SIX out of 10 Northern Ireland Catholics believe the Irish Republican Army (IRA) - rocked by accusations of involvement in a bank raid and a bar killing - should disband, an opinion poll said today.The poll's publication comes the day after the United States called on the IRA to "go out of business" following the outlawed group's admission it had offered to shoot two of its members involved in the fatal stabbing of Belfast man Robert McCartney.
But the Belfast Telegraph/BBC Newsnight poll also suggested support for the IRA's political ally Sinn Fein has not been significantly dented by accusations from opponents that its leaders are implicated in IRA crime and so unfit to hold office.
Read about it here.
This points toward a solution much in line with what Bush has been seeking to accomplish in Iraq and elsewhere -- transforming armed terrorist organizations into peaceful political parties. Sinn Fein, although most news sources are careful not to specifically state the fact, is quite simply the political wing of the IRA. They are not allies. They are the same thing.
The problem is, could Sinn Fein actually be an effective organization without the threat of thuggery to back up its demands? The transition from gang of thugs to legitimate political organization requires that the thugs see benefits from working within the system. In the current political climate it is by no means clear that there are sufficient incentives for the IRA to do so. Many commentators have hoped that cutting off funding for the IRA will force them to disband. I doubt that. It will simply inspire them to greater acts of thievery. In fact it might well be that the recent bank heist that netted them about fifty million dollars was a response to a decline in funding since 9-11.