| Sunday Journal
July 17, 2005
The governments don't want the IRA to disband
It became clear over the Twelfth that the British and Irish Governments want the IRA not only to continue to exist in organised fashion in the future but to play a key role in stabilising the North.
The governments' view emerged from Bertie Ahern's remarks in an interview with Gerry Barry on RTE Radio's lunchtime news last Sunday. Asked about Peter Hain's re-imprisonment of Shankill bomber Sean Kelly, Ahern referred to Kelly's "good work" in difficult situations in the recent past, and to his nervousness about the situation likely to arise in Ardoyne two days later. The removal of Kelly from the front line might discourage other ex-prisoners from playing the "important role" they have recently been filling, Ahern feared. ("Ex-prisoners" in this context is code-language for the IRA.)
Dublin and London are increasingly explicit about their intention that the IRA should in future exert a restraining influence on the more urgent and aggressive elements in Catholic communities.
On Friday morning, the millionaire ex-Tory MP, now a New Labour minister, Shaun Woodward, was fulsome in his praise for Gerry Adams and Gerry Kelly in their efforts to hold the line around Ardoyne shops three days earlier. Members of the SDLP and well-known priests who were also on the spot weren't mentioned. On Radio Ulster, Woodward drew particular attention to the positive role played by Martin McGuinness in Dunloy (although Woodward appeared to believe the events had unfolded in "Dunloe".)
Whether the Republican leaders are comfortable with praise of this sort being heaped on them, or with the positions they are apparently being measured up for, must be open to question. What's not in question is that the British and Irish establishments have agreed a job description for the IRA in its imminent new "mode."
It follows from this that, despite Paisley's guldering on the Independent Orange Order's platform at Portglenone, neither of the governments is putting pressure on the IRA to disband. On the contrary, the perspective requires the IRA to maintain its organisation and discipline.
And the IRA couldn't be expected to fill this future role if it didn't have access at least to small arms. Expect some fudging, too, on the meaning of "total" disarmament.
A senior Fianna Fail figure---in prime position to know the thinking of both the Dublin government and intelligence service chiefs---spoke a few days ago about the possibility of the IRA "dealing with" the Real and/or Continuity IRAs. When it was suggested that, "There isn't a chance in hell" of this happening, his response was to murmur: "Remember the Harriers."
This was a reference to the Broy Harriers, members of the anti-Treaty IRA who were brought in by de Valera to protect the party leadership when Fianna Fail went constitutional and who rather rapidly metamorphosed into the highly-politicised hard core of the Garda Special Branch. They were to help smash the Blueshirts, and then became the hammers of their erstwhile Republican colleagues.
There is no evidence that any such thoughts have occurred to Sinn Féin or IRA leaders. The point is, they have occurred to the powers-that-be in London and Dublin. Dangerous, interesting times ahead.