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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Anthony McIntyre • 23 December 2005

At the moment Belfast is awash with rumours about the imminent outing of one or more of the many informers currently operating within Sinn Fein or IRA structures. Even some of the drones standing outside PSNI stations demanding an end to political policing have not escaped the finger of suspicion. Nor is the speculation confined to critics of the Provisionals. Party and militia activists alike are giving vent to confusion and concerns. Sinn Fein, unable to fix the party brakes has opted to make the horn louder. 'Securocrat plot' toots out at anybody dumb enough to listen, of which there are many, evenly spread it would seem across both Sinn Fein and the media. The party leader is applying Karl Kraus's secret of the demagogue which is to make himself as stupid as his audience, so they believe they are as clever as he.

That the Provisional movement is extensively penetrated should come as no surprise. Viewed through the long war prism it was the logical outcome of a strategy of attrition, in which the attrition was felt more by those waging it than those it was intended to wear down. Activists were reminded that as they grew older with fewer years left to them, the length of time they could expect to serve in prison if captured was increasing by the year. People not on the run and who lived home lives, with partners and children, suddenly exposed to the certainty of losing everything in exchange for a cell found themselves staring at fences they were no longer able to jump. The long war strategy saw combatants emerge from jail after they had served considerable sentences. If they returned to active service the chill running through their bones reminded them of the price to be paid if captured; the choice was simple - grow old and grey with imprisoned comrades and wake up alone each morning to the sound of clanging grills; or come to beside a partner to the laughter of children. Those IRA internal security doyens, not working for the British, with decades of experience observed that the biggest risk factor to the organisation was ex-prisoners not prepared to return to prison.

For others such as Sinn Fein activists with a public profile, the threat of assassination by loyalists was a constant in their minds. One sure way to retain their profile minus the risk was to work for the British. In turn their handlers would ensure that loyalist death squads were directed elsewhere. It has been argued by Ed Moloney that the primary reason for the security services infiltrating loyalist groups was to ensure that Johnny and his mob did not target British agents within the Provisional movement, Britain's main enemy. When such operations were launched the British would redirect or intervene.

Over the years the role of ideology as a defence mechanism against being turned has been steadily eroded. The abandonment of a republican ideology by the Sticks was the mainstay of the Provisional critique against them: they were allegedly riddled with informers because they had abandoned the ideological immunisation against touting. Now that Sinn Fein has gone Stick, the same logic must apply. Options previously ruled out now become a pragmatic choice. Martin McGuinness worked as a British minister; Denis Donaldson worked as a British agent. At the risk of oversimplifying, the minister's job is to shaft republicanism; that of the agent is to shaft republicans. While few outside the ranks of the purists would call McGuinness a rat on this basis, there is no clear blue ideological sea between minister and agent.

While there are patterns, there remains something specific to the life and circumstances of the individual 'turned' which leads to their predicament and which rules out providing an effective firewall in advance. Even when they confess there is no way to be sure that they are telling the truth; that they are not merely putting the best possible gloss on their motives. Denis Donaldson is a case in point. Few are willing to accept at face value his explanation that he was compromised at a difficult time in his life. Given that he lived a lie for at least twenty years, why should he be believed in the minute it took him to release his confession? He said exactly what the Sinn Fein leadership instructed him to, even to the extent of lying about the fictional British spy ring at Stormont.

The political implications of touting are one thing but there is an additional factor to be considered. When I look at my own children, I want to see them pass into my post-existence era with something they can carry without it burning their hands. There are things, such as our vocal opposition to power crazed leaders, that we exercise out of conviction and which many others howl at. The howlers can pass on their own hypocrisies to their children and we can pass on our consistencies. In both cases, whatever divides us, there exists a much wider chasm separating critics and howlers from the tout. How fathers and grandfathers like Denis Donaldson are willing to allow their offspring to go through life unfairly carrying the mark of Cain is hard to fathom. Was he so selfish, cynical and ruthless that he bequeathed such a legacy to those he brought into the world? His children and grandchildren are not to blame and should be viewed as unique individuals. Donaldson's capable daughter Jane should always be Jane Donaldson or Jane Kearney, and never the daughter of the self confessed agent Denis Donaldson no matter what ties she may wish to retain with him. He remains her father. And as Camus once observed, when forced to choose between the ideal no matter how beautiful and those we love, we opt for those we love. It is simply untenable to allow a diminution of respect for Donaldson's family to take hold. Those who love him remain as decent as anyone else in these communities.

Provisionalism is now being haunted by a spooky spectre. What blossomed in spring has now become autumn fruit, as poisonous as it is bountiful.





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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.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

24 December 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

A Perfect Spy
Tom Luby

Anthony McIntyre

Spies and Lies in 2005
Eamon Sweeney

Defeating the Enemy Within
Mick Hall

SF Tinker, Tailor Their Spy Story
David Adams

Language: The Means of Creating Realities
David Kirk

Mebyon Kernow & Cornish Nationalism
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Timetable for Change
Dr John Coulter

CRJ — New Name for the IRA?
Anthony McIntyre

GEM, A Story of Global Exploitation and Misery
Morten Alme

First International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners and POWs
Irish Freedom Committee

Brian Campbell: A Captivating Voice
Anthony McIntyre

25 November 2005

Political Policing
Willie Gallagher

One Sweet Deal for Some, but for The Rest of Us?...
Mick Hall

Who's In Charge Around Here, Anyway?
Eamonn McCann

Playing the Game
Anthony McIntyre

Dr John Coulter

RSF Presidential Address 2005
Ruairi O Bradaigh

To Go On: Irish Travellers meet Academia
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Genius decommissioned while Stupid keeps the guns
Tomas Gorman

Cut Off Aid to Regime in Uganda
David Adams

Sticks and Stones
Anthony McIntyre



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