has been much idle speculation over what was or
was not agreed on the issue of IRA decommissioning
being photographed. As a member of the Sinn Fein
negotiating team (second alternate) I feel it incumbent
upon me to set the record straight.
that republicans never subscribed to the idea of
visual decommissioning is actually evident from
a close reading of the two governments' proposals.
Bear with me here. At Annex C there is absolutely
no reference to photographs. What it says is that,
"the IRA leadership has agreed with the IICD
[the Decommissioning body] to complete this process
in a way which further enhances public confidence
and to conclude this by the end of December."
The way which enhances public confidence was the
proposal to allow two independent clerics to witness
decommissioning, which is what the IRA had agreed
to. The absence of any reference to independent
clerics further serves to reinforce this. Photographs
are only mentioned in the statement that the governments
proposed that General de Chastelain would make.
According to paragraph 5 he would have said: "In
addition, the IRA representative has told us that
the IRA will have photographs of the weapons and
materiel involved taken by the IICD, in the presence
of the independent observers." De Chastelain
would have said that the photographs would be published
when the Executive was formed next March. It is
clear from the context that these photographs were
not intended for publication, but for the Army Council's
Christmas Card and for possible use as souvenirs
or for future merchandising opportunities.
reference to photographs was obviously left out
of the IRA statement because the British knew that
the IRA had never agreed to that happening, though
it appears that they were trying to bounce the IRA
into accepting the unacceptable. In the circumstances
the two governments' recent statements that the
Republican Movement had agreed to photographs is
in a very real and very Zen sense, further proof
that there was no such agreement.
British and Irish governments thus must bear a heavy
responsibility for the impasse in political progress
last week, and indeed for everything come to think
of it. It is now clear that they ignored Sinn Fein
warnings, given in plenty of time and using recognised
code words, that visual decommissioning from the
IRA was a non-starter, yet they persisted in disobeying
what on any view were our clear instructions. Furthermore,
we now know that the British government convinced
the DUP that the pictorial aspect was a probability
- almost a given - in a separate document on the
issue which was never shown to Sinn Fein's chief
negotiator Martin McGuinness. If it had been, he
assures me, he would have made sure everyone knew
little bit of deceit is the only possible explanation
for Dr. Paisley abandoning his normal conciliatory
approach. Falsely assuming that the IRA had agreed
to visual decommissioning, he made his infamous
speech about humiliation, repentance, sackcloth
and ashes (and, later, threw in a hair shirt for
must have known the reaction his speech would have
caused among republicans, and republicans showed
customary courage and resolve in duly obliging him.
He may have calculated that it would cause major
division in the IRA and ultimately force the IRA
to 'renege' on what he assumed it had agreed to
- filmed decommissioning. That certainly would have
got him off the hook of sharing power with Sinn
Fein under the Belfast Agreement which is what he
would have been signing up to. Well we certainly
despite what commentators, observers and politicians
assert about Paisley being prepared to share power
with republicans, I still cannot ever see it happening,
for it would represent such a reversal of character.
of which begs the question I have heard many republicans
ask: why do you bother? Certainly, Sinn Fein being
in power appears to be the most viable strategy
available. But can't it continue to consolidate
its support and ready itself for power in the South
(should it want to be in government; should the
people blocking it be removed)?
nationalist community might be angry and temporarily
frustrated. But it remains stoic, and morale is
high because the IRA made the right decision. No
photographs, no humiliation. Nothing to see here.
version of this article previously appeared pretty
much everywhere you might expect]
statement in full
Blanket today prints in full a statement from the
leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann.
text of IRA Statement
than ten years ago, an IRA cessation publicly heralded
the onset of the Irish peace process. Since then,
the IRA has, time and again, demonstrated its commitment
to sustaining and developing that process through
a series of very significant and substantive initiatives.
Following these initiatives, as a further demonstration
of our commitment to peace, another cessation was
the context of the work to conclude a comprehensive
agreement, the leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann
decided to announce the following measures which
it will not now adopt but which, hypothetically,
we would have done if certain parties (Ian Paisley,
Ann McCabe) had kept their mouths shut:
IRA leadership decided to contribute in this way
to a comprehensive agreement to resolve all outstanding
issues, including those of concern within unionism
should it come to that. For his part, Ian Paisley
demanded that our contribution be photographed,
and reduced to an act of humiliation.
for technical reasons too lengthy to explain here,
was never possible. Knowing this, he made this demand
publicly as the excuse for his rejection of an overall
agreement to create a political context with the
potential to remove the causes of conflict. As the
IRA leadership has said before, this is a context
in which Irish republicans and unionists can, as
equals, pursue our respective and mutually exclusive
political objectives peacefully. We must stress
therefore that the next time we have to hurt someone,
it will be Paisley's fault and no-one else's.
restate our commitment to the peace process. But
we will not submit to a process of humiliation.
At least not ours.
commend ourselves for our patience and discipline
in these testing times. Our commitment to our republican
objectives is undiminished and unchanged, although
the objectives themselves may not be.
thank those who have made genuine contributions
to the efforts to find solutions to ongoing problems.
No wait, that's us again isn't it?
search for a just and lasting peace is a challenging
one. The IRA leadership has risen to that challenge.
The British Government and the leaders of unionism
must do likewise. Reconciliation lies in a shared
acknowledgment that everything is their fault.
IRA (1970) Ltd.