Ex-IRA men accuse Adams of betraying struggle
Paul Hughes (Reuters)
Friday October 26 2001
BELFAST (Reuters) - Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams says that only one person has called him a traitor following the IRA's historic decision this week to disarm.
But at least two former Irish Republican Army activists feel Adams and the current IRA leadership have betrayed the principles of three decades of republican struggle in which 3,600 people have been killed.
"The situation now is not worth a drop of anyone's blood having been spilt, whether IRA, Protestant or British soldiers. It's a complete betrayal of republican values," Tommy Gorman, a former IRA field officer, told Reuters this week.
"This is all taking place on the terms of the (Protestant) unionists and of the British. The IRA surrender is complete," agreed Anthony McIntyre, who served 18 years in prison for the murder of a Protestant.
The IRA said on Tuesday it had begun dismantling Europe's biggest underground arsenal, a watershed moment in the feud between pro-London Protestants and Roman Catholics seeking a united island of Ireland ruled from Dublin.
Gorman, 56, and McIntyre, 44, speak from experience. As former IRA foot soldiers they were prepared to risk their lives and take those of others. Between them they have served more than 30 years in jail.
Although both now renounce violence, they argue that neither of the two central tenets of Irish republicanism -- a united Ireland and the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland -- is any closer to being achieved.
They also point out that while the IRA has started disarming, pro-British loyalist paramilitaries have not silenced their guns and the British maintain a 13,500-strong garrison in the province.
"I'm all for peace, but the fact is that the whole emphasis being put on weapons means it's not a peace process but a pacification process. Adams has effectively criminalised 30 years of struggle," Gorman said.
DISSENT STAMPED OUT
Adams called for IRA disarmament to put the crumbling 1998 Good Friday power-sharing peace agreement back on track. He sees the accord as a stepping stone to the "United Ireland" which has been the IRA's holy grail since the island was partitioned in 1922.
Dissenting voices are rarely heard within the republican movement.
When Gorman and a group of about 10 IRA colleagues tried to debate the IRA's 1994 ceasefire they were leaned on and gradually forced out. "We started getting visits, it wasn't very subtle," he said.
McIntyre, who now writes and has a university doctorate, has been physically attacked and his home picketed for publicly criticising the Good Friday Agreement.
Both men are convinced that the IRA disarmament decision was taken by several high-ranking Sinn Fein and IRA members, without any input by republican rank and file.
Getting rid of its weapons has effectively emasculated the IRA, they said. But neither felt dissident republican groups such as the Real IRA would see a sudden influx of ex-IRA gunmen as a result.
"The dissidents have been made into bogeymen, but they're irrelevant. Those who were going to leave did so in 1998 and they're very infiltrated by the security forces," Gorman said.
But could they foresee a situation when the IRA would re-arm and resume hostilities?
"There's an old saying: No pessimist was ever proved wrong in Northern Ireland," McIntyre said.