They had never gone away


Four sets of quotes spanning 16 years on the Provisional IRA and its ceasefire. In each case emphasis has been added by me.

After the July 1999 murder of Belfast taxi driver and low-level police informer Charles Bennett:

The official response to his murder, delivered on Thursday by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, has thrown a shadow over the peace process. Almost in the same breath, she declared that “there is no doubt that the IRA were involved in the Bennett murder” and that there is “not a sufficient basis to conclude that the IRA ceasefire has broken down.” — (Irish Independent)

The ceasefire relates to attacks against the British state, but the IRA retains the right to deal with matters in its own community, said a republican source. “That includes taking action against informers, carrying out `punishment’ attacks, and `policing’ dissidents if need be.” — (Irish Times)


At the sentencing in 2010 of Harry Fitzsimmons, convicted of the 2004 abduction of dissident Bobby Tohill from Kelly’s Cellars pub in Belfast City Centre:

Belfast Crown Court was told the attack in February 2004 was meant as a message to Tohill not to oppose the then fledgling peace process.

Jailing Fitzsimmons for what he described as a violent preplanned attack, Belfast Crown Court judge Lord Justice Girvan said it was “ironic” the Provisionals should, in the so-called interests of peace, use violence and intimidation to secure their ends. — (BBC)


In response to reported threats against the life of senior Belfast Republican Seamus Finucane by the armed dissident group Oglaigh na hEireann:

All sorts of thin lines were being walked. One source, commenting on the likely implications of any attack on Seamus Finucane, or any other mainstream republican figure, commented: “They [the dissidents] would be swatted like flies.” And that comment tells you that the IRA could be resurrected. … What would happen if they attacked a senior republican? They know the answer to that question. “The gear [guns] would be out,” one of them told me. — (Belfast Telegraph)


After the murder two weeks ago of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan in apparent retaliation for the May killing of former senior IRA member Gerard Davison:

One of our major lines of enquiry is that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in this murder. I have no information to say at this stage whether this was sanctioned at a command level or not and I am not prepared to speculate about that. — (PSNI Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes)

Individual members cooperated in shooting dead Kevin McGuigan in East Belfast but organisational structures have brought members of the outlawed organisation along the path of peace, Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable George Hamilton said.

Mr Hamilton said: “They are not on a war footing, they are not involved in paramilitary activity in the sense that they were during part of the conflict.” — (RTE News)

Reacting to Mr Hamilton’s view, [Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa] Villiers said: “It didn’t come as a surprise to me. My understanding is, very much in line with that of the chief constable, that a number of the organisational structures of the Provisional IRA still exist but that there is no evidence it’s involved in terrorism or paramilitary activity.” — (Belfast Telegraph)

But if you listened to Bobby Storey back in June 2014, you knew all this already.

We have a message for the British Government, for the Irish Government, for the cabal that is out there: we haven’t gone away, you know. — (Belfast Telegraph)

If you give them time to read …


They figure out the Iran deal is pretty darn good.

That’s the take of Slate’s Fred Kaplan:

Something interesting has happened the past few weeks. Many lawmakers have read the 159-page deal, known as the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” signed by Iran and the P5+1 nations (the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany). Many more have been briefed on the deal’s fine points by the American negotiators and technical specialists, as well as by Western ambassadors. And many of them—those who aren’t bound by GOP discipline or constituents’ pressure (and even a few who are)—have concluded that this is a good deal.

And it also appears that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his faithful lobbyists in AIPAC have badly overplayed what was at best a weak hand by so ferociously and publicly trying to kill the agreement in Congress. While the final cards haven’t yet been played, it looks more and more like Obama has held on to sufficient support among Senate Democrats to prevent the deal being blocked.

Kaplan’s piece is an excellent overview both of the politics, and of the details of the agreement itself. If you’ve followed the issue at all it is worth your time to read.  And Netanyahu and AIPAC may want to keep in mind this sage wisdom:

The Oath Keepers’ historic forebears

draft riot
Draft rioters, New York City, 1863.


The Oath Keepers, who rose to public prominence earlier this month through their appearance at the protests in Ferguson, MO, marking the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, are far from the first group of Americans to pledge to resort to arms to defend the Constitution and resist the tyranny of their own government. For historic precedent, meet the “Decemvirates.”

In 1863, amidst rising Northern opposition to Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, an anonymous letter was printed and circulated in Philadelphia calling for the formation of secret underground cells of armed fighters “ready to resist by armed force [Lincoln’s] tyrannical usurpations and those of his hired minions” and prevent the enforcement of the Conscription Act which had passed in March of that year, instituting a draft to replenish the ranks of the Union Army.

With a very few minor changes in wording, the letter (you can read the whole thing at Slate) could have been written by the Oath Keepers or any of the other multitude of anti-government “patriot” groups which have emerged from the shadows of the political far right over the last few years:

We are in the midst of the most desperate and cruel despotism that ever disgraced the civilized world. The worst form is about to be developed in the enforcement of the “Conscription Law,” by which men are to be torn from their families and homes, and forced to fight against their will, against the Constitution and against the voice of the majority of the people; in order that the present tyrants in power may be sutained in their usurpations.

Frankly, the chief difference between the Decemvirates, so-called because the cells were to be comprised of 10 members, and today’s self-appointed armed defenders of the Constitution is that today they organize in the open.  And they are far better armed.

Maybe the cops watched “Zulu”

Did the St. Louis cops stay up late watching old movies?


From a story at Slate, St. Louis police tried an … unusual … method of crowd control Wednesday night after more violent protests erupted following the killing of yet another young black man by police.

According to local black newspaper the St. Louis American, around 8 p.m. a line of police officers began “moving towards the crowd and started beating their batons on the ground” in unison. The paper reported that as the officers “advanced down the street,” the synchronous taps “seemed to further enrage the individuals who had temporarily formed pockets on the side street.” According to the paper, demonstrators seemed to take “the batons hitting the ground as taunts.”

Whatever the intended effect, the tactic did little to calm or disperse the crowd, and from there things escalated. Fires were set, nine people were arrested, and when it was all over there was even more community outrage at what was perceived as heavy-handed police response.

Apparently the tactic, while fairly common in Europe, is rarely seen in the United States. Alex Vitale, a sociologist at Brooklyn College who was interviewed for the Slate piece, said:

“The idea is a kind of ‘shock and awe’ effect. It represents a concrete threat that the police are prepared to use force to disperse people. On the one hand it is an organized, measured, and intentional show of force. On the other hand it can be very provocative, inviting additional throwing of rocks and bottles.”

Other experts weighed in as well.

Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD officer, echoed that explanation: “Think of the Roman soldiers banging on their shields to instill fear in the opponent,” he wrote to me. “It’s all about a psychological advantage.”

But how can a tactic that is now uncommon, and somewhat inscrutable, send a clear message? According to Doug Wyllie, editor in chief of the law enforcement news and commentary website PoliceOne, that’s sort of the point. “It really is just a matter of doing something that’s completely nonviolent,” he said. “The intent is to get people to think, ‘This is gonna get weird in a minute.’ ”

Personally, I don’t think the cops were looking to follow the example of their European counterparts. Nope, I think they were inspired by the classic 1964 war movie Zulu. Don’t believe me? Watch the clip below and judge for yourself.