Truth and the revolutionary movement…

Anthony McIntyre on the stained quality of Truth, in our post Peace Process™ era.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Garibaldy

    “It is down to Sinn Fein’s own perceived need as a strategic collective to pursue a practice of organised lying for the purpose of outmanoeuvring its opponents while simultaneously deceiving itself.”

    McIntyre has hit the nail on the head here, and not just about the Provos. Virtually all the political parties here lie to themselves about their roles in the Troubles, a tendency personified in the First and Deputy First Ministers. And the vast majority of their voters.

    On a sub note, I note the Blanket and its contributors like to talk about speaking truth to power ad infinitum. They might consider when they think about the actions they have supported for several decades they too are not lying to themselves to an enormous extent when an explicitly Catholic nationalist ethos is reimagined as a revolutionary socialist struggle.

  • DC

    That’s probably one of the most critical pieces on the current SF strategy I’ve read for a while.

    This sums up the problem about definitions, not just of what is a republican truth, but what is republican equality:

    “Sinn Fein’s own perceived need as a strategic collective to pursue a practice of organised lying for the purpose of outmanoeuvring its opponents while simultaneously deceiving itself.”

    The problem is getting people to come round to a different way of thinking to certain statements and ploys which don’t really add up, especially in those constituencies which fend off criticism automatically – undue or due.

    If you attempt to level you get levelled if you come from a Unionist viewpoint. Or, if you adopt the academic approach to it you just get discounted, due to the group-mindset inherent in republicanism which serves it so well in mobilising the vote yet deceiving it at the same time.

    And that’s politics and I imagine it will take a new politic to work ways round the said problem.

  • shamo

    Anyone who saw the Pilger documentary last week will know who the real liars are. If Adams had have been straight up about his past during the years of the Peace Process, the entire thing would have descended into a media circus of speculation on what he was or was not involved in. Sinn Féin’s strategic objective was to shift the argument away from “let’s not talk to the evil republicans” to “let’s talk about the evils that created this whole mess”. We must remember that the vast bulk of the press (which is monopoly owned) and the upper echelons of British power were arraigned against this initiative from the start. If republicans were to tell their enemies everything, then they would be handing them the proverbial stick to beat them with. The British Government orded the deaths of much of 2000 of its supposed citizens through British operations and proxy attacks with loyalists. At least the IRA has admitted its part in its attacks, however disastrous. That’s not my ascription to the ‘group mentality’ speaking – it’s the truth.

  • DC

    How about handing the stick to the public instead so as we can beat all the victimisers with until the input into forming a truth comes out, methaphorically speaking of course.

    But first we need to establish those victimisers. And political strategies, such as those highlighted, seem keen to attempt to steer away from such a course of admittance, in favour of displacing it out of their own political arena.

  • shamo

    DC – I agree that now is the time for truth about what happened in each and every killing, but if it is, firstly people on all sides must give up hopes of getting prosecutions if combatants are to come through and, secondly, it must come in equal and unequivocal measure from all sides. If that’s to happen, we must have full disclosure from former British Prime Ministers, also, of their approval of arming, training and directing loyalists. My point above is merely that if such disclosure had preceded the peace process we probably would never have had one. But truth must also be followed by reconciliation; people must be prepared to meet with and listen to their enemies. It’s not an easy task.

  • DC

    But a classic example highlighting the frustrations involved in attempting to get the truth is that of the circumstances surrounding Denis Donaldson’s murder.

    Heavy pressure was brought to bear on the Government to open up to the factors behind his role as agent/Stormontgate affair and indeed killing; but, in the end despite pressure all of this was deemed not to be not in the public’s interest.

    Suspicions must be that Donaldson was easily a double-agent working off each other with both parties cognisant of this.

    Otherwise, why else would Donaldson seek refuge in Donegal, I mean of all places, unless he thought that he was under both the protection from and understanding of republicans within its circles because of this type of double-role; actions which Donaldson likely thought he carried out in an attempt to bring some benefits to the republican cause. But alas we can only speculate now.

    However, when you’re an agent you become part of the truth as situations by the actor affects the reactor and vice versa; maybe that’s why DD was ultimately taken out of the equation for being the human embodiment equating said organisations on par with each other.

    Given the torture of DD I imagine those who thought they knew the truth were keen to ensure that they had captured all the truth before extinguishing it. Therewithin lies the problem.

    The film ‘The Departed’ best plays out this kind of situation.

  • Aquifer

    Successful revolutionaries get to re-write history.

    Sinn Fein are just writing a history that nobody else has to take seriously.

    Antony ain’t bad at it either:

    “The incumbent British government is not prepared to admit that the British state’s war in Ireland was ethically indefensible”


    Its only lying because we still listen, otherwise it would be Gerry and the rest muttering at ghosts.

  • Rory

    And that’s politics and I imagine it will take a new politic to work ways round the said problem.

    Indeed it is, DC, and indeed it will and that is why, whatever of his philosophical integrity, McIntyre will remain little more than a leading republican political ineffectual.

    I would cite, for example, a Radio 4 programme earlier today reporting the attempts by an archaeological team to discover the “truth” of the Battle of Culloden, similar to one which has already been carried at Little Big Horn.

    Already, apparently, it has been “determined” that the initial charge of the Jacobean forces was over a much greater stretch of ground than previously thought, that the Jacobean (or “Irish” as they were then called) forces had fewer swords and more firearms than was previously assumed and there is speculation about the detritus of “cleaved” musket balls and what that might tell us of the nature of the battle.

    But whatever brave efforts are made by this team, no “truth” will really emerge other than the simple one of victors and losers and all that was to follow as a result and how the people of the Highlands and the clans fared thereafter.

    And so it will be with our people. We bury the dead and move on.

  • Bob

    McIntyre makes some good points here. He has pointed out how victims groups should be independant of any political association. This will be difficult as many victims organise with members of their own community against what they see as their percieved victimisers. This will be the IRA in the unionist case. This did not affect the unionist agenda as stormont was not exactly an impartial voice before the troubles. They continued to lable republicans murderers while failing to see how British forces may also be seen as muderers by sections of the population. The opposite will generally happen in republican ares. Either way it will have divided victims groups along political lines as the will see the opposite victims groups as supporting their victimiser. It is not an ideal situation but could anybody see these groups uniting for the whole truth wich would be very uncomfortable for so many people. I do not believe the state or the relevant political parties want truth about anything. Does big Ian really want us to know everybody he talked to down the years? Gerry has made it quite clear down the years he would tell us black was white. The british state would find it very uncomfortable and humiliating in some places. Could we envisage the UK admitting it commited the murder of several citizens as late as the early nineties. Some have also speculated they may have commited murders later than this(Donalson, Kenneway, Wright). Under the current situation, the truth will not be told and I do not forsee it being told until i am a much older man and the North is a much different place. This raises the question what should victim groups do? I do not think they should rely on political parties but not everybody is as strong as Raymond mcCord was in his campaign, so they may need to ask those voices who will be assured an audience by the media. Could the media play a part. Could the media assist in the victims voices been heard? Maybe this will not sell papers.

    I do not believe a Truth commision is the answer, i have no faith in the respective parties to come forward and as i stated britain will not be truthful. Could anybody suggest who they think would be truthful? I would love to hear sugestions. I think some ex-paramilitaries on either side may come forward. I have faith some members of the security forces would also come forward but i would not have faith in any whole group (Security services, Poltical groups and Goverment) coming forward.