The Blanket

Strategy of Threat

Anthony McIntyre • 28/7/2002

Passing through Lurgan town centre the words 'Rosemary Nelson' jut out from the office of the late solicitor serving to remind travellers that beneath the apparent tranquillity of the town a malevolence stalks which can snatch the lives of some in an instant and in doing so change the lives of others for an eternity.

In those more contemplative moments free from the exigencies of the ideology, it does well to succumb to the thought that so much effort goes into building and sustaining lives that it seems an act of the utmost wanton destruction to snuff them out in the space of mere seconds. Allowing such thoughts to irrigate the ideology may act as a brake on barking that order that marches others off to the gas chambers. Despite that how many of us throughout the course of history balked from indulging in that one second that changes everything when the ‘cause’ demanded it or said it was right?

If ever there was a week in which a trip to Lurgan was barely required to activate the memory bank it was this one. Malevolent loyalist hatred has been on the prowl for victims for some considerable period and as recently as Sunday night devoured the life of yet another. Gerard Lawlor was not even born when the hunger strikes took place. Of the post 1981 generation he had started a new generation through his daughter. In this particular case, two generations removed from the darkest era of the post 1960s conflict and it gets no brighter, children are left fatherless.

Towards the end of 1981 and before the birth of Gerard Lawlor, a virulent loyalism stalking North Belfast had killed Stephen Murphy supposedly in response to the killing of the Unionist MP Robert Bradford. The coroner in Gerard Lawlor’s case could save himself a lot of bother if he looked at the coroner’s findings at Stephen Murphy’s inquest. The 19 year old Catholic victim was described as a 'poor unfortunate boy, chosen out of spite and at random, a perfectly innocent victim'.

While the specificity of 'tit for tat' killings featured prominently throughout the past thirty years loyalist violence always had a strategic rationale to it. This may not have been reasoned or articulated by those in the front line carrying it out. Those, Danny Morrison wrote, were ‘people whose brains have never been taken out of the wrappers, have never been used.’ For many of them a mixture of bigotry, hatred, supremacism, defenderism, peer expectation, vengeance-seeking and fear fed into their decision on the day to do what they did. But inseparable from all the individual motivations was the collective strategic factor that nationalists could be policed, their political representatives culled, their political sharpness blunted, their minor advances thwarted if loyalist violence could raise its ugly head, hissed and bared its fangs. The unionist 'strategy of threat' had worked well against Britain, even going a long way in persuading the latter to set up the orange state. So why not against the much weaker nationalists? What was ‘tit for tat’ about the violent loyalist response to the Anglo Irish Agreement of 1985? Despite all the republican theorising about the need of 'British imperialism' to maintain territorial acquisition of part of Ireland - although imperialism seemed to work quite adequately elsewhere without such acquisition - the British stayed primarily because of that strategy of threat.

On the night Gerard Lawlor may not have died had someone in the Glenbryn community not been shot from Ardoyne in an attack every bit as provocative as those on the many Catholic targets that evening. But is there any room for doubt that even without the Glenbryn incident nationalists in North Belfast would still be getting targeted? It is ‘tit for gains’, no matter how small, not for ‘tit for tat’.



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We can chart our future clearly and wisely only when we know the path which has led to the present.
- Adlai Stevenson


28 July 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Strategy of Threat

Anthony McIntyre


E.U. Surveillance of Telecommunications

Aine Fox


Can't Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

Davy Carlin


Snap Shot
Sherry Maguire


25 July 2002


How the Peace Process Divided Ireland

Brendan O'Neill



Anthony McIntyre


Death Walks Our Streets Again

Davy Carlin


Uninvited Guests Become Neighbours
Sam Bahour


Two Notices from Anti-Fascist Action, Ireland


Moving Along
Brian Mór


The Belleek Solution
Brian Mór


Moving Statue

Brian Mór




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