A predictable yawn. So not an awful lot to say about this deal, which pretty much looks the same as the one before it, with one or two bells added or subtracted.
Two aspects once again strike me as worth commenting on. One is that when everything is boiled down to the bone, the Provos have once again settled for a deal that is not worth the loss of one life, much less the more than three thousand killed and tens of thousands wounded or whose lives were otherwise blighted by the decades of awful violence.
The Provos fought their war not for an Irish language Act but for Irish unity – at least that is what they told everyone, not least those who killed or were killed for that goal. So what conclusions from the deal can one come to about the Provos?
I think their willingness to accept, indeed to negotiate such a deal confirms that the Provos really belong to the Defenderist tradition rather than the republican and separatist movement that defines classical Irish republicanism.
Separatist republicans, faced with the same options, would wrap the guns in plastic, dig holes in the bog and hide the weapons away for use on a better day. Defenderists would do what the Provos have done and negotiate the best deal they could for their people, notwithstanding the political context.
This distinction between the two founding branches of Irish republicanism was never grasped by Unionists. As far as they were concerned all republicans were the same: separatists who would accept nothing less than the destruction of the union.
Had they recognised the truth – which is now so evident – that the Provos were just the armed wing of constitutional Nationalism and acted on it, by doing a deal with John Hume and Gerry Fitt’s SDLP back in the 1970’s, Northern Ireland need not have gone through the horrors of the past four decades.
The tragedy, as we can all now see clearly, is that Unionism could have killed the Troubles at their birth by embracing reforms and a place in the decision-making process for Catholics. But they could not see that. The pity is that some of them are still blind to it.