Some republicans sowing seeds of confusion
Some republicans sowing seeds of confusion

By Jim Gibney

The news at the start of this week that a tiny number of disaffected former IRA personnel, members of the INLA and other micro groups, are threatening the lives of Sinn Féin’s leadership is causing great anger among republicans, disbelief among nationalists and is a source of deep concern.

Concern obviously for the well-being of those being targeted and their families but concern also that a group of individuals who live among us and claim to be republicans fighting for Irish independence have degenerated to the level where they would turn their minds to such dastardly deeds.

Although disturbing to have to deal with, I am not completely surprised by the threat.

Conflict situations, especially conflicts which are in the ‘end phase’, throw up organisations and individuals whose primary role is to sow the seeds of confusion destabilise the situation, demoralise people and delay change.

We saw this is in South Africa in the dying days of apartheid when Chris Hani, the chief of staff of MK, the ANC’s armed wing, was shot dead and thousands of blacks were killed. It also happened when the peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis were at a pivotal point and Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s prime minister, was assassinated.

We saw it here with the loyalist organisations being used to serve the interests of British securocrats through their murder campaign against Catholics and their internecine feuds.

The threat against Sinn Féin’s senior leadership has a number of potential sources.

First among them is the mentality induced by the failure of the organisations and individuals behind the threat to be of any relevance to the political realities of our time.

They fail to see that even groups like the Continuity and Real IRA have demonstrably failed to have any political impact on the nationalist people.

The massacre at Omagh is the legacy of their failure.

So, in part, their threat stems from desperation engendered by failure. Their inability to affect the peace process has led to distorted thinking whereby Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly have become their enemy.

Those republicans who inhabit this distorted world continually find themselves pressed further back into a corner by their unpopular beliefs, actions and isolation. They live on the edge of irrelevance.

In this suffocating and dangerous atmosphere they retreat even further into a nihilistic outlook where any form of military activity is considered worthy, including attacking other republicans.

For these people existing in splendid isolation is considered a victory in itself. Using armed struggle and elevating its use to an untouchable, unquestionable, totemic principle binds them together.

This rigid, theological purity lacks the capacity to see the world as it really is. Such an approach is not, nor can it ever be, the basis on which a struggle for national freedom is conducted.

Such organisations and individuals are also vulnerable to infiltration. We have seen this regularly with both CIRA and RIRA. Many of their operations were compromised and their activists arrested.

Even in relation to the Omagh bombing there has been a cover-up amid persistent allegations that British intelligence agents manipulated the Real IRA.

At a time when Sinn Féin has put the spotlight and pressure on MI5 and its relationship with the PSNI, MI5 have the ability to further manipulate the situation in its struggle with Sinn Féin to hold onto its power.

The current threat to Sinn Féin is a stark reminder of the dangers inherent in moving out of a conflict situation into peace.

Those responsible for this threat are so bereft of argument that they cannot produce credible spokespersons - or even spokespersons - with which one could debate.

They have chosen to ignore and organise against the peace process and the benefits that are flowing from it for all the people of this island.

They are entitled to organise and oppose the peace process on a political basis. They have no justification whatsoever to use armed force.

This threat should be a wake-up call to those involved. It should not only be withdrawn the people involved should desist from their activities forthwith.

The peace process has created new and positive political conditions for all republicans not least for those behind this threat.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News