The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Criminality & Public Relations

Eamon Sweeney • 4 April 2005

Sick to the back teeth of all the machinations, double-speak, lies, counter-lies, accusations, recriminations, bitterness, threats, false piety, meaningless apologies and abject shite talking in the nationalist political arena over the past while, it has been a year since I felt it necessary to put pen to paper. In the ensuing gap, I haven't become sufficiently disenchanted not to keep a watch on the various jaw dropping developments that have befallen my disbelieving eyes and ears, but I am now sufficiently appalled to react to what I feel are the most pertinent aspects of what has been going on.

On the heels of attending the Bloody Sunday commemoration in Derry on Sunday Jan 30th 2005, a section of the crowd returned to their native Belfast to continue the boozing that they had begun some ninety miles away. Whatever theory you subscribe to about the ensuing debacle in Magennis's bar one fact is utterly unchangeable. Robert Mc Cartney lay dead as the result of a horrendous physical attack.

It was wrong. Horribly wrong. It was wrong no matter what. It was wrong no matter how, where, when and why it happened. It was wrong no matter who carried it out. It was wrong no matter which organisation those involved belonged too. It was wrong because those members of that organisation believed that their membership of that organisation entitled them to a licence to kill. It was wrong because not sufficiently assured of the validity of that "licence" it at least supposedly allowed them to clear the scene of all evidence and commence the intimidation of those who may or may not have witnessed the events. It was especially wrong because it robbed a family of a father and a brother for no more reason than he had the balls to answer back.

Most Irishmen have been there, whether as the initiators, or the undeserving recipients of a slap in the chops whilst the worse for drink in a facile argument over football, women, or politics. It is I suspect in Belfast, as it is in Derry almost a rite of passage for males between 18-50 years of age. Most Irishmen however get to home with a busted lip, a black eye, a sore groin and dented pride. Most men in this position are to blame themselves and are not dragged outside by a dozen members or associates of a corrupt element within a militia and executed in the most gruesome manner imaginable.

To be perfectly blunt as I watched the news that Sunday teatime, I expressed no more emotion than I normally would when it was reported that a man had died as a result of a stabbing in a Belfast city centre bar. In itself this was not that shocking, it was hardly the first time and regrettably it will not be the last. In truth I only pricked up my ears next morning when the BBC reported that a "leading republican" had been arrested as a result of the murder. I only watched the news that evening purely to see the size of the crowd that had attended the Bloody Sunday rally.

I had made a point of not attending for the first time in many years. Despairing of the Provisional movement's hi-jacking of the rally for their own purposes and to be honest the cringe making carnival like events management apparatus surrounding it, its edifice now decries anything to do with civil rights. The management of the rally in future years should be swiftly removed from anything to do with that party before it further besmirches what that rally actually means, especially after what was to transpire later that afternoon in Belfast. IRA members and associates or members of Sinn Fein travelled to Derry to remember the lives of the individuals executed in cold blood thirty-three years ago and then went back to their own city and did the same thing to one of the same people. Yet, given the choice, I would have gladly taken the swift release of a paratroopers bullet than the animalistic slaying afforded to Robert Mc Cartney.

The mechanisms set in place by the killers of Robert Mc Cartney to cover up their heinous barbarity were actually more insidious and purposefully malevolent than the outcome of the Widgery tribunal in 1973. We came to expect this treatment from the British. The total negation and disregard for life callously waved aside by one stroke of a Whitehall pen. Unfortunately for Robert Mc Cartney the pen was not mightier than the knife. His killers and their ilk have come to represent everything in Irish nationalism for which I have an unaffected and highly distilled scorn. I suppose the family of the victim can only be grateful for the fact that there are no beaches in the area of the bar otherwise they could have been denied the dignity and scant solace of burying their brother.

The too little too late response from Sinn Fein in the wake of the killing has landed them in a great deal of trouble. Following on so rapidly from the frankly hilarious keystone cop escapade of the great Northern Bank heist of '04 it has provided the titanium underpinning for Unionism and the British & Irish governments to indulge in never ending verbal swathes of "we told you so".

Sinn Fein went from establishment darlings back to the spectres at the feast in one fell and swift swoop. Pillioried and banished from every worthwhile banquet room in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, Gerry Adams ploughed a lonely furrow across the eastern seaboard. In the world of American politics, you are in trouble if you are Irish and Ted Kennedy won't talk to you never mind if you are the supposed bulwark of Irish Republicanism. Yet I suppose Adams would have known that his number was up if Kennedy had spoken to him and then offered him a lift across one of Washington's bridges.

Meanwhile back in Ireland a hawkish sounding Martin Mc Guinness made a balls of almost every interview he gave. Showing the attitude which reveals his true colours a snarling Mc Guinness tied himself up in verbal lashes. Even as late as last Sunday's Dimbleby interview he has been trying to extract himself from the mire.

With nothing but admiration for the family of Mr Mc Cartney, I as every right thinking person have welcomed their guts and determination not to let this go. Obviously highly intelligent, erudite, articulate and a naturally honed sense of press relations and fantastically savage in their honesty, these women have been a beacon of contempt towards the omerta laden world of mainstream republicanism. How strange it is that whilst Mc Guinness warned the sisters Mc Cartney to stay away from the political arena lest they were manipulated that it should not go unnoticed that these women, self-confessed Sinn Fein and IRA supporters, would grace the party mechanism, better as they are than the vast majority of insipid, be-suited sycophantic careerists being offered as radical emissaries for reunifying Ireland.

The madness in this is that despite media furore surrounding the murder that the killing, as they all do, was coming to the end of it's news worthiness until the IRA released it's statement saying that it had offered to award those involved the O. B. E. -- that's one behind the ear for those unfamiliar with this grim parlance. This impetus coupled with the fact that the family waited and then prudently revealed that they had been personally made aware of the offer prior to the release of the statement was a masterstroke of public relations. It set in place a chain of events that we are all aware of and resulted in an extraordinary display of futile damage limitation from the most ebullient and self-confident of Irish political parties. An enduring image of Irish political life in the twenty-first century will be Adams' strange attempt to court favour by personally leading the Mc Cartney family onto the floor of the 2005 Ard fheis. The almost palpable but silent disdain displayed by the Mc Cartney women during the Sinn Fein presidential address was as magnificent as it was brave.

As sick as it is, these events will, I believe, eventually enhance Adams' et al case to get where they want to go and now really need to go. This will illustrate, as if illustration was required, that an army without a enemy willing to engage it, and an army administration sold on accepting a political alternative to war, has no raison d'etre. The IRA's very existence is now it's reason to exit stage right. Without a designated target the soldiery of the IRA have become the enforcers of sea-changed ideology. All aboard the good ship partition and woe betide detractors, especially those you were sworn in to supposedly protect in the first place. Not that the dreadful situation in which Robert Mc Cartney was killed would fit into anything as lofty as an ideological argument.

That particular brand of argument was raised also in an attempt at damage limitation during this furore. I witnessed with contempt that various ex-prisoners branches had been on the streets in the wake of the bank robbery holding aloft large posters of the 1981 hunger strikers posing the question, were these men criminals?This has continued in the wake of the Mc Cartney killing.

This self-serving repudiation of criminality with the Provisionals is a disgraceful use of public relations within a long redundant argument. The fact that the ten men died in a fight against criminalisation and paid the ultimate price for that Phyrric victory means that that particular question need never be raised again. Some seem to take particular umbridge at the wounds that this crass use of the dead men has invoked. The answer is NO these men were not criminals, the problem lies in the question posed by the Sinn Fein party. To juxtapose those who died spurning criminality with the current debacle is abominable. Any activity that can be even loosely deemed as criminal by the actions of the IRA has on this occasion been created by themselves. They have criminalised themselves. When the two governments insist on the removal of criminality to shift the current political impasse they are not talking about the battle that took place in the prison system from 1976 to 1981, they are referring to the actions of an army apparently in cease fire mode since 1996 and more exactly the Northern Bank robbery and the fatal assault on Robert Mc Cartney.

As an aside to this point I recently read Richard O'Rawes "Blanketmen" and it further makes a total nonsense of placing the ten dead hunger strikers of 1981 within this current criminalisation argument, given the controversial claims that the author makes particularly concerning the path taken by the IRA leadership in the run up to the death and after the demise of the fifth man to expire, Joe Mc Donnell. The memories of these men have been abused enough I feel.

No external factors foisted upon the IRA by the two governments forced the republican movement into a corner with regard to these incidents. Arrogance and a belief that this type of activity would go unchallenged by governments and their own supporters ad infinitum has now ceased forever. Over playing the dual card of politicisation and militarism has eventually caught the republican movement out. Having your cake and eating it was only ever going to work for a limited time span. The best before date has long since past. But what ill effect the out of date this latest offering will have on an angered and wavering republican electorate remains to be seen. I would suggest that sufficient time will have past before the forthcoming elections to minimise any permanent damage. In addition the lack of any real electoral alternative to Sinn Fein in political and electoral terms is still appallingly lacking. If the SDLP believe that they will gain any ground back before of these events it at the very best will be a temporary state of affairs.

If for example a war situation still existed within the confines of the "war zone" of the six counties, all of us would be praising with glee the actions of an IRA capable of robbing £26 million from a bank to continue the fight. In a war situation, as uncomfortable as it may seem, many would excuse the killing of Robert Mc Cartney as something else. How many of us remember or have used the words, well he/she didn't get if for nothing, when when we knew deep down that it many cases, he/she did get if for nothing. By current Sinn Fein logic, the IRA viewed Jean Mc Conville as a criminal, an informer, but her senseless murder apparently was not an act of criminality. So what changed between 1972 and 2005 to make the difference so great between a mother of ten and a father of two?

Nothing changed except the definitions used to justify murder within the shifting sands of the metamorphic political arena. With the acceptance of Northern Ireland as a live political entity Sinn Fein have still not accepted that they are prone to a degree of openness and transparency that cannot be the domain of a clandestine fraternal organisation and furthermore cannot use that organisation either as a bargaining tool for further gain nor to eradicate those who come into conflict with it even down to the outbreak of a fracas with out of control power addled members of that organisation.

How ironic it will be if the killing of a Catholic nationalist from Belfast's Short Strand will herald the eventual dishonourable demise of the IRA. As ever the winners in this are the British, able now to stand back and wash their Pilate hands and point and say that we did to ourselves again. The IRA claim to be the guardians of Irish unification. It is a pity that they do not have a broader understanding of the term unification.


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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

6 April 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Criminality and Public Relations
Eamon Sweeney

Truth Better than Spin
Mick Hall

The Central Issue is Justice
Catherine McCartney

Not Out of Nationalist Woods Yet
David Adams

South Down Election Play
John Coulter

Are We on the Verge of a New Political Ice Age?
Anthony McIntyre

28 March 2005

The Writing's Off the Wall!
Catherine McGlinchey

Ireland: Republican Movement faces disintegration
Paul Mallon

The IRA is Morphing into the 'Rafia'
Anthony McIntyre

Truth and Justice!
Sheila Holden

Greet the Lion to Kill the Cat
Àine Fox

Concerned Republican
N. Corey

Six Against the Rock
Anthony McIntyre

Our Patriot Dead Are Turning in their Graves
Margaret Quinn

Easter Oration 2005
32 CSM

Easter Statement from the Leadership of the Republican Movement 2005

RSF Vice President Calls On Provisionals To Disband
Des Dalton, RSF

Easter Statement from the Leadership of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement
Andy Gallagher, IRSP

Easter Statement from the Irish National Liberation Army Prisoners of War

Caribbean Sinn Fein Easter Message
Jimmy Sands



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