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No Hierarchies Here!

Anthony McIntyre • 15/8/2002

Having went along to an IRPWA protest on Saturday in support of better conditions for republican prisoners, it was impossible not to have my memory cast back to 1981. People excluded from the establishment’s seductive benefits, nepotism and patronage - the big brown envelope that the Good Friday Agreement came in - and who march in support of jailed republicans always conjure up the image of 1981.

It was a bad year, remembered more for the 'celebrity' deaths of IRA and INLA volunteers on hunger strike than for those of 'ordinary' people. Whether we will it or not there is a hierarchy of victims and who goes to the top is very much a subjective matter fought over on a pitiless, amoral battleground where advantage is gained by one party or the other as a result of who pretends better than the others that for it alone there is no hierarchy. It is really just a new way of scoring a hit on the 'other side'. And then they tell us not to be sectarian!

Quite often the hierarchy takes the form of those worth collective remembrance and those who are not. Who can recall the circumstances in which Eric Guiney and his son lost their lives as a result of rioting only hours after Bobby Sands died and who have rarely been heard of since? Non-combatants, a father in a milk van accompanied by his 13 year old son, they were the innocent victims of May the 5th 1981. The death of Bobby Sands was horrendous and still gnaws at republicans who never accept that Thatcher had no alternative other than to finish him off. But Bobby was a combatant and knew the score. We republicans rightly honour him and for the most part forget the others who died from injuries sustained during the frenzied response to his death - two civilians and a member of the RUC.

There really is no other way. We think our cause was more noble than that of the RUC man so we can hardly be expected to honour him in a manner equal to Bobby Sands. As for the Guineys we would rather forget them because it is a source of embarrassment to our cause, the nobility of which is so sacrosanct, that for us the 5th of May 1981 is the date on which a horrific injustice was perpetrated against us alone. All the talk, therefore, by each of the parties about avoiding hierarchies of victims is sanctimonious waffle designed to get the nose in front.

Mitchel McLaughlin, yesterday, appeared to confirm that there is no getting away from this. In a pitch aimed more at sliding his party towards embracing the structure of the RUC than it was with concern for the bereaved of Omagh - he stated that ‘Sinn Fein does not run any campaign dissuading people from giving information’ about the bomb which four years ago today took the lives of 29 innocent people.

One wonders what the families of the dead informers over the years have to think of that? So powerful was the republican campaign of dissuasion that execution was employed to deter people coming forward with information pertaining to the deaths of innocent civilians or anything else. Two years ago within hours of myself and Tommy Gorman having called for a public community inquiry into the killing of Joe O’Connor two green shirts arrived at my home. The less cerebral but more threatening of the two chanted monotonously but menacingly ‘are you demanding an inquiry into the IRA?’ We certainly were not advocating that anyone should consider going to the RUC. And had anyone suggested doing so we would have tried to dissuade them. But that was academic to the green shirts whose sole objective was to dampen public discussion of the matter.

Is Mitchel McLaughlin now saying that people should no longer be dissuaded from coming forward with information about all killings or only some? If for example, someone has information about both the Omagh bomb and the killing of Joe O’Connor would they not be dissuaded from coming forward? Or are they supposed to think that some killings are good and that others are not, divulge what they know about the bad and stay silent about the good? A case of let us reward the killings of our friends and punish those of our enemies.

If the mass slaughter of innocent civilians is always wrong should people be dissuaded from coming forward with information about the Enniskillen bombing? Or is a new Stormont supposed to be the basis on which we excuse Enniskillen and condemn Omagh? Are the relatives of those killed at Enniskillen supposed to settle for an IRA apology yet be excluded from the ‘benefits’ of Mitchel McLaughlin’s ’no dissuasion’ clause? Is that what the moral worth of republicanism has been reduced to?

If so this is creating the very hierarchy of victims that republicans so often hit out against. Mitchel McLaughlin would do well to remember that there are no separate moral universes inhabited respectively by ourselves and those from the Real IRA. They were brought into this world in our own stable - peas from the same pod. Uncomfortable as it is to remember it, and ‘unhelpful’ as it is ‘to the peace process’ - why that should be so is never fully explained - the alternative is to claim citizenship of what Gore Vidal once termed the United States of Amnesia.







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A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular.
- Adlai Stevenson

Index: Current Articles

15 August 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Put Spotlight On Republican Aims
Eamonn McCann


No Hierarchies Here!
Anthony McIntyre


Freedom to Dissent

Dorothy Robinson


Freedom of Whose Speech?
Paul A. Fitzsimmons


Political Intimidation
Anthony McIntyre


Class War is Over!
Billy Mitchell


11 August 2002


Class War
Newton Emerson


Nationalist Euphoria - Unionist Despondency
Billy Mitchell


Silent But Lethal

Anthony McIntyre


Democratise Democracy
Davy Carlin


The Pentagon's Secret Weapon
John Chuckman




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