Whenever, whenever, whenever
Whenever, whenever, whenever

By Danny Morrison (for the Andersonstown News)

“If you closed your eyes you would think you were listening to a member of the Democratic Unionist Party. The conspiracy theory was there. The unionist language of IRA/Sinn Féin featured prominently.”

That prescient observation was made in ‘An Phoblacht’ by Sinn Féin’s Jim Gibney. He was writing in November 2003 about Bill Lowry, the former head of the Special Branch in Belfast, long before Lowry was the guest speaker at last weekend’s DUP meeting in Ballymena. And what a wonderful meeting that was!

It may well turn out to be the meeting when Paisley blew the prospects of a settlement and exposed himself to all and sundry as incapable of negotiating, showing diplomacy or tact.

Ian Paisley Junior, who is opposed to the DUP entering into a power-sharing executive with Sinn Féin, wrote Daddy’s speech, and presumably Daddy concurred with every word because not only did he deliver it to the faithful on Saturday night but he repeated it outside the door of 10 Downing Street two days later.

In relation to the DUP demand for a visual dimension to IRA decommissioning, Paisley said: “The IRA needs to be humiliated. And they need to wear their sackcloth and ashes, not in a backroom but openly. And we have no apology for the stand we are taking.”

No one in the party – or in the alleged pragmatic wing – demurred. Anyway, how could Peter Robinson have objected? After all, several months ago he told the BBC’s ‘Inside Politics’ programme that he wanted to see the IRA piling its weapons on a pyre and destroying them before the cameras of CNN as a flute band marched around the fire. Not wanting to humiliate republicans, indeed!

After the Leeds Castle talks in September Paisley said, “The IRA must be finished with once and for all. Sinn Féin must be a new party.” Asked if he would talk to Gerry Adams if the IRA disbanded he replied, “Not as a Sinn Féiner.”

Yet, last Friday Paisley appeared to contradict those earlier remarks. He said that if a deal is to be done with Sinn Féin he will have to “bite his lip” and “do a great deal of swallowing.” However, these little conciliatory phrases can not undo the damage of his speech in Ballymena. He has, in the public and in grassroots’ republican perception, made the humiliation of the IRA synonymous with the publishing of photographs of IRA decommissioning.

Typically, that great SDLP strategist, Alex Attwood, came out in support of this demand and thus gave Paisley a huge fillip for his London meeting tomorrow night when he is to give Tony Blair his answer on a deal. Is it any wonder the nationalist electorate continues to reject the SDLP?

 Ex-Detective Chief Superintendent Bill Lowry also addressed the meeting in Ballymena with language and attitude which confirms and is representative of the political bias of the Special Branch.

Three years ago, Lowry, as President of the Superintendents’ Association, criticised the then secretary of state, John Reed, in relation to the name change of the RUC to PSNI and said: “Our membership consider that you have stolen our organisational soul.” He was against inquiries into ‘historical’ allegations of RUC collusion with loyalists. He was asked again about this on radio this week and tried to excuse state violence: “The IRA came as thieves in the night and murdered and maimed. The Special Branch and the RUC were trying to stop that. There’s no doubt it was a dirty war. But they [the IRA] were the ones planning to kill. We were pulled into it. Everything we did was a response to the violence of the terrorists.”

On October 4, 2002, Lowry, as head of Special Branch in Belfast, organised the raid on Sinn Féin’s offices at Stormont, which led to allegations of IRA spying, the collapse of the power-sharing executive and the suspension of the Assembly, the restoration of which has been the objective of the current round of talks.

The obsession with humiliating republicans on camera was evident even then because the raid was filmed by UTV, thanks to a tip-off from the Special Branch. The charges against a number of republicans arrested in a fanfare of publicity around the same time were later reduced and their trial on lesser charges is pending.

Shortly afterwards, Lowry was suspended by Chief Constable Hugh Orde over an allegation that he leaked details of the operation to the press about the modusoperandi of the Branch.

These were withdrawn and by agreement he resigned in November 2002. Incredibly, he claimed that MI5, with whom he had closely worked, wanted rid of him to appease the IRA and cover up Sinn Féin’s involvement in ‘espionage’. The DUP called for an inquiry into his alleged mistreatment and Lowry complained to the Police Ombudsman. Nuala O’Loan’s office carried out a thorough investigation and in a detailed and convincing report rejected his allegations.

At Ballymena Lowry described Sinn Féin as ‘dogs’, with which “if you lie down you will rise with fleas”. He said that he couldn’t watch MPs Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams on television without seeing blood dripping from their hands. He described them as the ‘devil incarnate’. Thus the effect of his intervention was to reinforce the position of those in the DUP most opposed to doing a deal.

Paisley has to say Yea or Nea.

A Yes/But is really a No. To survive, unionists know they will ultimately have to do a deal with nationalists.

Whenever, whenever, whenever!

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2004 Irish Republican News