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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Burdens Unbearable


Anthony McIntyre • 4 February 2005

The Short Strand is a mere four mile from where I live. Still, it took about thirty minutes to get there this evening in a taxi as a result of a detour to the South of the city to pick up a friend. St Matthew's chapel which sits on the edge of the district has a central place in the narrative of Provisional republicanism. It was there 35 years ago that the leader of the IRA in this city was injured by armed loyalists as he and a couple of comrades, one of whom died, were the only thing preventing the small nationalist enclave to the rear of their position being overrun and the residents possibly murdered and most certainly burned out of their homes. The British Army had cut off the two main bridges from the city centre leading into the Short Strand. They had orders not to go in. The IRA leader, a seasoned volunteer with over thirty years experience, had managed to get in ahead of them, in time to coordinate a defence effort, which he led from the front. The IRA's own blood on the 27th of June 1970 marked the line across which the murderous mobs of sectarian hatred would not pass.

Thoughts of an IRA driven by a commitment to protect its own community passed through my mind this evening as I stood in the shadow of St Matthew's. But it was an IRA far removed from the sentiments of many of those who had gathered to pay tribute to Bert McCartney, who was murdered last weekend by knife wielding psychopaths as dextrous in their slashing and cutting as anyone belonging to the Shankill butchers. People in the crowd with whom I spoke were scathing of Bert McCartney's killers. 'Animals' and 'scum of the earth' were terms used to convey their sense of outrage.

Standing amongst a crowd of what a friend estimated as 1,000-1500, I sensed that this was more than a vigil for a murdered man. It was also a political protest. No statements or political denunciations were necessary. No one carried placards or chanted slogans. A local priest spoke through prayer rather than political critique. It was the conversation in the crowd that said it all. They want their community cleansed of the viciousness that led to Bert McCartney's killing. They seek the apprehension of those who cut short his life. They oppose obstacles placed in the way of police investigations. They implore the Provisional Republican Movement - which many of them continue to support - to offer no sanctuary to his killers. They want the many genuine members of that movement to state clearly, 'not in our name.'

Some Provisionals were there. Others were not. Those who treated Bert McCartney with the same inhuman disdain that Lenny Murphy would have been proud of would hardly be welcome at a vigil in his memory. The Provisionals who were there, by all accounts, were genuinely angry. Angry with some of their colleagues for having visited this despicable crime on a member of a community they work to represent. They were at pains to point out that 'the movement' had nothing to do with the murder; that those who had brought so much grief to the community were a disgrace.

Although some unionists have called this an IRA murder, it was anything but. The IRA was not an accomplice to this killing. If, however, reports from the residents and republicans of all hues are accurate, then most people believe that thugs associated with the IRA were responsible. While the IRA was not complicit in the murder, the organisation runs the risk of being an accomplice after the fact. Numerous reports are coming out of 'the east' about intimidation of witnesses. People claim to have been threatened by known republicans trying to impose the code of omerta. One report has it that the local IRA marched into a club less than twenty four hours before tonight's vigil and demanded that all criticism of 'the movement' cease.

If any of this is true, it paints a picture of an organisation so absorbed in the labyrinthine pursuit of power that it has lost all sight of its own origins. Communities become mere strategic pawns in the wider power play. When justice is a hindrance that stands in the way of the struggle, then the value of the struggle itself must be questioned.

After the vigil we made our way to the home of the deceased man. His body was released today for burial. His cut face told its own story. Gazing on his lifeless form I wondered if my own thoughts were shared by others: had the IRA which selflessly spilt its blood to defend this area become a home for the worst possible elements in this society? Sadistic blackguards who had stepped across that defensive line of IRA blood at St Matthew's to plunge their knives into the chest of a man from the community the IRA had come into being in order to protect.

Bert McCarthy leaves a wife and two young sons. The grief that weighed down his mother's shoulders was palpable as we offered our sympathies, self consciously aware of an 'unbearable lightness of being' occasioned by the knowledge that her unbearable sorrow was not on our shoulders. We left the house to an equally unbearable silence that screamed for justice.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

4 February 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Burdens Unbearable
Anthony McIntyre

The Generals' Dance
Mick Hall

One Year After the Kelly's Incident: Bobby Tohill Speaks
Liam O Ruairc

Loyalist Elements Feuding with UVF - Blamed for Attacks at Unity Walk
Sean Mc Aughey

The Possibilities With Brown
Dr John Coulter

Report of Bloody Sunday Commemoration in Glasgow
Seamus Reader

Uniting Against Radicalism
Harun Yahya

28 January 2005

The Road to a Mafia State
Anthony McIntyre

Help is On the Way! Lawyers, Guns, Money...& Golf
Karen Lyden Cox

Four Reasons for Ideological Shift
Liam O Ruairc

Tilting at the Windmills
Mick Hall

Looking Down the Barrel of Freedom
Fred A. Wilcox

Saor Eire Again
Bob Purdie

Sex, Lies, But No Videotape
Seaghán Ó Murchú



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