Alex Massie

When Failure is Rewritten as Success

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An interesting, and telling, line from Jonathan Powell's article on why we should not over-react to the latest outbreak of Republican violence in Northern Ireland:

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were determined to carry the Republican movement into peace as intact as possible. They moved slowly to avoid the traditional split and lost very few volunteers along the way. Unusually, the British government agreed with this approach.

Instead of trying to encourage divisions, as in the past, we hoped they would carry the movement with them because we wanted to make peace once, not many times with many different groups. And we wanted to ensure that a capable and credible terrorist movement was not left behind. The establishment of a new executive by the DUP and Sinn Féin in May 2007 delivered that outcome.

From this one could be forgiven for thinking that the government saw Sinn Fein as the ultimate destination for the "peace process" rather than a confirmation of its failures. Then again, that should hardly come as a surprise given the Blair ministry's repeated, determined refusal to put any real pressure on the Republican movement at any time when such pressure might have helped strengthen, rather than as its absence confirmed, weaken civil society in the province. Keeping the Republican movement together is one thing, shoving this bunch of gansters and murderers into power quite another.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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