over a year ago, worse the wear for drink, along
with Tommy Gorman, I ended up in a downtown bar.
More stumbling than walking we made our way to the
corner and planted ourselves at a table in the company
of some Sinn Fein members. Hardly a word was spoken
before one leapt up as if scalded and began gesticulating
in my direction, muttering that he would not sit
at the table with me: 'you criticised the movement
on TV the other night.' My response, a curt 'fuck
off'. At that he reached beneath the table to pick
up either his bag or his belly - through my inebriated
haze both seemed to be sitting on the floor. Once
he had gone, and both myself and Tommy Gorman had
stopped laughing, my words to my drinking buddy
were something to the effect that every pot bellied
fascist with a mind full of nothing and a belly
full of beer had license from 'the movement' to
strut the stage and scream 'achtung' at its critics.
The other Shinners sat on and we drank the rest
of the evening with them, managing to agree on nothing.
irate gofer who had fled the bar, before the contagiousness
of a different idea spread to him, used to plant
bombs but has since exchanged gelignite for paint
and now does 'Gerry is great' murals. He is also
a party member from the Short Strand. And in that
little part of the world, where some publicly protest
that they live in a cross between civil war Beirut
and the Warsaw Ghetto, tolerance of those who think
differently is in short supply, and the goosestep
is an art form. There is an attitude of 'we run
this area and our writ shall not be challenged.'
Given recent events I can be grateful that I was
not stabbed. But then again, while he shared the
totalitarian outlook of many of his ilk, our privileged
muralist was not a thug; and minus the booze is
a placid sort of being.
the end of January Robert McCartney was not as fortunate
as I had been. His pub confrontation with the local
fascists that make up a sizeable segment of the
Provisional movement in East Belfast and the Markets,
resulted not in them gathering their bags or their
bellies and bolting, but in him being hacked to
death at their hands on a city centre street. Not
that the killers have any thought-out fascist philosophy.
They no more need one than their fellow hackers
at the bottom rung of Hutu Power fascism that slashed
its way through Rwandese society a decade ago. Provo
Power is what drives them, with its exaltation of
the irresistible leader, its hatred of those who
challenge it, and its own blind servitude on the
IRA most certainly did not murder Robert McCartney.
But a local IRA culture of arrogance and impunity
produced the knife gang which, more drunk on power
than on alcohol, felt it could do as it wished.
The same gang has a history of both intimidating
and brutalising people. One journalist was told
by a local that it was the IRA's equivalent of the
UDA's Shankill C Company.
those who attacked Robert McCartney were some who
had reportedly just returned from the Bloody Sunday
commemoration in Derry. A detached observer, uninhibited
by context, might conclude that they were angered
at the bad press the British Paratroopers received
in the city and as soon as they reached Belfast
decided to kill another unarmed nationalist.
if there was not irony enough in that, Robert McCartney
was a Sinn Fein voter. Yet the party beside whose
name he recurrently placed his X remained silent
for almost two weeks after his murder. It was fired
up with ire okay, all of it directed towards the
PSNI who were trying to find his killers. What an
appropriate headline that would have made for the
opening issue of Daily Ireland, 'Sinn Fein
thwart investigation into murder of Sinn Fein voter.'
But appropriate headlines are not a regular feature
in the land of the peace process.
for the Provisionals, the sisters and fiancée
of Robert McCartney proved like nothing else they
had ever seen within the communities they dominate.
Photogenic, astute, articulate, educated, tenacious
and as sharp as razors they took the media by storm
in their search for justice and peeled away the
defensive layers of Sinn Fein speak that had for
long frustrated others trying to penetrate the mists
of 'Provo babble'. Even the village idiot would
have difficulty persuading himself that these women
were securocrats out to make mischief for the peace
process. Any intentions that Sinn Fein may have
had of alleging that the dead man and his injured
friend had went up an alley way and stabbed each
other just to upset the party's electoral rise vanished
in front of its eyes. It was a no-contest in which
nonsense never stood a chance.
Left with little choice, seventeen days after the
murder, the IRA leadership issued a statement effectively
disowning the killers and insisting that it would
not be party to the intimidation of witnesses who
might seek to help the McCartney family in their
search for truth and justice. While moving closer
to addressing the concerns of the family the IRA
could go further and remove any remaining obstacles
to the full weight of due process kicking in. The
organisation should openly acknowledge that a number
of its members and Sinn Fein election workers were
involved in the murder and that they no longer have
a place within the Provisional Movement. That at
least would remove a constraint on people who would
otherwise feel inhibited by the social stigma associated
with passing on information to the police about
people perceived to be republican activists.
republicans have a deeply ingrained mistrust of
the police and will not be inclined to encourage
people to come forward. Yet those who wish to speak
with the police about the murder of a Sinn Fein
voter should do so unimpeded. Or are some murderers
of Sinn Fein voters privileged within a hierarchy
of murder? If Sinn Fein respects its own mandate
then let it flush out the murderers of one of its
recently in the Limerick Leader Patricia