Monday, January 31, 2005


"You can't have a democratic state unless you have a state, and the fundamental, irreducible condition of a state is that it has a monopoly on the means of violence." A Hobbes-esque quote that clearly refers to Iraq, yet one that struck me as particularly appropriate for Ireland today. Ireland the state does not, and, arguably, never has had, a monopoly on the means of violence. Look at it coldly and calmly - Ireland is the only member state of the EU where a paramilitary army, that does not recognise the state, is allowed to exist with virtual impunity.

Coupled with that a political party that is, at least, a partner of the paramilitary goup is now supported electorally by around 10% of Southern voters and over half of the nationalist population in the North. It is (or should be, surely?) well known that many of the members of this party actively took part in terrorist acts i.e. deliberately inflicted death and destruction on the civilian populations of Britain and Northern Ireland, deliberately struck terror into their hearts, in order to achieve a political objective (for the sake of the point I must differentiate between the lives of soldiers/policemen and civilians - much as it pains me to do so).

Whatever excuses can be made for the Troubles themselves and the existence of the IRA, this paramilitary grouping, or members of it, are still clearly using their power and resources to engage in criminal activity, and have been on an ongoing basis since they stopped blowing things up and killing British soldiers in 1997. Yet we have reached a situation where an amazing 19% of people polled by the Irish Times do not believe the IRA carried out the Northern Bank robbery before Christmas (approx. STG£26 million stolen, if you have to ask) despite both the (democratically elected) British and Irish governments insisting they did and senior police officers on both sides of the border insisting that both circumstancial evidence and the intelligence gathered so far point to an IRA masterminded plot.

For me, personally, there has never been a shadow of doubt in my mind that it was the IRA who carried out this robbery. The planning and logistics of the operation must have been massive and they are, quite simply, the only show in town capable of managing such an act. Even the kidnap of staff relatives is an IRA tactic going back to the '80s. What is it that is making my fellow Irishmen so blasé about IRA activity? Is it the relative peace we now have? The fear of a return to the bad old days?

For ten years we, as a nation, have been tip-toeing around the Republican movement as they deny, counter-accuse and slither their way around punishment beatings, drug dealing, smuggling, racketeering and robbery. It's always "what about...". I so bloody hate Irish whatabouterry. Even the other day Gerry Adams was on the whatabouterry path when he said that "[Bertie Ahern had] cleverly defused the Ray Burke affair by opening up a full frontal attack on Sinn Féin." This was after the Taoiseach had accused republicans of turning on and off punishment attacks to suit the negotiations in the Northern Ireland peace process. Just one part of the standard Republican rhetoric - "we may have actively supported and prolonged an ethnic conflict for a generation but all their politicians are corrupt..." so that's all right, then.

Anyone with a brain in their head knows that Republicans whip up inner-city riots and carry out punishment beatings whenever it suits their larger agenda and stop them just as quickly. But it seems the gormless idiots I share this country with are a) unconcerned by this, b) totally ignorant of this or c) so swamped in anti-Britishness that their own whatabouterry allows Republicans to get away with (literally) murder.

Why do we still make excuses for them? Why do we unquestioningly believe everything they say when they have been proven to have lied before and when ordinary politicians, Gards, businessmen and officials are routinely accused of lying or corruption by the same people as a matter of course? Why would anyone say "innocent until proven guilty" without the slightest hint of irony about the alleged involvement of an illegal paramilitary organisation that has a history of kidnap and robbery (if you're prepared to temporarily ignore the mass murder) in a robbery that involved kidnap?

I am delighted that robbery took place, because I am convinced it was a miscalculation of massive proportions and the only way out for republicans is to deny, deny, deny. They wanted to prove they were still a threat when the DUP collapsed the negotiations without blatantly breaking ceasefire. However all they've done is given the rest of the political parties an endless supply of ammo - and they seem to be using it effectively. Hopefully they can keep it up. The tide might be turned yet...
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