Monthly Archives: February 2018

Trump’s America (continued)

February 28, 2018
By Joe Kloc

Following the year’s 30th mass shooting, which claimed the lives of 17 people at a school in Parkland, Florida, lawmakers debated the best way to stop gun violence in American schools. As the 31st, 32nd, 33rd, 34th, and 35th mass shootings occurred, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, which has repeatedly passed amendments to federal funding bills that prevent the Centers for Disease Control from directly researching the causes of gun violence, said the killings could not be addressed with a “magic bullet”; and US president Donald Trump, who has previously expressed a fear of sharks, blood, stairs, watching prostitutes urinate, collecting rent in Cincinnati, and holding a 27-year-old bald eagle named Uncle Sam, said that an officer who did not intervene in the Parkland shooting was a “coward,” that he would have stopped the shooter himself even if he “didn’t have a weapon,” and that “highly trained” teachers should be armed in the classroom. A school board in Kentucky voted to allow teachers to carry concealed weapons, police in Louisiana raided the home of a student who observed that the symbol for a square root resembled a gun, and a high school in Pennsylvania suspended a teacher for discussing the Parkland shooting in class. The governor of Kentucky said the country needed to have “an honest conversation” about violent music and pornography “in the hands” of “young people”; congresspersons in Florida rejected a ban on assault rifles and then passed a resolution that declared pornography a public heath risk; a former Pennsylvania senator blamed “absent dads” for mass shootings; and the National Rifle Association, which in combination with its self-described “lobbying arm” paid $5 million to lobbyists last year, announced through its chief spokeswoman that it wasn’t “a lobby group” for gun ownership. Trump said the country must “do something” about how “young people’s thoughts” are shaped by “violence on video games”; and the NRA’s president said that “socialists” wanted to take away American’s handguns and semi-automatic rifles so that citizens wouldn’t be able to defend themselves against an attack by the US government, which employs a total of 1,373,650 active-duty personnel; owns 5,884 combat tanks, 41,062 armored vehicles, 1,934 self-propelled artillery guns, 19 aircraft carriers, 63 destroyers, 70 submarines, 2,296 fighter planes, and 947 attack helicopters; maintains a stockpile of 6,800 nuclear bombs, including some that are 80 times more powerful than the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima during World War II; and operates on a budget of about $600 billion, which congressional Republicans said should be increased, and which the military used in part to fund Army-themed video games designed to recruit teenagers.

The Great Irish Housing Rip-Off Continues Relentlessly……

I reproduce this item from The Irish Times with no comment, since no comment is possible or necessary:

irishtimes.com

What can you buy for €350k in France, Italy, Turkey and Kildare

Kildare

Sherry FitzGerald Brady O’Flaherty is seeking €349,950 for this four bedroom, three bathroom bungalow at 505 Newtown, Maynooth, Co Kildare.

France Charente Maritime

This Maison de Maître in the Néré district comes with quite a haul, including a tower dating from 1592, a swimming pool, an acre of parkland and outbuildings. The house has five bedrooms and three bathrooms. The ground floor centres on a flagstone-floored hall with wooden spiral staircase. There is a living room with fireplace and French windows to the garden, a kitchen, shower-room and bedroom with fireplace. The rest of the bedrooms are on the first floor with two bathrooms.
Price: €349,998. Agent: Frenchestateagents.com

Italy Marche

This majestic 470sq m (5,059sq ft) house on the outskirts of the fortified town of Loro Piceno comes with outbuildings and a chapel. The house was built in 1850 but its San Valentino chapel dates to 1140 and was part of the Cistercians monks’ Fiastra Abbey. The house needs a lot of work. Some of the structural tasks have already been done, keeping original features such as oak beams. But whole floors still need to go in. The buildings create a courtyard and there is a garden and other land beyond. The coast is under half an hour away and Ancona and its airport are to the north-east of here and about an hour’s drive. Price: €349,000. Agent: Cellashirley.com

Turkey Antalya

On a hillside in Kiziltas with views of the Mediterranean, this three-bedroom, semi-detached house has its own swimming pool in a garden with olive and palm trees. There’s a stone oven for barbecues and an outdoor dining area. The living room opens through a band of French windows to the pool. There is also a kitchen, dining space with fireplace and toilet on the ground floor. Two of the three upstairs bedrooms have en suites and open onto a balcony. There is a self-contained apartment on the second floor with access to a roof terrace. Nearby Kalkan sits on a bay dotted with islands. Price: £309, 214 (about €347,800).  Agent: engelvoelkers.com

Spain Andalusia

In Nerja, with views of the sea, this two-bedroom villa has its own swimming pool. On two floors, the house has living accommodation on the top floor to avail of the briny vista. There is a living room, kitchen with breakfast bar, a toilet and terrace. Both downstairs bedrooms have en suite bathrooms and they share a covered terrace beside the swimming pool. Price: €349,000. Agent: rightmove.co.uk

CIA’s Man In Libya Seeks Absolute Power

According to this report in US News & World Report, the troubled oil state of Libya may be on the verge of having a new leader who is deeply in debt to America’s CIA for his remarkable rise to power.
Khalifa Heftar (some spell his name Haftar) was once one of Gaddafi’s powerful Generals and closest allies, but they fell out badly when Gaddafi’s was against the French-supported government in Chad went awry.
Heftar then threw his lot in with Reagan’s CIA which was plotting to overthrow the Libyan leader and when that enterprise foundered he and his allies moved to the US and settled in Virginia, close to the CIA’s headquarters at Langley.
When the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama-inspired overthrow of Gaddafi was launched, Heftar slipped back into Libya, and built a power base in the eastern city of Benghazi from where he has gradually been expanding his influence. He now seems on the verge of grasping power in Tripoli, Libya’s capital, a pro-American, possibly CIA-steered strong man in a region vital to US interests.
Back in 2011, I wrote an extensive profile of Heftar and his dealings with the CIA which you can access here: https://thebrokenelbow.com/2011/03/31/gaddafi-and-the-cia-a-short-history/.
Here also is the US News and World Report article:

usnews.com

Veteran Commander Vies for Power in Libya’s Shifting Sands | World News

 Feb. 26, 2018, at 5:04 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

Veteran Commander Vies for Power in Libya’s Shifting Sands

FILE PHOTO: Libya’s eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar salutes as he participates in General Security conference, in Benghazi, Libya, October 14, 2017. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/File PhotoReuters

 

By Aidan Lewis

TUNIS (Reuters) – When Khalifa Haftar flew to Tunis in September, the veteran commander and possible future leader of Libya brought masked troops armed with automatic rifles and grenade launchers in a show of force that drew censure from U.N. experts.

In France, Italy and Tunisia, he also shook hands with ministers and presidents in gilded reception rooms, projecting a different image: that of a man preparing to convert the military gains of his Libyan National Army (LNA) into civilian power.

Haftar casts himself as the person who can bring stability to Libya after years of conflict, ridding the OPEC member of Islamist militants and reining in migrant smuggling to Europe.

Some of those who have worked with him describe him as a divisive military man with little time for politics, who could try to reinstate authoritarian rule and bring more violence to a country where armed groups jealously guard local fiefdoms.

A former ally of Muammar Gaddafi, Haftar, 75, returned to Libya seven years ago from the United States, to join the Nato-backed revolution that ended four decades of one-man rule.

After a protracted military campaign in Libya’s second city, Benghazi, he has promised to “liberate” the capital Tripoli, split from the east since 2014. Elections, which the United Nations says could be organized by the end of the year despite major obstacles, may provide another route to power.

Haftar seems to be hedging his bets. The LNA, he said last month, has “sleeper cells” it could activate to take full control of Libya while prioritizing a political solution to avoid bloodshed.

“But our patience has limits”, he said in the interview published in French magazine Jeune Afrique, before adding that Libya was not “ripe for democracy”.

Mohamed Buisier, a U.S.-based engineer who served as an advisor to Haftar from 2014-2016 before falling out with him, said Haftar wanted absolute power.

“He wants to get to one of the big palaces in Tripoli and rule Libya – that is it,” he said.

Haftar’s office said he did not immediately have time for an interview.

Did The British Help Create The ‘New Sinn Fein’?

Kevin Bean has this interesting take on the transformation of Sinn Fein in the CPGB’s weekly paper, ‘The Weekly Worker’. He argues that British economic and social policies introduced as part of direct rule helped create a new Catholic middle class and persuaded Sinn Fein to redefine the Nationalist community’s relationship with the British state. (Thanks to the Irish Republican Education Forum for the tip)

weeklyworker.co.uk

Genesis of ‘new Sinn Féin’


Kevin Bean looks back to the 1980s and 90s and the taming of the republican movement

Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams: back in the days of ‘89

Gerry Adams’ departure as president of Sinn Féin coincides with yet another political crisis in the government of Northern Ireland. The now familiar and wearying routine of ‘final meetings’, deadlines and recriminations about ‘bad faith’ seem to have settled into the stale choreography of crisis that has marked ‘the peace process’ in Northern Ireland for the last 25 years or so.

However, could Adams’ apparent departure from front-rank politics also coincide with something more significant than just ‘business as usual, albeit under new management’? The collapse of the Stormont executive last year, the continuing failure to find agreement between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin over key sticking points, such as the status of the Irish language, combined with the uncertainties about the impact of Brexit on Ireland, have led some Tories and a pro-unionist Labour MP to question whether this is a crisis too far and the Good Friday agreement has finally run its course.1

Questioning the current impasse is not, however, confined to Tory Brexiteers and their fellow-travellers on the Labour right. Republican critics of the Provisional leadership have their own take on the political stalemate, arguing that it shows that the whole Provisional project – so closely identified with Gerry Adams since the late 1970s – has been a complete failure.2 This hiatus in the forward march of Provisional Sinn Féin all seems a long way from the bright strategic vision for a “new terrain of struggle” outlined by Gerry Adams following the Good Friday agreement in 1998.3

Lead you

It is also a long way from the commitments made by Adams and his comrades, as they consolidated their leadership over the Provisional movement in the 1980s.The strength of this hold was shown by the decision of the 1986 Sinn Féin conference, or ard fheis, to overturn the long-standing republican policy of not participating in ‘partitionist’ parliaments, thus allowing candidates to take their seats if elected to the Dublin parliament.4

In proposing that abstentionism was a tactic, not a principle, Adams reiterated his commitment to a new type of republican politics that would result in the “revolutionary reconquest of Ireland”.5 The leadership reassured delegates that it had “absolutely no intention of going to Westminster or Stormont” or “edging the republican movement onto a constitutional path”. Reaffirming support for the IRA’s armed struggle, by stating that “the war against British rule must continue until freedom is achieved”, Martin McGuinness concluded his own speech with an appeal for unity: “If you allow yourself to be led out of this hall today, the only place you’re going is home. You will be walking away from the struggle. Don’t go, my friends. We will lead you to the republic.”6

Given the success of the ‘armalite and ballot paper’ strategy since 1981, the confidence of the majority of military and political activists who remained with the Provisionals must have seemed fully justified. In the light of the subsequent failure of ‘dissident republicans’ to develop as significant rivals to the Provisionals, Adams, McGuinness and co could easily dismiss them as yesterday’s men who have remained in the political wilderness.

However, the fundamental questions of republican ideology and strategy posed during the debate on abstentionism are not so easily ignored and were to continually re-emerge in an even more intense form, as the peace process got under way, and the Provisionals were transformed from insurgents into a party of government. Thus it became commonplace amongst both commentators and republican critics in the late 1990s and 2000s to describe the Provisionals as ‘New Sinn Féin’, drawing a comparison between their abandonment of core principles and a newfound emphasis on spin, and Tony Blair’s revisionist ‘New Labour’ project in Britain.7

A common strand in dissident critiques was the idea that the Provisional movement had gone from being the vanguard of the historic struggle for an independent, 32-county republic to a counterrevolutionary barrier protecting the British presence in Ireland. The 32 County Sovereignty Movement, for example, declared that “British strategy has now reached its pinnacle … with a Provisional Sinn Féin leader … as a minister of the British crown, calling IRA volunteers ‘traitors’.” Meanwhile other republicans accused McGuinness, now the deputy first minister, of prostituting “every republican cause that has been adopted since … 1798” and turning his back on “anything to do with a united Ireland”.8 The astonishing depth of hostility in these statements not only revealed the gulf between former comrades, but also suggested a weary disenchantment and a sense of terminus: for revolutionary republicans, Adams and McGuinness had long since passed over into the enemy camp.9

Changing terrain

Whilst many traditional republicans saw this transformation as the result of an individual betrayal by Gerry Adams or the inevitable consequence of electoral politics, these tropes do not really explain the counterrevolutionary trajectory of the Provisionals. In part these developments were underpinned by the radically altered political and social terrain that was emerging in Northern Ireland during the 1980s and 90s.The most significant feature of this new landscape was the changing relationship between the nationalist community and the British state, which would ultimately prove decisive in shaping republican politics through the institutionalisation and incorporation of Provisionalism into the status quo in Northern Ireland.10

From the 1970s a series of British political initiatives, such as the Sunningdale (1973) and Anglo-Irish (1985) agreements, were designed to counter a perceived nationalist alienation from authority, undermine support for militant republicanism and bolster constitutional politics. However, if these political initiatives had a limited immediate impact, it was the state’s deployment of the ‘economic instrument’ – the ‘economic and social war against violence’- that was to have much wider and largely unforeseen long-term political and social implications, especially for the nationalist population. The net effect was that social and economic change in the 1980s and 90s – both independent of and mediated through the state – was combined with British state strategy to reshape the terrain on which republican politics were conducted.11 One significant and widely-noted result of these changes was the development of a new, nationalist middle class employed in the public sector, alongside the emergence of a new layer of nationalist business and social entrepreneurs.12

The impact of this “rising nationalist bourgeoisie” has been linked by some commentators to political demobilisation and a deepening rapprochement between a new nationalist elite and the state.13 Nationalist civil society in general, and community organisations in particular, became increasingly oriented towards the British state (and the European Union) for funding and resources. These developments in civil society were also mirrored by an institutionalisation process within the Provisional movement itself. Since the Provisionals had deep roots in the nationalist community, with membership drawn from the same milieu as community activists (frequently being the same individuals), similar processes of organisational formalisation and engagement through these nodal points with the state were perhaps inevitable.14

One of the paradoxes of the British policy is that not only did it fail to destroy its Provisional opponents: it actually strengthened them and facilitated a process of institutionalisation and collaboration during the peace process. As part of the ‘ballot paper and armalite’ strategy republicans had developed a strong organisational structure within the nationalist community. This was further consolidated as a structure of power by the access to resources that were gained as a result of these burgeoning contacts with the state. Community organisations and political structures that had originated as agencies of revolutionary mobilisation became gatekeepers between the state and the nationalist community, as well as acting as transmission belts for the Provisional movement.15 Even before the peace process the “broad republican community”, as the Provisionals defined it, were acting as partners in the state’s community strategy and, even if they believed it was they who were subverting it, in practice it was the state that was both subverting and transforming their revolutionary strategy.

As the state now increasingly shaped the terrain, so it defined the agenda for nationalist civil society. The impact was as much ideological and cultural as material: the discourse of ‘equality’, ‘fair employment’ and ‘cultural tradition’ popularised by British initiatives such as the Anglo-Irish Agreement (1985) and the Fair Employment Act (1989) were to find their way into the ideology and policies of Sinn Féin in the late 1980s; the particularistic rhetoric of cultural and identity politics increasingly took the place of universalist themes of national self-determination in Provisional rhetoric.16

Most importantly, from the late 1980s onwards, key parts of the Provisional political agenda were concerned with making demands directed towards the Northern Irish state. Whilst republicans were theoretically committed to overthrowing that state, their political practice was to bargain with it and to mobilise in order to pressurise it into granting concessions. With the acceptance of the new dispensation after the Good Friday agreement, this theory and practice were blended into a new synthesis. Thus the Provisionals were essentially functioning within an ideological framework and political context defined by the British state.17

Consequently, the peace process and the resulting political settlement after 1998 merely formalised what had been a growing structural relationship between the nationalist community, the Provisional movement and the British state. Whilst later dissident critics suggested that Provisional Sinn Féin’s movement into mainstream politics was the result of the corruption of individual leaders or attributed its betrayal of republican principles to the ‘fatal embrace’ of electoral politics, the political and organisational transformation of Provisionalism is arguably as much a product of social and economic forces and British state strategy that have transformed the nationalist community as a whole since the late 1980s.18

Broad front

Notwithstanding Martin McGuinness’s confident assertions at the 1986 ard fheis about the effectiveness of the ‘ballot paper and armalite’ strategy, it was becoming increasingly clear that both the military and the electoral facets of the Provisional campaign had been contained.

The movement’s military capability, as measured in levels of violence and effectiveness, noticeably declined after the defeat of the IRA offensive of 1987-88. Likewise the ballot paper was not bearing the anticipated fruit on either side of the border. Despite the end of abstentionism, Provisional Sinn Féin’s vote in elections to Leinster House did not exceed two percent until the election of one candidate in 1997. North of the border electoral support plateaued after 1985, as the Social Democratic and Labour Party reaped the benefits of the Anglo-Irish agreement and its related policy initiatives on discrimination, fair employment and cultural recognition. When Gerry Adams lost his West Belfast Westminster seat to the SDLP in 1992, it seemed that the Provisionals’ electoral strategy had reached its nadir.

It was in this period that the political direction of ‘New Sinn Féin’ became clear. This reflected the movement’s communal rootedness, intellectual eclecticism and a limited republican theoretical tradition, resulting in a growing emphasis on the local and the communal at the expense of the more universalist conceptions of class and nation. It took a much less optimistic view of the potential for remobilising a mass movement through revolutionary subjectivity, arguing instead that a qualitatively new political situation was developing both in Ireland and internationally. From the late 1980s the Adams-McGuinness leadership attempted to manage these tensions through a controlled debate, conducted through public speeches and conference discussions, as well as articles in party newspapers and internal magazines. Drawing on the experience of the H-block and hunger strike protests as a models of popular mobilisation, the leadership advanced a new ‘broad front’ strategy, which required building a coalition with potentially progressive anti-imperialist elements outside the republican movement.

However, in practice, as the broad front quickly evolved in the early 1990s from a revolutionary war of manoeuvre into a diplomatic strategy of position, the anticipated situation was reversed: instead of the Provisionals leading the broad front, it was the Dublin government and constitutional nationalism which established their political dominance over the republicans. Although dressed up in the language of transformation and political advance, policy statements like Towards a lasting peace in Ireland (1992) and the ambiguously named ‘TUAS’19 briefing paper for IRA volunteers, which appeared in the months before the first ceasefire in 1994, clearly signalled the movement’s submission to the status quo.

The most startling shift in the New Sinn Féin position relates to its analysis of the nature of the conflict and the means to resolve it. In a radical departure from established republican analysis, with its identification of Britain’s colonial relationship to Ireland as the essential dynamic of the war, the Provisionals now acknowledged that “peace in Ireland requires a settlement of the long-standing conflict between Irish nationalism and Irish unionism”.20

This radically altered analysis echoed both the long-standing position of the SDLP, with its emphasis on the “internal” nature of the conflict and the discourse of “fourth-generation conflict resolution”, which was emerging through the “dynamic momentum” of international peace processes from the early 1990s.21 Thus, in proposing “a democratic resolution and a lasting peace”, New Sinn Féin appealed to the British government to “join the ranks of the persuaders in seeking to obtain the consent of a majority of people in the north to the constitutional, political and financial arrangements needed for a united Ireland” (my emphasis).22

Couched in the language of consent and historic compromise, these new positions departed radically from republicanism’s historic ambition to complete a revolutionary transformation of the constitutional and political status quo. In place of completing the unfinished revolution, the Provisionals proposed a much more evolutionary project of gradualist transition: diplomatic negotiation and political engagement with unionism, constitutional nationalism, the Dublin government and, above all, the British government.

Whilst unionist critics and the British government initially dismissed New Sinn Féin rhetoric as a mere strategy for masking subversive aims behind honeyed words, these new departures really did betoken a historical break with the core principles of Irish republicanism and the beginnings of a fundamental change in the Provisionals’ structures of thought l

Notes

1. See Huffington Post February 19 2018: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/hoey-good-friday-agreement_uk_5a8adf6de4b00bc49f46c3ac; also The Daily Telegraph February 20 2018.

2. https://republicansinnFéin.org/2018/02/16/no-deal-constitutional-failure.

3. See, for example, ‘Speech by Gerry Adams to reconvened Sinn Féin ard fheis, May 10 1998’: http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/events/peace/docs/ga10598.htm.

4. See R White Ruairí Ó Brádaigh: the life and politics of an Irish revolutionary Bloomington 2006, pp297-310 for an account of the debate at the ard fheis, the walkout by republican critics of the Adams’ leadership and the formation of Republican Sinn Féin.

5. G Adams, ‘The politics of revolution’ An Phoblacht/Republican News November 7 1986.

6. ‘Speech by Martin McGuiness on the issue of abstentionism’, Sinn Féin ard fheis November 2 1986: http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/politics/docs/sf/mmcg021186.htm.

7. For a discussion of the significance of this terminology see A Maillot New Sinn Féin: Irish republicanism in the twenty-first century London 2005, pp1-6; and K Bean The new politics of Sinn Féin Liverpool 2007, pp134-36 and 139-41.

8. The Guardian March 14 2009.

9. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/Sunday-life/news/martin-mcguinness-a-traitor-to-ireland-masked-cira-mans-chilling-speech-30213464.html.

10. See K Bean, ‘La strategia dello Stato e l’incorporazione dei movimenti sociali: caso del movimento repubblicano irlandese fra il 1970 e il 1998’ Partecipazione e conflitto No21, 2011.

11. See K Bean The new politics of Sinn Féin Liverpool 2007, pp16-50.

12. F O’Connor In search of a state: Catholics in Northern Ireland Belfast 1993, p16.

13. E McCann War and peace in Northern Ireland Dublin 1998.

14. For examples of this relationship between the Provisional movement and the nationalist community see C de Baróid Ballymurphy and the Irish war London 2000.

15. For examples of the institutionalisation of the Provisionals, see K Bean The new politics of Sinn Féin Liverpool 2007, pp91-131.

16. Ibid pp30-33.

17. See A Aughey, ‘Unionists can add to vision of UK’ The News Letter July 7 2010.

18. See, for an example, an editorial in Republican Sinn Féin’s newspaper, ‘Adams accepts British police’ Saoirse November 2006.

19. ‘TUAS’ was said by some to stand for ‘Totally unarmed struggle’, while others claimed it meant ‘Tactical use of armed struggle’.

20. ‘Sinn Féin maps road to peace’ An Phoblacht/Republican News February 20 1992.

21. M Ryan War and peace in Ireland: Britain and the IRA in the new world order London 1994.

22. Sinn Féin Towards a lasting peace in Ireland Dublin 1992, p12.

A Trump Envoy To Peace Process? You Have Got To Be Joking!

I must confess it took me more than a few moments to compose myself when I read the following headline in tonight’s/tomorrow’s Irish Times:

In the name of God, would someone please tell Simon Coveney that the person now in charge of the White House is an evil idiot who is utterly incapable of making a sensible decision about anything except golf courses and ways to line his own pockets.

The idea that he or anyone in his administration is intellectually capable of a) understanding the Northern Ireland situation or b) proposing ways of solving the current impasse at Stormont is utter madness.

Remember how, when the process was in crisis and Bill Clinton or, heaven preserve us, George W Bush would pick up the phone and ring Gerry Adams or David Trimble or Ian Paisley and urge them to go the extra mile? Now imagine Donald Trump is the guy on the other end of the line. Need I say any more?

Is The Good Friday Agreement Doomed? Does It Really Matter?

A functioning Assembly and power-sharing government at Stormont are the core visible components of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). If they cease to function temporarily, then it can be said that the GFA has been suspended; the longer that suspension lasts the more surely we can say that the GFA has ceased to exist, or at least matter.

We are now, it seems, in a situation where Northern Ireland is transiting between the GFA’s suspension and its extinction, between the breakdown that occurred just prior to Martin McGuinness’ demise and the impending imposition of direct rule and the mothballing of Stormont that will follow.

Why this has happened will long be a matter of debate but essentially it comes down to the question whose answer sparked the Troubles and kept them going for so many long, bloody decades.

Is Northern Ireland a reformable entity? Are Unionists capable of making Northern Ireland a warmer place for Nationalists or are they intellectually and emotionally trapped in a permanent zero sum game where every gain for Nationalists is a loss for Unionists and thus must be resisted and defied?

The equivalent question for Nationalists answers itself, I think. Reform, and pretty mild reform at that, was the initial demand made by the civil rights movement way back in the mid to late 1960’s and it only hardened into violence, republicanism and revolution when faced with Unionist obduracy and Loyalist/state violence.

The argument over the Irish language encapsulates this tension. The demand made by Sinn Fein for greater recognition of Irish is essentially a cultural demand, not a political one. I am grateful to Liam O’Rourke in the Irish Republican Education Forum for reminding me of what The Economist magazine had to say about this issue way back in 2008, nearly a full decade ago:

Sinn Fein’s enthusiasm for Irish is partly a response to a revival in the language…….More important, Irish gives Sinn Fein a popular issue to cover its climbdown from traditional demands for Irish unity.

Revolutionary parties make cultural demands when they no longer have the strength or backing to make political demands. Arguably, then, the demands for the recognition of Irish in Northern Ireland are a informal admission of the Provo’s wider political defeat and of their willingness to accept life in a reformed, friendlier but still British, Northern Ireland.

But Unionists either cannot or will not see this. They prefer to see the demand as an attempt to brand Northern Ireland, to quote that Economist article again, ‘not as British as Finchley’. But then we always knew that, didn’t we? I went to school for a while in Finchley and I can be a witness to that truth.

This is a familiar cycle. Nationalists make what they feel is a reasonable demand. Unionists say ‘no way’ and Nationalists reach for the pike hidden in the thatched roof.

Except we live in different times. Whatever else it was. the Good Friday Agreement was fundamentally a mechanism to copper fasten the defeat of the Provisional IRA, not just by self-decommissioning its weapons, or disbanding the bulk of its organisation but by the IRA accepting the political credo of its enemies.

I am talking here about the principle of consent, the belief that Ireland can only be made one when the two parts of Ireland agree (and realistically we are talking not just about a majority of the population of Northern Ireland but a majority of Unionists – the so-called double veto).

The IRA accepted that principle which was made real in an all-Ireland referendum in 1998, the first time since 1921 that the people of Ireland, all the people, voted as one (71% approval in the North, 94.4% in the South).

So, the Executive and Assembly up at Stormont may well fade into the nether regions of the memory banks but that reality remains, a reality that both undermines the legitimacy of republican violence and which makes it easier for the British and Irish states to suppress it.

So, the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement may topple but that truth will live on. It will soften the blow in Dublin and London should the institutions disappear. Tears will be shed, for sure, but they won’t last long.

The Intriguing Provo Connection In The Catherine Nevin Case – How Did She Know John Deery?

As my readers in the 26 Cos will know, the death was announced today of Catherine Nevin, the publican’s wife from Co Wicklow who was dubbed the ‘Black Widow’ by the Dublin media after her conviction for the 1996 murder of her husband, Tom Nevin.

Catherine Nevin

She had brain cancer and was released from jail on compassionate grounds last year.

She was jailed for life in 2000 after being convicted of murdering her husband at their pub, Jack White’s Inn near Brittas Bay in Co Wicklow. Three men, William McClean, Gerry Heapes and John Jones, were allegedly solicited by her to carry out the killing, which she consistently denied.

Catherine Nevin always suggested that somehow the Provisional IRA was involved in her husband’s death, not her. She claimed her husband was an IRA member, that she once discovered bomb-making equipment at the pub and she alleged that her husband was involved in a scheme with the IRA to purchase a bar in Dublin, with the IRA as majority, silent partners.

What is especially intriguing about this claim is that she named one of the three men involved on behalf of the IRA in this scheme as John Deery (she called him Johnny Deery).

John Deery, as Provo followers will know well, was the IRA’s Director of Finance, the IRA’s money man who is rumoured to have ended up owning a casino somewhere in the Carribean.

That intelligence about John Deery is, to say the least, esoteric and the obvious question asks itself: how did someone like Catherine Nevin even know about John Deery, except that she had reason to?

Below is a March 2000 court report from The Irish Independent detailing Catherine Nevin’s evidence about all this: