The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Peace Bomb

Anthony McIntyre • September 23, 2004

Some people involved with the media at times show an intense hostility toward Pat Magee, who as a Provisional IRA volunteer was responsible for bombing the Tory Party while they contemplated repressing the poor at the Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984. A couple of years past, Muiris Mac Conghail was beside himself with rage after learning that RTE, of which he was once a censorious controller, had interviewed Magee. On last week’s two part documentary, The Brighton Bomb & The Hunt for the Bomber, the veteran reporter Peter Taylor, long accustomed with affairs peculiar to the Northern conflict and presumably experienced enough to conceal his prejudices, disdainfully spat out the words ‘Dr Magee’ when referring to the PhD that Magee had obtained subsequent to his role in bombing Brighton.

Pat Magee’s intellect and level of articulacy challenges the media orthodoxy which seeks to depict those movements of social protest which wage war against the system of government promoted by the media, as being made up of mindless thugs. Those who bomb, but not at the behest of government, are portrayed like the fascists Bertrand Russell described: in possession of 'more than the average share of leisure, brutality, and stupidity.' It is a balloon filled with hot air which a mere moment in the company of Magee all too easily pricks. He doesn’t fit the stereotype, so his intellect must be subjected to sneering ridicule. A thoughtless thug bombing the prime minister is horrendous enough, an iconic intellectual republican doing it can only be horrendously evil. ‘Dr’, when applied to him, must come replete with all the contemptuous tones normally reserved for someone like the Nazi, Dr Mengele. To make matters worse for his detractors Magee understands only too well the nature of stereotyping – his PhD and subsequent book Gangsters And Guerrillas by all accounts mount a substantial intellectual demolition of the construction of stereotypes. His critics would need to get up very early in the morning if they want to stand a chance of fitting him into a box of their making.

The documentary in which Magee featured narrated the event which could have - had the IRA achieved that one time lucky hit referred to in its post-bomb press statement – resulted in the decapitation of the British government. Few in republican communities would have lost any sleep over it. Likewise, it is hard to imagine many in the British mining community denouncing as ‘cowardly terrorist IRA scum’ those who carried it out. Thatcher was a right wing messianic maniac who two years prior to the attack on Brighton had gloated over the unnecessary deaths of Argentine sailors on the General Belgrano. The bombing did little to cure that. Years later she stepped forward to bat at the crease on behalf of the Chilean mass murderer and torturer Augusto Pinochet, when he came close to answering for some of his crimes. A widespread attitude towards her at the time would have been captured in the witticism recently applied to Ian Paisley, ‘where there is death there is hope.’

But she lived, and is still living ten years after the organisation which tried to kill her gave up its campaign to force the British to withdraw from Ireland. Ironically, Pat Magee claimed that the attempt on her life made a contribution to the peace process, the very thing that ensures Britain will rule in the North of Ireland on the same basis that it has always ruled, namely, the partition principle otherwise known as consent.

The difficulty with Pat Magee’s interpretation is to be found in the most salient feature of the two-part presentation, which underlined just how out of tune with today’s peace process mood music justifications for the Brighton bomb now sound. The documentary makers set out to present the Tory Party as the sleeping blameless victim of terrorist fiends who in true totalitarian fashion did their work in the dark before skulking back over the sea to Cork. They were singularly successful in this. Even the lupine Norman Tebbitt, who earlier said he wished Magee was dead, appeared sheepish. The image of the Tories as victims was further enhanced by contrasting their almost quiet reflectiveness with the stridency of a distinctly uncomfortable Danny Morrison. The former Sinn Fein publicity man seemingly pulled the short straw in the community of articulate Provisional commentators when the selection process for props was initiated. Morrison had an unenviable task. What he had to say was eminently rational from a republican perspective of two decades ago. But in today’s environment, where it is more advantageous to pretend never to have been in the IRA, Morrison’s contribution lent him the demeanour of a loose canon awkwardly flung around the deck of a sinking ship. If there was reason, it didn’t rhyme. Morrison’s courage in stepping up to the mark to say what he did was outmatched by his visible unease, presumably occasioned by knowing that his defence is a lonely effort, made so by the peace process which embodies the denial of any justification the IRA could ever lay claim to for waging its war.

If the IRA's Brighton bomb was in part the progenitor of the peace process, no one has yet offered a compelling explanation why this child of Brighton sits so awkwardly with its parent - denying, denigrating and rebelling against those parental values which supposedly shaped its life.






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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.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

24 September 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Honour the Legacy
Dermot McClenaghan, Eamonn McCann, Johnnie White

Working for the Clampdown
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Peace Bomb
Anthony McIntyre

No Essential Contradiction
Eamonn McCann

P. Michael O'Sullivan, 1940-2004
Deirdre Fennessy

19 September 2004

Get On With It
Dolours Price

Who Pulled the Strings
Eamon McCann

Can of Worms
John Kennedy

British Terror in Ireland
Kevin Raftery

Big Snake Lake
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

'Ulster Britishism' or the Myth of Nationality
Liam O Comain

An Teanga Once Again?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Converting Waste into Value
Liam O Ruairc

Scargill Speaks In Belfast
Anthony McIntyre

NIPSA, the Most Important Workers Strike in Northern Ireland in 20 Years
Davy Carlin



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