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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Horses or Zebras?
Paul Fitzsimmons • 14 January 2004

In his recent "A Subtle But Brilliant Use Of The IRA," Anthony McIntyre makes various factual assertions and evaluations which are at least arguably true and correct. Among them are the following:

There is little that would support the notion that the Adams leadership is fearful of dissolving the IRA in case there is some recalcitrant body of republicans waiting on the opportunity to challenge the leadership. � Given that the Sinn Fein leadership has managed on occasion, to cite Jim Gibney, to turn the IRA upside down, Adams faces no internal obstacles to sleight of hand disbandment. � Moreover, the ability to use the IRA in the North for leverage has dissipated as a result of republicans being blamed for the prolonged hiatus afflicting the political institutions. Pressure for concessions from Sinn Fein rather than concessions to it is going to mount as both governments seek to find the appropriate stabiliser with which to entice unionism, in its new form, into the power sharing saddle once again.
Based largely on those points, Anthony asserts and asks: "In sum the IRA prohibits Sinn Fein from acquiring institutional power, and in the absence of internal opposition why not put it out to graze?" His answer:
By holding onto the IRA and depicting it as part of a wider problem, Adams holds out the possibility that he more than anyone else has the potential to be the problem solver. A subtle but brilliant use of the IRA, made all the more dazzling by the inability of Dublin to see it.

Anthony's analysis may here indeed be quite accurate.

However, just as I feel that various Sinn F�in supporters do not adequately understand Anthony's own political philosophies and personal motivations, I wonder whether the reverse might also be the case, at least to a certain extent.

Along these lines, my immediate interest regarding Northern Ireland's Republican movement is grounded rather little in trying to discern definitively where its members are correctly pegged on a "sinners-to-saints" scale.

Instead�and especially in light of the failure of the Good Friday Agreement, which failure even some of the less intelligent observers of that scene predicted some years ago�my interest lies particularly in why Sinn F�in and the IRA are dragging their feet so conspicuously on the disarmament issue, and my difficulties with Anthony's analysis thereon are two.

First, with no "internal" opposition to disarmament, and with Sinn F�in's ostensible (and, perhaps accurate) thirst for conventional political power, it seems somewhat unlikely that the Republican movement would have strung out the disarmament issue quite as many years as it has. Had indeed "[Gerry] Adams [wanted to hold] out the possibility that he more than anyone else has the potential to be the problem solver," it seems more likely that he would have elected to demonstrate this power some time ago; by playing that card earlier, Sinn F�in could have done as well or better in the second GFA election and might thereby have retained the UUP as a rather more predictable and accommodating Executive partner than Sinn F�in may ultimately find with the DUP. While Anthony asserts that "republicans[ are] being blamed for the prolonged hiatus afflicting the political institutions," it seems to me that that condition might be the high price that the Republican movement has�for some reason�elected to pay for its years-long and continuing "decommissioning" stance rather than a situation which Republicans have intentionally attempted to cultivate and encourage.

Second, Anthony asks: "And what dynamic would the peace process have if the IRA ceased to exist? The North would have attained post-peace process status." Of course, that post-peace process status would also arise were Gerry Adams now�in somewhat less favorable post-election conditions, vis-�-vis the Unionist representation at Stormont�to proclaim, as in the Mighty Mouse cartoon of old, "Here I come to save the day!" Thus, this consideration does not seem to offer much support, if any, for Anthony's overall thoughts in this regard.

Years ago, a doctor told me of a certain teaching hospital in the U.S. renown for its eminent professional staff, but he also suggested that, when they heard hoof beats, physicians there were apt to think of zebras rather than horses.

Perhaps something similar is now happening regarding analyses of Sinn F�in and the Provisional IRA: simple suggestions for why they tenaciously hold onto their weapons are disregarded in favor of complex theories which assume minds of Machiavelli's caliber as well as the subtle and brilliant strategies of chess grandmasters.

A simple suggestion for why "Sinn F�in/IRA" holds onto these weapons? Because they may think that�in the present circumstances and ever after�they and Northern Catholics generally would be at too high of a risk of getting screwed "constitutionally" by London if Republicans' illegal paramilitary capacity evaporated entirely.

One of the few venues for uncensored discourse on Northern Ireland�Anthony McIntyre's own The Blanket�has published a few articles along those simple lines, including most recently "Trust Without Honesty In The Peace Process?," whose text included the following:

[T]he notion that those militants' real yet unspeakable reason for sticking to their guns might indeed have an understandable basis, in light of the United Kingdom's inherent constitutional deficiencies, has not been at all well discussed by, inter alia, the Northern Ireland punditry.
Perhaps, though, some pundit will yet persuade me that Northern Ireland's Republicans regard as no political impediment whatever the changeless malleability of Britain�s "constitutional" law:
Really, Fitzsimmons, Northern Republicans are now quite happy to rely entirely on Westminster's tender constitutional mercies. Who needs durable and enforceable constitutional protections, after all, when such broad and warmhearted trust of the British government exists?

If and when I'm persuaded on that point, I may start thinking a lot harder about how subtle and brilliant the Republican leadership is.

Until then, however, the simpler explanation for this persistent disarmament difficulty seems not only adequate but ample.



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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

16 January 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Response by the Maghaberry POWs to the 'Compact Propsals for Separated Prisoners
PRO Maghaberry POWs


Horses or Zebras?
Paul Fitzsimmons


The Future of Iran

Pedram Moallemian


Anthony McIntyre


A State of the Union Address

Eamon Sweeney


11 January 2004


A Subtle But Brilliant Use of the IRA
Anthony McIntyre


The Process of ‘Constitutionalisation’
Breandán Morley


A Victory for Extremism
James Fitzharris


Demilitarise Divis Tower
Kathleen O Halloran


History Repeating Itself

Eamon Sweeney


Say What You Like, the Brits Sure Do Know the Irish
Fr. Sean Mc Manus


Rafah Today: Demolishing Houses
Mohammed Omer




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