“Until then they will perpetuate myths..”

Malachi O’Doherty follows up on his thoughts about the “odd week” it’s been with some related thoughts on Sinn Féin and their legacy issues. From Malachi’s blog

When Stalin died, Kruschev could drive a stake in his heart and own up to the crimes of the past. When the current leaders of Sinn Fein go, their successors – the true inheritors of constitutional nationalism – will be free to say: we were wrong.

Until then they will perpetuate myths that can ennoble armed struggle and cheapen their own politics. It is an awful pity we can’t have the clarity now that we need and will inevitably get later on, from some future SF leader who will find it costs nothing to speak the truth. And that it is worth speaking plainly and honestly if there is a chance that it will discourage those who , soaked in the nonsensical myths of republican glory, might be tempted to claim a little of that glory for themselves.

It is worth speaking plainly and honestly. Whether that will inevitably come when the current leaders of Sinn Féin go.. Perhaps, Malachi, perhaps..
Interestingly, as Brian has noted, what plain speaking we have seen has come from republicans who have already dissented from Sinn Féin’s mythologising.

From the Sunday Times

Richard O’Rawe was an IRA prisoner on the same wing as Bobby Sands, who starved himself to death in 1981. He has now renounced violence but understands the forces that drive the dissidents.

“I would not have joined the IRA in the first place if I was told this [power-sharing with the unionists] would be the outcome,” he said. “Who in their right minds would do a minute in jail for this? There was no need for anyone to die. It could have all have been done 30 or 35 years ago in a peaceful way.

“Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness told us it was a united Ireland or nothing. You can see why the dissidents would be so disillusioned by the outcome. There is no strategy to take us to a united Ireland.”

And Anthony McIntyre in today’s Independent on Sunday

Those of us who have “been there and done that” and who can bear testimony to the utter futility of militarism look on events with a mixture of angst and guilt. Angst because of the lives being destroyed; guilt because the logic we preached in the Provisional IRA is their logic. Treading in our footsteps they will secure the same defeat, but for Martin McGuinness to denounce them as traitors for following the example he set for decades is to commit an act of treachery against truth.

On the Politics Show today Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd declined an invitation to such plain speaking..

“Everyone has regrets over what happened over the last thirty years in this country. All those sides who involved themselves in armed conflict have their own responsibilities within that. What we have done, is we have brought ourselves away from that. Through the Good Friday Agreement and through the peace negotiations that followed, the long and arduous process that involved, we have brought ourselves to a new place where there is no reason whatsoever for armed conflict in this society. Republicans, and I’m an Irish Republican, and I believe that through a lot of hard work and a whole lot of commitment from ourselves we will achieve a united Ireland.”

Meanwhile, as Kevin Toolis pointed out

But Ireland is no more united than it was in 1922. And Sinn Féin, sunk into insignificance in the last elections in the South, is unable to articulate how the current Stormont settlement leads to a united Ireland and something more than jobs for Mr Adams’s boys.

And, as noted in the same post, from Eamonn McCann

Adams and his associates have gradually, surreptitiously, denying at every stage that they were embarked on any such enterprise, sloughed off this Republican tradition and bargained the war conducted in its name for advancement for themselves and their community in the here-and-now. But the core idea which they espoused was elevated in the course of their struggle, and, as Saturday night’s killings illustrate, it hasn’t gone away.

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  • And more

    What chance some plain speaking about the past from unionists and the British?

  • ed

    its really too bad violence was needed but does any one believe there would have been systemic change with out it

  • Yes Ed, because there was due to the peaceful protest of NICRA.

  • picador

    When are McIntyre, O’Rawe &tc; actually going to come out and tell us that the Sticks and the Stoops were right?

  • ed

    there was no systemic change from nicra there was nothing more than lip service

    it was esentially seperate but equal and that particular policy had already failed in the southern us

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    And talking of mythologising – what all the crap “for queen and country about” – what the feck does that mean – does queenie send people into battle to increase the number of foreign countries she owns – time for the Englezes to give up the funny mythical talk.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    and what about queenies crimes of the past for feck sake – not to mention glory of putting fuzzies wuzzzies to the sword.

  • Dec

    soaked in the nonsensical myths of republican glory

    1921 was pretty glorious, I thought and not at all mythical.

  • To Picador

    Since McIntyre and O’Rawe are republicans probably never

  • Ed,

    Lip service? Do you know what NCIRA actually achieved? Because it doesn’t sound like it if you think the reforms introduced as a result of its campaign were lip service.

    As for separate but equal. It was the DUP and the Provos who binned the shared future strategy as practically the first thing they did once they took office as the leading parties. Seperate but equal lies at the heart of the current dispensation, not of NICRA’s programme.

  • Dave

    “When the current leaders of Sinn Fein go, their successors – the true inheritors of constitutional nationalism – will be free to say: we were wrong.

    Until then they will perpetuate myths that can ennoble armed struggle and cheapen their own politics.”

    That all depends on whose constitution they were abiding by. If it refers to the British constitutional framework of Northern Ireland, then Malachi O’Doherty is ignoring the salient point that they regarded that constitution as being illegitimate. Specifically, the opposing claim to the territory of Northern Ireland in the un-amended Articles 2 & 3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann declared the constitution of Northern Ireland to be illegitimate, declaring that the legitimate and applicable constitution governing that disputed territory was itself. Therefore, no Irish nationalist would abide by that which they regarded as being illegitimate. So “constitutional nationalism” means here, as the likes of the SDLP proffered it, that the constitutional framework of Northern Ireland was legitimate and British sovereignty along with it. Hence, those who adopted that position are properly British nationalists/unionists.

    Clearly, as the constitutional legitimacy of British sovereignty is now accepted by the Shinners, then they have conceded that they were wrong to oppose by any means, violence or political. On the other hand, those who have not accepted the legitimacy of British rule cannot be deemed to be in the “wrong” on the same terms as the Shinners. They are also not influenced by Bunreacht na hÉireann or its amendments. So, it is a non sequitur to claim that others group are influenced by the Shinners or will be in any way dissuaded by a public act of contrition on their part.

    The right to self-determination is a collective right under international law, not an individual right. It is also a collective right in Bunreacht na hÉireann (which predates the relevant international law). That means simply that the will of the majority determines the destiny of the nation, not the will of a minority. Since there is only one collective act of self-determination and one right to self-determination per nation, the Shinners never operated in accordance with the principle of it, anyway. The Irish nation had declared its wish to unify the island by exclusively peaceful means. The Shinners always operated in direct violation of that wish. Nor, indeed, could they ever have legitimately claimed to be asserting the right to self-determination for the Irish nation since the Irish nation had already secured its right. You can’t act to secure that which has already been secured. What was asserted, against the principle of Irish self-determination, was the extension by force of that right to a part of the island where it was denied. Irony was never their strong suit.

    That isn’t to say that it is wrong for a nation to use force to assert its right self-determination in the absence of alternative means. If the Irish nation decided on that option, then it would be morally and legally correct to do so. The downside is that it would have been wiped out by an army that was just a tad bigger.

    Now that it is now formally recognised that Northern Ireland is a separate state and, like all states, it has a nation with a right to self-determination. If the Northern Irish (a ghastly artifically engineered nation of sorts) were ever compelled to use violence assert their right to an independent sovereign state, then they would be perfectly entitled to do that. That means, of course, that the unionists will have a moral entitlement to defend their validated right to self-determination by force. That’s the international law.

  • Harry Flashman

    ” “Who in their right minds would do a minute in jail for this? There was no need for anyone to die. It could have all have been done 30 or 35 years ago in a peaceful way. ”

    Never a truer word spoken.

    What in Christ’s holy name was it all about?

  • OC

    When Joseph Stalin was on his death bed, he called for heir-apparent Nikita Khrushchev, and gave him two letters, telling him, “After I die and you become premier, if you ever get into political trouble, open the first letter and do what I have written. If you again land in trouble, open the second letter, and follow my instructions.”

    Sure enough, Khrushchev falls afoul of the politbureau, and opens the first letter from Stalin, which says, “Blame everything on me,” which Khrushchev does, and this pulls his chestnuts from the fire.

    Subsequently, after finding himself in political hot-water again, Khrushchev opens the second letter from Stalin.

    The letter says, “Prepare two letters.”

  • Uriop

    While I wouldn’t choose his spin Dave is correct on substance. The whole justification of the Provo campaign was that Irish nationalists had a right to secede from the UK but that unionists did not have the same equal right to secede from that secession, for one reason or another. The GFA accepted that right, at least when specifically bounded by NI rather than any other possible border, tempered by contingent indications that nationalism may increase to make a united Ireland happen anyway.

    However that bringing of a united Ireland closer had nothing to do with what the Provos did. It’s down to the Pope’s edicts designed to increrase his own worldly power, ironic that he now has relatively much less of it in Ireland than he had in the past.

    The problem for nationalists in pursuing political power in the here and now, (e.g. devolution, dual veto) is that they are effectively morally defining the terms of any future united Ireland. It is unfair to say that Northern Ireland must allow people the right to not consider themselves British and that nationalists must have a veto without also saying that in any future united Ireland unionists will not also have the right to consider themselves not of a pan-Irish nationality and must also have a veto, if not of the Irish state itself then at least a devolved part of it.

    The more nationalists fight and win concessions on the grounds of not being British the less possible or morally justifiable they make a united Ireland nation state, and that even if unity is achieved it will be a special consocational state like Bosnia, Belgium or Switzerland and involving more than one nation.

  • Mack


    I would have thought that a United Ireland can only come about with consocational arrangements equal to thos provided for the benefit of Irish nationalists living the UK.

    That’s not to say, that the Irish state would be modeled on Northern Ireland in the manner Dave suggests it must. NI would just continue to exist as is, within a UI rather than a UK.

  • Henry94

    Why is armed struggle futile? It’s not because the principle of driving a foreign occupation out of your country is wrong. That is a perfectly legitimate thing to do.

    It is futile because we don’t have the capacity to inflict the kind of damage required to remove the British state from Ireland by force at this point in history.

    To beat ourselves or Sinn Fein up because they were late in realising that is a fruitless exercise. The British could have ended the conflict ay any time by opening negotiations but they too were after a military solution. They were not able to achieve that because there was enough support for the IRA to keep going.

    Our inability to remove the British does not make partition just and it does not make unionism just. The existence of the north as a state is a grotesque travesty imposed on the island by superior firepower and nothing else.

    It takes a lot of maturity to accept that and try to work within the system and the Agreement to make life under British rule as tolerable as possible while remaining alert for political opportunities to undermine it peacefully.

    Nobody likes it but we’re stuck with it and it’s a bloody hard job for Sinn Fein to manage people’s expectations about it. They could do with more support and less carping.

    I’m sorry for anyone who thinks they wasted their lives but it’s not all about ye believe it or not.

    Yes, we need to discuss the failure of the armed struggle but not on the basis of blaming Adams and McGuinness for it. They were the ones who let us out of it and the carping from the sidelines from the above-mentioned accompanied that effort every step of the way.

    The war wasn’t perfect and sorry if the peace isn’t either. But it’s there and it’s all we have.

  • picador

    Was anyone ever forced to join the IRA? To go out and take part on an ‘operation’?

    To read McIntyre and O’Rawe you would think that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness, both of whom were not much older than they were at the time, brainwashed them into taking up arms. And now, they are angry because they didn’t get the earthly paradise that they were promised.

    However instead of blaming the flawed ideology that they themselves signed up for and were willing to kill for; they both take the easy way out and blame Adams & McGuiness.

  • hartshill

    “Was anyone ever forced to join the IRA? To go out and take part on an ‘operation’?”

    Whatever about joining people were forced into operations like Patsy Gillespie in Derry to name one. Yeh see, McGuinness hadn’t the balls for the job himself so he ordered men to be strapped in their own vehicles and used as human bombs, so ‘forced to go out and take part in an operation’, oh yes indeed and that is still ignoring the hundreds of people who were forced to do things they did not want to do as part of ‘operations’. A dirty war, picador, and now McGuinness is chief ‘securocrat’.

  • Greenflag

    Malachy’s ‘hype’ springs eternal:) But during the long ‘independence ‘ struggle for Irish Home Rule & self government there were always those who ‘carped ‘ from the sidelines . Malachy is no different .

    Irish ‘republicanism ‘ was around a long time before either Stalin or Kruschev were born . It owes it’s origin to the age of ‘enlightenment ‘ and later to the rise of the smaller nations within Europe as they strove to become independent of their ‘Empirical Mothers’. More importantly it owes it’s origin and survival to the fact that some 85% of the population of this island prefer a Republic to being politically attached to HMG.

    HMG and it’s apologists in Ireland in the past and in Northern Ireland always commented that just as soon as the Irish problem was solved they (the ungrateful Irish changed the question) . So it’s deja vu time again then and Malachy is once again behind the times . The present Republican leadership have ‘changed’ their tack to suit present conditions not just in Northern Ireland but in the Republic .

    There is ultimatley only one question for Irish Republicans and that is how to end British ‘rule’ in Northern Ireland . As they have now agreed that this can only be accomplished by local (local to NI) democratic means then the likes of Malachy & Co should one would think be grateful for at least that . How SF’s UI is achieved or whether it can be achieved is a matter for Republican political strategists .

    As a political objective it’s now seen as legitimate as the Unionist objective of maintaining the Union was and is since 1920 . And that in itself is an advance .

    Not only were Unionist politicians not listening 1920 to 1972 but they deliberately chose to ignore any sounds that might have emanated form the Irish nationalist community. That option has now gone for Unionists at least in the context of a 6 county NI State . To restore the ‘union’ to it’s former and safer ignorance would require a repartition of the present NI State and so far Unionists are keeping their powder dry on that one ?