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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Power in the Pub

It is a chilling reflection of the republican movement's reputation for thuggery that not one witness was willing to come forward to give evidence about a murder that took place in a crowded pub
- Irish Examiner

Anthony McIntyre • Fortnight, March 2005

Just over a year ago, worse the wear for drink, along with Tommy Gorman, I ended up in a downtown bar. More stumbling than walking we made our way to the corner and planted ourselves at a table in the company of some Sinn Fein members. Hardly a word was spoken before one leapt up as if scalded and began gesticulating in my direction, muttering that he would not sit at the table with me: 'you criticised the movement on TV the other night.' My response, a curt 'fuck off'. At that he reached beneath the table to pick up either his bag or his belly - through my inebriated haze both seemed to be sitting on the floor. Once he had gone, and both myself and Tommy Gorman had stopped laughing, my words to my drinking buddy were something to the effect that every pot bellied fascist with a mind full of nothing and a belly full of beer had license from 'the movement' to strut the stage and scream 'achtung' at its critics. The other Shinners sat on and we drank the rest of the evening with them, managing to agree on nothing.

The irate gofer who had fled the bar, before the contagiousness of a different idea spread to him, used to plant bombs but has since exchanged gelignite for paint and now does 'Gerry is great' murals. He is also a party member from the Short Strand. And in that little part of the world, where some publicly protest that they live in a cross between civil war Beirut and the Warsaw Ghetto, tolerance of those who think differently is in short supply, and the goosestep is an art form. There is an attitude of 'we run this area and our writ shall not be challenged.' Given recent events I can be grateful that I was not stabbed. But then again, while he shared the totalitarian outlook of many of his ilk, our privileged muralist was not a thug; and minus the booze is a placid sort of being.

At the end of January Robert McCartney was not as fortunate as I had been. His pub confrontation with the local fascists that make up a sizeable segment of the Provisional movement in East Belfast and the Markets, resulted not in them gathering their bags or their bellies and bolting, but in him being hacked to death at their hands on a city centre street. Not that the killers have any thought-out fascist philosophy. They no more need one than their fellow hackers at the bottom rung of Hutu Power fascism that slashed its way through Rwandese society a decade ago. Provo Power is what drives them, with its exaltation of the irresistible leader, its hatred of those who challenge it, and its own blind servitude on the ground.

The IRA most certainly did not murder Robert McCartney. But a local IRA culture of arrogance and impunity produced the knife gang which, more drunk on power than on alcohol, felt it could do as it wished. The same gang has a history of both intimidating and brutalising people. One journalist was told by a local that it was the IRA's equivalent of the UDA's Shankill C Company.

Amongst those who attacked Robert McCartney were some who had reportedly just returned from the Bloody Sunday commemoration in Derry. A detached observer, uninhibited by context, might conclude that they were angered at the bad press the British Paratroopers received in the city and as soon as they reached Belfast decided to kill another unarmed nationalist.

As if there was not irony enough in that, Robert McCartney was a Sinn Fein voter. Yet the party beside whose name he recurrently placed his X remained silent for almost two weeks after his murder. It was fired up with ire okay, all of it directed towards the PSNI who were trying to find his killers. What an appropriate headline that would have made for the opening issue of Daily Ireland, 'Sinn Fein thwart investigation into murder of Sinn Fein voter.' But appropriate headlines are not a regular feature in the land of the peace process.

Unfortunately for the Provisionals, the sisters and fiancée of Robert McCartney proved like nothing else they had ever seen within the communities they dominate. Photogenic, astute, articulate, educated, tenacious and as sharp as razors they took the media by storm in their search for justice and peeled away the defensive layers of Sinn Fein speak that had for long frustrated others trying to penetrate the mists of 'Provo babble'. Even the village idiot would have difficulty persuading himself that these women were securocrats out to make mischief for the peace process. Any intentions that Sinn Fein may have had of alleging that the dead man and his injured friend had went up an alley way and stabbed each other just to upset the party's electoral rise vanished in front of its eyes. It was a no-contest in which nonsense never stood a chance.

Left with little choice, seventeen days after the murder, the IRA leadership issued a statement effectively disowning the killers and insisting that it would not be party to the intimidation of witnesses who might seek to help the McCartney family in their search for truth and justice. While moving closer to addressing the concerns of the family the IRA could go further and remove any remaining obstacles to the full weight of due process kicking in. The organisation should openly acknowledge that a number of its members and Sinn Fein election workers were involved in the murder and that they no longer have a place within the Provisional Movement. That at least would remove a constraint on people who would otherwise feel inhibited by the social stigma associated with passing on information to the police about people perceived to be republican activists.

Most republicans have a deeply ingrained mistrust of the police and will not be inclined to encourage people to come forward. Yet those who wish to speak with the police about the murder of a Sinn Fein voter should do so unimpeded. Or are some murderers of Sinn Fein voters privileged within a hierarchy of murder? If Sinn Fein respects its own mandate then let it flush out the murderers of one of its voters.

Writing recently in the Limerick Leader Patricia Feehily asked:

What kind of a voyage have we embarked on anyway when we can stand by and watch some of our own privileged off-spring, yearning for a bit of radicalism to light up the ennui in their lives, and idiotically shouting "up the rah' before falling dead drunk in the gutter?

If that is all they do then let them fall dead drunk in the gutter. Unlike Robert McCartney they will come round in the morning.






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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

16 March 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Statement from the Family of Knife Murder Victim Mark 'Mousey' Robinson
Robinson Family, Derry

Power in the Pub
Anthony McIntyre

Why No Arrests? (Whose agenda are we working to)?
TR FitzSimons

McCartneys: how the personal became political
Brendan O'Neill

No Breakthrough
Michael Benson

Hope for Justice
Mick Hall

Provisional Thuggery in Strabane
Des Dalton

Basking in the Glory?
Dr John Coulter

This Is What Democracy Doesn't Look Like
Fred A. Wilcox

Way Beyond Orwell
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Aliyah and the Oligarchs
Mary La Rosa

7 March 2005

The Butcher of Derry
Anthony McIntyre

Republican Anger at Criminals on Political Wing
Martin Mulholland, IRPWA

Brian Mór

The Rally for Justice
Sean Smyth

Green Leadership in North Call for a 'Big Conversation'
on a Unified Nationalist/Republican Strategy for the Endgame

John Barry, Green Party

Eoin McNamee's two Troubles novels
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Irish Christians and Africa
Dr John Coulter



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