The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Dam Has Burst

Mick Hall • 2 March 2005

I recently heard a member of Sinn Fein say the current hue and cry raised by the partner and sisters of Robert McCartney, who was murdered by members of the PIRA after a bar room brawl, will be on a par with that of the Peace People.* By this comment I suppose he meant that given time, things will return to normal in the Short Strand, plus he was adding a pinch of pepper by reminding us the Peace People were quickly hi-jacked by the pro British media and taken up by the political establishment both in the UK and RoI, all but imploding in a storm of personality clashes and disagreements over money. However, for me, that such a comparison was made by this Sinn Fein activist is yet another example of SF's inability to react in a positive manner to current events if they veer off script.

Even at a glance one can see that there is little similarity between what happened to Robert McCartney and the Maguire children, nor does the behaviour of his loved ones in any way tally with that of the Peace People. Indeed, the two parties are opposites. The McCartney family are not demanding, as the Peace People did, that PIRA cease its war of national liberation, for the simple reason it is not currently engaged in any war, having been on ceasefire since 1997. The McCartneys have made no attempt to place Irish Republicanism in the dock but, as the PIRA have admitted, IRA members were involved in the fracas in which Mr McCartney lost his life. The McCartneys have been demanding of the Provisional IRA leadership that it does its duty by its own rules and by so doing it stands with the Short Strand community and not with its renegade members who brutally murdered a member of that community.

No, members of the PRM have attempted to smear the McCartneys with the Peace People tag, because they know that the majority of the Nationalist population in areas like Short Strand hold a low opinion of that organisation due to how the PP eventually panned out. By so doing they hoped that such a smear would stick to the dead man's family. That they attempted to do so just shows what a pretty pickle the PRM have got themselves into over this crime. For members of the PIRA to beat and hack one of their supporters to death in a public place, when their bellies were full of beer, and then call on their comrades to help clean the crime scene is not an alpha plus in most people's eyes. To then make matters worse by intimidation and nasty smears only added to their woes. Then to continue to dig further into the massive hole their colleagues had already dug for themselves by behaving in the aforementioned manner beggars belief and sadly demonstrates only too clearly, as I have already said, the inability of the PRM to deal swiftly with situations that are off the leadership's script.

It is worth considering why PRM has found itself in such a frightful mess of late, for it has undoubtedly come as a complete shock to not only them but also much of the media; yet all the signs were there if they were only looked for. One of the gaping holes exposed over the last two months has been the inability of SF intellectuals to come to their party's aid and give the leadership adequate cover, as is their norm. Instead we have had the pitiful sight of the likes of Danny Morrison and Jim Gibney, both seasoned Republicans who these days have their own weekly newspaper columns, readily jumping, spade in hand, into the hole only recently dug by members of the Short Strand PIRA with the blood of Mr McCartney, to do their own share of the digging. There is no other way to describe their behaviour, when what was needed from republican intellectuals was a bit of blue water thinking that would chart a way for the PRM out of their current impasse.

Instead all the two men could offer was more hard labour, when they retold in their newspaper columns the tale of the sacrifices of the hunger strikers and how the PIRA came to the defence of the Short Strand at the start of the troubles. All true no doubt; but the people of the Short Strand were not denying the courage and heroism of a previous generation of Republicans but demanding that today's leadership take charge of their current volunteers. Such a history lesson not only fell on deaf ears, but further enraged the people of the Short Strand, as too did the former Mayor of Belfast Alex Maskey when on the day after the murder, rather than siding with the local community, he turned on the PSNI for having the temerity to investigate the crime. Of all communities in the north, the people of the Short Strand had no need to be reminded of how to do their duty — f or that was what they were doing when they were protesting against Republican renegades who murdered their friend and neighbour. What they wanted to hear was that at long last the leadership of the PIRA was doing their duty and standing alongside them, as they the community in turn had stood alongside the Republican Movement during some of the darkest days of the troubles. Plus, they wanted to hear how such tragic situations could be avoided in the future.

It is not difficult to see how this sorry mess has been allowed to develop and it almost entirely springs from the control freakiery of the Adams leadership. They seem to wish to control every aspect of the PRM and the behaviour of the people who live in the core Republican communities. No public statement, even at the most local level, can be issued without one of Adams' kitchen cabinet okaying it. Thus when an event such as the foul murder of Robert McCartney takes place, the PRM is taken by surprise, which may be understandable, but what is less so is their inability to deal with it in a civilised manner. Instead every thing comes to a halt, the wagons are circled and SF goes into rebuttal mode, as if they were back at war. The smear and innuendo squad are sent out to contact friendly journalists and local members do the same over the garden gate. Shinner speak is replicated right down the line. However none of this worked because it soon became clear, to almost everyone except the more gullible members of SF, that the McCartney murder was a grubby, disgraceful, brutal act perpetrated by members of the local PIRA, and all decent people would rally to the dead man's family, as there was no anti republican agenda at work.

Or take how the PRM dealt with the recent accusations made in a new book about the blanket men written by Richard O'Rawe (Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-block Hunger Strike). As a blanket man himself, Richard O'Rawe played an important role during this period as the prisoners' PRO inside the Maze. He thus worked closely with the Provo officer commanding Bik McFarlane. Twenty years after the event it is hardly surprising that some of the participants would differ on events, but instead of recognising this the PRM has wheeled out its big guns to vilify O'Rawe for having the impertinence to write a book that differed with the official line.

What this kerfuffle should have been is a difference between former comrades; no harm done, history being what it is, there is always bound to be more than one version when it is retold and all the better for us if there is. But no, for the Provisional republican movement in its current incarnation there is only room for one tale to be told and this is the one sanctioned by Connolly House. The same is true about almost all things that involve Irish Republicanism, whether it be the murder of Robert McCartney, the GFA, standing PIRA down, the Hunger Strikes, Republican internet lists, etc, etc. If someone has a version that differs or questions the Provisional Republican Movements orthodoxy, then according to the Adamettes, they must be motivated by underhand, devious, or low reasons and thus open season to slander and vilify them is declared by this leadership.

Now this was all very well during wartime when people were willing to sacrifice their democratic liberties for the greater good; they were even willing, if reluctantly, do this for a period when peace first came about with the second ceasefire, because they understood it takes time for things to bed down and return to normal. But eight years down the line the dam has burst. Nationalist/Republican communities are no longer prepared to accept such crap on the promise of jam tomorrow, especially when the people who are asking them to make sacrifices appear to be making few of their own. The fact is unless the PRM stands the PIRA down and democratises itself, it is finished as a mass political party and with it will go the dreams of hundreds of thousands of Irish Republicans. Even worse, its core working class constituency, who have contributed and suffered alongside the Provisional Republican Movement, will end up with no one to represent them politically. Once again working class nationalist areas will have to make do with being represented by middle class politicians on the make, who do not understand the aspirations of these working class communities, nor do they have their best intentions at heart.



* An organisation that was founded back in 1976 by Mairead Corrigan Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeown, after the three children of Mairead Corrigan's sister were killed when a PIRA volunteer on active service was shot dead and the car he was driving careered into the children, killing all three. However it was quickly taken up by the anti republican media and was used as a propaganda vehicle against the PIRA.





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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 March 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Honourary White Man
Marc Kerr

A Blanketman Still Fighting to be Heard
Anthony McIntyre

The Dam Has Burst
Mick Hall

The Peace Process Has Been Saved
David Adams

World's Largest Men's Room
Brian Mór

Green Beer and Bad Singing
Fred A Wilcox

Ireland's Neutrality is Not Threatened
Thomas Lefevre

Sentences of Death: Mary Gordon's Pearl
Seaghán Ó Murchú

24 February 2005

The Socialist Objection and Alternative
Eamonn McCann

Taking the Peace
Jimmy Sands

Life Amongst the Proveau Riche
Brian Mór

A Far Cry from the Hunger Strikers' Sacrifices
Anthony McIntyre

Tragic Legacy
Mick Hall

Some Economic Results of the Civilizing Mission
M. Shahid Alam



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