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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

For Whom the Bells Toll

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong - Voltaire

Anthony McIntyre • 19 January, 2003

The political discourse as of late has pulsated with reference to policing. Much of it is based on anticipation that Sinn Fein will join the structure of the RUC. One Sinn Fein official told the Irish Times the deal was ‘done and dusted.’ No doubt it is. A member of the Republican Movement who is resolutely against Sinn Fein joining the RUC recently referred to two of the party's perennial picket line participants who have been spending their Saturdays standing on the Falls Road with posters proclaiming opposition to the PSNI. "What," he asked, "are they going to do when Gerry Kelly drives down some day, gets out of his land rover and tells them to move on or he'll book them?" My response: "Move on, I suppose, and tell us it is only tactical and then accuse us of failing to grasp the revolutionary logic inherent in mere surface conservative stances." The point is both of us accept that this is the only direction in which Sinn Fein and its 'undefeated army' is going. Why an 'undefeated army' would want to join the RUC is rarely broached. Moreover, why an 'undefeated army' would continuously feel the need to point out to all and sundry that it was an 'undefeated army' seems not to puzzle only those who swallow the myth that it was undefeated. They protest too much.

The decision to become part of the structure of the RUC was taken a long time ago — just as every other decision relating to the peace process was. Once Chris Patten gave cover for the Pattenistas to emerge from within the ranks of the Sinn Fein leadership it was only a matter of time before that cover grew more translucent. Only the faithful blind either failed or refused to see what was happening in front of their very eyes. When Patten as base line became Patten as plateau, when the RUC became the RUC/PSNI, then PSNI, when the problem became not the RUC but the unreconstructed elements within the RUC, when Ronnie Flanagan as head of the force rather than the force per se came to be defined as a sticking point, when Special Branch - now ‘a force within a force’ rather than the force it was within - was presented as the major blockage, the writing was on the wall and it did not spell 'd-i-s-b-a-n-d-m-e-n-t.

There will be no ideological resistance within the republican family to what is happening. The siblings have been quite happy to stand idly by while Big Brother No 1 took it upon himself to put to bed every other tenet of Provisional republicanism so there is no reason for sections of the family to stand up, proclaim their ideological sensibilities mortally offended and then refuse to acquiesce. In this sense it is most definitely not a dysfunctional family in which the sons and daughters rebel against Big Brother No 1. Very few opt to become black sheep. Obedience paralyses any sense of dissent.

But how people see things in the world depends to a large extent on whose ox is gored. And it is plausible to speculate on what might happen when Gerry Kelly, Alan McQuillan, Mitchel McLaughlin, and Hugh Orde metaphorically come kicking in the doors of those South Armagh traders who have for decades turned their pound and kept the wolves from the door by making intelligent economic use of the border. And Sinn Fein as part of the structure of the RUC will hardly push for legislation aimed at legalising illicit cross border activity; the reverse in fact - they will be compelled to support a state assault on such activity.

And in circumstances where people whose way of life is eroded and criminalised it is impossible to rule out some disquiet. After all, while the war effort of South Armagh might have achieved little in terms of securing republican objectives - due to the Sinn Fein leadership trading in the efforts of activists for little that furthered republicanism or benefited South Armagh - it did carve out a space for people to continue their lives doing as they always had. It helped create a buffer against unwanted state incursion into the economic life of border communities. And there must exist an awareness that the war in South Armagh - so brilliantly described by Toby Harnden in his Bandit Country - was not fought with such tenacity and military expertise so that the people of the area could be disinvested of their daily bread and butter in order to advance the political careers of Sinn Fein politicians in the cities. One hardly imagines those who spent over two decades instilling fear into the heart of the British establishment did so for the purpose of electing a MLA who the leadership will expect to function as a glove puppet for Belfast politicians and explain to the communities of South Armagh that they need to be effectively policed.

If there is to be any hostile response to the Sinn Fein leadership sounding the bells summoning people to the RUC, it will come from those for whom the bells toll.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
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Index: Current Articles

19 January 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Fair Trial Not a Farcical Travesty
Bernadette Sands McKevitt


For Whom the Bells Toll
Anthony McIntyre


The Republic: Of Connolly, of Costello, of Kearney and Campbell

Terry Harkin


O Bradaigh versus Adams
Classicism versus Historical Consciousness

Father Sean Mc Manus


Beyond the Border
Annie Higgins


17 January 2003


No Rights For Humans
Anthony McIntyre


The Fight For America's Soul

Julie Brown


The Bloody Streets of New York
Mike Davis


The Left Betrays the Iraqi People by Opposing War
Nick Cohen


Missive To America
Annie Higgins


The Letters page has been updated.




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