In praise of the ‘dissident’ journal…

The last edition of The Blanket magazine is now online. Over the last eight years it has enjoyed a degree of fame (and notoriety amongst some) for the forthrightness of its writer’s opinions and its propensity for saying the unsayable. A specifically Republican project it won admiration and contributors from far beyond those narrow bounds. It repeatedly broke the cultural conventionalism of NI Catholic society. Indeed it was an attempt to retrench to the very Enlightment values that sustained those original Presbyterian Republicans of the late 18th century, even if, as Anthony McIntyre notes here, it finally outran its original purpose. My own extended thoughts on the enduring value of dissent begin with a quote from Patricia Craig’s excellent essay on the cultural mores of her native west Belfast.

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  • Steve

    Mick

    Why two links to the same article?

    Fixed now, thanks. Mod.

  • RepublicanStones

    Why the use of the term ‘retrench’ Mick? I might be wrong but ‘retrench’ has negative connotations for me. Surely a return to the ideals espoused by those who were invigorated by works such as Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’ would be a good thing????

  • Dave

    I think this is the link that Mick meant to link to: http://lark.phoblacht.net/AMLB.html

    “When senior British strategists proclaim publicly that the republican grassroots could be led to believe anything if told it by a leader, The Blanket archives will proudly show that it is a humiliation not borne by everyone.” – Anthony McIntyre

    He’s not far wrong on that parting shot, even if the suspension of rationality afflicts a broader section of the population than just so-called republicans. As the example of the EU shows, people can be persuaded to renounce fundamental values/principles such as democracy, sovereignty, self-determination, and even the concept of the nation state, providing the renunciation can be successfully sold to them as a consolidation of those values rather than an abject betrayal of them – and all it takes is a charming salesman who we are encouraged to believe has only our best interests at heart.

    Sinn Fein’s supporters, of course, were more vulnerable to that technique than most because the leaders carefully fostered an “Ourselves Alone” cult mentality among their supporters wherein only the leaders were to be trusted and all dissenting voices were to be disregarded by the supporters as an attempt by Perfidious Albion to divide and conquer them. What they thought was their greatest strength was actually their greatest weakness, for whoever could lead the leaders could lead the movement and that movement would be unable to defend itself from betrayal by the leaders or even see the betrayal. Still, if these people lacked the foresight to see that they were involved in a murder campaign with no realisable endgame then they really shouldn’t be too surprised that an endgame was supplied to them by British Intelligence.

    It’s a shame that The Blanket is to be fold (no pun intended), but it’s good that people like Anthony McIntyre and Mick Hall continue to post elsewhere. McIntyre can still produce neat lines that encapsulate sharp insights like “The British state strategy of including republicans but excluding republicanism has prevailed absolutely.” I agree with him with he says that Sinn Fein leadership are willing puppets of the British government who utterly betrayed their supporters, but I completely disagree with him about the merits of the Provisional IRA’s campaign.

    It’s also noticeable that Anthony McIntyre along with his hero, Brendan Hughes, only show regret for the pointlessness of the suffering that he and his comrades endured (through their own malice) but show no remorse whatsoever for the unjustifiable nature of the suffering that they inflicted on others.

  • Garibaldy

    I’m not at all sure that Enlightened thinkers – who above all else stressed religious toleration and secularism – and the revolutionary democracts of the United Irishmen who sought to abolish religious distinctions would recognise themselves in the writings of people like Brendan Hughes and others who were leading or highly active members of an organisation that carried out many, many sectarian murders during their period of involvement.

    It carried some good material and did some positive things – I admired its response to the cartoons crisis – but I wonder what it says about a projcet when its existence is dependent on the activity of others.

  • percy

    Physical force republicanism has had its day; its for others now to take up the mantle and master the diplomacy required to take us into irish unity.
    With all his fine intellect its Mackers that has decided to replace his blanket with a shroud.

    “Gone fishing” by A McIntyre 😉

  • DC

    In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.

  • TAFKABO

    I’ll miss The Blanket, and I hope we’ll see something similar to replace it, because I think most reasonable people would agree it provided a valuable and much needed space for voices which wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to be heard in the mainstream media.
    The Blanket was a great example of how the internet can be a positive addition to society.
    Their commitment to the principle of free speech was a shining example to all.

    On the other hand, I doubt very much that I’ll miss some of the contributions to the Blanket. I’d be lying if I said that reading it didn’t frequently send chills down my spine.
    Nothing encapsulated the bankruptcy of the republican project more than the hours spent eulogising dead friends compared to the seeming pathological inability to empathise with the vicitms of Republican violence.

    For all the criticisms heaped upon Adams and co, it ought to be remembered that at the end of the day they bought into a solution which has largely ended the killing and helped to herald in a new age of peace and prosperity for the greater number of people in Ireland.
    The Blanket, like the dissidents, seemed to have lost sight of what it was they wanted and came across as if the Struggle was the thing, rather than the struggle simply being a means to an end.

    Sometimes it takes more courage to put down a gun than it does to pick one up.

    Anyway, whatever McIntyre decides to do next, I wish him well.

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    ”Indeed it was an attempt to retrench to the very Enlightment values that sustained those original Presbyterian Republicans of the late 18th century”

    What great independant minded folks!

  • Dec

    Nothing encapsulated the bankruptcy of the republican project more than the hours spent eulogising dead friends compared to the seeming pathological inability to empathise with the vicitms of Republican violence.

    One should examine oneself
    for a very long time before thinking of condemning others. ~Moliere

  • TAFKABO

    Dec.

    Would you believe me if I told you I’ve never erected a statue in my life?

  • Dec

    Certainly TAF. However I can’t imagine you penning thoughts about the bankruptcy of Britain after witnessing Remembrance Sunday, either.

  • ulsterfan

    Did it fail because of money or the lack of it?
    It could be bought over by ATN who could guarantee its future and allow complete editorial independence.
    In any event it was never a bundle of laughs and contributors could normally be expected to use ten words when four would suffice.

  • Granni Trixie

    To live in the heart of SF territory and speak out loud criticism of SF takes guts and there seems to be a vulnerability about McIntyre. It is therefore a mystery to me why he thinks as he does about the physical force – why no remorse for instance. He embodies some of the kinds of condraditions which on a larger scale made the NI problem so intractible.

  • anon

    I don’t think it failed,not completely, it did give people an outlet for dissent but the cartoon controversy shot it in the foot.

  • Sonny

    I will miss having The Blanket around. It was an oasis in a media desert. And in the spirit of dissent, I disagree that it has outlived its original purpose. The Brits and their PSF acolytes, among others, are still here and we’re still living in a media desert. So there will always be a demand and need for unconventional analysis and commentary especially in Ireland and coming from Ireland. And while the quanity of other websites on the internet may have increased, that has been no guarantee of quality, credibility or authenticity. That all said though I feel like Ray Kroc trying to talk sense to the McDonald Brothers.

  • Mark McGregor

    Worth noting McIntyre only names éirígí of those picking up the banner of mainstream, traditional republicanism (dissent, as some call it):

    The Blanket operated within a distinctly republican milieu. We are now in a post-republican world where others, such as Eirigi, have picked up the baton and hope to reverse the order of things.

  • doctor

    I have mixed feelings about the Blanket. It certainly did all of the things outline in previous posts, most importantly by simply providing an alternative forum for those with “dissident” view. I also thought some of the more interesting contributions were those from outside the republican tradtion, like Davy Adams and Gary McMichael.

    The flip side of that coin is that in many respects it came off like a high-tech version of people sitting around grumbling into their beer, albeit with an expanded vocabulary. For a few of the most frequent contributors, the tone seemed to be more anti-Sinn Fein rather than pro-republican. It’s perfectly alright to have a good grumble once in awhile, but there is a point where you either make your suggestions for a way forward or you just end up writing the same article a thousand times with the words rearranged. Considering some of the downright pessimistic views about the state of republicanism some of the writers have, I often wondered if they’d just be better taking up a hobby.

  • slug

    “Worth noting McIntyre only names éirígí of those picking up the banner of mainstream, traditional republicanism (dissent, as some call it)”

    Things have come to a sad end.

  • Henry94

    So farewell then, the Blanket
    An unlikely colossus
    For the peace
    But against the process.

  • Good point doctor. Although I think for the times that were in it, that critical stance was more than ‘good enough’. Simply calling attention to some of the unsavoury ‘housekeeping matters’ that were in train would have been enough to justify the whole project.

    I recall going to listen to McIntyre and Danny Morrison talk about the future of Republicanism at St Johns, Oxford a few years back. The whole affair was much more civil than either man might have expected. But from my own point of view the whole thing seemed overly focused on the past, and blocks to any civil future, never mind a Republican one.

    In political terms, I suspect most of the contributors to the Blanket underestimated the need for hypocracy under democratic rule. It’s a fundamental tenet that politicians shift their ground and change their minds even about the most fundamental matters: note the two parties of government in the UK and Ireland. The Conservative Party and Fianna Fail are past masters of picking up what blows in the wind and exploiting it for themselves and ultimately for their bosses, ie the electorate.

    Early on, I thought there might have been room for a few more SF friendly columnists if only to fly kites or act as politics friendly ‘distributed’ think tank. But I am not sure the party would have been up for it. Eoin O’Broin was to only one inside the party I recall that made a contribution.

    In the end though the conversations it sparked and hosted were more than enough to justify the considerable work and dedication that was put into it throughout the year.

  • Mark, is éirégí being watered from the same source of Irish republicanism as Sean Garland was forty years ago?

  • Dave

    “In political terms, I suspect most of the contributors to the Blanket underestimated the need for hypocrisy under democratic rule.”

    True, we have created a culture where we tolerate duplicity from those we elect rather than demand that they people of integrity who mean what they say and say what they mean. However, I think it’s a tad more difficult to accept if, like McIntyre, you have wasted 18 years of a very short life rotting in prison for a ‘principle’ that you latter discovered was merely an expediency of those who held ambition without principle or purpose. That must be a very bitter pill to swallow.

    Also, to come back to another point: if they regret what they suffered via their own actions because of that betrayal by the leadership (as Brendan Hughes expressed in his writings for The Blanket), then why don’t they regret what others suffered because of their actions? Sure, die for your beliefs if that is your choice (and well done to Bobby Sands for that), but it wasn’t the choice of shoppers blown to bits in car bombs to die for the beliefs of others, was it? I think it is revealing that none of them show any remorse for the pointlessness of the suffering inflicted on the victims, merely for the pointlessness of the suffering that the victimizers experienced.

    It comes back to that point about the low standards we will accept from politicians, doesn’t it? None of them have shown any remorse… and that’s just fine and dandy, it seems.

  • DK

    Never read it. Sounds like a load of washed-up “revolutionaries” moaning about how much better it was in the old days when they could simply shoot instead of talking.

  • Dave,

    Hypocracy is the natural condition of politicians in any democracy. To that extent it is to be prefered to the more primative version of principle we had to endure heretofore. But that only underlines the need for truth-telling in the way politics is reported, and in how it it is conducted.

  • Hypocracy – where hypocrisy and democracy meet – and merge.

  • Dave

    Mick, I don’t think you’ll find many political parties in any mature democracy that change their core principles depending on which way the wind is blowing, e.g. supporting the use of violence to advance the progress of one’s political party. I think you’ll find that most politicians are actually quite principled in that regard. So, it is rather disingenuous to portray the transformation that Sinn Fein/IRA underwent as being bog-standard “hypocracy.” In addition, you’ll also find that McIntyre and Hughes were lamenting the abandonment by Sinn Fein/IRA of the original goals of a 32 County Socialist Republic that they both supported rather than a change of the means of achieving those goals. So, it’s not a simple case of tweaking a few policies to gain a few votes here and there in order to grow popular support for the gaols: it’s a case playing changing the game to cricket. 😉
    In regard to hypocrisy as opposed to hypocracy, hypocrites and liars should not be tolerated in any enterprise, public or private. It’s true that sociopaths are best suited to the task of politics but that simply means that people should be more vigilant and discerning in their chose of politician, preferring people of integrity over shabby self-serving hacks on the make that are devoid of principles, values or any purpose for seeking power beyond power for its own sake – and you won’t find a better example in Europe of seeking power for its own sake with the complementing examples of the wholesale disposal of the original ‘sakes’ than Sinn Fein.

  • DC

    “Hypocracy is the natural condition of politicians in any democracy.”

    But in relation to Northern Ireland and in particular former positions that were seemingly solidified for no change, you must ask yourself at what cost to lives, and whether lives were stacked up to benefit political parties who delivered in the opposite direction. Sinn Fein are less culpable in that because they had a process and made no mistake the process was to be used as an ‘out’ under the cover of aspiration by other means.

    It is, however, a little feeble to brush blatant hypocrisy into hypocracy in the NI context because of the way in which previous stances had been sold to people that was never about delivering on potential manifesto pledges, but instead was about motivating individuals, which provoked some into illegal acts, indirectly or directly. So the ‘democratic’ voice was never in any meaningful political sphere. The word’hypocracy’ when used in the NI context seems like a euphemism for ‘incitement to violence with party-political impunity’.

    So when the DUP rallied to the ‘no’ flag this then had a profound impact on unionist working class areas that on the whole bought into claims of “sellout” at the expense of leaders of paramilitarism, who were opposed to that and tried to sell a Yes. Of course any destabilising in loyalist areas least of all political agitation has life limiting impacts, countless feuds were not helped with Unionism fighting it out for a deal to change personnel rather than politics. Much of the discontent-cum-feuding only ending in 2006 notably when the DUP joined up and cut back on large scale agitation.

    And I must hasten to add, Republicanism’s language during the process was always much more illusory and flexible whereas with Unionism its language was meant literally, so it was always harder to get away from hypocrisy, as Paisley proved when nailing down others who he pounced on using literal intepretations. So is there not a right to ask about whether the DUP should be leading for Ulster whenever as a party they have bought into their own “sell out”?

    Loyalist leaders said that for DUP-Paisley that that party was always prepared to metaphorically fight but that ‘fight’ tended to spill someone else’s blood. And in many ways perhaps this is why McIntyre has underlying frustrations too; however, SF were always that much more subtle and controlling by ceasing up opposition rather than with Unionists who contorted with convulsions in response.

  • Dave

    Very good post, DC. The entire peace process was orchestrated by synchronised lying. That has produced mixed results so it’s possible to have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, folks are pleased that most of the murder gangs have ceased creating victims out of citizens. On the other hand, those most responsible for creating victims out of citizens have been rewarded/appeased by the citizens with control over the citizens by being elevated to public office. In order to facilitate that affront to civilisation, more synchronised lying has ensued, with the media telling us that making sure crime pays handsomely is the new black (and the template for how murder gangs the world over are to be subdued). If, for example, the nationalist people were reminded that what they objected to in the first place was the introduction of the Unionist Veto in 1949, would they have endorsed that Unionist Veto in 1998? No, it was only by lying to them by rebranding the Unionist Veto as the Principle of Consent that it possible was possible to hoodwink the nationalist people into endorsing what they have previously objected to. Call it ‘creative ambiguity’ or ‘hypocracy’ or straightforward lying, whatever. Would they have amended Articles 2 & 3 in the Irish Constitution if they were told truthfully that by renouncing their claim to the territory that they were renouncing the claim of their northern counterparts to national self-determination? Probably not. Would Sinn Fein’s supporters have supported the IRA ceasefire if Sinn Fein told that there would be a return to Stormont and an internal settlement instead of telling them that there would be no return to Stormont and that the constitutional issue was an open rather than a closed issue on the agenda? Probably not. I could continue the list with another 100 examples of organised lying. Do you think all these lies should have been told just to allow a bunch of murderers gain political power at the expense of all and sundry? Certainly, the murders that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness authorised at members of the IRA’s Army Council at Canary Wharf were murders that had no purpose other than advancing the political interests of Sinn Fein by, literally, bombing their way to the negotiating table. It cannot be claimed that those post 1st ceasefire attacks had any other purpose than pure fascism. Was that hypocracy too? If that is to be deemed a good or a bad thing all depends, I guess, on how pragmatic you are prepared to be – and what the actual consequences of all this lying will eventually be. I think its real consequences will be a society with every value subverted.

  • Dave

    I think I just broke the previous world record for the world’s longest paragraph. Go me!

  • DC

    Pretty much Dave, but if I were in the UUP I would consider ditching the anti-European stuff, find a place for unionists post-GFA 98, become a visionary party and link up with the PUP to focus on levels of need in working class areas and also to work out more operational issues in terms of how the Assembly can benefit everyone on the ground.

    Work a pincer movement against the DUP, the UUP should corner the upper-middle class votes themselves, work in sincere partnership with the PUP to deliver sufficient outcomes to issues at a working to lower middle class level. Feed any such concerns back into a new political system operated together and this would give a good basis to attack the DUP, hoping to improve standards across the board perhaps even a convergence! Of course you also have the TUV, so a three sided riping apart.

    Bearing in mind that the UVF has stood down in May 07 so the PUP could focus now in partnership with the UUP, ideally trying to build up political capacity in working class areas, where there really is none and in all likelihood this would help to lessen or bolster the impact of criminality if politics were to get working. This would require support and the UUP should assist the broader Unionist family, this should fend off the appalling DUP tricksters who have built up a constituency of ‘no’ and in reality have no politics to offer other than being anti-something; hence failure to deliver so far with SF.

    Anyway, I’ve digressed but I’m really saying that both the UUP and PUP were always pro-Agreement so perhaps they should be the ones who work to get back what they lost through poor political planning and selling.

  • “The Conservative Party and Fianna Fail are past masters of picking up what blows in the wind and exploiting it for themselves and ultimately for their bosses, ie the electorate.”

    Mick
    Some times these days I think you are having a laugh with us, you might think a lot of things, but I doubt very much whether you believe the bosses of the FF party or the Tories are the electorate, a good few of them [the bankers] are not even members of the RoI or UK electorate 😉

    Remind me how did the current Viceroy attain his position, I doubt it had much to do with the electorate.

    I also do not believe the majority of politicians change their minds on their core beliefs, what you mean is their strategy to get their own way, there long term aims change little.

    I find it very funny that when a leftist sells out, the media portrays it as a matter of honor brought about by maturity, but when someone like the viceroy does it he is an arsehole and rightly so, as advantage always comes at the top of their list for doing so.

    In fact all decent people hate a sell out no matter whether they come from the left or right, the media window dressing is all about spin. It is one of the reason a Benn or Powell are/were regarded highly by the electorate.

  • Dave

    DC, there is a very simple dynamic behind the ‘peace’ process: use the leadership of Sinn Fein to defeat the IRA from within. That’s it in a nutshell. Loyalist violence was seen as reactionary, attempting to defend the constitutional status quo, whereas IRA violence was seen as proactively attempting to change the constitutional status quo. In short, if you could get the IRA to stop its violence then the loyalists would follow suit. Of course, you could only do that if you had a formula for fudge that could (a) reassure the pro-state groups that there would be no change to the constitutional status quo, and (b) reassure the anti-state groups of the exact opposite.

    That fudge mandated a return to Stormont since, obviously, Sinn Fein would not be able to operate in the political arena is there was no political arena! It wasn’t ever intended that Stormont would be a viable entity in the long run (and no management consultant worth his fee will tell you that it is capable of becoming a valid and sustainable form of democracy). All that was intended for it was actually that it would provide a focus for frustrations of the defunct IRA supporters that was of the non-violent variety. If you could distract them for a period of 10 years or so, then that’s all that you would need to remove the option of a return to violence on the scale that was seen before.

    After that 10 years or so has passed you will have managed to demoralise the defunct IRA supporters by the simple expedient of humiliating them by the dawning realisation of how systematically their leaders (and the leaders of the leaders) have betrayed them, marginalising any who join non-defunct anti-state groups with appropriate condemnation. It’s not exactly a brilliant strategy, and it requires very careful management and cooperation from a multiplicity of players (pro-process media especially) all engaged in a cynical campaign of synchronised lying, and all lowering the moral and legal standards of the society in order to comfortably accommodate the former murder gangs into the political process.

    As Albert Reynolds said, “Violence fills a political vacuum.” So, they all think they have only the best interests of society at heart. This pragmatism allows them to violate makes principles of social justice such as that violence should not be rewarded and allows them to deny justice for the tens of thousands of victims of the violence of the murder gangs because the interests of the victimizers are deemed to have greater importance.

    Now, I’m not the best person to be advising Unionists on political strategy, so I will leave that part of your post to others. And my advice to republicans would be (if there are any left in NI): follow McIntrye’s example and get yourself another hobby, because you’ll never undo the damage that Sinn Fein have done to the cause of Irish unity.

    “I find it very funny that when a leftist sells out, the media portrays it as a matter of honor brought about by maturity…” – Mick Hall

    It’s a pro-business agenda from the businesses that control the media, unsurprisingly. It’s why the ‘insurgents’ in Iraq are so reviled: we can’t have ‘terrorists’ blowing up oil wells, can we? Mick is a pro-process Blogger, so he sometimes ‘finesses’ the righteousness of whatever expediencies it requires. You’ll find agendas wherever you look: pro-Europeans will tell you that the nation state is an obsolete entity that is the cause of war within Europe and should be discarded by all ‘right-thinking’ people. What they don’t tell you is that the nation state is an impediment to the EU project and that is why they are opposed to it, nor do they tell you that Europe’s wars were caused by imperialism, not nationalism, and that the EU is imperialism by another name and means.

  • Dave

    If you can direct the anti-state groups and their supporters to a position where they become de facto pro-state groups, then the status of that group – and, most importantly, its supporters – changes over time from de facto to de jure. That’s why you integrate the supporters of the group into the system when you integrate their leaders, consolidating the constitutional status quo.

  • Dave

    Your longest sentence ever was spot on, and with that of DC’s the two come close to being the best comments I have read on Slugger for some time. The following quote sums up the peace process perfectly as to does much of your following analyzes. [“The entire peace process was orchestrated by synchronised lying”]

    Whilst it is far to early to decide how the Peace Process will pan out, I am gradually concluding the outcome may be with those who can find the key to the political hearts of the protestant working classes. That few seem to even be interested in gaining their hearts is an indictment in itself, both of the arrogance of the unionist parties and the historical period we are passing through. [CUP@UUP] There is no doubt in my mind out of all the differing communities in the north, the Protestant working classes have gained the least from the Peace Process. Yes Partition is set in stone, but they have no political stakes in the new arrangements, indeed they have been marginalized and excluded.

  • sorry that should have been DUP

  • picador
  • Bakunin

    I’m sad to see the Blanket go — it was a valuable project. Although I don’t understand McIntyre’s references to post-republicanism, the Blanket did embolden people to think critically about what a democratic movement means and looks like. It forced us to consider the relationship between leaders and those that follow.

    I would suspect that Adams and company are very happy to see the Blanket close shop. As time marches on, and people turn to other things, the leadership must smirk to itself and say “we did it.” The future is truly bright with Conor M., Mary Lou M., and Catronia R. leading the band.

    Adams can breath easily, he doesn’t have to look into that mirror that was called the Blanket.

    Sad day, sad day.

  • roofus

    All I can Say is Ta Ta Anthony and all the other sf bashers who contributed to ‘The Blanket’.

    A gaggle of spurned ‘republicans’ with massive chips on their shoulders, who never offered any positive alternative to the current sf strategy.

    Good riddance.

  • Dave

    Mick Hall, I agree with your comments about the political disenfranchisement of working-class Protestants and their failure to benefit from the ‘peace dividend.’ It’s a side-effect of being associated with reactionary paramilitarism in the propaganda narratives of the mainstream protagonists. From the government’s perspective, only the proactive anti-state groups required appeasement. And from the Unionist perspective, it served their ‘holier-than-thou’ narrative to separate pro-state paramilitarism into a sub-group called ‘Loyalists’ that was comprised of a sub-culture called the ‘working-class’ who were of an inferior ilk to those nice middle-class protestants who regularly condemned (anti-state) violence.

    That association is unfair to the majority of working-class Protestants, working against their beneficial interests as a social group. It didn’t suit Unionists, Nationalists or the British government for Loyalist violence to be seen as political (having a pro-state purpose of maintaining the constitutional status quo, demoralising the anti-State community, and, at times, operating as a form of state-terrorism by proxy), so Loyalist violence was depicted as monstrous sectarian murder, leading to the demonization and disenfranchisement of the social group from which Loyalists, just like Republicans, secured their membership. The difference in outcomes being that working-class Catholics, unlike their protestant counterparts, are not politically disenfranchised, having the option of voting for a proactive murder gang that required appeasement by the State.

    I think it would be a mistake if working-class Protestants voted for the political wings of the former paramilitary groups who seek a political void to fill such as the PUP, however. You can’t reform a psychopath, and you’d be a damn fool to ever trust one!

    “A gaggle of spurned ‘republicans’ with massive chips on their shoulders, who never offered any positive alternative to the current sf strategy.”

    What Sinn Fein strategy would that be? There isn’t any Sinn Fein strategy other than to loyally administer British rule in Northern Ireland in return for self-serving concessions, such as an amnesty for past crimes and immunity from sentencing if convicted in the future for crimes committed in the past. You wouldn’t be able to enjoy your retirement from ‘armed struggle’ if it was disturbed by CAB seizing your hidden assets or faced the very real prospect of arrest and conviction for the litany of crimes you have committed, would you?

    You don’t fade away into the sunset when you lose in that game, kid: you strike a deal with the victor just before your ass is fried and take whatever you can get in return for whatever you can offer. And why exactly would by Sinn Fein require a republican strategy when they aren’t even republican? Insofar as Sinn Fein have an aspiration for unity, it involves extending the GFA to cover the entire island, i.e. dismantling the Irish nation state and replacing it with a bi-national entity wherein British nationalism operates in parity with Irish nationalism, cancelling self-determination for the Irish but leaving it intact (in the form of the UK) for those who are British. It doesn’t, of course, involve any element of persuading the Unionists to accept the legitimacy of the Irish nation state.

    Good luck with that approach, but do the decent thing and stop calling yourselves a republican party when you are nothing of the sort.