The Magazine's review of weblogs
By Alan Connor
Wherever their sympathies lie, Irish bloggers are cautious about celebrating the IRA calling an end to their armed campaign for a united Ireland.
IRA graffiti in Belfast
As on the streets, so it is on the blogs. The IRA's statement last Thursday(IRA says armed campaign is over, 28 July) might be yet another piece of history for us to live through in 2005, but Irish bloggers of all stripes aren't putting out the bunting just yet.
"The redundancy of the statement was pretty evident in the lack of on-the-streets reaction to the news - after all, wasn't this what PIRA conceded seven years ago at the signing of the Good Friday Agreement?"
EWI at Free Stater
And for swathes of the Irish blogosphere, it's business at usual, which means talking about tourism and lotteries; podcasting and "the bozos in Brussels".
This should not be taken for indifference, although posts such as Damien Mulley's feign it for effect:
"I think I may have missed it in the irishblogs, but apparently some guys up in the North said something that meant something or something."
And it's in part because the statement was hardly a bolt from the blue: Joseph McManus quipped that "the world's worst-kept secret is about to be 'made public'"; The Dossing Times made a Harry Potter analogy and The Levee Breaks sardonically noted: "like a couple making love in the last days of a dying relationship, every manoeuvre between Nationalists and Unionists was predictable from the offset".
Just as importantly, bloggers from Northern Ireland as well as the Republic use a fresh and irreverent language which would surprise those who still have a 1970s idea of Ireland and "the Troubles". And bloggers are well-placed to comment on what turned out to be quite a hi-tech announcement.
Aside from serious issues such as the different edits of the IRA film, the very fact of its release on DVD has provoked a lot of gags, like Young Irelander's post on IRA DVD Extras. Other satirical responses include the robust Twenty Major's parody of the entire statement:
"We realise that the international support we've received, especially from America, is going to be hard to maintain when the world and his mother are affected and appalled by the terrorism being perpetrated by those [7 July bombers]."
The two main topics under discussion are: what's the thinking behind the IRA statement, and what's the most likely outcome of the next round of negotiations?
The best treatment of both topics is at the "news and research portal" Slugger O'Toole. This may be because of the blog's soccer etiquette (play the ball, not the man), as explained in this interview with the Harvard-hosted podcaster Christopher Lydon:
"It's a place where 'Catholics and Protestants are fairly comfortable', Mick Fealty told me. 'At least they're in the same room.' Which is not to say that minds are changed, but Mick Fealty suspects that the rhythm and rules of his blog help people out of ruts."
As an example of weblogging in action, it'll be interesting to see how Slugger's collection of bloggers' questions for the parties pans out.
As to the thinking of the pseudonymous "P O'Neill" who writes IRA statements: that's anyone's guess, and everyone is guessing.
Mr Levee is characteristic in his cynicism: "An Historic Announcement? Historic in the sense that similar announcements have been made before, in 1994 and 1997."
Eamonn Fitzgerald asks his readers to remember that "we're dealing here with an organization suffering from an extreme case of schizophrenia". And Adam Maguire ponders why the words "the war is over" weren't used:
"IRA 'law' states that the actions of the organisation cannot be illegal by definition. Thus, apologising for actions taken would be to say that they were at fault in their war. It's a pretty heartless and spineless take on things, but everything in that statement was about walking the middle ground between appeasing Unionists and avoiding alienation and in-fighting."
Young Irelander pops up again in the comments following that post, and notes that "People seem cautiously optimistic".
This is a fair summary, at least of the blogs. Not everyone is as bullish as Slugger commenter JD:
"I have it on good authority that we should get belted in for a fast ride - on demilitarization, the economy, major cross border cooperation, justice issues, peace dividends, and the restoration of the assembly..."
But if "cautious optimism" means a scepticism about the IRA, combined with a hope that it could be the beginning of the end for paramilitaries, that's indeed the dominant tone, and it's typified by Michael Larkin:
"Maybe, just maybe, the IRA want to prove to us that they can be the good guys (if you call stopping murdering thousands of people 'good') for once."
And if you've only got time for one blog posting, it should probably be this one, from Slugger: "The Today programme asked Mr Ahern (mp3) the big one this morning: 'Prime Minister, do you think there will be a united Ireland in your lifetime?'"
The comments cover all the arguments mentioned above, as well as a curveball like lib2016's:
"We are spending time on this board worrying about the past when 10% of the Irish population is likely to be Chinese in Easter 2016. A change I welcome but one which should be managed."
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