The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Disobedient Republicanism

Being right too soon is socially unacceptable.
- Robert Heinlein

Anthony McIntyre • 6/3/2003

Every year in Scarvagh on the 13th of July, a clown dressed up as King Billy wages imaginary war against his enemies and wins. You don't need to be a genius to know that if you were to video record the sham fight and watch it to the close of time the ending will always be the same as will every thing else about it. It is no different up at Hillsborough with our latest final ever negotiations. No matter what the suits do, what posture they take, what principle they vow to uphold, all roads lead inexorably to the entrenchment of the internal solution called the Good Friday Agreement. So fed up are we by the self-righteous absurdity of our political class that it is an effort to overcome the ennui they generate simply to turn the TV on to look at them. How many times can we watch the same old crap opera? It is hardly as if we can sit with bated breath anticipating the climatic denouement - one that we have never seen before. Republicans are perhaps more culpable than the others - they used to pour scorn on the waffle merchants of the political class. Now they are at the centre of it. In years to come people will go up to republican plots to see tombstones on the graves of some Sinn Fein politicians proclaiming 'he died talking bollix for Ireland.'

It was therefore something of a relief to view BBC Spotlight a couple of nights ago which concerned itself with the threat posed by republican dissidents. Not that their arguments are anymore persuasive but the different discourse as well as being consistent stimulates by mere virtue of being different. Spotlight interviewed many activists, including the Sinn Fein chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin, who the party appear to have put at the crease to bat sixes in the direction of those who still believe what the Sinn Fein leadership used to tell them - it is alright to kill in pursuit of your goal and listen to no one who tells you otherwise. Sitting watching these suits scurrying into some site of British administration, you would almost be forgiven for doubting that any of them ever called for the physical elimination of enemy soldiers.

Talking today with a Provisional republican, I listened to him disclose his view that the most revealing item of the evening came not from the dissidents but from Mitchel McLaughlin, who pointed out that not only were the methods of the physical force IRAs hopeless, but their cause was also. A case of McLaughlin merely putting words on what has been a leadership position for a decade at any rate. The cause of a united Ireland to be achieved through expelling the British has been consigned to the scrap heap by Sinn Fein. There is no problem with that in itself - the balance of forces simply does not allow it. What makes it problematic is the pretence that the cause was somehow not hopeless when the Sinn Fein leadership was directing the armed struggle against the British. Someone reflecting on matters might conclude that the hopelessness of the Provisional IRA campaign has been underlined and the logic that drove it wholly eroded by how little Sinn Fein were prepared to settle for.

There is a tendency within Sinn Fein these days to chant mantra-like their disdain for the physical force republicans. This is to remain faithful to the edict of the party president who informs the world that 'obviously, part of the Sinn Fein peace strategy is about bringing an end to physical force republicanism.' Big Brother No 1 leads the way and the rest of them, microchip seemingly inserted into the back of their heads, dutifully follow echoing their master's voice. Watch how it goes.

Gerry Adams: 'they have no popular support … a small unrepresentative micro-group'.
Martin McGuinness: 'tiny micro-group who thought they should attack the peace process.'
RM Distribution: 'a breakaway micro-group of republican dissidents.'
Alex Maskey: 'Sinn Féin have long called for these micro-groups to desist from this sort of activity and disband.'
Michelle Gildernew: 'Sinn Féin have consistently called upon these micro-groups to end this sort of activity and disband.'
Mary Nellis: 'they have little or no support and operate without a strategy to achieve political change.'
Gerry Kelly: 'They don't have a cohesive or coherent strategy.'
Fra McCann: 'they have no strategy to achieve a united Ireland and operate with little support or mandate.'
Mick Murphy: 'they have little or no support and operate without either a mandate or indeed a strategy to achieve political change.'

Discursive diversity is hardly a flourishing industry within Sinn Fein. Listening to them is like being addressed by an obedient crowd displaying all the symptoms of dalak disease chanting 'we obey, we obey, we obey'.

None of this, of course, is to take away from the deficiency of the physical force position. Those republicans of a dissident persuasion who featured on Spotlight seemed plagued by strategic inertia. Their discourse is steeped in the supposed rights of any group who so chooses to use whatever methods it deems appropriate to get rid of the British without reference to the views, rights and lives of the rest of us. Tommy McKearney in the same programme highlighted all the shortcomings and indicated how the physical force tradition now aids Sinn Fein in so far as it attracts energies that might otherwise be deployed in a counter strategy to the party's partitionist strategy. Nevertheless, within their make up is a disobedient rather than a state republicanism. If only they could extend that disobedience to the primordial call of physical force, a anti-systemic radical republicanism could emerge from the laager of marginalisation.



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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

6 March 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Disobedient Republicanism
Anthony McIntyre


Interview With Bernadette McAliskey
Breandán Morley


Why We Should Legalise Hard Drugs
Henry McDonald


Day X & Beyond

Davy Carlin



Brian Mór


27 February 2003


Blair in Belfast
Sean Smyth


Bernadette Devlin McAliskey Deported from USA
Tommy McKearney


Sinn Fein's Helpful Hints for Upholding Harmony
Eamon Lynch


Jomo Kenyata in the Mau Mau - Never

John Nixon


What Practical Alternatives To Provo Republicanism exist?

Seaghán Ó Dubhslaine


Caoimhe Butterly
Anthony McIntyre


'The Left Isn't Listening' - Really Mr Cohen?

Paul de Rooij


Israel's Proxy War?

M. Shahid Alam


Jack Holland And The Obsolescence Of Republican Socialism
Liam O Ruairc




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