On the 19 August this year the following political/military situation existed in Northern Ireland.
The Good Friday Agreement had been in existence for 17 years, the war was over. The Independent Monitoring Commission reported, year after year, that the Provisional IRA (PIRA) had indeed decommissioned its weapons and had ceased all military actions. All interested parties accepted this reality. How could they do otherwise, if the war was still on it would have been pretty obvious to everyone.
As with every war in history, particularly dirty little civil wars like that in Northern Ireland, there were some who refused to give up and some who turned to crime but the vast majority of those involved got on with their lives.
On the 21 Aug, the political/military situation was exactly the same as it was on the 19 August.
This was the day after Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes of the PSNI, who was investigating the murder of former IRA man Kevin Mc Guigan, said that a major line of inquiry was that members of PIRA were involved.
Det. Supt. Geddes was very careful about the words he used.
My assessment is that this is a separate group from the Provisional IRA. A major line of inquiry for this investigation is that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in this murder.
The allegation that former members of PIRA may have been involved in the murder is not news. Former members of all paramilitary groups have been involved in all kinds of criminal activity including murder.
Det. Supt. Geddes’ clear statement that PIRA was not involved has since been confirmed by representatives of practically all interested parties including the PSNI, the Garda Siochana and the British and Irish governments.
Only complete idiots and those who want to collapse the Peace Process are claiming that the PIRA still exists. Nobody else seriously believes that the Provisional IRA is back on a war footing.
So why the crisis, what’s all the fuss about?
Without a shadow of doubt it is Sinn Fein’s growing political power that lies behind this latest crisis.
The political establishments in the North and the South have been trying for years to destroy or at least nullify the growing power of Sinn Fein with little or no success.
Their greatest problem is that, on the one hand they must be seen to support and even praise the major contribution made to the Peace Process by Sinn Fein while on the other paint the party as a serious threat to democracy.
There’s only one way to do this – talk out of both sides of the mouth at the same time.
So the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton had to speak out of both sides of his mouth when he said:
Some structures of the Provisional IRA still exist but the organisation is not on a war footing.
The allegation that PIRA still exists keeps those opposed to Sinn Fein happy and the claim, from the other side of the mouth, that PIRA is not on a war footing keeps those who put the Peace Process together happy.
Apart from a few mad Unionists everybody connected with the Peace process have been popping up, one after the other, to ape the Chief Constable’s double talk.
The whole affair is nothing more than the usual manufactured ‘crisis’ that has now become a traditional political ritual in the run up to elections.
Here’s what I wrote on 21 August last:
Arrests will be made, Sinn Fein members will be brought in for questioning, outrage at the (non) existence of the IRA will reach epic proportions.
All so depressingly predictable but on this occasion the hypocrites have lost control. The plan of manufacturing a ‘crisis’ with the aim of discrediting Sinn Fein by associating them with criminality has evolved into a real political crisis that threatens the interests of all parties.
Now they’re all scrambling to back peddle in a desperate attempt to preserve their power and privileges. The irony is that if the Assembly collapses it is Sinn Fein that will benefit most.