Conflicts & War

Biden and the US-born IRA veteran: Opposed visions of peace

Biden and US-born IRA veteran have different visions of peace

By Javier Aja

Belfast, Apr 11 (EFE).- Aside from John F. Kennedy, no other president of the United States has gloried in his Irish heritage as much as Joe Biden, while US-born John Crawley is the most American of those who served in the ranks of the Irish Republican Army, yet the two men have radically different perspectives on the Good Friday Agreement.

“Twenty-five years ago, Northern Ireland’s leaders chose peace. I look forward to marking the anniversary in Belfast, underscoring the US commitment to preserving peace and encouraging prosperity,” Biden said Tuesday on Twitter.

The president arrived here late Tuesday for events commemorating the signing of the Good Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998.

The pact put an end to three decades of strife that left more than 3,000 people dead, yet the agreement’s mandate for devolved power-sharing government in what remains a province of the United Kingdom has been less successful.

Crawley, who was born in New York to Irish immigrant parents, came to Ireland in 1872 at the age of 14 and embraced the goal of the IRA and its political arm, Sinn Fein, of re-uniting the six counties of Northern Ireland with the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland, as he recounts in his book, “The Yank: The True Story of a Former US Marine in the Irish Republican Army.”

At 18, he decided to go back to America and enlist in the US Marine Corps with the aim of acquiring advanced military training. As soon as his enlistment was up, he was off to Ireland to join the IRA.

“I will never believe that any means that involved the British government in Northern Ireland could be democratic means, but there could be peaceful means. I have no problem with the peace. My criticism was the process, because as an Irish republican I want to see a 32 county national democracy within an all-Ireland republic,” Crawley told EFE.

He went to prison twice during his time with the IRA, once for smuggling weapons from the US to Ireland, the second time in connection with a plot to carry out bombings in the UK.

Crawley benefited from a provision of the Good Friday Agreement granting amnesty to IRA militants and Unionist paramilitaries and he worked with Sinn Fein for a number of years following his release in 2000.

Over time, however, he became disillusioned with the process and gravitated toward dissident republican factions.

“Under the Good Friday Agreement we have a situation where you can be British or you can be Irish and it maintains the sectarian dynamic and a cleavage in national loyalties well into the future,” he said after attending a ceremony organized by the socialist republican group Lasair Dhearg (Red Flame) at a cemetery in Belfast.

To the sound of bagpipes, participants marched to a monument honoring republicans who fell in the struggle going back to the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

The Good Friday process “leaves the inherent divisions in Ireland intact into the future,” Crawley said. The republican goal was to always unite the country, but unite it as citizens of the Irish Republic and as citizens who view themselves as Irishmen across the sectarian divide.”

“The Good Friday Agreement it does bring peace, but it’s more pacification in a sense that true and genuine peace only comes when you really deal with the root cause of the conflict. The root cause of the conflict from a republican perspective is Britain’s claim to jurisdiction in this country,” he said.

While the accord allows for the possibility of a referendum on Irish reunification, designated as a border poll, the power to call a vote is reserved to the UK secretary of state for Northern Ireland.

“So basically it doesn’t matter what the Irish people decide, the total control is still in the hands of the English government,” Crawley said.

“I’m not advocating a return to war, I’m not advocating a return to violence. I’m glad there’s peace, but I am very critical of the process. As I think John Kennedy one time said, if you make peaceful change impossible you make violent change inevitable,” the former IRA man said.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable,” JFK said in 1962. EFE

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