Unfortunately I missed the programme on radio 4 last week when Jonathan Powell (Tony Blair’s political adviser) had a programme about ‘talking to the enemy’. There is a very important debate around this issue and obviously it goes much wider then the talks with the Provisional IRA. Jonathan makes an important point when he says that that talks can rarely work unless there is a recognition that neither side can get outright victory and that also means there has to be an understanding of each sides basic position.
In the early 1980’s when I was a fairly new MP I went to see some of the political party’s in Northern Ireland who had a military wing engaged in violence. I saw both Unionist and Republican. I shall be giving a talk on this in the Irish Centre in Hammersmith on October 13th.
When I met Gerry Adams and Danny Morrison on the second occasion I wanted to know if they accepted that Britain could not withdraw from Ireland and that if we did it would produce greater violence. In order to explore this I asked what they would do if a British government announced a withdrawal. After several circular arguments about what would happen next Danny Morrison said “Look we are not daft – we are not going to invade the Shankill” . I knew then that they were facing the hard fact that a British withdrawal would have been a disaster for them.
I would like to know if the Real IRA currently engaged in a bombing campaign understands the same basic fact. Maybe I should ask them.