The peace process is currently working in this way. The IRA is preparing for a ceasefire, of longer duration than any earlier ones. It hopes for concessions in the run-up to the ceasefire, and is already getting some. The decision of John Major's government to transfer prisoners from jails in mainland Britain to Northern Ireland was such a concession, although this is denied. Denials of the truth are a staple of this peace process.
Further concessions are expected from Albert Reynolds' government, which has already conceded far more to Sinn Fein - still the propaganda arm of the IRA - than any previous government in the history of the Irish State. It was in the hope of a ceasefire that Mr Reynolds gave Sinn Fein access, for the first time, to the national broadcasting network.
In the same hope, Mr Reynolds used his influence with the Friends of Ireland in Congress to win for the president of Sinn Fein the US visa previously denied him. Once admitted to the US, Gerry Adams used the broadcasting time lavishly accorded to him entirely to denounce the British government, Mr Reynolds' partners in this versatile peace process. Mr Reynolds is now hinting that, once there is a ceasefire of plausible duration, Sinn Fein will be admitted to his Forum for Peace and Conciliation, whose composition as a pan-Catholic and pan-nationalist all-Ireland institution will then be complete.
Also complete will be Sinn Fein's official rehabilitation in the eyes of the Catholic and nationalist community throughout Ireland. And when Sinn Fein is rehabilitated, the IRA itself comes in from the cold. It is already the unacknowledged ally of Mr Reynolds' government in advancing the nationalist agenda, under cover of the peace process.
A ceasefire - limited and conditional of course - is therefore an attractive proposition from the IRA's point of view. But first it must demonstrate that it is granting a ceasefire from a position of strength. Such a demonstration is required for two reasons. First, it vindicates the leadership in the eyes of the rank-and-file, and so legitimises their ceasefire order. Second, when the ceasefire happens, advance demonstration of the destructive power of the IRA generates a salutary dread among the public of what might happen when the ceasefire ends. This could be conducive to very large further concessions.
This was the logic of the Heathrow mortar-bombings last March, two weeks before the IRA's three-day Easter ceasefire. A longer ceasefire needs to be preceded by a larger atrocity. Hence that two-ton bomb at Heysham in the service of the peace process, as that process is understood by the IRA. It is certainly not how the process is understood by the partners in the Downing Street Declaration. But then the Declaration itself, and the progress of the peace process since then, are clear evidence that the partners in that Declaration have no understanding of the IRA.
No understanding, only a helpless fear of it and an abject, wishful willingness to accept its disinformation. Indeed, it was an exceptionally effective piece of IRA disinformation that begot the Declaration in the first place. Gerry Adams succeeded in convincing John Hume that the IRA was so 'war- weary' that it would cease violence permanently, provided Dublin and London would only accord it a face- saving formula with some recognition of 'self-determination' in it.
Mr Hume succeeded in imbuing Mr Reynolds with the same fatuous conviction, and Mr Major went along with it, thinking no doubt that Mr Hume and Mr Reynolds knew what they were doing, which they didn't, as is now obvious. The only one, out of the four involved, who knew what he was doing was Mr Adams. And that unfortunately is still the case. This peace process, in all its phases, is a Sinn Fein- IRA benefit.
The present phase, however, is sharply distinct from the Downing Street phase. In December, the IRA was pretending to be 'war-weary'. This week it has demonstrated that it is nothing of the kind. It did so with the murder of one well-known Unionist, Ray Smallwood, in Lisburn, and the attempted murder of an even better-known Unionist, the Rev William McCrea, MP: all on the eve of Twelfth July - the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne - for the maximum provocative effect on the Unionist community, and on loyalist paramilitaries in particular. About the same time came the 160lb mortar attack on a military helicopter in South Armagh, and the fortunate foiling of an intended spectacular in Britain by the interception at Heysham.
Those who pretended to be war- weary last winter no longer feel the need for any such pretence. Things would be in a healthier condition now if those who were conned last December would at least admit that they had been conned. Instead, they use each new atrocity as an occasion to reaffirm their determination 'not to be deflected from the peace process'. But the perpetrators are not trying to deflect anyone from the peace process. The IRA loves the peace process and is prepared to play its part in it indefinitely, under the sign of the Orwellian equation: Peace Means War.
One of the many benefits the IRA derives from peace process illusionism is its effect on the security forces, especially in Northern Ireland. If the IRA is about to make peace, why should one risk one's life in making trouble for the IRA? That is the kind of question calculated to rot the morale of any security force. And the present chief constable in Belfast, Sir Hugh Annesley, appears himself to be a victim of the peace process. Last week he affirmed his belief that the IRA is genuinely preparing for peace.
Such a statement can do nothing to stop any tendency to rot in the security forces in Northern Ireland. And the incident of the bomb on the ferry is prima facie evidence that such a rot now exists. The bomb was discovered at Heysham, thanks to the vigilance of security personnel there, to whom praise and honour are due. But it was put aboard the ferry at Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland. How come the security people there missed it? I have not seen that question even asked, let alone answered, but it should be asked, and with insistence.
Unless the emphasis is taken off the illusions about peace, and put heavily back on security, where it belongs, the IRA will continue to get away with murder.
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