By Martin Galvin
Little more than ten weeks remain, until the British imposed November 24th, Stormont deadline. The question of Sinn Féin ratification of the British constabulary tops the agenda. Such a concession, long recognized by the British as the jewel in the crown of their Stormont Deal strategy, is now being proffered as one more bargaining chip to be pocketed by Ian Paisley, if he would but deign to preside over Stormont.
Respected Republican, and hopefully still friend, Danny Morrison, in the since defunct Daily Ireland, chose this moment to ridicule the motives, patriotism, acumen and verbal skills of any and all Republicans who because of loyalty to the struggle felt duty bound to walk away from the strategy. After calling names, he called upon these Republicans to put aside all name-calling and debate an alternative. Merely as one who sat with Danny Morrison in the Andytown PDF and banged the table during the song “Provie Lullaby” this writer would join in his call for a serious debate. Such a debate would indeed be timely, welcomed and needed.
For the British, more prized than even the suitably witnessed destruction of IRA arms, would be the import of a Sinn Féin endorsement of the crown constabulary. Regardless of whether a crown will be physically emblazoned on the cap or sleeve, the British constabulary will be imposing British laws, hauling Republican political suspects before British courts and jailing Republican opponents of British rule in Her Majesty’s prisons.
The constabulary may be called by a new name, but is officered, trained, vetted and commanded by long-serving veterans of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It is simply a re-named and re-uniformed RUC.
No Republican requires any lecture or catalogue about the injustices inflicted by the British crown constabulary. Indeed there is a litany of chapters. Shoot-to-kill, confessions under torture, perjury, plastic bullets fired at children, are but a start. Collusion and cover-ups in murders like those of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson and hundreds more, stain the force. The triumphal glee with which the constabulary charged a peaceful crowd sitting in the streets of Belfast on August 12, 1984 and murdered John Downes will not be forgotten. This is a body whose members today hide their role in murders like that of Robert Hamill. This is a constabulary which was proven to have planted DNA evidence to frame Martin Brogan and Mark Carroll, and is suspected of fabricating evidence against Sean Hoey and others yet to face the docks of Diplock courts.
Britain requires an affirmation of their constabulary from a party pledged to remove crown forces and end British rule. Britain requires a Sinn Féin call for recruits from residents of once no-go or at best very slow-go areas like Ballymurphy or Carrickmore, or South Armagh or the Bogside, to enter these areas and enforce British law on Republican opponents of that rule and law, at the behest of a Paisley headed Stormont administration. Would this not be the culmination of long-term British objectives of Ulsterization, normalization, and criminalization? Is this the way to end British rule, or is a British Stormont Deal strategy succeeding in prolonging that rule? Is Sinn Féin considering a step which will inevitably make them party to and apologist for injustices meted out upon Republicans in the name of the British crown by the emboldened British constabulary?
PARODY OF ESTEEM
Other topics might be incorporated into such a debate. Were pious platitudes disclaiming any selfish, political, strategic, or economic interests in holding onto the six counties true, or were such claims as patently false as so many other British pretexts put forth repeatedly to excuse and justify their rule in Ireland? Is not the Stormont Deal one more strategy to prolong British rule in Ireland by co-opting former opponents into their administration and bottling Irish opposition within a Stormont regime subject to a loyalist veto wielded by Paisley? Can there be a parity of esteem under British rule, which upholds a loyalist veto, denies Irish sovereign rights as mere aspirations and ultimately rests on preserving and cementing unionist majority support? Is what is on offer really a parody of esteem in which money, patronage and positions are doled out by the British, only in such measure as will keep former opponents on board? Has the Stormont Deal been repeatedly sabotaged by securocrats, and their informer agents, who are able to frustrate and thwart stated policies, or is there a “myth of securocrats”, wherein the paid servants of the crown retain their posts only because they are implementing actual British policy, not defying these policies?
Is British rule still irreformable because of the injustices and repression needed to sustain the denial of Ireland’s historic and indefeasible right to national sovereignty? Will those who administer this rule become party to these injustices? Is there really a new political dispensation, or have Republicans been lured into dispensing with core principles for a path that may be paved with a modern equivalent of what Pearse described as “land, and good living and the friendship of one’s foe,” but will end at continued British rule?
Is there an alternative Republican political strategy? One of the political strategies most often articulated is the very same political strategy developed and espoused by Sinn Féin, before its diversion into the Stormont cul de sac. That strategy aimed to render British rule unworkable by denying support and showing that there was no alternative to a re-united Ireland. Injustices of that rule such as collusion, repression, sectarianism, etc were exposed and highlighted. Campaigns were built around such injustices, which were shown to be inherently tied to the nature of British rule. Those like the SDLP who were part of the structure of British administration were publicly shown to be party to these injustices and eventually apologists for the British state.
Any Irish political party which endorses and becomes identified with the re-named RUC will become hostage to all injustices and repression inevitably committed by the crown constabulary. Such an Irish political party risks being tied to criminalization, and any measures an emboldened crown employs in order to impose criminalization on Republican prisoners. Stormont cannot stand without Sinn Féin participation, and the party could not remain in Stormont should the Republican grassroots one day come to demand withdrawal because of crown injustices heralded by the DUP headed regime.
Clearly there are other political strategies being cogently and coherently articulated by Republicans in Ireland. Certainly such strategies can and should be the subject of the called- for debate. Once being an Irish Republican included the freedom to challenge, debate, argue, and even scoff policies and strategies.
The ranks of Stormont Deal opponents include Republicans, who have fought, suffered imprisonment, dedicated their lives and risked their lives for Ireland no less than those like Danny, who have come to back the Stormont Deal. One may sincerely and honestly disagree with their political analysis and conclusions. However to dismiss their motives, patriotism, or sincerity or to deny that any such credible Republican alternative strategy exists, would either be dishonest or delusional.