In the Belfast Telegraph, Eilis O’Hanlon has written an impressively controlled piece on how Sinn Fein and its wider Republican movement (the organisation formerly known as the IRA) have managed to subordinate the natural bonds of human feeling to the furtherance of ‘the cause’.
A dissenting scion of the Cahill family, she begins with her experience of going to her mother’s funeral last Autumn in the literal and metaphorical heart of Republican west Belfast:
Most of those individuals who attended my mother’s wake had heard the same stories and scandals that I had and more besides — because I moved away from republican Belfast physically and psychologically and politically a long time ago, and they stayed right in the heart of it. They knew better than I did the myriad ways in which the authority figures they respected and held up as icons of political virtue had turned a blind eye to appalling abuses — yet they remained true to the republican faith.
Including the woman who has now spoken so painfully of what happened to her, who has been keen to stress her continuing loyalty to the republican movement. Knowing all they did, they still bought into the myth of the republican family, even when they could see that the republican family tree was rotten to the core, and when it was clear that certain people in that family tree had a special branch all of their own, where they were protected from the consequences of their worst actions.
They could internalise the things they knew, and then kind of not know them any more, in order not to let anything damage the struggle.
She sees clear roots in the Russian anarchists of an earlier age:
Sergey Nechayev, the 19th century Russian nihilist, who wrote his Catechism of the Revolutionary as a blueprint for the destruction of society, described such a man best: “All the tender and effeminate emotions of kinship, friendship, love, gratitude, and even honour, must be stilled in him by a cold and single-blooded passion.”
As it happens, we know that the bond of kinship does survive, because Adams, as the evidence now seems incontrovertible, treated his brother Liam differently from any other person in west Belfast who had been accused of the abuse of his own child; and he was also prepared to continue to publicly eulogise their father, despite now admitting that the man was a sadistic brute and sexual predator who abused some of his own children.
Even so, Nechayev’s words still ring chillingly true. The only ultimate love is for the revolution; the necessities of struggle transcend all other considerations. Adams could eulogise monsters because the eulogies served a cause which needed to sentimentalise where it came from in order to justify what it was doing. In that way, he was no different from the community he represented. He was the same, only more so
Terrorists, like sexual abusers, like doing unspeakable things to human flesh. It’s just that politics gives one side of the same perverted coin a convenient excuse. It’s certainly no coincidence that so many women get turned on by violent men, or that other violent men rally round to hush up their crimes.
Islamic suicide bombers take this diseased sexuality to its ultimate conclusion by turning their very bodies into weapons.
In retrospect, it’s a pity that the IRA’s heroes didn’t have the courage of their convictions to adopt the same methods themselves, because then there would have been fewer of them around to rape women and children, and fewer to cover up for their abusive comrades afterwards.
But then the IRA always were cowards. They didn’t mind who died for the cause, just so long as it wasn’t them. What’s emerging now is only scratching the surface of their vicious collective history.
As the Catholic Church found out before them, once the floodgates open, there’s no closing them again.
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