What Goes Around...

“SINN FEIN will be happy to administer British rule in Ireland for the foreseeable future”. It was this quote, SF Ard Comhairle member Francie Molloy was confronted with at a Troops Out rally in Birmingham toward the end of last year. Being an informal column, his accuser who we will refer to by his Christian name, Rory (his real name), often sports both an Arran jumper and a PLO type scarf, (you know the type) is a ‘dissident’ convert. And so wise to counter-revolutionary wiles, and in anticipation of some blustery denial, he took care to name the paper concerned. As luck would have it, it was in fact Molloy himself who had been so quoted. He admitted the quote was entirely accurate, except that is for the small omission of the word “not”. The Sunday Times is an arch opponent of the peace process, while Liam Clarke, is, ‘as all republicans know’ an ‘M15 operative’ he offered in explanation.

On 9 January, from the same political stable “IRA to begin disarmament ‘within weeks’” was a Sunday Telegraph headline. IRA weapons were to be put “Out of use” it proclaimed. “Put beyond use” is how Suzanne Breen in her column in Fortnight magazine put it. In a “secret deal” she announces weapons will simply be “put beyond use”, and as a result, “grassroots Provos will” she promises “defect over decom­missioning”. On every front the ‘Provos’ were in deep doodo: disaster generally ‘for the fastest growing party in Ireland’ beckons, she reckons.

Though Sinn Fein, favourites to take over from the SDLP as the largest nationalist party, “can secure the votes of those previously turned off by the armed campaign it will” she prophesies, “eventually struggle to retain militant working class and rural republican support”. Even worse “the dissidents although still smaller that the Provos are expanding”. As proof she cites “political meetings” which “are now attended by representatives from Irish groups in the USA and” - and of course - “Britain”. With the support of woolly jumpers everywhere that dissidents guns remained silent was she concedes something of “a surprise”. Probably just “waiting until it is capable of launching a sustained campaign” Suzanne reassures. And despite its continuing “verbal commitment, Sinn Fein has - like Fianna Fail in the 1930’s - effectively abandoned traditional republicanism”. Therefore she opinions airily “it’s only a matter of time before it drops abstentionism from Westminster”.

And just as Fortnight the ‘mouthpiece of BT9’, struggles to hold on to the centre, Republican Sinn Fein are just as ardently fighting to hold on to the past. Hence their insistence that Adams and McGuinness, who are ‘already halfway towards accepting seats in the British Parliament should forthwith cease using the name Sinn Fein’. Generally all concerned would prefer ‘real republicanism’ to be served by someone other than ‘the fastest growing party in Ireland’. RSF, who calculate their membership in dozens would be ideal. Rory for one, for whom a round dozen would normally imply a tripling in membership, would be immediately reassured. For in his eyes absolute failure is the only authentic hallmark of absolute integrity.

When, within a couple of months of its launch in April 1995, the London branch of the Irish political prisoners organisation, Saoirse, had in support and propa­ganda terms effortlessly outstripped, not to say seriously embarrassed senior support groups of over twenty years standing, his suspicions based on that criteria were ripe for arousal. And once the whispering, that Saoirse had been ‘infiltrated’ with the express intention ‘to place the prisoners issue at the very top of the peace process agenda, the better to embarrass the leadership when the Brits failed to deliver’ began, it found welcoming ears. The necessary over­night transformation of the ‘infiltrators’ from ‘pro-IRA and pro-peace’, to ‘pro-IRA but anti-peace’, ‘to anti-peace and pro-M15’ was equally compelling. To bring things to a head it merely required a fellow ‘woolly jumper’ Rod, (again his real name) to give substance to the baloney by airing the smear publicly. Were certain factions inadvertently or otherwise, “working to an M15 agenda” he dutifully inquired?

Within a matter of days, The Irish World quoted a source (unnamed) who confirmed ‘IRA concern’ with being publicly associated with any group that was “open to [Ml 5] infiltration”. By the weekend the hounds had the scent, when an article in The Sunday Times (no, not Liam in case you are wondering) thought it ‘entirely reasonable’ for SF to re-establish a clear line of command “unimpeded by outside groupings”. This was swiftly followed by an article in The Irish Times by someone named Suzanne (one and the same), insisting Sinn Fein “had long been unhappy with the group’s militant [for ‘militant’ read ‘dissi­dent’] activities”. It finally fell to The Irish Post to pin the tail on the donkey. As it explained, the London group had “lost direction” after being “infiltrated by extremists such as Red Action that sought to under­mine Sinn Fein’s peace strategy”. Though in no rush to identify the other “extremists, it sounded, on the face of it, you must admit, plausible.

A certain Ard Comhairle member duly ‘bought the pup’ and the most dynamic ‘mainland’ campaign (Bishopsgate, etc. apart) for over twenty years was wound up with immediate effect. As tends to be the way of things, the central allegation was needless to say entirely accurate, apart from the omission, of the word “not”. But what goes around comes around. No surprise (and with it some unattractive smugness) when the elements privately whispering “M15” in an Ard Comhairle ear then, are in turn quoting M15 and publicly bellowing “Sellout!” in it now.

Reproduced from RA Volume 4, Issue 5, Feb/March '00