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P O Box 31, Belfast BT12 7EE. 24 pages. £1.00, (Annual subscription £5.00)wpe9.gif (27931 bytes)

This glossy well-produced magazine is the voice of leftist republicans who reject the current strategy of the mainstream Provisional Republican Movement’s leadership. Our review copy, Issue 8, examines the symbolic PIRA decision in October 2001 to decommission an unspecified amount of its arms. Four separate articles cover this historic policy shift. Ruan O’Donnell places the move in its historical context, given the Provos’ entry into government at Stormont and the chances of Sinn Féin participation in the Dublin government after winning more seats in the 2002 general election. Dr O’Donnell believes that a second act of decommissioning could suggest that PIRA is not merely standing down but disbanding. This could open the way for it to be displaced as the primary republican paramilitary organisation by another group, if its leadership is not careful. O’Donnell argues that it is actually in the interests of the supporters of the Good Friday Agreement to ‘permit the IRA to function at a certain level.’ If the IRA disbands, ‘The only virtually certain consequence… is comprehensive splintering.’ Thoughtful stuff.  

The leader of one of the republican fundamentalist splinter groups, Ruari O’Braidaigh, is a former IRA Chief of Staff. As far as he is concerned, the Provo leadership are traitors under the terms of the IRA’s General Order 11. The penalty for such treason is death. Republican Sinn Féin is very strong on the black and white nature of the Ulster conflict. For such convinced militarists, armed struggle is not a tactic but a principle. In side columns, two ex-IRA prisoners reflect on the future. Owen O’Neill is not convinced that republican aims will be achieved under the ‘new dispensation’ by the anniversary of the Easter Rising in 2016. Margaret McKearney, against all the evidence on the streets, claims that the current leadership strategy has ‘resulted in the wearying and the demoralisation of the Republican population’ and the decommissioning of republican core values.

It doesn’t look like it from where I’m standing. Danny Morrison, one of the architects of the new republican realpolitick strategy wrote to Gerry Adams from prison, (17/10/91) "I believe that the loyalists will remain fairly united whilst the armed struggle continues and until faced with the choice of ‘an honourable compromise’, let’s call it, which Britain supports. Then they will split (between pragmatists and extremists) and be at their weakest. We could consider actively bringing about such a situation." [Then the Walls Came Down, page 242]. Republicans have never been more optimistic and confident of success, and no wonder – the new strategy is working for them. It is the loyalists and unionists who are friendless, cornered, and lashing out all around them as the pan-Irish national-chauvinist movement makes gains on all fronts.

The publishers of Fourthwrite, however, are concerned that this success will be at the cost of Sinn Féin’s socialist and radical principles, despite Gerry Adams’ recent visit to Castro’s Cuba, and PIRA’s links with the leftist FARC movement in Colombia. More evidence of this concern is shown in an article looking at the possibility of Sinn Féin participation in a Dublin coalition government and its potential pitfalls.

At the very least, though, the Fourthwrite people offer an alternative leadership to republicans if the Morrison/Adams approach fails.

David Kerr

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