Monday, November 27, 2017

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Keep The Army Council

Dr John Coulter is an unrepentant Unionist with a staunch background in Ulster Unionism, mainstream Irish Presbyterianism, the Protestant Loyal Orders and is a Bible-believing Christian from the Church’s overtly Salvationist wing. Yet in his latest Fearless Flying Column, the controversial commentator sets out his firm conviction that the Provisional IRA’s ruling Army Council must remain in place.

What’s the future for the Provisional IRA’s Army Council now that Sinn Fein President and Louth TD Gerry Adams has announced he is stepping down from his prominent role (political I mean!) in the republican movement’s political wing?

Anyone who thinks the Provos’ ruling Army Council has, or will, go away you know, is living in ‘cloud cuckoo land’ politically. Here’s the reality – without the IRA’s Army Council Ireland will never be at peace.

That last sentence might have many readers thinking that I’ve been glugging too much of the Devil’s Buttermilk, given that I’m also viewed in many circles as a Radical Right-wing Unionist, a closet Communist, secret Liberal, Tory activist, SNP campaigner, Protestant dissident republican, KGB agent, Hamas organiser and Mossad mole … to name but a few of the posts I’m supposed to have held as a result of my writings during almost 40 years in journalism.

It’s not direction which a post-Adams republican movement lacks as the agenda is the same as the 1916 Proclamation – a 32-county democratic socialist republic (whatever mythical political creature that is?).

The real problem – and challenge – facing the new President of Sinn Fein will be party discipline. If we should learn one thing from Irish history, it’s that history will repeat itself! There will always be an element in republicanism which will see armed conflict as a way forward, just as there will always be an element within the pro-British culture which views counter-terrorism as the solution to ‘returning the serve’ to republican violence.

Let’s set the historical foundations. In 1641, the Catholic rebellion was met with the Puritan Cromwellian military might; in 1688, the Jacobite cause was crushed by King Billy’s Glorious Revolution; in 1798, the United Irishmen’s coup was eliminated by the combined forces of the Church of Ireland, English troops and the fledgling Orange movement; in the 1840s, the Fenian Movement was obliterated by British Army muscle; in 1912 and 1913, the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizens Army were ‘squared up to’ by Carson and Craig’s Ulster Volunteers.

Then we have 1916 when the Easter Rising was smashed by Bloody Maxwell and his soldiers. The War of Independence in 1919 saw the IRA go head to head with the Black and Tans; in the 1940s, the IRA’s bid to enlist the help of Hitler to stab Britain in the back during World War Two ended in disaster. The 1956-62 Irish Border campaign was wrecked by the counter-intelligence activities of the B Specials … and then we have the Troubles which spawned the Provos, Stickies, INLA, and IPLO, countered by the UVF, UDA/UFF, PAF, Orange Volunteers, and so the lists go on.

Next year sees the 20th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement, which gave birth to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The key question is not how to breathe life back into both, namely get back to the basics of the Good Friday Agreement and kick-start the devolution process.

The challenge facing a post-Adams Sinn Fein is that there is a generation of young republican emerging for whom the 1994 Provo ceasefire, Belfast Agreement, and even the Trimble/Mallon Assembly are merely facts in history books.

True, Adams has managed to cultivate a generation of so-called ‘draft dodgers’ within the republican movement, namely young elected representatives who have never served a political apprenticeship in the IRA. However, that does not mean the Army Council has no role in modern-day republicanism. Sinn Fein the party is still the Army Council’s pet poodle.

Dissident republicans have never been able to mount the type of ‘long war’ terror campaign which the Provos engaged in. The various dissident factions – Real IRA, Continuity IRA, New IRA, Republican Action Against Drugs - could only organise short bursts of start/stop terror.

The role of the IRA’s Army Council is to prevent further defections to dissident groups, or indeed a new generation of young republican believing that armed conflict will finally ‘drive the Brits out’ in a post-Brexit Ireland.

Likewise, the republican movement should not make the mistake of thinking militant loyalism is solely represented by the UVF and UDA. Could a generation of loyalists be emerging which are not interested in drug dealing or racketeering, but are preparing for the eventuality that some type of unofficial Irish unity might develop in post-Brexit Ireland?

Financially, the Republic could not afford the cost of 1.8 million citizens in Northern Ireland. Economically, the South could not cope with a bombing blitz on a scale which the IRA unleashed on mainland Britain.

Gossip that there is no stomach in the loyalist community for such a terror campaign is infantile as terrorism has changed since the days of the companies and battalions structures of the early IRA and UVF. Just as in fundamentalist Islam, the concept of the ‘lone wolf’ attacker, or ‘single cell terrorist’ is becoming a major threat to society.

Loyalist terrorism has largely been reactionary – reacting to a perceived threat from republicanism. If the IRA’s Army Council can keep a firm disciplinary gauntlet on so-called hawks and young turks within the movement, loyalists will not respond in kind – hence the ironic need for the Army Council to remain in existence.

In the past, I have penned a number of articles in which I suggest that to help with this disciplinary process, the Provisional IRA should transform itself into an Irish Republican Association of old comrades which can keep a lid on those within the movement who might be tempted to return to violence if they perceived the political process towards Irish unity was not progressing at a pace acceptable to militants.

Simply because I suggest an Irish Republican Association replaces the current Provisional IRA does not mean I’m calling for the disbanding of the IRA’s Army Council. Quite the reverse must be the practical situation as I am firmly convinced the current crop of ‘draft dodgers’ in Sinn Fein lacks the clout to maintain political discipline within the broad republican movement.

Indeed, Sinn Fein post-Adams and post-Brexit could find itself becoming nothing more than a dark green version of Fianna Fail almost leading to the same situation as developed within Unionism when many asked – what’s the difference between the DUP and the Ulster Unionists? In terms of Unionist unity, the pro-Union voters selected the DUP. Could a similar situation emerge in the republican community?

Could a political dilemma emerge as the centenary of partition in Ireland is marked whereby nationalist voters ask – what’s the difference between heavy Fianna Fail and light Sinn Fein? Which republican party will voters then select?

Could another unthinkable take place – that Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein become such politically bosom buddies in the next Dail that the two parties eventually merge? Don’t talk nonsense Coulter, I hear you say, as all the chat is Fianna Fail and Fine Gael having to merger to keep out the Shinners.

Let me remind you of some sayings I’ve heard in my almost four decades in journalism. ‘Sinn Fein will never take part in a partitionist parliament’ … former senior IRA commander the late Martin McGuinness became Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

'Sinn Fein regards the police as part of the British war machine in Ireland’ … Sinn Fein now encourages the community to give information to the PSNI in matters of anti-social behaviour.

Rev Ian Paisley boomed ‘Never, never, never, never’ at the 1985 Belfast City Hall Ulster Says No rally against the Anglo-Irish Agreement … in 2006 he signed up to the St Andrews Agreement, entering a power-sharing Executive at Stormont with Sinn Fein the following year.

One lesson I have learned covering Irish politics over the past 39 years – Irish politics is the art of the impossible, so don’t be too hasty to laugh off any of my suggestions in this latest Fearless Flying Column.


John Coulter is a unionist political commentator and former Blanket columnist. 
Follow John Coulter on Twitter  @JohnAHCoulter



2 comments :

grouch said...

" I’m also viewed in many circles as a Radical Right-wing Unionist, a closet Communist, secret Liberal, Tory activist, SNP campaigner, Protestant dissident republican, KGB agent, Hamas organiser and Mossad mole … "

u forget to mention 'dickhead'. i also read u here endorsing the use of nuclear weapons not that long ago, so how about 'psychopath' too. im sure some of the people on wilkes and bates page are wondering why u get articles published and they get consigned to the loony bin.

Steve R said...

"Gossip that there is no stomach in the loyalist community for such a terror campaign is infantile as terrorism has changed since the days of the companies and battalions structures of the early IRA and UVF. Just as in fundamentalist Islam, the concept of the ‘lone wolf’ attacker, or ‘single cell terrorist’ is becoming a major threat to society."

Aside from the obvious fear-mongering, "Dr" John should perhaps spend more time and expend more effort into political guidance for young disenfranchised loyalists. If a UI is voted for, we as Loyalists can have no complaints. Scrape away all the retaliatory crap with the Provos over the years and fundamentally it was the conservation of partition that we sought. To suggest that in the event of a DEMOCRATIC vote for a UI may be ignored by "lone wolf loyalists" is absolutely abhorrent and should be guarded against no matter what. Ignoring the democratic wishes of the Northern Irish people as a WHOLE is one of the main reasons why young loyalists turned to violence in the first place.

"One lesson I have learned covering Irish politics over the past 39 years – Irish politics is the art of the impossible, so don’t be too hasty to laugh off any of my suggestions in this latest Fearless Flying Column"

Hard not to.

Grouch, I was going to say "Bonkers" but i'll defer to you on this one lol