The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Anthony McIntyre • May 19, 2003

Out for a walk this evening with a friend, Kevin McQuillan, we had the misfortune to come across an irate Sinn Fein councillor, Tom Hartley, on the Andersonstown Road. The source of his ire, strangely, seemed not to be state collusion and the manipulation of agents for the purposes of murder, or the possibility of water charges being inflicted upon an impoverished community; nor was it that the British had decided to show who was boss and had suspended elections. It was not even caused by a sense of humiliation that party leaders had, in the words of Brian Feeney, grovelled to the Brits and pleaded for a chance to be allowed to cut back on acute health services on behalf of Britain once again. No, the ire raging within Tom Hartley was for me!

Although Hartley these days is as subversive as your average vicar, myself and him normally exchange pleasantries or platitudes, he mildly berates me for not thinking the way he thinks I should think - and then having dutifully went through the perfunctory motions of inflicting the party line on me we part ways much the same as we met. Tonight was different. He was seething. It was as if I had defied a Sinn Fein banning order prohibiting me from being seen in public. People might think that I really did exist and was not something that lived in the attic of the BBC, to be wheeled out very now and then - as Big Brother No 1 likes to spoof to his RTE audience - to heretically hold forth against the unassailable wisdom of the peace process. Although we had bumped into a couple of ex-prisoners along the way and chewed the fat with them, Tom was the first apparatchik. The contrast between the activist and bureaucratic levels in republicanism, on this occasion, could not have been more marked. People, mere yards apart, inhabited two contrasting intellectual worlds. One healthy and porous where ideas can breathe, the other pathological, smothered and stifled where autonomous intellect is only welcome after it has been filtered and stripped of its independence.

Having greeted him, 'well Tom' (I didn't even address him as 'Tombstone Tom' to wind him up over his guided tours of the cemeteries) I was immediately subjected to a tirade and told I was 'disgraceful last week'. He did not clarify - clarity not being a concept the peace process rests comfortably with - but merely got very aggressive, finger wagged and pontificated to the effect that there was no room in West Belfast for views that Big Brother No 1 had not given prior approval to. Seemingly, what I fail to understand is that within West Belfast Big Brother No 1 just loves his subjects so much that in order to relieve us of our democratic burden he shall do all our thinking so that we are free to concern ourselves with the real things in life - tending the garden, watching football and all that. A West Belfast version of democratic centralism where Big Brother No 1 democratically decides for the rest of us. In his infinite kindness Big Brother No 1 has secured fundamental freedoms - even for malcontents like myself - including the right to be free from making decisions that govern our lives. My view that we should have the right to be free from the decision makers is mere clever dick semantics employed solely to 'confuse the gullible.' An understanding of real freedom is beyond my ken.

In any event, I was left to presume that Councillor Hartley was referring to the views I had expressed through a number of media outlets including The Blanket on the Steak Knife affair. In his fulminations he neglected to tell me what it was he was fulminating against. And there was me thinking that Des Wilson was right when he said democracy is always enhanced when people know more rather than less. Not here where it works the other way round. The less we know the more the leadership will praise us for our intellect and tell us that we are the most politicised people in Western Europe. Ours is a disciplined and collective intellect - evidenced by our willingness to tear out of the Ulster Hall and chant in unison 'securocrats'. Anyone suggesting that the controlocrats amongst the liarocracy who devise such intellectually limiting concepts may just have something to explain themselves, are dismissed as rejectionists. In our insular little world where we all need each other’s falsehoods to reinforce our faith in the incredible, the leadership alone will slay the legions of securocrat and rejectionist dragons - not to mention define who they are. That is of course when they are not secretly meeting securocrats in the form of Michael Oatley or John Deverell to plan the implementation of Britain’s alternative to republicanism.

Not being the type to get excited one way or the other about anything Tom Hartley would have to say, and being mildly curious to find out if he would tell me Steak Knife was touting for peace, I asked him 'are you defending touts?' His response was to froth even more at the mouth as he stuttered out the words 'it is you that is a disgrace.' Me - a disgrace. And Stake Knife? Well, he’s alright. Bring back Stormont and nobody will mention him. Not vaguely interested in calming the fuming, gesticulating Stalinist that now confronted me I sought to draw him by suggesting that perhaps it was natural for touts to support the peace process. It did not produce any answer other than a snarl, but at least it got rid of him as he took off up the road like a scalded cat muttering and mumbling while I stood somewhere between amazement and hilarity wondering at the absurdity of it all. ‘Do you think he behaves like that to the unionists?’ I pondered to Kevin. ‘What was all that about - he still hasn’t told you why you are a disgrace?’ was his only comment as we walked on down the road, half anticipating to be gripped by one of the many cop patrols doing the rounds, and asked: ‘Are you in possession of an alternative idea sir? Under Section 31 that is an offence in West Belfast. We will need to send for the thought disposal unit to render it harmless.’

What this was all about was a Sinn Fein apparatchik trying to create a poisonous atmosphere that would suffocate any version of events that would call into question the credentials of the bureaucratic structure that endows him with self-importance. The friendly face of moderation when making overtures to the unionists, quickly vanishes to be replaced with a fascistic scowl towards republicans who will not buy into the bollix. Out goes the tuxedo and the ‘I say old chap’ to be replaced with the green shirt and the harsh command of ‘verboten’. Make the streets a hostile sea controlled and cruised by goondas whose repressive efficacy is derived from their usefulness to the power structure more than it is on their own talents, and depth charge every alternative idea that happens to traverse along the sub current. Here I was being subjected to an aggressive rant by a city councillor while the party to which he belonged was shouting 'get Freddie a solicitor' - Freddie being the man at the centre of the Steak Knife allegations. Seems that both Scappaticci and Hartley thought a good piece of work for the peace process was having a go at me on the same day. Old Freddie, seemingly not the most devout practitioner of omerta, accused me in the Andytout News of being embittered and working to an agenda. I read on hoping he would call me an enemy of the peace process.

Now, I am hardly going to worry in the slightest that Freddie Scappaticci finds me on the opposite side of the fence from him. The peace process deserves his backing - after all he has been supporting it for years. Perhaps my cardinal sin in the eyes of Hartley has been to ask that awkward question - why?




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



I have spent
many years of my life
in opposition, and
I rather like the role.
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Index: Current Articles

23 May 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Fair Trial
Bernadette McKevitt


Anthony McIntyre


Connolly on Religion, Women and Sex

Liam O Ruairc


Gareth O Connor
Joe Dillon


To the Citizens of Europe
Davy Carlin


A New Morning
Annie Higgins


19 May 2003


Disappearing the Truth
Anthony McIntyre


The Undesirables
Pedram Moallemian


Shadowy Forces

Eamonn McCann


The Adventures of
Steak Knife
Brian Mór


The Death of Cu Chulainn
Brian Mór


Henri Lefebvre - French Marxist Humanist
Liam O Ruairc


What They Say
Annie Higgins




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