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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Generals' Dance


Mick Hall • 4 February 2005

Over the years since the second ceasefire, the PIRA has gone about its business. And why wouldn't it? It had not been stood down but is in ceasefire mode, during which it was up to the politicians, including those associated with the Provisional Republican Movement (PRM), to reach an agreement that would have allowed it to take the one final step the overwhelming majority of the island of Ireland's electorate wished it to and stand itself down in perpetuity.

Thus during the ceasefire it has done those things armies do in periods when they are not fighting wars or occupying some poor soul's Nation. Administrative matters such as raising finance and maintaining internal discipline, restocking its weaponry, enhanced its security abilities and training its volunteers. Indeed much the same as the British Army in the north of Ireland has been doing during this period, Why anyone would now claim to be surprised at these on going activities is a mystery to me. Nor can there be any real surprise on the part of the two governments that much of what PIRA has been doing has had an element of illegality about it. What did those who made the ceasefire agreement with the Provos expect them to get up to during a ceasefire, play tidily winks? Unlike the British Army they do not have a tax base through which they are funded, so how else did those who are now professing shock and horror about the PIRA's continued involvement in illegality believe the Provos funded themselves, bring and buy and jumble sales? None of this illegality seemed to matter when British government representatives first started negotiations with the PIRA to bring this war to a close. Nor when British civil servants helped their political wing Sinn Fein's Minister's administer the six counties under the terms of the GFA. So why has it suddenly taken centre stage?

It is difficult not to conclude that this current brouhaha has arisen because the Provos have allegedly stolen the property of Mr Big. By robbing the Northern Bank they stole the money of International Capital, the big boys on the block; and as far as Blair and Ahern are concerned this is a step too far. Just as it was not until the Provos targeted the city of London that serious peace negotiations came about, it seems they are to be curtailed because the Provos, not realising the game had moved on since Canary Wharf, had repeated an attack on the corporate world, Blair and Ahern's main benefactors. Before any reader scoffs at this, I would remind them that during the years of the ceasefire, the PIRA has killed a number of individuals, one of whom was a former volunteer who was beaten to death and it is said had his tongue cut out to highlight the fact that he was regarded as an informer. Plus a member of the Garda Síochána was murdered whilst going about his duty. Indeed only this week in Belfast a group of Provisionals, who got into an argument whilst out late night boozing, allegedly called up reinforcement and a man acting as a peacemaker in the argument was done to death in the most brutal manner.

However it seems little of this mattered to our gallant Irish and English political leaders. It was only as I have already said when the Provos allegedly got their fingers into the till of International Capital that all bets were off. No matter that it is just as urgent to reach some sort of agreement now as it was all those years ago when this peace process charade started. Not only is talk of freezing out SF dangerous nonsense, it is far from original; those who advocate it can hardly claim such a tactic by the governments has worked in the past. During the years of the bloody war in the north, this tactic was tried over and again. Indeed, it was about all that was tried politically. I'm sure I do not need to go over all the failed attempts to block the PRM from the political process and bolster Sinn Fein's political opponents within the nationalist community. Save to say they all failed and due to the undemocratic and farcical nature of many of these attempts, they deserved to.

When Adams and McGuinness claim their party has a political mandate and the two governments must respect this, they are correct. Despite the fact that the deal which was on the table in December has been rejected, this mandate still exists and should be treated with the respect it deserves by all parties. It is not for governments to decide which political parties should be shown more respect and tolerance than others; that is for the electorate. If Blair or Ahern meets the SDLP or Unionist parties to discuss the north's problems, then SF should and must also be included.

How can this situation move forward? Well, the sabre-rattling statement by the leadership of the PIRA shows there is turmoil within that organisation as to the direction it should go in. If it were to go back to war and it is still a formidable Organisation, we would all be in for some difficult days. However, it is hard to see how it (PIRA) could improve its current position by returning to the battlefield, especially if you factor in the current mindset of the post 9/11 Western world. In any case at some time in the future it would still be forced back to the conference table. Although, if the RM were to opt for war, the current SF leadership would have lost all credibility, having spent the last seven years telling its electoral base the GFA was the only game in town. It is also doubtful whether those younger members of SF, who have joined the party post-ceasefire would stick with it. They are only too well aware that Ireland cannot be reunited on the end of a bayonet, nor can equality be brought to the nationalist people of the north by the same method.

Perhaps Mr Adams' desire to avoid a split has been too ambitious and his attempt, as noble as it is, to keep all on side is an impossibility. Although as I have complimented Mr Adams here, I feel it is only correct to point out that his Republican critics believe his desire for unity only stretches to those who agree with his strategy. Nevertheless, if the PIRA had been stood down in the traditional manner with the order to dump arms being given, some senior volunteers may have gone off to form another outfit or join up with Continuity or the Real IRA. But looking back there was and even today is no mass support for these armed groups within the Nationalist communities; a sneaking admiration perhaps for sticking to their guns, but that is as far as it goes. The vast majority within these communities realise, if the PIRA over a thirty year period, with all its funding, dedication, international contacts and stamina was unable to drive the British from the six north east counties, then these smaller republican groups are unlikely to be able to do so. It also cannot be stressed enough that this community has believed SF when that party has said the future lays with the Ballot Box, not the Armalite.

This leaves SF, not for the first time, between a rock and a hard place. If it is to move forward politically, then PIRA needs to be stood down. There really is not any other option that would be acceptable to the other parties involved in this conflict, nor the communities from which they come. For if PIRA remains active, then only one of two things can happen to it. It will either descend into an ever-increasing spiral of criminality, which will disgrace the good name of all those volunteers who have been through its ranks; or it will be forced to return to war to find military tasks for those currently engaged in criminality. Both of these options will be a disaster for the Republican Movement and more importantly, the people who live in the six counties and the rest of the UK. I have no doubt that elements within the Unionist community cannot wait for the Provos to reach for the Armalite option. The question we are all asking ourselves is, will the Army Council be dim-witted enough to dance to these people's tune or will they finally show some Generalship?





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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

4 February 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Burdens Unbearable
Anthony McIntyre

The Generals' Dance
Mick Hall

One Year After the Kelly's Incident: Bobby Tohill Speaks
Liam O Ruairc

Loyalist Elements Feuding with UVF - Blamed for Attacks at Unity Walk
Sean Mc Aughey

The Possibilities With Brown
Dr John Coulter

Report of Bloody Sunday Commemoration in Glasgow
Seamus Reader

Uniting Against Radicalism
Harun Yahya

28 January 2005

The Road to a Mafia State
Anthony McIntyre

Help is On the Way! Lawyers, Guns, Money...& Golf
Karen Lyden Cox

Four Reasons for Ideological Shift
Liam O Ruairc

Tilting at the Windmills
Mick Hall

Looking Down the Barrel of Freedom
Fred A. Wilcox

Saor Eire Again
Bob Purdie

Sex, Lies, But No Videotape
Seaghán Ó Murchú



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