The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Hammering Dissent

Anthony McIntyre • Jan. 5 2003

It is not that often that I would be in Downpatrick. The last time was almost ten years ago and then it was to visit life long republican friends. This occasion saw me there to talk with other republicans. Ten years back, whatever this or that difference between us all, we could at least complain or boast of belonging to a republican community oppressed and harassed by the British. Things have moved on since then. Only some republicans now face harassment. Most galling is that it is not at the hands of the British but instead is currently inflicted by other republicans who once faced it themselves.

As a result of The Blanket having previously highlighted the plight of those republicans still opposed to the administration of British rule in Ireland - regardless of who administers it - we had been asked to go to Downpatrick to speak with the parents of a young man who was the victim of a shooting carried out, we were informed, by Stormont republicanism. It was a familiar story. With nothing to show for the war other than an end to the war, those who ordered it waged react with violent fury to others who challenge their writ. Joe O’Connor in Belfast, Paddy Fox in Tyrone, Micky Donnelly in Derry - all these republicans previously faced the wrath of the Green shirts; now the malevolence has spread to Downpatrick - its victim, Kevin Perry.

We arrived in the working class home of Francie and Geraldine Perry in the early afternoon. It was the first time that we had met either of the couple. We found them agitated and uneasy but determined. They were not going silently into the night while their son lay in the local hospital, incapacitated by five bullet wounds. They would have their say. And The Blanket - being a Section 31 free zone - would give them a platform from which to say it.

Geraldine Perry sat on a chair in her kitchen smoking while she spoke to us at the table. These were working class people in a working class home. The locality in which they lived reminded me more of Ballymurphy than Norfolk on the Glen Road. Few Armani suits would be found hanging in the wardrobes in these homes. She explained to me and my colleague that six days before Christmas her son Kevin was dragged from his house by five men into a back garden and shot in the shin, ankles and hands. He had also been subjected to ferocious attack which inolved the use of a hammer and a nail bar, leaving him with a hundred stitches. Before asking her what organisation was responsible I smiled and commented that on another occasion when I asked a question like this and published the answer Sinn Fein sent a Glenbryn-type hate mob to my home to rant and rave, threaten and berate. Like the Holy Cross School parents, obviously undeterred - they can come back howling if they want - I proceeded with my business. Geraldine claimed that Kevin was adamant that the people who shot him were members of the Provisional IRA. The local Provisionals in the town were also said to be boasting that he was one of their victims. Word came back through the republican grapevine to the family that the reason being put about for the shooting was that Kevin had threatened a senior member of the IRA, something the hospitalised man strenuously denies.

The backdrop to the shooting was laid out for us by Geraldine. In September 2001, her son Pat was attacked at a Sinn Fein function in Downpatrick by party members. ‘The attack took place in the toilet of the premises where the function was being held. A prominent member of Sinn Fein held Pat down while party colleagues kicked him about the head and body.’ Those who carried out the assault claimed that Pat had ties with an alternative republican grouping. This was to prove the catalyst of a slander campaign. ‘Since then a prominent member of Sinn Fein in South Down has criticised the family for over a year on the basis of anything he can. He has waged a campaign of slander and innuendo.’ Geraldine fiercely disputed the allegation against Pat. In any event it does seem strange that he would turn up at a Sinn Fein function if he was a member of an alternative republican grouping.

Geraldine did point out however, that the Christmas prior to the assault on Pat, his brother Kevin - now hospitalised - despite holding strong republican beliefs had made enemies within the Provisional Republican Movement. The latter told him he was a persona non grata after he had the temerity to complain about malpractices being indulged in by some within that movement. In his view their activities were bringing republicanism into disrepute but the present leadership seemed prepared to let things go as it had lost its way.

In April of 2002 there was an attempt to shoot Pat. At the time it was not clear who was behind it. The family readily admit to having differences of opinion over the likely perpetrators. But then local Provisionals began to boast in the pubs in the town that it was they who had targeted Pat. Geraldine, worried out of her mind, admits there are times when the thought flashes across her mental vision that the local Sinn Fein councillor has been in some way responsible for her house being subjected to RUC searches: ‘is it just to reassure themselves that there will never be any thing in this house so that when they attack it they can do so in the knowledge that everyone here is defenceless?’ She says, however, that she has no evidence that the councillor in question has done any such thing.

Geraldine complained bitterly of a sustained campaign in the local media waged against her and her two sons. Her husband Francie says ‘we have lived here all our lives and suddenly in the past year we have just become criminals.’ Like his wife he is in no doubt that the senior local Sinn Fein member has been feeding the local paper this line. He also claims that the same official has been trying to circulate a spurious story that ‘dissident republicans’ carried out the attack on Kevin. Geraldine added that a sign of the power the Provisionals are allowed to have is that such a spin can go unchallenged in the media and that the media virtually ignored the shooting to begin with. ‘What chance have ordinary people in these estates when a gang can just shoot you and the media turns its back?’

The family’s worries are compounded by an additional factor. Geraldine cares for her infirm 72 year old mother Mary in the house. After the shooting incident involving Pat the care workers were taken off as the location was now considered too dangerous for them to work in. Geraldine then tried to circumvent this problem by applying for a home in nearby Drumaness. While the Housing Executive claimed that the family had fulfilled all the necessary criteria for the application to be granted, the arrival of a bullet at Housing Executive premises led the Executive to conclude that the Perry family were at risk of death if they were allocated the house and the offer was subsequently withdrawn. That decision may now be subject to a judicial review.

As a result of the family's concerns over this type of friction they approached Sinn Fein. Two party officials visited the home and told them they would deal with the matter and would return within two weeks. According to Francie before the two weeks had expired 'we found out how they intended dealing with the matter - Kevin was beaten with hammers and shot.'

Francie concluded our discussion by saying that the family were really fearful for the safety of their sons:

The police came last week and told us that Pat’s life was under threat. While they refused to tell us who was behind the threat, it is clear that coming immediately after the shooting of Kevin that the Provisionals are behind it. We call on Sinn Fein and the IRA to state publicly and clearly that neither organisation poses any threat to the safety or lives of our sons and that both will be allowed to get on with their daily lives.

We were not surprised by what the Perry family had to tell us. We had heard similar accounts all too often in the past. We had no reason to disbelieve their version of events but that did not prevent us asking others what they thought. One former republican prisoner who no longer actively engages in political life, told us:

The Provos want to run the show and still any dissension arising out of opposition to their participation in the peace process and their future participation in the PSNI. Good people have been put out of the Republican Movement as soon as they began to ask questions. Kevin Perry and his brother are no better or worse than any of the other young men in this town. Kevin's behaviour since he spoke out against the Sinn Fein set up is no different from it was before he spoke up. Then he was a decent guy. The minute he disagreed with them he became 'anti-social'. What really happened? The Provos decided to blacken him because they could not face criticism or dissent.

The only way that the type of activity described in this article will end is for the Sinn Fein leadership to come clean about the limitations of its strategy. Republicans opposed to the present strategy know that the Provisional IRA lost the war. Rather than hounding those who wish to say just that, the Sinn Fein leadership should accept responsibility for leading us into a war that could not be won and that was ultimately ended on terms that were on offer in 1973. Persistently dissembling that the republican struggle was somehow successful and that the present strategy is the continuation of it by other means rather than the abandonment of that struggle entirely fools only those who wish to be fooled and leads others to feel they were cheated rather than defeated. The ingredients for tension are built in to the process of denial. Tariq Ali complained recently about those with power treating citizens like children so that 'they can carry on spoon-feeding them lies.' A leadership not honest about its achievements will continuously feel the need to suppress those who are. The emperor has no clothes. What is so terrible about that? Denying it.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

5 January 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Hammering Dissent
Anthony McIntyre


Maria Duce non Dulce (et decorum est)

Seaghán Ó Murchú


Amnesty International & Israel: Say It Isn't So!
Paul de Rooij


A Northern Majority for Irish Unity is Not Too Remote to be of Relevance
Paul A. Fitzsimmons


2 January 2003


From Pig to Man and Man to Pig
Tommy Gorman


Up the IRB, Down the Amazon

Seaghán Ó Murchú Gem of Exploitation
Liam O Ruairc


The Tyranny of Christmas
Anthony McIntyre


Eat, Drink, Be Merry
Brendan O'Neill


The Silence of the Left
Henry McDonald


When the Falls & Shankill Marched As One
Davy Carlin




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