The Blanket

Political Intimidation

Anthony McIntyre • 14/8/2002

Martin McGuinness has called on those who carried out or supported the type of actions that led to the death of David Caldwell to stop ‘skulking’ behind the names of anti-agreement republican bodies and stand up and be counted. Interestingly, however, he described those republicans who oppose the Good Friday Agreement but who do not support armed struggle as having ‘quite a legitimate point of view’. On this point he would sound authentic if his own party would desist from picketing the homes of those who speak out against killings on our streets and would also refrain from despatching the thought police to the same homes in a bid to intimidate critics who call for public community inquiries into such killings.

The 32 County Sovereignty Movement, much opposed to the pickets staged by Martin McGuinness’s party against independent Provisional republicans who neither skulked nor supported armed struggle but who raised their heads above the parapet to speak out against the October 2000 murder of Real IRA volunteer Joe O’Connor, have swerved wildly in their own lane. On Monday evening of last week the group assembled a crowd of 50 people at the home of Denis Bradley, the vice chairperson of the policing board. He was not at home but his daughter was. Like Sinn Fein of two years ago in Ballymurphy the absence of the prime target of their wrath was no deterrent to continuing with intimidation.

The protest at the home of Denis Bradley came shortly after RUC members had raided and damaged homes of a number of local republicans in the wake of the killing of David Caldwell a civilian who had picked up a booby trapped lunch box. According to one member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement ‘the RUC over a three day period booted doors in and wrecked houses, yet Denis Bradley never spoke out against it.’

When asked the following morning by Jarlath Toner of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement how I felt about the picket on Bradley’s home my response was curt: ‘exactly as I felt when Sinn Fein picketed my own home after I had spoken out about the murder of one of your own people.’ Toner responded by claiming that Bradley was calling for a shoot to kill policy against republicans, underlining that call with examples of the manner in which de Valera had dealt with republicans. He dismissed any comparison between the Derry picket and that on my home, arguing that Sinn Fein were trying to intimidate me out of the estate whereas his movement was merely making a protest against what he alleged was Denis Bradley’s call for a shoot to kill policy against physical force republicans opposed to the Good Friday Agreement. We agreed to differ, seeing as there was no meeting of minds.

The following Saturday when I again met Jarlath Toner as he attended a white line picket on the Falls Road in support of republican prisoners, we resumed our discussion of the issue. When challenged about the intimidatory nature of the protest he responded:

We have a genuine right to fear that any hint suggesting that physical force be used against people of our persuasion would lead to a situation in which people could be subjected to physical force and shoot to kill. If you recall the Panorama programme some days before the death of Joe O’Connor, it helped create an atmosphere which minimised a public outcry at his killing. So naturally we are alert to comments like that of Denis Bradley. I have no reason to believe that he was not testing the waters. Our action was a protest, not intimidation.

When asked for his attitude toward the same right of protection from physical force being afforded to people like David Caldwell, he stated that it was a different issue but needed debating and wider discussion all the same. We agreed to pursue that matter at some point in the future.

Having missed the radio interview in which Denis Bradley allegedly advocated shooting republicans, I turned to someone who had heard the comments. Seamus Doherty from Derry was attending the same protest in support of republican prisoners. He claimed that Bradley had stated that it was necessary for republicans to confront republicans and that such a point was coming soon. ‘The whole gist of his interview was that republicans should confront physical force republicans militarily.’ Doherty conceded, however, that Denis Bradley made it clear that he was personally not arguing for any such thing. Doherty, like Jarlath Toner, felt that the picket on the Bradley home was not an act in intimidation.

There was no threat, no menace. It was just a protest. No doors were kicked in. There were no armed men running about his house. Nor were his neighbours confined to their homes during the protest.

Nowhere, in the comments by either Jarlath Toner or Seamus Doherty in relation to Denis Bradley could I find anything that would remotely lend to a belief that the latter had advocated a shoot to kill policy. I felt that, like Sinn Fein who organised the picket on my home, they had inferred a meaning from the comments of the person they opposed which had no congruence with what he had actually said. It was a meaning that they alone could see.

When I contacted Denis Bradley and invited him to comment on this he was emphatic that at no point had he advocated shoot-to-kill. He stated that in the past republicans such as de Valera had resorted to harsh methods and that such a situation is what people should be striving to avert.

A community should never be denied the option of house picketing when employed against those intent on destroying the community and violating human rights if all else has failed. But picketing homes of political critics based on dubious interpretation of public commentary is nothing short of political intimidation. If people have a grievance against Denis Bradley because of his views or position on the policing board then they should challenge him to a public debate or shift the site of any protest to PSNI premises. The offices of officialdom, and not family homes, helps define the distinction between radical protest and bullish political threats.







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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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