cops called round to a pal of mine in Belfast the
other day and warned her she was on a Provo hit-list.
The Provos reckoned she was a supporter of the Real
IRA, explained the stern-face detectives at the door.
So, she'd better watch her back.
RIRA has been issuing threats, planting hoax bombs
and burning the cars of members of the District Policing
Boards. This has complicated life for Provo strategists.
To wrong-foot the SDLP in upcoming elections, the
Provos need to stoke up Nationalist hostility to the
DPPs. Simultaneously, in order to stay on-side with
Dubya Bush and Tony Blair, they have to present an
image entirely cleansed of violent stain. The RIRA's
head-butting belligerence on policing has made the
maintenance of this balance devilishly difficult.
For this reason, the Provos may have resolved to get
rid of the rival IRA. Hence the concern of the Police
Service of Northern Ireland for my friend's safety.
could she believe a word that came from a cop's mouth?,
she wondered. Might not the doorstep advice be part
of some securocrat manoeuvre? An attempt to precipitate
a feud, even?
again, it would be a foolish person who would pay
no heed to such ominous counsel.
Well you might be. But hardly as confused as Conor
Cruise O'Brien. He thinks the Provos have been excessively
restrained in their approach to the RIRA.
his Indo column (September 20th), O'Brien quoted SDLP
chief Mark Durkan calling on the Provisional IRA to
confirm that it had not been involved in the attacks
on DPPs. Martin McGuinness had responded by accusing
the SDLP of "politicking". This, asserted
O'Brien, showed that, "The Provisional IRA must
be in tacit and deniable collusion with the Real IRA"---a
leap of logic which would leave an ordinary mortal
dizzy but which the Cruiser carried off with casual
ease. Mind you, he has the experience.
went on: "The Provisional IRA could snuff them
(the Real IRA) out of existence with no difficulty.
They show no signs of doing so. The Real IRA's campaign
goes on right under the noses of the Provisional IRA
and the IRA does nothing at all about it."
and analyse that passage how you will, in stoned or
unstoned state of mind, and there's no meaning to
attach to it other than that O'Brien thinks the Provos
false friends of peace for not "snuffing out"
members of the RIRA. As a matter of fact, he's wrong:
far from doing "nothing at all" to eradicate
the RIRA, the Provos snuffed out JoJo O'Connor outside
his mother's house in Ballymurphy three years ago
this month, and are commonly believed in Republican
circles to have killed Gareth O'Connor in south Armagh
earlier this year. What O'Brien must mean is that
the Provos havn't snuffed out RIRA members in sufficient
tangled times we live in.
of those warned by the PSNI that they were under Provo
threat is west Belfast Republican Brendan Shannon.
Interned at 17, Shannon later joined in the blanket
protest while serving a 12-year stretch for PIRA membership
and possession of arms. He says he sees himself now
as a "traditional" Republican but isn't
aligned to any organisation. He fled his home last
month after being told by the police that the Provos
planned to kill him on his way to work, apparently
because he'd attended gatherings in support of "dissident"
an interview with the writer Anthony McIntyre, Shannon
said he's been on the receiving end of Provo harrassment
since 1995 when he first voiced concern about the
direction the movement was taking. "When the
ceasefire was called I supported the strategy and
was actually involved in heated exchanges at republican
family meetings with those who expressed reservations...It
is not as if I am opposed to politics. It is the type
of politics that I call into question...It has become
apparent that the leadership have been lying through
their teeth. And now it has come to the point where
they are prepared to kill and disappear those who
refuse to accept the lies and are upfront about their
recall of encounters with former comrades deserves
reading by anyone interested in the enforcement of
a settlement which has the support of every mainstream
party and media outlet on the island. "I was
kidnapped by the Provos seven years ago and was accused
of being a member of a dissident organisation. They
told me that if I became in engaged in any military
activity against the British they would kill me. Four
years later, I was summoned to meet them and when
I agreed to go they told me that I was not to be seen
in the company of more than four dissident republicans
at any one time otherwise they would view this as
evidence of membership of and loyalty to such an organisation
and they would kill me as a result. You wouldn't get
that type of law in South Africa under the apartheid
regime. I take the Provisional threat very seriously,
Gareth O'Connor is missing and Jo Jo O'Connor was
Blair and Hugh Orde have both said that the IRA ceasefire
is intact despite Orde conceding that they killed
Gareth O'Connor. It means the IRA have a licence to
murder their own people but nobody else."
may be hysterical nonsense from a man rattled at being
told, whether truthfully or not, that his life is
in imminent danger. Suggesting that the British have
issued the Provos "a licence to murder"
stretches credulity beyond breaking point.
the other hand, Shannon's underlying point helps unravel
the tangle mentioned above.
far as threats to the DPPs are concerned, and generally,
the RIRA is up to nothing which the PIRA wasn't up
to for more than 25 years. But public support for
armed struggle---never as high as Provo propagandists
insisted---has plummeted to its lowest level in the
same period. Nevertheless, those who persist in armed
action do have the capacity to disrupt the pacification
plans of the Provo leaders and their colleagues in
other pro-Ageement parties. The result is widespread
rage against anti-Agreement Republicanism. At particular
points---in relation to policing in the run-up to
a make-or-break contest for Nationalist votes, for
example---the anger becomes intense enough to verge
on the murderous.
the PIRA might not have a British licence to murder,
they might be allowed a certain leeway. It's not uncommon
these days at gatherings of politicoes, journalists
or community activists to hear unexpected people wondering
sotto voce why the Provos don't just take the
"dissidents" out. O'Brien isn't far away
from this attitude. He reckons the reason the Provos
don't put the boot, or the bullet, in is that they
retain a sneaking regard for their erstwhile associates.
He's wrong about that, too. But his message---that
the Provos should take the RIRA out---reflects
an attitude which is more widespread in respectable
company than is commonly acknowledged.
are some who believe that the way for the Provos to
clinch their constitutional credentials is to eliminate
their aspirant military successors before leaving
the battlefield themselves. As to what extent this
view finds resonance within Provo ranks, we may find
out soon enough. There is nothing in Irish Republican
politics to prevent it, and no shortage of precedent
for doing it.
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