The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Pen Mightier Than the Sword

Mick Hall • June 22 2003

The old saying the pen is mightier than the sword is not something Irish republicans have been historically known to especially adhere too. However with the PIRA ceasefire and the peace process the leadership of SF in Belfast seem to have taken this up with a vigour. No, they have not suddenly decided to increase the use of the pen to get their political ideas across more proficiently in the democratic arena, but sadly the reverse. They seem to have come to the conclusion that it is vital for them to shut down all democratic debate within their own communities which is beyond their immediate control vis a vis the peace process.

Who is their target, CIRA, RIRA, RSF, 32 CSM? No, none of these; as SF is well aware, the majority of the nationalist communities support the ending of the armed struggle and in any case, everytime one of these aforementioned breakaway military organisations attempt to re-ignite the armed struggle, more often than not in a haphazard or disastrous manner, it simply reinforces the communities' desire for a peaceful road, by highlighting the sheer waste in human terms, whether it be dead or imprisoned volunteers, or the slaughter and maiming of innocent civilians.

However as I have said, whilst it is true that the vast majority of people have no wish to return to the days of the armed struggle, this does not mean they fully support SF sitting alongside David Trimble in the on-off mini-government at Stormont. Indeed, the human mind being what it is, with its capacity to push the darkest memories to one side, an ever increasing number of people are questioning what has been gained from so doing, apart from rides in ministerial cars and a wardrobe of new suits for the few. The word Quisling has not yet been openly spoken, but one cannot but wonder if things continue as they are, how long it will be before it appears on the end of a Belfast gable wall.

As I have already said, this is not something that has passed the SF leadership by. They could hardly be unaware of it as questions are beginning to be asked by rank and file SF members about where this strategy is leading and when some beneficial results will be felt on the ground. Apart from, that is, another newly elected member being fitted for his/her new suit. Hospitals are still being run down and privatised, jobs are just as scarce, loyalist intimidation in certain areas continues and the RUC carries on much as before. The presence of the British is displayed in all its wretched majesty every time Blair turns on or off the GFA tap. To cap it all the relentless demand from the British and their Unionist allies for the decommissioning of IRA arms gets shriller by the day.

Some are even whispering if the armed struggle is over, why didn't we dump arms as in past campaigns and perhaps we would not have found ourselves in this position. Even the one obvious benefit for Republican activists from the GFA, the release from jail of prisoners of war, which seemed at first such a major achievement, has dimmed as they find themselves out on licence, liable to be recalled at the whim of the secretary of State, something that never happened at the end of previous campaigns.

With all this bubbling below the surface it is hardly surprising then that the current SF leadership direct all their anger and bile onto those ex Provisional republicans who whilst accepting the end of armed struggle oppose the SF strategy of signing and continuing to support the GFA. Unfortunately for SF it just so happens that this group has an able propagandist in Anthony McIntyre plus also in a number of his angry and able associates and a vehicle in which to put forth their ideas in the Blanket web site. This being the case, the SF leadership has lost all sense of proportion attacking the Blanket site and those who write for it with a venom previously reserved for those who enforced partition in the north of Ireland. In the process of so doing they have revealed a darker side to their politics that is both unattractive and undemocratic. Without appearing too pompous one could say that those at the top of SF have a lot to learn of the cut and thrust of democratic debate.

One cannot but be reminded of the time back in the 1990s when British Prime Minister John Major sued the tiny Bournemouth anarchic magazine Scallywag, after it published details of his private life. By so doing Major gave Scallywag, which up until then few outside the city of Bournemouth had heard of enormous publicity. Incidentally whilst the accusations where not entirely accurate, Scallywag had the name of the women they accused major of having an affair with wrong. There was as we later found out a method in his seeming madness in suing Scallywag. I.e. the actual truth of his infidelities with a fellow MP was hidden for another decade.

McIntyre via the Blanket accuses the SF leadership of trying to enforce political hegemony within west Belfast, this is he claims why a local Belfast newspaper (on which a number of SF members work at a senior level) has put pressure on small news outlets that serve the Irish community both at home and in the USA to remove articles first published in the Blanket, plus the removal of links to the latter's web site. If true this seems to me a somewhat over ambitious plan on the part of SF doomed to failure, brought about one can only surmise by fear and megalomania (the latter is not unusual amongst politicians who have held leadership positions unchallenged for a long period of time). After all at the height of the armed struggle SF could not stop a majority of nationalists voting for Dr Joe Hendron and in so doing replacing Gerry Adams as West Belfast's, MP for a time. Whilst it is true to use Adams words, "they haven't gone away you know" the muscle nor the calibre of volunteers is comparable to the past. To put it bluntly, after the way the leadership dealt with the Scappaticci affair, only a fool would go out on a dark night to enforce the will of the SF leadership.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Intellectual freedom is essential to human society. Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of people by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships.
- Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov

Index: Current Articles

22 June 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Censorship at the Irish Echo
Patrick Farrelly and Eamon Lynch


The Pen Mightier Than the Sword
Mick Hall


The House that Who Built?
Anthony McIntyre


Angrytown News Responds

Jimmy Sands


Pedro Albizu Campos

Aoife Rivera Serrano


Ernesto Guevara
Liam O Ruairc


Motion Passed
Na Fianna Éireann


19 June 2003


Andersonstown News: Voice of Banana Republicanism?
Eamon Lynch


A Gnat on the Back of an Elephant
Mags Glennon


In Defence of Eamon Lynch
Anthony McIntyre


Left Right?

Eamonn McCann


President-in-Exile in Jail

Pedram Moallemian


The Letters Page has been updated.




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