“I can’t see anything”

At the Guardian’s Comment is Free Glenn Patterson picks out a telling scene from this week’s Spotlight’s archive footage of Martin Meehan to illustrate his point – “we are still being asked to believe not what we see but what we are told we should see.” – in relation to the killing of Paul Quinn and, I’d suggest, some other events.

Spotlight included footage from earlier programmes in which Meehan had appeared. In one, filmed on the assembly election campaign trail in South Antrim, he was asked by presenter Kevin Magee to account for a device taped to a lamppost beneath an Irish flag, apparently to discourage the flag’s removal. Meehan put on his glasses, leaned forward. “I can’t see anything,” he said. You were sure he was going to smile. He didn’t.

Also from the CiF post

Back on Tuesday night’s Spotlight, meanwhile, Kevin Magee was helpfully pointing out to Martin Meehan the two wires protruding from the package taped to the lamppost. Meehan squinted up at it a while longer and shook his head. “Your eyesight must be better than mine, Kevin,” he deadpanned.

The disturbing thought is that in the all-new Northern Ireland we are still being asked to believe not what we see but what we are told we should see.

But then, as Catherine McCartney said in the Linen Hall Library, it often seems that saving “the process” is more important than saving a life. Except that there is no process any more, only power and two parties very keen to hold on it, with two governments content to let them.

Although, “the damage to our society and our democracy may already be irreparable..”

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  • Nevin

    Will Dominic Bryan be flying the flag for the Peace Process next week in the USA?

  • Skintown Lad

    Not exactly on the point, but the same spotlight programme had the now famous footage of the civil rights protestor being vocal as he stood very close to a line of policemen. Just as the protestor finished his piece he exclaimed a loud ‘arrrghhh’ and doubled over as if in pain, apparently having been caught squarely a-midships with a policeman’s truncheon, or knee. This is the footage that is rolled out every time the civil rights march is referred to, presumably as an example of the police reaction and curtailment of peaceful protest. Interesting then, to hear Eamon McCann and Ivan Foster on Tuesday discuss how the protestor involved admitted to them it was all theatrics, that he was never touched and was simply playing the propaganda game in front of the world’s media.

    I do not for a minute think that the police and security forces always acted with utmost restrain, but this sort of incident provides at least some explanation for the line I was fed by unionist elders that much of the injustice was blown out of proportion, just as a blind eye was shown by people like Martin Meehan to the less than honourable aspects of the IRA campaign (devices on lampposts included).

  • The Dubliner

    As Glenn Patterson points out, the PSF propaganda machine have a standard policy of damage control that was activated at HQ in response to the Quinn and McCartney murders, involving denial of ‘republican’ involvement; pacifying society by proffering condemnation of the murder and posturing as decent upholders of law, morality, and civil order; attempting to deflect the responsibility for the murder onto specified others or to depict it as being part of a regrettable sub-culture of violence in society which PSF don’t have any responsibility for creating but do have a democratic mandate to help resolve – and must be left to get on with their designated task free from troublesome harassment by a belligerent media or others with a hidden political agenda:

    [i]Gerry Adams has denied any republican involvement, suggesting that the murder was the result of a dispute between fuel smugglers. The Irish and British governments indeed made much of his call for those involved to be brought to justice, for anyone with information to go to the police. His comments, however, differ little from the Sinn Fein press statement (quoted by Catherine McCartney) released in the days following the murder of Robert McCartney. McCartney’s killing is “wrong” and “must be condemned”, but is no more than an extension of a growing “violent knife culture”, which must also be condemned. The greater part of the press statement is taken up with condemnation of those seeking to “score political points” with the “outrageous claim” of republican involvement and cover-up.[/i]

    Where the Quinn murder differs dramatically from the McCartney murder is in the muted reaction to it by the governments and the DUP. Yet, the reaction to it should have been more severe, not simply because it serves as another example of how murders will continue to occur as long as PSF are given political cover for them, but because the murder was committed by an organised criminal gang whose leader, Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, is the direct boss of both Gerry Adams and the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, via his leadership of PIRA’s Army Council.

    So, you have a situation where the leader of an organised mafia that generates tens of millions of pounds in tax-free revenue annually has direct influence and control over a political party, providing political cover for his criminal enterprise, both de facto and de jure and de jure. It matters not that the Army Council costs the UK taxpayer up to £240 million in lost revenue from its fuel smuggling operations alone, for the reality that a party of ‘government’ that directly steals from the state and the taxpayer for its own enrichment must simply be ignored.

    That is why the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs is acting as an apologist mouthpiece for PSF/PIRA. They don’t want folks to understand that they have engineered a ‘solution’ to the problem of marauding murder gangs that plagued NI for 25 years that involves giving control of the statelet of NI to an organised murder gang that is one of the richest organised crime cartel’s in Europe and the most murderous ‘party’ in Europe by far. The direct boss of the Deputy First Minister enjoys immunity for his crimes courtesy of being the leader of a mafia that has leading members in high places. Paul Quinn and his family, and the other Quinns and McCartneys to follow, must simply, as Kevin Myers put it “RIP – Rot in Peace” lest our pacified murder gangs revert to their true form and start off on another killing spree in the knowledge that they will be rewarded for it just as they were for their last killing spree.

  • RepublicanStones

    Slab Murphy is the direct boss of Adams and McGuinness is he, because hes top dog in the IRA(yet to be proven in court), you seem to forget its Sinn Fein who has been wagging the IRA for many a year, not the other way round. you also seem to be unaware of the media’s coverage of how subdued Sinn Fein’s protestations were at Slab’s arrest, compared to years gone by when the whole republican movement would have been up in arms. as it seems that the old guard are dead weight these days. and those responsible for the murder of young Quinn and mr McCartney should be hung out to dry, not all republicans !

  • The Dubliner

    “you also seem to be unaware of the media’s coverage of how subdued Sinn Fein’s protestations were at Slab’s arrest, compared to years gone by when the whole republican movement would have been up in arms.”

    Yes, RepublicanStones, because PSF aren’t media savvy, are they? Ergo, we would expect them to organise a riot for the cameras, wouldn’t we?

    And why would they riot if Slab isn’t the boss as you imply? Is it riots for all arrests? 😉

  • RepublicanStones

    Londoner it seem you aren’t able to digest basic fact, and so like to perpetuate your own fiction.

  • Briso

    Sinn Féin’s probation should end
    As part of the political agreement in South Africa, it was decided that individual perpetrators, rather than any political party, would be held solely responsible for all post-settlement crime, writes David Adams.
    Thus politicians not only signalled their trust in one another, but also distanced themselves from former comrades who might be tempted to continue “the struggle”, or to engage in criminality under the guise of political activism. This decision also ensured that the new political arrangements would not collapse under a weight of recrimination during the upsurge in crime that inevitably accompanies the disintegration of paramilitary groups.
    Events in Northern Ireland have shown that we should have included something similar in our own peace settlement.
    As things stand, theoretically at least, the survival of the Assembly is dependent on the good behaviour of those with even tenuous links to mainstream republicanism.
    Sinn F̩in, despite being a senior partner in the Executive, is still held accountable for every criminal act by current and former members of the IRA Рwith no indication of when, if at all, this might change. Such accountability was essential until the IRA decommissioned and Sinn F̩in gave its full support to the PSNI. However, as soon as republicans addressed those issues, it became wholly counter-productive.
    Take, for example, the recent brutal murder of Paul Quinn. No one in Northern Ireland is in any doubt that this man was beaten to death by past and/or present members of south Armagh IRA. Senior Garda and PSNI officers have said little publicly, but haven’t been shy about briefing journalists to that effect. Independent Monitoring Commission member John Grieve has not been quite so reticent, openly stating that those involved in the murder were IRA members “past or present, or associates”.
    Yet Gerry Adams, along with Sinn Féin MP for the area Conor Murphy, still denies any republican involvement. Heaping insult upon the Quinn family’s already substantial misery, Sinn Féin representatives have scurrilously claimed that a falling out amongst criminal gangs was the most likely reason for the murder.
    The DUP, who hounded David Trimble from office for far less serious republican infractions, has taken to mumbling that the critical question is whether or not the IRA was “corporately responsible” for the Quinn murder.
    It’s as though we are meant to believe that the IRA operates like some business conglomerate, with major decisions only taken at meticulously recorded board meetings, with the minutes of those meetings open to scrutiny to ascertain whether an action was authorised.

  • Briso

    Within days of the murder, the Northern Secretary, Shaun Woodward, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, said they were confident the IRA was not responsible.
    Despite the evidence, politicians of virtually every stripe are persisting in the fiction that Paul Quinn was not murdered by members of the IRA or associates.
    This fudge is all to protect the political institutions at Stormont. Yet the paradox is blindingly obvious.
    The other parties have self-evidently deemed Sinn Féin trustworthy enough to be in government in the first place, even to the extent where they are now prepared to shelter that party from the full implications of the truth being exposed.
    Therefore, regarding the latter point, the firm belief (rightly in my view) must be that Sinn Féin had no prior knowledge of the Quinn murder, and would have opposed it happening if it had. If such trust exists, why continue with this farce? Such blatant denials of the obvious are only destroying public confidence in the very institutions that the politicians are so determined to protect.
    In this post-settlement era, all of the political parties at the Assembly should make an agreement similar to that of their South African counterparts. They should publicly articulate their trust in one another, and declare that the actions of outside forces, irrespective of perceived connections, would not be allowed to bring down the political institutions.
    This would allow them, and others, to be more open about such crimes in the future, as well as lifting the perpetual threat of collapse from the Assembly. Sinn Féin has joined the policing board, taken its seats on the district policing partnerships, and been active in introducing PSNI officers into republican areas.
    On numerous occasions, republican politicians have voiced support for policing and called on their communities to co-operate fully in investigations. The party’s non-reaction to the recent arrest and charging of Thomas “Slab” Murphy spoke volumes about where it now stands on the issue of criminality.
    It is hard to imagine what more can be done.
    In fact, no one has ever indicated what more is required of Sinn Féin before its period of probation is ended. If Sinn Féin is being deceitful, then the residents of places like south Armagh will be well aware of it.
    Let any sanction be applied by them – at the polling booth.
    © 2007 The Irish Times

  • picador

    Can Spotlight be viewed on-line?

  • Pete Baker


    There’s a link to where you can view the programme in the original post.

    “this week’s Spotlight’s”

  • New Yorker


    Your suggestion does not account for Dubliner’s correct assertion that SF politicians are controlled by the Provo mafia. The SF party is effectively the PR branch of the Provo mafia. Is it wise to have a government in which one major party is in effect a powerful mafia? If you cross that party, don’t vote for that party, you might end up like Paul Quinn. That is the major issue you face and if you don’t deal with it there will be dire consequences.

  • The Dubliner

    Briso, PSF is inextricably linked to the IRA and the Army Council, continuing to glorify that organised crime cartel. Thomas Slab Murphy is directly involved in the murder of Paul Quinn and is described by the leader of PSF as “a good republican” despite being one of the wealthiest criminals in Europe and despite costing the UK taxpayer hundreds of millions in lost revenue through fuel smuggling every year. The Assets Recovery Agency, which targets the assets of organised criminal gangs, was abolished just days before PSF/PIRA voted at their Ard Fheis in Dublin to take their seats on the policing board as a clear message to Provisionals that a blind eye would be turned to their vast wealth and ongoing criminal activities if they endorsed the police and didn’t raise any objection to MI5’s new role in the north. The function of the Army Council is to manage that vast wealth of PSF/PIRA of behalf of its godfathers. If the Sisters of Mercy suddenly find a few hundred million in their donation boxes, then you can pretend that PSF/PIRA is a normal party. And since we’re copying articles, let’s copy this one:

    “The Provisional IRA’s finance department is a slick machine with 30 years’ experience in moving money through the international banking system, as well as hiding millions of dollars in donations from Libya and the US. They have become expert money launderers who, observers say, “clean” cash through high-turnover businesses which they control directly or indirectly.

    The IRA is reputed to own a portfolio of front businesses in Belfast, Derry and the border counties of the Irish Republic, from small supermarkets to cafes, pubs and hotels. It has extensive property interests which opponents have long claimed also fund Sinn Féin.

    The ceasefire watchdog, the independent monitoring commission, said last year the IRA was deriving a “substantial income” from smuggling and other crime.
    Northern Ireland’s organised crime taskforce said the IRA was involved in money laundering, tax and VAT fraud, and generated an income from robberies, hijackings, smuggling and counterfeiting. It is thought the group makes up to £10m a year from crime alone. One business source in Derry yesterday estimated it made half as much again from its “legitimate” business and property development.

    Ed Moloney, the author of A Secret History of the IRA, said it usually bought businesses above the going rate to keep the previous owners onside. A week after the deal is closed, turnover suddenly multiplies on paper by six or seven times. “This is a way of producing legitimate funds.” He said that at one stage in Derry so many businesses were controlled by the IRA it was believed it stopped its bombing campaign there because it would be blowing up its own premises.

    The Derry business source said the IRA also controlled firms which it had not bought outright. It lent money to businesses and controlled slot machines in pubs in a similar way to loyalist paramilitaries.

    The source said the IRA front businesses had not come under scrutiny from government agencies, police or the media because the government did not want to destabilise the peace process.

    Until now, IRA funding and criminal assets have not come under the full investigative spotlight shone on other paramilitaries. In the Irish Republic, the criminal assets bureau which has targeted the Real IRA, had not, until this week, launched a major investigation into the IRA.

    In Northern Ireland, the Assets Recovery Agency, which law enforcement agencies instruct to freeze the assets of criminals, has not been seen to target the IRA, nor has it publicly linked the organisation to any assets it has frozen.

    Sinn Féin, the richest party on either side of the Irish border, has consistently denied the accusations and called on its critics to present proof.” – Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian, February 19, 2005

  • parci

    cickey Dubs you must have written a book by now on IRA and SF, if you add up all the threads?
    Are you feeling any better though?
    or is that you’re morally superior and you have to keep telling everyone, to keep it up, lest it slip?
    Pray tell what’s the hidden motivation , ya got that bit between yer teeth there , and ya ain’t letting it go right 😉

  • mac

    new yorker and dubliner i think use are sniffing glue.if u cross or do not vote for this party u will end up dead. there is around 30% of the catholic population vote for s.f are u saying the other 70% will be killed. wise up. and as for provo mafia have u seen mess the working class areas are in since the provos have stop looking after them.

  • Mick Fealty


    I think the point Davy Adams makes is that people should treat this as a new start. To use Trimble’s line: ‘just because you have a past, doesn’t mean you can’t have a future’.

    That said, Patterson’s observation is also hard to refute. The party has clearly not been able to clear the mess in time for the requirements of the new democratic dispensation.

    Setting aside any fundamental democratic problems involved refusing to acknowledge what is plainly in front of your nose, makes the party vulnerable to ridicule and coherent attack.

  • Outsider

    Another thread riddled with left wing terrorist apologists.

  • Mick Fealty


    How are you counting that?

  • Turgon

    I know only a little about the South African peace process. The suggestion seems to be that the ANC essentially cast off their military wing and regarded crime from that point on to be crime and not a political act.

    SF clearly are not willing to try such a strategy here. The reasons are multiple but one must remember The Dubliner’s and New Yoker’s comments about the IRA being a criminal mafia. There does appear to be at least circumstantial evidence that some of the IRA’s gains have gone to financing SF (they do appear to have a great deal of money).

    I do feel, however, that there are other reasons which prevent SF casting off the IRA. Clearly some of their more hardline supporters would find such a suggestion unacceptable. This might risk more significant splits occurring in the republican movement. Avoiding significant splits seem to be an obsession with leading republicans.

    If SF did drop the IRA then this would also mean Adams and co turning their backs on a fundamental article of faith to which they have held through thick and thin. It is also possible that some IRA members might in a fit of pique tell some secrets that leading SF members might prefer not to have see the light of day.

    Then there is the usefullness of the IRA to SF. If SF really did dump the IRA they would not be able to have the lingering nagging thought that if SF did not get their way the peace process could “unravel”. The danger of the process unravelling and violence recurring is always waved shroud like before us when anyone questions whether or not the process is worth it. As such I would suggest SF do not really want a “new start” as their past is too useful to them. Also of course neither the DUP, nor the governments seem to be showing any real inclination to try to force them to divorce themselves from the IRA.

  • New Yorker


    The past does not just disappear, as the Paul Quinn murder attests. The past has to be dealt with before one moves into a brighter future. This is an issue that was overlooked – namely, what to do with participants in armed conflict when it concludes. Some decided to use the brutal methods learned for armed conflict with enhancements to enrich themselves and wield power over their community. If it is not dealt with, it will continue to occur. There is sufficient history on this issue, the two governments are remiss in not addressing it and worsen matters by pretending it does not exist. The Paul Quinn murder certainly proves it exists despite SF in government.

  • Aquifer

    The measure of a democracy is not the ability to elect leaders, but the ability to dispense with their services. If the voters dispose of SF, what do we get? Slab and Co? The Real rejuvenated property rental Continuity death cult? The Celtic Commando Community war game? a drinking den once again? drugs for teenagers against justice?

    Unionists imagined that the DUP somehow held SFPIRA in check, but backing the DUP only assured the Brits that Ulster was not worth defending.

    Of course, whoever we vote for, The Revenue always get in. And they are the ones who have been gifting the Provo death squads their ‘petrol allowance’, for a generation it seems, without even noticing.

    Who was the kid who turned the truck with the diesel over on its way down the Black Mountain to feed the black taxis?

    There is such a thing as bad publicity.

  • RepublicanStones

    Pete thanks for the link, missed the show when it was screened !

  • Joey

    The Davy Adams piece is very intriguing. Before this thread descends to tit-for-tat (tit being the operative word) slagging along the lines of the great debate between high-minded Unionists who seem to deny discimination in the old Northenr Ireland state (the civil rights movement being a nationalist front, yawn), and paranoid, mentally arrested republican lackeys, it’s worth pointing out that the Meehan spotlight programme was fairly extraordinary. No-one has remembered that scene when Meehan met the British soldier, the pair having almost killed each other thirty years previously. Similarly, Meehan certainly was no angel, and his activities in the Ardoyne were highly dubious, but it’s hard not to believe his bakcing of the leadership at the Ard Fheis for the Policing was anything other than crucial for continuing progress in Northenr Ireland. That is why Stormont is up and running now, however limited its scope and power, and there is some semblence of peace.

    The principal flaw is that SF critics blame that party’s leadership – who condemned the killings of Quinn and McCartney, and have asked people to go to the police – instead of the lumpenproletariat criminal community most likely responsible for killing both those men, and who have subsequently driven the McCartney sisters underground.

  • Turgon

    This is a bit off thread and I am not trying to points score here at all. I am asking a question / making an observation. I wonder if anyone can suggest an answer?

    I get the impression that republican paramilitaries in Belfast are largely accepting of the ceasefire, may indulge in some criminality but often get involved in politics at grass roots or higher level.

    Republican paramilitaries in South Armagh have largely got on with the business of making vast ammounts of illegal money. They are nolonger attempting to murder soldiers, policemen nor their Protestant neighbours but are happy to kill people as part of their mafia style behaviour.

    Those paramilitaries in Fermanagh and Tyrone seem least accepting of the current arrangements and are the most involved in dissident groups. Also SF / exSF politicians in Fermanagh and Tryone seem most opposed to the current arrangements.

    I am happy to be wrong on this and dismissed. As a unionist my sense of the views republican paramilitaries is probably very limited but I have just wondered about the above recently.

  • RepublicanStones

    There does appear to be at least circumstantial evidence that some of the IRA’s gains have gone to financing SF (they do appear to have a great deal of money). – Turgon

    nothing at all to do with the fundraising capabilities of Sinn Fein is it?