Goodbye Friday Agreement
It was so predictable. In fact, in our July 1998 edition we forecast the inevitable breakdown of the April 1998 Good Friday Agreement between the British government, Sinn Fein-Irish Republican Army (ira) and the Ulster Unionists. Yet, in typical ostrich posture, the spin-doctors, politicians, negotiators and most commentators ignored the hard evidence of the seeds of failure built into this agreement.
Another deadline has come and gone with not one offensive weapon handed over by the ira. Yet, this time, the stakes have been raised even higher. As Northern Ireland Minister Peter Mandelson suspended the cabinet and institutions set up under the Belfast agreement (which had virtually legitimized local parliament), old fears reappeared as, predictably, the unpredictable once more became the order of the day in Ireland. As Deaglán de Bréadún of the Irish Times declared, “Anyone with long experience of the peace process will tell you that logic is a very poor guide when trying to work out what people will do next” (Feb. 14).
What the public fails to realize is that Northern Ireland is still an armed camp! Individual ira Brigade leaders possess a mindset of never parting with one bullet—they would rather die first! “In years to come, students of negotiating techniques will marvel at the skill of Sinn Fein and the artlessness of the Ulster Unionists and the British government. Sinn Fein has secured the release of some 160 ira terrorists, has two ministers in Northern Ireland’s new government, and has achieved the dismantling of the ruc [Royal Ulster Constabulary]. All this and they haven’t handed over a single gun” (Sunday Telegraph, Jan. 30, 2000).
Throwing Down the Gauntlet
Following the Northern Ireland referendum, the Protestant Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, threw down the gauntlet to the Republican Sinn Fein-ira. In spite of enemies and detractors in his own camp, Trimble delivered a Unionist agreement on a power-sharing assembly in Ireland last November. This involved an effort to bind the seemingly unbindable together—the sharing of power in a Northern Ireland executive between Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Unionists. At the time, Trimble challenged Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams: “We’ve done our bit Mr. Adams, it’s over to you. We jumped. You follow!”
As the Glasgow-based Sunday Herald commented on that occasion, “History now demands a matching gesture from the ira to hand in arms before the year’s end. If there is no movement from the Republicans, Northern Ireland will be borne back into the past, condemned to relive this century of conflict over again” (Nov. 28, 1999).
Every reasonable commentary at that time stated that the missing link in any guarantee of the perpetuation of the Northern Ireland “peace process” and hence the perpetuation of the newly convened North-South Ministerial Council was hard, tangible evidence of the ira terrorists laying down and yielding up their arms.
As another source commented, in relation to the prospect of withdrawal of the British Army from Northern Ireland, “Provided tangible progress is made on disarmament, and the threat from the Real ira [an ira splinter group] is deemed to be containable, the demilitarization timetable should be accelerated” (Belfast Telegraph, Dec. 6, 1999).
Yet another commentator at the time put it this way, “Peace in Ireland has always waited for the shadow of the gunman to lift. For peace in Ireland, it is the 1 percent, the remaining men with guns still committed to the war, who must be persuaded to jump—not the politicians” (op. cit., Sunday Herald).
Seeds of Destruction
The trouble with the newly formed Protestant-Catholic government is that it was based upon a constitution with a foundation of sand—the British-Irish agreement, known as the “Good Friday Agreement” of April 10, 1998. This document, brokered by U.S. Senator George Mitchell, purports to consolidate an agreement between two religiously and culturally opposed forces—Irish/Catholic Sinn Fein (the political wing of the terrorist Irish Republican Army) and British Protestant Ulster Unionists.
Anciently, the prophet Amos asked, “Can two walk together, unless they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The Northern Ireland cabinet and its institutions are simply a house divided! “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12:25).
The very Teacher whom both Catholics and Protestants claim as central to their respective theologies declared, “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matt. 7:26-27).
Almost two years ago, with the sure knowledge of that Teacher in mind, we were able to declare to you the reality of this sham Good Friday Agreement and predict its future: “At its best, it is a most shameful capitulation to the forces of terrorism. At its worst, it contains the sinister seeds of destruction of the very peace that it is touted to produce” (Trumpet, July 1998, p. 11).
Prime Minister Blair’s British government now finds itself in an unenviable position. The Ulster Unionists, in an effort to engage a serious effort toward peace, had simply called Sinn Fein’s bluff back in 1998. All parties to the Good Friday Agreement knew, at the time, that the agreement was predicated on the assumption, by the Unionists, by the British government and by negotiator Senator Mitchell, that the ira would decommission all armaments. David Trimble had declared when the new cabinet was established that the position of his party would be reviewed in the light of decommissioning progress made by the ira come February this year, only three months from the May 2000 absolute deadline set for full and complete decommissioning. In a tit-for-tat deal, Trimble had made it clear that the back-down by Ulster Unionists from their previous demand for evidence of decommissioning to precede any Catholic-Protestant agreement was in exchange for proof that imminent decommissioning by the ira would immediately follow.
Behind all this was the feeling of the people. In reality, the loyalist Protestants were as repelled by the sham peace agreement as was the ira. This revulsion emanates from two diametrically opposed and deeply rooted cultures underscored by their bloody history of the past 800 years. Put simply, the history, religion, culture and political aspirations of Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland are poles apart!
On the Catholic Republican side, reactions are conditioned by the mystique surrounding the sacrificial proclamation of the Republic of Ireland during Easter 1916. Seeking to take advantage of Britain’s distraction from Ireland by its engagement in World War I, an organization known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood believed, in the terms of Irish dissident Wolfe Tone, “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity.” Following the unsuccessful 1916 Easter Rising, 15 Republicans were executed by the British government. All had signed a proclamation declaring the formation of an Irish republic, loyal to the pope and in total rejection of the British Imperial monarchy. Although the partitioning of Ireland did not take place until 1921, Republicans regard the true establishment of their separation from all things British as being sealed in the sacrificial blood of the Easter Rising “martyrs.” Thus the republic transcends, in the minds of die-hard Republicans, “its limited, literal institutional-political meaning, and acquired sacral status” (Connor Cruise O’Brien, Ancestral Voices; emphasis mine throughout).
In truth, Republicanism is a Catholic movement and, akin to Catholicism, is detached from and immune to traditional democratic (Protestant) values.
As the venerable Irish historian O’Brien observes, Republicanism is “a cult, something to be practiced without question…. It is a sensitive medium for hearing voices and seeing ghosts; and what the voices and the ghosts are calling for is blood. Calling for it and getting it, in the Ireland of the late 20th century” (ibid. p. 115).
As we go to press, we anticipate the renewal of more blood sacrifices on the altar of Irish Republicanism. “The Provos [ira members], in the wake of the Omagh bombing, forced dissidents in the Real ira to declare a cease-fire. Since then, they have gathered in strength, and dissidents have now planted terrorist cells throughout mainland Britain. Waiting. Military and police intelligence has good information that the next few months will see dissident Republicans attempting another spectacular, to show that their dream of a 32-county united Ireland has not been bought off by power sharing” (op. cit., Sunday Herald).
Republicans simply ask themselves, should they surrender a centuries-old fight for a piece of paper which promises power-sharing and cross-border institutions, when history records the abject failure of the first such power-sharing enterprise in 1974, and the second initiative teeters on the brink of collapse? For Republicans it’s all-out war for total victory—the vanquishing of the hated British, the detested crown and all for which it stands, from Irish soil forever!
Somewhat akin to the collective persona of the Irish Catholic Republicans, the British Protestant Unionists’ attitude was forged through the shedding of much blood in sacrifice during the home rule crisis in Ireland in the early 20th century. For their commitment to remain British, many were willing to put their lives on the line under the Union Jack. The Republicans’ hatred and fear of the crown and Western democracy was equally matched by Protestant fear and hatred of Catholicism and the papacy. But whereas the ira subscribes to a culture of martyrs, the Ulster Unionists now operate from a siege mentality, born of the Protestant blood that has flowed during a litany of atrocities which have stained Republican hands. “Darkley, Enniskillen, Bloody Friday—an endless list of murdered innocents. The Loyalists have seen their market towns blown up, their friends killed in car bombs, their comrades shot dead, and feel they are being sold out. The unthinkable has happened: Sinn Fein, the ira’s mouthpiece, is to enter government, while the Provos still hold their weapons” (ibid.).
Although the Ulster Unionists have matched the ira with a continuing cease-fire, the dissident loyalist paramilitary groups wait and watch. Should the ira take them to the brink, they are determined to be ready. Arms still flow into Ireland into both ira and Ulster paramilitary hands to this day via the global gun-running cartels. The most hard-line of these dissident Protestant groups, the Loyalist Volunteer Force (lvf), is in the midst of a rapid recruitment drive, despite the cease-fire holding to this point.
Sword of Damocles
Caught in a trap of its own making, the British government now has a full deck stacked against it.
Under threat of the resignation of David Trimble, the British government suspended the Belfast cabinet in February. This enabled Mr. Trimble to retain office. Had Mr. Blair’s government not moved to suspend Ireland’s Protestant-Catholic government in time, they risked Trimble resigning, leaving the new cabinet leaderless with the prospect of his Ulster Unionists being in disarray.
However, Britain is now open to indictment by Sinn Fein for capitulating to Trimble’s threat, which their leader, Gerry Adams, has publicly interpreted as showing that the British retain the right of veto of the new Protestant-Irish Cabinet. Adams knows that Mr. Blair’s greatest fear is that the ira may now take matters into its own hands and, using the gun and semtex, blast its way back to the bargaining table on its own terms.
“The fear is that, overnight, at least half of the provisional ira would regroup under the banner of the ‘Real ira,’ which would then have the resources and the right political environment for restarting its campaign of violence” (Irish Times, Feb. 14).
This is the sword of Damocles that’s poised over Tony Blair’s head.
In the meantime, Adams taunted Tony Blair for caving in to the Protestants and failing to table a report from General de Chastelain, who leads the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. Adams claims the report indicated the imminence of a breakthrough in negotiations with the ira on decommissioning. Upon reading this report it becomes very clear that what Adams claims was a “major breakthrough” was in fact no more than mere words—and the words of lying terrorists at that—in exchange for any clear action on behalf of the ira to lay down their guns. Instead of even a token action of decommissioning, the ira’s representations to General de Chastelain yielded mere rhetoric.
We quote here the full text of paragraphs 7 and 8 of the commission’s report: “The representative indicated to us today the context in which the ira will initiate a comprehensive process to put arms beyond use, in a manner as to ensure maximum public confidence.
“The commission believes that this commitment, on the basis described above, holds out the real prospect of an agreement which would enable it to fulfill the substance of its mandate. We will make a further report to the two governments as appropriate.”
Vain words! Empty hope! Where’s the common sense in all this? Where’s the grip on reality? Where’s the real leadership? These leaders of Britain and Ireland, and their U.S. mentors, show none of the spine and mettle that Britain and the U.S. once exhibited at the peak of their real power. This is a hollowed-out leadership whose insensitivity to the reality of human nature and utter incomprehension of the cold-hard facts of history are just leading the Irish to a bloodbath!
This truly is Britain’s running sore. How the words of the prophet Hosea ring in the ears of those who have ears to hear. Of Britain, biblical Ephraim, the prophet declares, “Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart…. As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird…. Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer” (Hosea 7:11; 9:11, 13). Write for a free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy for a thorough study on the biblical identities of Britain and the U.S.
To where do the British turn to solve this crisis in Northern Ireland? Increasingly, given Britain’s modern history of withdrawal from imperial rule and its present membership in the European Union, two clear prospects emerge.
First, under continuing pressure from the pan-nationalists, with American backing, the British government may just disengage from Northern Ireland. Recent history has shown that, under similar conditions of continuing insurrection, the British reach a point where they just leave, and leave rather quickly—witness India in 1947, Palestine in 1948, and a whole pile of ex-African colonies since. This simply would leave both sides to fight it out.
The second option may in fact be imposed on the British government. There may be a hint of this prospect in a statement released by Irish Republican sources in February when Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government was suspended:
“The Irish government should have said: ‘We are not going to tolerate this being suspended over our heads and we are publicly going to say this is a breach of international law,’” (Irish Times, Feb. 14).
By invoking the prospect of Britain breaking international law, there may well be an implicit threat that the Republicans may seek their version of justice at the hands of the European court! Already Britain has had to succumb to rulings of the European court in the area of agriculture and in acquiescing, against the counsel of senior military offices, to the EU’s demand that the British armed services accept homosexuals into their ranks. While Britain remains a member of the EU, it now is apparent that its mother of parliaments and its most ancient judicial system may be overridden by the European Union!
Thus, it is entirely feasible that Prime Minister Blair’s government may find the outcome of the Irish peace process being dictated by the European Union.
Prime Minister Blair is backed into a corner. The Irish question has erupted once again. Which way will Britain turn? Will it cut and run—or cave in to the will of the European court? Either way, Britain is destined to lose in Northern Ireland.