The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
A Political Nightmare
Eamon Sweeney • 24. 10. 03

The pigs had been fed and all their equipment checked in preparation for flying. A special blue moon was on order for the purpose of illuminating the celebrations. Meanwhile back in Belfast Lord Lucan saddled Shergar for a pleasant jaunt, whilst the Unicorns helped the Leprechauns restring Elvis’s guitar. Bigfoot’s tuxedo was not a good fit and he looked very nervous never having been a bouncer before. But he boldly stuck out his chest and strode forth to the entrance gate at Stormont ready to scrutinise the party invites…

It was a cold but dry Tuesday morning, October 21st 2003, when my alarm clock shocked my bleary eyes back to reality.

The luxury of starting work at 11.30am afforded me the chance to watch a portion of the mornings political events unfold.

Long before I had surfaced the British government had started the ball rolling at 7. 10 am by officially announcing that the assembly elections would be held on Wednesday 26th of November.

This was swiftly followed by Gerry Adams revelation that to all intents and purposes the (P)IRA war was at an end. Those were not the actual words he choose to use, but it was as close and as clear as he was likely to make it.

In the various semantic clashes between Republicanism and Unionism in recent years I have adhered to the words of the former Presbyterian moderator John Dunlop, who once asserted that….

“Nationalists can read between the lines, Unionists can only read the lines”.

Following this P. O’Neill confirmed that it had re-opened contact with General De Chastelain and had approved a third act of weapons decommissioning. Shortly afterwards the General informed us that this had already taken place, and hinted strongly that this latest act of destruction was the largest that had taken place so far.

P. O’Neill responded again that he had also set in motion a fourth act of weapons dismantling.

Then the wheels fell off the happy truck as David Trimble “sensationally” halted the painfully rehearsed sequence of events.

The acts that had been agreed in the taut and tense days before were stalled because the UUP leader asserted that the details of the act were not “transparent” enough. That is he was not satisfied that the IRA had invoked a clause in it’s dealings with the IICD allowing it to keep private the full inventory of what had been destroyed.

This was a confidence that neither De Chastelain, Blair or Ahern could break. In addition Blair and Ahern were not privy to this information.

The next day the “Daily Mirror” published what it believed to be the complete inventory of the destroyed IRA arms cache.

It included 988 assault rifles, 67 machine guns, 9 surface to air missiles, 46 rockets and 11 launchers, 568 handguns, 115 hand grenades, 7 flame throwers and most significantly 2, 658 kilos of Semtex plastic explosives.

It is quite probably true that this cache would be considerably more armoury than the armies of some developing third world nations. Yet if it is an accurate depiction of the act it represents a monumental step for what probably was the most effective guerilla grouping in history.

However since the confidentiality clause card had been played and General De Chastelain has threatened to resign if he is forced to reveal the full contents of the inventory, where did “The Mirror” come up with this list of weapons?

Tony Blair has landed himself in lukewarm water by saying that he had become aware of the full inventory details in an hour long meeting with De Chastelain, only to have the General deny that such a meeting never actually took place. Presumably Blair’s intentions were to cajole Trimble into a reconsideration of his actions by playing a bluff hand of political poker. It only resulted in accusations against the Prime Minister that he had mislead the commons on this point. Yet as Nigel Dodds of the DUP caustically quipped, it would not be the first occasion that Blair has mislead the Commons on the issue of weaponry.

It is not beyond imagination that the source of the inventory that appeared in last Thursday’s edition of “The Mirror” emanated from Sinn Fein. Indeed “The Mirror” seemed sufficiently assured of its legal standing before publication and to the best of my knowledge has not been challenged from any quarter as to the the authenticity of it’s source, whatever it actually was.

However being drawn into speculation on this debacle is about as fruitful as Trimble’s actions in the first place.

Whatever the nature of the secretive agreement between Sinn Fein and the UUP, it is abundantly apparent that Sinn Fein adhered more closely to their end of the bargain.

After all, all parties voted the passing of the confidentiality clause in the decommissioning legislation, therefore if the strictures of this policy are followed properly then Trimble in effect has no right to halt this sequence of events. The faux pas made by Sinn Fein however was to enter into a side deal in the private arena with the most childish Machiavellian in modern Irish politics.

Let’s put this plainly. If David Trimble was an honest broker in this process he would have resigned a long time ago. His natural proclivity towards petulance and threats to take his ball off the pitch is now a tiresome and pathetic spectacle.

So why did he pull the UUP oar out of the water?

It has been plain for several years that Trimble’s participation in politics is a game to him. He thrills at brinkmanship, but huffs like a baby lawyer when it all goes wrong. Never forget how he became leader of the UUP in 1995, when he stole John Taylor’s thunder by skipping down the Garvaghy Road hand in hand with Paisley.

Prior to this point he had been a relatively minor personality in UUP politics, a party he had really only thrown his full weight behind after loosing badly to Mary Mc Aleese for the position of Pro-Vice Chancellor at Queen’s University, whilst he held a position as a lecturer in law there.

Trimble is a talented professional sophist and an opportunist extraordinaire. He has actually managed a Kafkaesque metamorphsis from the man who shared a stage with Bill Craig as second in command of the “Vanguard” movement in the 1970’s, as Craig declared the need to “Liquidate the enemy.”

This is not to leave aside the allegations made against him in Sean McPhilemy’s banned publication “The Committee”. This book alleged that several leading Unionist businessmen and political figures colluded with loyalists paramiltaries and renegade RUC officers in killing Catholics in the 1990’s. It was Trimble's legal intervention that prevented the book's widespread publication on a wafer thin technicality at the last minute.

Another cogent reason for Trimble’s halting of this process is the fact that he was not going loose the chance to regain some of the hard line kudos within the UUP. Furthermore there is a desire to pander to the wider faceless establishment and by appearing to hold the whip hand over the IRA, he can engineer a situation whereby further and more transparent acts of decommissioning can be effectively construed as IRA surrender.

In all this of course there is the farce of electioneering.

The UUP leader has given ground to all Unionist anti-agreement factions by his deeds. One can almost see the DUP summoning up the ghosts of their paranoid ancestors to help decry the papist demons.

Perversely this could also be Trimble’s intention, to create a scorched earth policy for any future executive that may hold a majority of the DUP and Sinn Fein.

If not, Trimble better have another card to play as his actions last week may have consigned him to self inflicted political death.

Winter elections will make for an even more apathetic electorate who stay away in their droves in summer elections, let alone dark cold and wet nights, especially in rural areas.

This will not affect nationalist or republican voters who have learned the valuable lesson of using their vote as it was hard to come by in the first place. It has to be said that this is all a far cry from some of the leaders of Sinn Fein who as youngsters in the early 1970’s regularly verbally and physically abused nationalist voters outside polling stations.

In any event the pessimism of Bertie Ahern has proved so far to be correct on this occasion.

It is likely that the DUP and Sinn Fein ascendancy in the coming poll will make any future executive unworkable anyway. The UUP election campaign posters have depicted them as being as “British as fish and chips”.

As Tuesday October 22nd came to an end and I drifted back off to sleep, my mind drifted back to that imaginary party up at Stormont. Since they had been grounded the flying pigs were invited inside for some food.

Can you guess what they were eating?




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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

24 October 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Lies, The Lying Liars Who Tell Them and the Law of Unintended Consequences
Tom Luby


One More for the Road...And Another. Come Back Tony & Bertie, the Crack's 90

Anthony McIntyre


On the One Road
Mick Hall


Conduct Unbecoming
Kathleen O Halloran


A Political Nightmare
Eamon Sweeney


Ireland: Repression, Violence, Segregation - The Realities of the Sectarian State
Paul Mallon


When the Drugs Don't Work
Sean Fleming


Last Week, It Happened Again. In Bolivia.
Michael Youlton


20 October 2003


The Big Fella and the Big Lad
Breandán Ó Muirthile


Sabotaging the Fight for Freedom
Liam O Comain


Republicanism: Relevant and Not Going Away
TJ O Conchuir


Anti-Racism Network Statement for Endorsement
Davy Carlin


From Where Springs Hope
Anthony McIntyre


Trashing Free Software
Toni Solo




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