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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Stand Down Or Deliver:
A Second Open Letter To The Leadership Of The Irish Republican Army


Paul A. Fitzsimmons • 8 May 2005


After still more turbulent events of late in your region, I've been urged by some Northern Ireland contacts to return to the fray, which I do here reluctantly.

However, in that I've long called on others to change their views substantially on Northern Ireland, I shall today do so myself. Notwithstanding the numerous, grievous, and in fact irremediable flaws and inadequacies of the Good Friday Agreement within this "peace process," I now join the burgeoning chorus in hereby registering-for whatever little it might be worth-my own new first-choice "solution": the Irish Republican Army's simply standing itself down peremptorily and fully, come whatever may thereafter. (See, e.g., Henry McDonald: "Short of disbanding (a highly unlikely scenario), no IRA statement, no IRA act of decommissioning, will suffice for unionists to re-enter government with Sinn Féin in Belfast. Regardless of whatever slant Tony Blair and his spin masters put on [a recent IRA] statement and the likely IRA response [to Gerry Adams' call to Republicans], there will be no deal on the other side of the general election, or for that matter for the next few years." "Peace in their time," The Guardian (8 April 2005). See also the 9 April 2005 comments of Republic of Ireland Minister Michael McDowell: "There is no new IRA-lite policy that will succeed. It must go away.")

That call I make despite concerns regarding the GFA's apparently dismal prospects, as examined in, among many other places, Bruce Arnold's "Failing peace process is turning into a nightmare," Irish Independent (26 March 2005). Such concerns have obviously not been mitigated by Northern Ireland's 2005 Westminster election results.

All that said, however, I again note that the untried path of negotiated independence remains a possibility. In this regard, it was interesting to see that even Northern Unionist pundit Eric Waugh has, in light of various election-related events, now come "reluctantly" to the conclusion

that the Union may indeed have become a farce, driven by material considerations only and not any longer by much emotional loyalty; and that, accordingly, the logic of our future may be leading us towards an independent Northern Ireland. [Belfast Telegraph (6 May 2005).]

Against this backdrop, if-in order to reach a fair and workable socio-political middle ground-the IRA would accede to standing down in an Ireland free of political and military control from London, to standing down within a pan-Ireland (albeit two-part) republican-form-of-government context, to standing down in circumstances where the North's society might finally choose to move itself decisively into a 21st century mode where sectarian distinctions would form no basis for further destructive social division, your group could still, towards all those ends, throw down the independence gauntlet described in the 13 June 2004 "Open Letter To The Leadership Of The Irish Republican Army". (Cf. Jim Gibney: "Sometimes you have to state the obvious to get across an obvious point - the IRA will be part of the political scene here until there is a comprehensive peace agreement which works, which they can support and which deals with the removal of all armed groups involved in the conflict." "Fresh scenario needed for IRA to exit," Irish News (24 March 2005).)

Overarchingly, it would yet be "tragic, wrong, and foolish for [anyone] to pass up the chance of a lasting peace in Northern Ireland," as Mr. Blair himself seemed to believe, at least some years ago.

Tragically, wrongly, and foolishly, though, a love of the green-in the form of greenbacks and their international equivalents-may be, many fear, a large and real difficulty here, as suggested by the poignant comment of former IRA volunteer John Kelly (The Guardian (16 March 2005)): "They're doing what Thatcher couldn't do - criminalising the republican movement."

However, if "Rafia" gangsterism is in fact not a key barrier to the IRA's taking decisive measures, your group does have options:

(a) You-all could just stand yourselves down immediately, even if the breathing, if any, of the GFA "bird-in-the-hand" is indiscernible.

(b) If the IRA does not now elect to take that step, it should at very least reconsider making a public independence-based challenge to the British government et al. Rather obviously, the IRA's making such a challenge would cause many people to begin to think much more thoroughly about this radical possibility for moving forward. A first-and-last-ever formal examination of six county independence would assuredly be, if nothing else, interesting … infinitely more so than still another sullen decade or two of socio-political stagnation.

(c) If your group rejects immediately standing down and rejects making that independence challenge, then it should spend a good eight or ten minutes examining whether the IRA might finally achieve a 32-county socialist republic by going back at this point to vigorous, offensive battle. During that period of consideration, you-all would likely still have, in truth, enough time left over for a smoke or a cup of coffee after concluding that going back to that "war" would be moronic at best, whereupon you-all could-bearing in mind that life involves meager alternatives more often than sublime superlatives-go on to consider whatever other strategic proposals, if any, tabled before your group in this regard should be adopted and implemented.

But, for Christ's sake, do something.

Whether due to thoughtless inertia or gutless inertia, conditions which seem rare in neither Britain nor Ireland, simply sitting back and thereby consigning the six counties to another generation-or even "merely" years and years more-of political impasse and undemocratic direct rule would surely be no better if done by the IRA itself than if done by the British government itself, as returning to "war" is virtually beyond the imagination of all involved and especially as there may be a possibility of moving well beyond the current state of affairs.

Please do not run away from making a decision.

Do something that the politicians are loath to do: do something.


Paul A. Fitzsimmons

PS: Mr. Gibney has sagely observed, as noted above, that "[s]ometimes you have to state the obvious to get across an obvious point." Here goes regarding a few obvious points on six-county independence.

Even if the IRA took the radical step of calling publicly for an independence investigation, Mr. Blair would very likely avoid attempting any such inquiry (thereby making the IRA look more open than the British government to the challenges of democracy). As I rather caustically opined earlier this year in an open letter to him: "[Y]ou are simply too British to do anything other than to choose orthodox, unimaginative, time-tested failure over a small chance for success through your undertaking a bold, open, untried course of action." I have no reason to believe that that condition, as I see it, has changed or ever will change, but would it not at least be amusing-in the wake of an unprecedented IRA call-to witness Mr. Blair himself electing to say "no" to "the chance of a lasting peace in Northern Ireland" by his own choosing to forego even looking into the possibility of a genuinely comprehensive settlement? Some "legacy" for Northern Ireland that would be.

Even if, however, in response to an IRA challenge, the British government did the unlikely by actually initiating a formal inquiry on independence, one or more of the political parties in the North still left standing (and one such party comes immediately to mind) would likely reject outright any independence approach.

If, somehow, the matter nonetheless ultimately got as far as a plebiscite, it seems quite likely an ad hoc, cross community body of rather more than 30 percent plus one of the voters would, at the end of the day, be mustered to defeat it.

All those probabilities notwithstanding, attempting this historic effort would be markedly better, and braver, than the "players" in Britain and Ireland-including not least the leadership of your group-doing little more than sitting around for another generation blithely accepting the status quo.

For Christ's sake, do something.


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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.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

11 May 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Always the Centre Ground
Anthony McIntyre

Those Voting Outside the Box are the Overall Winners
Sean Mc Aughey

Voting Respect
John Devine

Stand Down or Deliver
Paul A Fitzsimmons

Testing Free Speech in America
M. Shahid Alam

Whither Disorder?
Colin Kalmbacher

6 May 2005

Voting Bobby Sands
Anthony McIntyre

Ruritanian Mockney State
Mick Hall

It's a Dirty Job
Brian Mór

Fred A Wilcox



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