Irish eyes aren't smiling
March 9, 2005 6:19 AM   Subscribe

"It's time for the IRA to go out of business." So says a US envoy after the IRA offers to kill suspected murderers of a Belfast man (hoping to mollify claims that they held up investigation of the murder). Britain and the US have called for an end to the IRA, as "criminality will not be tolerated" in a democratic party. Meanwhile, one suspect turned himself in. Things aren't looking bright for St. Patrick's Day.
posted by NickDouglas (35 comments total)
That's silly. If the IRA had just gone ahead and done it, everyone would be moderately satisfied by now.
posted by clevershark at 6:47 AM on March 9, 2005

I doubt that.

Also: the IRA has been suspected in a 2004 bank robbery.
posted by NickDouglas at 7:14 AM on March 9, 2005

There are two sides to this, the UDA and UDP cause as much trouble as Sinn Fein and the IRA. In fact, with leaders like Ian Paisley fronting the unionists, there will always be a schism. At least Gerry Adams can speak sensibly.
posted by rotifer at 7:47 AM on March 9, 2005

rotifer: what is it about the existence of the UDP, UDA and Iain Paisley that requires the IRA to rob banks and obstruct justice regarding the death of a man in a bar fight?
posted by pascal at 8:04 AM on March 9, 2005

posted by matteo at 8:13 AM on March 9, 2005

pascal - what is there about the independently, legally and mutually agreed verification of decommissioning of IRA weapons that requires "before, during and after photographs" for the DUP and Ian Paisley?

Neither side is white, indeed the traditionally darker side may be faulty, but it's now content to admit its flaws and demand progress from its own. Ian Paisley hasn't changed his loud moral stance, what would ordinarily be denounced as religious bigotry of the highest order, for three decades.
posted by NinjaPirate at 8:19 AM on March 9, 2005

Great argument rotifer: "Well they're a bunch of psychotic dickheads, so I can't see why we shouldn't be a bunch of psychotic dickheads too".

At least Gerry Adams can speak sensibly.

Well that makes it OK for his organisation to kill, maim or intimidate whomsoever it chooses then. It's amazing what a bit of media training can justify.
posted by biffa at 8:22 AM on March 9, 2005

At least Gerry Adams can speak sensibly.

Yes, he's always been a first-class apologist for terrorism.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:23 AM on March 9, 2005

There are two sides to this, the UDA and UDP cause as much trouble as Sinn Fein and the IRA. In fact, with leaders like Ian Paisley fronting the unionists, there will always be a schism. At least Gerry Adams can speak sensibly.

Derail! While there is undoubtably truth to this, it isn't even close to what this post is about and just moves this thread closer to a stock ultra-simplistic Northern Ireland discussion. Much more fascinating to me, here, is the shift in the US's take on the IRA -- one would guess this position is inevitable post-9/11 to avoid accusations of hypocrisy when it comes to matters of terrorism.
posted by nthdegx at 8:23 AM on March 9, 2005

addendum - there has been precisely zero exidence presented by any party to suggest that the IRA was organisationally involved in the December robbery. The only proof to date has been the word of the Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

I personally don't trust a single thing that Mr Blair says without written verification from St Peter

posted by NinjaPirate at 8:25 AM on March 9, 2005

pascal- Part of it stems from IRA wanting to establish itself as the "Irish Police". It's not much different than, say, the Kurdish Peshmerga, or even The Mob- "our people, our laws, our police- you stay out of it".
posted by mkultra at 8:26 AM on March 9, 2005

also (jeez, sorry for the multi post), the IRA is not "a democratic party".
The IRA is a paramilitary organisation.
Sinn Fein is a democratic party.
Sinn Fein is not the IRA.

posted by NinjaPirate at 8:27 AM on March 9, 2005

As far as I understand it, the IRA have historically never recognised the police or any form of non-IRA legislation in Ulster. For them to give up their members to the police would break that precedent.

Given the hidden (revolutionary and often criminal) nature of the organisation, it has by necessity a strong silence ethic, difficult to break even in this case. Any IRA member who gave up one of the murderers would always be known as an informer. The options are limited for them - either IRA justice as detailed in the post, or voluntary surrender by the suspects themselves.
posted by tripitaka at 8:28 AM on March 9, 2005

As far as I understand it, the IRA have historically never recognised the police or any form of non-IRA legislation in Ulster.

I wonder why.
posted by unreason at 8:49 AM on March 9, 2005

So, I agree with mkultra and tripitaka about the IRA's motivations around this. Now, does anyone seriously think they should get the role that they want?

NinjaPirate: nice try, but... the IRA activity under discussion is clearly illegal (even if you discount the robbery - obstruction of justice is illegal and their proposed solution would be illegal if carried out) while - as far as I am aware, making political demands (however obstructive and hatefully motivated) about the conduct of the disarmament process is not illegal yet.
posted by pascal at 8:55 AM on March 9, 2005

Unreason has it.
The IRA for as many decades has been a militant underground because they were given no other choice. It was their only bargaining power. People are looking at this with out any reference to history. Its not like the Italian Mafia has its origins in independence brigades.

Also the Sinn Fein/IRA distinction still holds. It has been known for decades that Martin McGuinness was a senior IRA commander in Londonderry in the 1970s. This was a time when the Republican movement was considered much more of a struggle for unity. But Sinn Fein is a political party made up of many people -- not just Adams and McGuinness!

Ian Paisley. Good god hasn't that man died yet?
posted by punkbitch at 9:08 AM on March 9, 2005

"The IRA said it had given the family the names of the man who stabbed Mr McCartney and a second man who supplied removed and destroyed the murder weapon.

Both these men have been expelled by the IRA."

tripitaka - The IRA itself has turned grass.

pascal - I really only objected to the robbery allegation which was muddying the waters. I'm no paramilitary apologist - there may once have been a justification for armed resistance, but not in the way it was carried out, and its time has long since passed.

I'd agree that there is no place for organised violence and crime in Northern Ireland. The latest pronouncement from the IRA only serves to blacken their own name and, by association, undermine Sinn Fein who are making the right decisions in terms of resisting the institutions with which they disagree.
posted by NinjaPirate at 9:12 AM on March 9, 2005

Yes, I agree. Asking for pictures proving that you have put your weapons out of action is completely ridiculous! How could you impugn the trustworthiness of such paradigms of honesty as the good old provisional IRA.

It's not as if they kill civilians, feed informers to pigs and kneecap teenagers who get in on their drug/taxi/whore deals.

(Oh, and don't try and tar me with the unionist brush - anyone who tattoo's 'fuck the pope' on their forehead as a badge of honour deserves whatever is so surely coming to them - cheers)
posted by fingerbang at 9:13 AM on March 9, 2005

Despite Dublin's claims, I don't think Gerry Adams has any control over the IRA.

Bush is simply asking for them to disband? That is a riot. Be nice and disband will you. Everybody get jobs at cafes and malls.

So where is the solution? How do you get a now self-serving organization with still quite a bit of public backing, whose members still dream of a unified island - to undo itself for the sake of modernity and peace? And so close to the best place to live in the world!
posted by punkbitch at 9:19 AM on March 9, 2005

punkbitch: re history and the G4 etc - I'd have hoped that the IRA's own reference to history would have led them to conclude that a kangaroo court with a death penalty was not a great idea. The G4 did eventually get released, after all.
posted by pascal at 9:29 AM on March 9, 2005

The IRA's statement. I wondered if they really said they'd "shoot" the perpetrators, or if that was spin and exaggeration. I mean, who could have such a tin political ear that they'd think it was good PR? But sure enough ...,2763,1433163,00.html

posted by guanxi at 9:30 AM on March 9, 2005

The latest pronouncement from the IRA only serves to blacken their own name

You've got to be kidding. To quote Nigel Tufnel: "How much more black could this be?"
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:35 AM on March 9, 2005

guanxi: Much of the UK press has also clarified the point today that the IRA intended to shoot and kill the men rather than just shot them in the kneecaps. A point which was originally unclear.
posted by biffa at 9:38 AM on March 9, 2005

First of all, why is that old fuck Paisley allowed to have a place at the table? It's like having the Grand Wizard of the KKK on the Civil Rights Commission.

Secondly, this has been a problem on both sides - underground Unionist & Republican paramilitary groups originally formed to protect the interests of their respective groups, have now essentially become organized crime gangs who freely prey on member of their own group as well as people on the other side. This doesn't excuse the IRA in any way, but damnit, what the hell have the police been doing about this for the last 10 years?

Finally, I seem to remember that the demand for documented disarmament has only been extended to the IRA - please correct me if I'm wrong. However if this is indeed the case, then why should the IRA disarm if the Unionist paramilitary organizations have not been required to? It seems to me that nothing is going to happen until both sides are required to get rid of their weapons and provide documentation. Again, please correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:42 AM on March 9, 2005


And the police and other gov't groups need to be effective and avoid claims of favoritism so the paramilitaries don't think they have an excuse to jump in and play vigilante.
posted by Shane at 9:51 AM on March 9, 2005

punkbitch: "People are looking at this with out any reference to history. Its not like the Italian Mafia has its origins in independence brigades."

Um, that's debatable. Some trace the Mafia back to the Sicilian Vespers, who fought for independence from the French.
posted by runkelfinker at 9:52 AM on March 9, 2005

If Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley were serious about wanting peace they'd both resign.

Any IRA member who gave up one of the murderers would always be known as an informer.

Also they'd be dead. The McCartney sisters are pretty brave and the IRA are finding out the same things as the Bush administration about oppression and self-determination. Maybe they should all go read Animal Farm again.
posted by fshgrl at 9:55 AM on March 9, 2005


That, I believe, is the general outlook of the US and UK. If the IRA is eliminated there's less reason for the paramilitary groups that opposed it. The downside may be imposition on more civilized forms of dissent and agitation.

Note that while one of my linked articles calls the IRA the armed wing of Sinn Fein, another calls Sinn Fein the political arm of the IRA.
posted by NickDouglas at 10:21 AM on March 9, 2005

Some trace the Mafia back to the Sicilian Vespers, who fought for independence from the French.

Of course: "Morte alla Francia Italia anela!" = MAFIA.
posted by Shane at 10:26 AM on March 9, 2005


That was my point. I can't speak for the Irish, but I've spent quite a bit of time traveling in Northern Ireland by bike - and shared gallons of beer and whiskey while talking with people from both sides. Traditionally, Sinn Fein is suspected of funding their activities with robbery and drugs - the UDA with funds from English agencies. It's so fucking convoluted now that nobody knows truth from fiction. One afternoon (in my travels) a fellow struck up a conversation with me in the pub. The whole time people kept looking at him like he was, well, a total scumbag. He seemed like a nice guy with a element of sadness to him. It turned out he was a (catholic) cop. After he left they proceeded to tell me what a scumbag traitor he was. The hate was palpable - the only reason he wasn't dead was because he had grown up in their community (so they said). As for the protestants, one gets the feeling they imagine themselves increasingly abandoned and isolated. In fact, I think they are. None of this shit is any reason for violence - many beautiful people with a tiny number screwing things up.
posted by rotifer at 10:47 AM on March 9, 2005

Maybe sometime in the near future, the scientists can clone Oliver Cromwell and he can take care of the problem. They should also clone General Sherman at the same time.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:26 AM on March 9, 2005

Cutting a mans throat with a kitchen knife has very little to do with a united Ireland.
There always been an uncomfortable tolerance from many in the nationalist community to the IRA's more brutal actions. The reason this ones hit such a nerve is because he was one of their own, it could no way be spun as being in the line of duty (like say selling really bad cannabis resin to me when I was in secondary school, killing that reknown tool of the British secureaucrat conspiracy Irish policeman Det. Jerry McCabe in a fundraising robbery or beating up joyriders. That said no one likes joyriders).
The people are angry because these men are so obviously not patriots but drunken gangsters who are a scourge to the community they as IRA member are alledgedly supposed to be protecting but in SFs moral wonderland ( 'killing a widowed mother of 10 is regrettable but not a crime') people can't go to the police because..uh...human rights? Parity of esteem? Because they interned your uncle 30 years ago? Because the UDA has guns too? Wise the bap.
posted by Damienmce at 12:05 PM on March 9, 2005

The significance of the McCartney crisis (and crisis it has been for Sinn Fein/IRA) has been the response of three critical constituencies; namely: northern Nationalists/Republicans, the political class in the Irish Republic and the political leadership of the US.

The impact on N. Irish nationalist sentiment is demonstrated most tellingly by the campaign of the McCartney sisters. Despite being long-time supporters of Sinn Fein and its struggle for a united Ireland and despite coming from a community previously noted for its insularity and solidarity with the nationalist struggle, they have made very public demands for justice from the IRA. But what is fascinating was their insistence that justice came not at the hands of an IRA punisher but via the previously mistrusted (even loathed?) justice system of N. Ireland. In short, the reformed institutions brought in after the Good Friday agreement, were sufficiently respected and trusted for these women to publicly criticise their community leaders and ask for something better from the heirs to the British state.

This might represent a profound change in the currents of the sea in which IRA swims. But it probably doesn't yet. The complete failure of anyone to come forward as a witness (despite the IRA's insistence that no intimidation will be tolerated... *cough*) is demonstration enough that things haven't changed so much in districts like Short Strand. But what it does suggest and most hearteningly too, is that push come to shove, there is now a willingness for nationalists in N. Ireland to choose the legitimate power of an accountable, representative government over the compromised, illegitimate means of social control wielded by the nationalist paramilitaries. This bodes well for the peace process. But not for Sinn Fein/IRA as is.

The response of politicians in the South has been pretty interesting too. Since the Northern Bank robbery last year, a leading minister in the Republic came out and implied that there was no difference between the IRA and Sinn Fein. He explicitly stated that leading Sinn Fein politicians in the North were also members of the Army Council of the IRA. In other words, Republican politicians were personally involved in the directing of paramilitary activities. This might be old news to most observers of the Troubles, but coming from a senior politician in the South made it a significant moment.

The apparent abandonment (or at least distancing from IRA/Sinn Fein) might have something to do with the Sinn Fein's then-increasing popularity - it has become a serious electoral threat in the South - and moves in the South might have been motivated by jealousy and political expediency as by moral judgement.


What seems apparent is a shift among Southern co-conspirators in the (not very) polite fiction that Sinn Fein/IRA are separate entities. Many are increasingly failing to see the point of it anymore. The peace process has worked to great extent and once implemented fully, many believe it will be a success. If that sentiment is widespread, if Sinn Fein is viewed as an obstacle to peace and maybe most importantly if Sinn Fein is seen as an electoral challenge, why would any politician in the South give two hoots for solidarity with the arch-exponents of Irish nationalism?

Finally, the US. No invite to the White House, widespread disgust at the offer to give justice via adhoc executions. Demands for disbandment. Maybe not significant but symptomatic of a wider lack of patience with those who refuse to accept the new structures in the North or democracy's requirement that political parties desist from having an armed wing...

All in all, a challenging time for those who want Sinn Fein to be a political force in all Ireland. And most certainly a quandary for those like Gerry Adams whose rise to political prominence rested on the Republican twin-headed strategy of the bullet and and the ballot box.
posted by pots at 2:06 PM on March 9, 2005

The McCartney sisters are pretty brave

Nice understatement. I can't help thinking of the role played by women, individal and organised, in the civil rights movement (in the NI sense) or the Women's Coalition - it seems to me (with my admittedly scant understanding of the situation) that a lot of the more bullshit-free steps taken in the history of the Troubles have been prompted or instigated by women.

And Pots, you're spot on - this is, if not a huge shift, then a signal that one is coming, in the sense that the nationalist community seem to be growing sick of the IRA who are now, really, just plain organised criminals, their victims, increasingly, the community they purport to defend.

Wise the bap.

Say what you like about the place, Northern Ireland has the best slang.
posted by jack_mo at 5:32 PM on March 10, 2005

I know I came into this conversation late, but I thought that an update might be in order. The NY Times is reporting about other families who are now coming forward with their own tales of IRA and Ulster murders in the past.

Despite whatever success Sinn Fien has had, the dam is beginning to burst. More and more ordinary citizens are coming forward to denounce the gunmen on both sides. I think they've begun to finally realize that they can stand up to these people. The McCartney family and others have called the bluff of the IRA and Unionists and their empty threats. The reason these people haven't been firebombed yet is because the gunmen realize that if they declare war on civilians, they'll only be admitting to being the gangsters they truly are and lose any last shred of public support. Is it any surprise that Sinn Fein is distancing itself from them?

Some people on this thread have thrown the word around, but we have to call these people by their true name - Mafia, gangsters out for their own power. The Raffia and the Unionist Nazi Alliance, as I'll call them forevermore, have become no different than any other organized crime families. In Sicily and America, these people eventually lost public support when they became exposed in one way or another for who they are. Ireland and N. Ireland will be no different. Ireland has stopped the Catholic Church from acting above the law while letting its priests rape children at will, and now it's the Raffia and UNA's turn.

There is one scenario I see working here. The Ireland and N. Ireland police, working together in tandem and with the support of the citizens, track these people down and arrest them for their crimes. The Irish Mafiosi will have the chance to throw themselves on the mercy of the courts or God. If they don't give themselves up peacefully and continue to fight, the cops should shoot them dead on the streets of Belfast to the cheers of residents, who will take the opportunity to spit on the corpses of their oppressors just as the Italians did with Mussolini.
posted by Leege at 9:17 PM on March 13, 2005

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