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PSNI comments galvanise right wing commentators

September 14th, 2015 9:41 AM

By Southern Star Team

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ArchonWHO runs the country: the elected coalition government of Fine Gael and Labour or the Irish Independent?

The question has some relevance within the context of the Indo’s attempt to shape an important political discourse in the wake of a controversial comment by PSNI superintendent, Kevin Geddes. The policeman stated that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in the recent murder of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan.

The possibility that the IRA continued to exist galvanised right-wing commentators, and the Indo was no exception. Ferociously anti-republican since the days of William Martin Murphy, the current owners for reasons best known to themselves blazoned this legend across its front page: ‘Coalition cowers in face of new IRA threat’.

The headline was a classic example of over-the-top reporting, and many loyal Blueshirts considered the sensational caption to be the most loutish in the history of Irish journalism! It shocked Ireland and became as infamous as Murdoch’s ‘Kick This Mob Out (used in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph before the 2013 elections).

Soft on the IRA

And the background to the caption? In the light of the Geddes’ disclosure, the paper considered Frances Fitzgerald’s ‘soft line’ on ‘the re-emergence of the republican murder machine’ to be a sign of weakness. Hence the reference to a ‘cowering coalition’ (to cower: crouch or shrink, or huddle oneself up in fear), even though her ‘soft line’ amounted to nothing more than an opinion that the IRA no longer existed as a terrorist organisation.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan shared the minister’s viewpoint. She was of the opinion that the Gardaí ‘had no intelligence to suggest the PIRA still maintained its structures’ – a point also referred to in the Indo article.

The Department of Justice rowed in with a statement that acknowledged the complex status of the IRA and that some persons who had been associated with the IRA in the past went on to become involved in criminal activities.

But all that stuff was not good enough for the Indo, which proclaimed that the PSNI had been ‘far clearer’ in outlining the fact that the structures of the IRA remained in place.

One-sided criticism

So what exactly were the points at issue? They were these: the Indo wanted us to believe the IRA was still intact, with the implication that we should agree with senior Unionist figures who wanted Sinn Féin ‘excluded from power’.

The Indo also expected us to plump for its one-sided criticism of a prominent member of government, even though the comments were evocative of an unashamedly partisan political agenda. Particularly when the Chief Constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton, issued a major clarification relating to the IRA’s supposed existence and it did absolutely nothing to inhibit the newspaper’s tendentious analysis!

Hamilton explained that, although ‘some organisation infrastructure of the PIRA continued to exist,’ it had undergone ‘significant changes’ and no longer existed for paramilitary purposes. The IRA’s primary focus was now in promoting a peaceful, political

Said Hamilton: ‘Our assessment is that the Provisional IRA is committed to following a political path and is no longer engaged in terrorism.’ Importantly, he said there was no evidence the McGuigan killing was sanctioned by an IRA leadership.

At a public meeting in Derry’s Waterside last week, the Chief Constable repeated his assertion that he did not doubt Sinn Féin’s commitment to peace, and that his trust in Sinn Féin was why he did business with them. ‘Its purpose has radically changed in order to promote a peaceful republican agenda,’ he bluntly declared.

The Indo, however, wasn’t listening. Nor was it interested in the Monitoring Commission’s prediction that some former paramilitary members would get involved in crime, in spite of the IRA’s disbanding of its military structure. It was a situation that was going to ‘dog Northern Ireland for years’.

Bertie Ahern put it another way. He compared the demise of the Provisional IRA to what happened to the IRA after the War of Independence. It morphed into the Old IRA, a body ‘that continued on commemorating things until 60 years after. It didn’t offend anybody … once all these things were peaceful’.

Mischievous comment

The explanations of the Chief Constable, Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams, and other commentators, including Michael McDowell who also believed the Provisional IRA no longer existed as a military organisation, did not satisfy the Irish Independent. It smelt blood.

On the day following its ‘coalition cowering’ report, the Indo gloated in its success at touching a ministerial raw nerve. It claimed Minister Fitzgerald had made a ‘clear climb-down’ following her ‘weak response to the controversy’. This was evidenced by her request to An Garda Síochána to conduct a ‘fresh assessment of the status of the IRA.’

The newspaper crowed that the ‘under-fire Garda Commissioner’ would now be expected to come out in full support of her Northern counterparts in relation to claims about the IRA.

Sadly, several politicos saw the IRA-still-exists-controversy as an opportunity for mischievous comment. Joan Burton issued a warning about communities ‘being still at risk from an organisation linked to murder and racketeering’ and, ludicrously, advised that Sinn Féin’s ‘mafia-style codes of silence’ posed a risk to democracy.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton pronounced that Sinn Féin would never be allowed into government, but it was Mickey Martin’s rancorous attack that took the biscuit:

Despite statements to the contrary from police forces north and south, he alleged that the IRA structure not only existed but that it was involved in racketeering and criminality.

In response Pearse Doherty, TD, wondered aloud why Mickey did not bring up any of those issues when Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time the Good Friday Agreement was negotiated.

Prudence required

The point at issue, of course, is that the public dispute surrounding the supposed existence of the IRA is cynically fraudulent and has all to do with the forthcoming general election.

The message is this: Sinn Fein needs to be hammered, with as much damage as possible done to its electoral prospects.

But the mudslinging and smear campaign currently waged in pursuit of a political goal fade into insignificance when compared to the catastrophic damage likely to be inflicted on the Good Friday Agreement should the politicos and Indo not pull back.

Justice Minister Fitzgerald wisely called for calm and measured judgements and ‘not to cause difficulties for the already under pressure Northern Assembly’.

Defence Minister Simon Coveney pleaded for caution and ‘not to add to an already difficult situation’.

He and other level-headed Blueshirts are conscious of the government’s role of co-guarantor of the Agreement.

To imperil the Agreement would heap national and international opprobrium on Fine Gael; and it is for that reason Taoiseach Kenny has yet to make any significant comment on the Indo-inspired controversy since the newspaper commenced its dangerous antics last week.

ArchonWHO runs the country: the elected coalition government of Fine Gael and Labour or the Irish Independent?

The question has some relevance within the context of the Indo’s attempt to shape an important political discourse in the wake of a controversial comment by PSNI superintendent, Kevin Geddes. The policeman stated that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in the recent murder of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan.

The possibility that the IRA continued to exist galvanised right-wing commentators, and the Indo was no exception. Ferociously anti-republican since the days of William Martin Murphy, the current owners for reasons best known to themselves blazoned this legend across its front page: ‘Coalition cowers in face of new IRA threat’.

The headline was a classic example of over-the-top reporting, and many loyal Blueshirts considered the sensational caption to be the most loutish in the history of Irish journalism! It shocked Ireland and became as infamous as Murdoch’s ‘Kick This Mob Out (used in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph before the 2013 elections).

Soft on the IRA

And the background to the caption? In the light of the Geddes’ disclosure, the paper considered Frances Fitzgerald’s ‘soft line’ on ‘the re-emergence of the republican murder machine’ to be a sign of weakness. Hence the reference to a ‘cowering coalition’ (to cower: crouch or shrink, or huddle oneself up in fear), even though her ‘soft line’ amounted to nothing more than an opinion that the IRA no longer existed as a terrorist organisation.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan shared the minister’s viewpoint. She was of the opinion that the Gardaí ‘had no intelligence to suggest the PIRA still maintained its structures’ – a point also referred to in the Indo article.

The Department of Justice rowed in with a statement that acknowledged the complex status of the IRA and that some persons who had been associated with the IRA in the past went on to become involved in criminal activities.

But all that stuff was not good enough for the Indo, which proclaimed that the PSNI had been ‘far clearer’ in outlining the fact that the structures of the IRA remained in place.

One-sided criticism

So what exactly were the points at issue? They were these: the Indo wanted us to believe the IRA was still intact, with the implication that we should agree with senior Unionist figures who wanted Sinn Féin ‘excluded from power’.

The Indo also expected us to plump for its one-sided criticism of a prominent member of government, even though the comments were evocative of an unashamedly partisan political agenda. Particularly when the Chief Constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton, issued a major clarification relating to the IRA’s supposed existence and it did absolutely nothing to inhibit the newspaper’s tendentious analysis!

Hamilton explained that, although ‘some organisation infrastructure of the PIRA continued to exist,’ it had undergone ‘significant changes’ and no longer existed for paramilitary purposes. The IRA’s primary focus was now in promoting a peaceful, political

Said Hamilton: ‘Our assessment is that the Provisional IRA is committed to following a political path and is no longer engaged in terrorism.’ Importantly, he said there was no evidence the McGuigan killing was sanctioned by an IRA leadership.

At a public meeting in Derry’s Waterside last week, the Chief Constable repeated his assertion that he did not doubt Sinn Féin’s commitment to peace, and that his trust in Sinn Féin was why he did business with them. ‘Its purpose has radically changed in order to promote a peaceful republican agenda,’ he bluntly declared.

The Indo, however, wasn’t listening. Nor was it interested in the Monitoring Commission’s prediction that some former paramilitary members would get involved in crime, in spite of the IRA’s disbanding of its military structure. It was a situation that was going to ‘dog Northern Ireland for years’.

Bertie Ahern put it another way. He compared the demise of the Provisional IRA to what happened to the IRA after the War of Independence. It morphed into the Old IRA, a body ‘that continued on commemorating things until 60 years after. It didn’t offend anybody … once all these things were peaceful’.

Mischievous comment

The explanations of the Chief Constable, Bertie Ahern, Gerry Adams, and other commentators, including Michael McDowell who also believed the Provisional IRA no longer existed as a military organisation, did not satisfy the Irish Independent. It smelt blood.

On the day following its ‘coalition cowering’ report, the Indo gloated in its success at touching a ministerial raw nerve. It claimed Minister Fitzgerald had made a ‘clear climb-down’ following her ‘weak response to the controversy’. This was evidenced by her request to An Garda Síochána to conduct a ‘fresh assessment of the status of the IRA.’

The newspaper crowed that the ‘under-fire Garda Commissioner’ would now be expected to come out in full support of her Northern counterparts in relation to claims about the IRA.

Sadly, several politicos saw the IRA-still-exists-controversy as an opportunity for mischievous comment. Joan Burton issued a warning about communities ‘being still at risk from an organisation linked to murder and racketeering’ and, ludicrously, advised that Sinn Féin’s ‘mafia-style codes of silence’ posed a risk to democracy.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton pronounced that Sinn Féin would never be allowed into government, but it was Mickey Martin’s rancorous attack that took the biscuit:

Despite statements to the contrary from police forces north and south, he alleged that the IRA structure not only existed but that it was involved in racketeering and criminality.

In response Pearse Doherty, TD, wondered aloud why Mickey did not bring up any of those issues when Minister for Foreign Affairs at the time the Good Friday Agreement was negotiated.

Prudence required

The point at issue, of course, is that the public dispute surrounding the supposed existence of the IRA is cynically fraudulent and has all to do with the forthcoming general election.

The message is this: Sinn Fein needs to be hammered, with as much damage as possible done to its electoral prospects.

But the mudslinging and smear campaign currently waged in pursuit of a political goal fade into insignificance when compared to the catastrophic damage likely to be inflicted on the Good Friday Agreement should the politicos and Indo not pull back.

Justice Minister Fitzgerald wisely called for calm and measured judgements and ‘not to cause difficulties for the already under pressure Northern Assembly’.

Defence Minister Simon Coveney pleaded for caution and ‘not to add to an already difficult situation’.

He and other level-headed Blueshirts are conscious of the government’s role of co-guarantor of the Agreement.

To imperil the Agreement would heap national and international opprobrium on Fine Gael; and it is for that reason Taoiseach Kenny has yet to make any significant comment on the Indo-inspired controversy since the newspaper commenced its dangerous antics last week.

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