The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Talking through his cassock

Bert Ward • 31 January 2003

Oh dear! What an intelligent article, I thought, as I started to read “O’Bradaigh versus Adams: Classicism versus Historical Consciousness” by Father Sean McManus (The Blanket 14 January 2003). Then, CRASH, straight down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.

“Classicism views reality in terms of the immutable, the never changing. It uses the deductive method of reasoning: from the universal to the particular. This is best illustrated by the following syllogism, which was taught in Scholastic logic to every student for the priesthood, up to the mid 60’s: All human beings are rational. Seamus is a human being. Ergo (therefore) Seamus is rational. Classicism uses the DEDUCTIVE METHOD of reasoning. It seeks conclusions that are always true, in all situations: If it was true in 1962, it is true in 2002.

Historical consciousness uses the INDUCTIVE METHOD of reasoning: from the particular to the universal. The conclusions it reaches (from the ground up, so to speak) will be based on changing circumstances and history.”

As he has given us one syllogism I will offer another. ‘All republicans are Catholics. Seamus is a Catholic. Ergo, Seamus is a republican’. Actually Seamus might be a member of the NI Police Service, or would like to be but is afraid that republicans will murder him, or his family. Or he might be a member of what the Shinners term the ‘Stoop Down Low Party’ (the SDLP).

Father McManus writes:

“It has struck me, over the years, that this is also the best way to understand the shift in Irish republicanism - as typified by Ruari O’Bradaigh (classicism), former president of Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams (historical consciousness), current Sinn Fein president”. “Adams can be seen as the leader of the “new theologians” (historical consciousness)”.

Is that so? When the IRA and Sinn Fein split into the Provisionals and the Officials, O’Bradaigh and Adams were in the Provos. Using Father McManus’s terminology, the Provos were the “Classicists” and the Officials were in the “Historical Consciousness” camp. And we know what the Provos thought of the Sticks.

Father McManus further illustrates what he means by “classicists”. “So for example, the classicist will argue “English rule was the problem in 1962. There is still English rule on the island of Ireland in 2002. Therefore nothing has changed”. If we believe McManus, Gerry Adams belongs to the “historical consciousness” school of thought. It follows from this reasoning that Gerry Adams no longer believes that English rule is still the problem. In other words Gerry now lives in the land of the Sticks.

Father McManus understands why Ruari O’Bradaigh belongs to “classicism”, and Adams to “historical consciousness”. Location, location, location. “Before and since that time, O’Bradaigh has lived in the South of Ireland. Adams, on the other hand, has lived all his life in Belfast”.

Ergo, Adams knows what he is talking about and O’Bradaigh doesn’t. Which leaves us wondering about Father McManus who lives in the USA, not to mention John Stevenson, the John Stevenson who was born in London to an English father and an Irish mother, brought up in England, moved to Ireland after a spell in the RAF, changed his name to Sean MacStiophan and became the C/O of the Provisional IRA. On the Father’s reasoning John, or Sean, didn’t know what he was talking about either.

David Trimble too, despite living in Northern Ireland, is also a ‘classicist’. “After the Good Friday Agreement was signed, David Trimble declared, “Nothing has changed, the Union is safe”.” Which brings us to the proverbial question. Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?

“Why else (wonders the philosopher father) are the Unionist Parties/Unionist Paramilitaries trying to force the IRA into breaking its cease-fire?”

Now why would Unionists want to do that? The impression they give is that they want the IRA cease-fire to be made permanent. Instead of enlightening us with the answer to his own question, Father Sean McManus, armed with ‘historical consciousness’, then goes on about Cuba. Perhaps he suddenly realised that the problem was that the English (British) reigned but did not rule. They left ruling to Unionists. If they had carried out their obligations to the people of Northern Ireland there would have been no need for the campaign for civil rights which preceded the emergence of the Provisional IRA.

To demonstrate his grasp of the subject he adds a final flourish. “If Ed Moloney had understood these matters better he might have written a real history of the IRA”

Our Father who art in Washington, for god’s sake stay there and read some books on straight and crooked thinking. And don’t even think about criticising Ed Moloney, (who lived in Northern Ireland until fear of the Provos taking revenge for his book caused him to move to the US), before you do.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

16 February 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Plan "B" for Tony Blair and Northern Ireland
Paul Fitzsimmons


Evidence, What Evidence?
Michael Youlton


Choices to be Made
Larry Kirwan


Talking Through His Cassock
Bert Ward


Letter to Uncle
Jimmy Sands


Long Kesh Meets Peterhouse
Anthony McIntyre


Socialists, Leadership and the Working Class
Davy Carlin


14 February 2003


Anti War March Tomorrow
Davy Carlin


A Tale of Two Writers
Anthony McIntyre


Phil Berrigan is Dead
Larry Kirwan


8 Mile Worth the Trip
Mick Hall


A Letter of Protest
Orlaith Dillon


London Arrests Update




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