Editorial from Irish Political Review, June 2004
Breach Of The Peace?
The Not Guilty verdict on the 'Columbia Three' came as "something of a surprise" to the Editor of the Irish Times (April 27), though the reporting of the evidence, even in her own paper, was such that any other verdict would have appeared perverse. Her front page headlines did not even announce that the verdict was "not guilty". She declared editorially that "The Irish people are entitled to an explanation as to why it was necessary to travel on phoney passports"—an unheard of thing in our orderly world of the present day, is it? And she found comfort in the Report of the "IMC", which would counter any "temporary respite to Sinn Fein" that resulted from the Columbia verdict.
Columbia was one of the three major planks justifying the reverse to the peace process launched by the British Government in October 2002 and supported enthusiastically by the Irish Times. The other two were the theft, in broad daylight, from Castlereagh high security barracks of high security documents by men who simply walked in and took them, and "Stormontgate", the supposed penetration of the upper echelons of Northern Ireland government by spies acting for Sinn Fein.
All three have now turned out to be bogus. And, unless the appeal in Columbia reverses the verdict, all three will be quietly forgotten as issues, without any acknowledgement that they were bogus. They can be quietly forgotten because they were not actually believed by those who waxed indignant about them. The Castlereagh accusation was strictly incredible. Professor Bew, David Trimble's close adviser, purported to believe it, but in general the rumour was circulated as fact in a mental condition of suspended disbelief.
(When Sir John Chilcott was appointed by ex-Communist Party Secretary of State John Reid to investigate the break-in, Unionist Freddie Cobain complained that one section of the Intelligence service was being asked to investigate the misdeeds of another (Inside Politics, Radio Ulster, 23.3.2002). In the same discussion, Denis Bradley (Vice-Chairman of the Policing Board) was angered that the prerogatives of the Policing Board had been usurped by the Reid appointment. Des Brown defended the Northern Ireland Office initiative on the grounds that the police would also be conducting an enquiry. In response to the demand for an investigation by Nuala Haughey, Police Ombudsman, Brown pointed out that if police involvement in the Castlereagh incident was shown, she would then have a role to play. Mike Brogden, Professor of Criminology at Queen's University, Belfast, in a separate interview held that the Special Branch was the main outstanding policing problem in Northern Ireland (This Week, RTE 24.3.02). It was taken for granted by everybody that the theft was another incident in the long line of incidents related to the Stevens Inquiry into Collusion by which the security services caused vital documents to disappear. Chilcott then reported to receptive ears that the Provos did it—there was no Report—and the media, with scarcely an exception, began to treat that bizarre suggestion as established fact. But Chilcott has come up with no evidence to support his informal suggestion, and we doubt that he has looked very hard for it.)
Conor Cruise O'Brien has remained understandably quiet about the Columbia verdict. He had built a great 'scenario' on it, as we reported in February 2004. He took the trial to be a show trial, at the end of which there would not be a verdict but a sentence, and the ramifications of the sentence would put paid to Sinn Fein. He took the trial to be a show trial because it has long been his understanding (ever since his unfortunate experiences at the United Nations) that the United States runs the world. He disapproved of this arrangement at first but, following the great conversion that he underwent in the mid-1970s, he came to approve of it very strongly. And, when Bush took over the White House and was given his head by the World Trade Centre incident, it felt as if all his birthdays had come together. As he revealed in his book on the Millennium, he is a Voltairean cynic dedicated to the preservation of the West as an elite order, dominating the world, and he knows that cynicism is not itself capable of controlling the masses and it needs people with strong beliefs as its instruments. Bush seemed to be the ideal instrument, and O'Brien began to write RIP over Sinn Fein. He did not seem to notice the appointment of Richard Haas—one of the sanest and most competent operatives in the Bush administration—to Northern Ireland and the continuity between the Clinton and Bush approach in that sphere.
The breakdown in the Good Friday Agreement is not a consequence of Bush's War On Terrorism. It is entirely home-produced. It is a product of the joint effort of all those who signed the Agreement, minus Sinn Fein, with Whitehall playing the crucial role and Dublin tagging along—and sometimes even taking the lead as a tactical measure against Sinn Fein for 26 County electoral purposes: for example, declaring it to be a criminal organisation, and attempting to "out" Gerry Adams as a member of the IRA. Adams admits to being a member of Sinn Fein. He is, after all, its President. The Taoiseach etc. hold that Sinn Fein and the IRA are one, and yet they demand that he should admit to being a member of the IRA as well, thus contradicting their own contention that the two are one.
We recall that when Garret FitzGerald was Taoiseach he declared, on the eve of every election in the North, that every vote for Sinn Fein was a vote for the IRA. But, when the Sinn Fein vote increased, as it did in every election, he went back to the position of asserting that the IRA was an unrepresentative minority. The Dublin attitude to the North has always been shot through with this kind of duplicity.
Today the IRA is simultaneously condemned and depended upon by the Dublin establishment—a phenomenon which is bizarrely displayed by Vincent Browne in his Radio Eireann show, but is also evident in Ahern's approach. They call on Sinn Fein and urge immediate disbandment, and then in the next breath they hope that Sinn Fein is in control of the IRA and remains so—otherwise there will be a powerful resurgence of another strain of Republican militarism.
A recent book by a megalomaniac historian has been appreciatively received in the Republic: Rebellions by Tom Dunne of University College, Cork. Dunne thinks that historians are the cause of the trouble in the North and that historians writing a new kind of history will cause the North to settle down.
Catholics in the North know very well that the cause of the trouble in the North is all that is conveyed by the name "Northern Ireland" to those who have experienced the reality of it. It is a constitutional entity without parallel in the world, and it inevitably preserves and aggravates the national ("sectarian" if you will) antagonism on which it was based. It is not a possible framework of democratic political life. And the reason there has been a steady drift of votes from the SDLP to Sinn Fein is that the SDLP has allowed itself to be remoulded by Dublin and London influences into a party of illusion. (The Hume/Sinn Fein dialogue was never an SDLP/Sinn Fein dialogue, and in the absence of Hume the SDLP hadn't a clue about how to conduct itself in the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.)
We said at the outset that there was no possibility that the GFA would work autonomously as a power-sharing system in the North, and that its functioning would depend on continuous pressure from outside. When London and Dublin began by allowing David Trimble—who signed the Agreement under duress—to delay the start of its implementation for a year and a half, the Agreement was as good as dead.
Britain's strategic position in the world is not understood in Ireland, and its Irish strategy is actively misconceived—as a result of its effectiveness.
Sweden was once a Great Power. It was a major participant in the 30 Years' War which led to the Peace of Westphalia in 1648—an event which England did not participate in and which Tony Blair has recently repudiated. Westphalia established the right of countries to make their own religious arrangement, and has therefore been taken as the source of the principle of national sovereignty. The year after the Treaty was made, Cromwell came to Ireland and the long English attempt to impose a religion on the Irish began. (The Penal Laws lasted for the better part of two centuries.) And Blair has now declared the era of national sovereignty to be over.
After making considerable gains at the Westphalia settlement, Sweden suffered a considerable loss of power during the following century and, after the Napoleonic Wars, settled down within itself in a self-absorbed sort of way.
The moment when Europe made the Westphalia settlement was the moment when England was caught by the itch of intolerant expansionism. It began to interfere here, there and everywhere, and could not stop interfering without ceasing to be itself. Misjudged interference between 1914 and 1945 led to drastic loss of power, but it never readjusted to a more modest position in the world. It appeared to be doing so under Ted Heath and Harold Wilson, but it reverted to its old ways under Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.
Britain lives off the world to a degree that no other country does. It began living off the world in the mid-19th century through a combination of military and industrial power, and it now does so through a combination of military and financial power. It is a very affluent country with little visible means of support. That means that it lives by what was called "invisibles" when balance-of-trade figures used to be broadcast, thirty years ago. At the start of the present British regime 300 years ago it was understood in ruling circles that there was a symbiotic relationship between trade and war, and it is well understood today that the very comfortable economic position which Britain has established for itself vis-a-vis the rest of the world would be unsustainable if the State ceased to be a major military force, seeking trouble spots to be active in. It is not gong to settle down, Swedish-style, to hard work and high thinking.
Britain operates an ideology of peace for those who prefer to be taken in by it, but the British State in its actual functioning does not believe in the possibility of peace as a prevailing condition in the world. And it certainly did not believe that peace would result from the Northern Ireland entity which it set up 80 years ago.
Peace is a utopian object in the operative British view. The view that life is perpetual struggle was its guiding principle long before it was formalised into Darwinism, and it was re-asserted recently by Blair. And when Douglas Hurd was Foreign Secretary he actually used the words, "the weapon of peace". Peace and war are means to an end, the end being power. From that viewpoint the state of war does not appear to be an intolerable condition. What is intolerable is a condition of peace that lasts too long.
When Britain partitioned Ireland, it did not set up Northern Ireland—instead of governing the Six Counties as an integral part of Britain—for the purpose of engendering peaceful relations between the two communities in the North. It was as certain as anything can be in politics that, in a situation of communal conflict, the setting up of the larger community in absolute dominance over the smaller community, outside the democratic structures of the state, would prolong and aggravate the communal conflict. And, since the deed was done by the most experienced body of politicians ever assembled in government, the assumption must be that Northern Ireland was set up for a purpose beyond itself. And that purpose is not hard to find. It was to give Britain ongoing leverage on the part of Ireland which was escaping from it.
The Irish State, in the damaged condition in which it emerged from the Treaty War (into which it was forced by British ultimatum), was incapable of sustaining equal relations with Britain. By means of sheer political virtuosity de Valera acted the part of an equal for a generation, as did Charles Haughey during the brief opportunity that was allowed to him. And Albert Reynolds might have done so if poor advice had not left him vulnerable to petty feuding.
Fine Gael has not been in power for 70 years. It discredited itself during its last period in power as Cumann na nGaedheal by its attempt to thwart democratic development by use of the Treaty Oath, and its periods in office since 1932 have been mere Coalition interludes. Power lay with Fianna Fail, and therefore the great mistakes, vis a vis the North, were made by Fianna Fail Taeoiseachs—Sean Lemass and Jack Lynch. Lemass, not troubling to understand what Northern Ireland was, browbeat the "Constitutional nationalists" into accepting the role of Official Opposition at Stormont, as if Stormont was the Parliament of a democratic state. But Stormont was not a state, and was not a democracy. The function performed by the Opposition at Westminster, and to a lesser extent in the Dail, was not possible in it. And the make-believe of the late 1960s was one of the influences leading to the rupture of August 1969.
Then Jack Lynch made his inflammatory speech about "not standing (idly) by", raising general expectations, and setting in motion arrangements for intervention, before breaking down under British pressure and scapegoating members of his Cabinet and Army.
Whitehall then knew that, as far as Dublin was concerned, it might do as it pleased. (And it dealt with Haughey's resistance by means of its discreet influence on important parts of the media in the Republic.)
What the Irish Times refers to editorially as "the IMC" is a case in point. The IMC is the International Monitoring Commission set up under the Good Friday Agreement to monitor decommissioning. It is conducted by General de Chastelaine, a Canadian, who has acted independently, according to the terms of the Agreement. Like Judge Cory, also a Canadian, he put himself beyond the reach of Whitehall political influence when doing his job. Whitehall therefore set up another "IMC", the 'I' standing for "Independent" in this instance. This is a strictly dependent body made up of Intelligence nominees of the British, Irish and American Governments chaired by Pecksniffian Alliance/Unionist Lord Alderdice who, having led his own party to oblivion, resigned its leadership for services like this. And the Irish nominee on this spurious IMC is prohibited from voting on matters relating to Northern Ireland—even though Northern Ireland is what it is about.
General de Chastelaine, adhering to a reasonable understanding of the terms of the Agreement even though the two Governments were sabotaging it, refused to find that the Republicans were in breach of the Agreement. Lord Alderdice's IMC, doing what it is paid for, naturally found that the Provos had broken the Ceasefire. The incident on which it chiefly reached this conclusion (on the word of the Chief Constable) was what appears to have been a fracas at a pub in central Belfast involving members of the same family, which was Republican in orientation. The Chief Constable put it about that Bobby Tohill was kidnapped by the Provos (before CCTV cameras) with the intention of torturing and killing him—and Enda Whatsisname—you know—the Leader of Fine Gael—took the allegation to be gospel truth in a Dail speech—as of course did Justice Minister McDowell. But, as matters stand, Mr. Tohill has been charged by the Chief Constable with conspiracy to murder, the general understanding being that this is punishment for his refusal to bring the charges against the Provos that the Chief Constable wanted him to bring.
Use of the initials 'IMC' by the Irish Times with regard to the Alderdice report is a deliberate fraud. It is the kind of thing for which James Connolly indicted the Belfast Irish News as Press Poisoners In Ireland. That article could do with re-publishing, with an introduction showing how the Irish Times has easily outclassed the Irish News in that kind of activity.
Meanwhile the real breach of the peace—our war on Iraq—goes merrily on. We liberated Iraq from "the regime" —i.e. the State—a year ago, and we are now desperately trying to liberate it from those whom we liberated from the regime. And the task is made unpleasant by the deplorable freedom of the press in the United States.
Mark Steyn in the Irish Times tries to trivialise the torture scenes. Kevin Myers says straight out that a blanket censorship should be imposed on war reporting—he who berates de Valera for the very moderate censorship imposed on the reporting of World War 2. And the Government that made Ireland a party to this war does its best to say nothing at all. But an interesting exchange of views occurred on RTE's Questions & Answers on 19th April:
"David Horgan (Managing Director of Petrel Resources): …I think if you had deliberately set out to screw up the country and the economy you couldn't have done a better job. It's a true catastrophe. On any objective measure ordinary people are far worse off than they were under the previous regime… They talk about a handover of sovereignty as if sovereignty was something that you give back to the people. Sovereignty resides in the people. And what's happened in Iraq is that the Iraqi people have now come together… Effectively there is a national uprising in Iraq…
"Chair: Are you surprised by what's happened?
"Horgan: I'm surprised at the incompetence of the Coalition. Normally you think of the USA as tough but resourceful and effective, and here they've been ineffective. And they've simply been in denial… Looking forward, the priority should be fixing the problem but right now…
"Chair: How could they do that now? Where are the agents who could fix it now?
"Horgan: Well, they cannot. They cannot hand over power to another set of Quislings, because the mere fact that you get power from the Coalition will render you illegitimate. The only solution now, like it or not, is free elections… They say that you can't have elections, and yet Tony Blair tells us that he has polls that say 2 out of 3 Iraqis were happy with the invasion… The only real way to establish security now is to bring back the Iraqi National Army. There's no way in the longer term that any foreign force will be accepted, not United Nations, not Arabs…
"Chair: The middle managers were fired, weren't they—the middle managers of the Iraqi Army were fired, that was the big mistake.
"Horgan: The whole 400,000 of them were fired. And they wonder why they have a security problem. They went 400,000 people home without their pensions and back pay but with their weapons and their skills. And these are the guys… Two weeks ago I was driving through Faluja. The Americans had blocked the roads, but you go off the road and you can get through. And there's kids in their early twenties with home-made national flags with Kalashnikovs. These are the guys who're doing the fighting. The same guys that were fired…
"Chair: How dangerous you to be going through that town, because that's where the four American construction workers were murdered and then hacked, really, I don't want to go into the details, but some of it was on television.
"Horgan: It's cruel, but its deliberate. These are sophisticated, intelligent people, and what they did, they did deliberately. They've been to Sandhurst and to the Frunze Institute in Moscow. They know how this will play out on the Western media. Basically, everyone who worked for the Coalition has been threatened… None of our people have been threatened… The rule seems to be that if you're a neutral you can get on with your work. Now, it changes by the week, and you have to keep your antennae up. But Iraqis are not against foreigners. They like foreigners. What they want is investors, not invaders."
Tony Killeen (Fianna Fail TD) said he had no reason to doubt anything that David has said "and then does his best to evade the issue". But adds that what has been done for the past years "defies any kind of intelligent explanation".
"Brigid Laffan (Research Director of the European Institute and Monet Professor of European Integration at UCD): Well, Iraq is where it is now, not where it was a year ago. The war has happened. The question is the future of Iraq and the future of its people. I don't think the Americans can hand over power to anyone. There has got to be an intermediary tier and it must be the UN. David says just withdraw and let the Iraqi people get on with it. I think all that would happen is various militia would have it out and you'd probably get a civil war. Now you've the makings of one anyway. The UN, Kofi Annan's representative, Brahini, is a very astute person in these sorts of circumstances. If there was—if the Americans handed over to a UN-backed… Council of some sort, and then they organised the free elections, because you're right, because I think there has to be free elections… But to argue that somehow or other it was better under the old regime—I mean, could Iraq have been beggared for another twenty years with sanctions?
"Horgan: Brigid, women can't work now…
"Laffan: No, no.no. But this is—there's been a war. But you paint a picture of the former regime that frankly I think is disingenuous. It was a lousy, tyrannical regime, where he had his sons there ready to hand over to. They were waiting. Now you did business with him. I've no problem with that. And you might have done business with him for another twenty years.
"Horgan: But, Brigid, look at the Allies in the War on Terror. Uzbekistan. The President of Uzbekistan boils dissidents live. He's our main ally in Central Asia.
"Laffan: Let's talk about Iraq now. Let's just talk about Iraq. And the problem is, could you have beggared the Iraqi people for another twenty years with sanctions, or could you have allowed Saddam Hussein to get control over the money from full oil production again? These are quite serious issues. Now there is very serious deterioration in the security environment in Iraq at the moment. But Iraq is where it is now, and in my view you must now get a UN involvement and engagement. And the UN is not highly though of in Iraq as you know. But for all those forces to simply withdraw now and leave it would in my view be criminal. It would make it much, much worse."
The question was "Does the panel believe the war in Iraq was worthwhile?" Brigid Laffan, in many ways the voice of the EU in Ireland, clearly believes that it was. But she seemed to think that the "beggaring" of Iraq, which somehow made the war was desirable, was done by Saddam Hussein rather than the UN. And the UN for this purpose was the USA, seconded by Britain. It was the US Veto that prevented a UN majority from enabling Iraq to resume an evolutionary course of development ten years ago, and insisted on enforcing sanctions, although Iraq had been virtually disarmed. And she also seems to be unaware that the Ameranglian Occupation has been operating under UN authority since last Autumn.
C O N T E N T S
Breach Of The Peace?
Labour & Israel
Faith And Identity
An Cor Tuathail: The Three Traits Of The Fianna
(Compiled by Pat Muldowney)
Ambassador Gilchrist's Letter About The Irish Times.
A National Newspaper.
More On The Infamous Letter.
The Irish Times Trust Ltd.
Decoding The Irish Times Trust?
Martin Mansergh And The Irish Times.
Report of a Polemic
The Gilchrist Letter & The History Of The Irish Times.
The Apprenticeship Of Bomber Bull. (Part 2 of The Irish Times Defends Terror Bombing)
Finian McGrath Challenges Inflammatory Statements On Columbia 3 Case.
The Clonbanin Column
Communism In France.
Laughing Into A Void?
Labour Comment, edited by Pat Maloney:
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