Open and Frank Discussion vs. Dubious Facts and Fanciful Fiction

One of Sinn Fein’s former director of elections, Tony Catney, weighs in today with a hard hitting letter to the Irish News. It challenges the standard Sinn Fein line regarding debate and dissension within the party by exposing the repressive actions used to police those who disagree.

Always tell the truth

Within the past few days it has been brought to my attention – and confirmed by a member of the Sinn Fein leadership – that senior members of Sinn Fein have been briefing sections of the Sinn Fein membership about me and my alleged activities.

The content of the briefing is to state as ‘fact’ that I am “a member of an armed organisation which poses a threat to people or things unnamed.”

The alleged armed organisation does not have a name, and as far as the briefing goes I am the only member.

The basis of this allegation is information supplied by what a member of the Sinn Fein leadership describes as “a tout”.

Whose tout, working for whom and to what end is not made clear. However, on the basis of this evidence the instruction being given to the membership of Sinn Fein is ‘that they should not trust me, have nothing to do with me and that they should not talk to me.’

Now, apart from feeling like Wolfie Smith from the TV series Citizen Smith, it concerns me that internal Sinn Fein briefings are being organised to specifically name me as ‘the’ member of an ‘armed organisation’ – this is little more that an exercise in felon setting.

The motivation behind such a process of felon setting can be better answered by the leadership of Sinn Fein.

However, in my opinion the motivation has more to do with attempting to denigrate my name and by extension my views (which are critical of the direction in which the Sinn Fein leadership is pushing the republican struggle) than “information” which has any basis in the real world.

Nevertheless, for the purposes of a public record and as a means of addressing those friends and comrades within the wider republican community allow me to state categorically that I am not a member, let alone ‘the’ member of any armed organisation.

I am an Irish republican, I was a member of the republican movement for 37 years and resigned last year as a result of the lack of internal debate on matters of policy and strategy and the manner in which membership were expected to blindly follow a leadership-led policy without question or dissent. Since then, I have met on a regular basis with other republicans of a similar mind, to discuss ways in which open and constructive debate can be generated within the wider republican community on matters such as, policing, water charges, the St Andrews proposals and the achievement of an Irish socialist republic.

I shall continue to meet with any and all other republicans to discuss such issues because I believe that not only do I have a right to do so, but I also feel I have a responsibility to do so.

I have no reservations about discussing my views and opinions with anyone who would care to listen and I am prepared to be proven wrong on the views I hold. But only through a process of discussion and debate and not as a consequence of ‘Chinese whispers’, intimidation or leadership lines handed down from on high.

The republican people of the six counties struggled long and hard to win the right to have a voice.

Why should I have to give mine up because of other republicans? Republicans should be allowed to decide on who they want to talk with and listen to on the basis of open and frank discussion, not as a result of shady meetings held in secret and informed by dubious facts and fanciful fiction.

To end, allow me a personal observation with friends and comrades in the republican family.

On two occasions in the past I have been subjected to the process of Diplock courts as a result of my involvement in republican politics and was incarcerated for 16 years as a consequence.

From this experience I have first-hand knowledge of how ‘facts’ can be constructed and manipulated. Such corrupt dealings coming from an oppressor such as the British establishment are in many ways an expected evil.

Coming from former comrades, who claim to offer a better way forward towards the liberation of an oppressed people, it is inexcusable.

To those friends and comrades within the republican movement struggling to create an Ireland of equals, I wish you well.

However, I fear that if you do not speak your mind we will achieve an Ireland where some republicans are more equal than others.

Tony (TC) Catney
Belfast republican