The Blanket

Of Mobs and Men

Carrie Twomey • 1.11.02

Recently, a local tabloid carried a little joke made at my family's expense. Whether witty or not, it was very revealing of the teller, especially that, in choosing this particular horror story to get a dig at us, and printing it in this tabloid in particular, known for being a Sinn Fein mouthpiece, the irony of it all seemed completely lost.

Halloween TV - tonight's movies reviewed in full
HE'S ALIVE! Frankenstein's monster scares the locals
Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. RTE1, 10:15pm
A crowd of torch-bearing villagers make their way through the sleepy Bavarian hamlet of Ballymurphy to storm the castle of a wild eyed doctor who will stop at nothing in his crazed quest for fame and immortality. Anthony McIntyre is genuinely scary in this landmark chiller.

In late October and early November, 2000, my family's home was twice picketed by a Sinn Fein led mob, outraged at the audacious public accusation of the Provisional IRA's despicable murder of Real IRA volunteer Joseph O'Connor made by my husband, Anthony McIntyre, along with his friend Tommy Gorman. This angry mob was more outraged at their speaking out than they were over the murder of one of their neighbours, a heinous murder committed in broad daylight in front of a number of witnesses at the doorstep of the victim's mother.

I was six months pregnant and alone in the house with my teenage step-daughter the cold, dark night when the mob came calling the second time. Then Sinn Fein candidate (now Belfast City Councillor) Marie Cush proudly marched to my door to smugly announce, "We have a protest for you," cueing the gathered mob to start their howls. "Where is he, Where is he, Bring him to us," they demanded, brandishing their placards like the torches referred to in the joke told by Robin Livingstone, one of the editors of the Andersonstown News tabloid. A different editor of the paper was one of the mob shouting abuse from the crowd that night.

After the mob tired of yelling at me, they then went on to attack and harangue the widow of Joseph O'Connor, Nicola, who was also pregnant at the time. Their fourth son, Joel, will have never known his father.

Frankenstein, as well as being a horror story, is a cautionary tale. "Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow," Mary Shelley warns; it's much better to remain uneducated, ignorant. To dare to break free from the crowd makes one an outsider, open to vilification and worse. Shelley writes of man's cruelty towards those who are different, using the doctor and his monster as examples of what happens when society takes its vengeance upon those it deems unacceptable.

So perhaps Livingstone's joke holds more truth in it than he realized when he so glibly thought of it: West Belfast, and its insular concept of itself being the epicentre of all things, Ballymurphy even more so. How dare anyone think beyond it's graffitied walls! How dare anyone contradict the leadership of their wee town! How dare anyone break free of its conformity, its mind-numbing self-congratulatory prison-like atmosphere? How dare anyone challenge the status quo? Burn him, burn him, he's a monster! There will be no thinking here.

More pointed in the joke, however, is the positioning of McIntyre as Victor Frankenstein, and the barb over his chasing of fame and immortality. What is lost in the desire to wound, though, is the perspective Frankenstein had gained through his life and his mistakes, and how it can parallel that of McIntyre's writing - not in a quest for fame and immortality but in the theme that runs through McIntyre's work of rejecting the use of armed struggle and the questioning of what the worth of the loss of life was. Perhaps the monster in question is not the exposure of the Provisional Emperor's new clothes and the fallout that causes for the Provisional leadership and their lackeys, but the monster of the Provisionals themselves, of which McIntyre readily admits to having been a part (unlike others). A cautionary tale of the Troubles from a Republican perspective is one which shows armed struggle to have been futile, trust in leaders to have been misplaced, and the over-ambitious desire to be the standard bearers and deliverers of the 1916 Republic to have created a monster whose actions only destroyed. Not only were lives taken - needlessly - but so too, the hope of the revival of the Republic ever happening. Treachery, compromise of principles, and what has emerged as different agendas held by the leadership from that of the rank and file all contributed to making the monster destroy that which it most wanted to embrace.

Like Frankenstein's monster, who only wanted good yet was unable to express it, the Provisionals too only wanted what they believed to be good for their people. Arguably, it was their expression of it - monster like - that was their downfall, and is what has led to their being abandoned - or disbanded - today. It may be that Livingstone erred only in his choice of actor for Frankenstein's role. McIntyre may have been better cast as Shelley, telling the woe of Gerry Adams as Victor Frankenstein. Now that would be truly scary.





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"Mrs. Shelley was choosing a school for her son, and asked the advice of this lady, who gave for advice -- to use her own words to me -- 'Just the sort of banality, you know, one does come out with: "Oh, send him somewhere where they will teach him to think for himself!"' ...Mrs. Shelley answered: 'Teach him to think for himself? Oh, my God, teach him rather to think like other people!'"
- Matthew Arnold
Index: Current Articles

3 November 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Addressing Organised Crime
Billy Mitchell


Leading You Back To The Start
Anthony McIntyre



Carrie Twomey


Review: A Secret History of the IRA
Deaglan O Donghaile


Review: Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of Conflict in Northern Ireland
Buffy Maguire


Yes, Palestine Is Still The Issue
Aine Fox


Support & Solidarity
Davy Carlin


31 October 2002


The Real IRA
Eamonn McCann


A Stick To Be Beaten With
Anthony McIntyre


A Modest Proposal

Tommy Gorman


Minimum Wage or the Abolition of Wage Labour?
Liam O Ruairc




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