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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Killing The Messenger


Martin Galvin • 21 January 2007

It is said that in ancient times, when news of defeat or calamity was conveyed by runner or rider, monarchs occasionally dealt with news of disaster by killing the messenger. Such a response was obviously misdirected and misguided. Harsh realities would never be made less harsh nor less real by targeting messengers who only brought word of events for which they were in no way responsible. Killing the messenger may be emotionally satisfying momentarily but is never an effective political strategy.

At present, we seem to be witnessing a refinement of this misdirected strategy. Britain's latest terms promulgated at St Andrews have jolted unexpected numbers of Republicans, as if from a Friday the 13th nightmare. Concerned Republicans who risked much and suffered much in the struggle to remove British crown forces and British rule, searched for some means of denying fealty to the British crown constabulary. Some began to speak, organize private meetings and sponsor public debates. Some have urged prominent Republicans to take an unsought stand as candidates as a way of allowing others to vote no against the British RUC-PSNI. The initial response is apparently an orchestrated campaign to kill the candidate messengers by character assassination, misrepresentation or intimidation.


One early target of such tactics has been Gerry McGeough. It is easy to understand why Republicans in Tyrone might look to him. A very close friend of this columnist, Liam Ryan, who was himself murdered by loyalists in collusion with the RUC, spoke of Gerry McGeough in a category with Jim Lynagh and Pete Ryan. Those familiar with the war in Tyrone will recognize that there is no possible higher praise for any IRA volunteer in this or any previous generation, nor any more impeccable judge.

It is a matter of public record that Gerry McGeough was given exclusion orders from England for suspected IRA activity, jailed in a German isolation dungeon after a series of IRA attacks on British troops in Holland and Germany had successfully forced thousands of such troopers to be confined to barracks in fear, then extradited to America where he was jailed for conspiracy to obtain arms including SAM missiles for the IRA. McGeough's book, DEFENDERS, bespeaks a detailed knowledge of IRA ambushes, methods and tactics in Tyrone which would be impossible to gather except by inside first- hand experience.

He was appointed to serve as a Sinn Fein leader in Tyrone during the1981 Hunger Strike campaign, in which one of the patriot martyrs was his fellow Tyrone man Martin Hurson. Following his return to Ireland from an American prison, McGeough would be elected to the Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle, after an electrifying Ard Fheis speech in which he opposed biting the bullet of decommissioning.

Gerry McGeough was then sidelined, undermined and resigned after being forced to choose between party advancement and his Republican principles. These actions were undertaken with a good deal of tactical foresight. McGeough's voice, as those who heard him last week in Derry will attest, would not have been well received by anyone asking support for the RUC-PSNI either at the recent Ard Comhairle meeting or at the upcoming special Ard Fheis scheduled at that meeting.

The identical attack on Gerry McGeough has appeared in two Irish- American newspapers with direct sources in Sinn Fein. A discredited piece of gutter journalism has been retrieved from the trash bin where it had been long ago consigned. The writer cited did not trouble himself to interview Mr. McGeough before fabricating fictional quotes for print in a much sued scandal sheet. One paper added a quote from a pro-Sinn Fein connection that Gerry McGeough is "not a Republican. " Being a Republican once meant adherence to a 32 county Irish Republic free of British rule imposed by British crown forces and governed in accordance with the principles of liberty, equality and religious freedom enshrined in the 1916 Easter Proclamation. What more would be required of Gerry McGeough before he might qualify? What re-branding of Republicanism would cover backers of the RUC-PSNI within its mantel while excluding those who oppose British crown forces?


Another group targeted for this kill the messenger strategy, were Sinn Fein representatives including Geraldine Dougan and Davy Hyland who were cast aside as Sinn Fein candidates apparently because they could not stomach an endorsement of the RUC-PSNI. These representatives are being publicly pilloried in the Andersonstown News and elsewhere. It is now being gossiped that such representatives only objected to the RUC-PSNI after their removal as candidates.

This is another insidious form of character assassination. The charge is that such individuals did not really hold strong principled objections against backing the crown constabulary but were jumping ship because the party preferred others to them as candidates. The implication is that such individuals were never committed Republicans who unselfishly dedicated themselves to the party until forced to take a stand as a matter of principle. The implication is that any and all such individuals were careerists.

In fact any sincere loyal party member would have voiced objections to endorsing the crown constabulary long and hard within the party structure before considering going public. A loyal Sinn Fein member would raise principled objections internally, hoping to bring the party back to its Republican course. Both Davy Hyland and Geraldine Dougan have said that they kept their objections within the party until a formal RUC-PSNI endorsement made staying silent impossible.

Their very loyalty is now being twisted to malign their character, commitment and patriotism merely because they are elected representatives who might be asked to stand as independent Republicans fighting for the very same Republican beliefs which had once led them to join Sinn Fein.


A more blunt form of this kill the messenger policy was made public by two more respected Republican icons, Brendan Hughes and John Kelly. Brendan Hughes is of course a legendary figure within Belfast Brigade, and leader of the 1980 hunger strike. John Kelly was a founding member and veteran leader of the Provisional IRA, and a former elected Sinn Fein representative.

Both men published a joint letter in the Irish News denouncing a strategy of threat against Republicans seeking to meet and question the issue of giving fealty to the RUC-PSNI.

It is profoundly sad that these former IRA leaders, who volunteered because of their patriotic determination to resist British rule and the British crown constabulary who inflicted violence and intimidation, would find themselves duty bound to stand against friends who are acting to silence opposition to the RUC-PSNI. Some have argued that if sanctioning the RUC-PSNI is good enough for Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness their stature should override all doubts. Others would retort that the vehement opposition of Republicans of the credentials of Brendan Hughes and John Kelly should prove those saying no to the re-named RUC are right without a doubt.

It is also now being reported that the courageous Peggy O'Hara, may be asked to stand as a candidate. In a simple but eloquent statement she said that she was forced to watch her beloved son Patsy taken and beaten by the RUC, railroaded by RUC perjury in a crown Diplock court, tortured in the H-blocks of Long Kesh because he would not accept criminalization and endure a hunger strike to the death. Now, after an anniversary year of commemorations in which public tributes were paid to Patsy and nine other patriot martyrs, Mrs. O'Hara believes that the principles for which he and his companions died are being betrayed by a call to back the RUC-PSNI, British crown courts, and criminalization, which jailed, tortured and killed them. Mrs. O'Hara believes she could not betray her son by being silent. Hopefully, no one will be so lacking in decency and dignity as to stoop to invent some nonsense to malign this great lady.


Perhaps the most defamatory of all the slanders touted to dismiss any and all Republican voices raised against the RUC-PSNI, is the nonsense that they are only against Sinn Fein and the leadership. The implication is that such opposition is somehow driven by petty personal dislikes or generalized no matter what strategy is pursued by the party.

Look at those speaking. How many of those like Brendan Hughes, Gerry McGeough, John Kelly, Laurence O'Neill, Paul McGlinchey, Tony Catney and so many others, volunteered years of their lives in the fight, spent years in jail, saw friends and family murdered, but continued to make untold sacrifices because of loyalty to the struggle and to the leadership. One can only imagine what it was like for someone like Brendan Hughes to question, then doubt, then break with and publicly stand against Gerry Adams. It has been heart breaking for many Republicans to walk away from those they trusted, fought alongside, were jailed alongside, and befriended. Many were shunned, threatened or slandered. They did not take such a stand because of petty quarrels, dislikes or careerism. They do not seek to block the party's advance but rather to rescue them from a British trap. They are not against the party or party leaders but loyal above all to the struggle and its objective of Irish national freedom. They believe that endorsing the RUC-PSNI would be a disastrous mistake which will set back the struggle and prolong British rule in the north. They are Republicans and many say that it has been taken far more courage, and a more profound commitment to try to pull the Republican community back from the brink of an irreversible final descent into Britain's long pursued strategic goals of Ulsterization, normalization and criminalization, than anything else they have ever done.

The Republican community deserves better than a strategy of killing the messenger, by distorting their views, mischaracterizing their motives or silencing them by threats. These Republicans are messengers reflecting the profound anger and indignation at any embrace of the RUC-PSNI crown constabulary. Targeting these messengers will not make those facts any less harsh or less real. It is only a confession of weakness.


Meanwhile the party took two other steps which appeared to signal tacit acknowledgements of defeat in the debate within the Republican community and a withdrawal or consolidation within party circles. After participating in the debates in Belfast, and Toome the party sent excuses to a packed hall at the Tower Hotel in Derry. No one from the many party representatives in Derry would represent the party in the debate. They were unable to attend, because of the party's "ongoing responsibility to facilitate an intensive programme of discussion and engagement with the wider nationalist and Republican community". To those in attendance, the party seemed to be saying that it was too busy with discussions and debates within the wider nationalist and Republican community, to spare anyone to speak at discussions and debates. Many in attendance judged that the party's backing for the RUC-PSNI would have been indefensible by Declan Kearney or any Derry representative in a fair and open debate. The party recognized it had lost at Conway Mill and Toome and decided to cut its losses. Better to boycott and say it was unimportant because we were not there and leave some uncertainty about the outcome then to participate and end all doubts.

In reality the party seemed to be retreating from actual debates which gifted them with an opportunity to reassure doubters, challenge opponents and answer genuine questions in a convenient venue with a dignified format and impartial chair. Instead the party would only attend its own meetings, where outside speakers and questioners could be controlled. These could then be portrayed as debates rather than controlled and stage-managed party meetings.

The second step was a public invitation from Gerry Adams to meet with both political and military groups opposed to the RUC-PSNI endorsement. It is a general rule that genuine invitations for dialogue are communicated privately, through established channels. Public invitations extended through the media are intended for public relations and media consumption. Most of the invitees have interpreted the invitation in this fashion and rejected it as a cosmetic exercise, intended to give the appearance of willingness to engage in genuine dialogue, while retreating from real debates which would actually provide such a dialogue.

The invitation raised some intriguing and ironic issues. First it would be hard to imagine leaders of any Republican military organization revealing themselves to party members who are pledging full cooperation with the RUC-PSNI.

Political organizations might well have chosen to release a public response asking whether such a dialogue would be without a pre-determined outcome. If Sinn Fein seeks to convince other Republicans to endorse the crown constabulary, is it open to consider and possibly be convinced by the arguments against such an endorsement? Would the party be free to reject such an endorsement or is it not bound by its pledges to the British?

The invitation mentioned Republican prisoners and conditions at Maghaberry. Does the party accept that Republican prisoners are political prisoners who should not be subject to a British policy of criminalization nor subjected to repressive measures to enforce criminalization?

Other questions might include what full cooperation with the RUC-PSNI might entail, whether the endorsement betokens an acceptance of all collusion murders including those involving current members of the RUC-PSNI, whether the use of Diplock courts upon request by crown prosecutors will mean all cases involving Republicans, and most central how would endorsement of British crown constabulary not copper fasten British rule, and make the party a crown force recruiter. Any future invitation by press release might well be answered, with a public response outlining such questions.

With questions like these to be answered it will likely be far better to proceed by personal invective against the character and bona fides of the messengers of opposition than by actually engaging them in a fair, public and open Republican debate.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

22 January 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

Only A Fool
Anthony McIntyre

Wake Up & Smell the Coffee
John Kennedy

Killing the Messenger
Martin Galvin

Turning Tide
John Kennedy

Derry Debate
Anthony McIntyre

The Issues That Need Debated
Francis Mackey

The Rule of Whose Law?
Mick Hall

GFA Gestapo
Brian Mór

When in a Hole...
Mick Hall

Don't Be Afraid, Do Not Be Fooled
Dolours Price

Provie Peelers
Brian Mór

No Other Law
32 County Sovereignty Movement

Whither Late Sinn Fein?
Michael Gillespie

The Final Step
John Cronin

Moral Duty
Dr John Coulter

Repatriated Prisoner's Thanks
Aiden Hulme

McDowell Blocks 'Last' Repatriation
Fionnbarra O'Dochartaigh

Óglaigh na hÉireann New Years Message 2007
Óglaigh na hÉireann

A "Must Read" For Those With a Serious Interest
Liam O Ruairc

George Faludy’s Happy Days in Hell
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Reflections on the Late David Ervine
Dr John Coulter

In Memoriam David Ervine
Marcel M. Baumann

Michael Ferguson
Anthony McIntyre

"Bloody Sunday" Commemoration Event
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Just Books Belfast Relaunch & Fundraiser
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2 January 2007

The Final Step
Anthony McIntyre

Of Animal Farm and Similar Stories
Tom Luby

'Securocrats', 'JAPPS' and other 'enemies of the peace process'
Liam O Ruairc

John Kennedy

Dilseacht (Loyalty)
Mick Hall

Joe & Roy Johnston: 'Water Running Uphill'?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Concerned Republicans
Dr John Coulter

Telling Moment at Toome
Martin Galvin

Toome Debate
Anthony McIntyre

Wrap It Up
John Kennedy

KKK Taking Root?
Dr John Coulter

British Army Step Up Recruitment Attempts
Republican Socialist Youth Movement

Is This Anti-Americanism, Or What?
Father Sean Mc Manus

Finding Christmas in Uganda
David Adams

That Which Cannot Be Denied
Mick Hall

Has Regime Change Boomeranged?
M. Shahid Alam

Chile: The Ghosts of Torture
Tito Tricot

Biblical Basics
Dr John Coulter

John Kennedy

Across A Table
Anthony McIntyre



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