Tag Archives: Sinn Fein

Stormont Crisis: The Gravy Train Versus Something Really Different

I see that Theresa Villiers has appointed the three wise monkeys who will doubtless rubber stamp the doubtless already agreed formula which allows everyone to continue pretending that the Provos do not have an armed wing, or if they do that it operates independently of the SF leadership, so they can all get back on board the gravy train at Stormont.

NI Secretary Theresa Villiers - why do I always think of Cruella D'Evil when I see her photo?

NI Secretary Theresa Villiers – why do I always think of Cruella D’Evil when I see her photo?

Why such cynicism? Because it is merited. The crisis was a sham one from the get-go. Every single party to the St Andrews deal knew full well that Sinn Fein would need to maintain an armed wing in case the dissident republicans got uppity. The Provos wanted a more formal recognition, i.e. retention of some guns sanctified by Blair and Ahern but what they got instead was a nod and wink go-ahead. It was enough.

Even, or perhaps one should say especially, the DUP was aware that IRA decommissioning was incomplete but made no fuss, instead demanding something SF was wont to do anyway, which was to accept the PSNI. With that delivered, and the guns issue hopefully sidelined, Ian Paisley careened happily, nay enthusiastically into government with Sinn Fein.

Only when ‘Jock’ Davison and then Kevin McGuigan were killed by the non-existent wing did the loose thread begin to unravel the ball of deception. And but for Catherine McCartney’s brave denunciation of the PSNI would the police top brass have ever come clean on IRA responsibility for the McGuigan slaying? An interesting question.

Would you buy a used lie from these people?

Would you buy a used lie from these people?

Here below is another take on the ‘crisis’ at Stormont, from former journalist and now US-based consultant, Michael McDowell who begins from the premise that the existing institutions have broken down, that another IMC-type body to monitor paramilitary activity just won’t wash, that a fresh start needs to be made and the Good Friday Agreement replaced. One doesn’t have to agree with all his arguments to know there is much truth in what he says.

But I rather think the gravy train will trundle down the tracks nonetheless. That gravy just tastes so gooooooood! And there’s so much of it!

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It’s time for a new peace deal… with public support

If the Executive parties cannot reach agreement, the London and Dublin governments should seize the initiative and appeal to the electorate over the heads of the politicians, writes Michael H C McDowell in Washington, DC.

Published 22/09/2015

Prime Minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Prime Minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny

There is a possible solution to the political crisis at Stormont – but that solution requires imagination, energy and determination on the part of London, particularly, which pays the bills, and, secondarily, Dublin.

 Northern Ireland’s constitutional problems are not unique, in spite of the truly bizarre pride which many of our politicians take in rejecting suggestions from outside which might make the 1998 Good Friday Agreement work as it was originally intended to.

“That wouldn’t work here … you can’t compare us with other places … we need an Irish solution to an Irish problem … we’re not like anywhere else … we’ve tried that before,” are the pathetic bleatings of these political critics. And yet many of them have the cheek to travel around the world offering advice to other conflicted jurisdictions, boasting that our “model” should be replicated abroad.

Sadly, the current model is not successful. It might have been an initial success in 1998 and for a short period afterwards, but the Northern Ireland model is not fit-for-purpose any more.

Above all, the public must have confidence in the Executive and Assembly; it no longer has that confidence to any meaningful extent, as polls consistently show.

Calls for another quick fix – by resurrecting the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) in a “tougher” form – suggests a shifting of deckchairs on our political Titanic, unless, this time around, it leads to root-and-branch dismantling of the billions of pounds and euro in money-laundering, fuel-smuggling, racketeering, drug-running and criminal assets – and, of course, eliminating the killings and maimings on both sides of the border.

The public must be convinced that any “new” IMC has no hidden agenda and can unequivocally answer key questions – for example: “Is the IRA army council still operating, in any way?” And: “Are there still weapons being held by the IRA?”

 If the answers to either or both those questions is “Yes,” then Sinn Fein must lose its right to be in government with wholly democratic parties.

The man and woman in the street are already sceptical that this latest of so many rounds of talks will produce broad agreement among the DUP, Sinn Fein, Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Alliance.

Of course, it is worth having talks, but if they don’t work, what is the Plan B of the two governments? Well, there isn’t one.

A quick election is demanded by Sinn Fein, with their eyes on the southern election next year, but a Northern Ireland election would meet the definition of insanity – ie, repeating the same old exercise and expecting a different result. Instead, we would have the familiar political stalemate in the Executive and Assembly; indeed, it might be worse.

Direct rule from Westminster is favoured by others, but that takes away local decision-making and puts it in the hands of English ministers.

Joint-authority, with London and Dublin, puts a greener tinge on the body politic and infuriates unionists and, in any case, Dublin is just slowly emerging from a disastrous economic mess.

What would work instead? After 37 years in North America, seven of them in Canada, the rest in Boston, New York and Washington, I believe in taking calculated (I stress, calculated) risks and having that old American “can-do” attitude, thinking-out-of-the-box, and, yes, a “do-no-harm-either” approach.

Well, if the local parties cannot agree on a package which specifies an Executive formed by voluntary coalition, collective Cabinet responsibility on policies, forced resignations for misbehaviour or corruption, other reasonable accommodations, an official Opposition in the Assembly with powers to call and hold ministers to account, and mechanisms to achieve a political majority of elected representatives in both communities to pass community-sensitive legislation and other safeguards, then it is up to London and Dublin to pick up the ball which the feuding parties kicked out of the political pram.

Let the two governments put a take-it-or-leave-it package rejected by the warring politicians directly to the people of Northern Ireland in a referendum.

After all, it is more than 17 years since the Good Friday Agreement was supported by a majority in both communities in a high-turnout vote.

If the package is supported by the electorate, then London and Dublin can legitimately call a meaningful Northern Ireland Assembly election on the basis of that mandate from the people of the province expressed in the referendum. If it is rejected, then it’s back to direct rule or something less than joint authority. Or, if a referendum is seen as too high-risk, then have London impose the package, with support, ideally, from Dublin and Washington.

Admittedly, in 1998, the majority unionist and nationalist parties campaigned for a “Yes,” and it is possible the DUP and Sinn Fein could join in an unholy alliance for a “No.” That’s a call for the two governments to make.

A lesser risk would entail relatively minor reforms to strengthen the centre and weaken the two main sectarian parties, perhaps though a Northern Ireland-wide electoral “list” system of voting, as used in Scotland, which would enable the Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Alliance to get a stronger foothold in the institutions than the current STV system allows.

Surely, though, it is time for bolder actions? Now is the time to take risks for peace, in the spirit of 1998.

Again, an election now, or in a few weeks, will achieve nothing but further acrimony, and no doubt the turnout will reach an historic low.

The options I am suggesting will be resisted not only by the NI political parties (barring, possibly, Alliance and, at a long shot, the UUs and SDLP), but by the pusillanimous mandarins of the Northern Ireland Office, the mediocre Nervous Nellies of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the sneaking-regarders of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. These naysayers must be ignored.

Yes, there is a precedent: my IMC idea was championed by Tony Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell. Number 10 overruled the NIO’s opposition to it and Bertie Ahern and the Taoiseach’s office chose to ignore the Department of Foreign Affairs’ doubts. The IMC came into being because of strong political leadership by Blair and Ahern. They were the ultimate “deciders”.

The people of Northern Ireland again and again have shown that they support power-sharing (including in the unionist community, please note) and such cross-community initiatives as integrated education and sharing of public facilities.

We have had much talk about “a shared future” but, many years on, no agreement on what that might mean. Can we seriously tackle sectarianism? Can we deal effectively with the horrors committed in the past?

And, lurking like a demon around the political corner, are the harsh penalties for not enacting welfare reform, which Sinn Fein reneged on months ago, with savage cuts in spending which would hurt the very poorest families in Northern Ireland. Like it or not, the Tories were elected with a majority and promised to cut welfare monies if elected.

Then there’s the supposed panacea of corporation tax – huge cuts in social services might be needed to replace the $300m alleged “savings” on that triumph-of-hope-over-experience idea. David Cameron and Enda Kenny have a major opportunity to break the political logjam in the north and give the vast majority of people who support true power-sharing the kind of joined-up government which they voted for in the 1998 referendum – not the DUP-Sinn Fein cynical carving-up of power.

The men, women and, above all, the next generation of citizens of Northern Ireland deserve better of their politicians.

Just producing a new “improved” (?) IMC is not enough, and our 108 overpaid, over-expensed, do-nothing MLAs need to be pushed off the gravy train of the public trough if they cannot do their job, lead and reach an accord. Let London and Dublin seize the initiative if the northern parties will not agree.

And, finally, please keep the United States out of it all, except for backing a final package, and ignore Capitol Hill’s undistinguished Amen Chorus for Sinn Fein. The ball must stay firmly in London’s and Dublin’s court, where it should be.

There is a possible solution.

  • Michael H C McDowell, a former Northern Ireland journalist, is an international affairs consultant based in Washington, DC

McGuigan Killing: With No Evidence, The Irish Times Calls It ‘A Feud Between Former IRA Members’

After days of silence from Ireland’s paper of record, or at least no published articles on the killing of Kevin McGuigan written by a staff writer, The Irish Times has, courtesy of a piece filed by an unnamed reporter from the Press Association (PA), pronounced the McGuigan slaying outside his Short Strand home last week “a suspected feud between former IRA members”.

Irish_Times

This politically safe if somewhat ambiguous depiction would, if reflected in the results of the PSNI ‘investigation’, get Sinn Fein off the hook and defuse any threat from the DUP leader Peter Robinson to expel the party from the power-sharing Executive, a threat Mr Robinson would have to make good if the PSNI found that the killing was authorised by the republican/Sinn Fein leadership or that there was foreknowledge on their part.

The use of the phrase “former members” by the PA, and its endorsement by the Times is critical to all this; on one reading, it carries the implicit suggestion that the killers were not members of any existing republican group or the Provisional IRA in a re-structured form, could not have been ordered to kill, and thus accords with the official peace process narrative which claims that the IRA went out of business in July 2005.

On that reading this killing could therefore be seen as an intervention by former combatants that had nothing to do with the Sinn Fein or IRA leadership. In May, Jock Davison, a senior IRA figure in the city was slain in the Markets district and last week, his alleged killer was struck down in the nearby Short Strand. Thus the narrative could read: old friends fell out and their mates took sides, but nothing to do with the Provos.

Neither the PA nor The Irish Times provide any evidence to support this claim nor do they source it. The Press Association has an interesting history covering the Northern Troubles. For a period in the late 1970’s its Belfast office was known for its excellent IRA sources but after complaints from the British military there were staff changes and thereafter the PA became better known for its RUC and security force stories.

Observers of the republican scene, including this writer, believe that while the mainstream IRA no longer exists in its old form and size, the organisation most certainly retains an intelligence-gathering wing which is active on both sides of the Border while common sense – namely the need to defend against precisely the sort of assault represented by the Davison killing – strongly suggests a precautionary need for some armed capacity.

No seasoned observer believes that weapons are not available for use and there is a widespread suspicion in republican districts of Belfast that the McGuigan killing was ordered with the intention of deterring any more killings like that of Mr Davison.

Nonetheless given the high stakes at risk, no less than the survival of the power-sharing government at Stormont, a PSNI inquiry which concluded that Kevin McGuigan was killed by armed members of an organisation linked to Sinn Fein would be a disaster for supporters of the peace process.

The Irish Times/PA description – “a feud by former IRA members (with the accent on ‘former’)” – would give Sinn Fein a ‘get out of jail free’ card and save the process.

A wise punter would bet the mortgage on it. But be quick.

Below is The Irish Times/PA story:

 

Shankill bomber questioned in McGuigan murder inquiry

IRA Shankill bomber Seán Kelly is being questioned by police investigating the killing of former Provisional IRA member Kevin McGuigan.

Mr McGuigan, a 53-year-old father of nine, was murdered at his home at Comber Court in the Short Strand area of east Belfast last week, in a suspected feud between former IRA members.

He was shot a number of times in front of his wife Dolores outside their home in Comber Court last Wednesday.

Mr McGuigan was suspected by some in the republican movement of involvement in the killing of former IRA leader Gerard “Jock” Davison in the nearby Markets area of Belfast three months ago.

There has been widespread speculation his killing was a revenge attack by Mr Davison’s associates.

Stormont’s First Minister Peter Robinson has warned Sinn Féin it would face expulsion from the power-sharing Executive if the IRA was responsible.

Mr McGuigan’s relatives have used social media to accuse the IRA.

Sinn Féin has rejected the suggestion of IRA involvement.

Kelly and is among five men aged 39, 53, 41, 44 and 49 being questioned by detectives.

Kelly and Thomas Begley planted a bomb in Frizzell’s fish shop in 1993.

Begley, died in the explosion with nine other people.

Kelly was released from prison under the Good Friday Agreement.

Weapons recovered during searches in Greater Belfast have been sent for forensic examination, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.

The Shankill deaths were among the most notorious of the later years of the Troubles.

IRA bombers intended to target paramilitaries they believed were meeting upstairs in one of the most famously loyalist parts of the city. Instead niine shoppers were killed and dozens more injured.

Begley, also died in the blast in the packed fishmongers after the device exploded prematurely. The attack took place on a Saturday afternoon in October 1993.

A total of 57 people were injured, some seriously. Among them was a 79-year-old woman and two two-year-old boys.

Following the attack, the Ulster Defence Association carried out a series of retaliatory attacks, killing eight people at a Catholic bar in Greysteel near Derry shortly afterwards.

PA

Boris Johnson, Sinn Fein, & The Labour Leadership Contest

A front-page story today in the British Army and MI5’s favourite morning read, The Daily Telegraph, has Boris Johnson, public school buffoon, London Lord Mayor and Bullingdon Club vandal (along with David Cameron and his finance chief, George Osborne), attacking left-wing(‘ish) Labour Party leader candidate, Jeremy Corbyn for his sympathies for Sinn Fein (I say ‘ish because a real leftie surely would have quit the moment Tony Blair took the crown!)

This is what the Telegraph article headline looks like:
Telegraph

The Bold Boris labels Corbyn ‘Sinn Fein-loving’, which is probably not inaccurate. As for being ‘monarchy-baiting’, that sounds like a pretty good reason to vote for him.

But on the question of this all being unbelievably good luck for the Tories, I just have one question.

When it comes to Sinn Fein-loving Labour leaders, there is something in my memory banks that tells me that as far as that activity was concerned, no-one could hold a candle to one Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, formerly known as the leader of the British Labour Party and one-time prime minister of Britain.

The Bullingdon Bullies at Oxford. Boris is seated far right (where else?) and Cameron is back row

The Bullingdon Bullies at Oxford. Boris is seated far right (where else?) and Cameron is back row, second from left

In the business of indulging Sinn Fein and the IRA, turning a blind eye to DAAD killings, Northern Bank robberies, bar stabbings, grudge shootings and so many breaches of ceasefire conditions along with concession after concession – so numerous and generous that it took the White House to call an end to the giveaways – surely Tony Blair and not Jeremy Corbyn is the real Sinn Fein-lover here?

So, why no fuss from Boris and his buddies when Tony Blair was giving Sinn Fein not just the shop but the key to the shop? Why no reminder now of the real truth about all this?

But there’s the rub. Tony was then Tory-lite, virtually indistinguishable from the Conservatives, and now is the spokesman for the Labour Party’s neo-liberal opposition to Jeremy Corbyn, the only thing standing between civilization and barbarity.

And so a curtain shall be drawn over that extraordinary chapter in British politics, no mention of how Blair’s purchase of Sinn Fein laid the basis for his post prime ministerial career, and fortune-making, as the world’s great peace-maker.

Instead a new version has been forged, with the powerless, but possibly naive, Mr Corbyn cast in the role of the true villain regarding the indulging of Sinn Fein, and Tony Blair written out of the story.

How convenient.

The McGuigan Killing: Here We Go Again, Cowardly Cops, Lying Provos And A ‘Helpful’ Media

“Unhelpful”. That’s the buzz word today in the wake of last night’s “ruthless and premeditated” murder of Kevin McGuigan in the East Belfast enclave of Short Strand.

The words “ruthless and premeditated” are not mine but those of PSNI investigating officer DCI John McVea. That’s rather like saying World War II was long and bloody. Pretty obvious to even the most dim-witted.

That’s really all that Mr McVea had to say about the killing except he added a warning to the media that it would be “reckless and dangerous” to speculate about IRA involvement in the McGuigan killing.

Why reckless and dangerous? The dogs in the streets of Belfast know full well who killed Kevin McGuigan. Aren’t their owners allowed to talk about it? After all they’ve been here before. There are no surprises in Belfast.

In the winter of 1995 and early 1996 four young men were gunned to death in republican areas of Belfast and Lurgan, Co Armagh.

Their killers advertised themselves as Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD) but everyone knew they were really the Provisional IRA in macabre drag, flexing their muscles as patience with the British over their handling of the 1994 ceasefire dwindled. By no coincidence the ceasefire collapsed at Canary Wharf a month after the last DAAD killing.

Those four guys died not because they were flooding Turf Lodge or the Ormeau Road with white powder but to send a message to the British: “They haven’t gone away, you know!” And everyone knew it; now the same people who peddled the lie about those killings, or told us that it would be “reckless and dangerous” to speculate about the culprits, are at it again today.

First there was DCI McVea; then we had Sinn Fein pols Alex Maskey and someone called Niall O Donnaghaile (Maskey the old scarred, gnarled face of the Provos, Niall the new, younger, smoother version) outside Belfast City Hall crying crocodile tears for the McGuigan family but with the same message as DCI McVea.

Alex Maskey and Niall O Donnaghail - The two faces of Sinn Fein with the same warning to the media: don't be unhelpful!

Alex Maskey and Niall O Donnaghail – The two faces of Sinn Fein with the same warning to the media: don’t be unhelpful!

Three times Maskey told a video interviewer from The Belfast Telegraph that people, i.e. the media, should not “speculate” about the culprits.  It would be “unhelpful”, he said to speculate about IRA involvement; cautioning the media again “not to speculate” he waved this final, almost threatening red flag: “….it would be unhelpful and unwelcome to enter into speculation”. Speculate if you dare.

This is also is a repeat of the refrain heard at the time of the DAAD killings some twenty years ago, and that word “unhelpful” repeated again and again, hammered into the brains of Belfast’s hapless media folk.

So why is it unhelpful to wonder openly if the IRA had a hand or part in the McGuigan killing, to pursue speculation that is rife in the city and that was, indubitably, the very first thought to enter the heads of most television viewers when the news was flashed across their screens last night?

Is it because to tell the truth about last night’s violence, or even to speculate about it would expose an even more unpalatable untruth: that the peace process is based on a lie, that an armed IRA, ready when necessary to use violence still exists, and that all those involved in making the subsequent political arrangement work know this full well but can’t say so openly for fear of admitting their culpability, greed, ambition, stupidity?

I will let you, dear reader, answer that question. But I do know that all these warnings not to be “unhelpful” work with the media, or at least most of them. Those who follow the warnings prosper and are given access to those who feed them the lies, a front seat at the circus ring, up close with the clowns; those who don’t will be marginalised and demonised, a walking warning of what can happen when you become “unhelpful”.

If you don’t believe me, then scan today’s internet edition of The Irish Times, Ireland’s paper of record, for a single mention, never mind follow up of the McGuigan murder. (The Irish Times finally filed a story at 17:31 pm)

That’s why I am here, in Broome County, New York, USA and not Belfast. Life is too short for such shit.

‘An Rebel Og’ – The East Cork Sinn Fein Blog Behind Party Row?

Is Sinn Fein finally morphing into a ‘normal’ political party, where internal disputes burst out into the open amid competing ambitions and egos, or is the ruckus in East Cork Sinn Fein just another symptom of the top-down, control freakery that has long characterised a party that was always run more like a secret army?

Readers can judge from themselves. By all accounts the An Rebel Og blogsite stands as the manifesto of the East Cork malcontents and some of the things they say about the leadership are not kind at all. Click on the link and have a read for yourself.

Go Figure Sinn Fein!

As Gerry Adams was shaking hands with Prince Charles in Galway, in Belfast members of the Ballymurphy Massacre Families, who are campaigning for the truth about the killing by Paratroopers in 1972 of their loved ones, protested Charles’ trip to Ireland at a demo in downtown Belfast.

Prince Charles is the Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute regiment.

In the centre of the group, as can be seen in the photograph below, is Paul Maskey, MP for West Belfast, the seat once held by Gerry Adams, and a prominent member of the Sinn Fein leadership cadre.

So, while one Sinn Fein luminary shook the hand of the Prince of Wales and welcomed him to Ireland, another Sinn Fein luminary protested his presence in Ireland.

I think it would be difficult to find a clearer demonstration of Sinn Fein’s approach to politics.

Ballymurphy Protest Millfield

Paul Maskey, wearing glasses, is fourth from right

Beware! Michael Gove, King Of The Neocons, Is Back

I can’t now remember the precise date but it would have been some time after the Good Friday deal had been struck when the phone rang in my Belfast home cum office and Michael Gove was at the other end.

A few years later Gove would become an MP and then a member of the set that congregated around Tory party leader David Cameron, but back then he was a leader writer for The Times newspaper, charged with writing editorials about issues of topical concern.

gove

Michael Gove – an idiot with power is a dangerous thing!

The matter he wanted to talk to me about was the peace process in Northern Ireland and specifically Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader and principal republican architect of the peace strategy. What I didn’t know at the time was that Gove was not looking for background for a Times‘ editorial but material for ‘The Price of Peace’, a pamphlet he was writing denouncing the peace process as a sell out of Unionism and a surrender to the IRA.

This extract from his conclusion, outlining his alternative to the GFA, will give you a taster of his views in this regard:

Therefore, the best guarantee for stability is the assertion by the Westminster Government that it will defend, with all vigour, the right of the democratic majority in Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom. Ulster could then be governed with an Assembly elected on the same basis as Wales, and an administration constituted in the same way. Minority rights should be protected by the same legal apparatus which exists across the UK. The legislative framework which has guaranteed the rights and freedoms of Roman Catholics and ethnic minorities in Liverpool and London should apply equally in Belfast and Belleek.

To say that there was no meeting of minds on either the nature of the peace process or Gerry Adams would be a gross under-measurement of the gulf exposed by our rather bad-tempered exchange.

To Gove, the peace process was a Trojan horse, a piece of trickery and sleight of hand by republicans to achieve what the use of violence could not.

For me, already well into researching what would become, ‘A Secret History of the IRA’, the peace process was what it appeared to be, a massive ideological compromise by Provisional leaders which would, inevitably, lead to IRA decommissioning, the end of armed struggle and the transformation of Sinn Fein into a constitutional Nationalist party, not terribly different from the SDLP.

Not only did we not see the world in the same way but it soon became clear that we detested each other. As far as I was concerned, he was a complete idiot, and I don’t think I hid my view very well. So, unsurprisingly but very thankfully, I didn’t rate a mention in Gove’s pamphlet.

You can’t get a real flavour of how badly wrong, in almost all respects, Gove was about the peace process and even the nature of the Northern Ireland problem unless you read the full pamphlet but one striking aspect of his modus operandi is worth a comment.

That was his habit of forcing facts to fit his political world view even when eminently sensible and fairly obvious alternative explanations were at hand; for instance the IRA’s failure to start arms decommissioning by 2000 could only be explained by terrorist guile, bad faith and deceit because that is how all terrorists behaved. The idea that Adams was taking his followers down a road they would not ordinarily choose and had to step slowly and carefully, didn’t and couldn’t enter his mind, so completely closed was it to other possibilities.

I did not know until the Iraq war three or more years later that forcing the facts to fit the theory was a classic trait of neo-conservative reasoning. In Iraq the same thought process went like this: the Iraqi people were ruled by a dictator; most people dislike dictators, therefore US tanks would travel along rose-petal strewn streets lined with cheering crowds when they invaded.

Nor did I know until later that Gove was a leading light in the British version of the neo-conservative movement, in fact the leading light in the view of some. British neo-cons congregate under the banner of something called the Henry Jackson Society, so named after a right-wing, fiercely hawkish, Cold War-era US Democratic Senator.

Mostly composed of Tories, a smattering of Labour, LibDem and UKIP politicians have also signed up to the society. The former Unionist leader David Trimble is a prominent supporter.

While neo-conservatism is usually associated with American politics, thanks mostly to the role such people played in staging the Iraq war, its British manifestation is thriving and that is no accident. Neo-conservatism is just another word for imperialism and to that form of rule the British have not a little affection.

I reproduce below an excellent review of the influence of neo-conservatism in the Tory party from a Guardian article written by Richard Seymour at the time of the NATO-led invasion of Libya in 2011, a disaster in no small measure encouraged by Cameron and the neo-conservatives in his Cabinet.

Michael Gove was, needless to say, a vocal advocate of the Libyan adventure but not long afterwards lost his post as Education Minister and was dispatched to the Whips office. A less than charismatic figure with a pomposity that often alienates, Gove was seen as an electoral liability by some and it seemed his political career might be over.

But not so. Cameron has just made Gove the Justice Minister in his new cabinet where he will wield a predictably malign influence over human rights – he plans to scrap the Human Rights Act for example – sentencing policy and criminal justice. It is unlikely that he will directly influence affairs in Northern Ireland but influence can be exercised in all sorts of ways.

If I was a policy maker in Sinn Fein and I saw this man regain power and influence with the ability, perhaps, to put in place even a fraction of the attitudes and thoughts present in ‘The Price of Peace’, I would be very worried. If I was in the same position in the DUP, I would be greatly cheered.

Here is Richard Seymour’s March 2011 Guardian piece on the Tory neo-cons:

David Cameron’s recent offer to intervene in Libya, arming insurgents and enforcing a no-fly zone, was withdrawn almost as quickly as it was articulated. Objections from the US and France sank the idea. But it seems that the idea had enjoyed support from the cabinet, most of all from the hawkish faction around the education secretary Michael Gove – who is a signatory to the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society‘s statement of principles. Cameron, though no neocon, is a traditional Atlanticist, and has energetically promoted a small fraternity of foreign policy hawks since gaining the Tory leadership in 2005.

They first emerged in defence of Tony Blair and his unpopular foreign policies. Cameron himself, though he only reluctantly voted for the Iraq war, greatly admired Blair’s stance in the debacle. Even he, though, could hardly match Gove’s gushing praise for Blair in the runup to the Iraq war, in a column for the Times entitled “I can’t fight my feelings any more: I love Tony”. This passion for Blair was not restricted to his stance on foreign policy – it included Blair’s position on the firefighters’ strike, asylum seekers and tuition fees – but it was on Iraq that Gove maintained Blair was “behaving like a true Thatcherite”. Indeed, for many Tories , Blair is neocon rex.

Gove is the author of a number of neoconservative tracts. These include Celsius 7/7, which argues that Islamists are waging “total war” against the west, not because of imperialism but because of their root-and-branch rejection of “western values”. A more pointed intervention, though, was the essay “The Very British Roots of Neoconservatism and Its Lessons for British Conservatives”. In it, Gove was trying to persuade Tory allies sceptical of the adventurism of Rumsfeld and Bush that their policies were ones that the great patriarchs of conservatism would approve of. He argued that neoconservatism had strongly British roots that could be traced back to the statecraft of the Anglo-Irish Tory leader George Canning, whose pre-emptive battles with Bonapartism helped “advance the cause of freedom”. Palmerston and Churchill were also given their due as precursors to modern neoconservatism. Significantly, Gove’s trinity was entirely composed of Tories with some connections to Liberalism – if a neoconservative is a liberal who has been “mugged by reality”, many Tory luminaries from Burke onward have been instinctive Whigs turned counter-revolutionary.

Alongside Gove in the neoconservative faction are Ed Vaizey, the under-secretary of state who is, like Gove, has also signed up to the Henry Jackson Society’s principles. Similarly, George Osborne, the chancellor, is a “signed up, card-carrying Bush fan“, persuaded of the “excellent neoconservative case” for war with Iraq. His PPS, Greg Hands MP, is also a signatory to the Henry Jackson Society. Neoconservative ideas are also propagated in a number of thinktanks such as Policy Exchange whose director, Nicholas Boles MP, is another Henry Jackson Society signatory. The magazine Standpoint provides monthly ballast to this tendency.

Despite often crucial tactical differences, such as those which have emerged over Libya, there is a shared vocabulary between neoconservatives and those, like William Hague, who articulate a “liberal conservative” foreign policy. Hague has vocally supported “humanitarian intervention”, and was reluctant to criticise even the more controversial stances of Blair, such as his support for the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. This gave the Tories few opportunities to land any damaging blows against New Labour. Indeed, the “liberal interventionist” stance devised by Hague and Cameron amounts to reheated Blairism.

The neoconservative agenda is not restricted to foreign policy, but includes a securitarian drive to contain Islamism and propagate “British values”. Cameron’s recent speech announcing the failure of multiculturalism can be seen as a tilt toward the neoconservatives in his cabinet. Yet the neoconservative temptation is a dangerous one for Cameron to succumb to. It offers moral and intellectual definition to an aggressive but vacillating government lacking legitimacy. If Cameron is a poorly defined leader, neoconservative belligerence can provide a far more robust political direction than the “big society”. But Cameron still needs his Liberal allies, and the electoral base for neoconservatism is smaller even than for the aggressive Thatcherism he jettisoned in opposition. If Cameron were to openly embrace the neoconservative agenda, it would be a retreat from the electoral coalition-building that has temporarily saved the Tories from irrelevance.