Negotiating the Provisional IRAceasefire
The dominant issue for the Labour government for most of 1975 was the
PIRA’s ceasefire. The ceasefire had great implications for security policy
and the political scene. It provided the backdrop to the Northern Ireland
Constitutional Convention, which lasted from May 1975 through to March
1976, and deeply affected the Labour government’s relationships with
political parties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with the government of the Republic of Ireland and with senior British army officers. The
called in 1994?
I had a second meeting two or three days before the
ceasefire, but I knew it was coming some weeks before. Though not stated explicitly, I knew
What happened from the IRAceasefire of 1994 to
the ending of that ceasefire with Canary Wharf?
I was certainly aware that things were getting
difficult. By the autumn of 1995 there was the impasse over decommissioning. Remember, also,
that we were in opposition at the time and, although we were staying in touch with the
This book provides an analysis of the politics, ideology and strategy of ‘dissident’ Irish republicans. Based on the largest survey of ‘dissidents’ to date, it offers unprecedented insight into who the ‘dissidents’ are and what they hope to achieve. The ninety interviewees for this book comprise members of ‘dissident’ groups, independents, elected representatives, current prisoners in Maghaberry prison, former senior members of the Provisional Movement and individuals who were active in the Republican Movement prior to the formation of the Provisionals in 1969. This book provides insight into the Provisional–‘dissident’ divide regarding tactics-versus-principles, a debate which strikes to the heart of republicanism. Uniquely, through interviews with key players, this book presents the mainstream Sinn Féin narrative, thus providing an insight into the contested narratives of these two worlds which encompass former comrades. This book locates ‘dissident’ republicanism historically, within the long trajectory of republican struggle, and demonstrates the cyclical nature of key debates within the republican leadership. Personal testimonies of key players demonstrate a nuanced spectrum of opinion on the current armed campaign regarding utility and morality; and republican views are presented on whether or not there should be any republican prisoners at present. Through unique interviews with a spokespersons for the Continuity and REAL IRAs, this book delves into the psyche of those involved in the armed campaign. Key themes explored throughout the book include the drawling of the fault lines, the varied strands of ‘dissidence’, ceasefires and decommissioning, the Good Friday Agreement, policing, ‘IRA policing’, legitimacy and mandates.
Hume’s interpretation of
London’s position and the possibility of a united Ireland achieved by
peaceful means. British intentions, he could argue, should now be tested
by an IRAceasefire.
Of course, to achieve this end, Hume knew that he needed more than the
words of one British minister. For though the republican leadership was certainly interested in what Brooke had said, the movement’s rank and file
would need something more substantial if it was to be convinced that there
was a genuine alternative to the armed struggle.16 Accordingly, following
the collapse of
Fraying at the edges: the Provisional IRAceasefire
Although the PIRA ceasefire lasted for most of 1975 the year was still a
violent one. Sectarian killings were especially high with loyalist paramilitaries targeting innocent Catholic civilians and republicans carrying out
their own horrific attacks against the Protestant community. Interfactional
fighting was prominent with feuding between the UDA and UVF and a
split within the Official IRA leading to the formation of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) and what would become known as the Irish
The real epilogue to the events and ideological debates described above was
not only the armed conflict that lasted until the definitive IRAceasefire in
1997 but also the political events culminating in the May 2007 agreement
between Sinn Féin and the DUP to share power. The enthusiasm engendered
by that historic compromise has been since tempered but the structures look
destined to survive.
Despite their claim that the Provisionals eventually came to adopt their
strategy, the modernising faction gained nothing politically if that was the
, was the site of a breakdown of the IRAceasefire. In Ballymurphy,
from which hundreds fled, several people, including children, were killed by
the British army. Sectarian assassinations escalated and that month also saw the
carnage of Bloody Friday. The tone of the official reports does not convey
this sense of terror. Nor is hard to discern an element of class judgement on
the people seeking help (80% of whom were children) and their behaviour.
By and large, those who came in 1972 were from urban working-class backgrounds,
while the officialdom they dealt with
ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy-Smith and Senator Ted Kennedy, to obtain
a US visa for IRA veteran Joe Cahill.37 Having been sentenced to death in 1942
along with the executed Tom Williams, Cahill had been a major figure in
subsequent IRA campaigns and his mission to sell the idea of a ceasefire to the
IRA’s Irish-American supporters was seen as a vital piece of the jigsaw.38
Bringing weeks of speculation to an end, the IRA announced ‘a complete cessation
of military operations’ effective from midnight, 31 August 1994. In what was
No Solution uncovers the transition from a point in the Northern Ireland conflict where British governments’ sought a quick-fix solution to one where key ministers and civil servants had accepted that attrition would continue for many years. A number of other accounts have tended to assume that the British state, enjoying more resources than other parties to the conflict, had the capacity to impose a solution in Northern Ireland but lacked the insight to do so. This book reveals that such resources could not overcome political conditions in Northern Ireland during these key years. Those who have argued that the Good Friday Agreement could have been achieved twenty years earlier are shown to have failed to appreciate the context of the 1970s. Utilising a wide range of archival correspondence and diaries, this monograph covers the collapse of power-sharing in May 1974, the secret dialogue with the Provisional IRA during the 1975 ceasefire, the acquiescence of Labour ministers in continuing indefinite direct rule from Westminster, efforts to mitigate conflict through industrial investment, a major shift in security policy emphasizing the police over the army, the adaptation of republicans to the threat of these new measures and their own adoption of a ‘Long War’ strategy. It sheds light on the challenges faced by British ministers, civil servants, soldiers and policemen and the reasons why the conflict lasted so long. It will be a key text for researchers and students of both British and Northern Irish politics.
This chapter deals with the aftermath of the collapse of power-sharing and the Labour government’s attempts to produce an entirely new constitutional approach. To many at the time, British policy for the remainder of 1974 was frustratingly static, both on the political front and in dealing with paramilitary violence. Though the period might be characterised as one of drift, significant developments occurred behind closed doors. Plans were developed for an expected Provisional IRA ceasefire and the Gardiner commission produced its report, identifying many of the key changes that would follow and supporting Rees in his desire for a security policy which moved away from detention without trial and placed greater emphasis on the police. Rees also declared his plan for a constitutional convention in which politicians in Northern Ireland would be given the task of seeking an agreement without imposition from Dublin or London.