The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Green Leadership in North Call for a 'Big Conversation'
on a Unified Nationalist/Republican Strategy for the Endgame

"Sanctions will serve no political purpose" - John Barry

JJohn Barry, Green Party • 10 February 2005

The leader of the Greens in Northern Ireland have responded to the report of the Independent Monitoring Commission with an extensive analysis of events following the Northern Bank robbery. Dr John Barry is calling on the British and Irish Governments to resist sanctions and, instead, to encourage Sinn Fein to go further in distancing itself from PIRA because "the relationship has become a liability for both the SF leadership and those who give SF its political mandate." He is proposing that the Nationalist and Republican family use the current interregnum in the peace process to engage in a far-reaching debate or 'Big Conversatin' on the future role of the physical force tradition and Sinn Fein's relationship with PIRA in the context of an endgame in the peace process.

The Greens believe that a restored Peace and Reconciliation Forum might play a constructive role in prompting the necessary conversation across the Irish Nationalist and Republican family on developing an agreed path out of the current crisis, based on an unqualified and universal endorsement of democratic politics and non-violent organisation. A restored Forum would have to convene regular sessions in the North, and not only in Dublin.

Dr Barry has lamented the breakdown in negotiations, especially the rapid progress that Sinn Fein appeared to be making in its transition to the pursuit of political objectives through fully democratic means. Barry has commented: "Thanks to the collapse of the deal before Christmas and the robbery at the Northern Bank: We have gone from Gerry and the Pace-Makers to Gerry-Meandering."

PART ONE

Dr Barry's main points on events since the Northern Bank raid are:

Support for the Irish Government's position on NO sanctions against the Sinn Fein leadership because:

  1. The question of sanctions for a criminal act is one for the courts and should apply to those directly involved. The IMC's attempt to link the SF leadership is little more than speculative. In any case, sanctions will have no POSITIVE political impact. The Independent Monitoring Commission is an integral part of the British intelligence machine which is both unreliable (e.g. the illegal war by UK and US, based on, dodgy intelligence, including the 45-minute was brought to you by the same 'intelligence' operatives) and highly politicised. (See quotes below from one of the IMC members. (Annex l)
  2. Sanctions will serve no useful political purpose other than to shore up Anti-Agreement forces who have - from day one - lined up to undermine, humiliate and defeat the Republican leadership and its constituency. I would go further and WARN COLLEAGUES IN OTHER IRISH OPPOSITION PARTIES AGAINST falling into the trap of doing the work of the DUP and their advisers in the British security services who have pursued every opportunity to undermine the transformation of Irish Republicanism under the McGuinness/Adams leadership.
  3. The Sinn Fein leadership must recognise that it is time for P O Neill to come in from the cold and speak for himself. It is time to recognise that the relationship between the Sinn Fein leadership and the Army Council has become a liability - which will continue to be exploited by enemies of the Good Friday Agreement. IF THE SINN FEIN LEADERSHIP RESPECTS ITS POLITICAL MANDATE - AS IT WOULD HAVE OTHERS DO - THEN IT MUST SEVER THE IMPLIED LINK BETWEEN THAT MANDATE AND THOSE within the physical force tradition who have become a liability, ripe for exploitation by enemies of the Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Fein's progress in electoral politics has reached a point where the leverage they have derived from their relationship with the PIRA has become an increasingly transparent exercise in trade offs that help to erect a respectable screen to conceal and dissemble unacceptable activities in a society struggling to emerge from cults of militarism and authoritarianism.
  4. THE BOTTOM LINE: ONCE SINN FEIN HAS CHANGED ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE IRA LEADERSHIP IT WILL ONLY BE JUDGED BY STANDARDS APPLIED TO OTHER PARTIES TO THE GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT I.E. BY ITS GOOD FAITH IN USING ITS INFLUENCE TO BRING ABOUT AN EXCLUSIVELY PEACEFUL AND POLITICAL APPROACH TO IMPLEMENTING THE GFA.
  5. There is an opportunity in the coming months (or at least following the upcoming elections) for constitutional Nationalism and the Republican family to engage in a thoughtful, internal and frank debate on the future of the physical force tradition and, more specifically, on the relationship between the Sinn Fein leadership and PIRA. Only when a consensus across the Nationalist/Republican family is reconstructed - with the weak link in the chain consigned to history and stood down, unilaterally, for no other reason than because it was the right thing to do - can a re-engagement with Unionism and Loyalism meaningfully recommence.

PART TWO

ANALYSIS: "THE SINN FEIN LEADERSHIP HAVE BEEN HEISTED ON THEIR OWN PETARD"

We support the view that it may be time for the Sinn Fein leadership to radically alter its relationship with the leadership of the IRA. The need for McGuinness and Adams to go all the way and call on the IRA leadership to do its own negotiating is primarily based on wider political circumstances, including:

  1. The primary cause of destabilisation within the Republican Community is the dangerous and calculated attempt by the DUP (calculated with the advice of British security and intelligence service) to break the back of the Good Friday Agreement by undermining the leadership of Sinn Fein. The Paisley faction of the DUP has sought to do this both for ideological reasons (sectarian fundamentalism) and, cynically, for party political gain (to further entrench their primacy in electoral stakes over the Ulster Unionist Party).
  2. The DUP leader - before Christmas - clearly set out to destabilise the Republican community by placing an unnecessary barrier before comprehensive acts of decommissioning and a standing down of the PIRA. He left Sinn Fein voters in no doubt about the meaning he attributed to his demands: humiliation and defeat.
  3. The prolonged series of obstacles placed in the way of fully implementing the Good Friday Agreement has also delivered perverse benefits to Sinn Fein by way of electoral gains on both sides of the border. When Gerry Adams lectured politicians last week about NOT INTRODUCING PARTY POLITICS TO THE PEACE PROCESS, I could only think, THAT'S RICH COMING FROM YOU GERRY….VERY RICH. No party on the island has milked the 'peace process' for votes more systematically than Sinn Fein.
  4. Sinn Fein's ascendance as a political force was always part of the quid pro quo of the 'peace process'. It was one of the quiet understandings of the political class - that the Republican leadership would deliver on a new and empowered political mandate for their constituency in return for silencing the guns. HOWEVER we have now reached a turning point - THE TIME FOR CONSTRUCTIVE AMBIGUITIES, LEGAL FICTIONS, AND A TACIT ENDORSEMENT OF EXTRA-CURRICULA FUND RAISING (The Makro Raid and the Belfast Docks heist) ACTIVITY AND SO CALLED 'HOUSE KEEPING' ON THE FRINGES OF THE REPUBLICAN COMMUNITY has run its course.

The peace process has turned largely on the relationship between the Republican leadership and the influence it has brought to bear on those who have - and continue to believe - that the Good Friday Agreement cannot deliver equality, inclusion and justice. With the ascendancy of the DUP - notably the Paisley faction - the Sinn Fein leadership and its political mandate has become exposed to calculated attempts by Anti-Agreement forces. These Anti-Agreement forces will exploit the relationship between the Sinn Fein leadership and hardline elements and turn what was once viewed AS THE AXIS OF THE PEACE PROCESS into an extreme liability for the Republican leadership.

The Anti-Agreement forces within the DUP will continue to exploit a number of weaknesses within the Republican community:

  • As time has moved on in the peace process, it has become more and more difficult for the Adams/McGuinness leadership to sell the 'peace process' in return for:
    i. Complete decommissioning;
    ii. Standing down PIRA.
  • Perhaps most absurd of all is the notion that Adams and MC Guinness could rein in those elements in the Republican community who have exploited their paramilitary trappings to pursue criminal activity.

PART THREE

IT'S TIME FOR GERRY AND MARTIN TO ANSWER FOR THEMSELVES AND THEIR OWN POLITICAL MANDATE, AND FORGET ABOUT 'PHONING THEIR FRIEND, P O NEILL
NOBODY IS MORE AWARE OF THE LIMITS OF THE REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP AND ITS DEVALUED CURRENCY WITHIN THE WIDER REPUBLICAN MOVEMENT THAN DR PAISLEY, AND HIS ADVISERS IN THE BRITISH SECURITY APPARATUS WHO NOT ONLY CONTINUE TO HOLD OUT THE HOPE FOR A RHETORICAL DEFEAT OF SINN FEIN/IRA BUT CONTINUE TO PURSUE THEIR WAR AIM OF AN ACTUAL POLITICAL DEFEAT.

For all these reasons, the Sinn Fein leadership must recognise that it is time for the P O Neill to come in from the cold and speak for himself. It is time to recognise that the relationship between the Sinn Fein leadership and the Army Council has become a liability - which will continue to be exploited by enemies of the Good Friday Agreement.

If there are limits to which the Sinn Fein leadership can exert political control over their fellow travellers in the wider Republican community (whether this is the result of frustration or sheer knuckle headedness) - then it is time for P O Neill and the Army Council to defend those limits - to articulate them - and for all of us to decide how we are to deal with this. MOST IMPORTANTLY, ALL POLITICAL PARTIES MAY BE ABLE TO PUSH FOR A RESTORATION OF AN INCLUSIVE APPROACH TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT ONCE THE SINN FEIN LEADERSHIP AND PUBLIC REPRESENTATIVES ARE JUDGED ONLY BY THE STANDARDS OF OTHER PARTIES I.E. BY THEIR GOOD FAITH IN ACTING AS PERSUADERS FOR AN EXCLUSIVELY POLITICAL AND PEACEFUL PROCESS.

There will no longer be a tolerance by Irish voters or the Irish political system for a Party that wishes to exploit every turn in the 'peace process' for its own electoral gain, while preaching that others should refrain and retreat. As in other areas of our lives, what was once a virtue can become a vice - and a liability. Such is the case for the physical force tradition and a misguided belief in its own infallibility which the tradition has bestowed on elements of the Republican movement….a belief that was always on collision course with the long-heralded new Ireland of dialogue, democracy and inclusion.

"The reality is…."

How often have we listened to Sinn Fein leaders insist that their reality IS the only reality? The very insistence and repetition of this phrase by Sinn Fein leaders betrays an uncertainty which they ought now to embrace without shame. The difference between armed struggle and democratic politics is this. In war, reality often flows from the power to impose one's own reality on others. There is no room for talk of interpretation and doubt….for where would that leave the conscience of a soldier for whom the extinction of an Other must be predicated on an impossible certainty….a judgement for all time? The peace process is a door to many noble objectives (not least a new and essential dispensation for our local criminal justice regime and policing)…but for some it will herald a new encounter with the messy uncertainties of democratic politics….where the force of argument shall reside in the arts of rhetoric, conviction and a willingness to try again another day when one's opponent prevails.

Dr John Barry, Co-Leader, Green Party in Northern Ireland.


 

 

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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



7 March 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Butcher of Derry
Anthony McIntyre

Republican Anger at Criminals on Political Wing
Martin Mulholland, IRPWA

RevisionDance
Brian Mór

The Rally for Justice
Sean Smyth

Green Leadership in North Call for a 'Big Conversation'
on a Unified Nationalist/Republican Strategy for the Endgame

John Barry, Green Party

Eoin McNamee's two Troubles novels
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Irish Christians and Africa
Dr John Coulter


4 March 2005

Honourary White Man
Marc Kerr

A Blanketman Still Fighting to be Heard
Anthony McIntyre

The Dam Has Burst
Mick Hall

The Peace Process Has Been Saved
David Adams

World's Largest Men's Room
Brian Mór

Green Beer and Bad Singing
Fred A Wilcox

Ireland's Neutrality is Not Threatened
Thomas Lefevre

Sentences of Death: Mary Gordon's Pearl
Seaghán Ó Murchú

 

 

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