I can't let Danny Morrison's piece
in today's Guardian go without comment.
"As an Irish republican who joined the IRA in my teens in the early 1970s, and as someone who has been arrested and imprisoned in my own country a score of times by the British, I take great exception to the moral high tone often adopted by commentators when they turn their attention to the north of Ireland."
As a convicted terrorist, jailed in connection with a kidnap and torture, Morrison considers himself in some sort of position of moral authority. It says a lot about republican theology that he simply assumes this goes without saying.
"The British government will never have any right to be in Ireland. That basic premise never disturbs the thinking of British commentators, but every day in the north we live with the consequences of British interference in Irish affairs."
The British government isn't "in" Ireland. Northern Ireland contains a majority of people who define themselves as British and who wish to be part of the United Kingdom. This "basic premise never disturbs the thinking" of republicans, right wing "imperial-decline managers" and left wing "liberationists". If Nationalists ever outnumber Unionists it might be appropriate for Northern Ireland to become united with the Republic, in that event, special consideration would be required of unionists' British identity, analogous to the special consideration of Irish identity and aspirations granted to nationalists at present: For "Cross-border bodies" read "Cross-Irish-sea bodies". This may seem like a small point to labour but this issue goes to the heart of the lack of progress from republicans.
The republican view goes something like this: The last legitimate government of Ireland was elected in 1918 when Sinn Fein routed the constitutional nationalist party led by John Redmond and declared Ireland independent setting up their own Dail (Parliament). This Dail was elected by an all-Ireland electorate albeit for the Westminster parliament. As no all-Ireland election has taken place since, republicans believe that the only legitimate government of Ireland is the IRA army council. I use the word "believe" advisedly as this bears all the hallmarks of a righteous religious sect. The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are "failed statelets" according to the republican view. The fact that the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have existed in their present state for longer than the lifetime of all but a handful of their occupants is a trifling matter for republicans, these are simply illegitimate bodies. That is why Morrison refers to the British in Ireland, until the entire island of Ireland is britisch-rein
it is the same as if the whole island is under british rule. In this version of events there is simply no recognition of the majority population in Northern Ireland: the protestant descendants of Scottish settlers who have been on this island longer than most of the occupants of the continent of America. It is only by refusing to recognise the reality of a border which has existed for over 80 years that you could dismiss this people as an irrelevant minority. This flaw in republican thinking has led them to constantly invoke the imaginary quarrel between the Irish and the British to the detriment of the actual dispute between the two tribes who share Northern Ireland.
"Hundreds of nationalists, including our political representatives and our lawyers, were assassinated as a result of collusion between the British state and loyalist paramilitaries in a scandal which will now be swept under the carpet - if issuing the Stevens report the day after parliament went into recess is anything to go by."
The idea that this despicable episode is simply swept under the carpet is another example of extreme nationalist paranoia. One thing that is swept under the carpet is the inconvenient fact that more nationalists were killed by republican paramilitaries than loyalists and state agents put together!
"It is too simplistic to blame the IRA for current difficulties in the peace process. The real crisis is that unionists do not want to share power with nationalists, particularly Sinn Fein, and are attempting to turn the peace process into a surrender process, though the IRA was never defeated."
Unionists don't want to share power with Sinn Fein not because they are nationalist but because they don't trust them. They are quite happy, even the extremists of the DUP, to share with the mainstream Nationalist SDLP. Now, they may be wrong to distrust SF or they may be right but it is dishonest to portray this disagreement as simply a sectarian dispute.
"Our experience and our relationship with Britain, which informs our judgements, has been forged by British military might. When we compare what Britain has done in Ireland, including partitioning the country and handing power to the Ulster Unionist party, which discriminated against nationalists for 50 years; when we consider the revelations of the Stevens report (just the tip of the iceberg of "the dirty war"), and then examine what republicans have given, things take on a different perspective."
This is eloquent testimony to the paranoid mindset of republicans. Things take on a "different perspective" indeed if you collude in the delusion that the story of Ireland, never mind Northern Ireland is a simple struggle between the Republican guerrillas of the IRA and Britain's "military might". Ordinary people don't get a look in.
"David Trimble's Ulster Unionist party has never acknowledged the part those decades of discrimination and oppression played in fuelling the outbreak of violence. We can live with that denial."
That's big of you, Danny.
"What we cannot abide is the demand that the IRA prostrate itself so that David Trimble can present a triumphalist manifesto in his election battle against Ian Paisley."
You see, this is the sort of stuff that makes me despair, this boneheaded childish machismo is not by any means restricted to republicans, it infects all of NI politics but here what Morrison is saying is that, dammit if he's going to do Trimble any favours. Never mind that it might actually be in everyone's interest, including republicans, that the rational Trimble prevails over the demagogic Paisley.
"The IRA's declaration of a cessation in 1994 was welcomed with obstacles and demands from day one. Sinn Fein was demonised and excluded from talks until Labour came to power in 1997."
SF promised an end to IRA violence which most people understood meant an end to all violence and a winding down of the "military" aspect of "the Republican movement" including
1) Intelligence gathering,
2) Targeting of prominent politicians and policemen,
3) Weapons procurement,
4) Punishment beatings,
6) Executions of intra-republican dissidents and critics,
7) Executions of those involved in the drug trade.
All of those things still go on. Even now.
That is why SF was "demonised and excluded".
"When it came to negotiations, republicans compromised on several key issues. In the Belfast agreement they supported a unionist demand for devolved government to "the hated" Stormont assembly, and for the amendment of the Irish territorial claim on the north. They were promised a new beginning to policing..."
Done, the RUC is gone and had been replaced by the PSNI which has active recruitment policies towards catholics. Catholics who are often intimidated by republicans from joining. SF has not been excluded from the policing board but has refused to co-operate with it.
"...and that the grievances surrounding justice, human rights and equality would be addressed."
Also done, see all the various enquiries, prisoner release programs and ex-prisoner "rehabilitation" slush funds.
It seems to me that any wish list from republicans is trumped every time by the wish list of ordinary people catholic and protestant for an end to republicans' various "activities". And before the issue of the loyalist paramilitaries is brought up, Ordinary people wish their activities and murders to end too. The key difference is that the rump loyalist parties have no electoral support and are not in a position, unlike SF, of forming part of NI's devolved government.
"Loyalist paramilitaries, in collusion with British intelligence, imported thousands of weapons from the South African apartheid regime. Loyalists refuse to disarm, have continued to kill Catholics (and each other) without any sanctions from Mr Trimble.."
We are back to the tit-for-tat boneheaded argument here. I wonder would Morrison support strong police action against these paramilitaries? I can assure you that he wouldn't. Any show of force against the loyalists would inevitably be replicated against his erstwhile colleagues. He is happy simply to protest about it and continue the charade that somehow the IRA "defends" the catholic population - a fallacy debunked by Richard English
. How does he propose that Trimble "sanction" the loyalists?. Well, I suppose Trimble could apply the same "sanction" and refuse to remain in a government alongside parties associated with paramilitaries, except that the loyalist parties weren't in government, will never be in government.
"- whereas the IRA has twice put large numbers of arms beyond use."
Well, I have donated large numbers of old clothes, putting them "beyond use" but I can assure you that I am not typing this au naturel
Morrison, of course, makes no reference to Colombia where three IRA men including Sinn Fein's official attache in Cuba are on trial for sharing terrorist expertise with FARC's narco-terrorists, or the IRA's Stormont spy ring. These are just some of the many actual events that shed light on the motives of the Republican Movement which no amount of contortedly worded statements from P. O'Neill can spin away.