Long way down from London

By Anthony McIntyre (for the Pensive Quill)

There are few things that sum up the failure of the Provisional IRA campaign more definitively than the recent call by one of its former leaders for people to inform on those republicans still wedded to the notion of armed struggle. It is not an isolated action but one that slots in neatly to the current mode in Sinn Fein where its key leaders have been taking up positions unimaginable not so many years ago. In some cases people who ordered others executed for informing have been to the fore in urging informers to come forward. If such people do come forward they run the risk that those they inform upon will follow the example laid down by those now urging them to become informers. The undignified spectacle of hooded bodies, bound and gagged, jumps to mind.

The shift from a call to arms to a call to tout captures in one still frame the totality of the collapse of the Provisional IRA. There is no need to watch the twists and turns to fully grasp the summersault. When someone told me Gerry Kelly had been lending his shoulder to the tout wheel I was not surprised. It is what Sinn Fein leaders do these days, boxed in as they are with nowhere else to go. Still, I wanted to actually listen to what he had to say and not merely rely on an account of someone else who might have embellished Kelly’s words. But there was no embellishment. There are many things Gerry Kelly, like his colleagues, has not been clear on. But that was not the case here. Kelly could not have been more explicit.

I reflected on the ground Gerry Kelly has covered in his political odyssey from Irish republican activist to British state administrator. His current political stance places him in the same line up as those RUC officers currently in the PSNI against whom he fought while in the Provisional IRA. They have not changed their position, continuing in their role of defending the integrity of the Northern Irish state as part of the UK against armed republican assault. It also pitches Kelly against those members of the IRA who he once stood alongside waging armed assault on the Northern Irish state and who continue to do so today. He wants information about those he fought with to be given to those he fought against.

What Gerry Kelly feels about this on a personal level is anybody’s guess. He must know it is a place he never wanted to be in. He realises it is the outcome of a ‘revolution betrayed’, where the revolutionaries become ‘mimic men’ aping those they once waged revolution against. He is aware that he had as many votes when he bombed London as those who just this week bombed the HQ of the Policing Board in Belfast. He intuitively understands the abject moral poverty of a position that demands they must be informed upon and jailed because they lack any mandate while awarding him plaudits for his non-mandated role in the armed struggle. It is hard to imagine he actually derives personal enjoyment from it. Yet, on a political level he is now left on the British side of the Rubicon and very much against those republicans who refuse to cross over. He finds himself in the company of the British police force that in an act of political policing recently harassed and arrested his old London bombing team comrade Marian Price.

As Leonard Cohen once sang:

That’s right, it’s come to this,
yes it’s come to this,
and wasn’t it a long way down

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