The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Pulling The Guns Over Their Eyes
Pathological liars are brilliant at deception. They know how to make a story sparkle, they breezily proffer instant explanations for any little inconsistency, they're scheming all the time while you, their mark, are preoccupied with a hundred other things. Besides, you want to believe them - they're so charming, attentive and flattering - Katha Pollitt
Anthony McIntyre • October 27, 2003

Nobody knows for certain just what was surrendered to John De Chastelain last week except of course the general himself and elements of the IRA leadership; but not all elements of the leadership. Nothing new in this - Ed Moloney in his Secret History of The IRA left few in doubt that the ‘big lad’ had been pulling the wool over the eyes of other leadership figures for years. It is said, even today, that after almost two decades of a ‘never but will’ strategy there are some as senior as the GHQ staff who will continue to believe it is all a con - thinking that everybody other then themselves had been duped - and who have been trying to convince anyone who will listen rather than laugh that ‘not an ounce, not a round’ has ever been destroyed. Some of these people and their associates would like to pass themselves off as the intellectuals of the movement. Each time they speak or write I am mindful of a worry that gnawed at the mind of Christopher Hitchens: ‘the willingness of intellectuals and academics to become worshipers of whomever is in power, or passers-on of whatever the reigning idea is. Conformity, in other words.’

Perhaps part of the job description for being a senior loyal gofer for the army council is agreeing to sell the ridiculous. And when the spaceship lands in Dunville Park on Sunday at 3 o’clock to take all true believers to a united Ireland, the gofers can go first class - if the securocrats and rejectionists don’t sabotage matters just to undermine the peace process, that is. Why they would undermine a process that secures the long-term strategic objectives of the British state is never explained. Only those mischievous types unhelpful to the peace process ask that.

Whatever the absurd beliefs that people hold, estimates of the amount of weaponry surrendered vary. The Daily Telegraph reported the DUP's claim that just one per cent of weapons may have been destroyed. According to Tom Clonan, a former Irish soldier, de Chastelain may have overseen the decommissioning of 400 rifles. Henry McDonald in the Observer suggested it was ‘massive’, perhaps as high as 100 tonnes. The Irish Independent claimed its sources had revealed that the IRA had destroyed all of its heavy machineguns imported in the Libyan shipments in the mid-1980s. A British Government source said: ‘The irony is that we now have more than we've ever had from republicans, a very serious act of decommissioning, but we can't tell people why we believe that is the case. People need to know how many AK-47s, how many rocket launchers.’ Tony Blair beefed it up even further by stating that the arms were not simply ‘old world war one rifles.’

These last two statements raised eyebrows. A republican, who has long given up believing any utterance from the Sinn Fein leadership yesterday raised the question of how did the government of Tony Blair know this? Was the Prime Minister lying as claimed by the DUP? Or, do the British have another agent somewhere near the top of the IRA who told them? Does it really matter? No informer throughout the course of the conflict has been able to deal such a blow to the military capacity of the IRA as its own leadership has. Yet the very people who gave up the IRA’s weapons have sat in judgement of others and sent them to their graves for ‘informing’ on IRA munitions. Charles Bennett, blasted in the face with a shotgun about a quarter of a mile from where I write - during the ceasefire - was never as culpable in the field of betraying weaponry as those who ordered him killed.

This is one reason that the leadership is determined to engage in falsehoods to the end. It cannot join the dots between killing people for giving guns up and then giving up considerably more themselves. Even the nefarious activities of Frank Hegarty, killed in 1986 for compromising 100 or so weapons, pales out of focus when judged against the actions of those who ordered him killed. When Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams rejected calls for disclosure his reasoning was, ‘one man's transparency is another man's humiliation.’ Indeed it should be, because that is as close as we have come to wrenching a public acknowledgement out of them that they have shafted their own base yet again.

A galling aspect about the leadership deception is that republican activists always prided themselves on having a high level of political savvy. That sophistication, they would inform people, rather than emotion or reaction, motivated, governed and sustained their participation in republican life - quite often a dangerous exercise with its omnipresent threat of death or imprisonment. They considered their ‘political awareness’ to be higher than that of the average punter on the street. That myth at least has been debunked. The only people lacking the ability to work out that the IRA has decommissioned its weaponry are to be found within the Republican Movement. Nobody outside the ranks is running around whispering ‘it never happened.’ Over a drink in a club in Turf Lodge a couple of years ago, we sat as a local republican explained to us how decommissioning would never happen. When he left to buy a round the ‘civilian’ company burst out laughing. One commented ‘just like he told us in 1998 they would never sign up to the Good Friday Agreement and would never see the inside of Stormont. The ‘Ra should rename itself the IBA for people like him - I Believe Anything.’ Perhaps it is the dynamic of groupthink at work. The punter on the street, not being subject to the strange logic of the group, is able to arrive at their own eminently sensible conclusions.

Although the ‘I Believe Anything’ people consider themselves to be the most politicised in our communities, this is belied by their ability to defend every new twist on the basis that it is somehow revolutionary, which contrasts sharply with their inability to see such twists coming. Maybe only days before they had outlined in great detail to a sceptical but wiser audience that only a heretic could anticipate the leadership making the ‘heretical’ move. Yet the heresy has taken place, and those highly politicised types who denounced predictions of it as an ‘appalling vista’ now defend it and would burn at the stake those who question it.

Of course they think they are the recipients of some secret knowledge which their special relationship with the leadership gives them access to. And because they labour under the misapprehension that the leadership treats them with respect rather than contempt they believe that theirs is the only constituency being told the truth. Everybody else including the US, British and Irish Governments are all being taken for a ride. Brian Cowen is talking nonsense when he says the IRA leadership insist on confidentiality because to do otherwise would, in its view, ‘damage rather than enhance the process of resolving the arms issue within its organisation’. Martin Mansergh, likewise, has fallen victim to the grand stratagem leading him to claim that the absence of transparency is ‘to shelter volunteers as long as possible from the radical changes of role and behaviour that completion of the peace process will inevitably require’.

History is, of courser, replete with people being conned. In 1971, Dee Brown, author of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, said that what pained him the most was ‘how much the Indians believed the white man over and over again. Their trust in authority was amazing. They just never seemed to believe anyone could lie.’

How the grassroots ever promised to move mountains in order to prevent decommissioning and yet acceded to a leadership demand that it should take control of the weapons is one of the outstanding lessons in internal management to emerge from the peace process. After all, this is a leadership with such a reputation for evasiveness that allowing it to control the guns is akin to transferring responsibility for your life savings to Charlie Haughey.

What has unfolded in front of our eyes is organised lying by organised liars. Half a century from now pilgrims, patriots and prevaricators alike will flock to the graves of the Provisional republican leadership to be greeted by an inscription meticulously inscribed into a headstone – ‘here they are - lying still’. The rule of thumb in analysing announcements from the Provisional leadership is this: what any of them tell you is possibly true but probably not. Until independent verification of their ‘truth-claims’ emerge search for an alternative. Otherwise, you too will by at Dunville Park at 3 this Sunday wondering what is delaying the spacecraft.



Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

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

27 October 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Pulling the Guns Over Their Eyes
Anthony McIntyre


Time for the Media to Take a Different Spin

Brendan O Neill


Die Hard. Die Harder!
Kathleen O Halloran


The Sound of Silence
Sean Smyth


The Raison d'Erte of 'Dissenting Republicans'
Liam O Comain


Figures of Dissent
Liam O Ruairc


The Occupation Runs Out of Gas
Stan Goff


The Letters Page has been updated.


24 October 2003


Lies, The Lying Liars Who Tell Them and the Law of Unintended Consequences
Tom Luby


One More for the Road...And Another. Come Back Tony & Bertie, the Crack's 90

Anthony McIntyre


On the One Road
Mick Hall


Conduct Unbecoming
Kathleen O Halloran


A Political Nightmare
Eamon Sweeney


Ireland: Repression, Violence, Segregation - The Realities of the Sectarian State
Paul Mallon


When the Drugs Don't Work
Sean Fleming


Last Week, It Happened Again. In Bolivia.
Michael Youlton




The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices