, ready to make a dramatic and sudden entrance.

The Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, a border man himself and therefore more than well aware of the destruction wrought against Irish society by 35 years of the IRA's murderous campaign, said agreement between republicans and unionists on devolution of policing "would be clearly in the interests of the people they serve". Indeed it would. If Ahern means that it would be in their interests if the agreement was based on a permanent commitment to peace -- without verbal equivocation. Yet Adams and McGuinness are refusing to make that simple statement; and when the DUP (and other unionists) are naturally and advisedly uneasy, Ahern chooses to ignore their fears and regard them as unhelpful stonewallers.

Even the British Prime Minister said the statement made by the IMC would "provide reassurance and hope for everybody." Has he noticed that that is precisely what it fails to do for the majority of people in Northern Ireland and for their elected representatives? The assurances in the IMC's report have been welcomed by Peter Robinson even though they are not backed up by any kind of hard proof. He said the report marks significant progress. But he clearly fears a certain naivete among the members of the commission. And he is wise to be uneasy. There has always been an unseemly willingness to accept every hypocritical hint made by the IRA as a peace effort and a constitutional olive branch, even by the most hard-nosed of British politicians, much less the well-meaning and gentlemanly members of the IMC (who are regularly abused by Sinn Fein/IRA as tools of the British Government).

The reality is that they all "want" peace for their own reasons -- the IMC members because they are trained diplomatically to see light at the end of even the darkest of tunnels, and the politicians nearer home because they will sacrifice safety, commonsense, and even future security to the vanity of their own "legacies".

The Northern Ireland Secretary, Shaun Woodward, said that it is now clear that the IRA Army Council is "redundant". That is surely the most ridiculous statement made by any British official for quite a while. The Army Council was always redundant: nobody -- except those bent on subverting life and justice in Northern Ireland, the Republic, and in Britain -- has ever found its existence positive, useful, or justifiable.

It was the militant authority of a subversive army. It still is. And the refusal by Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and their cohorts to confirm that it is no longer in existence proves that at the least they still regard the murderous activities of the IRA as a "regrettable necessity".

The logical corollary of that is that they may deem it necessary to revert to type whenever it suits them. They are still two of the most frightening men in Ireland, if not on the face of the planet. Let's not forget that.

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