An Irishman's Diary
This time last year, I wrote of the Groundhog-day nature of the peace process - that each day, we woke up to the cheery promises on our radios of an imminent and historic breakthrough.
The IRA is about to undertake a major act of decommissioning! It is on the threshold of an irreversible, step-by-step disarmament! It is about to declare that its war is over! It is bad enough that RTÉ and the BBC daily holler such rubbish - worse still that usually intelligent people in Belfast, Dublin and London continue to believe it. It is rather like attending a lecture in the College of Surgeons and hearing the professor of applied medicine solemnly warn his students of the central role of bile, choler and phlegm in illness.
On the one hand you have the vast and accumulated body of evidence that the IRA is not even beginning to go away. In addition to numerous beatings and shootings, we have the Castlereagh intelligence operation, the Stormont intelligence operation and now, heaven help us all, the Dáil intelligence operation. Yet in the appeasing zeal to placate the IRA, all these outrages were forgotten the very moment they were revealed. Thus they never feature in government policies or statements, because of course, such truths are horribly inconvenient.
So it is that professional peace processors still mumble anciently about phlegm and choler, while the modern virus of armed republicanism continues to bypass our auto-immune system and enters the bloodstream of our body politic, all the while retaining its defining characteristics.
The Russian-made AN 94 rifle fires two rounds in almost instant succession - the first impacts on the body armour of the victim, the second exploits the shock-wave to penetrate through to the body, causing almost certain death. Why did the IRA import this weapon four years ago? Why has it imported thousands of rounds of Kalashnikov ammunition since the Good Friday Agreement? Did the IRA import this ammunition, these rifles, in order to make a bigger bonfire for General De Chastelain to enjoy? Was it in order to make the photograph of decommissioning all the more impressive? Or was it rather to re-equip an army which wasn't going away, you know? The worthlessness of Sinn Féin-IRA promises was, yet again, made evident last week when An Phoblacht declared that the IRA was about to move into a new mode. Its volunteers would be instructed "not to engage in any activity that would endanger the peace process". No, no, I cannot be alone in being flabbergasted at the astonishing honesty behind this declaration - for it reveals that before this new mode of last week, six and a half years after the Belfast Agreement, IRA volunteers had quite clearly not been under orders not to engage in activities which endangered the peace process. But by God, everyone else was. The RUC was destroyed, the Special Branch gelded, and hundreds of murderers were unconditionally released. Of course, Sinn Féin-IRA knew they didn't have to conform to any regulations, even while they made such spectacular political gains, and that the governments in London and Dublin would ensure that their endless delinquencies would endlessly be forgiven.
Indeed, it has taken the presence of the Progressive Democrats in government even to arrive at the demand that the IRA should publicly declare its acceptance of the personal rights and safety of others. It won't, of course. But even the PDs seem to have forgotten IRA dissident Garret O'Connor, abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in south Armagh. Who else will remember him? No one. Who will take his life into account in the debased ethos of this peace process? No one. Who will be punished for his murder? No one.
Garret's O'Connor's murder was ruthlessly ignored by the two states in order to appease Sinn Féin-IRA. The SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party, and their leaders, Mark Durkan and David Trimble, metaphorically met the same fate. We are thus reduced to the extraordinary position that the guardian of democratic decencies in Ireland is now the Rev Ian Paisley - the very fellow who effectively started the Troubles 40 years ago. Has no one in government in either Dublin or London any idea of how demeaning, debasing and contemptible this all is?
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin-IRA unashamedly continue to demand that the men responsible for the killing of Det Garda Jerry McCabe be freed from the penal paradise that is Castlerea. And why shouldn't they? I would in their position. They know that as far as the governments are concerned, all things are negotiable, including the truth, if they insist upon it.
Jerry McCabe was not killed by a few IRA renegades, but by members of the mainstream IRA in Munster which was dissatisfied with the peace process, led by the Kerry member of the Army Council. The uproar after the McCabe killing led to the Munster IRA command being reintegrated into the main body of the IRA, on condition that Munster had increased influence in the IRA and that Sinn Féin continued to fight for the release of the men responsible for the killing.
That is why the Munster IRA commander was part of the delegation which met that wretched appeaser Tony Blair recently.
So once again, Groundhog Day is upon us. If we are all here this time next year, we will still be waking up to the same vapid, hysterical talk on our radios of the imminent arrival of the amiable rodent of disarmament and final settlement. See you here this twelvemonth.