Political policing returned to Northern Ireland with a vengeance with the arrest of Bobby Storey
The push against “republican criminality” is a perennial feature of the landscape in post-ceasefire Northern Ireland, normally popping up at times when the Northern “Deep State” (a tiny, pathetic, yet disproportionately powerful version of the British Deep State who planted it in Ulster) scents a possibility of victory, even if that victory is at the expense of peace.
Peace, while the proclaimed objective of Unionist and British politicians during The Troubles was never the goal of their establishments in the first place. The goal was victory. That is why the leader of the ‘moderate’ Ulster Unionist Party, James Molyneaux, stated in response to the IRA Ceasefire of 1994 that the ceasefire was “the greatest threat to the Union in 60 years”.
See, although peace was achieved, the UUP leader expressed terror that "peace without winning the war" was upon them. (I should state that I have no sympathy for any militarist organisations, from the British Army to the IRA. As a pacifist I believe all war is wanton waste).
UUP leader, Mike Nesbitt, says “the IRA needs to go away and stop terrorising its own communities”. Certainly he also stated he wanted the Loyalists to go away too. If only the Unionist mainstream politicians had taken as tough a line with the UDA/UFF (who they used to bring down the previous Power Sharing government) or with the UVF (which some of their members encouraged set up in 1966) or the LVF (which MI5 helped set up as a "cutting edge" against post-ceasefire republicanism).
The Republican Movement has been pursuing its aim peacefully for 20 years and while a United Ireland isn’t imminent, it’s arguably closer than prior to the ceasefire. This is what has spooked the spooks of the Unionist and British Establishments.
In 2005, the Robert McCartney murder and the Northern Bank Robbery were cited as reasons why Unionists could not sit in a power sharing executive with Sinn Fein, despite a ceasefire being in operation. (Of course, they had no problem sitting down and talking to Loyalist serial killer and British agent Billy Wright, leader of the LVF). No proof that the IRA authorised or participated in either was ever proven. A man ‘close to MI6 thinking’ I interviewed for a book at that time stated that events on the ground (such as McCartney murder and Northern Bank Robbery) should be moulded to discredit Sinn Fein because, should Sinn Fein be in government North and South, and a Sinn Fein member be president, ‘an unstoppable momentum’ might be created for a United Ireland. 20 years ago that was unimaginable for most. Not now.
Earlier, in 2002, we had Stormontgate , the Stormont spy scandal (citing the existence of a supposed IRA spy ring in Stormont) that was used by Unionists and their unreconstructed “Deep Staters” in Special Branch, MI5 and elsewhere. It transpired that one of those threatened with prosecution, Sinn Fein’s Chief Administrator, Denis Donaldson, had in fact been working for over 20 years for MI5. The affair collapsed the Northern Ireland Executive. In the end no charges were brought.
The inner circle of the Unionist establishment, encouraged if not instructed by the real daddy, British Intelligence (without who's support they simply could not be effective) are seeking to interrupt what is being seen as a worrying momentum. Some of these people felt safer when the aspirations of Irish Republicans and Nationalists were corralled into the cul de sac of political violence. Republicans and Nationalists – and to be fair, many, many Unionists and Loyalists – moved forward. Time moved forward. But somethings stayed the same.
The deep state is not actually affected greatly by transient elements, like democratically elected politicians, who come and go. Events that we see on the surface, like the latest waves in the Northern Irish political system, are more affected by constant and eternal deep undercurrents than we might realise.
Remember, these deep, dark forces do not ever, ever, seek peace. Only victory will do. No matter the cost.