22 December 2005

Was there a Stormontgate?

Belfast Telegraph

Via Newshound

**I don't agree with Maloney's apparently favourable view of brit motives, but I am posting the article because it makes several interesting assertions.

The Sinn Fein theory, that the spooks are out to destroy the peace process, suffers from a fundamental flaw. Not only is it rubbish, but the exact opposite is the truth, says Ed Moloney

By Ed Moloney
featureseditor@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
21 December 2005

IT is difficult to say which of the two spectacles visible in the wake of Denis Donaldson's outing as a long-term British spy was the more depressing to watch: the sight of the Sinn Fein leadership once more trotting out the securocrat conspiracy theory - this time that it was MI5 and the PSNI Special Branch who had invented the Stormont spy ring - or that of so many in the media again giving this nonsense credibility.

Of the two the latter has to be the most disturbing. One can hardly blame the Shinners for raising the securocrat scare again. Blaming obdurate security force personnel for shoring up unionist intransigence over power-sharing went down a treat with their own people, provided a ready-made excuse not to do things like decommissioning and sharpened the sectarian divisions which fuelled their electoral rise.

Why drop a winning formula, especially when the media happily swallowed it?

This time the Provo leadership had another reason to use the ploy, and that was to cover their embarrassment over the Donaldson revelation.

This is a development which, alongside Freddie Scappaticci's exposure as a spy within the IRA's counter-intelligence section, raises valid questions about who really has been running and guiding the Provisional movement in recent years: the British, the Adams-McGuinness leadership, or the two together?

The Provos have good reasons to seek refuge behind securocrat skirts, but by this stage of the game - post-Northern Bank - the media should have learned to regard everything said by Sinn Fein as a potential, if not probable, lie.

Not only that, but in the light of the recent sensational claims made by Messrs Adams and McGuinness it is surely time to exercise a critical judgment and to assess the evidence.

Boiled down to essentials, what the Sinn Fein leadership is saying amounts to this: in an attempt to prevent Sinn Fein staying in government, and as part of an effort to kill off the peace process, MI5 and the PSNI leadership conspired to subvert the policies of their democratically elected Prime Minister, Tony Blair by inventing a spy ring at Stormont, thereby ensuring the collapse of the Executive.

If this is true, and the spooks had managed to get away with it, then Stormontgate would represent one of the most audacious anti-democratic plots in British history - one that dwarfs the allegations of spookish dirty tricks against Harold Wilson in the 1970s.

Common sense suggests that in such circumstances, amounting to a grave constitutional crisis, Tony Blair would have to move quickly to crush such dangerous dissent or see his authority fatally eroded. But he hasn't. And that is because he knows Adams and McGuinness are playing politics and that what they say is so much eyewash.

The Sinn Fein conspiracy theory - that the spooks are out to destroy the peace process - suffers from a more fundamental flaw. Not only is it rubbish, but the exact opposite is the truth. The peace process represents the wildest fantasies of the security establishment come true and the last thing the spooks want is to see it destroyed.

The peace process has enabled MI5 and the PSNI Special Branch to achieve something that very few if any security forces have ever accomplished: to see their enemy defanged by its own leadership and led out of violent revolutionary ways into constitutional politics and a world where the principle of consent overrides the Armalite.

MI5 and the PSNI know they could never have done this themselves, that they needed people like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to do it for them.

So why on earth would the spooks want to undermine them, to frustrate them and place obstacles in their way as the Provo leadership claim they have consistently done - most recently with Stormontgate?

To have done so would have been to act fundamentally against their own interests. It just wouldn't make sense.

Not only does the Sinn Fein conspiracy theory not hold water, but the evidence about securocrat behaviour is strongly to the contrary. Three episodes tell the story.

Not long after the IRA robbed the Northern Bank and the Provos were under pressure, Martin McGuinness singled out a civil servant in the Northern Ireland Office called Joe Pilling as a perfect securocrat-type.

Calling him the 'Chief British Intelligence Officer', Pilling was berated for deploring the prospect of a Sinn Fein Assembly majority in the course of a talk in the United States.

Joe Pilling was not a spook but the Permanent Secretary at the NIO at the time the Good Friday Agreement was negotiated. It was Pilling who strongly pushed to decouple IRA decommissioning and the release of IRA prisoners against the wishes of many unionists. He succeeded and prisoners got out without the IRA giving up a single bullet, but if he hadn't the peace process would have been pitched into a real and possibly fatal crisis. Was this the behaviour of a securocrat out to destroy the process?

In October 1996 Gerry Adams faced the greatest crisis in his IRA career. An IRA Convention had been called in the wake of the collapse of the IRA ceasefire and dissidents were planning to overthrow him.

What did the RUC Special Branch do when they found out? According to ex-Chief Superintendent Bill Lowry, successful efforts were made to stop dissident delegates attending. Adams survived by the skin of his teeth, as did the peace process, but if those dissidents had got to the meeting it might have been a different story.

Was this the behaviour of securocrats out to destroy the process?

In 1987, Gerry Adams opened secret contacts with then Northern Ireland Secretary Tom King and the peace process was under way. A year later British military intelligence discovered, via UDA agent Brian Nelson, a plot to kill Gerry Adams. They stepped in and Adams' life was saved, and with it the peace process.

Was this the behaviour of securocrats out to destroy the process?

Ed Moloney is the author of 'A Secret History of the IRA'

Comments:
"The peace process has enabled MI5 and the PSNI Special Branch to achieve something that very few if any security forces have ever accomplished: to see their enemy defanged by its own leadership and led out of violent revolutionary ways into constitutional politics and a world where the principle of consent overrides the Armalite.

MI5 and the PSNI know they could never have done this themselves, that they needed people like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to do it for them.

So why on earth would the spooks want to undermine them, to frustrate them and place obstacles in their way as the Provo leadership claim they have consistently done - most recently with Stormontgate?"

To hear Maloney tell it above, the best interests of Sinn Fein were also the best interests of the security services. His logic has them as partners. Unfortunately for Maloney, his logic also dictates that the security services would be working to promote the best interests of Sinn Fein at every opportunity. Unless Maloney can prove that such was the case (and good luck to him in that effort), he's merely spewing the textual content of his dementia, and being far from logical in his analysis.
 
One other point that Maloney conveniently forgets: the security services want to maintain the NI state and the republicans want to terminate its existence. That makes for a very uncomfortable partnership. Only an idiot or a propagandist would suggest that two agencies with such contrasting agendas were natural bedfellows in the peace process. The secureocrats want a disarmed republican movement, for sure: but do they want to be governed by republicans? Sure they do - in the same way that the English want to be governed by the Germans.
 
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
I was hoping someone would if I included Maloney's article. I love your expression: 'spewing the textual content of his dementia'. Gonna remember that one!
 
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