The Blanket

Britain’s New Moral Authority To Shoot Republicans

"Putting men to death in cold blood by human law seems to me a most pernicious and brutalizing practice." - Horace Greeley, 1872

Anthony McIntyre • 25.11.02

Ten years ago today the RUC murdered IRA volunteer Pearse Jordan. He was unarmed, alone and dazed when surrounded and shot at point blank range on a busy Falls Road. On active service at the time and most likely aware of the range of consequences likely to ensue from such activity his death was unavoidable only from the point of view of a strategic need on the part of the British state to halt an ever growing IRA threat to commercial property. The British increasingly concerned at the ability of IRA volunteers to elude the saturation blanket thrown over republican areas and penetrate the heart of commercial Belfast opted for lethal force to deter those in the active service units. Pearse Jordan fell victim to such considerations. That he could easily have been arrested was neither here nor there from the point of view of his killers. Killing him was the one objective to be secured that day.

Some years later the European Courts of Human Rights ruled against the British Government in the case of Pearse Jordan when it concluded that it had failed to ensure a proper investigation of state killings.

That the British were not greatly perturbed by the ruling, was evident as recently as yesterday evening. Then, in Belfast city centre the Continuity RUC, in what takes on the macabre appearance of a morbid celebration of Pearse Jordan's tenth anniversary, shot another unarmed republican who, if the reports are correct, was engaged in a similar exercise to Pearse Jordan. He was planting a bomb in the mistaken belief that as a result of his actions the British would ultimately be forced to withdraw; that Stormont would stay dead and buried; that the force who were to shoot him would be disbanded. His leaders could have saved him the life threatening experience he underwent by telling him before he went out that there was no chance. And unfortunately he failed to suss out for himself that as always within republicanism, just as there was when Pearse Jordan was murdered, there are leaders all to too willing to trade freedoms for fiefdoms and totally disregard or exploit the sacrifices those on the ground make to ensure that their own political careers hurtle into even higher orbits.

All of this, however, in no way negates the obligation on any state, particularly those claiming to be democratic, to refrain from murdering its citizens. Yesterday’s summary execution bid demonstrates that for the British, physical force republicans are to be denied the same rights as others and are every bit as likely to be murdered by the forces of the state in 2002 as they were in 1992. Most likely the British take certain solace in these matter from the atmospherics that now seem to infuse the discourse relating to such shootings. Noticeably the British state is facing no clamour from mainstream republican quarters about engaging in a shoot to kill policy. Mitchel McLaughlin raised some serious questions but only within the terms of the new consensus that the British state now has the moral authority to take on physical force republicans and jail them rather than resorting to killing them. The Belfast mayor Alex Maskey indicated that his concerns would for the most part be put on hold until Nuala O'Loan had carried out her investigation; that there may in fact have been good reason to shoot the unarmed republican who almost lost his life yesterday. Although the point of expecting O’Loan to settle such matters will puzzle some in the light of Gerry Kelly having criticised the ombudswoman’s handling of the investigation into the RUC assault on the Belfast chairperson of Sinn Fein. Kelly accused Nuala O’Loan of ‘actively engaging in a cover-up of the attempted murder of Paud Devenny.’ If true, why would there be something other than a cover up in the case of yesterday’s attempted murder?

It seems that Sinn Fein’s previous concern with state shoot-to-kill operations was characterised by the type of peculiarities once outlined by Edgar Morin in Le Monde - 'blind moralities … one way indignations …(and) unilateral forms of pity.’

Given that the party which benefited most from the sacrifices made by IRA volunteers such as Pearse Jordan is now bursting at the seams in its eagerness to embrace the force that killed him, there is no great surprise in its discursive shift. As Eamon Lynch writing in the Irish Echo put it:

Having accepted the bona fides of the Northern Ireland state and spent four years as an enthusiastic participant in its administration, it is farcical for Sinn Fein to insist that nationalists continue to reject the state police as illegitimate.

And faced with the fact that the party has changed in a way that the RUC has not the question remains as to who now will stand up and critically question the right of Britain’s police force in Ireland to murder those it feels no one will speak up for?




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Index: Current Articles

6 December 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Questioning the Prison System in the North
Liam O Ruairc


Britain's New Moral Authority to Shoot Republicans
Anthony McIntyre


Teething Troubles
Henry McDonald


Setting The Record Straight

Billy Mitchell


Herr Henry Struts Again
Anthony McIntyre


Even the Taxi Drivers Say It: "Likud has Failed"
Uri Avnery


The Letters page has been updated.


1 December 2002


Blanket Special

3 Part Series
Capo di Tutti i Capi?:
The Three Families

Part Three: The Civil Rights Veterans' Story
Anthony McIntyre


Asking the Awkward Questions
Terry Harkin


West Belfast Firefighters Support
Davy Carlin


Crime And The Family

Sean Smyth


Juliana McCourt
Anthony McIntyre


A Glimmer of Hope
Michael Dahan




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