On the politics of killing Catholic policemen…

Ross Frenett at the Irish Human Rights blog has a fairly erudite take on the politics of killing Catholic PSNI men, and what kind of reaction it is trying to call out from the State:

Violent Republicans kill to engender a reaction from the establishment, to bring Ireland back to the ‘troubles’. To over militarise the response to this killing, and those that will inevitably occur in the future, would be to play right into their hands.

Taking someone’s life is not, in most human beings, an easy matter to achieve. It’s been a preoccupation in formal Armies down through the ages to get people to overcome the natural resistance most of us have to that most final of acts.

It seems that in this the killing itself is the motive. For now, the death of a Catholic policeman is the end rather than the means. Ross quotes one of the comments in a closed Republican forum who encapsulated some of the short term hopes of those involved:

[T]he feeling of the war will be everywhere once again and the spirit of Irish republicanism will spark in many of them, this is how we got some of the greatest volunteers during the conflict.

Anthony McIntyre is unequivocal in his assessment:

It is a miniscule achievement compared to what the Provisional IRA managed throughout most of its campaign. Yet for all their military prowess the Provisionals ultimately secured very little in terms of republican objectives.

They now sit ensconced in a British administration at Stormont in full support of the police force their descendants are currently determined to kill.

Gerry Adams who for decades approved attacks like today’s was one of the first to condemn the Omagh incident. There should be a strategic lesson somewhere in there for any republican discerning enough to find it.

Unfortunately, while a lesson that has been absorbed by many it will never be learned by all. There will always be some who without any chance of altering the future remain determined to repeat the past.

Ineffectual and immoral, armed republican violence is a scourge that can only deliver blight in place of betterment.

As Brian Feeney points out it has little chance of creating an effect with a generation of disenchanted Republicans for whom the armed struggle had become an end in itself.

Of course Irish Republicanism itself can be a highly amorphous beast. As the academic Margaret O’Callaghan has pointed out, unlike French or American Republicanism, without a single state to give full expression to its ideals, their Irish counterpart has had a tendency to submerge as a pure political expression for long periods each time to re-emerge as something radically different from its last incarnation.

But it is also the very inchoate nature of this post conflict outcropping of Irish Republicanism that makes it so difficult to deal with. For now, as Guevara pointed out, inculcating the hatred is the thing, not the long term political object. Belfast Magistrate, and victim of an earlier generation of Republican violence, Tom Travers writing in 1994:

“On the day my lovely daughter was murdered her killer tried to murder my darling wife (Joan) also. At that time Mary lay dying on her mum’s breast, her gentle heart pouring its pure blood on to a dusty Belfast street. The murderer’s gun, which was pointed at my wife’s head, misfired twice. Another gunman shot me six times. As he prepared to fire, I saw the look of hatred on his face, a face I will never forget.”

That was 1984, and countless hundreds went a similar way before Northern Ireland came to its bloodied senses… Others may take longer to work out what ends their means will realistically meet…

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