The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

 

The Hate had started. As usual the face of Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People, had flashed onto the screen. There were hisses here and there among the audience. The programmes of the Two Minutes Hate varied from day to day, but there was none in which Goldstein was not the principal figure. He was the primal traitor, the earliest defiler of the Party’s purity. He was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought. Before the Hate had proceeded for thirty seconds, uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part but that it was impossible to avoid joining in
– George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Anthony McIntyre • 18 March 2004

The more I listened to Martin Cunningham, the sharper his insights became. Many years spent lecturing at college have honed his verbal skills. And it is not hard to imagine him delivering knock out blows to opponents’ arguments across the council chamber. I was aware that in his role as a Sinn Fein councillor he had raised the issue of the PSNI having set up two South Down men for arrest, which when probed further showed a much wider systemic attempt involving the British Army and the DPP to pervert and corrupt the course of justice. When UTV’s Insight decided to investigate the incident, it produced a devastating critique of the justice system. A few short years ago Sinn Fein would have been found screaming from the rooftops, citing the Insight findings as irrefutable evidence of an irreformable state. But now it appears that the laws of political correctness and the logic of the peace process have descended on such issues and it is ill-advised to broach them.

Quite simply, I was very unhappy with the party turning a blind eye to two young men in this constituency who were interned on the basis of state falsified evidence. This incident was on a par with the British justice meted out to the Birmingham six and the Guildford four. It was obviously orchestrated and choreographed at the highest level. Sinn Fein failed to support me on the council even though I named the British agent involved along with the PSNI and the forensic personnel involved. I was very disappointed with Sinn Fein on that. This was a human rights issue and it made no difference whether those being abused were republican, loyalist or people not involved in any political activity.

But why should this be so? Has Sinn Fein not taken up the issue of dissident republican prisoners in Maghaberry and asked that they be given segregation? Why would the party raise that human rights issue but ignore another? At this Martin Cunningham looked at me quizzically as if to ask ‘are you serious?’ He reached to his file and pulled out an official looking document, which pertained to a House of Commons select committee report into the separation of prisoners in the troubled jail. He cited a portion of the evidence presented by the NIO security minister Jane Kennedy.

Kennedy had testified that when the NIO talked to Sinn Fein, the party argued that it was concerned that some of its natural supporters were taking part in street protests in support of the prisoners. It advised the NIO that the British Government should move to take away the support for the prisoners by giving them a degree of separation.

This sounds very much like SDLP-speak when Bobby Sands and his comrades were on hunger strike. I am 50 years of age. The hunger strike made a lasting impression on me. McLaughlin always refers to the hunger strikers to sell his line. When I read things like that Kennedy statement, I get very angry. What would Bobby Sands and the other nine hunger strikers who died have thought of that? Give them a degree of separation so that our supporters won’t kick up too much and we can get back on the Stormont gravy train. How must the Sands family feel when they hear or read something like that?

Sinn Fein has denied assisting the Brits on this matter. But as it is generally safe to believe something once it has been officially denied by the party, its stance on this must be treated with the usual thorough scepticism. Martin Cunningham was obviously of the belief that Sinn Fein only moved to support segregation for republican prisoners because it had to. The party’s brazen collaborationist approach aimed at undermining physical force republicans indeed had so much in common with the SDLP stance in 1981. And for its sins John Hume’s team won the opprobrium of the comrades of the ten dead hunger strikers who accused them of clinging tenaciously ‘to their role of imperialist lickspittle.’ That Sinn Fein felt dictated to by the agenda of the protesting prisoners must have infuriated the party. Sticks always hated having to support physical force republicans. And now that Sinn Fein had ‘gone Stick’, I asked Martin Cunningham for some insight into the depth of animosity towards dissident republicans. After all, many people can remember the days when the party leadership would address Micky McKevitt as ‘comrade.’

His answer merely served to reinforce a recurring image in my mind when I think of Sinn Fein gatherings. It is that of the hate meetings organised by the party in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The activists were briefed on who was to be hated most this week, even if they were loved last week and might be loved again the following week. But for this week the revolutionary task at hand was ‘hate, comrades, hate.’

Dissident is like a disease. They definitely do not want you talking with people who are viewed as dissident republicans just in case you might catch the disease that the dissidents have. They are hated more than the RUC, the British Army or the SAS. The British and the PSNI don’t need a shoot-to-kill policy any more because there are people there who are prepared to do the dirty work for them.

I explained to him that I was only too well aware of this. In October 2000 Provisional nationalists had shot dead a member of the Real IRA, Joe O’Connor, and then sent the Kray Twins to the very house we were now sitting in to intimidate both me and my pregnant wife. This was followed up two nights later by a mob howling words to the effect of, ‘who the hell are you? Sinn Fein’s lies are true.’ But who is it that is now under the greatest threat from Sinn Fein, if it is certainly not British troops, police or loyalists?

People who don’t agree with Sinn Fein. I don’t agree with violence myself because it is counterproductive. But anybody who voices opposition to Sinn Fein will be marked. Within the party the leadership would rather you talk to the unionists than to the SDLP. That’s how bad it is.

I suggested to him that Sinn Fein hatred for dissident republicans stems from the fact that Sinn Fein were once the dissidents, and that the very existence of republican dissidents reminds Sinn Fein figures of what they used to be and of how they promised never to become what they are now. I then asked him how people in Sinn Fein feel when they see the Provisional nationalists using brutal violence against republicans who don’t agree with the organisation?

‘I was shocked and disgusted with it. Lots of republicans within the movement oppose the attacks but an elitist element within it is responsible for these attacks.’

Obviously, he must have fears for his own safety?

Because of the area I live in I always have checked under my car but now I do it twice. When I see what has happened to people who are not Sinn Fein republicans, I am more concerned about my safety now. They seem to be prepared to go to any lengths to keep control of an area. Republicans may not attack me directly but I am of the opinion that they could set me up to be killed by a bad element in the constituency that was responsible for the Loughinisland massacre. I fear that they might convey to the loyalists that I am a thorn in their side as well.

Given that Bobby Tohill has already expressed similar concerns to the Andersonstown News he must now think such a scenario is plausible?

‘Very plausible given the type of people they have become. I have expressed this fear to others that it could happen. It is a big fear of mine.’

I felt obligated to remind him that if the republican leadership ordered his murder he would be killed. Knowing that, was he still prepared to carry on with expressing his viewpoint? He was adamant that while he could be killed or injured he would never be censored. ‘Fighting censorship was one of the main planks of this party.’

Worrying thoughts combined with determination from a man who gave so much of his time to a party that has turned its own belief system upside down under the guise of tactical manoeuvring of the moment. Even if Provisional nationalists have no intention of wreaking vengeance on republicans who oppose them, through recourse to loyalist death squads, the culture of fear that has mushroomed as a means to protect the vested interests underpinned by the peace process, has so terrified people that they now think the Sinn Fein leadership is capable of almost anything in its zeal to suppress critique.



PART ONE: Sinn Fein & Democracy Be Damned: Interview with Martin Cunningham

PART THREE: Sinn Fein A Dictatorship: Interview with Martin Cunningham

 

 

 

Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

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



19 March 2004

 

Other Articles From This Issue:

 

Terrorism Defined and Exemplified
Don Mullan and James Mullin

 

Can Catholics Now Trust the Police?
Sean Mc Manus

 

Sinn Fein & The Hate: Interview with Martin Cunningham

Anthony McIntyre

 

Splits and Distortions?
George Young

 

Cellar Dwellers
Brian Mór

 

The Blanket, Eamonn McCann and the use of language
Gerry Ruddy

 

From Paras to the FRU
Kathleen O Halloran

 

"Expose the Awful Truth"
Carrie Twomey

 

The Maze
Belfast Exposed

 

Dublin Public Meeting on Referendum
Residents Against Racism

 

12 March 2004

 

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

 

 

 

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