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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: July, 2012|
"Shaken, Not Stirred" ?
|"Who am I to say whether Martin McGuinness was or wasn't an agent?" That is the unexpectedly modest question asked of himself by the English groupie of Belfast Republicanism in the early 1970s, who went on to join the Irish Independent's stable of anti-Irish columnists—Kevin Myers (26th June). If he was her agent, then the Queen does right by shaking the hand of "one of her truly heroic servants". And should not Myers himself also seek the honour of a handshake with this man, whom he has denounced so roundly (and ineffectually) for so long, not knowing that he was a colleague?
But what if he wasn't an agent? Then the Queen's handshake 'serves to endorse Sfira's toxic mythology" and that "will be a very bad day's work indeed". And perhaps it makes the Queen an agent of "Sfira"!
And why not? These twisted dabblers in Republicanism who have mended their ways dare not look analytically at the perverse British governing arrangements for the Six Counties, which generated the Provo movement and gave it its power. They are therefore driven to explain the Provo movement as a kind of evil which derives its power from another world. And if it penetrated Castlereagh High Security Barracks and took out the most security files in broad daylight, why not Buckingham Palace?
And, by the way, the Northern Bank Robbery, which was so confidently attributed to the IRA by Fianna Fail, and by John Bowman in his great days on RTE, has been restored to the realm of the unexplained by the quashing of the conviction of the Cork moneylender after a rigged prosecution. The overturning of the conviction has scarcely been reported. It leaves the only money from the robbery that has come to light being the hoard found in an RIC building. (Right belief requires one to think that the Provos planted it.)
In the end Myers can't believe that McGuinness was his secret colleague. So it's back to Evil as the source of Provo power—Evil as the uncaused cause of itself which generates infinite power out of nothing.
We recall a series of Secretaries of State rummaging the dictionary for disgusting similes to apply to the Provos: scum, pus etc. For Myers they are serpents—anacondas. It puts one in mind of poor Laocoon in the Aeneid who was trying to warn the Trojans about Greeks bearing gifts, and to persuade them to destroy the wooden horse, until the serpents came out of the swamp and strangled him.
"The republican narrative is like an anaconda"—it swallows anything that is thrown at it and assimilates it to its own needs—"from the slaughtered Protestants of Wexford in 1798 to the slaughtered Protests of west Cork in 1922".
"Sfira lost the war, as 'republicans' always do". So why are those who hate it so unhappy?
Because it does not admit that it lost the War, say 'dissidents' like Anthony McIntyre, who denounced Adams for not keeping on fighting, and who is now a darling of the anti-Provo Establishment.
They lost the War and pretend they won it, and they are now "trying to win the peace". "Trying to"! They have won it hands down. The SDLP has been relegated to the extreme margin by the nationalist electorate, and the Provos have established a relationship with the Paisleyites that the SDLP never succeeded in establishing with the fur-coat brigade of Unionism.
But Myers does not like this peace in which the Provos are winning the "culture war in the media" with their "toxic mythology". He will not serve the cause of this immoral peace. He deploys "important moral concepts", and tries to unsettle it with "lists of IRA atrocities", such as "the IRA's drowning bath".
We must admit that the detail of the 'drowning bath' escapes us. In our long opposition to the Provo war policy—in West Belfast and not in Dublin 4—we did not refuse to see the political conditions which produced and sustained it, and we rejected the approach of making propaganda out of the last selected atrocity. But another 'drowning bath' is fresher in the memory—the one that was in regular use following the invasion of Iraq. And Myers was a propagandist for that invasion.
"Sfira's" toxic myth is that it "fought a 26-year human-rights struggle against a dastardly British apartheid system". No doubt Myers' important moral concepts blinded him to the fact that what was achieved by the war was precisely an apartheid system. The old system, which gave rise to the War, was a bogus democracy operated by majority rule. The system which makes the present peace possible is based on a recognition of the existence of two local body politics, each of which has control of Departments of the devolved Government as of right. Apartheid—separate development—was bogus in South Africa, as it did not allow for African development. Democracy was bogus in Northern Ireland, for reasons we have often explained.
What was established in 1998 was a system allowing for a considerable degree of separate development of the two communities, each of which has its proportionate share of devolved power.
What Kevin Myers thinks about this matters little. He writes his angry column for pay every week and must find something to be angry about. What matters is that Myers' view of the Northern situation is now also the view of the leader of Fianna Fail. He declares, in defiance of the evidence of his eyes, that Sinn Fein is a force for sectarian division in the North and tries to subvert it with his selective list of atrocities, and his support of the 'dissident' critique. His demand is that Sinn Fein should brand itself a murder gang, admit that it lost its murder campaign, and——?
Establishment 'dissident' Anthony McIntyre, who was cultivated by the Establishment's IRA man, Lord Bew, is included in Professor Fitzpatrick's little herd with a contribution to Terror In Ireland. The Terror he exposes is that Sinn Fein has an effective party structure and maintained an effective party discipline. It brings to mind the Irish Times critique of Fianna Fail under Haughey's leadership twenty years ago when it was generating economic development.
Tommy McKearney, a 'dissident' who has not lost his bearings, was interviewed on BBC's Newsnight on the eve of the handshake. He appreciated that the handshake was a calculated political exercise, but thought it possible that Sinn Fein would be caught by the Royalist mystique.
How far can it go while retaining effective independence of action?
Close on 40 years ago, when the War had barely taken off, we discussed the situation with Fr. Faul. Like us, he opposed the War but had a realistic understanding of the conditions that gave rise to it. He was appalled and impressed by the tenacity of the Provos. The Irish mode of warfare was like a hurling match, fast and furious and soon over. But the Provos were playing it like a cricket match. He couldn't understand it.
It soon became obvious that the Provos, who were a product of British misgovernment of the Six Counties rather than Partition as such, made war on Britain by British methods. And the most important moral lesson about warfare that is gained from British experience is not to be defeated. When Britain understood that it was confronted by a tenacity of will equal to its own—a thing which it took a long time to believe—it agreed to the drastic rearrangement of the structure of government which it otherwise would not have contemplated.
The second lesson is that for Britain an Agreement is a continuation of war by other means. Sentiment about peace can be used to disintegrate the enemy after the fighting stops. In British political discourse peace is often referred to matter-of-factly as a weapon. But in the North it found itself countered effectively in peace as well as war. And, after all of that, it is not likely that the Provos will be disabled by the functionary of State called The Queen. It is only in the Southern Media, which has been shredding its own national culture for years and bringing it into contempt, that the starry-eyed view of Royalty is evident.
Sinn Fein has, in many ways, not yet become an effective party in the South, such as might enable it to take on the role being discarded by Fianna Fail. It has little intellectual presence. It has published little about the history of the state, and tends to trivialise it in its public statements. But, in its handling of Northern affairs, it appeared to understand what had happened in the South in connection with the Treaty and to be determined that it should not happen in the nationalist community in the North. And this was at a moment when Fianna Fail was busily denying its anti-Treaty heritage.
Micheal Martin set out his views about Sinn Fein in a lengthy interview with Pat Kenny on 30th April. His remarks feature in the Summer issue of Church & State (Issue 109). Below is a brief extract: