The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Another Historic Statement, Again

Anthony McIntyre • 19 April 2005

I don't know how often Martin McGuinness calls James Walsh, chairman of Friends of Ireland in the US Congress. Congressman Walsh has a lot of friends who probably call up to praise him for his support for the war in Iraq, so allowing the senior Sinn Fein figure time to bend his ear cannot be altogether insignificant. The call must have been important. James claims Martin stressed to him that the address made by the Sinn Fein president earlier this month to the IRA was the 'most important speech Gerry has made in 10 years.' Martin's colleague Jim Gibney obviously agreed because in his Irish News column he described Gerry's speech as historic. How many times have we heard that word over the years as it played peek-a-boo and swings and roundabouts with other well-worn words like imaginative and courageous?

So there we have it, James, Martin, Gerry and Jim, all concerned with important matters and describing each other's words as historic. James Walsh may not know that from the lips of Mr Adams' camarilla, such words are commonplace. Few here break their stride to listen when historic events are pronounced. Bomb scares were at one time so frequent here, that many simply paid no heed to them. A weary public long used to being on the receiving end of a guff attack have even less cause to be alarmed. They probably take some solace from the great 'event' this time round being something other than the greatest crisis ever or the most important election yet.

Inflating their own sense of importance is one way politicians have of keeping themselves in business. They endlessly flog the idea that anything they say or do is more important than what they previously said or did. If we were daft enough to give them our votes for it, they would shamelessly announce that they are off to the greatest toilet yet made for the most important piss ever - until the piss after that.

So, how important was the Adams speech? While it may sound like a convoluted way of saying the war is over, a line-by-line perusal reveals that it has all been said before. The difference this time is that the party boss has addressed his comments specifically to the IRA. The hope in the triangle of capitals that take most interest in the North is that it will be seen as an edict rather than mere attitudinising. For them Adams' authority as the president of Sinn Fein is read as his authority as the boss of bosses on the IRA's army council. Whether wish is father to the thought remains to be seen.

The ostensible basis on which Adams made his call to the IRA is that there now exists an alternative to the armed struggle, which presumably did not exist before, although few can recall when the Sinn Fein boss last said the IRA was still at war. When the war was actually being waged and the Sinn Fein leadership was being challenged by constitutional nationalist parties to deliver a ceasefire, the standard response was that such a situation would only develop when an alternative to armed struggle existed. The leadership made it clear that the peace process was that alternative. Critics were often silenced with the comment 'what is your alternative - do you want us to go back to war?' All of which suggests that war has not been an alternative for many years.

How propitious the circumstances for the furtherance of that alternative now are, is debatable. The logic is certainly suspect. Arguably, there was more space in which a peaceful Sinn Fein could grow in the months between September's Leeds talks and the collapse of the negotiations in December. Sinn Fein - Mr Adams stated alternative to the IRA - had much international goodwill, and it faced a unionism that seemed very close to concluding a deal that would see Sinn Fein back in government fortified by one of its own people serving as deputy first minister. But those two central planks of an alternative have been dislodged as a result of the fall out from the Northern Bank robbery and the murder of Robert McCartney. This suggests that Sinn Fein is not opening up alternative strategic space, but merely responding to pressure; and in circumstances less advantageous to it than in the final months of 2004.

Nevertheless, the party is good at crafting a virtue from necessity. Mr Adams in choosing not to stand down the IRA is an indication that in the short term his call on it to pursue peaceful politics is an opening gambit in an election campaign. Certain to trounce the SDLP, his appeal will firm up those undecided nationalist voters that a vote for Sinn Fein is in fact one more finger applying pressure to the windpipe of the IRA. In the medium term, in the weeks and months after the May election, the Adams statement will be used as a means to lure the two governments back into peace processing with a stronger Sinn Fein. The long term purpose of the statement is to apply pressure to the DUP to enter into government on terms not greatly different from those offered by Sinn Fein in December. Getting the theocrat led party back to Leeds Castle by September on terms dictated by the autocrat led party may be much too sanguine a notion to entertain. But Sinn Fein are determined to dissolve DUP resolve before it dissolves the IRA.

Consequently, the significance of the unilateral nature of the Adams appeal has been greatly inflated by some commentators. The strategic wisdom of Adams lies in having it misconstrued as such. Ultimately the IRA will go but not for any Northern election. For now, it has not gone away and Mr Adams has not really asked it to.










Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

19 April 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Another Historic Statement, Again
Anthony McIntyre

Two Heads Better Than One?
Brian Mór

Hope for A Democractic Avenue, Not a Dead End Street
Mick Hall

Irish American Support
Niall Fennessy

Street Fighting Man
Fred A Wilcox

Revolutionaries Have Set Up Dictatorship
Margaret Quinn

The Murder of Robert McCartney
Conor Horan

The Missing Ingredient
Ruairi O’Driscoll

Re-orienting perspectives: Bob Quinn's The Atlantean Irish
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Politics of Peace at an Impasse
David Adams

* Election Coverage *

Independent Irish Republicans Standing in All 6 Counties
Sean Mc Aughey

John Coulter

Gary Donnelly, Cityside Ward, Derry City Council

Aine Gribbon, Antrim Town Council

Patricia (Trish) Murray, Antrim Town Council

The Letters page has been updated.

6 April 2005

Criminality and Public Relations
Eamon Sweeney

Truth Better than Spin
Mick Hall

The Central Issue is Justice
Catherine McCartney

Not Out of Nationalist Woods Yet
David Adams

South Down Election Play
John Coulter

Are We on the Verge of a New Political Ice Age?
Anthony McIntyre



The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices