The former Provisional IRA Quarter-Master General and founder of the Real IRA, Michael McKevitt was formally released from imprisonment at the weekend where he had been serving a twenty-year term for IRA membership and ‘directing terrorism’. Tried and sentenced in 2003, he secured early release last year because of a serious illness, believed to have been cancer of the kidney, but is now judged to have completed his sentence.
With his freedom from jail now official, McKevitt is free to speak openly and he gave a lengthy interview to his campaign website in which he was asked, inter alia, about his attitude towards armed struggle, his former comrades in Sinn Fein and his political philosophy. Here are some extracts from that interview:
Q4. After 15 years in prison – has your political views altered?
I have consistently maintained one view throughout my adult life: that the British presence in Ireland (in whatever form) is illegitimate and has been the most significant contributing factor to years of conflict and strife in Ireland and beyond.
The partition of Ireland is not only illegal, but has been a monumental failure. It has failed since 1921 and it continues to be a failure today. The 1921 Treaty gave the Irish an illusion of independence, similar to the illusion of a settlement offered by the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Those who signed the original Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922 are no different to those who signed the Good Friday Agreement – in reality, little has changed. Throughout those 95 years, the only thing that hasn’t been tabled as a possible solution is the reunification of Ireland.
The GFA was nothing other than Britain’s attempt to stabilise its rule in Ireland. They succeeded by successfully co-opting Irish republicans into administering British rule in Ireland. Clearly the so called Agreement fell far short of a democratic resolution of the Irish national question but it spelt the political and military capitulation of the Provisional movement. Their acceptance of and willingness to administer British rule in Ireland and the decommissioning of their weapons at the behest of the British is testimony to this fact. This is underlined by the presence of Martin McGuinness in his role of deputy First Minister of a British Executive attending the official State Easter commeration in Dublin yesterday; whilst other senior Sinn Fein spokespersons were espousing the usual mantra that the “countdown to reunification” had begun. Eventually the passage of time will see the demise of the 1998 Agreement and it will sit in the dustbin of history alongside the Sunningdale Agreement and the Anglo-Irish agreement. While the 1998 Agreement did contain short term stability, it did not represent a democratic resolution of the national question.
My time in prison hasn’t altered my political analysis – that the GFA will never lead to a united Ireland; in actual fact it has copperfastened partitian. The principle of consent was a very cleverly crafted strategic key inclusion of the Agreement that was non-negoitable, deliberately incorporated in an attempt to legitimise a British presence in Ireland and could never be accepted by any Irish republican.
Now as we approach the centenary of the 1916 Rising, it has become popular to be seen and heard rebel rousing. People shouldn’t be fooled by such nonsense, particularly from Sinn Fein and to a lesser extent from Fianna Fail- they are different sides of the same coin.
When I look at Sinn Fein in particular, I believe their behaviour is akin to that of the looters on the streets of Dublin in 1916. They have turned the centenary commemoration into a financial racket, exploiting it for all they can. Shameful is probably the best description that I can use.
I have no doubt there are many Sinn Fein grass roots people, who believe they are genuine republicans. However, in my opinion, they are brainwashed into believing that the 1998 Agreement will lead to Irish unity. They have been duped by their leadership who are active participants in a British Executive, administering British rule in a part of Ireland “for the foreseeable future”. This same leadership said that they would smash the union, would never sit in a British parliament and now we see they are happy to participate in that system. As I see it, many of them have carved their political careers on the graves of young men and women who gave their lives believing that it was for an end to British rule.
Regularly at weekends in Belfast, Sinn Fein members can be seen on white-line pickets supporting Basque political prisoners, while they choose to ignore the plight of Irish republican prisoners throughout Ireland. I make no apologies to say that their hypocrisy has no boundaries.
Q7. Do you agree with the analysis that armed struggle should be suspended in the interests of allowing an alternative republican voice to emerge that challenges Sinn Fein’s apparent hegemony?
Firstly, I would question what analysis you are referring to. You can be sure that analysis of the use of armed struggle as a tactic will vary greatly depending on the political viewpoint or agenda of where it originates.
It is immaterial as to whether I agree or disagree – armed struggle or guerilla warfare is a tactic which has been around for hundreds of years and has played a role in the modern history of many nations around the world. Historically, the only form of resistance in Ireland, that the British actually took notice of, was armed struggle; like they did in 1916 and in every decade since.
In recent times, it has become very apparent that opposition to the continuing British presence in Ireland is well down the priority list for Sinn Fein. References to a British withdrawal from Ireland on the backdrop of Sinn Fein party conferences were dropped as far back as the 1980’s, as party strategists moved towards constitutional politics and distanced itself from supporting armed struggle.
There is no doubt that the Sinn Fein party has developed its base in the 26 counties, but the struggle was not about the advancement of a political party that ditched its fundamental objectives along the way. If anything, Sinn Fein with the help of Fianna Fail, set the process back considerably in 1998 with the acceptance of the Good Friday Agreement and the removal of Articles 2 and 3. Almost 20 years has lapsed, since the signing of the Agreement and they have done nothing to advance the cause of Irish freedom, despite earlier claims of reunification by the centenary of 1916.
This is very apparent in the language used by Sinn Fein politicians, for example – they no longer refer to Ireland as a country, rather they use the term island. As a result of their political manoeuvrings, they have brought about a one island two countries scenario. People can ask themselves: is this the vision that Pearse and Connolly fought and died for? Is this what the last 100 years of bloodshed was about? It is a sorry legacy.
Q8. Do you concur with the view held by some that the armed campaigns being waged by militant republicans will fail because of the level of infiltration by British intelligence. Are too many of these organisations compromised by informants, agents etc?
One would be naïve to believe that the use of informers and agents are solely confined to the ranks of military organisations. Why would British intelligence agencies limit their activities to this one option, when there are so many other options, equally important from their point of view, that can achieve the same objective?
Informant Denis Donaldson, a senior member of Sinn Fein and one time confident of Gerry Adams, is one example that springs to mind of the British operating high-level agents within an Irish political party. To guarantee the success of the long-term British strategy, logic dictates that the key players who control and influence the populace should be compromised, such as politicians, clergy and elements within the media. Britain would never have succeeded in securing the Good Friday Agreement, the winding down of PIRA, the surrender of its weapons nor the abolition of Articles 2 and 3 without those key influences. Bertie Ahern and his dubious payments is another example that springs to mind.