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Truth Better Than Spin

Mick Hall • 5 April 2005

In a recent edition of Daily Ireland, columnist Jude Collins wrote that in his opinion the majority of the US, UK and Irish media has been on a downward spiral since the 1960s, culminating in its recent attacks on Irish Republicanism. Unfortunately he failed to mention in any detail that the current media onslaught against the Provisional Republican Movement began soon after PIRA rejected the humiliating pre-conditions demanded of them by the Democratic Unionist Party, when Oglaigh na hEireann offered to decommission the majority of its remaining weaponry, thus enabling the DUP to crash the latest round of the GFA talks and unfairly place the blame at SF‘s door.

This was followed in quick succession by the Irish and British governments' claims that it was the Provisional IRA who robbed the Northern Bank in Belfast of a considerable sum. And then, as if to completely ruin Gerry Adams' mockney centenary celebrations of SF, PIRA off duty volunteers murdered Short Strand resident and SF supporter Robert McCartney after a bar room argument — and to make matters worse, a group of SF ‘supporters’, believing no doubt they were serving the cause, went out and cleaned the crime scene after this horrific murder, thus giving the media one hell of a bone to chew on.

Mr Collins' failure to mention these traumatic events all but negates his attempts to link the media attacks on the PRM with the ever increasing downward spiral he claims the media has been in for decades.

In any case, those with longer memories than Mr Collins would, I'm sure, challenge his prognosis, as in many ways the UK and Irish media is far more open these days than at any time over the last forty years.

True, this is not saying much as grub street still rarely challenges the powers that be —whether political or economic— and never goes against the dominant economic theory of our age, no matter what hardships this system inflicts on those least able to defend themselves. Sadly, although still a new boy on the block, I would include Daily Ireland in this criticism; I could also add if I was being facetious, the PRM own weekly newspaper An Phoblacht/Republican News, for when did that newspaper last carry an article attacking the unbridled naked capitalism of today's free market economy?

However, if one reads the Jude Collins article carefully, it becomes clear he is less interested in what state the media is in than the fact it has almost inclusively taken an anti-Provisional Republican slant since the breakdown of the GFA negotiations at the end of last year.

On reading his claim that the media has suddenly become inherently anti-republican, one wonders what Mr Collins was doing when the media in the UK cheered on the fitting up of the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, the death of the ten Hunger Strikes, the shooting down like mad dogs of Mairead Farrell and her two comrades in Gibraltar, plus the fact the overwhelming majority of the southern Irish media acquiesced to section 31? Something even the BBC refused to adhere to completely: instead, in a very English way it chose to make a farce out of the Thatcher government's attempt to censor Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, by having their words dubbed by actors, one of whom was a close relation of a leading Republican.

Mr Collins also neatly side-steps that for the last few years, Sinn Fein and its leadership could not put a foot wrong as far as the majority of the UK, US and Republic of Ireland's media was concerned, and any disreputable or otherwise acts the PIRA may have been involved in, like the odd spot of GBH, armed robbery, highjacking of cigarette lorries, etc, was all but ignored, something which seems to have slipped Mr Collins' mind in his tale of the media's woeful downward spiral.

There is a more serious point here than my mere bitching at a normally half decent columnist, as the storm of media condemnation Mr Collins mentions has undoubtedly wrong footed the leadership of the PRM, to such an extent they have ended up more than once of late on their rear ends.
When they have tried to regain their feet they have time and again stumbled all over the place like the proverbial drunken sailor, seemingly incapable of finding solid ground.

Thus we now witness the likes of Mr Collins being called on to supplement the Belfast Pen and Ink Battalion led by the redoubtable Danny Morrison and Jim Gibney, to help harden the earth — not least because Mr Adams and his fellow SF candidates will need to get out and about whilst campaigning in the forthcoming UK general election if they are to maintain or increase the SF vote.

Since the murder of Robert McCartney, it has been clear the likes of Mr Collins and his fellow members of the Pen and Ink Brigade have been called to the colours to write ‘circle your wagons boys’ articles. Now with the aforementioned article it seems, ‘all the fault of the media’ has been added to the Connolly House approved list of subjects to put pen to paper on.

The downside of this is the Pen and Ink Brigade are often supplemented in the core Republican communities, where the natives have been getting restless of late, by local PIRA volunteers, donning their aprons and hair nets, in the manner of Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough in the former's BBC comedy show and by so doing going forth to spread rumours, smears and innuendoes over the garden gate, not against the historic enemy or their Loyalist surrogates, but the community from whence they come: the purpose being to turn the community against all those who might be able to offer a real explanation for the recent media assault on SF, i.e., it is mostly of the Provisional Republican Movement's leadership's own making.

That the SF leadership have chosen to go down the road of spin to solve their current predicament is indicative of politics in the 21st Century, so we can hardly blame SF for joining the pack. After all, they have entered the mainstream of bourgeois politics and have witnessed at first hand, during their brief sojourns at the Clinton White House and Tony Blair's Chequers, how this method of conducting politics can pay off with large electoral gains and handsome dividends.

However, myself I wonder whether in a small nation like Ireland, spinmiester politics can be transferred for the good from countries like the USA and the UK.

Take the core Republican communities; even in Cities like Dublin and Belfast these areas often resemble small towns if not villages, rather than the urban conurbation's of London or New York, in which people are often oblivious of each others existence, not even knowing their immediate neighbours.

In the core Republican constituencies little is secret as far as family relationships and history is concerned, many families having lived in the same area for generations. Indeed, in the past this fact has paid dividends for SF, because no matter what the media claimed, people knew the truth about the character, hard work and sacrifices made by both leading Republicans and rank and file members. Any attempt by the Media to portray them as a godfather, criminals, etc., fell on deaf ears.

People, not being stupid, also realised that there were bad eggs within the PIRA and SF, but history had taught them in time these were normally weeded out, either by the movement or the individuals concerned moved on, being unable to cut the mustard for any length of time during the armed struggle.

If one considers the comparatively small size of Ireland, thus the small pond and class base from which the PRM fishes for recruits, and the fact until comparatively recently the more able of them were channelled into the PIRA, Sinn Fein being regarded as the poor relation of the family, Mr Adams and his comrades' achievement has been considerable. Over the years they were able to build a solid base of support in the aforementioned constituencies, out of which a hard working cadre of Republican politicians have emerged.

Unfortunately with the Peace Process, SF has become over reliant on spin and instant rebuttal. This was fine when they were dealing with National Governments and their Unionist opponents. Closer to home it has opened up an avalanche of problems, the vast majority of which could have been avoided.

Nowhere has the failure of Spin been more exposed than in the McCartney affair. The facts are well known, as is the commonly held view that within the Short Strand a section of the local PIRA unit was out of control and had stretched the local community's nerves to breaking point. This unit's behaviour, far from being a rogue element within PIRA, appears to mirror the behaviour of a small number of similar units within core republican communities, and is clearly a symptom of an army on perpetual ceasefire. Whilst it is not true to say PIRA has completely morphed into a Rafia, undoubtedly an increasing number of its volunteers have in both behaviour and outlook.

If, after the PRM’s leadership realised Armed Struggle was no longer a viable strategy, they had acclimatised both their membership and their core constituency to this fact, they could have then gone ahead and stood PIRA down in the normal tried and trusted manner. Thus much of the aforementioned disintegration of volunteers moral and discipline would have been avoided. I must stress here I'm not talking about liquidating Oglaigh na hEireann, but standing it down, which is different from what the Unionist politicians and the British and Irish Governments are demanding of SF.

Nevertheless, even if this had been done, the thugs who murdered Robert McCartney may still have carried out their foul deed. But I doubt the PRM would have felt the need to send out the volunteers of the local smear and innuendo brigade. In any case, the work of the unhooded volunteers was always going to end in failure in an area like the Short Strand for the reasons I have given above, plus the tenacious and decent nature of the McCartney family.

Of course the loyalty the people of the core Republican communities displays towards SF cannot be wiped away by one incident, nor should it be. Gerry Adams has made a start in putting things right by sending out a message to the killers that he is not going to let this matter go. Although only time will tell if this is yet another attempt at spinning; in the meantime I see no reason not to take him at face value.

Instead of writing promo pieces that contain more spin than substance, perhaps writers with Republican sympathies would do more good if they asked themselves what type of party, which claims its aim is a socialist Ireland of Equals, in which open government and democratic accountability is to be the order of the day, would wish to spin to its core support base, or to anyone else come to that?

For surely if there is one element of the electorate who should not be deceived by spin, it is Sinn Fein's core supporters, who have remained loyal to SF through thick and thin, and in all probability will remain so when they vote for SF in the May UK elections.

Unlike the Irish middle classes, the over whelming majority of Ireland's working classes and less well-off rural workers, from which SF draws its core support, are not the type of people to respond to spin, bullshit and bollix based on personal advantage or prejudice; otherwise they would never of supported Sinn Fein in the first place.

When members of the PRM come forward and tell people untruthfully this or that person is a drug dealer or whatever, people feel insulted, as having lived alongside the individual so named they know the truth of the accusation. Thus they take umbrage with Republicans for taking them for fools and begin to wonder what else they are being told is bullshit.

Thus if ever their was a political leadership which needs constructive criticism it is Gerry Adams and his comrades. In return what Mr Adams and his colleagues need to understand is those who do not acquiesce to their will are not necessary their, or the PRM's enemies. Indeed constructive criticism is a healthy thing; for the PRM leadership to treat such people as if the war was still in full swing and their republican critics were Ireland Quislings is contemptible. Wise politicians listens to their constituency, especially the section of it that makes them feel uncomfortable.

The fact the Adams leadership has been unable to keep many of their more able former colleagues on board has clearly been detrimental to the movement. Perhaps it's time Gerry Adams considered re-building a few bridges at home. After all, he made a start doing just this with old US comrades who had been out of favour of late, having been replaced by the very people who turned on Mr Adams during his recent trip to the USA.




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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

6 April 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Criminality and Public Relations
Eamon Sweeney

Truth Better than Spin
Mick Hall

The Central Issue is Justice
Catherine McCartney

Not Out of Nationalist Woods Yet
David Adams

South Down Election Play
John Coulter

Are We on the Verge of a New Political Ice Age?
Anthony McIntyre

28 March 2005

The Writing's Off the Wall!
Catherine McGlinchey

Ireland: Republican Movement faces disintegration
Paul Mallon

The IRA is Morphing into the 'Rafia'
Anthony McIntyre

Truth and Justice!
Sheila Holden

Greet the Lion to Kill the Cat
Àine Fox

Concerned Republican
N. Corey

Six Against the Rock
Anthony McIntyre

Our Patriot Dead Are Turning in their Graves
Margaret Quinn

Easter Oration 2005
32 CSM

Easter Statement from the Leadership of the Republican Movement 2005

RSF Vice President Calls On Provisionals To Disband
Des Dalton, RSF

Easter Statement from the Leadership of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement
Andy Gallagher, IRSP

Easter Statement from the Irish National Liberation Army Prisoners of War

Caribbean Sinn Fein Easter Message
Jimmy Sands



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