The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
A response to Victor Barker
Liam O Ruairc • 27 January 2004

From Victor Barker's reaction to my review of Black Operations, it seems that a few clarifications are necessary.

Following a spelling mistake, Mr Barker's name was wrongly spelled. I apologise for this. However, this spelling mistake was corrected in the version of my review published in the February 2004 edition of Fortnight.

When writing that "the book is not as bad as one could expect from journalists of the Irish Star and with a foreword by Victor Barker", I had in mind the fact that given the hostility of both Mr Mooney and Mr Barker to Real Republicans, the book could have been a long hysterical attack against the Real IRA and the 32CSM with calls for more repressive measures. Experience of other books written by journalists of the Irish Star, like Paul Williams for example (I invite Mr Barker to read my critique of Crimelords) shows that they often get the basic facts wrong. My point was that Black Operations is not like that.

Mr Barker, for understandable reasons, is a staunch critic of the Real IRA. It was an interesting idea to write a book length critique of the Real IRA. However, the book fails to meet its objective, and this is something that Mr Barker repeats in his reaction to my review.

Mr Barker writes:

"No one (no matter what their religious or political beliefs) has the right to kill innocent human beings in pursuit of their own ends and to use terrorism and intimidation to further their cause. It is time that the REAL IRA faced up to the enormous toll of human suffering that their evil deeds caused to the bereaved and injured on the 15th August 1998 and to seek the forgiveness of those who they have so deeply wronged."

The problem with such a statement is that it is just a moral/humanitarian critique of the Real IRA. With political movements, moral/humanitarian critique is not sufficient, what is required is a political critique. One of the points of my review is that the authors' critique of the Real IRA fails because it does not criticize the organization at a strategic and organizational level. If Mr Barker is interested in critiques of Republicanism, I would highly recommend to him Henry Patterson's The Politics of Illusion or MLR Smith's Fighting for Ireland? The Military Strategy of the IRA. Those works develop the sort of critique that Black Operations fail to make.

However, the devastating effect of Real IRA activities upon its victims should not be ignored. Joseph Conrad was right when he wrote of that there were "conspiracies of fatal destiny", resulting in the deaths of innocents "whose catastrophic character cannot be argued away by sophisticated reasoning or persuasive eloquence" (The Secret Agent).

I have no doubts that many people will be touched by the fact that Mr Barker will run the London Marathon to raise money for some of the victims of the Irish war. But we should also keep in mind that the whole issue of the political, legal and moral definition of the "victims" and "perpetrators" is still a very contentious one (so is that of compensation, recognition and forgiveness): just think of the problem of 'second class' victims, perpetrators who are simultaneously victims, etc.

Also problematic are the political implications of running for “the families of Victims of Republican Terrorist and Loyalist Terrorist Violence and … the PSNI benevolent fund”. The implication, in terms of victims and perpetrators, is that the conflict in the North is blamed on illegitimate “terrorist violence”, the actions of the agencies of the State being regarded as legitimate and not being blamed for the part they played in the conflict. There was not a real conflict, simply terrorist violence. It is thus not surprising that Mr Barker does not include the families of victims of state violence on his list. While running for the victims families is entirely praiseworthy, the political implication are more questionable.

Finally, I believe that it is only through the confrontation of conflicting views that our ideas are able to positively evolve. For intelligent Republicans, dialogue is essential. I invite Mr Barker to have a look at The Other View journal (and perhaps contribute?) where Republicans and their enemies discuss their differences in a constructive manner.




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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

27 January 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Land Fit for Heroes or a Party Suited to Peelers?
Tommy McKearney


Rest in Peace
Brendan Shannon


Shooting the Fenians

Anthony McIntyre


On the Theme of Forgiveness: An Open Letter to Victor Barker
Karen Elliott


A Response to Victor Barker

Liam O Ruairc


TV Times
Eamon Sweeney


Eamonn McCann and Marion Baur


“All bureaucrats are equal but some are more equal than others”
Peter Hadden


Airport Workers Reply
Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta, and Chris Boyer


20 January 2004


Demise of the Dinosaur?
Eamon Sweeney


The Price the Working Classes Pay for a Pedestal These Days
Mick Hall


The One Eyed Observer

Anthony McIntyre


The Spark in Jeffery
John Fitzharris


Anti-Racism Rally

Davy Carlin


32CSM Condemns PIRA Shooting of Republican Activist
Andy Martin


Semantics of Empire
M. Shahid Alam




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