The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

'Penetrated' has become the Sinn Fein brand mark


Anthony McIntyre, Belfast Telegraph • 27 January 2006

It must be uncomfortable for those Sinn Fein members given to thinking outside the loop. Unlike the drones, they are normally stoical when dealing with the criticism frequently thrown their party's way. But even their stoicism evaporates to be replaced by blushes when opposition criticism gives way to vocal and public ridicule.

One magazine, in its predictions for 2006, carries a photograph of the two foremost Sinn Fein leaders alongside a beaming British prime minister. The caption reads: 'Blair, Adams and McGuinness: two secret agents meet the boss.' Even in jest the barb wounds deeply.

It is not that long ago that few would have dared incur the wrath of Sinn Fein by ridiculing it. Being pistol whipped on stage in front of a packed West Belfast drinking club was enough to deter most. Punishment for the ridiculer, a warning for the audience: a twin objective had been secured.

These days, even touts take Sinn Fein for fools. The party is fruit for any monkey that comes along after its leaders sought to pretend that Freddie Scappaticci was a victim of securocrats and had only gone off to warmer climes for nothing more sinister than to study the Italian pizza process.

Denis Donaldson, a man always on the look out for a few quid, knew an opportunity when he saw one. According to disgruntled Sinn Fein members, on the day the spy of two decades visited party premises at Sevastopol Street and declared his agent status, he first walked into a downstairs office and took receipt of his £300 expenses cheque before making his way up to meet the Sinn Fein duo tasked with recording his account.

Since the outing of Denis Donaldson, 'penetrated' has become something of a Sinn Fein brand mark. But agent infiltration is par for the course. Just over five years ago, the late journalist Jack Holland sat in my living room while he and I conversed on his book Hope Against History. I expressed the view that his was one of the few narratives to puncture the peace process myth that the Provisional IRA had settled for an honourable compromise. Without equivocation, he had written that the organisation had been defeated. Even if the template intellectually underpinning the Good Friday Agreement had always been considered a victory for the British and a defeat for republicans, it was easier to pretend in 2000 that the achievement of an all-island Republic remained a work in progress. By 2006 no amount of shifting goalposts can conceal the paucity of such suggestions.

Interested to know why I agreed with his assessment, Holland pressed me to detail my thoughts on the reasons behind the IRA defeat. I explained that the array of forces ranged against it was too strong and the leadership was forced to settle up on terms devised by the British state as far back as 1973. It had more of the failure about it than a sell-out. He demurred.

Some time earlier he had co-authored the book Phoenix. It was a biographical account of Ian Phoenix, a RUC superintendent killed in the 1994 Mull of Kintyre helicopter crash. Having accessed the personal notebook of Ian Phoenix, Holland rapidly immersed himself in the detail of IRA susceptibility to penetration. It quickly emerged that a central player in Belfast who met at least one or another senior republican leader on a daily basis was in the pay of Ian Phoenix. The RUC had extensive knowledge in advance of the bulk of the IRA's Belfast operations. Those they decided not to thwart, they allowed proceed in order to protect their agent. In Holland's view it was impossible for the IRA to avoid defeat if penetrated at that level.

Ostensibly, the IRA sussed out many agents in its ranks. But few seem to have occupied positions of leadership. Who today would say with certainty that any of those foot soldiers put to death for informing were in fact guilty? The IRA's word on the matter can no longer mean anything, the lie having come to define republicanism in its current form. The families of those 'executed' for alleged informing carried the mark of Cain within republican communities. Yet their loved ones may have been sent to walk the plank by senior figures who hoisted the Jolly Roger rather than the tricolour.

Republicans with any sense of justice should demand a cold case review. Many killed as informers may have gone to their grave as loyal comrades while some of those who had them killed were certainly not.










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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
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28 May 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Humpty Dumpty
Anthony McIntyre

Eamon Sweeney

Political Status
Geoffrey Cooling

Enough, Enough of Stormont
David Adams

Joined at the Hip
John Kennedy

Loyal to What
Fred A Wilcox

No Rest In Peace
John Kennedy

'Penetrated' Has Become the Sinn Fein Brand Mark
Anthony McIntyre

Code Red
Dr John Coulter

Review of the Field Day Review 1: Debut Issue, 2005
Seagh�n � Murch�

Profile: Salman Rushdie
Anthony McIntyre

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"What Future for Republicans?"
Public Meeting Announcement

An Open Letter to Gerry Adams and the IRA's Chief of Staff of the Army Council
Dr John Coulter

Paper Over the Cracks
John Kennedy

The Famine Season
Russell Streur

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Dr John Coulter

Oil Prices
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Profile: Ibn Warraq
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The Muslims America Loves
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Freedom of Speech index



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