Northern Ireland: clownish play-acting by Unionists puts power-sharing at risk

September 23, 2015 at 7:36 pm (AWL, Ireland, posted by JD)

From Workers Liberty (who know a thing or two about Irish politics):

Northern Irish power-sharing institutions look close to collapse, following a crisis sparked by the murder of former IRA member Kevin McGuigan on 12 August in the Short Strand area of East Belfast.

McGuigan’s murder is widely seen as a revenge killing for the murder in May of Gerard “Jock” Davison, at one point one of the IRA’s most senior commanders in Belfast and allegedly responsible, along with McGuigan, for much of the IRA’s vigilante violence against drug dealers in the mid-to-late 1990s.

After the two men fell, an internal IRA disciplinary unit “sentenced” McGuigan to a “six-pack” — republican parlance for gunshot wounds to each of the elbows, kneecaps and ankles.

For years, McGuigan blamed Davison for the punishment shooting, and last May decided to get revenge. Davison was shot outside his home in the Markets area, near Belfast City Centre.

With a police investigation stalling, the IRA placed their own surveillance team on McGuigan and decided to avenge Davison’s death. McGuigan was ambushed by two men in dark clothing as he was walking with his wife, and killed in a volley of shots.

A number of factors explain why these killings have sparked such an intense political crisis at Stormont.

In a press conference following the McGuigan murder, Police Service of Northern Ireland chief George Hamilton made it clear that the police blamed individual members of the Provisional IRA for the murder.

He did not believe that the IRA leadership ordered the killing but did admit that “some of the PIRA structure from the 1990s remains broadly in place, although its purpose has radically changed since this period.”

No one should have been surprised by the admission of the Provisional IRA’s continuing existence.

Indeed, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers commented afterwards that: “It didn’t come as a surprise to me… that a number of the organisational structures of the Provisional IRA still exist but that there is no evidence it’s involved in terrorism or paramilitary activity.”

Even though Sinn Fein say publicly that the IRA has “left the stage”, no movement of this type could have moved from armed struggle to politics without maintaining a military structure with sufficient authority to rein in “hardliners”.

Without this, the movement would have descended even more than it already has into a collection of local fiefdoms motivated by apolitical criminality or, worse, a continuation of sectarian warfare.

It is remarkable that there has not been more internecine republican violence during the Provisional’s transition to politics. The anti-Good Friday Agreement groups, though deadly, remain little more than an irritant.

In truth, the significance of the McGuigan murder lies ultimately in political rivalries within Unionism.

In the last decade, the IRA has been involved in two high-profile murders (those of Robert McCartney in 2005 and Paul Quinn in 2007), both a testament to its capacity for sheer gangsterism and violence. Both victims were thrown under the juggernaut of the “peace process” by republicans, Unionists and the British government, to ensure power-sharing between Sinn Fein and the DUP.

So what has changed? The Northern Ireland Executive has failed to deliver on any of the promises made to people about a “peace dividend”, instead locking itself in sectarian wrangles over parading, flags and other issues of identity, as well as attempting to implement Tory austerity.

This has largely sapped any enthusiasm that once existed for Stormont across both communities. Added to this is a reasonable fear among Nationalists that many Unionists continue to be hostile to power-sharing.

Sensing this, the smaller Unionist party, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), opportunistically seized the chance to reverse its political fortunes after a decade of marginalisation, and piled the pressure on the dominant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

With one eye on the 2016 elections it pulled its one minister out of the Northern Ireland Executive — a move highly popular with over 80% of Unionist voters.

Stunned, and after failing to suspend Stormont pending crisis talks, the DUP felt in turn reluctantly obliged to pull its ministers out of the Executive, effectively shutting down the working of the devolved government which has provided such material benefits to the party in the form of ministerial salaries, expenses and other privileges of office.

This clownish play-acting, which has always been implicit in the very structures of Stormont, risks the return of Tory direct rule, the implementation of savage welfare cuts and an intensification of sectarian tension.

A political system based on institutionalising sectarian identities within the existing boundaries of the six counties has become unable to provide adequate governance of any sort, let alone a space in which workers can elaborate a socialist politics capable of a democratic resolution to the national question.


  1. Glasgow Working Class said,

    It is the clownish actions of Irish Republicans that are undermining the Belfast Agreement not the Unionists. The Republicans are still fighting their turf wars over their criminal activities. As our Gerry would say the PIRA Catholic Mafia have not gone away.

    • Political tourist said,

      Been to any good Orange Walks recently?

      • Glasgow Working Class said,

        Just round the park on the green grass. Idiot.

  2. Rilke said,

    What’s with all these non answers Jim, you scared your blog will lose hits?
    You’re a smart kid, now you listen to me. It’s about this guy Glesga. The man has become an embarrassment and he is making your blog look bad in front of certain people. They are saying that you cannot even edit a nutcase on your own goddamned blog. Now you tell him. He can’t just waltz around saying any old idiotic nonsense that comes into his wooden head without it reflecting on you. Capiche?


    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      The certain people should step forward.

    • Jim Denham said,

      Rilke: get your own blog.

  3. Political tourist said,

    GWC seems to be getting a bit upset.
    Take it easy Brother, use your free bus pass and get out and about around Scotland.
    And give the Northern Ireland fetish a miss.
    Even punters in the occupied six couldn’t give a monkeys according to the opinion polls.
    Btw, was all the nasty stuff because that silly soccer team you support got beat by St Johnstone.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      You seem rather upset going by your bigoted comments. It has been a long time since I had a prick like you in my sight.

      • Political tourist said,

        Whah you ain’t half touchy since those Scots Nats outed you.
        So anyway what’s the script with those uber loyalists opening a drop in centre in Duke St.
        Are the DUP or the PUP going to travel over from Belfast to sort out housing benefit for folks in Glasgow?
        Fair play to them Brother.
        Seems awfully big connections between Scottish Loyalism and the Glasgow underworld.
        What’s that all about?

      • Glasgow Working Class said,

        Do not have a clue what you are rambling on about Pt, you probaby do not know either. The last time I was on Duke St was during the sixties.

  4. charliethechulo said,

    A very interesting article by the Scottish composer and conductor (Sir) James McMillan in the latest (Oct) edition of ‘Standpoint’ magazine:

    I found his comments about Hugh MacDiarmid particularly interesting:

    ” In my own country our most prominent poet Hugh McDiarmid, beloved of Scottish nationalists and socialists even today, wrote not one but three hymns to Lenin. He also admired Mussolini, arguing in 1923 for a Scottish version of fascism and in 1929 for the formation of Clann Albain, a fascistic paramilitary organisation to fight for Scottish freedom. As late as June 1940 he wrote a poem expressing his indifference to the impending German bombing of London, which was not published during his lifetime:

    Now when London is threatened
    With devastation from the air
    I realise, horror atrophying me,
    That I hardly care.

    In 2010 the Canadian academic Susan Wilson unearthed some correspondence in the National Library of Scotland between MacDiarmid and Sorley MacLean, his friend, fellow poet and fellow radical political thinker. In these letters, as late as 1941, it is revealed that MacDiarmid regarded Hitler and the Nazis as potentially more benign rulers than the British government in Westminster.

    He was known for his controversial views as a young man. In two articles written in 1923, “Plea for a Scottish Fascism” and “Programme for a Scottish Fascism”, he appeared to support Mussolini’s regime. But the revelation of ambivalent, even pro-Nazi sentiments during WW2 has come as a shock.

    These are sobering recollections for Scots, but also for artists generally. Hugh MacDiarmid’s art and his wild, radical, “progressive” idealism can be difficult to disentangle. Artists can be agents of good in society, but we can see that some of them end up supporting evil, blind to the roots and inevitable ends of their thinking.”

  5. Political tourist said,

    Christopher Grieve managed to get expelled from the SNP for being too left wing and the CPGB for being too nationalist.
    Possibly he was in both at the same time.
    He certainly couldn’t be described as a Brit Lefty.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      He must have been a confused person if in two parties. Just like yourself Pt.

  6. Glasgow Working Class said,

    What seems to be a common theme between the hard left and right is their antipathy towards Jews. They seem to think Jews actually run the world order. Is it a coincidence that PIRA sympathisers also have empathy with Islamic Palestinian Fascists.

  7. Political tourist said,

    Everybody would except that walking is good for you health wise.
    So how come so many Orangemen apply for sickness benefit.
    Never really understood that.
    You’d think they’d be the fittest people on the planet.
    Wonder if there’s a link between all that nasty bigotry and ill health.
    Carrying around all that anger and bile can’t be good for you.
    Think i’ll contact Lancet.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      You should contact your GP.

  8. Glasgow Working Class said,

    Pt. Story goes that since the alleged austerity by Labour and Tory the Celtic away support has declined thus the Tim’s switching to the Nat sis.

    • Political tourist said,

      So the story goes, GWC is a Jock living in England.
      Come back to see the Gers now and again is it.
      Blue Star or the Neptune Masonic???
      No harm done GWC.
      Good luck with Nigel leading the EU campaign.
      Just like Salmond he’s a vote loser in a campaign that might be wide open in Middle England.
      Still, Scot goes pop.

      • Glasgow Working Class said,

        Nah do not watch fitba although from what I gather Rangers do not play fitba very well. I do not roll up ma trooser leg either.

  9. Political tourist said,

    At least you’ll get a vote in the EU referendum or will you.
    Hopefully your not some crackerjack posting from Canada or Oz.
    Tell the truth now, have you ever met a soggy oggie in real life?

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      I assume you being a Nat si will vote NAW to keep the Scottish blood pure.

      • Political tourist said,

        GWC, just how far away from Scotland are you.
        If all these rightwingers are roaming the streets of Scotland i’m sure the Scottish AWL members would be on to tell us.
        Then again after the behaviour of the soggy oggies at the referendum maybe their not the best to tell right from left.

      • Political tourist said,

        Between the Brit Left and the fash there’s not really a lot in it when it comes to Scotland.
        The Brit Left just try to put a red face on it.
        In the end it’s just the same patronising nonsense.
        Btw, what happened to the AWL and Federalism or was that just a soggy oggie fig leaf.

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