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Boris Johnson On The Peace Process “Defeat” Of The British Government By The IRA

In May 2000, two years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the regional and international peace treaty that effectively ended the Troubles or thirty-year insurrection in the UK’s legacy colony in the north-eastern corner of the island of Ireland, the then journalist and magazine editor – and future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – Boris Johnson conducted a press interview with Martin McGuinness, the Vice-President of Sinn Féin and a senior Member of the Army Council of the Irish Republican Army. The meeting took place in a private room at Stormont, the seat of the nascent local assembly and executive established under the 1998 accords, and by all accounts it was a somewhat cool affair as the Londoner quizzed the Derryman over his political and military career, which included McGuinness’ role as the IRA’s General Officer Commanding the Northern Command from the 1970s to the ’90s and his brief tenure as the Chief of Staff in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

However what makes the interview published in The Spectator that year so interesting is the perspective it offered on Johnson’s rather resigned view of the Irish-British peace process of the 1990s and early 2000s. And his belief – shared with his then fellow magazine contributor Michael Gove, a likely minister in Johnson’s forthcoming 2019 government in London – that the Good Friday Agreement represented the capitulation of the United Kingdom to the Republican Movement – or “Sinn Fein/IRA” as he would describe it – after thirty years of bloody insurgency and counterinsurgency.

…if you keep going down the marble corridor, and up about three flights of stairs, you will come to something rather odd. ‘Crinniu ar siul bain usaid as an doras eile’, barks the notice on the door, in what one takes to be a Gaelic demand for privacy.

Behind it sits the blond-curled and sweatered form of a man who has spent his entire adult life engaged, as he confirms, in a programme of terror, whose objective has been to destroy British power in Northern Ireland. He has almost succeeded in chopping the Royal Ulster Constabulary; he has brought about the release of hundreds of terrorist prisoners…

…he will once again serve as education minister; and he has done it without renouncing violence, or even causing a single weapon to be handed over.

In the words of the IRA historian Kevin Toolis, no other living person is a greater threat to the British state.

He welcomes me with great friendliness, and his charm perhaps partly explains the chronic weakness of the British government in dealing with him.

He’s in and out of Downing Street; he’s penetrated the highest levels of the British establishment; he’s bombed his way to power. Don’t you feel a sense of triumph, I ask him. ‘Triumph? Why? You have to understand that we are Irish Republicans. What we want to bring about fundamentally is an end to British rule in the North and the establishment of a 32- county republic.’

After Bloody Sunday, the British state in Northern Ireland was under siege. In 1972, 500 people were killed, including 150 members of the security forces. In a panic, Willie Whitelaw flew the Provos to Paul Channon’s house in Cheyne Walk. I wonder whether that was when McGuinness first sensed the irresolution of the British state?

…I come away better understanding why successive British governments have decided that, in spite of his past, he is the man they must deal with, and who, with Adams, holds the key to peace. In the long struggle of wills, he won, and the British government connived in its own defeat. The best hope now and of course it is morally bankrupt, but not wholly despicable — is that the ‘peace process’ should grind on…

These views, never disavowed, were written by a politician who will now serve as the leader of the minority Conservative Party government in Britain, where once again the future course of this island and its inhabitants will be shaped and contorted by the selfish needs and aspirations of the British. And it might well turn out that Boris Johnson, like his predecessors, will seek a historic compromise that was previously thought unthinkable in the corridors of power in London. Because when it comes to his personal career “Bojo” has repeatedly shown himself capable of abandoning principle for necessity. Or ambition.

7 comments on “Boris Johnson On The Peace Process “Defeat” Of The British Government By The IRA

  1. Funny that because if you talk to any volunteers that were engaged in the conflict pre-1998 and not ones that signed up post GFA most will tell you it was all for nothing and they got sold down the river for political and economic gain by the upper echelons of Sinn Féin and those hierarchical members of the army that stood by them ..


    • ar an sliabh

      True that! Ireland (the Free State) giving up the claim to the whole island in exchange for a pardon of the IRA “criminals”. How lame is that? Kind of like the treaty of 1921/22. Who brokered that? Whoever did was surely more of an enemy than a friend.


  2. Peter Dorley

    SF where are you? must be an extended holidays


  3. Graham Ennis

    this is history. Sadly, it will now repeat itself, and in a far worse way. if Johnston continues his careering into fascism.(light) then a new war is inevitable.he will totally rescind the international peace treaty, simply by ignoring it, wrecking it with political and official actions, then blame the Irish for renewed hostilities. he has a totally racist attitude to the Celtic nations. and will cause a complete breakdown and collapse of the existing settlement. That makes war inevitable. What he does not realise is that it is no longer 1969, its 50 years later. The EU will not tolerate a new war involving an EU state, and will support the Irish Government. Expect EU troops on the border, and demands for an EU peace keeping force in the North, and referendums on the future of the remaining colony. This is utterly realistic, and the EU has already made contingency plans for this situation. Trade embargoes and sanctions would back up this against any attempt by the UK government to have its own way. it would not be a long war. it would be a total humiliation for the UK. But we are dealing with a fascist of the first rank. He will not grasp the issues, will act like a 19th century PM, and end it all in disaster. So what is to be done:? I think there needs to be a consensus, involving the Dublin Government and the EU that can force a de-facto de-partitioning, backed up by an international and EU peace keeping force.The UK has now lost the power it had in 1968, and is without support from anyone except American political factions and clients like the Isreali’s. This time, the game is totally loaded against them. I give it two years, max, before a humiliating military and official withdrawal from the North. But it is not going to be easy, or peaceful. it will be the last, violent, ugly ct in the breakup of the united kingdom, with the scots pointing grimly at the Irih war and silently departing. We are now seeing the endgame. Free at last, free at last.


  4. Foreigners telling us still to this very day how to live on OUR island. They talk and we have to live by their rules and regulations…..and in the process of it all and through the many years they have successfully conditioned the indigenous people of this island to turn their backs and look away from their own people in the North part of OUR Ireland and sadly got them to accept not only their border and partition of Our island but also their apartheid and their rhetorical speeches as the norm.. causing horrific civil wars, how did that happen? Oh yes the self serving government’s we voted for let it happen…and still it goes on……


  5. The Unionist population are correct when they liable it the good Friday appeasement. Republicans got rid of the connection with the UK for the Republic only to replace it with something far worse the European Union. The European Union have just secured a massive trade deal with South America that will decimate the farming industry of the Republic of Ireland. LEO is silent on this.


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