The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Confident No More


Mick Hall • 6 March 2004

If ever an example was needed of how far along the road to the custom and practice of bourgeois politics SF has crept, them one could not look for a better source than two articles recently published in the Irish News. The first under the headline, 'Republican stalwart in rage against machine,' reported on John Kelly making public the doubts he has in the practice of the current leadership of Sinn Fein. This article came about because after he announced last year that he would no longer be defending the positions he held as an SF Councillor, he also at that time withdrew from the SF Party. This led to speculation that there was more to his withdrawal from active politics than just his health and age. The Irish News article answers some of that speculation

The points he makes will be familiar to readers of the Blanket. He says his doubts began after visiting dissident republican prisoners in Maghaberry jail, two of whom were his constituents; later he attended two rallies to call for the segregation of republican and loyalist prisoners in Maghaberry jail, after which he publicly, via the media, congratulated Marian Price for the work she does on these issues on behalf of Republican prisoners. After these events, which prior to the last few years would have been activities par for the course for the average Republican, the more so an elected representative, he says he felt himself to be under censorious and critical pressure from the central leadership of SF.

In the Irish News article Kelly highlights other issues that made him feel uncomfortable with the course on which SF is bound. Basically these boil down to his belief that the central SF leadership wished to maintain what he describes as, "an almost obsessive control". He then goes on to categorise examples of this, as I have said all of which will be familiar to readers of the Blanket on which there has been many article which have covered similar ground. He also stated firmly that whilst he had differences with the SF leadership's behaviour and practice, he continues to support the GFA.

To sum up John Kelly did not say anything that has not been said before by many ex PRM members and by people from the communities from which they came. Kelly is not a youngster anymore, he is 68 years old; thus one would have thought this would have been his swan song and as far as SF was concerned, that would have been that due to Mr Kelly having left the Party.

Sadly it seems today's leadership of SF cannot even let an old veteran, who has decided to have a grumble, as older men often do, go without a parting shot across their bows to show all and sundries who is in charge.

Conor Murphy MLA, a senior and influential SF member was wheeled out to answer Mr Kelly's criticism (if only, some might think). It becomes clear on reading, Mr Murphy's quotes in the Irish News article, 'Sinn Féin hits out at veteran's 'elite,' that his intention was to explain that the matter had very little political content, but was all about thwarted ambition. Mr Kelly, he implied, is only making the points he does because he was deselected for his assembly seat. Of course Mr Murphy tells us that Kelly is welcomed to make whatever points he wishes, but we the public should be aware that due to not being selected to continue as MLA, perhaps we should conclude that he is a bitter old man full of envy and spite for SF.

Conor Murphy being such an able bourgeois politician never said as much, although he came pretty close and in anywise I'm certain that is the conclusion he wished us to draw from his comments about John Kelly.

Nevermind that he never once attempted to answer Mr Kelly's criticism and complaints about the practice of the SF leadership.

Nevermind John Kelly never once mentioned being deselected, nor criticised the manner in which it came about.

Nevermind that some of Mr Kelly's criticism were far more important to the average SF supporter than the fate of this or that member of the Assembly.

No, the whole wretched basis of such politics is: destroy the man's reputation. Once done, their ideas, or even as in this case, the questions they asked and the criticism they made will be ignored, destined for the dustbin of history.

When looking at this affair, which in the scale of current international events is pretty small beer, it is important to see beyond the individuals involved. John Kelly could have been any older elected representative of the PRM who had supported the leadership, but who had reached the end of their political tether as far as their allegiance to the current leadership is concerned. Conor Murphy could have been any one of the current PRM leadership who is prepared to do almost anything to maintain the momentum of SF and thus their own ever onward roll.

What is so pathetic and sad is that a movement whose members, thus leadership, came through a period of argument, analysis, and democratic debate due to circumstances beyond its control, a leadership which is overwhelmingly working class or from the less well off in the countryside now has so little confidence in its own members and supporters that it is prepared to go to almost any lengths, including politically smearing an older man once loyal to it, simply to discredit what he says -- which, incidentally, could have at one time come out of their own mouths, there's the rub of this whole matter.

What this tells me is that many of these people, i.e. the SF leadership, have so little confidence in their own current political views and thus the political strategy they demand for their Party that they fear any open debate beyond the narrow confines of those whose allegiance they can directly guarantee. Clearly what the Kelly affair has demonstrated is this group is getting smaller by the day.

The full articles can be found on the Nuzhound web site.

Republican stalwart in rage against machine (Kelly)

Sinn Féin hits out at veteran's 'elite' claims (Murphy)





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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.
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Index: Current Articles

12 March 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Try Not to Forget It
Brian Mór


Time to End the Silence on Stakeknife
Martin Ingram


Confident No More
Mick Hall


Sinn Fein & Democracy Be Damned: Interview with Martin Cunningham

Anthony McIntyre


Bobby Tohill: Pub Brawls and Death Threats
Liam O Ruairc


Ardoyne Suicides
Eamonn McCann

Independence Day
David Vance


The Half Loaf of Good Friday Will Never Satisfy
Liam O Comain


Special Exclusive on Special Relationship
Matthew Kavanah


The Proposed UK-US Extradition Treaty: Concerns
Francis Boyle


The Decolonization of Northern Ireland
Francis Boyle


1 March 2004


The Enforcers

Anthony McIntyre


Reference Guide to Provisional IRA Attacks on Republicans, 1998-2004


Stand Down, Mr Hyde
Liam O Comain


Civilian Adminstration?
George Young


Adams Nearly Quit Sinn Fein - Peace Process Hero Angered by IRA's Violence
Barney de Breadbin and Eamonn Codswallop


Double Standards - Questions Need Answering
Raymond Blaney


Brilliant, Bloody Brilliant
Brian Mór


POWs and the Challenge of Partnership
Aoife Rivera Serrano




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