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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Fires of Hate

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself - Thomas Paine


Anthony McIntyre • 12 March 2006

All the noise about due process that made up the Sinn Fein wash in the wake of the Northern Bank robbery went out the window as the marching throng converged on the home of Christopher Notarantonio, one of the men charged with the murder of Gerard Devlin. Once outside, some made it their business to shout 'touts out' and hurl abuse at the women and children within. There was no one else to howl at. Notarantonio was twenty miles away up the M1 motorway, in jail.

Those who have access to detail about matters such as West Belfast touts have not been slow to make the point that such slogans are appropriate outside certain homes in Ballymurphy but none that belong to people with Italian sounding surnames. Others contented themselves with ridiculing the Sinn Fein protestors who made up a large section of the crowd, pointing out that none of them were eager to shout anything outside the homes of Freddie Scappaticci or Denis Donaldson. Nor would they have any business shouting slogans outside abodes that formerly housed a FRU agent and a M15 agent respectively. What has it to do with their families? Sinn Fein consistently don't let consistency stand in the way of a little bullying and intimidation.

On the night of the rally a car toured the estate. It was hard to make out what they shouting through whatever voice amplifier they had with them. It could as easily have been 'Juden raus.' Sinn Fein members had for a week been doing the round robin calls trying to bring as many of their own people from outside Ballymurphy in for the event. Just before it started I had passed the lorry that was to serve as a stage from which speakers would address the crowd. Some of those standing on it were IRA members known to me. One in particular was the source of a concern raised a number of months ago by friends of Gerard Devlin, who felt his life could be in danger as a result of IRA hassle. I put them in touch with people who might be of assistance and advised them that the best means to protect Gerard was to go public and simultaneously push the issue with the Sinn Fein leadership. On the rally night it seemed strange that people who had habitually menaced Gerard Devlin should now be organising events in his memory. One person who attended it told me, 'if Dev was alive he wouldn't have been at the rally himself. For years he took a lot of stick from some of those parading around the street.'

Some people left early. They sensed that Sinn Fein's agenda was not that of an aunt of the murdered man, Bernadette O'Rawe, who pleaded for an end to the violence that has plagued Ballymurphy since last month's murder and asked that people be allowed to get on with their lives.

The family circle of Gerard Devlin has every right to be angry, bitter, resentful, thirsting for vengeance. Bernadette O'Rawe, the spokesperson for the relatives of Gerard Devlin, and who spoke at the rally, sounds anything but. It seems were it not for her voice little sensible would be uttered in relation to the events surrounding the murder of her nephew and the subsequent mayhem. The PSNI search of Gerard Devlin's family home had earlier been described matter of factly by Bernadette O'Rawe, whereas the contribution of Sinn Fein MLA Michael Ferguson seemed calculated to be inflammatory. His party only want raids on the homes of those they oppose and not those they temporarily align with. The whole tenor of Bernadette O'Rawe's discourse was in sharp contrast to the reported ranting of a local Sinn Fein election worker who, in the words of people there, was intent on winding up the crowd.

If this is true he may have succeeded. Days later the home that was marched on - the family made a video recording of the march past - was torched. The arsonists seemingly determined to murder everyone inside, including an eight-year-old girl. Was the moral compass of Ian Huntley, the murderer of Soham children Holly and Jessica any worse than that which guided the burners? Again, Bernadette O'Rawe was to the fore in outspokenly condemning the attack. She termed it 'despicable' and not carried out in her family's name. Another relative of Gerard Devlin with whom I spoke the day after the burning was furious at the risk to human life. It seems clear that the wider Devlin family circle, despite its grief, is vehemently opposed to the ongoing campaign against the Notarantonios.

But others do endorse such activity. Victor Notarantonio is determined that his mother meets Gerry Adams. The Sinn Fein boss, her local MP, has ignored her numerous pleas for a meeting. Victor is angry that Adams had the time to meet with Raymond McCord but not his mother. 'I think Raymond McCord has every right to justice. But at the end of the day Gerry Adams is our MP and has duty to listen to his own constituents first.' The purpose of the meeting is to allow 78 year old Edith Notarantonio to provide Adams with the names of those who have been involved in the burning of her family's homes and property in Ballymurphy. Witnesses to some of the burnings are prepared to disclose to the Sinn Fein president the identities of those IRA members directly responsible for firebomb attacks on at least three premises. They are also willing to furbish him with the names of IRA members they claim daubed the walls of Ballymurphy with slogans accusing the family of being touts and MI5 agents. Victor Notarantonio states, 'we would like Mr Adams to pass these onto the ombudsman. Or was such a course of action in the McCartney killing just a gimmick to get Sinn Fein off the hook?'

At first I was one of the sceptics. It was hard for me to accept that the IRA would burn nationalist homes. Each time it was put to me my response was that the IRA's accusers were prepared to show the dots but were unable to join them. There seemed to be no verifiable IRA link between cause and effect. Ultimately, however, I came to be snowed under by the sheer volume of opinion. Former republican prisoners, no friends of the Notarantonios, some of whom still rally behind Sinn Fein, are now expressing anger and stating openly that the IRA has been behind some of the burnings. They are persuasive and hard not to take seriously. 'Just watch who moves into the houses if they get the Notars out', I was advised.

Twenty-five years ago we were on blanket protest in the H-Blocks. Bobby Sands was on the twelfth day of his hunger strike and Frank Hughes was within days of joining him. In those drab cells I thought we were going to come through it some day, re-emerge from the jails and re-enter our own communities. When we did we would provide the long-suffering residents with something better than they ever had before. Why bother being a republican otherwise? None could have persuaded me that a young woman not even born at the time of the hunger strikes, the future we were fighting to guarantee the wellbeing of, would be jumping out her bedroom window to escape being burned to death as a result of a firebomb campaign which republicans played some role in. Not what the boys gave their last for.

How many Ballymurphy residents were burned out of their homes in 1969?




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There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
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Index: Current Articles

12 March 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Profile: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Anthony McIntyre

The Right to Offend
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Spool of Threads
Marc Kerr

Wrong to Claim Freedom of Speech
Mick Hall

Anti-Racism Network Urges Website Not to Publish Racist-Cartoons
ARN Press Release

Fires of Hate
Anthony McIntyre

All is Far From Lost After Riots
David Adams

Who's A Nazi?
Dr John Coulter

'Screamingly Funny in its Absurdity'
Liam O Ruairc

The Letters page has been updated:

One Man's Terrorist is Another Man's Prophet

Christ Collage

An Eye for An Eye

Glad to See Someone is Not Afraid

There Are No Sides to Peace

Silence is Not Golden; It is Complicity
Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Speech index

5 March 2006

MI5 and Omagh — The Bomb to End All Bombs?
John Hanley

MANIFESTO: Together Facing the New Totalitarianism

Freedom of Speech
Anthony McIntyre

The Parameters of Free Speech
David Adams

MI5 and the Stasi Syndrome
Dr John Coulter

Misrepresentation of the Republican Position Must Be Addressed
Francis Mackey

The Progressive Road
Mick Hall

Imperialism and National Revolution
How the Trotskyists got it wrong

Robert Clough

Nick Laird's Utterly Monkey
Seaghán Ó Murchú

No Dangerous Liaisons
Anthony McIntyre

The Letters page has been updated:

Remembering the Hunger Strikes

Sunday Times Responds

Rights and Responsibilities

The Whys

Images of the Dublin Riots
Carol Russell



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