INLA decomissioning an reabhloid
Shortly before the Extraordinary Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in 2007 anti-GFA Republicans held a series of debates on the issue which attracted large crowds. This in part forced Sinn Fein to expand their own debate to a wider audiance but more importantly it showed that common work and co-operation amongst Republicans on political matters could infact mobilise people.
Arising from those debates, the Irish Republican Forum for Unity was founded comprisiong the Irish Republican Socialist Party, Republican Network for Unity and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement. This organisation sought to unite Republicans around a common programme but it never stated on what basis, there were never concrete proposals and as a consequence the project is at present seamingly dead in the water, with the IRSP having suspended it’s own relations with the body. It seems the most workable framework those involved could agree on were joint commemorations.
This cut to the core of the issue. A renewal of Republicanism by holding commemorations or by those within the Real IRA, Oglaigh na hEireann and other armed groups who seek to mimic the Provisional IRA in every way possible is not likely. It was clear at IRFU public meetings elements of the IRSP had grown critical of that approach and one in instance members of the 32 County Soveriegnty Movement quite vocally derided IRSP spokesperson Gerry Ruddy for disagreeing with the Real IRA’s self-described armed struggle.
As the two biggest parties in Stormont are struggling over the devolution of Policing and Justice powers, the INLA has announced total decommisioning as facilitated by national and international organisations. Although the announcement did not shock many in Republican circles, following the announcement in October 2009 that the goals of the INLA could be achieved through ‘purely peaceful and political means’ indicated clearly what was on the cards.
However, in subsequent debates and commentaries, one fundamental question has yet to be asked. What prompted the leadership of the INLA to reach such a move?
It is likely that the move was made as a consequence of the devolution of policing and justice which could in effect resolve the issue of ‘dissident Republicanism’. The current leadership of the INLA includes some who have spent almost two decades in prison alone and endured hunger strike. The outstanding issue of INLA weapons and continued low-level INLA activity against drug dealers in Derry and and other areas could infact be ended easily judging from the arrest of members of the INLA in Dublin while making pipebombs over a year ago.
However, while the INLA move has been welcomed by many IRSP members as a chance for the IRSP to develop on political grounds, if the above scenario is indeed the case then it remains to be seen to what extent the IRSP can develop a sound organisation in opposition to Stormont without state interference. If we look at the case of eirigi, which seems to be the only anti-GFA organisation with a serious strategy, in relation to PSNI harrasment of peaceful political protest then its clear that the nature of British rule in Ireland is still repressive and does not permit what would be considered normal political activity in other states.
The methods in which decomissioning happened is contradictory given its stated purpose of facilitating the political development of the IRSP. While successive IRSP Ard Fheiseanna have consistently opposed decomissioning, the INLA have decomissioned without the consent of an Ard Fheis. The IRSP’s previous stated position was that the IRSP was the dominant component of the entire movement and consequently the INLA was subordinate to the political analysis and direction of the party. Clearly this was and is not the case.
All paramilitary organisations have disbanded as part of a process which includes benefits of some type. For the IRA and Sinn Fein it was moving forward to devolution in 2007 and the for the UDA it was to secure massive amounts of funding for its ex-prisoner projects. What the INLA gained can only become apparent with time.