The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Behaving Justly


Anthony McIntyre • 28 April 2005

It was predicted in advance of the trip by the McCartney women to Washington, that such a journey would be the zenith of their campaign in terms of the publicity it could expect to accrue. Not because it would produce a negative reaction of any consequence at home. It was always going to be beyond the powers of even Sinn Fein's duplicity and double standards to mount a counter campaign based on principled opposition to Bush. Sinn Fein does not have any. This much at least has been evidenced through the countless trips by party leaders to the White House. Sinn Fein may claim with much justification that such trips are the price to be paid in a world of realpolitik where the radical tail hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of wagging the reactionary dog. At the same time any such assertion denies it the moral high ground from which it could plausibly criticise others who decide to meet the US president and who cite pragmatism in their own defence.

From the moment their plane touched down on Irish soil, the McCartney women were going to find the going tougher. A more enhanced public spotlight than that provided by the corridors of power in the world's most powerful nation, does not exist. Media fatigue rather than planned disengagement would kick in. The carnivorous news beast needs to be fed on new events and even Sinn Fein's capacity for faux pas after faux pas is not inexhaustible. Although this would not be immediately graspable in the wake of recent suggestions in a Sunday paper that the main knife suspect in the Robert McCartney murder case was also a middle ranking official in Sinn Fein. The party as always was a day late and a dollar short. It never acknowledged the party role of the knife suspect until the reports appeared. The crime is in the cover up.

Despite their best efforts it may well turn out that the family of Robert McCartney will never get the justice they pursue. Their sole recompense could be to end up living with the knowledge that they behaved justly. For that reason some observers have begun suggesting that the campaign should be wound up. Such advice would seem hasty and ill judged. Few campaigns for justice have succeeded after only three months. Relatives of the Bloody Sunday victims are now in their thirty third year of campaigning. For the Finucane family it is year sixteen. Even if the McCartney women's endeavours to put killers in the dock fails, an inability to obtain justice does not preclude campaigning against injustice. As the publicity dimension of the campaign inevitably eases down the gears, the injustice perpetrated against this family has not diminished one iota. Democracy gains more from injustice exposed than injustice denied. In terms of the Northern Irish conflict the McCartney women have added a powerful impetus to the function of democratic scrutiny. Such scrutiny ought to be expanded not restricted. The McCartney campaign should not pull back for the sake of levelling down. Other campaigns should try to emulate it by pushing forward.

No one is beyond criticism and those opposed to the women, for whatever reason, must be free to voice their concerns. In some cases this has taken the form of run of the mill adversarial discourse, but in others the deliberate smear has acquired a more central role. At the milder end of the smear spectrum has been the view that 'they're glory-hunters. They couldn't care less about their brother. They'll say anything to be on TV.' Also, the smear has taken the form of whispers about the financial clout of the women.

About a month ago on my way to see a friend who lives close to Dublin Airport I disembarked from my bus outside the main terminal. I saw three of the McCartney sisters standing outside the building. It was my first chance to speak to them face to face since the Friday after their brother's funeral. They had walked outside the terminal for that famous 'McCartney smoke.' Such is the need to sate the craving that on one occasion they stepped outside the White House only to find themselves locked out. On this occasion they were waiting to catch a flight to Brussels to promote their justice campaign to members of the European parliament. They had bussed down from Belfast. I told them I had done likewise only I used the new service departing from Jury's Hotel and that it was only £8 return. Their reaction was one of 'if only we had known.' They paid a much dearer price at Ulster Bus.

That instant crystallised more than any other the lack of monetary weight behind the women's efforts. There was no fleet of cars to whisk them off to the airport, no entourage of advisers, nor swathes of PR people. Newspapers later reported that three of the women were unable to cough up the money to make the trip. I was also struck by the despondency that seemed to permeate their demeanour. They looked haggard and drawn. There was no sparkle in their eyes. These were people carrying a burden, not celebrities strutting on the international catwalk. From my brief conversation with them it was all to easy to discern that they longed to be somewhere else, back with their own families, pursuing their lives. They had found themselves thrust into the public eye as a result of something they had no control over and wished had never happened. Yet what they do, they do well, leading me to suspect that it is their aplomb that annoys many of those hostile towards them. Picture Catherine McCartney fronting the campaign for the Colombian three. Her current detractors would exalt her as Irish heroine of the century, even if she were to shout 'they were only bird watchers.'

No matter what way the campaign twists and turns, there exists a visceral resentment towards the intellectual and strategic ability of the McCartney women. The quarter from where such antipathy emanates seems to position women in a category where they apply themselves to the practical arts of washing dishes, changing babies and making beds. Cerebral activity is a men only club. Who can recall a woman ever facing an accusation of being on the Provisional IRA army council? No hint of it on yesterday evening's News Night either. Consequently, there are those always willing to find no evidence of Sinn Fein leaders on the army council but an abundance of it pointing towards a team of Svengali advisers working on the McCartney campaign, always at hand and ready to impart nuggets of strategic wisdom. It is as if working class women are incapable of self-organisation and are in need of assistance from others - the experts. Truth is, left to advisors the issue may have been buried along with Robert.

The recent vigil at the murder scene indicated that this was still acknowledged by many. Despite earlier attempts at intimidation from the type who like to knit at the side of Madame Guillotine, the event went ahead. As we stood in the pelting rain, the dank streets of Belfast seemed far removed from the glitzy corridors of Washington. That mattered little to the six women. Only Robert did. Long after the cameras have gone, they will still be there.





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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

29 April 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

I Believe
Eamon Sweeney

Behaving Justly
Anthony McIntyre

Stop the Cover Up -- Give Us Peace
Kathleen Coyle

Justice Needs Done
Damien Okado-Gough

More Than Politics to NI Process
David Adams

Jude the Obscure Republican
Anthony McIntyre

Shared Ultra Conservatism
Dr John Coulter

* More Election Coverage *

Europe and the General Election
John O'Farrell


24 April 2005

Robert McCartney's family appeal to Sinn Fein
McCartney Family

Kevin Cunningham

'Dreary Ireland'
Anthony McIntyre

An Ireland of Welcomes Should Be
Mick Hall

Brian Mór

A Spartan's Story
Anthony McIntyre

* Election Coverage *

Martin Cunningham, Newry and Mourne District Council



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