Editorial from Irish Political Review, July 2002
Northern Ireland: Calculated Chaos
A group of honest English coppers, called the Stevens Inquiryput into Northern Ireland by the impartial British Government to sort out the allegations that killing squads of Loyalist paramilitaries have been authorised and given information by segments of the official security apparatus of the statehave been thwarted in their efforts to uncover the truth by that security apparatus. And they have come to the conclusion that there was extensive collusion between the forces of law and order and the Loyalist assassination squads.
just cannot understand how such a thing could happenhow their Northern
Ireland counter-parts could conspire with psychopaths
to commit murder, specifically selecting psychopaths
to conspire with. And, even though the report of their investigations has not
yet been published, they talk freely to a television camera about it all, and
what they said to the television camera is broadcast on prime time by the State
The Panorama programmes presented an impressionistic and bewildering picture of a state apparatus which has broken down into warring fragments, some committing murder and others trying to bring the murderers to justice.
was nothing essentially new in the programmes. Everybody knew that solicitor
Pat Finucane was killed by Loyalists primed by the security forces. But it made
good television to see the killing described by the man who did it and to hear
an honest copper relate how the killer had described to him how he did it.
no explanation was given of how it could have come about that different segments
of the security apparatus were at war with each other. With regard to Pat Finucane,
no mention was made of the speech by a Whitehall Minister, Douglas Hogg (son
of a famous Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham) which said in effect that there
were solicitors in Northern Ireland who were doing their job too well and needed
killing. And, of course, no mention was made of Margaret Thatcher.
British State is a unitary state. The theory of Separation of Powers drawn from
it by a Frenchman and applied in earnest in the construction of the United States,
is a mere illusion. The segments of the state work together in marvellous harmony
when they are required to. But, when the Government requires them to act separately,
they have the flexible ability for doing so.
of powers game is greatly facilitated in Northern Ireland by the
fact that the apparatus of state there was farmed out to the local Protestant
community and that its chief task was to hold the Catholic community in subjection.
The term the
Northern Ireland state began to be used to describe that arrangement,
and it was given general currency in the 1970s by political
scientists acting under Government patronage. However, there was
never a Northern Ireland state, only the six county region of the British state.
The farming out of the security apparatus to the local Protestant community
served a British purpose of state. Northern Ireland was never anything but a
regional variant of the British stateand not a variant forced upon Westminster
by a powerful regional demand, but a variant imposed upon the region by Westminster
when there was no regional demand for it.
preference expressed by the Ulster Unionists in 1920 was that the Six Counties
should simply form an undifferentiated part of the British state. But Whitehall
decided that there should be greater differentiation in state structures between
Britain and that part of Ireland which made extravagant proclamations of its
Britishness than there had ever been between Britain and Ireland as a whole
under the Act of Union: 1800-1920.
the fact of Partition, the farming out of the coercive apparatus of state to
the local Protestant community could not conceivably have had the purpose of
facilitating good government. It could only have been undertaken on the understanding
that it would lead to very bad government indeed, and therefore it must have
been seen as serving some other purpose.
superficial appearance of a Northern
Ireland state lasted until 1969. That appearance was spun out for
another three years, even though it was widely understood to be an illusion.
And it was after the illusion was given up in 1972 that the deluge of Government-inspired
academic writing about the
Northern Ireland state was unleashed. The idea of a Northern Ireland
state became a vital requirement of the British state when the ceremonial semblance
of a Northern Ireland state was done away with by a simple act of state in Whitehall.
Callaghan, who was Home Secretary when the 1921 arrangement blew apart in August
1969, saw that the most likely way of getting the region to settle down again
was to include it within the sphere of the political activity of the British
state . He broached this matter within the Executive of the Labour Party, but
was persuaded to back away from it. A great many other MPs, both Labour and
Tory, were made to see the same thing during the next 20 years, and were made
to back away from it. Although it was publicly conceded that the democracy
of 1921-72 had been entirely spurious, and that the political parties that developed
within it were strictly communal blocs and could be nothing else, and it was
conceded in private discussion that only through participation in the political
parties of the state could there be any realistic prospect of getting the region
to settle down to a democratic routine within the British state, it remained
the absolute determination of Whitehall (and of Westminster as Whitehalls
rubber stamp) to keep Northern Ireland at arms length within the statewhich
is the meaning of the
Northern Ireland state.
has been talk of the
political vacuum in Northern Ireland. But there is also a policy
vacuum. The British state has no policy for a region of itself which it keeps
at arms length, which is not a participant in its political life, and
which has been in fundamental turmoil for thirty-three years. It copes from
day to day, living from hand to mouth, preserving as much as possible of the
pre-1972 status quo.
1921 it farmed out the security apparatus in the region to the Ulster Volunteer
Force rebellion of 1912-14, and that apparatus remains in being as an instrument
of Whitehall government, under a supervisory layer which cannot interfere too
much with it, lest it be driven into another open rebellion.
the mid-1970s Whitehall had the bright idea of subverting the Provisional Republican
rebellion by bringing the Republicans into electoral (democratic)
politicsa tactic which has been all too successful. It must be twenty
years since Gerry Adams figured out, in a public interview, that the momentum
generated by the war could be transferred to the electoral sphere without loss
of orientation. It put one in mindif ones mind was that way inclinedof
Lord John Russells reckoning in 1830 that the Parliamentary franchise
could be extended to the apparently radical middle class without loss of the
Imperial orientation given to the state by the Glorious Revolution aristocracy.
can be little doubt that the first British reckoning was that, if the IRA could
be induced to call a Ceasefire in a situation in which Sinn Fein was doing well
electorally, the inducements which helped to bring about the Ceasefire need
not be complied with because the Republicans would be unable to re-start the
war. Canary Wharf showed that reckoning to be false (though the Ceasefire in
Northern Ireland itself remained intact). When the second Ceasefire was negotiated,
Whitehall understood that it was necessary that changes favourable to the Catholic
community should occur in the political sphere.
who experienced actual life in the Catholic community in the 1970s and 1980s
could believe the propaganda position of Whitehall and Leinster House, and of
right-saying people in the Six Counties, that the IRA was a small, unrepresentative
minority. If it had been, the Adams/McGuinness plan to transfer the political
momentum from military activity to electoral activity would have been completely
unrealistic. The plan was realistic because the situation was that for a quarter
of a century the IRA acted for the Catholic community and was shielded by it.
situation changed with the coming of the Ceasefire and the Peace Process. The
ending of the war meant that the community began to act for itself. We expected
communal attrition to intensify in every sphere of life, because that is all
political activity could be within this bizarrely structured region of the British
state. And that is what has been happening.
can be no such thing as a generally acceptable reform. Every reform made in
the interest of the Catholic community is gall and wormwood to the Protestant
community. And, since the starting position was that of Protestant Ascendancy,
reform had to be in the interest of the Catholic community.
one thing remained to the Protestant community: the coercive apparatus of state
which was given over to it in 1921. And, since Britain was determined to keep
at arms length, and to adopt no policy with regard to it which could conceivably
lead to social normality for Catholics, the coercive apparatus inevitably remained
we have a situation in the
Northern Ireland state where, on the one side, the organs of brute
force give some assurance that the province
will remain British, while on the other side developments indicative of a United
Ireland development are facilitatedand Britain postures as an impartial
arbiter. And these are the circumstances in which the condition presented in
Panaroma has come aboutwith different segments of the state at war with
each other. But why has the British state gone so far in making reforms in the
interest of the Nationalist community, which are tending to lead the Protestant
community back to its 1912 position? Pressure from Dublin?
why has Dublin, whose politicians have in recent times often expressed the wish
to have done with the North, been exerting a far greater degree of effective
pressure on Britain with regard to the North than was ever the case during the
half century when all parties in the Dail were actively anti-Partitionist?
prime concern of British foreign policy over the past generation has been Europe.
Europe finally accepted Britains membership application when Ted Heaths
Government persuaded it that Britain had discarded the insular
and maritime attitude attributed to it by De Gaulle and had become
European in orientation. Heath was apparently genuine, but then Thatcher came
along, reasserting the Churchillian perspective. Ever since then, Britains
object within Europe has been to change the Union into something fundamentally
different from what its founders made it for. And it worked hard and successfully
to gain Ireland as an ally in this project. Modernised Ireland has lost the
European dimension which had been ingrained on it from the historical experience
of centuries. Of recent Taoiseachs, only Charles Haughey has been European in
outlook. Britain saw modernised, de-Europeanised Ireland as a potential ally
within Europe, and, for the purpose of realising this potential, it became receptive
to slight pressures where in the past it had been immune to much stronger pressures.
(Heath, who was playing it straight in Europe, took absolutely no account of
anger and sensitivity in Dublin.)The implicit logic of the Good Friday Agreement
is transition towards a United Ireland. It has been our view for thirty years
that the turmoil set in motion in 1969 would only settle down within the political
life of the British or the Irish state. The categorical rejection by Whitehall
and the Ulster Unionist Partyand by the Loyalistsof a settlement
within the democracy of the British state led by the logic of facts towards
a settlement within the Irish state. What Britain has got from this thus far
is the Irish Republic as an ally in Europe, with the realistic prospect of extensive
re-Anglicisation of Ireland as the thing works itself outif it does work
the Unionists can see this tendency of development as well as anybody else.
They see the demographic
tendency towards a Catholic majority being reinforced by structural changes
which establish Catholics in positions of power unimaginable only a generation
ago. And they respond to this turn of events in ways that ensure that Catholics
continue to be a cohesive communal bloc.
is driving the Loyalist resurgenceincluding the filling out of the ranks
of the UDA to bursting pointis not the de-commissioning
issue over IRA weapons, but the approaching prospect of a substantive development
of Irish unity by constitutional
means. The UVF was formed in 1912 to oppose an Act of Parliament establishing
devolved government in Ireland within the UK. Preparations are now being made
to deal with a recurrence of the 1912 situation within Northern Ireland itself,
with relation to an all-Ireland structure outside the UK.
from Dublin is driving this development. Dublin must seek to maximise the all-Ireland
dimension of things, which causes Unionists to revert to the 1912 attitude.
But the Taoiseach, pretending that IRA decommissioning is the only problem,
chooses this moment to demand that the IRA must be completely disbanded within
less than a year.
American veto on the UN operation in Bosnia in retaliation for the refusal to
grant the United States exemption from the remit of the International Criminal
Court comes too late for extensive comment in this issue. We can only say that
it injects a healthy note of realism into world affairs.
British argue that the American concern about the ICC is irrational because
the ICC is structured in a way that makes it impossible that American personnel
should ever be indicted by it. That amounts to an argument that the ICC is not
what it appears to bethat it is a spurious propaganda operation by a handful
of states, which consider themselves civilised, to enable them to act against
others in the name of law.
the population of a large undefended city is wiped out for no other reason than
to put pressure on its Government, that is a war-crime and an act of genocide,
is it not? The laws of war make it clear that civilians must not be targetted.
Of course we must all be realistic
and understand that civilians will suffer incidental casualties when military
targets are attacked. But when the population of a city, far from the front
line, which is of no military significance, is wiped out, and the threat is
made that other civilian centres will be wiped out until the Government surrenders,
that has nothing to do with collateral damage.
that is how the great war for democracy was won in 1945. The deliberate decision
was taken to save the lives of American soldiers by the mass killing of Japanese
civilians. And, up to the present, it is only the democracies which have used
weapons of mass destructionof indiscriminate slaughterin warfare.
is no time limit on justice for war crimes and genocide. So why could the surviving
personnel of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki not be prosecuted?
Or the fire-bombers of Dresden. Or the French who bombed cities in Algeria and
Syria in 1945? Etc. etc.
enthusiasts for the ICC want to operate a rigged system of apparent law from
which they themselves will in practice be immune. They want to operate by Jesuitry.
The United States, brought to the forefront of world affairs by Britains
two bungled World Wars in the 20th century, has little capacity for Jesuitry.
America persists with its veto on UN operations, the Irish Government will be
compelled to do some realistic thinking about its place in the world. At present
it is living in dreamland.
O N T E N T S
Ireland: Calculated Chaos.
The Jewish State, A Historical Perspective.
A Crock of . . . ; Pre-empting History; Hungarica Urbania?
International Criminal Court.
An Cor Tuathail: Sorrowful My Exile.
Compiled: Pat Muldowney
From Our Archives -- 2. Sinai 1914-1918.
D'Unbelievables Of The ICTU.
A Revisionist And Some History.
More On The Literary Censorship.
edited by Pat Maloney:
Milk And Money,
New Zealand, A Model Country,
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