Anthony McIntyre
13 July 2000

Legitimacy, it would appear, like Tallyrand's treason is a matter of dates. Depending on your prejudice, a little or a lot like the British attitude towards political status or the Sinn Fein perspective on armed struggle. At the stroke of midnight… Like a tap for water, legitimacy can apparently be turned on and off. The debacle at Enniskillen is somehow more legitimate than that at Omagh. A hierarchy of victims is created in which the dead of the Fermanagh town merit less consideration than those of its Tyrone counterpart - all of which can be measured in terms of the condemnation of those who perpetrated the acts. The lesser the perceived legitimacy the greater the howls of condemnation.

J. Bowyer Bell's long familiarity with Irish republicanism once prompted the caustic comment that there are none more vindictive than a reformed gunman. One time IRA Chief of Staff Cathal Goulding was, by 1983, breaking his neck in his eagerness to support the RUC supergrass policy. The moral is simple - do not be surprised at anything former chiefs of staff might do.

The recent republican attack on Stewartstown RUC base would seem to validate Bowyer Bell's observation:

"It was carried out by people of no credibility who are opposed to this process. They are locked in the past and have nothing to offer the future. It is an ironic fact that the Orange Order, the unionist rejectionists and the group which planted this bomb are working to the same agenda. We must do all we can to ensure that they are not allowed to succeed." So said Martin McGuinness after the armed republican attack on the rural base.

Republican Sinn Fein once referred to the nauseating hypocrisy of those republicans who make comments such as this. Hypocritical, pragmatic, tactical or whatever, the comments of Martin McGuinness are never going to be taken seriously by those who carried out the attack. Such utterances could have come from the mouths of any dozen British ministers here over the decades and will simply be viewed in like fashion to the professed commitment of informers such as Martin McGartland and Raymond Gilmour to 'combating terrorism' - self-serving vacuous nonsense.

The irony that for long enough McGuinness himself was the butt of similar criticisms mounted by his many predecessors in various British ministries will not be lost on most people regardless of their political hue. The type of comments which earned him vitriolic British opprobrium - and which are hardly likely to inspire understanding for his new position in the eyes of those responsible for the bombing - were ‘if we desire to resume the bombing campaign we shall do so.’

Martin McGuinness was not wrong to speak out against the Stewartstown bomb. Perhaps he, better than most, is well placed to realise the long term futility of a bombing strategy. But the Orwellian nature of 'our bomb good your bomb bad' doublethink can only undermine the moral authority of the born again anti-physical force lobby. If McGuinness really hopes to persuade those responsible to desist rather than merely saying what the British crown requires its ministers to say then he can hardly allow himself to be wheeled out like Richard Needham et al - who preceded him - to be paraded around bomb sites in order to mouth the same old platitudes. If anything, that type of behaviour is more likely to act as a spur to those who still see some use in bombing.

Republican rather than British logic must assert itself in full in order to dissuade those engaged in armed struggle. To that they may at least listen.



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