The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Losing Hearts and Minds

It is by necessity our individual and group responsibility to ensure that by our personal conduct and by our collective conduct of the struggle that we alienate as few of our supporters as possible. - Extract from the IRA Green Book as published in Brendan O'Brien's The Long War

The I.R.A. volunteer, except when carrying out a specific army task, acts most of the time on his own initiative and must therefore shoulder that responsibility in such a way that he enhances our necessary stated task of ensuring that his conduct is not a contributory factor to the Brit attempt to isolate us from our people. - Extract from the IRA Green Book as published in Tim Pat Coogan's The IRA (1993 ed.)

Mick Hall • 11 February 2005

No one expects soldiers to be saints. It is not in the nature of the work they are engaged in, no matter what army they belong to. In the main, armies are made up of ordinary decent young men and women who have suddenly gained authority due to the uniform they wear or represent, and the arms they carry or have access too. The PIRA is no exception and any PIRA unit that comes from an area like the Short Strand is not going to be made up of timid pussy cats. Historically, the area is not known, as far as the PIRA is concerned, for breeding men and women who turn the other cheek. The reason being short Strand is a Catholic/Nationalist enclave in East Belfast, consisting of appox 3,000 souls, surrounded on three sides by tough Protestant housing estates with an overall population almost three times as large. However up until the second ceasefire, bar the odd hiccup, the Provisionals and the local population were intertwined; the latter understanding only too clearly if loyalist paramilitaries wished to over-run their area, all there was to stop them were the volunteers of the PIRA, who had proved in the past they were up for the job. Thus until comparatively recently, any talk of PIRA standing down was more vigorously rejected in the Short Strand than in most other areas of Belfast.

However due to the disgraceful thuggish behaviour of a unit of the PIRA in this area, the local population has all but reversed their once favourable opinion of the Ra. Some even preferring, albeit reluctantly, if the need arises to rely on the PSNI, rather than having to turn to the local PIRA unit. This has not been an overnight change of community opinion but a long process, which finally broke through to the surface when allegedly members of the Short Strand PIRA along with others after a heavy drinking session murdered Robert McCartney in a city centre bar-room brawl.

It is worth looking at how what can only be regarded as a sea change in this communities view of the PIRA came about. Before any reader questions why I believe it was members of PIRA who not only killed Mr McCartney, but have been behaving in the manner I'm about to describe in the Short Strand, it is because this is the general consensus that is coming out of that local community. When in the past this community said the British Army was behaving in the most thuggish manner when about the business of the Crown in their area, I believed them; and such trust was never betrayed. So if this same community says an element of the PIRA is behaving in a similar manner then I have no reason to doubt them.

It seems a group of Provisionals within this area, referred to as ceasefire soldiers or scum by locals, having been able to fill their pockets with coin via the rackets they have become embroiled in during the ceasefire, have come to believe that the community their organisation was founded to serve now owes them, as its masters, largess. Like medieval knights they demand not only the automatic respect of the community they rule over, but also its absolute subservience; woe betide anyone who challenges them. Sadly far too often when their bellies are full with beer, they often overreact, resorting to violence against whoever takes their fancy, as if it is their right to do so. Especially when their masculinity or authority is called into question and in the process they seem to care very little they are bringing shame on the organisation they are associated with in the local communities mind. As of late these despicable individuals by their behaviour seem to have made a regular habit of spitting on the graves of the Republican dead, for that is what they are doing when they terrorise the local community.

But of course if this was just a matter of a group of thugs acting on their own initiative, then given time the local community would have eventually found the will to deal with them. However, the leadership of the PRM, when it suits them, publicly claim these thugs are not their responsibility. Time and again when this bunch of hoods have carried out some dastardly deed like the murder of Mr McCartney, the full weight of the Provos has been placed not behind the community in bringing these people to book, but behind the group of individuals who are terrorising it. People are politely visited and reminded of their obligations not to talk to the PSNI; CCTV video is removed from the scene of the crime and spirited to god knows where. Senior Republicans will put in an appearance alongside the thugs as a show of unity. Such bizarre behaviour by senior republicans has puzzled many within and beyond the Short Strand. For whether people support the current strategy of the PIRA or not, most still see that movement, in the main as being led by honourable people.

Thus such behaviour by senior members of the PRM is not what the community expects. What the people of the Short Strand want is when PIRA volunteers are out and about at their leisure, they behave in a manner that reflects the best interest of not only the organisation they belong to, but also the community they are a part of and claim to serve. Yes, from time to time it is inevitable that volunteers will go over the top and misbehave and indeed unfortunately at times commit acts that any civilised society would consider criminal. But when this happens, the community does not expect the senior ranks of the Republican army to threaten witnesses, demanding they forget what they saw, destroy CCTV, etc. Nor do they expect the Republican army to totally ignore the crime and leave in place those who were responsible. What the community want is for the leadership of the PRM to take responsibility for their volunteers and if the need arises discipline them and if necessary court martial those who have gone beyond civilised behaviour.

It is not as if the senior leadership is unaware of what this gang have been up to, as complaints against at least one of them stretch back years. It is claimed the current Adjutant General of the PIRA himself lives in West Belfast. Perhaps this is the problem and this man whose responsibility it is to oversee internal discipline, is too close to the situation and being so, due to past loyalties is unable to see the wood from the trees. Whatever it is, the people of the Short Strand deserve better, especially from a movement that they have shown loyalty to over the decades of the troubles.

Anyone who lives in a working class community like the Short Strand, although admittedly there are few which have continuously been in such a geographically precarious position, will know such communities are very conservative. Change in the overall attitude comes about very gradually over a long period of time, but then these attitudes can change suddenly. Thus within these communities, wayward members can be tolerated way beyond the time they would be in a less cohesive community, often in the hope that they will mend their ways. But when change occurs, for the individual(s) involved there is no going back, the community's black spot is upon them and there it will stay. The leadership of PIRA should take note of this and act upon it. For if they do not these individuals, who are out of control, will bring further disgrace upon the PRM and more hardships on a community which has had more than its share of misfortune and to put it crudely, does not deserve to be shit upon by its own.




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

14 February 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

An Ireland of Equals Will Not Be Built on Fear
Gerard Quinn

'Law and Order' From Behind a Balaclava
John Kelly

Where Are the Guards of Honour?
Sean Magee

Losing Hearts and Minds
Mick Hall

Protest? You're Having a Laugh
Michael Benson

Brian Mór

When A Leader Deserts His Men
Anthony McIntyre

No News
James Fitzharris

I Didn't Know Her, But I Did
Fred A. Wilcox

Parents Must Fight Bigotry
David Adams

9 February 2005

Oderint dum Metuant
Anthony McIntyre

Life Amongst the Proveau Riche
Brian Mór

Can Republicans Succeed Without Upholding National Sovereignty?
Francis Mackey

The Party or the Process
Dr John Coulter

Sean Russell and the Nazis
Mick Hall

Counting the Bodies
Liam O Ruairc

Elections' Aftermath
Ghali Hassan

What did Aeschylus write in "Daughters of Danaus"?
Toni Solo



The Blanket

http://lark. phoblacht. net



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices

To contact the Blanket project with a comment, to contribute an article, or to make a donation, write to:

webmaster@phoblacht. net