Unionists may come to regret collapse of power sharing over McGuigan murder

时间:2019-09-15  作者:溥缃  来源:电子艺游网址平台  浏览:45次  评论:184条

Longtime observers of the political and paramilitary scene in Northern Ireland will hardly fail to spot the irony that of the devolved Stormont government over the murder of a one-time IRA assassin.

The Ulster Unionist party is now virtually certain to withdraw from the power-sharing coalition this weekend after its leader, Mike Nesbitt, urged them to do so on Wednesday.

Their exit from the administration is partly to do with the killing of Kevin McGuigan, a former IRA prisoner who went to jail in the 1980s after the SAS rescued a part-time soldier that he and another Provisional IRA veteran had captured in north Belfast.

McGuigan’s murder in the Short Strand – a vendetta killing in revenge for the fatal shooting of one-time Belfast IRA commander back in May – posed challenges for both the republican movement’s high command and unionist leaders.

For the former, there was – according to usually informed Belfast republican sources – some disquiet over taking guns back on the streets and allowing PIRA veterans to kill McGuigan in retaliation for the Davison murder. This was mainly due to fears that murdering McGuigan would spark exactly the type of political crisis now emerging, with the power-sharing project put under threat.

In addition, the sight of PIRA members shooting dead one of their own (albeit one estranged from the organisation) would also harm Sinn Féin’s electoral prospects where they really count these days: the Irish Republic and the forthcoming general election in 2016. Political opponents south of the border would – and indeed have – seized upon the McGuigan murder as evidence that when it comes to real state power, in charge of a sovereign UN-recognised nation rather than a region of the UK, there is still too much of a whiff of cordite around Sinn Féin to get into government with the party.

Yet what tipped the balance in favour of killing McGuigan was not just a deep sense of anger about the loss of Davison, but also the fear of who would be next. Those same reliable Belfast republican sources reported that over the summer McGuigan was put under surveillance by PIRA members who realised that the ex-prisoner was stalking a number of key former comrades, including a one-time member of the Provisional army council. Existential fears among figures on the Belfast IRA high command trumped the danger of plunging Stormont into crisis once more; a crisis these same figures believe could still blow over in time.

But republicans are not the only ones who are gambling in the aftermath of the McGuigan murder in east Belfast and the assessment of the chief constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton, that some PIRA members are still active and were involved in that killing. The UUP leadership knows the benefits that the Good Friday agreement in 1998 and eventual devolution brought almost a decade later to .

That agreement and the subsequent accord in 2006 at St Andrew’s were underpinned by the principle of consent, which means that there would be no end to the union with Britain unless a majority in the region wanted it. Several opinion polls since those peace agreements have shown there is still a majority in favour of remaining in the UK.

So, by starting a chain reaction now that may lead to the ultimate collapse of power-sharing and devolution, unionists put at risk a carefully choreographed political project that at its heart gives them a final veto over constitutional change in Northern Ireland.

It is now over to the UUP’s rivals in the Democratic Unionist party to make the next move at Stormont. The debate inside the latter, the bigger unionist force, will be ferocious and the grassroots pressure to follow suit will be enormous. One thing is certain so far though; it would be the richest irony of all if the death of a former IRA gunman who killed to destroy the state of Northern Ireland ends up with unionists abandoning a political arrangement that has secured the union for the foreseeable future.