The Attempted Hijacking of the Republican Movement

In the long history of betrayals within the Irish Republican Movement none have been as insidious and caused more damage to Irelands’ quest for reunification and freedom that the attempted hijacking and destruction of the republican movement by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the leaders of a renegade gang within the Northern Command of the present-day Provisional Sin Fein/ Irish Republican Army

The enormous loss of innocent lives and the sacrifices of so many republican volunteers during the latest campaign from 1969 to the present was all for naught. Unknown to the volunteers and supporters alike the cause they were struggling and dying for was sold out in the early years by the Adams / McGuinness gang for a share of power in the existing British administration in the occupied six Irish counties.  

Government of Ireland Act 1920  -- On and after the appointed day there shall be established for Northern Ireland a Parliament to be called the Parliament of Northern Ireland consisting of His Majesty, the Senate of Northern Ireland, and the House of Commons of Northern Ireland. For the purposes of this Act, Northern Ireland shall consist of the parliamentary counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, and the parliamentary boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry.  

As a result of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and the subsequent Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, Ireland was partitioned into two sectarian entities, the 26-county Irish Free State and the 6-county Northern Ireland State. The Northern Ireland state remained in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, renamed the United Kingdom in 1927, and the 26-county Irish Free State became a dominion state of the British Empire. The oath taken by members of the Irish Free State Parliament included being faithful to the British crown. 

The years between 1921 and 1969 were dour years for the Irish people on both sides of the divide. Discrimination permeated every aspect of life in the Northern Ireland State i.e. the British occupied six counties. Conditions in the 26-county Irish Free State were no better. Although discrimination was not practiced as blatantly as in the occupied six counties, the lack of employment and decent education coupled with poverty, nepotism and oppression caused hundreds of thousands to leave for a chance at a better life elsewhere. These were dark and sorrowful years for the people of Ireland.  

Inspired by the non-violent civil rights movement of the 1960’s in the U.S, demonstrators took to the streets of the six-county state demanding equality in employment, housing, voting rights and civil rights. They were met with violent opposition from the six-county government. They were attacked and beaten by pro-British Unionists mobs, led by the police (RUC) and B Specials (militia). Nationalist’s homes and communities were burned to the ground, many were killed and thousands were forced to flee across the border to the Irish Free State.  

 In the 1960’s the Republican movement came under the influence of Desmond Greaves and other left-wing thinkers associated with the Connolly organization in London. Under the leadership of Goulding, the republican movement lifted the ban on taking seats in Stormont, the six county parliament and in Leinster House, the twenty-six county parliament. Also under Goulding’s leadership the  IRA's capabilities to function as a revolutionary army was deliberately reduced to that of a praetorian guard. In addition to the rejection of core republican principles, their socialist-based philosophy prevented them from engaging in any sectarian-based conflict.  Consequently when the north erupted in 1969  the IRA was unable to defend Catholic communities in Belfast. 

Unable to reconcile the philosiphal differences existing within the republican movement and the IRA’s inability to come to the assistance of the beleaguered nationalist communities the organization evolved into the Official and Provincial wings and subsequently parted ways.  

The Officials embraced Marxism and the Provisional, at that time, continued to embrace traditional republican values 

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) elected Sean Mc Stiofáin as its Chief-of-Staff at its 1970 convention. It also reiterated its rejection of the partitionist parliaments of Stormont and Leinster House and reaffirmed its commitment to waging an armed struggle against British rule in Ireland. By 1971 PIRA had intensified its campaign throughout the six occupied counties to the extent that the British government felt compelled to take action to regain control of the situation. Over the next year they introduced internment without trial that made the overall situation worse for them due the resentment felt in the nationalists communities against whom internment was directed.   

Their first political initiative was the Sunningdale Agreement of December 9, 1973 

The Sunningdale Agreement included among other provisions:

·   a six-county power-sharing executive and

·   a cross-border Council of Ireland.

For what it was worth, no party to the agreement compromised their basic aspirations. The 26-county Free State government together the SDLP who represented the nationalists in the occupied six counties continued to uphold their aspiration for a united Ireland.  PIRA and PSF rejected the agreement as a British ploy designed to copper fasten the partition of Ireland and isolate those who engaged in the struggle for Irish freedom 

The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) of April 10, 1998 included among its provisions:

·   a power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive

·   creation of a North-South Ministerial Council

·   establishment of a British-Irish Council

·    the abolition of Ireland’s territorial claim to the occupied six counties by modifications to Articles 2 and 3 of  its constitution.

At first glance it’s difficult to discern any major difference between both agreements. Agreeing to either was futile as both were subject to the unionists veto. Within months Sunningdale fell victim to that veto. After seven years of sputtering the Good Friday Agreement is teetering on the brink of extinction due to lack of unionist support. 

The question then arises, as to why PIRA /PSF felt compelled to reject the Sunningdale Agreement in 1973 as a British ploy to copper-fasted the partition of Ireland and, 25 years later, sign-on to the Good Friday Agreement that to all intent and purpose codified partition.

In the intervening years over 2,500 people lost their lives, thousands of volunteers and innocent victims spent thousands of cumulative years in prisons and thousand of children and adults were traumatized by the ongoing war. Hundreds of millions of pounds were spent on property damage and other related causes.    

It has become apparent that unknown to many within the PIRA/PSF’s ranks, a renegade faction within the PIRA’s Northern Command led by Adams and McGuinness had their own agenda. From their viewpoint Sunningdale was a non-starter, not because it copper-fastened the partition of Ireland, but because it did not provide them and their cronies with their share of the power and privilege enjoyed by the unionists. This faction needed their share and Sunningdale did not meet that need.  Irrespective of the cost in both monetary and human terms they were determined to do what it took to achieve their piece of the action.

 From then on all of their efforts were directed toward achieving that goal. They fully understood that they would have to use the republican movement and it’s stated policy of reuniting Ireland if they were to have any chance of succeeding. Openly rejecting Sunningdale on the basis that it did not offer them their share of power and privilege would have exposed them as charlatans, wanting in on the action.

The challenge they faced was how to achieve their objective without losing the finances and broad–based support offered by the republican movement. They needed the republican movement to advance their plans and in the process they had to render it useless as a fighting force. What a dilemma!

One of the first things they did was make their intentions known to the British, through long established intermediaries The second thing they did was to plan the hijacking of the republican movement in order to avail of its resources and, at the appropriate time in the future manage its demise.

Unknown to the majority on the Army Council, senior members of the Northern Command were embedded British collaborators. Their role was to provide the British with the names of volunteers as well as information pertaining to plan or pending PIRA operations. The British acted upon the information provided by these collaborators to eliminate problematic individuals and active service units. In cases where the British did not want to be directly involved they passed the information on to pro-British paramilitaries who did the dirty work for them.  A case in point is that of Pat Finucane a defense solicitor for republican prisoners who was murdered by pro-British paramilitary thugs.

By now the struggle to reunite Ireland was replaced by a dirty little war comprising of a power play by the renegades to gain a piece of the action and by the British as a training exercise to hone their military and intelligence capabilities. PIRA volunteers and innocent people were the victims.   

In order to hoodwink the international community into believing that they held no political prisoners, as did the Soviet Union, China and other undemocratic countries, the British, in 1976, introduced a new policy to process political prisoners entitled "Ulsterisation - Normalization - Criminalization". Non-jury courts, the centerpiece of this policy, were   constituted to render the same results as the existing policy of internment without trial. This new approach would, in their opinion, mute international criticism and show the world how judicious the British were in handling Irish malcontents.

The new policy utilized a conveyor-belt type system of injustice. After being arrested, PIRA volunteers were interrogated and tortured (as documented by Amnesty International and other agencies and commissions from 1972 through 2000) and then forced to sign self-incriminating statements. Next, they were processed through the no acquittal non-jury courts ending up in the Long Kesh prison camp as before.  This time around they were to be treated as common criminals.

The British felt that this new approach to handling their so-called Irish malcontents was adequate to stifle any future criticism of their political and judicial processes; after all they were dealing with the Irish. 

In September 1976 the late Kevin Nugent became the first volunteer to be subjected to the new policy. He would not accept criminal status and in protest began the ‘blanket protest’. Other prisoners of war (POW’s) soon joined the protest. Over time the blanket protest escalated in a ‘dirty protest’. In 1980 after four years of protest the POW’s decided to stage a hunger strike in an attempt to regain political status.

The strike ended after the renegade faction within PIRA’s Northern Command made a deal with the British. The details of the deal, if indeed a deal was made, were shrouded in secrecy. Either way the British ignored it and as a result, the hunger strike ended in failure. Many of PIRA’s volunteers believed that the British duped the Northern Command leadership

The second hunger strike in 1981 was a different story. The widespread empathy generated by the sufferings and sacrifices of the hunger strikes resulted in substantial gains at the polls in both the occupied counties and the 26-county Free State.  While on hunger strike, Bobby Sands was elected to the British parliament. Paddy Agnew and Kieran Doherty were elected to the 26-county parliament. In addition, to Agnew and Doherty’s successes, Martin Hurson garnered four-and-a-half thousand first preference votes, and over a thousand transfers, before being eliminated at the end of the sixth count by a Fine Gael candidate.

The renegade faction initially opposed taking part in the aforementioned elections. The late Daithí Ó Conaill, who supported participation in the election on an abstentionist ballot, prevailed by outmaneuvering the renegade faction. As a result of the successful outcome the renegades reversed course and decided to contest all future elections in the occupied six Irish counties,

In the subsequent 1982 assembly elections PSF won 64,000 plus votes (10% of the vote) on an abstentionist ticket. These gains were on the back of the lives of the ten dead hunger strikers

The second hunger strike ended with the return of political status for the POW’s. The British attempt to criminalize the freedom fighters failed and support for the armed struggle surged. It was time for the British to change their approach and resort once again to what worked in the past - exploit the greed and avarice of the corruptible within the enemy’s ranks, namely the renegade faction within PIRA’s Northern Command.

This British policy reversal was what the renegades were waiting for. This meant that they could become serious players, thus, better positioned to advance their own agenda.  Armed with the knowledge that they were protected British assets, the renegades turned their attention to one of the major obstacles standing in their way: control of the republican movement.

In 1983 the renegades removed a major obstacle on the road to power and privilege by taking over the leadership of PSF. They succeeded in this by claiming that it was their right to lead the struggle, because the war was fought in the north

The 1986 IRA Sinn Féin Árd-Fheis offered them the platform they needed to tackle other major obstacles standing in their way. Through a series of dubious maneuvers involving delegates representing 'paper units’ the renegades managed to deep-six the Eire Nua policy document authored by Ó Brádaigh and Ó Connail in 1972, ‘as a sop to the unionists’.  The Éire Nua policy document called for a 32-county federal Irish Republic as a fair and just solution to the partition of Ireland, the root cause of the ongoing war. The renegades also set aside the ban on taking seats in Leinster House thus accepting the legitimacy of the 26-county Free State.

As a result of these dubious tactics that violated the Sinn Féin constitution a substantial number of delegates walked out of the Ard-Fheis led by Ó Brádaigh and Ó Connail. At a subsequent meeting they rejected the renegades tactics as a betrayal of true republican principles and declared that “they a minority had expelled a majority to protect the core principles of Sinn Féin.”

They further declared that they would continue to pursue a reunited Ireland under the auspices of the newly renamed Republican Sinn Fein, emphasizing ‘Republican’ that from now on would be the legitimate keeper of true Republican principles and aspirations.

The northern faction now in full control of PIRA/PSF continued their campaign to neutralize and/or eliminate anyone or anything else that stood in the way. At this time PIRA’s volunteers and supporters were unaware of Adams and McGuinness and co, hidden agenda. The vast majority within the ranks still believed that they were striving for a united Ireland. They had no idea that the end game was a share of the power and privilege for the elite few.

There were others who believed that something was amiss in paradise. The East Tyrone PIRA Brigade, who fell into this category, was considering breaking away and operating independently of PIRA. On May 8, 1987 a unit of that Brigade consisting of eight seasoned volunteers on a mission to attack the Loughgall RUC barracks were ambushed and killed by British special forces laying in wait. No attempt was made to secure their surrender. This action resulted in the removal of some of the renegades most formidable opponents within the Northern Command.

Shortly thereafter, in October 1987 French customs officials captured the Eksund off the coast of Brittany. On board was 150 tons of military equipment. The loss of that equipment stymied the Army Council's ability to escalate the armed struggle.

The aforementioned British collaborators embedded within PIRA’s Northern Command compromised both of these operations. The outcome was beneficial to both the British and the renegades. It ensured the British that their strategically embedded collaborators were reliable and it removed another problematic obstacle on the renegade’s road to power and privilege.  

Responding to rumblings within PIRA/PSF following the rejection of the Éire Nua policy document Adams, McGuinness and Co., published a new document in May of 1987 entitled ‘A Scenario for Peace”. What was telling about this document was that it replaced the traditional republican demand for a British withdrawal with an ambiguous demand for "national self-determination". This should have been a wake-up call for those who continued to believe in Adams/McGuinness’s commitment to a 32-county Irish Republic. 

Through they’re embedded collaborators and other secret contacts with PIRA/PSF the British were satisfied that they finally had the new leadership of PSF/PIRA on the hook and, therefore, could better control the evolving situation. All they had to do was facilitate their machinations by allowing them to operate freely and ensure that no harm befell their ‘prized possession’.

The secret contacts with the British continued indefinitely without the knowledge of a majority of the Army Council. Father Alex Reid a Redemptorist priest from West Belfast had been a long time the go-between.

This was the perfect situation for the British. They could continue their dirty little war in Ireland without having to consider the possibility of having to withdraw from the six occupied counties. They understood that the loss of six-county Irish enclave would deprive their troops of valuable training grounds, deny their intelligence services a made-to-order laboratory for testing and refining intelligence gathering techniques, and rob their security forces of a recalcitrant populace on which to practice repressive methods of quelling civil unrest.

Another compelling reason for the British to remain in Ireland is that it provides them with an opportunity to apply, test and legitimize repressive laws that can be used in Britain and elsewhere when or if the need arises.

For the next ten years Adams, McGuinness and co., focused their efforts on increasing their political base and neutralizing the armed struggle. These were the ingredients that would help them achieve their objective. During this time they replaced problematic members with enforcers and thugs. This deliberate tactic converted the organization from a freedom fighting force into a criminal organization.

The make-up of the new organization can be compared to a militia controlled by warlords. They, as any good militia, exercised total control within their own zone.  There was evidence of a number of murders and countless acts of severe intimidation laid at their doorstep. Money laundering, cross-border smuggling and bank robberies was the order of the day. A number of well-placed individuals in leadership positions became wealthy during this period.

Because Adams and McGuinness were on board with the Good Friday Agreement, the establishment and the media chose to ignore the source of their newfound wealth and how it was accrued.

Eight years has passed since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Adams, McGuinness and co., is still waiting for their share of power. 

They delivered all that was expected of them. As far as the political establishment is concerned, the reconstituted PIRA made up of enforcers and thugs can be dealt with much easier that an elite fighting force. At the end of the day the renegade gang have very few chips left to play with. They delivered a dead horse. Not too many have much use or respect for a dead Irish horse, particularly the British.

They also forgot all about the all-important Unionists veto that can also leave them out in the cold, as did the Sunningdale Agreement in 1973.

It remains to be seen what the final outcome will be.  No matter how much the Adams/McGuinness gang pleads with the British to resurrected Stormont so that they can participate in administrating British rule in Ireland, the Unionists will have the final say and any future deal or changes to the GFA will be no skin of their backs.

Contributor - Tomás Ó Coisdealba

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