Saturday, September 17, 2005

Provisional Surrender Now Complete

Provisional's surrender now complete

Source: Forum Magazine
Date: Aug-Sept 2005
by Paul Maguire

"This document [the Belfast Agreement] clearly falls
short of presenting a solid basis for a lasting
settlement...there will be no decommissioning by the
IRA." - PIRA statement, April 1998

"Implementation by the two governments and the parties
of their commitments under the Agreement provides the
context in which Irish republicans and unionists will,
as equals, pursue their objectives peacefully, thus
providing full and final closure of the conflict." -
Gerry Adams, October 2004

"I leave, for the guidance of other Irish
revolutionaries who may tread the path which I have
trod, this advice: never treat with the enemy, never
surrender at his mercy, but to fight to a finish." -
Eamonn Ceannt, Kilmainham Jail 1916

On 28 July 2005 - eleven years after its 1994
ceasefire - the Provisional IRA formally ended its
armed campaign against the British state in Ireland
and authorised its appointed representative ‘to engage
with the IICD to complete the process to verifiably
put its arms beyond use’. Thus, thirty-five years
after the organisation was formed, with hundreds of
its volunteers martyred, thousands more having served
terms in jail, the PIRA has left the field without
having attained its original political objectives and
without its arsenal intact. By any standards this is
an ignominious end for a once proud revolutionary
army. The recent provisional announcement represents
the consummation of a decade-long process of
republican capitulation, which is colloquially
referred to as the "peace process". But this process
is unique in that political surrender preceded
military surrender.

Political surrender
The seeds of the provisional's political surrender
were sown in the late 1980s, at a time when young men
and women were being ordered to confront the British
war machine in Ireland - often with tragic
consequences. For this author one particular month in
1987 symbolises the combination of courageous
sacrifice and cynical treason which has characterised
and bedeviled modern Irish republicanism. On 11 May
1987, three days after the SAS ambush of an entire
PIRA ASU at Loughall, Sinn Fein held a picket outside
of Fianna Fail's party headquarters in Lower Mount
Street, Dublin. Angered by Fianna Fail denunciations
of the IRA in the wake of the ambush, a banner hung
across the footpath which read "Fianna Fail - 'The
Republican Party,' Collaborators with SAS murderers".

Two days later Gerry Adams delivered the funeral
oration at Jim Lynagh's graveside and lambasted the
Fianna Fail government. 'The British government
understands Charles J. Haughey…as it understands
Fitzgerald and Spring’, Adams said. ‘It has always
understood the Shoneen clan - it bought them off with
partition. It does not understand the Jim Lynaghs, the
Padraig McKearneys or the Seamus McElwaines. It thinks
it can defeat them; it never will'.

However, according to Ed Maloney's groundbreaking A
Secret History of the IRA, 'it would have been later
the same day or not long afterward, that Tim Pat
Coogan was ushered into Charles Haughey's residence
with a lengthy letter from Fr. Alec Reid that outlined
Gerry Adams' proposals for a alliance between Sinn
Fein and Fianna Fail and the extraordinary offer of an
IRA ceasefire. The letter, fifteen pages and over
7,000 words long, was written some two days before,
when the gunfire over the coffin of Jim Lynagh was
still echoing around the streets of Emyvale and the
angry shouts of Sinn Fein protestors were ringing
outside Fianna Fail offices'. Thus, at a time when IRA
volunteers were fighting and dying to attain national
liberation, Gerry Adams was laying the foundation
stones of a partitionist settlement.

In that same year Sinn Fein published A Scenario for
Peace in which it replaced the explicit republican
demand for a British government withdrawal with the
more ambiguous objective of 'national
self-determination'. 1992 saw the publication of
Towards a Lasting Peace in which Sinn Fein called for
the establishment of a 'pan-nationalist alliance' to
pursue republican objectives. However, this so-called
'pan-nationalist alliance' between Sinn Fein, the SDLP
and the Dublin government was predicated on an
acceptance of the unionist veto and the exclusion of
traditional republican objectives. These policy
documents molded the provisional grass-roots and
created the climate for the abandonment of traditional
republican objectives. Thereafter, Sinn Fein stressed
the need for an 'agreed Ireland' - a woolly political
slogan which encapsulated an implicit acceptance of
the unionist veto and a continuation of British
sovereignty in Ireland.

The 1993 Downing Street Declaration laid down the
parameters of any subsequent agreement. The
Adams-McGuinness controlled provisional leadership
rejected the Document but remained wedded to the
process. The 1995 Framework Document envisaged the
establishment of a power sharing arrangement in
Stormont along with the creation of minimalist
cross-border institutions. Gerry Adams stated that he
would accept a return to Stormont if it were a
'transitional measure'. This statement ensured that
the Adams-McGuinness leadership would sell any future
partitionist arrangement as 'transitional', while
obfuscating the absence of any concrete transitional
mechanisms for change. This admission also represented
a revision of the long-standing republican belief in
the irreformable nature of the six-county state.

The substance of the Belfast Agreement came as no
surprise. The Agreement saw the deletion of Articles 2
& 3 and the entrenchment of British sovereignty in
Ireland. It resuscitated a Stormont power-sharing
assembly, created minimalist cross-border bodies,
reformed the RUC, and left the infamous RUC Special
Branch intact. In short the Belfast Agreement
represented an Irish republican Versailles.

As David Trimble observed, the Agreement had
transformed the provisionals from 'militant
separatists' into 'structural unionists' and it had
forced them to accept that Irish unity was purely

It is essential to recognise that the importance of
the provisional movement's political surrender far
outweighed its subsequent military surrender. The
Irish republican struggle is first and foremost a
political struggle with clearly defined democratic,
political objectives. The struggle was never about the
right to bear arms or wage revolutionary war. A
revolutionary organisation can destroy arms and go on
to procure more. But it can never redeem a political
principle once abandoned.

So when the PIRA abandoned traditional republican
objectives by accepting and administering British rule
in Ireland, they divested themselves of any vestige of
republicanism. And once the republican project was
abandoned, the provisional's arsenal became redundant
and its only value for the Adams-McGuinness leadership
lay in its potential bargaining power.

Military surrender
The initial demand for PIRA decommissioning came from
Sir Patrick Mayhew during a March 1995 visit to
Washington. The provisional leadership dismissed these
demands as a deliberate attempt to frustrate all-party
talks. "Not a bullet, not an ounce" was their
response. In 1996 a PIRA Convention unanimously passed
a motion which ensured that: 'The Army Authority shall
retain, maintain and ensure the safety of all
armaments, equipment and other resources of Oglaigh na
hEireann until such a time as the sovereignty and
unity of the Republic of Ireland has been attained.
Once a settlement has been agreed, leading to a united
Ireland, all decisions relating to decommissioning of
armaments, equipment and other resources must be
ratified by an Army Convention'. This adopted motion
protected IRA armaments and tied the hands of the
Adams-McGuinness leadership.

In October 1997 the PIRA split. Opponents of the
Adams-McGuinness strategy departed and reconstituted
the IRA. The Adams-McGuinness leadership moved with
speed to remould PIRA policy on future acts of
decommissioning. At a December 1998 PIRA Convention,
the Army Council was reinvested with the power to
decide when to decommission PIRA weapons. This was a
direct reversal of the decision taken by the October
1996 Convention, which vested this authority in an
Army Convention.

Despite the repeated cries of 'Not an bullet, not an
ounce', and despite the repeated declarations that
there would be no destruction of PIRA arms, in the
period between October 2001 and October 2003, the
provisionals completed three 'significant acts of
decommissioning' under the auspices of the IICD. As a
consequence of their 28 July 2005 statement the
organisation has instructed its appointed
representative 'to engage with the IICD to complete
the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use'.
The completion of PIRA decommissioning is expected
sometime in the autumn.

The destruction of provisional weaponry is the logical
conclusion of the Adams-McGuinness 'peace strategy'.
These weapons were originally procured to resist
British rule in Ireland and to achieve national
liberation. But now that the provisional leadership
has abandoned the freedom struggle and consented to
'administer British rule in Ireland for the
foreseeable future', these weapons are no longer
needed. Clearly, the continued existence of the PIRA
and its arsenal had become an electoral liability for
Sinn Fein and frustrated its access to British
ministerial portfolios in Stormont and its involvement
in a future coalition government south of the border.

The provisional movement is not the first republican
organisation in Irish history to have been
unsuccessful in achieving the objective of a free and
independent Ireland. But it is the first republican
organisation in Irish history to destroy their
weaponry at the behest of a British government, so
that they can administer British ministerial
portfolios and accrue political power south of the

The surrender of arms is an act imposed upon the
vanquished in battle. By compelling the provisional
movement to decommission the British state has
attempted to humiliate republican Ireland and absolve
itself of moral responsibility for the conflict in our
country, while enhancing its longstanding objective,
namely, the pacification of Ireland while maintaining
British sovereignty over the six-counties. But the
provisional movement had long given up the fight and
had politically capitulated before any military
surrender of arms had taken place. So what now of the
PIRA? Its leadership may be pre-occupied with selling
defeat as victory, but as a revolutionary organisation
it exists in name only. The whole raison d'être of the
PIRA was to wage armed struggle against the British
state in Ireland, in pursuit of a 32 county socialist
republic. But now these objectives have been abandoned
and its military arsenal is soon to be destroyed. In
real terms Adams and McGuinness has rendered the
organisation a footnote in Irish history.

Yet genuine republicans must not be disheartened. Yes,
we must accept that a national liberation struggle has
been jettisoned by a counter-revolutionary leadership
which settled for a reformed British state in Ireland.
Yes, we agree that it is unconscionable to accept
British rule in Ireland and to destroy republican arms
at the behest of London. Yes, we regretfully
acknowledge that the Belfast Agreement has
strengthened Britain's constitutional hold over the
north. Yes, we are not blinded to the fact that a
"peace time" garrison of 5,000 British troops will
remain in the six-counties in perpetuity. Yes, we will
never forget that the graveyards throughout Ireland
are full of young IRA men and women who fought and
died for a free and independent Ireland and not for
equality within a British six-county state. But not
for one moment do we accept that the political and
military surrender of the provisional movement entails
the end of resistance to British rule in Ireland. What
we are currently witnessing is a strategic reversal in
the inexorable march towards Irish freedom. But if the
pages of Irish history teach us anything, they teach
us that as long as Britain occupies one sod of Irish
soil, future resistance is inevitable.


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