The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Volunteer Robin Livingstone

Cruella's Assistant: I thought we liked stripes this year.
Cruella De Vil: What kind of sycophant are you?
Cruella's Assistant: Uh...
what kind of sycophant would you like me to be?
- from 101 Dalmations

Anthony McIntyre

A few days ago when a friend told me that the Andytout News was having a go at those republicans the management at Teach Basil didn’t like, I laughed and asked ‘has Propeller Boy walked into the blades again?’ After reading his article, it was hard to resist. When an opportunity comes along why not avail of it occasionally? It would be a boring life indeed for a cat if it were to let the mouse run by every time. There are worse ways to pass twenty minutes on a tedious Sunday. The friend questioned my judgement, suggesting that winding Robin up was like poking fun at a half-wit. I suppose there is something in that, and half-wits may take umbrage at being lumped alongside Robin, but c’est la vie.

When not defending touts and chief constables, Robin can’t resist trying to lord it over those he thinks can’t talk back. Given the litany of humiliations this pursuit has won him over the years, we can only conclude that stupidity is not painful; otherwise he would be on morphine by the bucketful. What annoyed Robin’s sense of revolutionary propriety last week was that 21 republicans wrote a letter advocating freedom of opinion. They did not hide in Coward’s Corner but identified themselves and stood over what they had to say, for better or worse. The people who had solid reason to feel most stung by the contents of the letter belong to the party behind the paper of which Robin is editor, Sinn Fein. Its love of censorship makes even Conor Cruise O’Brien appear liberal. Only recently, Robin, eager to please his handlers in the party, abandoned any pretence of editorial independence and called for the poor of West Belfast to cough up the money to pay the fine imposed on the richest party in Ireland by the IMC. Although by now, the Makro haul should have covered the costs of that penalty and left more than a bit to spare.

Being ‘savaged’ by Robin has never cost anybody a serious thought, nor disturbed a moment’s sleep. Even less so when he stands on those feet of clay displaying abject servility to his party handlers, and fires volleys of nothingness at republicans upon whom neither his paper nor Sinn Fein can enforce a vow of silence. His lamentable posturing becomes all the more ridiculous when he attempts to wield humour as his weapon of choice. It is hardly as if he comes equipped with the wit of Newton Emerson or the intellect of Malachi O’Doherty. Unfortunately for Robin and his handlers, there is a yawning gap between his ability to write and his urge to please.

Robin is afflicted by a problem not uncommon amongst ceasefire soldiers. They have no answer other than ‘hide’ when asked ‘what did you do during the war?’ And now that they can masquerade as republican because there is no risk involved - you can even be a republican in Balmoral these days - and grab a piece of the inaction, they tend to fulminate against anyone who by word or deed calls into question the integrity of the current project now directed by Sinn Fein, and to which the no-risk brigade is slavishly devoted.

But in a certain fashion there are grounds for acknowledging Robin’s volunteer status. He consistently volunteered for nothing. Throughout the war when people like Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes - whom Robin lambastes for believing what they always believed - were knocking on death’s door on hunger strike, Robin too played a key role, holding down a senior position in NIRA – No IRA. He adhered religiously to NIRA’s strict guidelines – no operations, no risks, no jail. He also headed up NIRA’s Inactive Service Units. Aided by fellow volunteer Billy Leonard both leaders worked tirelessly to ensure that the British would be bored out of Ireland. That they are still here is solely because people like Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes shirked their responsibility and avoided being inactive.

These days, benefiting greatly from a long history of republican inactivism, Robin undoubtedly has the credentials to go into his local on the Glen Road and hold court, telling the punters just how strategically prudent ‘the army’ is by being inactive – that is when he is not telling them what a good MLA Freddie Scappaticci would make.

Unfortunately, for Robin, the snag lies in provoking the contempt of those still in the IRA who never fail to ask where he was throughout all the years of the struggle. They view him as they would an 'untempted woman daring to boast of her chastity'. And he has never quite copped on to the wisdom behind Ken Livingstones’s observation that 'spontaneous laughter is often more politically revealing than any number of sanctimonious newspaper columns and political debates'.

It is said, tongue in cheek, that when the Sinn Fein leadership were casting around for a sacrificial fool to step forward and claim they rather than Gerry Adams penned the Brownie column in which Brownie admitted to being an IRA volunteer, only two people came to the plate - Robin and Richard McAuley. The Dick won out because it was explained to Robin – ‘look, we have insurmountable difficulties trying to convince people that Gerry was never in the IRA. We would have an even bigger task trying to persuade anybody that you were. Even the British judiciary couldn’t make a membership rap stick on you.’

Lacking the perspicacity to sense the disdain for him held by those within the IRA, Robin seeks to praise them as an army of brown envelope lickers and suggests that those opposed to his paper’s party treat such people with disdain. Nothing wrong with licking envelopes; we have all done it. Robin has just never got past licking brown.






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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

7 June 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


“A house ransacked by soldiers”: Translation’s plunder and preservation
Seaghán Ó Murchú


Acquittal of the Bogotá 3 - Interview With Caitriona Ruane
Toni Solo


Da Big Gorilla
John Kennedy


John, Pat and Neil Sedakas
George Young


Volunteer Robin Livingstone
Anthony McIntyre


The Anti Racism Network (ARN), in the beginning …
Davy Carlin


1 June 2004


No More Lies


Can Irish Speakers Survive Reverse Colonialism?
Seaghán Ó Murchú


On the One Road
John Kennedy


The Wretched of the Earth at the Polls
Mick Hall


SS General
Anthony McIntyre


In Solidarity with the Iraqi People
Ghali Hassan


Neo-Cons, Fundies, Feddies, and Con-Artists
Francis A. Boyle


Mis-reporting Venezuela: Hugo Chavez as processed by the "Independent" newspaper
Toni Solo




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