The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

A Tale Of Two Writers

Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others.
But the creator is the man who disagrees.
Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current.
But the creator is the man who goes against the current.
Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together.
But the creator is the man who stands alone.
- Ayn Rand
Anthony McIntyre • 11 February 2003

If Sinn Fein and the DUP do team up to administer British rule in the post election world that awaits us at some point in the future, hopefully the old green shirts do not find some courageous and imaginative reason to buckle and allow big Ian’s black shirts to ban TV on the Lord’s Day. What could the zealots do, apart from finding somebody who disagrees with them, to hate and smite with the wrath of the Creator as they boom out the words ‘have you been saved sinner?’ Armed with the approval of their own God who, just by way of coincidence, as Anne Lamott would point out, happens to hate all the same people they do, they will be hunting victims upon whom they can inflict their truth. What chance does that give people like me and Bap McQuillan, who don’t give a toss for the Lord or his day and could happily spend ours in the company of every lecherous sinner who ever smoked dope, exchanged profanities or drank cider while the congregation muttered and mumbled mumbo jumbo in their chapels and churches on a Sunday morning before arriving at their senses courtesy of the plate being shoved under their noses? No doubt, a special hate shall be reserved for those of us who have the audacity - unlike Sheila Cassidy - to disbelieve.

Sunday is bad enough without the Lord’s men making it worse by curbing viewing hours. Apart from the papers it is not even a good news day for the North. So last Sunday’s Politics Show made the afternoon that little bit less tedious. Normally, we only get ‘the line’ from the studios when Sinn Fein representatives are on, valiantly struggling to - what Michel Foucault once said of French Communists - 'stand behind a fact that was the total opposite of credible.' For that reason, it was instructive to listen to a brace of republicans with mutually exclusive views vent irreconcilable opinions on the likely trajectory of republicanism. Danny Morrison these days is a writer and a successful author and has a weekly column in the Andersonstown News. The times in which we live are propitious for a man with his intelligence, ability and views. Not every door will be opened for him but considerably fewer will be slammed in his face. No longer the pariah of old, the fact that he will state certain views makes him a sought after speaker or pundit. Tommy Gorman also writes but through inclination is not as industrious as Danny Morrison, for whom writing is a worthy vocation. Most of his writing he submits to The Blanket. Because of the views Gorman holds, he doesn’t find opportunities knocking on his door. In the Stalinist Republic of West Belfast those opposed to the authoritarian culture more often than not are directed to a social Siberia. On one occasion Gorman found that Sinn Fein were applying pressure to his then employer to get rid of him because he was ‘writing articles not helpful to the peace process’. His home has been picketed by a Sinn Fein mob and his family have been made to feel the pressure because of his refusal to conform to the great nonsenses of our day. It is part of an old Stalinist tradition practiced elsewhere against the free flowing pen and brings to mind the experience of the Czech novelist Milan Kundera who, in the words of Olga Carlisle, after the Soviet invasion of his country:

lost his position as a professor at the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies in Prague, and his books were banned. Little by little, life was made unbearable for him, and he was hounded out of his native country.

While not comparing like with like the authoritarian similarities are sufficient to permit a comparison to be drawn.

Both Morrison and Gorman are republicans who have been around quite a long time and know the score. The contrast between the two is best captured in the discursive grids through which they describe the peace process. Morrison, because he was for so long at the top of the Republican Movement tends to give answers, whereas Gorman, seeing matters from the bottom, prefers to ask questions. Morrison expresses it as leaders like it to be said; Gorman poses it in terms not approved by the leaders and for which there is a price to be paid - a swift uprooting from republican iconography and relocation to the social internal exile reserved for ‘enemies of the peace process.’ But, as Morrison has contended, ‘better to be honest, even if it means being misrepresented, than to be a hypocrite.’

Gorman dislikes the peace process but not the peace. He views Sinn Fein as having moved completely away from any radical position to one of seeking to become part of the establishment. In a bid to massage this actuality out of all recognition, many Provisional republicans have resorted to manufacturing fabrication. From the apex to the roots organised lying grinds on remorselessly. For Gorman, the party will do whatever it takes to complete the journey into the heart of the establishment even if it means dissolving the IRA; it will not, however, dissolve its ability to kill or harm those within its own community who threaten the new partitionist basis of power and privilege.

For Danny Morrison, this is all wide off the mark. The struggle had always been about reform in the guise of an equality agenda. To stop well short of The Republic is an honourable compromise. What made a united Ireland the goal was only that equality and reform could not be achieved in a six county framework. The ranks of the IRA were swollen by the introduction of internment for Catholics alone. Republicans have come a long way in terms of advances and this has rendered redundant and unethical other armed republican groups. He argued that the IRA would not disband - the evidence was that the organisation had said it would not and that to do so would be an act of surrender.

At one level the Politics Show permitted some insight into an internal republican struggle to control the interpretation of events. Logically I could find no fault with the take of Tommy Gorman - but I am favourably predisposed toward his position. However, it is difficult to quarrel with success. Gorman’s advantage in this regard lies in having predicted from the outset where the peace process was going to take republicanism - to precisely where it is today. On the day of the ceasefire announcement in 1994 when he, accompanied by myself, phoned up Bernadette McAliskey to praise her for her comments on radio that the ‘good guys lost’, there were howls of opprobrium from those within the ranks who swore he had it wrong and that it was all tactical. The howls turned to scowls when we both refused to go over to the Sinn Fein cavalcade through West Belfast on the grounds that turkeys should not be celebrating Christmas. They have been howling and scowling ever since, dismissing with venom any suggestion that republicanism would end up where it is. When they were not howling, they settled for ostracism, although they always manage to make it look more like ostrich-ism, their silence caused by mouths full of sand, so deep have their heads been buried in it.

A considerable impediment to finding Danny Morrison’s discourse persuasive is that it is almost a ‘riddle of the sands' - sand building on sand. It is not as if we have not been here before and could not possibly have any idea of what way things are likely to go. While there is no suggestion that Morrison is engaged in organised lying, it does seem he has succumbed to organised forgetting. For to claim that the IRA will not disband because it would amount to surrender is bizarre, given that by his own criteria the organisation already has surrendered. A while back he wrote ‘there will never, ever, be IRA decommissioning, an IRA surrender … There will not be decommissioning. There will not be a surrender…even by the year 3000.’ And then as if all of that hadn’t mattered in the least, he recently informed us in the Guardian that the IRA had in fact decommissioned; and in the Andersonstown News told his readership that on two occasions the IRA had put weapons beyond use and were poised on the brink of a third act of decommissioning. Three surrenders and still undefeated? When you build on sandy founds…

Perhaps because he was a leader of the Republican Movement he does not want it said that the IRA was defeated. There is then less for leaders to be called to account on. But if the IRA wasn't defeated why then accept the terms of defeat - the consent principle/veto, decommissioning, no disbanded RUC, no declaration of intent by the British to go etc, etc? As Breandan O Muirthile asks so saliently 'if you bumped into defeat in a dark alley, how would its face differ from what we have now?'

And if we were not led to defeat by our leadership, why do we stand poised to squabble over the renamed RUC? The terms of the debate amounting to little more than who will be the prestigious sergeant and who will be the lowly constable? Could we have imagined that being discussed in the prison hospital during the hunger strikes? It took the Armani suit to replace the blanket before that could be contemplated. Seemingly, Joe Slovo of the ANC was not wide off the mark when he said if a man wears a suit long enough his politics change. Our leaders, it seems, have wardrobes full of them.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

14 February 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Anti War March Tomorrow
Davy Carlin


A Tale of Two Writers
Anthony McIntyre


Phil Berrigan is Dead
Larry Kirwan


8 Mile Worth the Trip
Mick Hall


A Letter of Protest
Orlaith Dillon


London Arrests Update


9 February 2003


Orange Terror in America
Karen Lyden Cox


Street Traders
Anthony McIntyre


West Belfast: Memories of a childhood voyage of conflict
Davy Carlin


Planned Nationhood
Brian Mór


Breaking the Connection With England

Mary Ward


When I hear the word "gun", I reach for my culture

Jimmy Sands


Where Are The Incubators?
Paul de Rooij




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