The murder of Kevin McGuigan on 12 August in East Belfast is widely seen as revenge for the former’s claimed involvement in the earlier murder of Provisional IRA leader Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have done their bit to protect the Provisional movement by claiming that although Provisional IRA members were involved there is no evidence that it was authorised by the leadership. Since complete denial of Provo involvement would stretch credibility to breaking point and reflect on the PSNI as well as the Provos, this was as much as they could do.
Of course this makes no sense, although it was notable that some nationalist commentators were prepared to swallow it. Much amazement was feigned by unionists that an IRA even existed, so ‘answers’ were demanded. The British Government said that of course it knew the IRA existed but that what was important was what Sinn Fein said (i.e. not what the IRA actually did) and especially that it continued to express support for the ‘principles of democracy and consent”.
The Garda in the South had previously claimed that the IRA had no military structure but are going to look at it again and the PSNI claimed it was a lobby group for “peaceful, political republicanism”. Sinn Fein spokesmen claimed that of course the IRA was not involved, that it had “gone away” and all allegations to the contrary were ‘palitics’.
So the Provos continue to support the police but not as far as allowing them to get in the way of taking revenge or protecting themselves and their enormous financial empire. Support for the police is therefore purely ‘palitical’.
In the hypocrisy and lying stakes each out-does the other.
So the British Government and PSNI are claiming that while a much slimmed-down ‘peaceful’ IRA exists there is no evidence that it sanctioned the murder of McGuigan; although investigations will continue, which means that if it suits the political purposes of the British Government such a judgement can be easily changed. And easily justified – a ‘peaceful’ IRA with guns, that murders its enemies, and which by its very reduced size and tightness makes inconceivable the idea that the murder was not approved from the top.
The meaning of this is obvious: the British state and its police force doesn’t care if the Provisional IRA kills people it doesn’t like. It doesn’t care if loyalist paramilitaries kill people they don’t like. Round the corner from where McGuigan was killed a young woman was almost killed by the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force but the PSNI refused to blame the UVF who were responsible.
Today it is reported that the murder of another Short Strand man Robert McCartney by the Provos was subject of a secret deal between the PSNI and Provos, with the cops offering not to go after those who cleared up the murder scene, in exchange for Provo information on the less important hands-on killers. No one has gone to jail and the Provos kept their mouths shut.
The political import of the killing is the following:
The Provos can kill and the state will give them impunity but it will expect a price to be paid. Anyone who thinks that the end of Sinn Fein’s meagre opposition to austerity through opposition to some welfare cuts will not form part of the price probably believes that everything that the British Government, police, unionists and Sinn Fein has said about the murder of Kevin McGuigan is 100% true.
A message has been sent to all enemies of the Provos, political or criminal, that they are willing and able to kill, no doubt under some new set of initials such as AAD (Action Against Drugs).
The slow crumbling of the architecture of the political peace settlement has speeded up and now threatens the current arrangements. The Ulster Unionist Party has withdrawn from the all-party Executive, putting pressure on its supposed more rabid rivals in the DUP to follow its lead.
The DUP has now proposed that Sinn Fein be expelled from the Executive, although Sinn Fein can prevent it, and only the British Government can do this. If the British do not support such a move the DUP would then be forced to either put its money where its mouth is and walk themselves, bringing down the Executive, or reveal themselves as joined at the hip to the Provos in the great gravy train on the hill. It might then start losing support.
As the pro-settlement ‘Irish News’ editorial put it today, the Executive is so discredited most will not care if it remains or goes. And as I have noted before, the current Stormont regime is so rotten it has little credibility left.
The peace process has been built on the lie that the rotten sectarian arrangement brought about the absence of widespread political violence. In fact the defeat of the Provos and the ending of widespread violence preceded the creation of the rotten sectarian arrangements. Again and again the sectarian political settlement has been defended by the claim its overthrow would bring us back to the troubles.
The recent killings demonstrate precisely the opposite. The existence of the sectarian Assembly and Executive is now justifying collusion between the state, Provos and loyalist paramilitaries in violence, intimidation and large scale criminality. The message from the British pro-consul has been explicit: as long as Sinn Fein supports the sectarian settlement and police that is what counts. What it actually does will be excused and glossed over if remotely possible. The so-called peace settlement and its preservation is now the justification for allowing political and criminal violence.
Socialists must continue to oppose this rotten settlement. They should continue to oppose the PSNI and expose its collusion with the Provisional IRA and loyalist paramilitaries. They should oppose the austerity imposed by the British Government and the Stormont parties, especially Sinn Fein and its phoney anti-austerity posturing.
It should likewise refuse to offer political support to any opposition by Sinn Fein to its exclusion from Government should this occur. The Provisional movement is an obstacle to working class people in the North and South of Ireland identifying their own interests and defending them.