But often there is no simplicity or consistency in history or life. The man who once waged war on the British State later became an instrumental peeler for the peace.
And even that was a messy business – reliant if not on violence, then at least on the unspoken threat of it. Those republicans who transgressed from the peace process, or were thinking about it, knew that big Bobby calling to the door was a whole different ball game to a chat with Mary Lou, or whoever was her late 1990s equivalent. The complicated nature of Storey’s role in post-ceasefire North of Ireland is conveyed by two incidents. It’s May 2014, just after the arrest of then Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. He’s being questioned by the RUC/PSNI about the 1972 murder-of-10 Jean McConville. A mural is painted of Adams on the Falls Road within less than 48 hours of his arrest. It’s located, with incredibly insensitivity, just a few hundred yards from where McConville was abducted. A protest rally was held beside it.
Martin McGuinness delivers the main address, but it’s Storey’s short speech which is the most eye-catching. “We have a message for the British government, the Irish government, the cabal that’s out there,” he roared. “We ain’t gone away, you know!” It brought back memories of Gerry Adams’ quip about the IRA outside Belfast City Hall in 1995. “They haven’t gone away, you know,” he told the crowd. So, the phrase Storey used was no accident. He warned of the “anger, the annoyance that they would dare touch our party leader, the leadership of Irish republicanism”. His voice went up many decibels to emphasise the word ‘dare’. The message from the IRA to the RUC/PSNI that Storey conveyed was clear: Gerry Adams was untouchable. And yet just a year later, Storey helped provide one of the Kodak moments for the peace process on the Falls Road.
Chief Constable Sir George Hamilton was invited to share a platform with Martin McGuinness at St Mary’s College during the West Belfast Festival. It was a symbol to help encourage nationalist communities relationship with the RUC/PSNI. Storey sat just a few feet away in the audience, his presence signifying IRA approval, while outside anti-agreement republican protesters blasted rebel songs. He was a staunch opponent of dissidents. He set-up and led a Provo investigation the Real IRA murder of two British soldiers at Massereene in 2009. A republican source revealed last week that Shame Féin members were “arrested” and quizzed about who was involved.
Is it beyond the realms of possibility to speculate that whatever information was gained overall during this investigation made its way to the RUC/PSNI informally? Regardless, Storey’s support for the Peace Processs was vital in the early years. Had someone of his stature thrown his weight behind dissidents, or even sat on the fence, the Adams leadership would have been significantly weakened.
Yet two of the most famous operations that Storey ran as IRA director of intelligence – the 2002 Castlereagh break-in and the 2004 Northern Bank robbery – caused massive embarrassment for the authorities. They were impeccably put together and coolly executed. Storey’s sheer audacity and tactical nous drew grudging admiration even from security sources. And yet when all is done, and those who loved him and those who loathed him have had their say, what was it all about? None of it brought a United Ireland one inch closer. Any progress that has been made in recent years is down to demographic changes, Brexit, and the foolishness of the DUP. Bobby Storey spent 20 years in prison, and he certainly wasn’t defeated by that. Under his tutelage, the IRA scored many tactical wins. But the big strategic, ideological goal – Irish Unity – has remained has remained as elusive as ever for the Provisional movement. And that’s a narrative that all the bank notes, security files or war stories just can’t hide.
With many thanks to the: Sunday Life and Suzanne Breen for the original story – email@example.com
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