13 November 1997 Edition
Split stories slammed
IRA talks to An Phoblacht
An IRA spokesperson has told An Phoblacht that: `Those who are set on promoting division or a split within the IRA will themselves be disappointed to learn that the IRA remains intact, united and committed.'
Sinn Féin has hit out at ``mischievous elements in the media'' who are trying to manufacture a split in the party. Speaking on Wednesday Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin negotiator and representative for North Belfast, said:
``There are mischievous elements in the media and some people working in the background who are trying to add fuel to start the fire which will destroy the peace process. The very legitimate concerns that people are raising are increased by the lack of any real movement in the talks.''
He also said he knew ``of nothing that would give substance to today's story that there have been resignations from the South Armagh area.''
Kelly emphasised ``the need to replace the old security agenda, which is still being pursued by elements within the British establishment, with confidence building measures. These include the release of all political prisoners, an end to harassment and the withdrawal of British troops. There is a need to begin a process of demilitarisation, particularly the dismantlement of British military fortifications throughout the Six Counties.''
Media reports ``greatly exaggerated'' - IRA
An Phoblacht has learned that media speculation and reports about the degree of resignations from the IRA have been greatly exaggerated.
Reports claiming a former chief of staff has resigned from the organisation because he was unhappy with the present strategy are untrue. A very small number of people have left the army over a period of a few weeks, but these resignees are people who are closely associated with each other. A report in the Irish Times on Wednesday that there were mass resignations from the IRA in South Armagh has been dismissed as fanciful.
Any impact on the IRA of a small number of resignations should be viewed in the context of years of struggle, an IRA source told An Phoblacht. During a sustained period of struggle it is perhaps inevitable that individual personnel will change for a number of reasons at different times. Some people may leave for personal or political reasons and many more have been imprisoned. Hundreds of IRA Volunteers have been captured and jailed by the British without undermining the army's ability to sustain itself. Taken in this context a few resignations are not significant, the source maintained. The IRA as an organisation remains intact.
Resignations were regrettable, said the source, expressing disappointment that some of those who left made their action known publicly and, albeit unwittingly, have fed into the agenda of those who wish to split the organisation. Those who are set on promoting division or a split within the IRA will themselves be disappointed to learn that the IRA remains intact, united and committed, said our source.
Meanwhile, commenting on the recent spate of resignations from Sinn Fein, party President Gerry Adams told An Phoblacht that ``these things are now in the past. We are in a phase of struggle which is designed to bring about maximum change. That throws up difficulties, but these are challenging times for everyone, including Irish republicans''. Asked about resignations from the IRA Adams stressed that, ``whatever is happening within the IRA it has shown itself to be a cohesive body. It has certain credibility and therefore when it gives its view of events I believe that the wider world has to listen. I think the IRA is bigger than any individuals or number of individuals''. Adams empasised the need for people to take ownership of the peace process, pointing out that it would be disastrous if we slipped back into conflict, ``not because one or two people resigned from the IRA but because those who run the security/repression in this statelet get their way or the unionist veto is successfully applied''.
Sinn Féin chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin, in Louth on Sunday at the 40th Anniversary of the deaths at Edentubber of five IRA Volunteers, said Sinn Féin is a vibrant, united and developing party. Speaking within days of the resignations of nine County Louth Sinn Fein members, he said, ``I can assure everyone that Sinn Féin is a progressive, united and cohesive political force, confident enough that we can allow those who differ with our analysis to have their say and then move forward without rancour''.
Journalists first to know about SF resignations
On Thursday 6 November there was to be a Louth Comhairle Ceantair meeting in Dundalk. This was a scheduled Sinn Féin meeting to discuss ongoing work including the Edentubber Commemoration. On the morning of the meeting, Malachy Foots, Sinn Féin PRO for Louth, received a phone call from Jim Cusack, Security Correspondent of the Irish Times. He wanted a comment from Malachy about a phone call he had received from a member of Sinn Féin saying that there was a meeting planned for that night and that a number of Sinn Féin members would be resigning.
Foots initially viewed it as Jim Cusack being ``mischievous'' (he is a regular purveyor of anti-republican stories), but there followed a number of calls from other media outlets and it soon became apparent that an orchestrated lobby of the media was taking place.
The meeting was scheduled for 8pm. As Sinn Féin members arrived they were met by a BBC camera crew and a BBC radio journalist. Around 25 people attended the Comhairle Ceantair meeting - the majority of them delegates from their cumainn. Also in attendance were two member of the Ard Chomhairle, Joe Cahill and Joan O'Connor.
The meeting opened with the minutes of the previous meeting and the expectation was that it would continue with its planned business, including an update on the current political situation. But before this discussion took place a number of people stated their intention to resign from the party. Following an expression of their views they left the meeting. These announcements and the walkout were greeted by both shock and sadness by the meeting.
The meeting proceeded to attempt to discuss the political issues which those who had resigned had raised when a number of other people in attendance announced their intention to resign. In total nine people resigned at the meeting - four of them members of the officer board of the Comhairle Ceantair.
Following the meeting the following statement was released by Malachy Foots: ``I regret the decision of a small number of Sinn Féin members, at a meeting in Dundalk this evening, to resign from the party. The overwhelming majority of those in attendance at the meeting this evening re-affirmed their confidence both in the leadership of Sinn Féin and in the peace process. This reflects the feeling of party members throughout the country. They called on Sinn Féin activists throughout Louth to concentrate their efforts on working together to ensure the success of the peace process.''.