There’s no mistaking what today’s big news is. Here’s the IRSP statement read out in Bray:
STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE LEADERSHIP OF THE IRISH REPUBLICAN SOCIALIST MOVEMENT
The INLA and IRSP were formed in 1974 in order to create a 32 County Socialist Republic. In those 35 years military volunteers and political activists have fought with courage and honour and have struck at the heart of the British military and political machine in Ireland and in Britain. The INLA is a key constituency within the Republican Socialist Movement (RSM). The INLA recognised that its struggle was based upon two distinct phases:
(1) Armed Resistance
(2) Political Organisation
In 1994 the INLA put in place a no first strike policy and in 1998 called a complete cease-fire. Both of these decisions were based on its political analysis and monitoring of the changing military and political environment. The recent progress on loyalist decommissioning can be traced back to the INLA’s “no first strike policy” of 1994 and the INLA acknowledges this progressive step by loyalism.
The RSM has been informed by the INLA that following a process of serious debate, consultation and analysis, it has concluded that the armed struggle is over and the objective of a 32 County Socialist Republic will be best achieved through exclusively peaceful political struggle.
The RSM agree with this analysis and are fully supportive of the move to build a left wing party that has a clear objective of a 32 County Socialist Republic based on the principles of equality, justice, inclusion, human rights and dignity.
It is within the above objective that the RSM opposed the Good Friday Agreement and continues to do so. We as a movement believe that the Six County State is not a viable political entity, which cannot be reformed and fitted into a flawed two State solution.
The RSM has always aspired to the principle of the primacy of politics as espoused by Ta Power.
The future struggles are political. We urge all comrades, members, volunteers and supporters to join the political struggle ahead with the same vigour, commitment and courage that was evident in our armed struggle against the British State.
To para-phrase James Connolly ‘let us arise’, build a left political alternative in Ireland and support the struggle against global capitalism.
Ultimately our allegiance is to the working class, onwards to victory.
This has been some time coming, and has been foreshadowed by discussions at IRSP ardfheiseanna in recent years. It hasn’t so much been a question, though, of whether the INLA would be formally stood down – it’s been largely inactive for a long time – but the modalities of it. As readers will know, republican organisations have always, well at least since the initial breach between the IRA and Sinn Féin circa 1925, had to negotiate the inbuilt tension between the party and the armed wing, or Group A and Group B if you prefer. In this case we should probably add Group C, the ex-prisoners’ group which has come to wield significant influence.
Informally, IRSP members have been clear for a long time – and this has been heard in the meetings they’ve been holding in Derry, Strabane and elsewhere – that the armed wing was essentially redundant, and there was no basis for a return to armed activity. There remained, however, the small matter of persuading the armed wing of this, which was complicated by some of the essentially criminal elements who had got in over the years. Added to that, although the peace process provides incentives for armed groups seeking to politicise, a small group like the INLA has limited bargaining power. The two governments say no deal has been done, but I expect there has been some kind of understanding, even if only a negative one based on the need to dump weapons before the IICD’s mandate, and associated legal exemptions, run out next year.
Nonetheless, the current IRSP leadership have been very insistent that they were burying militarism and seeking a political role. Occasionally they’ve got quite irate when people have been understandably sceptical of that. It remains to be seen, though, what exactly they view as a political way forward. There’s been speculation that they might forge an alliance with People Before Profit – the SWP have loudly and undiplomatically let it be known that they wouldn’t work with an IRSP that still retained an armed wing, which is a bit of a turnaround from the SWM line in 1975, although it may be politic for KA to gloss over that. And quite how People Before Profit fits into Costello’s concept of the anti-imperialist front beats me.
In related news, the Irish News is reporting that The Group That Doesn’t Exist is in discussions with the IICD. If so, this is a little surprising, as, while it’s true the Sticks never disarmed, there has been absolutely no political pressure on them so to do, and Group B hasn’t even been mentioned in IMC reports. On the other hand, the rationale for the Officials retaining some weapons – and I don’t at all dismiss this – was for self-protection, and specifically in case the Provos fancied repeating the 1975 pogrom. That rationale is now gone. And it sort of ties in to the worries expressed in IMC reports about IRSP members being involved in stirring up trouble in North Belfast. If the kids up there aren’t scared of Gerry Kelly and Bobby Storey any more, we know the atmosphere has changed.