The IRA war is over and old soldiers really do fade away
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
by Brian Rowan
The IRA Army Council still exists but, as Brian Rowan hears from a
pioneer of the peace process, it poses no threats.
The IRA Army Council that Brendan Duddy first met in the dark of the
early 1970s was a different body altogether a different leadership
in a different place at a different time.
It was a time of conflict, of violence and Duddy's peace mission
had only just begun.
Back then, he will admit, there was little chance of him being heard
above the sound of the gunfire.
For more than two decades the Derry businessman was the secret link
in a 'back channel' running between the British Government and the
Duddy has watched the IRA change has seen one Army Council become
another as one leadership was pushed aside and Martin McGuinness and
Gerry Adams emerged as the public faces of the republican movement.
"The Army Council's activities peaked probably in the mid-1980s," Duddy said.
"And from that moment on they have been moving away from a war
movement to a peace movement," he added.
What Duddy means is that the beginnings of the peace process in that
period of the mid-1980s was the beginning of the end of the IRA a
long end after a long war.
It was an end in which the killing continued into the '90s.
If you know the inner workings of the IRA then you will know the role
of its seven-member Army Council.
It has the authority to 'declare war' or 'conclude peace' the
latter requiring the sanction of what the organisation calls a
General Army Convention.
The last time the IRA met in that secret forum was over two days in
January 2007 to clear a path for the republican endorsement of policing.
That decision was part of a trend alongside ceasefires,
decommissioning and the formal ending of the armed campaign and it is
evidence that the Army Council has concluded peace.
Yes, the IRA is still out there and showed itself on the streets of
Belfast at the funeral of Brian Keenan an IRA in white shirts and
black ties, some in berets, but none in masks and there were no guns.
This is the changing IRA an IRA that will remain with a quiet
leadership somewhere in the background.
But the Independent Monitoring Commission is convinced and the police
are convinced that the IRA's war is over that its 'terrorist
capacity has effectively disappeared'.
Brendan Duddy is also convinced:
"They do not wish to be in business because the war is over and that
is fully accepted, but like old soldiers it takes time to move out of
The latest assessment from the IMC is surely not about convincing the
DUP that the IRA war is over and that the Army Council is no longer a
danger to the peace.
Would Ian Paisley have taken the DUP into government with Sinn Fein
if he believed there was the slightest hint of an IRA threat?
And would Peter Robinson now in charge keep his party in that Executive?
We know the answers to those questions.
This report is about policing and justice and the next phase of the
political process and trying to get the DUP over the line against
the will of its internal and external critics.
It is the British and Irish governments trying to create a context
with a report that tells us what we already know. Yes, the IRA is
still out there but not the IRA of war.
"No one in the IRA membership or the IRA Army Council is going back
to war," Brendan Duddy said.
And then he poses a question:
"At what point can we move on?"
What he means, is when will the DUP believe that this is over and
that the IRA is not going back?
Irish Republican Army poses no threat in Northern Ireland, report says
The Associated Press
Published: September 3, 2008
BELFAST: The Irish Republican Army is fading away in Northern Ireland
and poses no security threat to the British territory, international
experts concluded Wednesday in another landmark for
The governments of Britain and Ireland heralded the findings of the
Independent Monitoring Commission at the effective death of the IRA,
and they appealed to Protestant leaders to respond by deepening their
cooperation with Catholics in the province's 16-month-old partnership
government. It has failed to meet for the past three months amid
rising tensions and warnings that the coalition could unravel.
"This is a very important day in the political progress of Northern
Ireland," said the British secretary of state for Northern Ireland,
Shaun Woodward, calling this "a moment when we should draw a line."
He and Irish leaders said the report from the four fact-finders -
including former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency and
Scotland Yard's anti-terror unit - had ruled out the IRA as a
The Irish justice minister, Dermot Ahern, said the report showed not
only that the IRA "has gone away, but that it won't be coming back."
The commission concluded that the IRA's seven-man command responsible
for directing the group's terror campaign for decades is "no longer
operational or functional."
It said the IRA had decided it would not publicly announce the
disbanding of particular parts, but that all of its military-focused
units had already disbanded and the rest of the organization was
dying out from inactivity.
"We believe that for some time now it has given up what it used to do
and that by design it is being allowed to wither away," said the
20-page report, which the British and Irish governments had received
confidentially Monday. "There have not been and we do not foresee
that there will be formal announcements about the disbandment of all
or parts of the structure."
The Protestant leader of the Northern Ireland administration, First
Minister Peter Robinson, offered no immediate comment. His Democratic
Unionist Party has refused to build closer relations with Sinn Fein,
the IRA-linked party that represents most Catholics, citing the
continued existence of the IRA. In particular, Britain had hoped to
transfer control of Northern Ireland's police and justice system to
local hands by May.
But Robinson has argued this cannot happen until Protestants are
confident that Sinn Fein is fully law-abiding. He said Tuesday that
this would require the formal disbandment of the IRA command.
But Woodward said he expected local politicians to quit using the IRA
as a reason not to cooperate with Sinn Fein.
"We could spend a month on the semantics of this, but the reality is
that this terrifying organization has come to an end and we have to
recognize that," Woodward said.