Irish Republican News · July 30, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Adams succeeded where Dev failed

By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)

You can parse yesterday’s IRA statement any way you like but you end up with the same result. It’s this: For the first time since the establishment of the Irish state in 1922 the IRA has decided there is no need for an armed campaign. This time it’s not just a matter of dumping arms which the IRA has done a few times before.

Now they believe there is an alternative way to achieve their goal of a united Ireland and an end to British rule in the country. In short, this statement marks a fundamental historic departure for republicans or, as Tony Blair said, ‘a step of unparalleled magnitude’.

There’s another crucial aspect, one which has gone largely unnoticed. IRA members ‘have been instructed to assist in the development of purely political and democratic programmes’. This injunction signals another historic shift for republicans.

Until now the IRA literally called the shots. The IRA constitution has always had Sinn Féin formally playing second string to the IRA. In a truly democratic party that cannot happen. Those elected by the people cannot be overruled by others elected by a military coterie. That’s over now. IRA members will be assisting Sinn Féin in developing republican political programmes instead of directing Sinn Féin, an historic role reversal.

Naturally there has been a universal welcome for the statement and its implications except of course from the usual suspects, the unionists who cower fearfully in their cave cursing the darkness. Begrudgery is their role. We’ll all have to wait another six months for the troglodytes to emerge blinking into the sunlight after a positive report from the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission set up at Trimble’s behest. By next spring unionists will have no excuse and no option but to negotiate with Sinn Féin. They can’t support and not support the IMC at the same time.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world, apart perhaps from the awful Michael McDowell, will be taking advantage of the opportunity presented by the IRA statement. Watch for a long republican shopping list being delivered, elements of the Good Friday Agreement the British and unionist-minded officials in the NIO have stalled on for years. Sean Kelly’s release was the first example of the new political power the IRA statement has endowed republicans with. The demolition of barracks and watch towers and departure of regiments will drive unionists nuts. Just wait till the last native regiment of foot, the RIR, is demobilised. Then there’s the legislation to suspend the Stormont assembly which has to go too. Then a huge raft of changes which have already been agreed in principle by both governments last December.

Of course for republicans the great prize is the prospect of turfing McDowell and his micro-party out of government, a party which has fewer TDs than Sinn Féin and no MEP, yet holds the Republic’s government and Fianna Fail to ransom. There was no prospect of any role in a coalition while the IRA remained an active army. Now that it has become inactive since 4pm yesterday there’s the opportunity for SF to play its full role as a political player both north and south. No wonder McDowell has done his damnedest to make it impossible for the IRA to go out of business. If they go out of business so does he.

Those political opportunities are the real reason for the IRA leaving the scene as a military organisation, not to please unionists. Quite simply the continued existence of the IRA as an active player was holding back SF’s advance as a political force on the island. Sinn Féin’s leaders, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, were able to pay off the IRA in the currency of electoral success and to demonstrate that the IRA was an obstacle to completing that success in the long term with a role in government north and south. The last decade has shown conclusively that the voters, particularly in the north, like republican politics but don’t like republican violence.

It’s been a long road since the mid-1980s when Adams and McGuinness set out to transform Sinn Féin into the dominant wing of the republican movement. They have succeeded where de Valera failed in both 1926 when he left SF and founded Fianna Fail and in 1936 when he declared the IRA illegal. Could you ever imagine the IRA becoming a legal organisation? Just watch.

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