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

[Irish Republican News]
Republicans express mixed feelings

Despite months of advance warning of Thursday’s IRA statement, the news has still came as a shock to many.

A typical cross-section reveals that most republicans have supported the move, or have adopted a wait-and-see approach.

There have been some reservations, however, particularly in the traditionally hardline areas of north Belfast, east Tyrone and South Armagh.

While many felt relief at a major step towards peace, others experienced a sense of anti-climax or even grief.

With some uncertainty as to what the future holds, many republicans would only speak to the media on condition of anonymity.

A north Derry ex-prisoner said he had known ever since being imprisoned in the 1970s that the armed struggle would end -- with or without a united Ireland.

“We had many discussions in prison and recognised that the armed struggle couldn’t go on forever. Somebody had to take the bull by the horns and get unity politically,” he said.

“We were briefed on the statement and it didn’t come as a surprise, although some had mixed feelings.

“‘Republicans have always been kept fully briefed about everything right back to the time of Hume/Adams [talks], whereas unionists have just kept their eyes and ears shut, not wanting to know. That is why they find it so difficult.”

Most former prisoners, who asked not to be named, agreed that yesterday’s move was the right one. Many, however, warned that it was premature.

While agreeing that IRA members had been given “ample time and freedom” to discuss the move, one Tyrone ex-prisoner said many republicans felt there was still a need for the organisation.

“Who now protects the nationalist people if loyalists continue their pogrom of targeting and murdering innocent Catholics?” he asked.

“It certainly isn’t the PSNI or the so-called British army. I just felt the timing wasn’t right and made that point.

“Having said that, I’ll abide by the wishes of the members and stand side by side with my comrades for a political deal and a united Ireland.”

A south Derry ex-prisoner welcomed the move and expressed confidence that the IRA would never take up arms again.

“Nationalists and republicans will never again be treated the way they were 30 years ago when the latest phase of the struggle began,” he said.

For veteran republican John Kelly, who in recent years has parted ways with the Sinn Féin leadership, the move echoed the end of the border campaign of the IRA between 1956 and 1962.

“The view I have about that is that in 1962, people accepted the honour of the republican movement.

“People don’t believe them any more - that’s the dreadful position they’re in because of the denials over things like the Northern Bank robbery and the Disappeared.”

Kelly believes the IRA should have stood itself down in 1994 when it called its ceasefire and says they must now finish the job they started in 1994.

“They should have said then what they are going to have to say now.”

In a statement, Ruairi O Bradaigh of the hardline Republican Sinn Féin’ described the Provisionals’ move as “the logical outcome of the change of direction they made in 1986 when they deserted the revolutionary road and started out on the constitutional path”.

He said it had been clear for many years that the Provisionals have abandoned the armed struggle against British occupation forces.

“They will now destroy the remainder of their arms, they say. As an army alleged to be without arms, the Provisional IRA should now disband completely.”

He warned that local-level “harassment” of RSF activists by (Provisional) Sinn Féin supporters “will increase into persecution when the Provos finally don the enemy uniform and join the ranks of the British police force in Ireland.

“This will be a far cry from the heroic strip-strike by the blanket men in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh.”

He said his party had forecast they the Provisionals would be slowly and steadily absorbed into the English system in Ireland.

“Today’s statement may improve their chances of taking part in a coalition administration in Leinster House but will hardly help them towards a Stormont Executive.

“Dr Paisley’s DUP will demand very humiliating conditions from the Provos before allowing them to participate. Eventually they will be unrecognisable.

Commentator and author Danny Morrison, a former press officer for Sinn Féin, said that morale would be high among nationalists but there would be a fear of reprisals from unionist paramilitaries.

“In making their historic statement yesterday, the IRA has taken the moral high ground, of that there can be little doubt.

“The IRA has placed the ball firmly back in the British and unionist court.

“No longer can unionists accuse the IRA of organised criminality, of duplicity or of engaging in politics while orchestrating violence,” he said.

Fr. Des Wilson, a respected Belfast community worker, said unionists would now be challenged to engage in “rational discussion”.

“Those unionists who are at present overshadowed by Mr Paisley may possible be persuaded that, if they want real power and authority before they leave public life, they need to help Mr Paisley retire and to have minds of their own.”

But he said the imprisonment of Sean Kelly followed by his release was “a typical trick”. Fr Wilson said London had misrepresented the release as a concession “when in fact it is the removal of what should not have been done in the first place”.

The breakaway 32-County Sovereignty Movement condemned the move was the outworking of the Good Friday Agreement and said Sinn Féin had “abdicated the national position”.

In a statement, the group said that Sinn Féin had accepted Britain’s claim to sovereignty in the 6 counties and the unionist veto.

“If Provisional Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA, who supported them at every turn, truly accepted the terms of the GFA, then today’s statement cannot be viewed by republicans as surrender but rather as the final act of a surrender that started many years ago.”

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