The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Why Growth And Power In Both Parts Of A Divided Country Will Do Sinn Fein Just Fine


Anthony McIntyre • Sunday Independent 14/03/2004

Recent controversy over Gerry Adams’ relationship with the IRA, while amusing due to the Sinn Fein president’s endless and thoroughly unpersuasive stream of infantile prevarications, has nevertheless failed to offer any credible explanation for the organisation’s continuing existence.

For long enough, many of us felt that the acquisition of institutional power in the North was the sole hinge on which balanced the future of the IRA. All else was secondary. If Sinn Fein’s military wing were to prove an insurmountable obstacle to attaining such power then the party leadership would dispense with it. But arguably that perspective had the blinds purposefully drawn on it last November when the Provisionals decided against doing enough to allow David Trimble the wriggle room necessary to bring his deeply partitioned party back into government with Sinn Fein. Consequently, we are now forced to adjust our interpretive lens and panoramically extend our gaze over the strategic field Sinn Fein are currently playing on.

The dynamic pushing Sinn Fein at present is one of expansionism, North and South. The party leadership inhabits an ideological vacuum and therefore cares little whether it expands to the right or the left, just so long as ideology, tradition or human rights concerns do not act as inhibitors on its ability to expand. A united Ireland has nothing to do with it, nor getting rid of partition. Growth and power in both parts of a divided country will do just fine.

It is within this overarching expansionist project that Provisional strategic attitudes are developed towards power sharing executives and cross border bodies – in fact towards the whole project of the Good Friday Agreement. What function all such institutions and processes serve within the expansionist project is what ultimately determines Sinn Fein strategy. They are means rather than ends. Whether they facilitate expansionism or not is how they will be evaluated.

An essential asset in this voracious project is the role of the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. More than any other factor, it is he who enhances the magnetic pull of the party in the Republic. Frequently, he has emerged from opinion polls as the most popular political leader. For those unfamiliar with him he emits an aroma more akin to roses than to the rotten cabbage Paul Bew referred to in the wake of the publication almost two years ago of Ed Moloney’s book, A Secret History Of The IRA, which extensively detailed the role of Adams within the organisation’s command structure.

The profile of both Adams and his party benefit enormously from the peace process. In an age of unadulterated spin it is what defines Sinn Fein. End the process and the party grinds to a halt, bogged down in the mundane minutiae of normal sleazy political life. It is the peace process that gives Adams his huge standing in the South. What significance or media profile would they have if it were not for the peace process? Would Sinn Fein be any more newsworthy than the Green Party, which has roughly the same number of Dail seats but considerably less media attention?

But the peace process itself has no forward momentum without the existence of the IRA. If the body were to be wound up now both Blair and Ahern would bin their Hillsborough season tickets, and few in the US would care if Northern politicians failed to darken the doors of the White House on St Patrick’s Day ever again. Why bother paying to see Hamlet without the prince?

The notion popular in London-Dublin government circles that the way to wind up the IRA was through incrementally putting it to sleep by drip feeding concessions to Sinn Fein, was misplaced. It was premised on the fallacy that Sinn Fein would send the IRA off to graze once the party had enough in the goodies bag to buy of the supposed hardcore and dissipate the residue. At that point Adams and his team would bed down permanently in government. The flaw in this approach was that it did not give due consideration to the impact such an outcome would produce on the ability of the party to further develop its island wide expansionist project.

There is little basis for believing that Adams could not disappear the IRA at a moment of his choosing. Such is his standing within the organisation that he has been able to persuade it to do those things its membership dreamt of only in nightmares. He has brought it to accept positions previously described as surrender. To seize on an utterance made by senior Sinn Fein member Jim Gibney, the IRA has been turned ‘upside down’ by the Sinn Fein chief. Adams maintains the IRA for one reason – he needs it to make the peace process a work in progress. By presenting himself as the person who can ultimately deliver the head of the IRA on a plate to the establishment, he maintains his and his party’s high profile in the Republic. His attitude has been one of ‘please God make us disarm and disband – but just not yet.’

London could put up with this for aeons if there was no return to war. Dublin could tolerate it if the Sinn Fein project were to be safely corralled in the North. But now that Adams is using the IRA not merely to destabilise the unionists and wring concessions from the British, but to launch an assault on Fianna Fail hegemony, Dublin is displaying signs that it can no longer afford to be nonchalant to the existence of the IRA.

It is not that the IRA poses any direct aggressive threat to the Irish state. Far from it. But its role is no less real for that. It is one of stealth. Sinn Fein does not need the IRA to perform any military function. Merely by maintaining it and offering himself as the one person who can secure its denouement, Gerry Adams keeps the party in the frame, sharpens its teeth, stretches its jaws in preparation for the savaging of Fianna Fail.

Ultimately, the peace process is not about delivering peace in the North. It is about managing the Northern peace in such a way as to ensure power will come the party’s way in the South. When the continued existence of the IRA becomes an obstacle to that project then and then alone shall Mr Adams pull the curtain down.




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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.
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Index: Current Articles

25 March 2004


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Lords' Ruling Timed to Stymie Collusion Inquiries

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Cannabis Ard Fheis Blow
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Why Growth and Power in Both Parts of A Divided Country Will Do Sinn Fein Just Fine
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Social Inequality, Grinding Poverty, State Negligence
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A Momentous Week in Madrid
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Biggles and the Provos

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'The Solidarity of Those Who Struggle for Justice'
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Truth, Power and Dissent
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The Irish Hero - A Multidisciplinary Conference in Irish Studies
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The 2004 Jonathan Swift Poetry Competition
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The Letters page has been updated.




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