The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Hope for a Democratic Avenue, Not a Dead End Street


Mick Hall • 14 April 2005

I'm sure most of the people who look forward to the day Oglaigh na hEireann is stood down have given some thought as to whether or not the recent speech on this subject by Gerry Adams will help this become a reality. Myself, I have little idea, for the Machiavellian world which is Gerry Adams' daily fare is far too complex for me to understand. This being so I will take him at his word and wait and see how things pan out, as I can see little point in trying to second guess the man.

Although perhaps it would do no harm to reflect upon the enormous weight of responsibility those who will have to make this decision have on them. Ending decades of Armed Struggle, for the leadership of the main armed Republican organisation, is far from a simple matter, whether it be intellectually, politically or physically, for they and their comrades have invested so much down the years in this method of struggle.

For certain media commentators and politicians to portray it as being on a par with flicking a light switch is nonsensical, and overlooks the fact whilst the PIRA are not a victorious army, they are not a defeated one either, having never left the field. Thus when this decision is made, the people responsible for making it will not only be thinking of the current political implications and the future well-being of those volunteers for whom they have responsibility, but also for Oglaigh na hEireann’s dead, many of whom the current IRA leadership grew up with and fought along side, shared a British prison cell with and over whose graves they swore to fight on until the thirty-two County Socialist Republic was a living reality.

As Padraig Pearse made clear, in a powerful oration he made in 1915 over O’Donovan Rossa grave, the Fenian dead are a powerful factor for those Republicans who remain behind. Take the ten dead Hunger Strikers, men who were willing to give up their very lives for the Republic in the most harsh and cruel manner. In the small hours of the morning I doubt there is an Army Council member who does not reflect on what Bobby, Francis, Patsy, Raymond, Joe, Martin, Kevin, Kieran, Tom and Mickey might have thought at the armed struggle being called off before the Nation is reunited.

Nevertheless, whilst reflecting on their Republican dead, those who have the power to take the momentous decision to stand the Provisional IRA down, must make it for today's and future generations, for the good of the Nation, the Struggle and the Army. No armed wing of a Liberation Movement can remain on perpetual ceasefire, for to do so will inevitably lead to a disintegration of moral and discipline.

If the leadership of the Provisional Republican Movement genuinely feel the continued activity of the PIRA has become a liability, and not an asset as it was in the past, then they must do their duty accordingly. There is no shame in standing the Army down before the ultimate goal of the Socialist Republic is reached. Bitter disappointment, yes, but shame, no. For no one can say the generations who fought under the banner of the PIRA failed in their duty, as they saw it, to the Republic.

The struggle for national liberation and the Irish Republic has always been about horses for courses. Indeed down the years, following the example set in the 1916 Easter Rising by Clarke, Pearse and Connolly, when they decided to cease fighting to spare further suffering. IRA chiefs of Staff, starting with Frank Aitkin in 1923, have issued the order to stand the army down on more than one occasion. Once the leadership of the Movement has decided Armed Struggle is no longer a viable option in bringing about a 32 County Socialist Republic, it is their duty to do this. The more so in the current situation, as the President of Sinn Fein Gerry Adams, has himself said, due to the contributions made by the volunteers of Oglaigh na hEireann, avenues of peaceful democratic struggle have been opened up for the movement to pursue.

True, the main objective has not as yet been achieved, but the political landscape within the north of Ireland has been transformed and is all but unrecognisable from the hard, harsh days prior to the PIRA taking up arms. Indeed one is not being poetic to claim it has changed utterly. Today's nationalist communities in the north of Ireland are confident, politically astute and aware of their democratic rights: these croppies will never again lay down.

Out of these communities a vigorous civil society has emerged, which is capable of
show-casing the finest in art, music, literature, political debate and history in the annual Féile an Phobail (West Belfast Festival). Musicians, writers, and poets from within northern republicanism have made an impact way beyond what the media once derogatorily termed republican ghettos. A new all Ireland daily newspaper, Daily Ireland has recently been launched, not from within the Dublin or London media establishment, but from the heart of West Belfast.

In case readers conclude this article is a mere eulogy to the endeavours of the PRM, it is only correct I mention those comrades from within the republican community who argue vigorously with their former colleagues in SF. They too have their own media outlets and act as a die-hard watchdog, forever snapping at Sinn Fein's heels if they feel the party has strayed to far from its core beliefs. Former Republican prisoners through the organisations they have founded also play an important role in the North's civil society.

Indeed if one is to understand the recent campaign by the McCartney family to gain justice for their murdered love-one, then one must place it in this context of a risen people. What the McCartney affair has shown is if these community's refused to bend the knee to the British and their loyalist surrogates during the last thirty odd years of war, they have no intention of starting now when local satraps, no matter which organisation they claim the protection of, all but replicate a crime of the old enemy.

Of course the aforementioned civil society did not come about on its own account, nor was it the gift of middle class politicians, of whatever political complexion or nationality. The catalyst for its emergence was the work, courage and sacrifices made down the years by the volunteers of O'glaigh na hEireann and the communities from whence they came.

No matter what today's politicians and the media may claim, back in 1969 there was no real alternative to armed struggle, as the Unionist community and their British guarantee card refused to meet the Republican/nationalist people half way. Thus they were forced to demand their democratic and national rights by force of arms.

If, as Mr Adams now claims, another avenue of struggle is available, then one can only rejoice. For which Republican would step forward and wish the bloody sacrifices and heartache of the last thirty odd years, onto their children and grandchildren or anyone else's come to that, if there truly is another democratic avenue of struggle open to Republicans?



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 April 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Another Historic Statement, Again
Anthony McIntyre

Two Heads Better Than One?
Brian Mór

Hope for A Democractic Avenue, Not a Dead End Street
Mick Hall

Irish American Support
Niall Fennessy

Street Fighting Man
Fred A Wilcox

Revolutionaries Have Set Up Dictatorship
Margaret Quinn

The Murder of Robert McCartney
Conor Horan

The Missing Ingredient
Ruairi O’Driscoll

Re-orienting perspectives: Bob Quinn's The Atlantean Irish
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Politics of Peace at an Impasse
David Adams

* Election Coverage *

Independent Irish Republicans Standing in All 6 Counties
Sean Mc Aughey

John Coulter

Gary Donnelly, Cityside Ward, Derry City Council

Aine Gribbon, Antrim Town Council

Patricia (Trish) Murray, Antrim Town Council

The Letters page has been updated.

6 April 2005

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



The Blanket




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