Johnny Fallon

Irish Political Commentator

Archive for the tag “Gerry Adams”

1994 – A timeline of Death that led to peace

20 years on it can be hard to recall just how dark things were in Ireland before the peace process. The summer of 1994 that led to the start of the process was a bloody and merciless few months. We can take peace for granted. There was no guarantee that the ceasefires would ever happen, indeed all the evidence seemed to suggest that it would be a summer of failure. This timeline records the moments in an effort to show just how difficult things were and how precarious the process was.

June 17 – UVF murders a Catholic Taxi Driver in Carrickfergus. A protestant building worker is killed in error in a separate UVF attack in Newtonabbey.

June 18 – Six men are killed and 5 wounded by the UVF as gunmen open fire in a pub in Loughlinisland as those in bar watched Ireland V Italy in World Cup. One of the dead, Barney Green was 87.

June 24 – Reynolds and Major hold a meeting in Corfu. British Government are sceptical of chances for peace. An agreement is reached that Dublin will change constitutional claim over territory of Northern Ireland. In return the British must change Government of Ireland Act and both sides agree to idea of North South bodies. Sinn Fein publishes report of its peace commission which finds 85 submission out of 228 calling for a 3 month ceasefire and also that the Downing Street Declaration only ensured Unionists would remain inflexible.

30 June – Report into Guildford 4 finds that the problem was ‘individual failures’ rather than failures of the system. Meanwhile Albert Reynolds pushes idea of North South Institutions saying that there is an important distinction between authority and co-operation.

6 July – In an important Dail speech that encourages the British Government, Dick Spring says that the Irish government does not want joint authority over NI but rather a political arrangement which would command the support of both traditions.

7 July – Prince Charles visits Derry.

9 July – UFF murders a Catholic man in Tyrone

10 July – The home of William McCrea is attacked by the IRA who fire over 40 shots at the house.

11 July – Ray Smallwoods of the UDP is shot Dead by the IRA

12 July The IRA attempts to smuggle explosives into the UK but a truck with two tons of explosives is intercepted in Lancashire. Albert Reynolds visits the US and promotes the idea of the economic benefits of peace saying that within months roads could be reopened and electricity interconnectors established. He makes clear that he believes the North could be demilitarised quickly too. However James Molyneaux dismisses Reynolds views and says that North South institutions are merely a stepping stone to Irish Unity.

16 July – Loyalist prisoners riot in Crumlin rd prison.

17 July – Body of Caroline Moreland is found in Fermanagh. She was executed by the IRA as an informer.

19 July – James Molyneaux meets with John Major in an attempt to shore up British government support. Major needs the Unionist party vote in parliament. After the meeting a satisfied Molyneaux says that the idea of North South bodies is ‘unreal’.

22 July – UFF kill a catholic man in Belfast.

24 July – Hopes of peace are dashed at a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Letterkenny. Gerry Adams suggests that the Downing Street declaration marked progress for the governments but little more than that he says it ‘does not deal adequately with the core issues and this is crucial’. The British government are deeply concerned by the development. Dublin maintains that it is still and evolving situation that requires more time.

28 July – Gardai find an arms cache in Co Meath. It contains 24 Kalashnikovs, a flame thrower, machine guns, a rocket Launcher, mortars, 30,000 rounds of ammunition and bomb making equipment.

29 July – The IRA mortar bomb the Newry police station injuring 40 people.

31 July – The IRA steps up activity, killing two leading UDA figures in Belfast. The British government starts to come under pressure about its peace strategy.

1 August – Dick Spring continues to talk to British counterparts to keep them on board but the situation is increasingly pressurised with both governments exposed to severe criticism. Albert Reynolds is making secret contact with the IRA through Fr Alex Reid.

3 August – Some fresh hopes emerge as Gerry Adams says that having met with the IRA leadership he is ‘guardedly optimistic’ of ceasefire prospects.

5 August – UVF murder a protestant man who they say was an informer in Belfast

7 August – The UVF enter the home of Kathleen O’Hagan, they believe her husband to have supported republicans in the past. Her husband is not there. Her children run and hide under a bed she stands over her baby crying in the cot and is shot several times. She was also pregnant at the time.

8 August – A part time member of the Royal Irish Regiment is murdered by the IRA in Co. Down.

9 August – Irish Media report that Loyalist paramilitaries have met and agreed that they will continue their campaign even if the IRA were to call a ceasefire. There are suggestions that both sides of the paramilitary divide contain a significant number who are opposed to any ceasefires and wish to force their opponents to continue.

10 August – The UFF shoot a Catholic security Guard in Belfast

11 August – A Catholic worker in a printers is murdered because the company prints An Phoblacht

12 August – Hugh Annesley of the RUC holds out an olive branch to paramilitaries suggesting that patrols could be reduced in the event of a ceasefire. Albert Reynolds tells Sean Duignan that the time has come for an ultimatum and that he is going to send a message to the IRA to say it’s now or never or they ‘can shag off’. He says they have a choice to support this move now or continue the killing for another 25 years but he intends to tell them if they do he will walk away and they will have nothing to show for their campaign except more dead bodies.

13 August – Tensions rise in Britain as an IRA bomb explodes in Bognor Regis while another is defused in Brighton.

14 August – The UFF murder a Catholic man in Belfast

15 August – John Bruton warns that Sinn Fein cannot be brought into talks without a complete cessation of violence. He warns against any contact with them and says that the worst possible outcome would be a ceasefire where the governments are later forced to relax the terms in order to keep them at the table under a threat of violence. Meanwhile Unionists are increasingly suspicious of John Majors contacts with the Irish government and Sammy Wilson describes the Tories as ‘treacherous’ suggesting that the Unionists should start talking to Labour.

17 August – IRA bomb explodes in a Protestant Bar in Belfast. Another bomb is found on the Shankill Road. Ian Paisley rubbishes talk of peace and says his party will not be taking part in any new dialogue.

18 August – Another IRA incendiary device destroys a protestant bar in Belfast. Amid fears that the IRA is increasing its campaign, Seamus Mallon says that the only hope is for a total and permanent ceasefire or the IRA will not be part of the process.

20 August – A republican march for peace is held in Dublin under the banner ‘Time for Peace – Time to go’. An estimated 10,000 people attend.

21 August – Michael Ancram says the British government will not accept any form of limited ceasefire. Albert Reynolds says that there was never any suggestion that a ‘ceasefire of 3 or 6 months would provide a seat at the table’. He says the IRA must be prepared to lay down arms for good.

25 August – American Congressman Bruce Morrisson leads a delegation that meets with the Irish Government before meeting Sinn Fein. The delegation excitedly tell Reynolds and Spring that they believe a 6 month ceasefire is about to be called and that they will encourage this. Reynolds and Spring are furious. The move threatens the entire process as the governments will not accept a time limit on the ceasefire and are anxious that the American support may encourage Republicans to only offer a short term ceasefire. They make clear that the delegation must convey the message that it is a permanent ceasefire.

26 August – Ten people are injured in an IRA mortar bombing in Co. Down. Accusations of ‘appeasement’ are made at the British government. Meanwhile Albert Reynolds receives a request for a VISA to the US for Joe Cahill. Cahill was a convicted IRA leader who had once been sentenced to hang and smuggled arms into Ireland from Libya. The request from Fr. Reid shocks Reynolds but it is said to be a gesture that would seal the deal. The IRA wish Cahill to brief their US supporters on the peace process and say it’s the only way they can carry their support. Reynolds contacts Jean Kennedy Smith, who in turn puts pressure on Nancy Sorderberg, but the message comes back emphatically that there are no more visas without a ceasefire first. All avenues turn up blank with no US government contacts willing to budge. Fr. Reid continues to pressure Reynolds saying it’s the last piece of the jigsaw.

28 August – Gerry Adams and John Hume issue a joint statement focussing on the need for democratic principles and the right of the people for self determination. The statement also says that different traditions must be respected.

29 August – Reynolds contacts Sorderberg personally making an impassioned plea for a visa for Joe Cahill. He says that this will deliver peace but without it trust is lost. Soderberg agrees to talk to President Clinton but says the proposal has ‘no chance’. Clinton rings Reynolds at 3 AM and tells him he is looking for the impossible. Reynolds makes the case that it will deliver the ceasefire but Clinton counters that a visa for Adams had not done so yet and they had stuck their neck out then, offending the British. Clinton is angry to be asked to do this and says if the IRA were this close to a ceasefire then they would have a statement ready and yet nobody has seen it. Reynolds announces he has the statement in his pocket but he has given his word not to reveal it and he asks the President to trust him. Clinton is unhappy but Reynolds says he will send Fr Reid to Belfast to ask their permission. Fr Reid comes back some hours later with the agreement of the IRA that Reynolds can read the document to Clinton. Afterwards Clinton finally agrees, as do the British. Clinton tells Reynolds ‘We’ll go for it but this is the last chance. If this doesn’t run I never want to hear from you again.’

30 August – Gerry Adams says he now believes the conditions exist for peace. He calls for an immediate recognition of Sinn Fein’s ‘political mandate’.

31 August – The IRA declare an end to their campaign and the Irish peace process begins. Despite bumps along the way and a short-lived resumption of IRA activities in 1996, the process eventually delivers the good Friday agreement. 20 years later Northern Ireland still has many problems to face. However, a cycle of death was stopped. 1994 saw a dangerous round of brutal tit for tat killings and all negotiations took place against a backdrop of bombings and murder. Ireland did manage to shift the majority of debate in a political direction however and the everyday killings that made a generation immune to violence are now a memory. Great risks were taken but there is no question but that thousands of lives have been saved in these years.

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The Leaders – A Party animal or a lonely wallflower?

As the Dail recommences all eyes remain on the party leaders. The traditional winter bloodletting season could make for a bumpy ride, but how are each of our leaders fixed? Here, I take a quick look at their standing.

Enda Kenny – The Taoiseach would seem to be comfortable enough at first glance. To be fair to Enda he has settled into the job and for most people the accusation that he would embarrass himself is a distant memory. He may not be inspirational but he at least appears like a decent and able enough chap. When he is making one of those big speeches with lots of rhetoric, people actually quite like him. It’s not easy to be Taoiseach but Kenny has managed the battlefield quite well. His main problem remains that despite trying to reinvent his image, he always seems no more than one wrong word away from destroying it all. There are two major problems looming that Kenny has to deal with. The first is the Seanad referendum. He has personally invested a huge amount of political capital in this. It was seen as a ‘can’t lose’ referendum, but while still quietly confident there are a few nervous glances towards the polls on the government benches. If the referendum is passed, it gives Kenny a confidence boost and also the chance to spread out some more talk of reforms and change over the coming years. He will see it as a legacy impact for his term. However, should the referendum be lost then make no mistake it will cause rumblings among many who will see it as a personal failure of the Taoiseach. He needs a Yes vote badly. The second problem facing him is the Labour question. So far Enda has managed to tie Eamon Gilmore up in knots and keep him boxed in at every opportunity. Deep down, he knows that Gilmore may come knocking and need help to save his leadership or else a new Labour Leader might start flexing muscles. You don’t walk away from the job of Taoiseach and Enda knows that if Labour got it into their head that they could walk away, then he would be forced to make serious compromises to keep them on board. If this occurred, it will lead to the traditional grumbling in the larger party of any coalition that the tail is wagging the dog and that the Taoiseach has started saving his job ahead of his party. If that talk starts, it only ends one way. However, the job of Taoiseach is all about such decisions and challenges, Enda knows that well. He has started to shift within the party to secure his base. Figures like Phil Hogan and James Reilly no longer hold the influence over the Taoiseach that they once had and Enda may yet play all sides, including the long term game with the Reform Alliance, just to keep everyone sweet enough.

Eamon Gilmore – The Tánaiste continues to hang in there. He knows that he needs something to claim from the budget in order to give him a fighting chance. It’s likely he will get it but it won’t be major. Most accept that rather than €3.1 bn needing to be made up in the budget, the figure will be about €2.8 bn. This could allow Labour claim some victory. The real problem is that Eamon cannot really recover his personal strength. He remains leader because no one else really wants to take the job right now. That can change. Labour could leave him in situ until after the local elections, but this may ruin any chance of even a 2 or 3% recovery to save a few seats. It also means that Labour would need to look at Gilmores leadership next May/June. This timing is poor with another budget looming the following October. Another scenario is that potential rivals go with Eamon on the upcoming budget but do so while still grumbling. The budget gets passed and before Christmas, potential rivals blame its worst parts on Eamon’s failures and remove him. Allowing them some hope of even a tiny bounce before the locals and still saying that the time is too short to blame the new leader for a bad result. It also allows sufficient time for the new leader to talk tough and even look to renegotiate parts of the programme for government in advance of the budget next year. No matter what way one looks at it, Eamon Gilmore is no longer a leader in the real sense. He is on borrowed time, a bit like Haughey in November ’91 to Feb ’92: Everyone knew he was only there by the grace of others and it was only a matter of when.

Micheál Martin – The FF leader continues to wrestle his party and grapple to turn things around. He has had some success and a mild but soft recovery in the polls has calmed some early nerves. Serious questions still present themselves. At times Martin seems to lack the decisive will to make things happen. He avoids risks, doesn’t like doing things quickly and seems to follow the same backroom as his predecessors. He hasn’t shown any drastic change. At other times he goes to the opposite extreme, stifling debate, seeking to impose outcomes and trying to dominate proceedings. The abortion issue was the latest in that kind of cycle. There was only ever one outcome for FF in that debate and it was worrying that the Leader or those around him could not see that. This has led some to say that Martin is weak or in a weak position. Martin is not weak but he doesn’t always pick his fights well and a lack of foresight is more the problem. His position is safe enough for now. There is no value to FF in changing leader. In fact Martin could still do a huge favour as a former minister in leading the charge for openness and answers on the activities of the last cabinet and what happened around the table. He is still the best placed to engage with the Irish people on what the hell actually happened. Unfortunately like his predecessor Brian Cowen, he wants to move on rather than dwell on the past. FF might find dwelling on the past might be the best thing they could do right now. The local elections will be a test for Martin. FF needs to be in the mid 20s to hold what they have at local level, more or less. They seem on course for that. A slight increase would be taken as a big victory. Should the party numbers fall though, questions may come quickly.

Gerry Adams – It’s been another interesting year for Gerry. From his entertaining, if strange, twitter account, to the SF poll battle people continue to ponder what his future might hold. SF is doing well in the polls. If they got 19% in a general election it would be a massive achievement and major step forward. The problem is they are struggling to understand why they are not even higher, especially given the FF figure. My answer to that, as always, is organisation. SF is still building up theirs. Many do suggest however that Gerry is not the man to lead SF in this battle. He has struggled to impose himself on southern politics and to really show a genuine grasp of the debate. SF has been much better served by Doherty, Tobin and McDonald in this regard. SF may need the injection of new leadership to bring some impetus to the project. This carries two problems; the first is that SF needs to retain its strong link with the North. Can a southern leader do that? Secondly, SF still has to decide its path. The party is struggling to define its enemies in the same way as FF did many years ago. It does not really know whether it should be attacking its traditional rivals FG, or whether it needs to hit FF hard to stop any recovery or strike out at Labour to eat into their vote. SF is fighting battles on every front and eventually will have to pick a side and deal with each one by one. A new leader will be forced to accept that. Gerry helps them avoid it for now although even he seems increasingly uneasy about it. I don’t see SF changing leader this side of a general election unless they start to fall back in the polls and I don’t think that’s likely at this point. There is a problem for the general populace in identifying with Adams however. He reminds me more and more of De Valera in the 1950’s: there are stronger leaders in the ranks below, people perhaps better prepared for the new age, but he is a hero within the party, seen as a patriot and an icon and therefore nobody is really able to bring themselves to criticise him or say his time might be past. De Valera stayed a decade too long, will it be the same for Adams?

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