Face it. The ‘lines’ were lies.

I found Rusty’s blog on the execution of Joe O’Connor personally challenging and greatly appreciate it for that alone. While revisiting the events leading up to his death and reactions after in such detail was worthwhile of itself, the final paragraph lays down a much harder question to many of those that dissented from SF republicanism post ‘Agreement’.

“The hatred engendered during that time still runs deep; to acknowledge that McIntyre and Gorman were right, and not just about the O’Connor murder but in their complete analysis of where the Provisional Movement was going, means these new dissidents – Provos ten years ago – must acknowledge they were wrong, and accept some amount of guilt, not only for how they treated the likes of McIntyre and Gorman and other dissidents such as Brendan Hughes and, later, Richard O’Rawe, but for their complicity in enabling the Provisionals to lead Republicanism to where it is today: nowhere.”

In many of the comments to Rusty’s blog SF loyalists persisted with the attitude maintained at the time of O’Connor’s removal from life; vilify the messengers, deny culpability from their ‘movement’, fire counter-allegations wherever possible, slur and refuse to speak hard truths. That wasn’t/isn’t their mission though; their job is to ensure the success of the Stormont project (aka ‘The Process’) and who would expect anything but dirty tackles again this time round? There is no possibility of them admitting the lies of the past when they’re living the Stormont dream they denied ever desiring.

The challenge in the blog is to those that were previously part of the provisional movement, in whatever capacity, who moved away (or on) post 1998. Those that by action or inaction were party to mindsets that allowed O’Connor’s execution to take place and/or the intimidation of those who would speak up over it. Those who never revisited those attitudes and failings that were a central part of their membership. Those that turned a blind eye, spun the ‘line’, stayed quiet and allowed the lies to become ‘truth’. Those that now reject Stormont, the PSNI and electoralism while having stayed quiet in an organisation that fully or partly supported them.

There are many instances where republican activists were party to the big lie approach – instances they rarely seem to address since leaving the provisional movement.

There are now several political groups, mostly populated by post Agreement SF and/or pIRA defectors, attempting to grow, attain influence at various levels, set scenes and build support – none are noted for critically examining where they came from, honestly addressing the failings they were party to and more importantly examining the fact they were actually part of building support for a movement endorsing things they now absolutely reject. Almost immediately they departed the provisional movement they mainly adopted a ‘Year Zero’ approach and collective amnesia over actions of the movement they publicly supported for years (despite any mainly unstated misgivings).

Of course ignoring the past makes it easier for people/groups to move on and rebuild, it doesn’t make it more likely they won’t repeat the failings of that past.

Rusty’s blog lays down a challenge for many later dissenting republicans – address the fact they supported ‘lines’ that were lies.

Some now supporting the Anniversary Commemoration for O’Connor would be better placed admitting where their heads were at at the time and what they were supporting then – admitting they were wrong, not just the provos.

There’s the big challenge for some; face the past or risk becoming the bastard offspring of the bitch that birthed you.

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  • jim

    why no charges in this MURDER the whole of ballymurphy knows who done it and their screaming for inquires into their so called massacer when the ira used people as cover

  • latcheeco

    Thanks John,
    Apologies for the assumption! The only thing I would ask then is how many unionists have been persuaded so far in almost a generation since the mid-nineties? I find it hard to believe that the strategy as you suggest it was basically to persuade your political enemies to obtain your goals for you. Why did that not occur to anybody earlier?, It’s brilliant in it’s simplicity!
    Molyneaux notwithstanding, it would seem to me that the persuading is working the other way around as the unionist ultimate goal has always been the longevity and permanence of the state and cooperation gives them that. It would be better if people admitted that the real strategy was governmental power on both parts of the island and was predicated on electoral success in the South and as such has been so far an abject failure because the planners proved to be out of their depth when it came to execution (at least electorally in the South). The growth of the dissidents can be charted with dashed hopes and electoral stalemate in the South. It appears to me the dissidents have not the skill nor the momentum for their plan, and their former comrades now only have a failed plan.
    Regarding alternatives to either military stalemate or persuading unionists to be nationalists by giving them bonfire grants, and given that there is a nationalist majority in four of the six counties and Belfast, maybe nationalists need to just stop playing ball. For example, No ILA? St. Paddy’s day not a public holiday? Only one side’s flag flying? Then half the civil service, bus drivers, doctors, nurses, postmen, bin men, retail assistants etc won’t be in for work today. Worked for that Indian chap in the sheet and iirc it worked for the unionists too. Might not get you a UI right away, but its better than kidding yourself.

  • Alias

    “I think Britain will eventually realise that it has bigger problems to keep in check rather than Ireland.”

    Oh, I see that your strategy is two-pronged: (a) eat the British out of house and home, and (b) hope that crime in the British state somehow compels it to dismantle its state.

    Given that had WW1, WW2, the Cold War, Iraq, Afghanistan, et al, the oil crisis, the miners’ strike, the Brixton riots, etc, etc, didn’t have the outcome of making that state think that it needed to divest itself of its sovereign territory as the required expedient to focus all minds on their resolution then I doubt that a few scousers stealing hub-caps will do the trick…

    Michael Collins skipped back home proclaiming that renouncing his nation’s claim to the six counties gave that nation the means to claim ownership of the six counties rather than just gave the British state legitimate ownership of them, and the poor wee Shinners got a similiar story to sell to their muppets. It’ll soon be 100 years since poor wee Michael skipped merrily back home, and the only ‘progress’ since then is that the folks in NI also renounced ownership of the territory and with their national rights so they all signed up at long last to the legitimacy of partition.

  • latcheeco

    We seem to have posted the same solution so you’re absolutely correct 😉 The whole system is predicated on the idea that the natives will have to take part, just as it was before 1921 in the South. But if they refuse to play en masse, the game is over.

  • I wasn’t suggesting this was the strategy in the past, I’m saying it maybe should be. I think your analysis of SF’s strategy is more or less correct, although I suspect it was hoped that demonstrating ability and even-handedness in government would act as a lever of persuasion (that *unionists* had nothing to fear in a UI).

    “…since the mid-nineties?”

    Take the Westminister election results (as a coarse measure of an electoral shift):
    1992: Unionists – 13, Nationalists – 4
    1997: Uniionists – 13, Nationalists – 5
    2001: Unionists – 11, Nationalists – 7
    2005: Unionists – 10, Nationalists – 8
    2010: Unionists – 9, Alliance – 1, Nationalists – 8

    Winning support from the ‘other’ community to a UI is, I think, the best solution. How to do it is a different matter.

  • pippakin

    Surely it is about gaining the trust of the youth on both sides?

    It is true most unionists today will not be easily persuaded although some have changed to Alliance etc. The UI appeal needs to be to the young and for that to work peace is essential as is an even handed approach to history.

    If the peace is maintained the young will grow in an atmosphere that allows them to see the benefits, already we see large numbers of young people are unimpressed by the old sectarian arguments.

  • Hedley Lamarr

    Unionists are also trying to persuade Nationalists of the benefits of keeping Northern Ireland within the UK.

    Maybe these attempts on both sides to change mindsets will stymie the progress of the other leaving the status quo for a longer period than expected. Or perhaps the deciding factor will be who has the best argument or how the political umbrellas, Nationalist or Unionist articulate these arguments.

    I see Anna Lo of Alliance said that she believes a United Ireland makes sense and that she believes it is going to happen. Perhaps the arguments of the non-aligned will tip the balance?

  • pippakin

    Hedley Lamarr

    Yes unionists will try to persuade people that staying in the UK is the best course. It is more than that though. I believe that if peace continues young people, and some older ones, will realise that they are culturally far more Irish than British. The unionist culture would be a very minor and even ‘alien’ thing in most parts of the UK. If there is peace that recognition will grow.

  • tacapall

    “Oh, I see that your strategy is two-pronged: (a) eat the British out of house and home, and (b) hope that crime in the British state somehow compels it to dismantle its state”.

    You’re not that daft now Alias are you, I think you know exactly what I mean by exploiting the financial situation to the full. Britain has never been under as much financial pressure with immigrants from former colonies and EU member states putting their snouts in the trough as you call it, add in the racial tension and religious tension that is building and the eventual break up of the union, for the little englanders are starting to crack under the weight of all us freeloaders. What happened 100 years ago or even 20 is irrelevant this is 2010, a new decade and a new set of rules.

  • Hedley Lamarr

    Pippakin- You are right of course- there are other factors which are important, including the one you outlined. I think however that there is a sizeable, impervious part of the community whose British identity is too strong to be malleable.

    I suppose there are also unknown factors that haven’t emerged yet that could decide things.

  • tacapall

    Answer this, When they broke into Castlereagh and supposedly stole the informer files do you think they were just stealing their own files. Quid pro quo and all that for securing decomissioning.

  • Mark McGregor

    ‘paul’, ArdEoin Republican,

    Your back and forth was not fit for this thread or anywhere else on Slugger.

    Play nice or go elsewhere.

  • Mark, I was originally posting in reply to the thread chara and this amadan began issuing lies about me, so I was compelled to defend my integrity……..

  • The one part of Rusty’s blog which I disagreed with, was the insinuation that former Provos why broke away from ‘their’ movement at a later date than Anthony McIntyre or Tommy Gorman, must act out some sort of public display of walking over hot coals. Should Anthony confess his sins because he refused to see the light when those left wing republicans in the Maze broke with the PRM? Of course not, as this in itself would create a pecking order of ex Provos, which in hindsight is one of the main reasons for the PRM failures.

    Most of those who either left the Provos or ceased supporting them went through a long process of internal debate and I might add not a little torment. This is as true of McIntyre, Hughes, etc, of former Provo supporters in the far away Bronx, or some of the comrades who came later and are now members of Éirigí whom Rusty aimed fire at.

    I would add for a Belfast Republican to leave the PRM and join another organization is as clear a statement of rejected of SF strategy as anyone need make. These individuals, unlike some former Provos, have joined a new organization with the hope of building it into an alternative to SF, their aim is amongst others, to recruit republicans like themselves who have become disillusioned with the SF leadership.

    To do what Rusty and now Mark demands would make this task almost impossible. If they were part of the group which picketed Gorman and McIntyre’s homes, of course offer up a private apology for this act. But, to suggest they must do this publicly is a mistake, every individual must be allowed to struggle with their consciences in their own way and act accordingly.

    This type of absolutist demand is from new on the left, when Stalin was revealed as a mass murderer many of those who had courageously opposed him outside the Soviet Union (those inside were mainly dead) demanded a similar mea-culpa, thankfully wiser heads prevailed.

    To demand of people they publicly confess their mistakes reeks of republicanism being some sort of religion, human beings make mistakes, some are more blind than others, some place loyalty to the movement above all things, right or wrong, which in the past has proved disastrous for both republicanism and the left. Trotsky was not wrong when he said the greatest crime of Stalinism was it turned men and women who came to politics to build a better world into accomplices of mass murderers.

    All those who engage in party politics, to some degree, get shit splashed over their shoes, it is the nature of the beast, for those of us who no longer engage in party politics its far easier to admit this fact, but, it is also a fact of human progress that humankind rarely moves forward without political parties.

    Just some thoughts.

  • Mark McGregor

    AE R,

    I’m not interested in how it started. It was well out of hand from both at the end.

  • Mark McGregor


    Thanks for your reply, as considered as always. I completely agree with:

    Most of those who either left the Provos or ceased supporting them went through a long process of internal debate and I might add not a little torment.

    I’m not suggesting those who left the provos didn’t have valid reasons for doing so or suggesting their reasons are invalid if they took longer to arrive at (I’m a late adopter myself). I’m also not suggesting that anyone who left SF requires public self-flagellation or acts of contrition. Individuals should examine themselves in private and act accordingly.

    My central point was on various political groups, started and mainly populated by ex-shinners, that have developed a ‘Year Zero’ approach to their roots. Those willing to now criticise SF positions and polices but ignoring it wasn’t that long ago the bulk of their members/leaders were central to promoting much of what they now challenge.

    It is convenient for them to ignore what they were part of but if groups birthed from SF want to learn from previous mistakes surely they need some open examination of the failings many were involved with?

    Year Zero – is just dishonesty.

  • pippakin


    If they were stealing their own files is anyone daft enough to think they were the only copies…

  • slappymcgroundout

    “The best plan of all would be civil disobedience. That would terminate British rule in short measure since a people cannot be governed by a foreign state when they withdraw their consent to be governed by it. All colonial regimes thusly rely on the cooperation of those they govern.”

    Isn’t the problem that the majority won’t be doing that any time soon? That’s the problem with the critique of Sinn Fein. To take but the one example, the Eirigi folk, who have in their constitution the prohibition against serving in Stormont, they’ll be focusing on making NI ungovernable, but that won’t do a damn thing to change Unionist sentiment (quite the opposite in fact). Meanwhile, they could instead be in Stormont and legislating on behalf of Unionists (on bread and butter issues). That would tend to bridge the divide and allay Unionist fears re what happens to them in a UI. As I remarked here on Slugger a while back, Merlyn Rees was entirely correct. Her Majesty has ZERO to do with the present circumstance. The crux is the nearly 1 million souls who want to preserve their “Britishness”, which they see well served by maintaining a legal/jurisdictional link with Britain. Sinn Fein, in papers available on its website understands the issue and Big Gerry noted the same in a piece in The Guardian a while back (his plea was that Republicans should reach and try to see and understand from where the Unionists are coming from). As near as I can discern, not only Eirigi, but also every other Nationalist group save the SDLP, simply ignores the Unionist crux of the matter. As such, they can accomplish nothing be leading some to an even worse destination than “nowhere”.

  • JJ

    Collins hardly ‘skipped home merrily’. What’s with the slandering of the Big Fella.

    THe fact of that matter is nothing they could have done would have gained them North East Ulster. THere is nothing that can be done now. The British military establishment is too strong. Only when a majority of the 6 counties vote for it will we have a UI,

  • Alias

    “Isn’t the problem that the majority won’t be doing that any time soon?”

    Yes, and that reveals the other more central problem: that the constitutional issue simply isn’t worth the inconvenience as far as the majority of NI’s Catholics are concerned. The myth that the Catholics in NI were always ‘republican’ or even are republican is precisely that. They were always far better off economically within the UK than they would have been in Ireland prior to ‘the troubles’ – and they always knew it. Remember that ‘the troubles’ arose out of a dispute about the equal distribution of British welfare state resources and at no point were ever a dispute about British sovereignty, so it was a dispute about how British sovereignty should be administrated and not a dispute about the legitimacy of British sovereignty. They supported the murder merely as a means of securing internal reform within the British state and not as a means of terminating it. So it is of course consistent with that analysis that the dispute should have been resolved in a manner that addressed the actual core issue and not the bogus issue of ‘republicanism’.

  • “Isn’t the problem that the majority won’t be doing that any time soon? That’s the problem with the critique of Sinn Fein. To take but the one example, the Eirigi folk, who have in their constitution the prohibition against serving in Stormont,”


    I think you have struck at the heart of dissident weakness, even if groups like the RIRA could mount an effective military campaign they would still need to build a political movement which could take it further.

    One reason the British State was able to sideline the Provos campaign for decades was because they had not yet developed an effective political force which could challenge the British state and its unionist supporters in Irish and British parliamentary forums.

    They attempted to overcome this weakness by bombing the
    English heartlands; and if the media is to be believed todays armed republican groups intend if the opportunity arises to replicate this.

    Experience shows such a bombing campaign closed off any hope of a solidarity movement emerging in England Scotland and Wales, groups like ‘troop out’ only operated on the fringes of british political life and by saying this I am not critiquing them, simply stating a fact.

    I totally disagree with Alias claim that working class nationalist support for PRM was based on democratising the orange state, as by the time the provo insurgency was well into its first decade most folk had decided the orange state was non reformable.

    Whilst SF clearly believes this is no longer the case, I am not so sure, true nationalists who represent both a middle class and working class electorate have a say in how the statelet is run, as long as they accept very narrow avenues of political intercourse within a statelet where political structures are still firmly based on sectarian lines.

    Indeed I would go further and suggest what passes for democracy in the six counties would be rejected out of hand in almost every other EU State, including the rest of the UK.

    The fact there is no real opposition within Stormont is its greatest weakness, the fact all the mainstream parties within the assembly accept this as the norm is a disgrace.

    That anti GFA republicans have in the main made no real attempt to fill this void, preferring to stay loyal to the dogma of the past. (in the case of Éirigí coupled with their form of agi-prop) In my view this means they are unlikely under their current strategies ever to win mass support, let alone become a threat to SF’s dominance.

    If we were only a hand full of years into the peace process this might just be acceptable, but it is now well over a decade since the PIRA ceasefire and must local politicians have accepted the current arrangement is permanent.

    Unless a Republican opposition emerges which combines working as an opposition within Stormont and extra parliamentary action, there is no way working class nationalists/republicans would even consider deserting SF en mass and why would they?