The amount of false outrage in the Wee North has always been in proportion to the square of the unionists available to express it. But the latest kerfuffle about the Provos has gone beyond all limits of the absurd since Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes, for reasons best known to himself, chose to go well beyond his brief and inform the media that the IRA hasn’t gone away, you know.
Geddes is clearly an honourable man, though it’s unlikely he’s naive, having reached a fairly senior position in the PSNI, and therefore you’d have to wonder what exactly he hoped to achieve by addressing the press on the murder of Kevin McGuigan in such inflammatory terms.
Did he not realise the Good Friday Agreement was achieved by the careful balancing of benign fictions?
Did he not follow John Taylor’s choreographed Lanigan’s Ball stepping in and stepping out, announcing the percentage likelihood of a deal as the various parties cut and thrusted?
Did Kevin Geddes not understand that everybody, absolutely everybody, understood that the IRA had not gone away, you know?
Did he not realise that the entire shaky edifice depended on a joint tacit understanding that the men of violence on both sides would remain in place to ensure an orderly transition to peace, however long that transition might take?
Did he not realise that a charade would have to survive for a decade or two or three, a giant mummery in which all the participants engaged in a suspension of disbelief and nobody pointed out that these people are all acting?
The republicans knew they were never going away. The loyalists knew it and they weren’t going away either, for precisely the same reasons.
Without the British security forces going away and the Republic’s intelligence service, there was no chance whatever that the paramilitaries were going to simply dissolve themselves and the reasons are obvious. To do so would be suicide, both personally and organisationally.
Only a fool would think they were going away overnight.
Strip the politics out of the story and just give the three or four sides names.
Call the Brits the Canneloni family. Call the Irish the Gnocchi clan. They’re sick of all this machine-gun shit on the streets cos it ain’t good for business so they get together. The Gnocchi Capo says to the Cannelloni Godfather, Look, I love you like a brother. Let’s end this.
What are you gonna do?
The Loyalist Chipolatas and the Republican Tagliatelles, they know each other for years anyway. They been meeting up in drinking clubs since the start of the turf war. Jeez, they even went to Sun City together, so they get together and it’s all Hey Sammy! and Hey there Marty, you put on a few pounds, until sooner or later, someone says, You know guys, we can’t fight Tony Canneloni and Rocky Gnocchi. Maybe it’s time we cut a new deal.
And someone else says, Sure, but what about the sub-families? What about some punk from the Lower East wants to take over our patch?
And then someone — maybe the Gnocchi consigliere or maybe the Cannneloni envoy says, in a rich Harvard voice that only money can buy, Gentlemen, we understand your difficulties. Protecting yourselves will not present us with a problem. Are we in agreement?
Naturally, I wouldn’t dream of comparing the Provos or the Loyalists to the Mafia. Far from it. You could make the same comparisons in Yugoslavia or Rwanda, but there you have it.
Who’d expect any sane participant in any conflict resolution to give up all their power there and then? That’s simply not how conflict resolution works and anyone who thinks otherwise is inhabiting a delusion.
That’s why it was called the Goodfellas Agreement