FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Live from Hollywood: the IRA Disarms

by HARRY BROWNE

Dublin.

“The arms decommissioned represent the totality of the IRA’s arsenal.”

With those words, spoken by Canadian general John de Chastelain today at a press conference in Holywood, Co Down, one phase of Ireland’s Troubles seemed to draw to a definitive conclusion. Alongside the general and his fellow members of an independent international commission overseeing paramilitary disarmament, two aged clergyman in black suits backed up his account.

“We have spent many long days watching the meticulous and painstaking process,” Harold Good, former president of the Methodist church in Ireland, said in mellifluous ministerial tones. “Beyond any shadow of doubt, the arms of the IRA have now been decommissioned.” He hoped it would mark “the dawn of a new era of peace”.

That remains to be seen. Although the men were prepared to say they saw a huge amount of weapons, ammunition and explosives “put beyond use”, they can’t reveal the inventory, nor is there any photographic evidence. De Chastelain was bombarded with questions about how he could be sure these constituted the full Irish Republican Army collection. He said the amount was consistent with estimates that British security forces had prepared; he said he had information that IRA members had been “scouring the country for this stuff”; he said, in the end, he believed the IRA were “sincere”.

“They told us they believe they have given us everything they have, and we believe them.”

That element of “belief” is likely to be seized on by some unionists who don’t want to restart Northern Ireland’s power-sharing process. At one point the Canadian said: “Could we be wrong? I suppose. But I don’t think we are.”

De Chastelain admitted he would have preferred a more transparent disarmament, but the importance of “decommissioning” not looking like “surrender or defeat” was paramount. That didn’t stop the Northern editor of Ireland’s State broadcaster, RTE, from stumbling over his words on television on Sunday evening, referring to the IRA’s “surrender of all its weapons ­ uh, the handing-in of all its weapons”. He grinned as he corrected himself, but the IRA would insist it was neither a surrender nor a handing-in, but a process carried out by itself and simply verified by de Chastelain and company.

Nonetheless, it’s a long way from the oft-graffiti’ed catchphrase, “Not an ounce, not a bullet!” The IRA has studiously avoided “disbanding”, nor has it stated that its devotion to peaceful means is permanent–either action would be an invitation for someone else to take up the mantle of military struggle for an end to the British presence in Northern Ireland and for Irish unity. But while, so far, it has deftly avoided a fatal split, it has gone further in the direction of disappearance than many of its supporters, and enemies, thought possible.

And it has effectively done so unilaterally, though this decommissioning is based on a model put forward during multi-party talks last year. This time there are no talks, loyalist paramilitaries have still not disarmed, and there remain other potential problems for the IRA–for example in the unfolding of the investigation into last December’s massive Northern Bank robbery.

As Irish republicans took this demonstrable step away from armed struggle, there were other reasons to wonder about the movement’s future political direction. Many believe it jettisoned its socialism long before it got rid of its arms, as its leaders strode the international stage and it moved toward electoral respectability south of the Border, in the Republic.

On Saturday, the day that de Chastelain tells us the IRA was finishing the process of putting its weapons beyond use, its political wing, Sinn Fein, was hosting a “rally for Irish unity” in Dublin. Ostensibly to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Sinn Fein party, the event was partly an historical pageant of 20th-century Irish republicanism: teenagers in 1916 vintage costumes handed out leaflets to passers-by, while others in the parade wrapped themselves in old blankets to recall the hunger strikers of a quarter-century ago. Some media outrage was generated by the replica guns being waved around, but the message of the event was clearly that political violence belongs to a rather undifferentiated past–a past to be honoured, surely, but no longer to be imitated.

Indeed, it was hard to argue that Ireland has not changed utterly–not when the parade started in Parnell Square, on the edge of what is rapidly becoming Dublin’s Chinatown, and around the corner from Moore Street’s collection of east-European and Nigerian shops. O’Connell Street, where the historic General Post Office squats in columned solemnity, is largely a construction site, full of Polish builders, as city planners awash in Celtic Tiger cash transform it into somebody’s notion of a sleek 21st-century boulevard. In this city, and even among some of these immigrants, Sinn Fein is the party with political momentum.

But of course the last phase of the IRA campaign was never about Dublin, but about Belfast, Derry, Armagh, Tyrone and other parts of the North, still ruled by Britain. Once the most industrialised and developed part of the island, it now looks backward and dilapidated; and the relative privilege of the Protestant working-class there has slipped so far that loyalist communities are seriously (if unsustainably) described as “disenfranchised”. The summer of violence from loyalists, including a murderous internal feud, spectacular rioting and attacks on Catholic people and property, must have made some republicans hesitate over decommissioning, despite the IRA’s July promise to do it, because it could leave nationalist areas “undefended” in the event of a further loyalist upsurge. After all, it was neighbourhood defence that is said to have given rise to what became the Provisional IRA in 1969-70.

Mind you, in light of the latest writings from Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, it appears the IRA had another dilemma. It was either decommission those weapons now, or become the armed wing of the Hillary ’08 campaign. Adams, who was briefly the IRA chief of staff in the 1970s, is now a bearded visage for the global Clinton brand, an instant signifier of ex-President Bill’s status as an international statesman and totem of racial, ethnic and religious reconciliation. Ten days ago Adams was a guest, speaking on “religion and conflict”, at the inaugural meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. (Funny, republicans always used to insist the Northern struggle was not about religion but about imperialism.)

Adams’s account of the three-day meeting appears in Ireland’s Village magazine, under the fitting headline, “Clinton shows way towards elimination of poverty”. Adams tells readers that the $15,000-a-head “action-orientated” conference was attended mainly by “people committed to multilateralism and collective action in global affairs”. Ah, well, that’s all right then: thanks to Gerry we now know such a (totally meaningless) commitment is apparently shared by Tony Blair, Rupert Murdoch, George Bush Sr, Shimon Peres and Condoleezza Rice, along with Mrs Bill, George Soros and their “liberal” like. Adams oozes empty anti-poverty platitudes like he’s been sharing a pint with Bono and Bob Geldof. (The only thing remotely edifying about his article is the photograph, from the conference floor, of Angelina Jolie’s intent, collagen-enhanced profile. Let’s hope she’s truly committed to multilateralism and collective action in global affairs.)

Perhaps now we know why the IRA doesn’t need its weapons any more. The people running the global agenda to which Gerry Adams has signed up have all the firepower they could ever need.

HARRY BROWNE writes for Village magazine and lectures in the school of media at Dublin Institute of Technology. harrybrowne@eircom.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005

 

Harry Browne lectures in Dublin Institute of Technology and is the author of The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power). Email:harry.browne@gmail.com, Twitter @harrybrowne

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail