Tuesday, 16 August 2011
From the Pensive Quill
I wonder if Martin McGuinness ever casts an eye back over the devastation he helped to wreak in the North and further afield that culminated in his appointment to the British administration that now assists London in running the place.
The British state might be home to a strange lot but it sure does know how to co-opt and neutralise an erstwhile dangerous adversary. It can even use that one time aggressor as a stalking horse to draw the invective from republicans that would in other circumstances be lobbed directly at the British themselves.
A visitor to the country with little in the way of knowledge about its turbulent political history would be excused for believing that throughout the years of political violence Martin McGuinness was a colleague of David Ford in the Alliance Party. The visitor may even conclude that the partnership between the two has lasted to this day culminating in an active policy aimed at repressing republicanism.
McGuinness is nothing if not outlandish. He has labelled those currently engaged in armed republican activity against the British as ‘living in cloud cuckoo land … the disgraceful ongoing activities of those people that believe the use of guns and bombs brings solutions to problems.’ He called on the people involved to ‘go away and recognise, not only are they not making a contribution to making life better for our people, they're actually damaging it.’
It seems self-evident that armed republicanism is on the road to nowhere and that its guns and bombs are not solutions to the type of problems that republicans feel exist. But they never were. Armed republicanism failed because, while it may have been the answer to some things including British repression, it could never hope to effectively answer the question of British sovereignty over the North. But Martin McGuinness fails to address any of this and behaves as if guns and bombs were something that he was never associated with. He refuses to acknowledge that guns and bombs catapulted his political career if not much else.
Those of us who have lived in the country and are not subject to visitor’s unfamiliarity nor press amnesia will take a different view. We can recall him castigating a previous republican leadership on the basis that it wanted peace and was willing to stop the war. He encouraged the anti-peace lobby with the promise of more war; a war that would never, never, never stop until British rule was ended. A year after that speech one of the actions in the war that would never end took the lives of many innocent people at Enniskillen.
In his recent outbursts McGuinness, without seeming cognisant of it, passes a damning judgement on the violent campaign he directed. His criticism of current armed republicans could as accurately be applied to his own band. The Provisional IRA’s armed struggle failed lamentably in its core objective. It produced an outcome that few republicans – apart from those who willed and helped secure it - envisaged and certainly none professed to desire while the war was in full swing. The disparity between aims and outcome has never been addressed by Sinn Fein. Until it is done so with the bluntness it requires, current armed republicans are always going to feel they were cheated rather than defeated, and will carry on in the hope that somehow things can be turned around militarily.
The Provisional IRA volunteers who died trying to bring solutions to problems with guns and bombs have now been posthumously awarded the order of the cuckoo by their one time chief of staff.