Politicians really do depend upon the dynamic nature of news cycles to give the readers the slip at times of great political peril. In this respect the Sinn Fein we are being offered today (ie, Tuesday) is very different to the one on view last Saturday. Gerry Adams has since tried (unsuccessfully so far) to suggest the onset of this campaign was to do with the unaccountable nature of the SRR. David Aaronovich gets it in one:
Rubbish. Really, absolute rubbish. Such an assault is not set up in a couple of days or even weeks. You need the men, the cars, the weapons, the reconnaissance, the plan and the back-up. As the author Kevin Toolis said, this was not a whim, but rather a bloody annunciation to let everyone know that violent republicanism is back, in a new, potent, death-dealing guise.
Having dealt with the cant, he turns to the so-called target:
…was the Massereene Barracks. And the one thing that we know about that place is that it was due to close in 2010. They only had to wait a few months, and the occupying forces and their counter-revolutionary fast-food accomplices would have been gone. The hate object would have been removed.
That’s the clue. Hatred requires an object. It needs a Jew or a black or a Brit or a Papist, for your KKK man, your stormtrooper, your Gordon rioter or your green fascist to buttress the walls of their collapsing egos. As William Hazlitt put it in his 1826 essay, The Pleasure of Hating: We have always a quantity of superfluous bile upon the stomach, and we wanted an object to let it out upon. How loath were we to give up our pious belief in ghosts and witches, because we liked to persecute the one, and frighten ourselves to death with the other!
The shooting wasn’t designed to get rid of the British Army; it was designed to bring it back. It was the first atrocity in a desired new cycle of attacks, arrests, martyrdoms, bombings, internments, hunger strikes, funerals, orations, gun-runnings and crying children, which could return us to the Seventies, the golden time of death and certainty.
What do the Real IRA actually feel the compulsion to kill for? They have the vote, the right to speak, the right to argue. There are no B-Specials, there’s no more job discrimination, no more gerrymandering.
And he finishes:
If hatred is one pleasure, with grievances to be nursed, then violence is another. Think of those local hard men, once recipients of frightened glances and scared obsequiousness, having spent the past decade being just ordinary no-marks again. Think of them getting together with the young psycho, who is sitting at their corduroyed knee, learning the intoxicating vocabulary of killing. Don’t you know that Che Guevara thought it was necessary to execute traitors himself? One shot, just here. And you to fire it, Jamie.
These men, these hard men, lost in the era of peace. Unattractive men with bald heads and pallid skin and an inability to string five words together without inducing catatonia, can again imagine themselves to be Wolfe Tone or James Connolly reborn. Middle-aged matrons, brought up in the purple of Republicanism, but now with roots showing through the dye, can reconceive of themselves as Gaelic warrior queens, or bereted resistance Valkyries. It’s worth killing other people’s sons and daughters for this.
Last Saturday night, as the gunmen walked up to deliver the death shots – executing the wounded victims, because their terrible injuries were somehow insufficient and there must be funerals – what TV programme or movie did they imagine themselves to be in at that moment? The Sopranos, perhaps. And then, sometime later, a drink and black humour at the Real IRA equivalent of the Bada Bing.
Sometimes – often, perhaps – the grievance comes second. The desire to hate and kill comes first, and then grubs around in the shit for its excuse.
That would be hatred as the largely unspoken about element of the struggle…
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
Living History 1968-74
A unique, once-in-a-lifetime 10-week course at Stranmillis University College Belfast featuring live, in-depth interviews with leading figures from this tumultuous era in Northern Ireland’s cultural and political history.
Live interviews with: Bernadette McAliskey, Austin Currie, Brid Rogers, Baroness Blood, Dennis Bradley, Baroness Paisley, Lord Kilclooney, Tim McGarry, Danny Morrison, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and others…