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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
A Pathological Political Disorder

A tyrant ... is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader - Plato

Anthony McIntyre • August 21, 2003

Last weekend’s killing of Danny McGurk by the Real IRA was an incident as predictable as it was fatal. As an Irish News editorial pointed out ‘it is worth remembering that three other young men were shot in the legs in nationalist parts of Belfast and Co Tyrone’ on the same weekend that Danny McGurk died. This increase in punishment attacks during the Stormont institutional hiatus always carried with it the potential to see the Andy Kearney murder revisited on some other misfortunate. Andy Kearney died at the hands of a Provisional IRA punishment squad just over 5 years ago. His death prompted considerable public disquiet. The lesson is simple: corporal punishment administered by any of the various IRA’s can on occasion, despite the intent, become capital punishment.

This is to assume of course that the attack was in fact a punishment designed to maim rather than kill. The record of the Real IRA is that it kills civilians rather than administers non-lethal punishments to them. A member of the renamed RUC commented: ‘because he was shot in the ankle it may have been one that went wrong or just got out of control.’ This interpretation is not one shared by the dead man’s mother. She said the men who murdered him were ‘drunk and that the attack wasn't even a punishment shooting. They shot him in the back and they shot him in the legs.’

Whatever the facts, it is mere rhetoric to indulge in the usual game of condemnology, issue the same pious diatribes, and then keep stum when the IRA you agree with is responsible for a punishment attack. John Morley once observed that ‘where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat’. Worshipping at the altar of the assumed right of republicans to maim those they find socially obnoxious within their own communities and then attack those who ask awkward questions about the hot laws of consequence means that any subsequent critique of deaths like that of Andy Kearney or Danny McGurk will always come accompanied by the whiff of self-serving attitudinising.

This holds true for the Sinn Fein president who proclaims shock and outrage at the killing. But such sentiments only have substantive ethical weight if those who hold them are wholly sans ambivalence about their rejection of murder. Mr Adams credentials here are suspect. He covered up for the organisation which, in the constituency for which he serves as a member of the British parliament, murdered Joe O'Connor in October 2000, and then supported his party members when they mounted a campaign of intimidation against those opposed to the killing.

If no IRA has the right to maim those - no matter how abhorrent their behaviour is - within the community, then it is a relatively simple matter to make a credible and consistent stand against those who murdered Danny McGurk. But if his killers only lack justification because they were members of the wrong IRA then an end to killing is not what is sought but rather a moral cataract behind which the community can fumble and feign blindness when ‘legitimate’ killings occur. And while nothing legitimises any of the murders West Belfast has played host to over the past five years, the fact that the constituency elects a MP who is ambivalent on these matters suggests a certain level of social tolerance for some degree of maiming and murder.

It is against this backdrop which heavily favours Provisional republicanism that the Real IRA should give serious consideration to its future. In communities where the power to create ‘truth’ is deferred to rather than truth itself, an ever deepening hostility towards the Real IRA is taking root. Even prior to the McGurk murder, Denis Bradley, the vice chairman of the Policing Board, warned that ‘the political vacuum is dangerous for everybody, including the Real IRA.’ The organisation is frequently compared to the IPLO of the 1980s and ‘90s. The language used by the mother of Danny McGurk to describe her son‘s killers - "thugs and drug dealers" - and that employed by the local MP - “gangsterism and thuggery" - finds resonance with those who remember the IPLO. Some republicans, who can not be labelled 'Shinners' by those sympathetic to the Real IRA, have expressed severe dismay at the McGurk murder and point to the likely negative consequences that the murder will have on community support for republican prisoners in Maghaberry. One went further and predicted a Provisional IRA move against the Real IRA - he accompanied his prediction with the words 'and no one will care.'

Whatever the Real IRA may think of itself most in these communities would be glad to see the back of it. It is not that the organisation pursues its futile campaign without approval or even with indifference in the community, it actually faces outright opposition and resentment. Conscious of its pariah status the Real IRA now gives off the appearance of skulking as it seeks to evade telling the public why exactly it targeted Danny McGurk. Its moral courage seemingly existing in inverse proportion to its incompetence.

Danny McGurk leaves a widow and six fatherless children. It is not the first time the Real IRA has unleashed its violence on members of the civilian population. The only people seemingly safe from the organisation are British state security personnel to whom the group appears to pose no threat. That the physical force tradition would want to remain on the scene after what it perpetrated at Omagh suggests it is now a pathological political disorder rather than a serious contemplative and rational choice body of opinion determined to bring any positive change to the country. Its attitude of functioning with absolute contempt for the wider public will produce a response in kind.

Does the Real IRA accept that people have more right to exist than it does? And does it further realise that people may choose to protect their right to exist by taking whatever appropriate measures they deem necessary to render the threat posed by the Real IRA to the civilian population negligible? The Real IRA needs to think long and hard on why so many of its members are in prison, why so many of its operations are compromised, and why the campaign to secure public support for its protesting prisoners is sluggish. Is this an indication that we are approaching that decisive break, once unthinkable, where people are prepared to turn self-proclaimed republican activists over to the state rather than allow them to inflict their lethal incompetence on the communities from which they hail? If Real IRA members are seen as little more than gangsters and thugs - in a way that Provisional IRA volunteers were never perceived within their own communities during their war - and reinforce that perception through their actions and civilian kills, the community will feel no loyalty to the organisation to which they belong and may become less inhibited about turning them in.

32 County sovereignty is a myth if the people are not party to it. They alone are sovereign. The Real IRA should get off their backs.



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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.
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Index: Current Articles

22 August 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


A Pathological Political Disorder
Anthony McIntyre


Letter to the Blanket

Michael McKevitt


Deeply Flawed

Douglas Hamilton


The Prison Population Binge
Daniel S. Murphy


Going Native
Kathleen O Halloran


The Hall and State of Illusions
Davy Carlin


Liam O Ruairc


Mazen Dana
Sean Noonan


Michael Moore in Belfast: Stupid White Men
Anthony McIntyre


11 August 2003


Revenge, Not Justice
Anthony McIntyre


Statement of Michael McKevitt


Brutality in Maghaberry Extends to Visitors

Martin Mulholland, IRPWA


Federal Prisoner Becomes University Professor
Stephen C. Richards


What is the New School of Convict Criminology?
Jeffery Ian Ross and Stephen C. Richards


Intellectuals and the Cold War
John Harrington


Kevin Lynch Commemoration Speech
Jimmy Bradley


Neo-Liberal Nicaragua: Neo Banana Republic
Toni Solo




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