Updates down the page, latest  JAN 4th 2012
First, some music from Mary O'Hara

FEB 10 2005
The Irish contribution to world history over the last millennium has been considerable in every field. The nation has 'punched above its weight' in literature and the arts, in engineering, in politics, in exploration and the development of new lands, in the armed services. Their relationship with the Scots, Welsh and English has been complex, to put it mildly. Although for a significant period Ireland was part of Great Britain, the greater part of the Island of Ireland re-established its independence in 1921.
 List of useful dates:

A brief summary of the position since then, for the confused, follows.
The Northern counties remained part of the United Kingdom, with a majority population who adhered to the Protestant branch of the Christian Church. Protestant in this context meant active resistance to any influence of the Roman Catholic Church, whose adherents were a majority in the South. Whether or not the refusal to submit to the powerful dominance of the Catholic Church was justified or not (and there were many whose knowledge of abuses within the church would claim it was), this played a major role in the division of the island. Catholics in the North found their chances of employment and integration in the community difficult. In times of unemployment, jobs for the boys meant jobs for Protestant boys. Although classified as a religious conflict this was really an economic battle of wits such as has gone on since humanity switched from a nomadic existence to farming, territorial ownership and via slavery to industrial teamwork and wages.

With the coming of independence in the South the original "Irish Republican Army" was officially disbanded. Unofficially it continued but became an outlawed organisation in the Irish Republic. In the North it became the champion of what was perceived as a persecuted Catholic minority. Every force gives rise to a natural opposition, and thus it was that paramilitary organisations formed amongst the Protestant communities in the North. The scene was set for trouble.

During World War II Ireland (the newly independent South) had adopted a position of neutrality. This was a sensible decision, even though it was once more extremely complex in reality. There is nothing simple about Ireland. The North was of vital strategic importance to Britain throughout the war, as a territory, a manufacturing base and its valuable sea and airports. The South's defence was its neutrality, but it also managed to act as a tempting bait for German espionage and as such was a vital help to British Military Intelligence. Although it was suggested to President de Valera at one stage that Ireland might openly join the allies he decided after consideration that the help already being given was the most effective way to continue. We should remember also that there were many Southern Irish already serving with distinction in allied armies, navies and air forces.

This is not the place to go into the troubles that escalated in the 1970's and continue with peaks and troughs except to say that paramilitary terrorist actions have been carried out by both sides and mistakes have been made by the official forces of law and order who have been under considerable pressure. Innocents have suffered as well as the guilty. This has been true throughout history in every country. It is right that known, serious current miscarriages of justice that caused the imprisonment of the wrong people should be publicly acknowledged. Where people are thought to be innocent this should be made clear with a public apology, as has just been done by the PM. Otherwise the theory that there is 'no smoke without fire' will lead many people to think that if the accused were wrongly convicted it is because either (a) The police or forensic chemists went too far to corroborate other valid but not fully conclusive evidence which biased their interpretation or (b) The accused had deliberately set themselves up as a false trail confident that the case would fail, but the police thought they would reveal the real perpetrators if they were found guilty.

In the 1980s it became clear that there was now no longer any strategic or industrial reason for the UK to resist the unification of the island of Ireland should the democratically determined will of its inhabitants be to this effect. However since this was not the democratically determined will of either the North or the South, it was a non-starter. This was cleared up in a series of agreements between the governments of the UK and the Irish Republics and led to greater support from the International Community for a peace process under the status quo.

Since the 1980s, I have been of the opinion that Adams and McGuinness, leaders of Sinn Fein, a party that stands for unification of the North with the South, are genuinely convinced that the peaceful political way forward is the only way forward. Unfortunately that is not a guarantee that they can convince all or even enough of the IRA membership that this is so. The first thing that came to mind when the Northern Bank was robbed of many millions was that this was either to finance the IRA Pension fund for those who might retire but were not suitable for a political career, or to finance further IRA paramilitary operations. Alternatively it was a NON-IRA paramilitary operation but it seems that the last has been ruled out by all those with access to evidence. It therefore looks like Sinn Fein are unable to bring the IRA in from the wild and will either have to distance themselves from them, or acknowledge a split within their ranks. However, it remains to be seen who can actually be fingered for the bank raid, and until that happens the argument looks like being carried on behind closed doors with occasional leaks to the press. Not very enlightening.

FEB 21 2005
It looks like we are entering a new phase in the orthodox interpretation of Sin Fein/IRA. For the past few decades it has been an article of this orthodoxy to treat them as one for a very good reason: if the political aims of the republican movement were to pursued by democratic means, then the movement was to have to remain coherent. Those taking their seats in democratic assemblies must be the leaders of the movement that had previously been paramilitary if its supporters were to accept the change. It would be no use if Sinn Fein were to sign up to the peace process if the militant wing did not go along, nor would the terms of such actions as weapons destruction make any sense if those doing it were not closely associated with the politicians whose status was dependent on this destruction. The constant insistence by all commentators that Adams and McGuinness were in the IRA council was clearly not to denigrate them but to validate them. If they now have to admit to the IRA continuing with a range of illegal actions without the permission of the political wing, the coherence is lost and 'mere anarchy is loosed upon the world'. There is no doubt that a blind eye has been turned to a lot of republican actions in the period of hoped for completion of the peace process. The transition from outlaw to inlaw is a delicate process when the aim is not to eliminate all outlaws but convert them to inlaws. But it looks like the patience of both the Irish and UK governments has been stretched too far, and so has that of public opinion, north and south, protestant, catholic and secular. As to who carries guilt by association with those who will be proved guilty through evidence of their actions, this will not be easy to establish. It does not even take one or two degrees of separation to divide the innocent to the guilty. They can be working in the same organisation and have met frequently. The law must therefore take its course, but guilt by association cannot be assumed. When this phase is over we will not, however, be back to the previous stand-off. The financing of the republican movement must be rationalised and legalised, and for that to happen it must be possible and transparent. The problem is a familiar one, isn't it, dear reader.

FEB 22 2005
Government action has been taken to penalise Sinn Fein. The result has been for Sinn Fein spokesmen to deny that Sinn Fein is inextricably linked to the IRA. The problem, if this is true, is how can decommissioning of the IRA weapons be linked to accepting Sinn Fein into democratic government?

FEB 26
This a moment from which there is no return, but the way forward is incredibly tricky. It was only the insistence on all sides that Adams and McGuinness represented the Republican Movement that enabled IRA progressive decommissioning and reduction in violence and crime to be related to their acceptance in democratic assemblies. If they are to disown all those who see themselves as inheritors of the military tradition, it must be very carefully done if the whole political movement is not to fall apart with unknown consequences. Or they must carry the old militants with them. It is not impossible, but they will have to feel their way as events unfold. There has to now be openness from a community that has been very closed for what it saw, sometimes rightly, as it own protection. The very name of the party is autistic, with parallels in the Interahamwe.
As if that was not difficult enough we now have a financial underworld that has been built up within the members of the movement. If we need them to join the rest, that means moving towards legitimacy in all operations; but for the people of the North, real peace and security would be a fine thing.

MARCH 04 2005
The murder of one of the McCartney family, coming on the heels of the Northern Bank Robbery and the exposure of massive money-laundering operations by Sinn Fein/IRA has had a profound effect on Irish public opinion north and south of the border. The family have acted with great dignity and diplomacy under extreme conditions and have epitomised the changed situation wherein there is no longer a justification for a paramilitary organisation to exist to promote the Republican cause. Indeed its continued existence and code of conduct is now damaging to that cause. McGuinness and Adams have responded in a straightforward manner to demands that witness intimidation should cease and the guilty should be brought to trial.
Here is a good analysis I have just seen by the BBC Northern Ireland security editor:

MARCH 08 2005
The offer from the IRA to the McCartney family to shoot the perpetrators of the murder seems to have mystified most political commentators. The reason is not hard to fathom, however. The IRA do not want the case to come to trial as it could involve many more people than they offered to shoot. The shooting would have ensured that no witnesses would come forward at a trial for the original murder (not that any are yet prepared to, but in time they may).  If the McCartney family had accepted the offer it is absolutely certain that there would have been no successful prosecution for the original crime.

Commentators have said that this is a massive PR error. Even if this offer was made, since it was refused, why did the IRA reveal it? The answer is simple: they did not think it could be kept secret. Therefore they announced it themselves, in an attempt to turn it into a declaration that they were still the law within the movement. It is very important to understand that the IRA is by definition a body that does not move with the times. They do not accept the verdict of history that the Irish and British governments endorse. One of the most extraordinary characteristics of the Irish, as people, is that which is known by admirers as persistence and critics as obstinacy. Amongst the most intensely indigenous this reaches quite incredible levels. It can take the form of intransigence that some would classify as mental rigidity that denies the possibility of a change of opinion. The IRA does not accept the Dublin government of the republic as legitimate, let alone the separation of the north and its status as part of the UK. The cease-fire does not in any way imply, for the IRA, the acceptance of the moral legitimacy of the status quo. Even though they may support and enforce the ceasefire and endorse the pursuit of political power by political means, they regard their history and their existence as morally defensible. The reason behind this mindset goes back in time and is carried on from generation to generation, determined not to accept defeats of the past. The idea that they should live with the past and move on, accepting that history cannot be reversed, accepting that a powersharing solution may be the likely outcome for the foreseeable future and that within an evolved EU the differences between north and south may lose significance with the free movement of goods and employment, these ideas are in conflict with their reason for living and the role they have played all their lives. But there is reason to suppose that there is movement.

So, what next? We must wait for these events to play themselves out, with patience, within the systems and institutions that we have in place, staffed by those who do their best to run them. We should be grateful that there is movement rather than stalemate and note that it has taken tragic and painful events to get things moving.

MARCH 14th 2005
The media have.taken Martin McGuinness's warning to the McCartney family 'not to cross the line into party politics' as possibly a threat. I think this a complete misunderstanding. Adams and McGuinness have been trying to bring the Republican movement in the North in from he cold, away from the armed struggle, away from illegality, into the democratic parliamentary system. To do this they need to have Sinn Fein as a strong, united party. To get justice through the law in the case of the McCartney murder, they need Sinn Fein supporters squarely behind the McCartney family. McGuinness's warning was meant to be just that, a plea to the family to keep the Republican voters behind them unequivocally. If they start a splinter group it will be one more division in the long history of divisions in the movement that have led to all this intransigence over the years. Those who are operating outside the law, both Republican and Unionist, are not going to all be identified and imprisoned, though the perpetrators of this murder and the bank robbery should be. But the aim is to get the substantial majority of those who have turned from the armed resistance to paramilitary and illegal operations to cease these and operate within the orthodox systems and economy. We all know how difficult this will be, but world history tells us it is not at all impossible. The way to do it is not by fragmenting those republicans who want peace and the rule of law but helping them to be coherent and encouraging the others to join them and be rewarded in so doing by greater security and legitimate prosperity.
The reaction in the United States should be read as an official rebuke to those in the IRA who are continuing in their belief that they are above the law, but I do not think either Republicans or Democrats wish to reject Irish Republicans with legitimate democratic aspirations. Even the Rev Paisley has said he will not do that. A warning of possible undesired results from actions taken in the best of spirit is not a threat. Threats are unacceptable, but don't let us see one where none is intended.

APRIL 5th 2005
This was what I was hoping for. Gerry Adams has called publicly and privately on the IRA, with the full authority of his position as the leader of Sinn Fein, to make good their commitment to purely political means in their pursuit of their cause. We must now await the response, both verbal and in action. It needs to be an IRA initiative, unilateral and decided by them alone. What is to be hoped for is full decommissioning and the unification of the movement under a civilian banner, with no military or paramilitary wing. From there the aim would be the progressive the legitimisation of all activities associated with the movement. It's a big repair job, and it will take time.

MAY 10th 2005
The European Parliament voted today with only 4 against or abstaining (of which 2 Sinn Fein) to fund a civil action of the McCartney sisters against the killers of their brother. The problem of getting witnesses will still arise, but the moral force of the European vote is remarkable. It is only by pursuing the issue that the current stalemate can be moved. As mentioned a month ago (above) it will take time, and during that time continual, careful, honest action and pressure. No doubt before any funds are actually forthcoming there will have to be a further examination of the European Union's duties in this respect, but  it seems to me that international support is exactly what is required. Establishing certain minimum standards of justice and its effective application throughout the EU is one of the primary reasons for its existence. Without it, even a free trade area would be based on falsehood and a secure and peaceful future out of the question.

JUNE 03 2005
Friday June 3, 06:32 PM
N.Irish police charge man with McCartney murder

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Northern Ireland police have charged a man with the murder of Robert McCartney after IRA members beat and stabbed him to death outside a Belfast bar four months ago in an attack that sparked international outrage.

A second man has been charged with attempted murder of the friend that McCartney was reportedly killed trying to protect.

"One faces a charge of murder, the other faces a charge of attempted murder," a police spokeswoman said on Friday. "The charges relate to the murder of Robert McCartney and the attempted murder of Brendan Devine."

Time will tell,

JULY 27th 2005
I refer to my entry of April 5th. We are told to expect a statement from Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness on behalf of Sinn Fein in the very near future, concerning decommissioning and future political policy. If it is along the lines of my April 5th entry, it should be taken seriously by the governments and all political parties of the UK and the Irish Republic. We need to move forward.

JULY 28th 2005
We have indeed clear statements from Gerry Adams and from Martin McGuinness, as leaders of Sinn Fein. But first, here is the text of the IRA Statement in Full. No such statement has ever been made before. It will now be up to the IICD to verify the decommissioning of arms. If there is any subsequent violence and criminality (and presumably there will always be some, as no country on this planet has ever been able to eliminate it), it must be the approved forces and institutions of law and order that deal with it, with the full support of all political parties and governments in these islands that now recognise the constitution of Northern Ireland.
"The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign.

This will take effect from 4pm [1600 BST] this afternoon.

All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms.

All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means.

Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.

The IRA leadership has also authorised our representative to engage with the IICD [Independent International Commission on Decommissioning] to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use in a way which will further enhance public confidence and to conclude this as quickly as possible.

We have invited two independent witnesses, from the Protestant and Catholic churches, to testify to this.

The Army Council took these decisions following an unprecedented internal discussion and consultation process with IRA units and Volunteers.

We appreciate the honest and forthright way in which the consultation process was carried out and the depth and content of the submissions.

We are proud of the comradely way in which this truly historic discussion was conducted. The outcome of our consultations show very strong support among IRA Volunteers for the Sinn Fein peace strategy.

There is also widespread concern about the failure of the two governments and the unionists to fully engage in the peace process.

This has created real difficulties. The overwhelming majority of people in Ireland fully support this process.

They and friends of Irish unity throughout the world want to see the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Notwithstanding these difficulties our decisions have been taken to advance our republican and democratic objectives, including our goal of a united Ireland.

We believe there is now an alternative way to achieve this and to end British rule in our country. It is the responsibility of all Volunteers to show leadership, determination and courage.

We are very mindful of the sacrifices of our patriot dead, those who went to jail, Volunteers, their families and the wider republican base.

We reiterate our view that the armed struggle was entirely legitimate. We are conscious that many people suffered in the conflict.

There is a compelling imperative on all sides to build a just and lasting peace. The issue of the defence of nationalist and republican communities has been raised with us.

There is a responsibility on society to ensure that there is no re-occurrence of the pogroms of 1969 and the early 1970s.

There is also a universal responsibility to tackle sectarianism in all its forms.

The IRA is fully committed to the goals of Irish unity and independence and to building the Republic outlined in the 1916 Proclamation.

We call for maximum unity and effort by Irish republicans everywhere. We are confident that by working together Irish republicans can achieve our objectives.

Every Volunteer is aware of the import of the decisions we have taken and all Oglaigh are compelled to fully comply with these orders.

There is now an unprecedented opportunity to utilise the considerable energy and goodwill which there is for the peace process.

This comprehensive series of unparalleled initiatives is our contribution to this and to the continued endeavours to bring about independence and unity for the people of Ireland. "

Here are the relevant comments as reported by the BBC Last Updated:
Thursday, 28 July 2005, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK

IRA says armed campaign is over
The IRA has formally ordered an end to its armed campaign and says it will pursue exclusively peaceful means.

In a long-awaited statement, the republican organisation said it would follow a democratic path ending more than 30 years of violence.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the move was a "courageous and confident initiative" and that the moment must be seized.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was a "step of unparalleled magnitude".

"It is what we have striven for and worked for throughout the eight years since the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

The IRA made its decision after an internal debate prompted by Mr Adams' call in April to pursue its goals exclusively through politics.

Mr Adams said Thursday's statement was a "defining point in the search for a lasting peace with justice" and also presented challenges for others.

"It means that unionists who are for the Good Friday Agreement must end their ambivalence," he said.

"And it is a direct challenge to the DUP to decide if they want to put the past behind them, and make peace with the rest of the people of this island."

In a joint communique the British and Irish governments welcomed the statement and said if the IRA's words "are borne out by actions, it will be a momentous and historic development".

"Verified acts of completion will provide a context in which we will expect all parties to work towards the full operation of the political institutions, including the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, and the North-South structures, at the earliest practicable date," it said.

All IRA units ordered to dump arms
Members ordered to pursue objectives through "exclusively peaceful means"
Arms to be put beyond use as quickly as possible
Two church witnesses to verify this
Statement followed "honest and forthright" consultation process
Strong support among IRA members for Sinn Fein's peace strategy
There is now an alternative way to achieve goal of united Ireland
"Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever"

The Independent Monitoring Commission, which examines paramilitary activity, has also been asked to produce an additional report in January 2006, three months after their next regular report.

During the Northern Ireland Troubles, the IRA murdered about 1,800 civilians and members of the security forces.

The IRA statement issued on Thursday said the end of the armed campaign would take effect from 1600 BST.

"All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means. Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.

"The IRA leadership has also authorised our representative to engage with the IICD to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use in a way which will further enhance public confidence and to conclude this as quickly as possible."

The statement said independent witnesses from Catholic and Protestant churches had been invited to see the decommissioning process. It is understood there has already been a meeting between the head of the decommissioning body, General John de Chastelain, and the IRA.

DUP leader Ian Paisley greeted the statement with scepticism, saying that the IRA had "reverted to type" after previous "historic" statements.

"We will judge the IRA's bona fides over the next months and years based on its behaviour and activity," he said.

He said they had also "failed to provide the transparency necessary to truly build confidence that the guns have gone in their entirety".

Ulster Unionist Party Sir Reg Empey, told the BBC's World at One it would take time to convince the people of Northern Ireland that this was more than just rhetoric.

He said: "People are so sceptical, having had... been burnt so many times before.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan welcomed the statement, saying it was "clear, clean and complete", but "long overdue".

He called on Sinn Fein to commit to the new policing structures in Northern Ireland, as his party had done.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said he welcomes the IRA's statement that it was ending its "armed campaign".

Mr Ahern said the end of the IRA as a paramilitary group "is the outcome the governments have been working towards" since the 1994 ceasefire.

The IRA pledge was welcomed by the United States administration as "an important and potentially historic statement".

A White House statement said the words must now be followed by actions and acknowledged there would be scepticism, particularly among victims and their families.

"They will want to be certain that this terrorism and criminality are indeed things of the past," the statement said.

The statement added that it understood from the IRA communique that "the IRA and its members will no longer have any contact with any foreign paramilitary and terrorist organisations".

When he made his appeal in April, Mr Adams said it was "a genuine attempt to drive the peace process forward".

Republicans had been under intense pressure to end IRA activity after the £26.5m Northern Bank raid in December and the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney in January.

Political talks last year failed to restore devolution, which stalled amid claims of IRA intelligence gathering at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, in 2002.

The Provisional IRA's campaign of violence was aimed at forcing an end to the British presence in Northern Ireland, leading to a united Ireland.

AUGUST 3rd 2005
We have already had, over the past few days, the usual utter scepticism from those who "have heard it all before".
There are also those who expect instant support, by former IRA members or supporters, for the established authorities. They expect them to apply to join the Police Service and other institutions, and to find jobs in the political process and to start legitimate businesses, immediately.
I think a little realism is in order. We are told we must see some action if the new IRA/Sinn Fein policy is to be accepted as more than a tactical pause to re-group, with a better foothold inside the state. Well, that is true. Ambiguities such as the Northern Bank Raid must certainly cease. Support for the police must indeed be forthcoming from all official spokespersons, and if there are complaints these must follow the proper procedures. But to expect more from the Nationalists than from the Unionists is nonsense, and to expect everything all at once is nonsense. What is required is steady forward movement, based on the new declared policy, even if there is a little local difficulty, with the steady support of the leadership, on all sides.

The most important single contributor to peace in Northern Ireland has been Mo Mowlam who died yesterday. There would have been no progress without her and progress would not have led where it did but for her solid dealings and management, which did not cease when she handed over to Mandleson but continued in other fields. Here work towards the Good Friday Belfast Agreement was undermined at every stage (often unintentionally) by the media and those on all sides who pursued their own agenda, but she overcame them all. The agreement was not without flaws, but it was the key to the future and changed the everyday life of Northern Ireland. I accept that in Mo's opinion she only made the tea, talked to people and argued, and others had to hammer out the details of the agreement, but that is further reason why she is less responsible for the flaws and more responsible for getting anyone at all to the stage where they would sign.

SEPTEMBER 10th 2005
How pathetic is this. Extracts from a BBC report today

Violent clashes erupt in Belfast
Several police have been injured and a civilian shot during loyalist rioting over the re-routing of a controversial Orange Order parade in Belfast.

The Chief Constable urged calm and said police who were shot at and attacked with explosives had returned fire.

Hugh Orde said the Orange Order must bear "substantial responsibility" for the rioting over the Whiterock parade.

DUP head Ian Paisley blamed the Parades Commission for not reviewing the route that barred it from a nationalist area.

The parade was re-routed to avoid the mainly nationalist Springfield Road area.

After a request by unionists on Friday, the Parades Commission reviewed its ruling on the route, but did not change it.

"The commission treated elected representatives with contempt by its refusal to even call us to put our case. We were refused the opportunity to give greater detail," said Mr Paisley.

He also urged an end to the violence, which was continuing on Saturday evening in loyalist parts of Belfast and County Antrim with many roads blocked by protestors or burning vehicles.

He added: "At this difficult time, I am appealing to all law abiding people to remain calm."

Water cannon and plastic bullets were used against petrol bombers who attacked police and soldiers. At least six officers have been injured.

The security forces came under sustained attack by several hundred rioters on West Circular Road as well as the York Road and North Queen Street area.

There were reports of automatic gunfire being heard in several parts of the city.

Cars were hijacked and set on fire on Ardoyne Road and North Queen Street.


Protests also caused severe traffic disruption in the city. Several roads were blocked because, said one DUP councillor, there was a feeling of "disgust" over the parade route.

The march had been barred from going through security gates on the Springfield Road, and had to use a former factory site.

Almost 100 people blocked off three lanes of traffic behind Belfast City Hall.

Another group of protesters tried to block the Albert Bridge in east Belfast. They were attacked by residents in the nationalist Short Strand.

Some had their faces covered with scarves and hoods.

Earlier, a number of children were left badly shocked after a bus they were travelling in was hit with bottles and stones.

A window was smashed and one passenger said some people on board panicked and were screaming in terror.

"It's hard to tell for sure whether anyone's hurt because so many people panicked and got off the bus. They were screaming and yelling," he said.

"It was obvious to me that a number of the children were in shock."

Mr Paisley and UUP counterpart Sir Reg Empey had been expected to address a rally of orangemen and their supporters at Woodvale Park following the parade but it was called off because of the trouble.

Orangeman Raymond Speers said: "In the grand scale of things, just to disrupt traffic is not a heinous crime when you look back over the years of history in Northern Ireland," he said.

"It's frustration of Protestant people as to what they can do to have their ordinary voice heard. We just feel so frustrated that there is a cultural veto through the Parades Commission for the republican/nationalist community."

Sinn Fein councillor Fra McCann said the trouble could have been avoided if the Orangemen had talked to Springfield Road residents.

.I don't know, but I suspect that Fra McCann could be right. But it is likely that some people were looking for trouble. The fact is the people of Northern Ireland need a New Frontier, When the most important thing in the lives of these people is a memorial march, it is clear they need a new challenge. Taking on their own police force is not a useful one.

SEPT  11th
Tension has mounted recently in Protestant communities on the view that the British government has moved too fast to reduce its security presence in the province without any concrete action by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to disarm.

In July the IRA said it was ending its 30-year armed campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland and pledged to dump its weapons, but so far it has shown no sign of disarming.

What happened yesterday was carefully prepared rioting and an attack against the security services. It cannot be classed as anything but a calculated action to attempt to halt the reduction of British troops in Northern Ireland. We should not forget that troops were first sent in modern times to protect the Catholic community, not the Protestants.

SEPT 13th
There is still violence on the streets (though nothing like the first outburst). The UVF is clearly in breach of its cease-fire. Meanwhile General de Chastelain is in Ireland in the process of overseeing a further decommissioning action. The 'Protestants' (I put that in quotes for good reason as it has no religious meaning) think that violence is achieving their ends. As always, they are wrong. It is pathetically sad that these great people, who have been the source of great works in the history of their country, of Europe, America and the world, are now led by a rump of embittered and paranoid, blinkered individuals who encourage their youth to vandalism on the grounds that some IRA criminals robbed a bank and Sinn Fein has not been held responsible.

SEPT 26th 2005
The IRA has completed the decommissioning of all its weapons to the satisfaction of General de Chastelain and witnesses. This diary was started on Feb 10th 2005. It is less than 9 months since I suggested then that Sinn Fein were genuinely decided on decommissioning and that we were entering a new phase in the politics of Northern Ireland. The next stage is for Sinn Fein to support the civil authority in countering the efforts of those who still wish to finance and pursue the political process or their personal ends by criminal and violent means.

The response from the DUP seems to be "It's a fudge, where are the photographs? They promised us photographs!". Good grief, photographs are utterly irrelevant. What has been done over the past 2 weeks could only be verified by human surveillance, by someone who was as fully versed in the whole history of the IRA and its arms as it is possible to be, while at the same time being independent, of guaranteed reputation and accepted in advance by all sides. General de Chastelain is that man. The fact that he was there and saw all was witnessed by two churchmen, one Catholic and one Protestant. Over the period it took place they will have got a very good idea of the likelyhood that the places and the arms they were being shown were, or were not, of the significance and relevance that the IRA members in charge of this operation claimed. All three have told us that although they cannot possibly PROVE it (this being obviously impossible), they believed what they wer were told about what they saw, and they had absolutely no doubt about what they saw. The quantity of arms agrees with that agreed in advance as being in question. The objection that there are no photographs is absurd. If photographs or even a video documentary had been used to back up the evidence, that would have been absurd.

If the DUP and others persist in their position, regardless of efforts made by Sinn Fein to engage as best they can, I think we will have reached the point where devolved government to Northern Ireland must be put on hold indefinitely until they can find a new generation who are not mentally damaged, who can stand for election. Of course, if Sinn Fein fails to play it straight and cool, they will make it difficult to get any sense out of the other parties. No doubt trouble-makers are ready and waiting. But today, Sinn Fein have delivered a big chunk of what was asked. To deny that is daft.

Ian Paisley protests that there are other weapons that have not been handed in. Well, there are thousands of illegal arms in England, Wales and Scotland, so that is hardly surprising. The point is that the IRA has destroyed its arms and renounced armed struggle for politics. Paisley claims there are still armed criminals and that political intimidation is still a reality. What is his point? Does he think it is easier to stop this with Sinn Fein and its supporters excluded from democratic power-sharing? History and common sense would indicate this is not.likely.

OCTOBER 6th 2005
The process I looked forward to just over a week ago (see highlight SEPT 26th) has been started with an important seizure of illegally gained assets in Manchester. We shall have to see how the law takes its course and what is the Republican reaction.

NICHOLAS CHRISTIAN  in Scotland on Sunday writes
LOYALIST paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland must "call it a day" and disarm, Sir Reg Empey said yesterday in his first speech as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

The former Stormont economy minister told party conference delegates in Belfast that the IRA had suffered a military defeat. He said that meant loyalists no longer had any excuse to maintain their paramilitary structures.

Good - let's see if we can have decommissioning on the loyalists side. Should we ask them to produce photographs, or just have an inspection by General de Chastelain and witnesses?

OCTOBER 30th 2005

LVF units ordered to stand down
The LVF has ordered all its military units to stand down, a statement to the BBC has confirmed.

The decision, taken in response to the IRA move to decommission arms, takes effect from 0000 GMT on Sunday.

Earlier, a group of church and community figures said the loyalist feud between the LVF and UVF was over.

The move will be welcomed by politicians but some, especially nationalists, will wait to be convinced by the loyalists' actions.

In an earlier statement, Reverend Mervyn Gibson said the loyalist feud, which claimed four lives in Belfast in July and August, had "permanently ended".

He said the group of church and community figures had been holding mediation talks "for some time".

The end of the feud had been widely expected, with no fresh violence happening since August.

The Independent Monitoring Commission blamed the UVF for the four summer murders.

A special report by the ceasefire watchdog said the LVF carried out two murder bids, but their violence was mainly a response to UVF attacks.

The report on the loyalist paramilitary feud led Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain to declare the UVF ceasefire had broken down.

BBC Northern Ireland security editor Brian Rowan said the "choreography" of this process may also see the UVF issuing a statement.

"None of this is a surprise - it has been well signalled and widely reported in recent days," he added.

DUP North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said he "warmly welcomed" the end of the feud.

"Communities have been set on edge and put into turmoil. I pay tribute to those who have worked so hard to bring this resolution about," he added.


The best next move would be for the LVF to disband.

DECEMBER 16th 2005
We were making some progress over the past weeks. Not exactly plain sailing, but nothing too bizarre. The very great difficulties of even exposing, let alone straightening out the massive extent of illegal business dealings that permeate Northern Ireland become more apparent every day. Now there is evidence that the result of taking the covers off has led to the 'outing' of a senior member of the IRA as a British agent and, as a result, the motives behind the spying affair that ended the power sharing are brought into question. The implication is that since a key member of the spying team was also a British agent, to what extent was the operation of the theft of documents, and/or the discovery of the theft, facilitated or even provoked by his handlers. This web page is headed SOME IRISH ANSWERS. We have had some of them. What we need now are some British answers. Mr Dennis Donaldson was recruited, it appears, because the British gave him an offer he could not refuse....  but how he was acting during the crucial spying affair may be difficult to prove either way. In my view the cock-up theory will prove to apply. Maybe details of Northern Ireland police were indeed compromised, because of the employment of Donaldson who could not keep his republican contacts at arms length. Alternatively it was a preemptive move to secure his cover which backfired, with excessive consequences, perhaps to the satisfaction of some who hoped the peace process would fail. Of course the alternative is it was a legitimate trap to bring about the subsequent events which led to more substantial disarmament and a better chance of peace and power sharing.


Sir Hugh Orde, head of the Northern Ireland Police, has gone on record on three points: 1. Any informers employed by his service operate under the strictest legal rules and their status and performance is under continual review. 2. There is absolutely no truth in the suggestion that the failure of the power-sharing achieved under the peace process had been engineered by the British government or by the N.I. security services. 3. The theft of a large number of confidential documents which brought about the breakdown was a crime, regardless of any political consequences, and it was this crime that the police were investigating. Sir Hugh is also of the opinion that Donaldson is now in a dangerous position (presumably from Republicans who will be infuriated by his betrayal). The Republican leaders make a great point of denying this.  The only conclusion to draw is that the theft of the documents had taken place, perhaps over a period; that the discovery of the theft had to be acted on, and that this led to the inevitable disclosure of Donaldson as an informant. In other words a simple sequence of events which, as they fed through the system, led to the situation which we now observe. Of course it makes no sense, because the political positions of all the parties who have been opposed to the peace process are based on an incomplete understanding of history, current affairs, motives, aims, possibilities and economic realities. The cock-up theory rules supreme.

APRIL 4th 2006
Denis Donaldson has been murdered in his home in Donegal. There is little reason to believe with Iain Paisley Sr. that Sinn Fein has anything to do with it but unfortunately there was bound to be someone of the ancient mindset, those who never forget or forgive anything and have no truck with orthodox law and order of any sort, to do the deed. It may also be aimed at further hindering the negotiations that are ever more pressing to restore power-sharing and the Stormont government.

APRIL 6th 2006
This brilliant article by David McKittrick in the Independent will tell you all you need to know about Denis Donaldson. THE SPY'S TALE

MAY 12th 2006
Something tells me that there is a distinct lack of progress. There is no movement here. The protestants are just digging their heels in against power sharing. For God's sake you guys - GET OVER IT!

MAY 22nd 2006
Iain Paisley has made it quite clear - he can't get over it. He is a fundamentalist, he sets a standard far higher for republicans that he does for Unionists, and he claims that the Unionists who will be in government never got their hands dirty - i.e.their supporters were to blame for all the violence. If that's what a majority of his party want, then power-sharing and devolved government will have to be the end of the year, and some form of power-sharing will have to be arrived at without devolved government.

OCTOBER 4th 2006
The time is approaching when either power-sharing is agreed or the regional government of Northern Ireland is returned to Westminster, Below we have a final attempt to make it clear that while perfection has not been achieved in civil obedience the Republican movement is decided on a civil approach to the future of Ireland. The ball lies, as mentioned previously, with the Unionists.

IRA "now poses no security threat"

Reuters Wednesday October 4, 09:08 AM
LONDON (Reuters) - The IRA has changed fundamentally from the terror organisation that fought British rule in Northern Ireland for decades and now poses no security threat, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said on Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of a report on the province's peace process which is expected to give a positive view of the decline in paramilitary activity, Hain said: "There has been a historic, seismic and I believe an irreversible shift on the part of the IRA away from the terror, the horror and criminality of the past towards a democratic future."

The Independent Monitoring Commission will conclude in a report on Wednesday that the IRA has stopped all criminal and paramilitary activity, according to media reports.

The findings will be used by Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern in talks with Northern Ireland's political parties at a summit this month.

That meeting will take place as a deadline for restoring Northern Ireland's power-sharing government looms on November 24.

The document is also expected to say that Sinn Fein is meeting a commitment to achieve its goals by peaceful means.

Hain said there had been "astonishing change" in Northern Ireland, which suffered 30 years of sectarian violence in which more than 3,600 people were killed until the signing of the 1998 Good Friday peace deal.

"Has Northern Ireland changed fundamentally? The answer is yes. Is there now a security threat form the IRA? The answer is no. And that is an astonishing change," Hain told BBC radio.

"There is no prospect at all ... that the IRA can come back as a war machine. That is over for them. They have chosen a different democratic path."

But he warned that the politics of Northern Ireland remained "unstable" and urged politicians to discharge their responsibilities properly and agree to restore government.

A Belfast-based political assembly was set up under Good Friday deal between majority Protestants committed to ties with Britain and Roman Catholics in favour of a united Ireland.

But the assembly was suspended in 2002 amid a row over spying by the IRA. The province's main pro-British party, the Democratic Unionist Party, has since refused to share power, insisting that while the IRA has disarmed, it has not yet convincingly cut its links with crime in the province.


So, where do we stand? The argument now will be between those who insist on the implementation of police action, backed up by the IRA, on all outstanding unsolved and unpunished crimes before power-sharing can be resumed, and those who maintain that power-sharing should and must proceed first, now that the elected Sinn Fein leadership is committed to the political process and the IRA are committed to peace and condemn all extra-legal punishment or activity. This could drag on for ever. In my view the support for the police and the enforcement of the rule of law and the successful prosecution of the murderers of Denis Donaldson and of Robert McCartney will be arrived at sooner if the move to restore power-sharing proceeds on schedule. That means the need for these prosecutions cannot possibly be used as an excuse to stall on powersharing - to do so would be utterly perverse.

OCTOBER 11th 2006

Parties set for crunch NI talks
Intensive multi-party negotiations aimed at brokering a deal to restore devolution to Northern Ireland are due to begin in Scotland.

Prime ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern will open the three days of talks at St Andrews.

The UK and Irish governments have given the parties until 24 November to reach a deal on power-sharing, otherwise the assembly may be put into cold storage.

NI Secretary Peter Hain has said the talks must yield a "100% deal".

My own view? It may be difficult to reach a 100% completed deal by 24th November, but an agreement on detailed steps to be taken to reach that completion will have to be reached by that date, and the participants will need to sign up to a document covering all that, with both expected dates and deadlines for each element.

OCTOBER 13th 2006
Yes, that's the way to do it.

March target date for devolution
A roadmap to restore devolution to Northern Ireland has been revealed by the British and Irish governments.

It contains a target date of 26 March 2007 for a new executive to be up and running.

The parties have until 10 November to respond to the plan. If they agree to it, a first and deputy first minister would be nominated on 24 November.

The plan follows three days of multi-party talks at St Andrews in Scotland.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said there would have to be some form of electoral endorsement of the plan - either an election or a referendum.

  • 10 November - parties respond to proposals
  • 24 November - first and deputy first minister nominated
  • Electoral endorsement of plans
  • 14 March 2007 - nomination of executive
  • 26 March 2007 - executive up and running

  • He said the two key components of a plan were that all parties accept the police and courts and have a clear agreement on power-sharing.

    "So those are the two essential parts of it," Mr Blair said.

    "We've been through different parts of this process many times over the past few years but I think this is a sound basis to proceed."

    The government's plan also envisages the devolution of policing and justice powers in two years from the creation of the executive.

    However, this would be subject to a cross-community vote in the assembly.

    A financial package is also included in the draft agreement.

    One of the proposals is a cap on domestic rates under the new capital value system if the governments' plans are accepted by the parties.

    Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

    It also suggests the possibility of further rates relief for pensioners on lower incomes.

    Speaking after the governments revealed their plan, DUP leader Ian Paisley said Northern Ireland was at a crossroads and republicans had a choice and "delivery to make".

    "Delivering on the pivotal issue of policing and the rule of law starts now," Mr Paisley said.

    He said the DUP negotiators had dealt with a number of issues during the talks and that in the delivery of an overall package they "had retained the retention of academic selection" in the province's post-primary sector.

    Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said that the plans needed to be consulted on, but restoring the political institutions was an "enormous prize".

    "Common-sense political realism and the interest of all our people demand we achieve this," he said.

    Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said what had been agreed was the "Belfast Agreement for slow learners".

    "Sinn Fein will sign up to the PSNI being the only force of law and order and Ian Paisley, or a colleague, will share the joint office of first and deputy first minister with Martin McGuinness in a mandatory coalition," he said.

    SDLP leader Mark Durkan said welcome progress had been made towards restoring the power sharing institutions and pledged that his party would continue working towards this.

    "We believe that we can move from the politics of stand-off to lift-off," he said.

    Alliance Party leader David Ford said the outcome was a mix "of challenges and opportunities".

    "Despite all that remains to be done, there is now at least a sense of hope for a shared future," he said.

    The Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended on 14 October 2002 amid allegations of a republican spy ring at Stormont.

    The court case that followed collapsed and one of those charged, Denis Donaldson, later admitted working as a British agent.

    Direct rule from London was restored in October 2002 and has been in place since.

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

    Loyalist held in Stormont alert
    Convicted loyalist killer Michael Stone is being held after attempting to enter Stormont during a key debate to pave the way for restoration of devolution.

    He was detained by civilian security guards after entering Parliament Buildings with a bag. A gun was later retrieved. The building was evacuated.

    In 1988, Stone murdered three men at the funerals of three IRA members.

    The Stormont meeting was being held to hear if the DUP and Sinn Fein would indicate ministerial candidates.

    The alert happened about 20 minutes into the proceedings and Northern Ireland's politicians were quickly ushered out of the building.

    Stone murdered three men at the 1988 funerals of three IRA members killed by the SAS
    He was released early in June 2000, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement
    BBC political correspondent Gareth Gordon said security sources were treating an object left at the building as a live device. He said it looked as if the building would remain evacuated for the rest of the day.

    Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain has ordered an urgent report from Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde into the breach of security.

    Prime Minister Tony Blair said that despite the breach, the St Andrew's Agreement remained the only way forward.

    Speaking from Downing Street, Mr Blair said: "No move forward in Northern Ireland is easy, we've learned that over 10 years.

    "It's not because the people, or indeed, the leaders in Northern Ireland want it to be so, but because each step towards a different and better future is taken alongside the memory of a wretched and divisive past."

    It requires to be clarified as to whether or not we have witnessed a marriage or an engagement today
    Sir Reg Empey
    Ulster Unionist leader
    Friday had been billed by the two governments as a "critical day", with politicians gathered to hear if the DUP and Sinn Fein would indicate their candidates for the first and deputy first minister jobs.

    During the debate, Sinn Fein said Martin McGuinness was its choice for deputy first minister.

    In his speech, Mr Paisley said the circumstances had not been reached where there could be a nomination or designation by his party.

    "There can only be an agreement involving Sinn Fein when there has been delivery by the republican movement, tested and proved over a credible period in terms of support for the PSNI, the courts, the rule of law, a complete end to paramilitary and criminal activity and the removal of terrorist structures," he said.

    "Clearly, as Sinn Fein is not yet ready to take the decisive step forward on policing, the DUP is not required to commit to any aspect of power-sharing in advance of such certainty."

    UUP leader Sir Reg Empey challenged the Speaker, Eileen Bell, as to whether DUP leader Ian Paisley had actually indicated his party would nominate its choice for first minister.

    "It requires to be clarified as to whether or not we have witnessed a marriage or an engagement today," he said.

    However, Mrs Bell said that it was now a matter for Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain to decide.

    SDLP leader Mark Durkan said: "There is as much hollow farce as there is historic significance in what we have witnessed this morning".


    If all goes to the British and Irish government's plan, assembly elections will be held in March, with devolution restored later that month.

    The DUP and Sinn Fein get to nominate first and deputy first ministers as they are the largest unionist and nationalist parties in the assembly.

    For months the British and Irish governments billed 24 November as a make-or-break date.

    But since last month's St Andrews Agreement, the deadline has been watered down, with no talk of the politicians' wages and allowances being cut.

    Friday's meeting of the assembly was the first since legislation was passed to redesignate it as a transitional body which will be dissolved in January, to pave the way for elections in March.

    Ahead of the meeting, Mr Hain warned that he was prepared to pull the plug on Stormont unless it seemed that progress could be made.

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

    Michael Stone's release under the Good Friday agreement will be suspended of course and, I would imagine, cancelled.

    DECEMBER 29th 2006
    If Gerry Adams and the Sinn Fein leadership can carry the movement, serious progress can be made. The BBC report below summarises the situation. It is a historic moment. This web diary was started on the premise that we would get this far unless Adams and McGuinness, clearly working for a political solution that respected their position, were blocked by DUP intransigence or murdered by IRA hardliners. There is still a way to go, but the progression is logical.

    Adams confident of police outcome
    The Sinn Fein executive is due to meet in Dublin later to discuss the issue of republican support for policing in Northern Ireland.

    Gerry Adams called the meeting of the executive to consider his proposal for a special party conference on policing and justice next month.

    Sinn Fein support for policing would be viewed as removing one of the main obstacles to restoring devolution.

    The Sinn Fein president said he was confident of a positive outcome.

    Mr Adams said that if his motion was successful, the ard fheis (party conference) would be held in January.

    "I think what I am putting forward is the right thing to do," he said.


    "I will move all I can to meet all the concerns of the people involved, but this is me and our core leadership saying this is the right thing to do and this is the time to do it."

    The Sinn Fein move was welcomed by Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain.

    "All parties, Ian Paisley's DUP included, support the principle of policing and justice being devolved to the incoming executive when the time is right," he said.

    "The question was getting that time-frame in view and, on the other hand, getting absolute clarity that Sinn Fein were prepared to take what was a historic step for them, a seismic step."

    The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson also welcomed Mr Adams's statement and added that "words needed to be matched by deeds".

    "We will look at that very carefully to see what its implications are in terms of republicans calling on people in their communities to support the police, to co-operate with the police, to co-operate with the courts, and, if we get that in word, then it needs to be matched by deed," he said.

    "It's the quality of all of that that will determine how quickly we can move."

    SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell urged Sinn Fein to "seize the initiative on policing".

    "People on the ground have made the decision a long time ago that we need honest policing and we also need to protect the public," Mr McDonnell said.

    'Lost battle'

    "Until Sinn Fein engage seriously and honestly in the policing process, nationalist neighbourhoods will not have the policing they're entitled to."

    Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said Sinn Fein had "lost the battle on policing".

    "They have no support outside their own ranks for their current policy," he said.

    "The key to all of this is, what decision is the ard fheis being asked to endorse? Is it a qualified decision with power to be handed to the leadership to handle?

    "It's a first step. Will it be clear-cut or will there be further obfuscation?"

    Alliance Party leader David Ford said: "There is no point in holding the ard comhairle unless Gerry Adams is prepared to recommend to it that a special ard fheis is held to ensure that Sinn Fein moves forward and accepts its full responsibility in the area of justice and policing.

    "Some of us have been waiting for this since 1998. It's long overdue but nonetheless welcome."

    The British and Irish governments have named 7 March as the date for fresh assembly elections with a new executive expected to be up and running by 26 March.

    Northern Secretary Peter Hain has announced that elections to the assembly will be held on 7 March.

    Talks aimed at restoring the assembly and its executive have been taking place since the St Andrews Agreement negotiations in November.

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

    JANUARY 8th 2007

    Blair lauds Sinn Fein as row threatens deal

    Reuters Monday January 8, 11:48 AM
    DUBLIN (Reuters) - Sinn Fein has shown remarkable leadership Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Monday as he sought to defuse a row over policing and reassure the party its rivals are serious about sharing power in Northern Ireland.

    "Sinn Fein has demonstrated one of the most remarkable examples of leadership I have come across in modern politics," he wrote in the Irish Times.

    Blair, who last week cut short his holiday to intervene in the latest stand-off between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said both should seize a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a lasting peace".

    London and Dublin have set a March 26 deadline for the restoration of a Belfast-based, power-sharing assembly but the DUP is unwilling to sign up to the timetable until it is convinced Sinn Fein, whose largely Catholic following wants a united Ireland, is backing the police and the rule of law.

    Sinn Fein has long mistrusted a legal system it views as biased in favour of Protestant unionists, who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom.

    It has called a party conference to debate policing this month, but the DUP's failure to respond positively to the move means it is now in jeopardy.

    Senior Sinn Fein members are due to meet on Tuesday to decide whether the conference should go ahead and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said at the weekend the coming days would be key to determining if a deal can be clinched by March.

    Northern Ireland has been largely peaceful since a 1998 deal to end 30 years of conflict in which 3,600 people were killed, but London resumed direct rule of the province in 2002 after the collapse of the Belfast Assembly it now hopes to reinstate.

    Blair, who wants to seal a positive legacy for Northern Ireland before he leaves office this year, said Sinn Fein backing for the police would be of profound significance.

    "They need to know clearly that if they do make this move ... then unionism will not be found wanting," he wrote, adding he believed the DUP was ready to govern with Sinn Fein from March provided the commitment on policing was forthcoming.

    The DUP has given no such public undertaking, however, and one of the party's MPs, Nigel Dodds, said on Sunday unionists needed to be confident of Sinn Fein support for law and order before moving.

    "No one can look into a crystal ball and foresee when that's going to be," he added.

    JANUARY 22nd 2007

    N.Irish police colluded with killers, report says

    Reuters Monday January 22, 11:45 AM
    BELFAST (Reuters) - Top officers within Northern Ireland's police force allowed Protestant paramilitary informers to carry out murders for more than a decade, a report by the province's police ombudsman said on Monday.
    The report, which details findings from a three-year probe, says Special Branch officers turned a blind eye to the criminal activities of a unit of the outlawed Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in order to protect "agents" within its ranks.
    [End of Reuters extract]

    I am sure that they did, for one simple reason. Although we always for good reason always held that the business of all UK forces was law enforcement, the truth is that the IRA were fighting a war and behind the scenes, those bearing the brunt of operations acknowledged this. As we have have been reminded by happenings all over Europe and the Middle East, civilisation hangs by a thread. Civil war broke out in Yugoslavia and now in Iraq, it could happen in Spain and could have very easily happened in Ireland. Beneath the surface, desperate efforts were used, including the running of informers and the toleration of actions that are not acceptable in peacetime, to prevent the emergence of civil war structures and commands. We have finally moved on, We have reached the point of understanding where it is accepted by the leadership of both camps that Irish Nationalist goals are legitimate if sought by peaceful political means. That was NOT previously the case. It is established that a reversion to civil war, whether acknowledged publicly or not, cannot achieve.anything but destruction, poverty and suffering. We see that this is true throughout the world.

    For these reasons it is pointless to revisit these events and crimes. They have to be seen as part of a war that is over. That is not to say it is not very sad indeed to learn of these things and very necessary that they should be exposed. In wartime, many terrible things happen out of sight of commanders. Recent events worldwide have made that clear.  Those sitting in relative security and comfort should think twice before criticising those who suffered on both sides and those whose duty it was to face these events, violence and hatred from day to day.

    JANUARY 28th 2007

    Here is the news we have been waiting for. Those who have accepted for some time now that Sinn Fein has been sincere in its aim to pursue its political aims by peaceful means will not be surprised. Disagreeing with those aims is not sufficient reason for frustrating them by undemocratic means..

    Sinn Fein votes to support police
    Sinn Fein members have voted to support policing in Northern Ireland for the first time in the party's history.

    About 900 party members voted on the motion at a special party conference (ard fheis) in Dublin which was attended by more than 2,000 people.

    Sinn Fein support for policing and DUP commitment to power-sharing are seen as essential to restoring NI devolution.

    A six hour debate was cut short as the leadership forced a vote which was carried with almost unanimous support.

    Speaking after the vote, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the decision was truly historic.

    "Today you have created the potential to change the political landscape on this island forever," he said.

    "You have created the opportunity to significantly advance our struggle and you have seized the opportunity to further our primary objective of united Ireland through the building of greater political strength."

    Mr Adams also said that republicanism and unionism had reached an historic compromise.

    You have created the potential to change the political landscape on this island forever
    Gerry Adams

    "If the promise and hope of the peace process is to deliver peace and prosperity, that means beginning a real dialogue, an anti-sectarian dialogue, a dialogue which will move us to a real future," he added.

    A spokesman for Tony Blair said the prime minister welcomed the "historic decision and recognised the leadership it has taken to get to this point".

    PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde also welcomed the move.

    "Our view has always been that policing is a public service which every member of the community should be able to access on an equal and equitable basis," he said.

    "I have always said that no ideology or individual should stand between the public and that service and that the community is entitled to have their public representatives hold this police service to account."

    Professor Sir Desmond Rea, chairman of the Policing Board, said he was now looking forward to Sinn Fein joining the body.

    "Full political and community support for policing will be for the benefit of the whole community," he added.

    'Step forward'

    DUP MP for East Antrim Sammy Wilson said he accepted Sinn Fein had taken a step forward.

    He said: "The ultimate test of this, because there is no trust in Sinn Fein, is will they deliver on supporting policing before they get into government?

    "They cannot get into government and not support the police."

    Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said the move was "a massive step change in the republican psyche".

    "It is an admission that the violent 'cause' has been abandoned and that Sinn Fein are prepared to support the forces of law and order in this part of the United Kingdom," he added.

    Mr Blair and Irish Premier Bertie Ahern have identified Sinn Fein support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) as being crucial to persuading the DUP to share power in a devolved government with Sinn Fein by 26 March.

    If an election does not occur, Stormont will be dissolved indefinitely.

    The transitional assembly at Stormont will dissolve on 30 January in anticipation of an election on 7 March.

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