So the DUP has decided there will be no more meetings of the Stormont Executive until the problem of IRA “does it exist?” And Welfare Reform is solved. It looks like an arbitary decision by the DUP but it is all the hallmarks of choreography between DUP and the British Government. There is something re-assuring about journalists standing outside Stormont and telling us we are “on the brink”. All traditionalists will be happy to hear this kinda language.
Basically we have been “on the brink” for a couple of years. The DUP, UUP and Alliance are conservative parties and are politically committed to Welfare Cuts. They are pro-austerity. Sinn Féin and SDLP lean to the left and are anti-austerity. And with the Tories at Westminster holding the purse-strings, we have had this peculiar stand-off. Any direct intervention from Westminster would be welcome by DUP…and just as much by Sinn Féin because they need a sense of resentment at the British and can blame them for making the decisions that Sinn Féin cant make. Sinn Féin need the British and the cover they provide to stay in the Executive.
The problem over IRA involvement in the murder of Kevin McGuigan on Short Strand last month has raised the stakes. Sinn Féin denies the IRA exists…it “has left the stage” they say…but thats not the same thing. Leaving the stage and leaving the theatre are two different things. We can all see them in the wings watching the drama unfold.
And just as importantly DUP needs to persuade its electorate that the
IRA doesnt exist…even if they know the reality. Remember the good old days …just ten years ago……when the DUP and UUP referred to Sinn Féin as “Sinn Féin-IRA”. They spat out the words. The unionists parties demonised Sinn Féin to justify their unwillingness to deal with them.
Of course nobody in DUP uses that rhetoric now. Sinn Féin is after all propping DUP up as much as DUP are propping up Sinn Féin. And the saintly but hapless Alliance Party, gerrymandered into place as the “third party” of government wont be making any waves …not while there are ministerial salaries, chauffeur driven cars and “advisor posts” avaliable, out of proportion with its votes.
Let me frank …the IRA DOES exist. Not every member of Sinn Féin is a member of the IRA. Not every “hard nut” in an An Féile audience is a member of the IRA. Not every so-called “community worker” in the Markets, Falls Road, Creggan or Newry is a member of the IRA. Not every ex-prisoner is a member of the IRA. Not every man downing a pint of Guinness is a member of the IRA but it is an integral part of the movement, simply and anbiguously known as the “Republican Movement”.
Let me be more frank. The dirty little secret known to the Republican Movement …AND!! The Police…AND!! DUP and UUP ….AND!!! Alliance Party….AND!!!SDLP…and every journalist and every dog in the street is that OF COURSE IT EXISTS.
Arguably, in the early days after the Good Friday Agreement, the IRA was needed to enforce the settlement on potential dissidents. Did the British and Irish governments actually facilitate that? Are unsolved murders in the years after 1998 a “nod and a wink” to the IRA that there were “hoisekeeping issues”, the tying up of loose ends?
How else can the “secret” letters of comfort to scores of republicans be explained? How else can the dragging of feet by PSNI over historical crimes be explained? How else can the Northern Bank be explained? Or the lack of arrests over the Quinn murder in South Armagh? Not to mention the failure to really tackle organised crime, such as smuggling and fuel laundering? How is it possible that there are seemingly paramilitary funerals? How are so many mistakes made in the legal and judicial process…as in the case of Mairia Cahill?
Did the IRA kill Kevin McGuigan in revenge for the murder of Jock Davison? Despite arrests, will anyone actually be charged and convicted? Ever?
Is it not logical to take a pragmatic view that…at best …the IRA will exist to keep a watching brief on how the post-Conflict is working out? And equally logical that…at worst…the IRA will kill people?
Isnt it logical that there is a “command structure”?
Isnt it just the compromise that we all signed up to two decades ago?
While the DUP, Sinn Féin and the rest are playing petty politics, we all need to make a decision. We are as complicit in all this as the main players. We had a Dirty War….we have a Dirty Peace.