High Time Media Moved on from Indulging Pseudo-Controversy Surrounding James McClean and “Poppy Issue”

James McClean (Michael Kranewitter, Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-sa 3.0/at)

James McClean (Michael Kranewitter, Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-sa 3.0/at).

The media don’t half like flogging dead horses. Right on cue, James McClean‘s move to West Bromwich Albion last week prompted talk in the Belfast Telegraph (not for the first time) of his repeated eschewing of the wearing of a political poppy on his various past clubs’ football jerseys around Britain’s celebration of its Remembrance Sunday each year. This was despite the fact we are half a year on (or away from) November, when the reporting of such a trivial item might have been (or be) remotely relevant, whatever about its questionable justification and newsworthiness.

The Belfast Telegraph article’s headline made the claim that West Brom supporters are “split over [their club’s] signing [of] James McClean after [his] poppy stance” and told us, matter-of-factly, that the Derry man, who was popularly voted Wigan Athletic’s “player of the year” last season, is a “controversial” figure. Is this really so? Is James McClean genuinely, as the Belfast Telegraph might like to have us believe, a person who is splitting reasonable and civil public opinion worthy of serious consideration?

Upon reading the article in question, one will find there is no evidence whatsoever in the body of the text to support the exaggerated assertion made in the headline. (I would like to give the vast majority of West Brom fans a bit more credit than to assume half of them so intolerant that they took issue with their club’s signing of James McClean over his poppy stance.) Of course, it is important to note at this juncture that this is also the same publication that once referred to McClean, an Irish national by blood and birth, as a “turncoat” after he made what he described as a dream decision to represent the de facto all-island Republic of Ireland team at senior international level over the Northern Ireland team. The Belfast paper has form in entertaining and overplaying silly opinions with regard to the Irish international.

McClean, an undaunted Irish republican with a refreshing, admirable and endearing sense of personal conviction atypical of the modern-day footballer, has long been a figure from whom lazy, exploitative and hostile elements within the northern and British media have sought to squeeze attention-grabbing material for non-stories to fill their columns. Indeed, ceaselessly-pontificating unionist politicians (such as the DUP’s Gregory Campbell) have similarly tried to extract controversy from McClean’s cultural identity and preferences for cheap publicity and political mileage. James McClean has nothing of which to be ashamed; he’s a spirited and disciplined athlete who – perhaps somewhat naïvely – has worn his heart on his sleeve. More importantly, however, he does his job.

During a welcome late-March interview with Vincent Hogan of the Irish Independent, the player volunteered his opinion on issues that have unfortunately troubled his career since he moved to England in 2011 from his home-town club, Derry City. In relation to his non-wearing of a poppy on his jersey during a November 2012 English Premier League game for Sunderland against Everton, he said he had felt he was “hung out the dry” by the press office of his former club. Sunderland’s very brief statement to the media on the matter at the time read:

As a club, SAFC wholeheartedly supports the Remembrance commemorations. It was James’ personal choice not to wear a shirt [with a poppy] on this occasion.

Ideally, McClean would liked to have provided a more detailed and thorough explanation of his position (perhaps something more resembling the eloquently-worded letter he was eventually allowed to make public in 2014 by Dave Whelan, the chairman of Wigan Athletic, McClean’s club after leaving Sunderland), not because he was in the wrong, but to eliminate the wildly over-the-top reaction of disapproval (including death-threats, ludicrously) that he unintentionally provoked not just amongst his own club’s booing supporters but also within the British media’s reactionary quarter and on social media. It is also worth highlighting here that his Sunderland manager at the time, Martin O’Neill (like McClean, from County Derry and of a culturally-Catholic nationalist background), did not sport a poppy that day either, but the antipathy from the stands and social media was reserved only for the “young upstart”.

McClean described to Hogan the exacerbation of the situation due to Sunderland’s refusal to allow him to speak further on it as follows:

[P]re-game, the press officer went out and issued a statement saying that I wouldn’t be wearing a poppy, that it was my own decision and that, as a club, they fully supported the poppy appeal.

That just drew attention onto it straight away. I don’t think it would have been anywhere near as bad as it got if that hadn’t happened.

Then when I asked to be allowed speak about it, I was told that that was a bad idea, not to say anything and let it blow over. So it was kind of brushed under the table and I felt that that was more for the club’s benefit than mine.

I think it could have saved so much hassle… when you think two years later I finally get to speak about it… for me, that’s two years too late! It could have been nipped in the bud from day one. Was there any need to make that statement prior to the game? No, there wasn’t.

To this day I still have a kind of annoyance that that was the case. It irritates me. Because with people not knowing my reasons, even my own fans turned on me. They didn’t understand. To them, I was disrespecting their country, disrespecting their fallen heroes, disrespecting their culture, this and that.

Because I was pushed into a corner and not allowed say anything, people didn’t know.

And they turned on me. It affected me because I could do no wrong before that, then all of a sudden I was getting booed every touch. People saying I shouldn’t be in the team and “fuck off back to Ireland!” Stuff like that.

McClean went on to state that he felt “it will always be an issue… [b]ecause there’s a minority of the public who have their views, their strong stances and, regardless of whether I give reasons or not, they’ll just see it as disrespectful”. Unfortunately, his fears appear to be valid; during Wigan’s 2-0 loss to Millwall at the Den after the Hogan interview and towards the end of the last Championship season, he was singled out for poppy-related abuse by the opposing home fans. Indeed, Millwall’s supporters are well-known for their rather unpleasant right-wing brand of terrace politics; “No one likes us; we don’t care!“, they proudly declare.

Local reports in Sunderland also suggested that his former club were enraged by his comments to Hogan about the 2012 affair and it would appear that some Sunderland fans still harbour a significant amount of resentment for their former player despite his later public clarification on the poppy matter last year whilst at Wigan. He is still accused of having disrespected Britain’s war dead and of holding a “pro-IRA stance”; condemned as a “provo” and for having expressed support for republican hunger-striker Bobby Sands, for having displayed images of Free Derry Corner on social media and for having had the supposed temerity to enjoy popular Irish republican folk songs such as ‘The Broad Black Brimmer‘. (Note even this Sunderland Echo article on the rebel song “controversy” oddly and inexplicably filed in the crime section of the publication’s website.) His list of alleged social infractions is long, but also utterly tiresome.

Free Derry Corner in 1984 (Louise Price, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0).

Free Derry Corner in the Bogside, 1984 (Louise Price, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0).

Appreciating some alternative perspective might be advisable for those susceptible to falling to the conclusion that what James McClean says or does is automatically transgressive, scandalous or worthy of genuine public controversy simply because it stirs an all-too-predictable reaction amongst the intolerant, self-righteous and serially-outraged. Neither should it be assumed that the aforementioned “list of shame” presents, even in combination, some valid or damning case against him that would warrant the condemnation directed his way.

Whilst the “provos”, or Sinn Féin (if they indeed are the party to whom McClean offers his republican allegiances) are the largest political party in Ireland and are committed to the constitutional, democratic method after the British government and unionist politicians conceded during the peace process leading up to the cross-communal signing of the Good Friday Agreement that nationalist and republican grievances and interests had merit, Bobby Sands was an elected MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone at the time of his death and remains a widely-respected icon of revolt and disobedience not merely across Ireland but also around the world. Listening to Irish rebel songs and exhibiting a sense of pride in Free Derry Corner is nothing out of the ordinary for a lad from Derry, never mind for one from the hardened republican strongholds of Creggan or the Bogside.

Other Irish players, such as David Meyler from Cork, also happened to voice their liking for ‘The Broad Black Brimmer’ on Twitter at the same time McClean did, but they were not subjected to the same abuse that the oft-reviled Derry man was. Meanwhile, Free Derry Corner is a local historical landmark and was the embodiment (in literally concrete form) of a community in solidarity, action and bold defiance. It remains a cherished symbol of such for the proud local people. The Derry City Council maintained it before handing its maintenance over to the Department of the Environment’s Heritage Service a few years ago with the full support of Sinn Féin and the SDLP on the city council. Popular sight-seeing tour-groups feature a visit to the gable wall in their city tours and it is commonly seen on post cards available for purchase from shops in and around the city. It is an integral part of the fabric of modern Derry’s history.

Other obtuse detractors of McClean have accused him of being a hypocrite happy to take the pound of the queen of England and enjoy the benefits of living in England whilst simultaneously exhibiting disrespect towards the hand that supposedly feeds him, as if living and working in England nullifies any right an individual might have to think or act contrary to some imagined orthodoxy. There is nothing contradictory or self-compromising about a republican, be he or she Irish or British, utilising or accepting as payment for his or her labour what is nothing more than a commonly-agreed medium of exchange. Even if that medium does happen to feature the head of our social, moral and intellectual superior…

The money McClean is paid is money he himself has earned and to which he is fully and legally entitled, whatever his political convictions. He got where he has through his own hard work and determination and certainly does not owe even the slightest ounce of gratitude to the English monarchy for his livelihood and success. Through his work, he also happens to contribute a significant amount in returned tax to the state in which he is resident – likewise, he owes absolutely nothing further to those on their moral high horses who seemingly expect every person resident in the UK to obediently conform to their myopic and authoritarian societal preference by simple virtue of sharing the same space of territory – so he has every moral right to enjoy the benefits of the democratic society of which he is legally resident and to have his also-perfectly-legal political beliefs respected by that society.

McClean’s refusal to wear the poppy was indicative of a very much valid and legitimate position. The poppy is a divisive and contentious symbol in the north of Ireland, for obvious reason, and, whilst those who wish to wear one are entirely free and welcome to do so if they so wish, there is no moral obligation upon anyone anywhere to follow suit and do likewise. Was the choice McClean made as a working resident of Britain not a mere manifestation or exercising of the supposed liberty and freedom we are so often told Allied forces fought to protect during the Second World War? Indeed, what McClean “did” was arguably as much a neutral inaction or non-expression as anything considering it was not he who was deviating from the regular week-to-week routine of wearing a poppy-less jersey.

I do also find it amusing – perhaps I would find it insulting if I was that way inclined – when staggeringly-ignorant Britons pompously instruct anglophone Gaels like McClean that they should be thankful for the supposed fact they would otherwise be speaking in the foreign tongue of German were it not for the sacrifice of Britain’s war-dead in protecting their cultural heritage and well-being; do they not realise that English is not the Gael’s native tongue either? Without wishing to sound clichéd (forgive me; sadly, gentle reminding is required from time to time), eight centuries of English political and military interference, to put it mildly, and a British crown policy of social and economic Anglicisation in Ireland helped make sure of that. (Not that a sustained and effective attempt to authentically revive Gaelic as the primary national language has ever ever been honestly employed by successive Irish governments either since southern independence, but that’s another matter…)

The fundamental problem within Britain’s annual poppy debate has nothing to do with James McClean and dissenters like him; rather, it is that there exists in certain quarters a social expectation that public figures, no matter what their background, ought to conform and wear the symbol with all its baggage. This is what Jon Snow famously referred to as “poppy fascism”, of course. McClean’s opting out did not have to be perceived as a positive act of disrespect at all. He was simply doing nothing – passively carrying on as usual – like so many millions of others around the UK who were not wearing a poppy at the same time. Were those Sunderland fans who later turned against him all wearing poppies at the time? What about those unreasonables frothing with outrage on social media? Highly unlikely!

It was Sunderland, or whoever it is within football that annually tries to force what has become an unedifying spectacle of militarised fanfare, who imposed an uneasy situation upon McClean. For McClean, wearing the politically-loaded poppy would have been disrespecting his community and spitting on the graves of those killed by the British Army in Derry and Ireland. The British Army’s record of shame during the Troubles in the north of Ireland includes the killing of innocent civilians, the internment of civilians without trial, collusion with illegal loyalist paramilitaries, military torture and a systematic intimidation of the nationalist population.

The British Army might well be fancifully thought of as unsullied and faultless heroes by a large section of football fans in England, but those fans must surely be also able to recognise that their perspective simply will not and cannot be a universally-held one. It was admirable that McClean had the guts to do what so many in the public spotlight do not round that time of the year by opting out of the circus. Furthermore, he acknowledged the opposing views and respected the right of others to hold them. Indeed, some sort of harmony might be reached if those condemning him could only reciprocate by appreciating where he comes from in return. Whilst, sadly, there is little chance of that, media outlets like the Belfast Telegraph should, in the meantime, stop leading their readers to believe that unreasonable opinions might have popular merit by indulging in their exposure and repetition under the pretence that they constitute a part of civil debate and public discourse worthy of serious consideration. James McClean should not have to keep explaining himself for the incurably ignorant.

The above piece is also published here on Daniel’s blog.

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  • MainlandUlsterman

    Playing the man again, sk, that was an unpleasant rant – I hope you feel better after that.

    You’re quite confident he doesn’t admire the IRA then? Really? That would be odd …

    And semiotics is (part of) my day job. Just worth pointing out to people who seem to think I’m too literal to understand that ‘terrorism’ has multiple meanings. That was an actual argument someone put forward, I kid you not. But I won’t get personal about it 🙂

  • james

    A little different, given the context. A football match is a public event in which the players are, often unfortunately, role models. Quite different to an office worker choosing not to wear one. I’d feel the same if he were caught on camera laughing and joking during a minute silence for example.

  • sk

    “Playing the man again, sk,”

    Really, MU? At this stage of the game?

    Tell us more about how sectarian and stupid McClean is, and how the idiot deserves everything he gets. But don’t play the man though.

    “You’re quite confident he doesn’t admire the IRA then? Really? That would be odd …”

    Correct. I don’t assume that every taig is an IRA supporter until proven otherwise. How avant garde of me.

  • I’m not a member of any party, so, sorry to disappoint, but, alas, it wasn’t a Sinn Féin propaganda piece. The reason I specifically name-checked Sinn Féin was in McClean’s defence; to make the point that he has absolutely no reason to feel ashamed of his perspective. He has been condemned as a “provo” (used in a pejorative sense) and as a “provo-lover”, as if assumed there is something inherently transgressive, suspect or controversial in supporting a democratic and constitutional party that has broadly-undisputed socio-political legitimacy and a popular mandate to represent, as recognised by widespread consensus (arising from the peace process); including the British and Irish governments, a majority of unionists and the overwhelming majority of people across the island who formally rubber-stamped Sinn Féin’s validity and right to participate in government. There’s nothing inherently or objectively wrong or unreasonable in possessing republican sympathies, as seems to be the presumption. Unfortunately, some would like to suggest that there is; they should be argued down and reminded that their neighbours are entitled to a bit of respect as well. You’ll see I also mentioned the SDLP in my attempt to convey the legitimacy and non-transgressive nature of McClean’s personal convictions with regard to celebrating Free Derry Corner.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The article was about McClean – it’s not playing the man to comment on it. Playing the man refers to making personal attacks on other Slugger posters, instead of debating the point. The point here being whether, as Daniel contends, McClean is wrongly maligned – an interesting point to argue but one I disagree with – or whether as I would contend, his behaviour has at times been deeply unsavoury.

    I don’t like commenting on people personally, even McClean, and if you read my comments generally on Slugger, you’ll see I make my comments as broad as possible to “Republicans” or “Loyalists”, for that reason; or even take the people out of it entirely and talk about ‘Republicanism’ or ‘Loyalism’ to make it clear people are not wholly defined by a dodgy ideology they may hold; they are human beings above all. But in this case, the article was about McClean’s supposed blamelessness, so in countering that mistaken position, it’s unfortunately necessary to talk about him. I’d really rather not.

    You are right in a sense though, that McClean may well hold views shared by many other Republicans, and he takes a hit because he’s a well known footballer. I don’t disagree with that. But for me, what has happened with McClean is that Republican views that some have got used to now thinking of as ‘normal’, through sheer repetition, have been exposed to a wider world that is new to those view. Many of those people are appalled – by his attitude to the war dead especially.

    Don’t underestimate how really deeply disrespectful a lot of people find his ‘stance’; and when they find out he is quite sympathetic to the IRA to boot, it suggests his supposedly principled stance is actually just old-school, nasty Brit-hating, posing as some kind of bogus voice of the oppressed. The fact he makes his money in the English Premiership makes it all the more galling.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Of course these terms are value-laden. My point is that it’s right to have a pejorative word like terrorist to describe what these people do. We do have common societal values when it comes to the use of violence – more than we may usually like to admit.

    That’s not to suggest the state can’t do bad stuff also. In some cases there has been state-sponsored terrorism also and it’s equally wrong. The existence of state violence does not make it meaningless to talk about terrorist violence: surely both terrorist violence and state violence exist? At times they resemble each other, at times they don’t. But to deny that the idea of terrorism has any meaning or relevance in Northern Ireland is absurd, surely. If you don’t call what the paramilitaries did ‘terrorist’, you’ll just need to find another word with the same meaning.

    I can’t help feeling the attempts to avoid the word ‘terrorist’ are also attempts to excuse those people to some extent for something you don’t regard as all that bad. But it is.

  • His personal decision not to wear a poppy? It shouldn’t be a remotely controversial matter, is what I’m saying. Do you think it should be?

    I haven’t answered the LVF point because, as stated, I don’t really know where to start with it; your attempt to draw a “parallel” is absurd. See:

    “Imagine an IRA supporter playing for a premiership team, talking about the murder of Protestants as part of a noble struggle and, say, refusing to wear a black armband on the death of a national figure because they were a Protestant and our IRA-supporting player had relatives who had been shot by the British Army. I’d expect him to come in for well-deserved public vitriol, despite his personal story – because you also have to look at his own extreme views. No one made him support terrorism.”

    That’s a complete misrepresentation and simply doesn’t apply to McClean. When has McClean ever spoken of believing in some noble struggle to murder Protestants? His reasons for not wearing a poppy had nothing to do with xenophobia, sectarianism or racism. Did you miss his statement or something?

  • He wasn’t caught on camera laughing and joking during a minute of silence, so no need to worry yourself about that.

    Footballers are employees with rights and responsibilities which extend as far as what is outlined in their contract. Accordingly, their personal convictions should be respected like any other worker. Whether an event is public or not is irrelevant; that doesn’t justify the imposition of a popular will upon any individual, or tyranny by a majority, in other words.

    Footballers are only “role models” to those who wish to impose some sort of imaginary status upon them, probably born out of some sort of resentment (well, that’s quite clearly the case with yourself trying to impose such status upon McClean here). This, written by Marina Hyde of the Guardian on the ridiculous uproar after Jack Grealish committed the faux-pas of having a few drinks on his holidays, is somewhat relevant: http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2015/jun/17/footballer-holiday-vegas-tenerife-aston-villa-jack-grealish

    “…

    Players who fail to adhere to these rules must have every waking minute policed. We pay your wages, as the chant goes – indeed, a hilarious amount of fans seem to think footballers literally work for them and could probably draw you a really bad crayon diagram explaining exactly how. I always imagine this type of “football lover” as only a slightly less ghastly version of Papa Lazarou in The League of Gentleman, who would kidnap women while leering: “YOU’RE MY WIFE NOW.” Whenever their club signs a new player, these guys watch the telly footage of them holding up the shirt and rasp: “YOU WORK FOR ME NOW.”

    Except they don’t. They play football for your club, at the market rate, and they’re really not morally obligated to spend their time off servicing your dim-bulb role model fantasy, 93% of which is predicated on the fact that you have unresolved issues about young working-class men getting rich. If they want to pass out in Playa de las Américas, get over it. Or go into analysis.

    …”

  • james

    There are a number of issues with what you’ve written – and at such great length, I might add.

    1. As you quite rightly point out, he wasn’t caught on camera disrespecting a minute silence. I also pointed this out as a counter-weight to my argument, so your having done so, to agree with me, albeit in a tone of baffling indignance, does seem rather a waste of time. And incidentally rather proves the point myself and a number of others made in that you have raised issues only to furiously deny their importance. Almost as if you wish to create work for yourself.

    2. I have no unresolved psychological issues with McClean being a role model. I’ve said that football is not my game – I play and follow other sports – but like it or not sportsmen are role models and ambassadors for young people. As to my own career I’m doing nicely, thank you, and wouldn’t exchange my life for anyone else’s.

    3. Without the large fanbase, and the sponsorship it attracts, football would be a kickabout in the park. In that sense, the fans do indeed ‘pay’ for the players. Their very presence is the only reason for the massive revenues footy generates.

    4. Which brings me to point 4. Journalists can either write quality stuff, or write guff just to stir up controversy. The latter no doubt requires much less skill and hard work.

    Bye bye.

  • A hypothetical parallel might be an expectation by, say, many within Irish society for a northern Protestant footballer playing in the League of Ireland to wear an Easter lily (if the lily ever became as popularly fetishised as the poppy has in Britain). If wider Irish society ever attempted to impose such on anyone, I’d be embarrassed and ashamed.

    Actually, here’s a real-life parallel, possibly; Sammy Morrow, a Protestant from Limavady played for Derry in the 2008 FAI Cup final against Bohemians. I remember this vividly because he stood out so much in doing what he did; ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ was set to commence, and as is convention/protocol in football settings when the Irish national anthem is played, both teams turned sideways to face the tricolour behind a goal down one end of the RDS. The only player not to turn – he stuck out like a sore thumb – was Sammy Morrow. Instead, he remained standing quietly facing towards the main stand. He was at odds with the 21 other players in line with him, but I completely respected his right to abstain from facing the Irish flag. No offence taken and no outrage warranted.

  • His attitude towards the war dead? Where are you getting this stuff? Have you even read his statement yet? I’ll post it here (even though I provided a link to it in my writing above) as you seem intent on ignoring it in favour of concocting an image of a rabid Prod/Brit-hater: http://www.wiganlatics.co.uk/news/article/14-11-07-statement-regarding-james-mcclean-2070059.aspx

    “Dear Mr Whelan

    I wanted to write to you before talking about this face to face and explain my reasons for not wearing a poppy on my shirt for the game at Bolton.

    I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars – many I know were Irish-born. I have been told that your own Grandfather Paddy Whelan, from Tipperary, was one of those.

    I mourn their deaths like every other decent person and if the Poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II I would wear one.

    I want to make that 100% clear .You must understand this.

    But the Poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me.

    For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and specifically those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something very different. Please understand, Mr Whelan, that when you come from Creggan like myself or the Bogside, Brandywell or the majority of places in Derry, every person still lives in the shadow of one of the darkest days in Ireland’s history – even if like me you were born nearly 20 years after the event. It is just a part of who we are, ingrained into us from birth.

    Mr Whelan, for me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles – and Bloody Sunday especially – as I have in the past been accused of disrespecting the victims of WWI and WWII.

    It would be seen as an act of disrespect to those people; to my people.

    I am not a war monger, or anti-British, or a terrorist or any of the accusations levelled at me in the past. I am a peaceful guy, I believe everyone should live side by side, whatever their religious or political beliefs which I respect and ask for people to respect mine in return. Since last year, I am a father and I want my daughter to grow up in a peaceful world, like any parent.

    I am very proud of where I come from and I just cannot do something that I believe is wrong. In life, if you’re a man you should stand up for what you believe in.

    I know you may not agree with my feelings but I hope very much that you understand my reasons.

    As the owner of the club I am proud to play for, I believe I owe both you and the club’s supporters this explanation.

    Yours sincerely,

    James McClean”

    You are aware James won the popular vote for Wigan’s “player of the year” last season, right?

  • There’s usually an agenda or double standard behind the use of the word “terrorism”, but if you wish to apply your standards consistently and call like “like” and not something else, that’s fine.

    I don’t think I did deny the relevance of political violence to the British/Irish context; I simply said I often look upon with heavy scepticism utilisation of the term “terrorist” as it is invariably served warm with political motive.

  • What’s your gripe with length?

    Are you saying that perceived undue hyperbole, exaggeration and manipulation must be necessarily beyond critique by those with a lowly opinion of it simply because they believe it might be unwarranted? Of course it should be up for criticism. It affects and influences popular thought. It’s only right to expose intolerance and call out the indulgence of it.

  • Carl Mark

    Oh dear, so all Irish republicans are supporters of terrorism !
    You do love your offensive stereotypes don’t you,
    Now perhaps you could point out McLean’s extremist sectarian views, some quotes where he make disparaging remarks about Protestants (see what I done there I linked religion to sectarianism, sort of fits better than politics) some quotes or links if you please.

  • Carl Mark

    again some proof please!

  • Carl Mark

    Playing the man again, sk, you have a cheek after this,

    “extremist sectarian views”

    “not the sharpest tool in the box”

    “IRA supporter”
    very good, truly Olympic standard hypocrisy.

  • Carl Mark

    yep, grown ups do things like that.
    Perhaps you could show a similar compromise from unionists to show us how big they are.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    see earlier reply to SK – I’m absolutely playing McClean the man because his reputation is the subject of the article we’re commenting on. All the comments do, by necessity. Playing the man on Slugger though refers to making personal insults against other posters rather than addressing the point. If you read the Slugger rules, you’ll see you’re not supposed to do it.

  • sk

    He refused to wear the poppy (family members murdered by the organisation it commemorates) and he likes a song about the war of independence. He’s also a nordie who plays for the Republic.

    From that, you infer that he is a terrorist supporting scumbag with a below average IQ, every bit as bad as your common or garden LVF supporter. Maybe you should step back and re-evalute this one, because I think it’s quite plain that your attitude towards this man says more about your own prejudices than it does about his.

    He has done nothing to warrant the vitriol you direct at him. When your vitriol is refuted with fact, you respond with yet more vitriol. It’s not looking good pal.

  • sk

    And this chap would classify himself as some kind of intellectual; I know this because he’s constantly telling us.

    Honestly, July is to unionists what a full moon is to werewolves.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It’s not quite as rosy for McClean as you portray. He chose to commemorate the Irish Republican dead in terrorist campaigns (pictured wearing a Republican lily badge in 2014 on his tracksuit – and not even at Easter either) and he apparently sees no problem with that; but asks us to believe he is motivated by the desire to avoid, in his words, “a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles”. Reminder, Republicans killed 2,000 people in the Troubles, including the bulk of the murders overall both before and after Bloody Sunday. The security forces around a sixth of that.

    If you’re anti-war and generally pacifist by conscience, fine. McClean claims to be – but his Easter lily and his naming of an IRA song as his “favourite song” suggests otherwise. He’ll commemorate the dead of conflicts OK – but only Irish Republicans, not their victims. That is not an admirable stance of a principled person, that is rank hypocrisy.

    It’s worse still, because in his butter-wouldn’t-melt statement, he’s actually trying to con people in England not used to Irish Republican MOPE worldview. All it takes is a mention of Bloody Sunday, his advisors presumably surmise, and people will cut him slack. The problem is, the Troubles as a whole was the equivalent of over 200 Bloody Sundays, the vast majority of those murders carried out by McClean’s favoured Republican Movement. Republicans murdered over 1,000 soldiers in the Troubles – and yet this guy is happy to wear a symbol that honours IRA dead, while regarding the remembrance of British soldiers as “disrespectful”.

    Then there was his bizarre tirade in November 2013 against the Belfast Telegraph, in which he called the whole paper “toilet roll” and a “bitter sectarian paper”. I know who I think has the better cross-community ethos between the Bele Tele and James McClean. Clearly this is a man who regards views outside the Republican orthodoxy as intolerable. It doesn’t seem the same person who claims, “I am a peaceful guy, I believe everyone should live side by side, whatever their religious or political beliefs.” And you regard the Belfast Telegraph as beyond the Pale of sectarianism?

    Before that in May 2012, he called any Catholic player who said they felt part of the NI squad “a liar”. This is in a Northern Ireland set-up that has bent over backwards to appeal to all sections of society, has a Catholic manager and a proud history of heavy representation of Catholic players in the team and whose fans revere Catholic and Protestant players alike. It’s fine not to warm to the union flag or the anthem (and I would like an NI-specific, cross-community song myself and even a new NI flag) – but to tell a journalist as he did in 2012 how awful he found it, as if these were an offence to him, shows McClean as intolerant and narrow-minded.

    His branding of the atmosphere at matches as ‘sectarian’ (his word) is also just inaccurate, as well as being needlessly insulting to decent fans. It also shows ignorance of the work of fan groups (recognised by a major UEFA supporters award) in stamping out the small minority of trouble-makers who causes problems in the early 2000s. It’s still not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Irish Republican like McClean – if you hate N Ireland flags, innocent though they nearly all are, you’ll be put off. That’s not great, but fine, don’t take part then. But to lazily slander the fantastic home support for Northern Ireland as ‘sectarian’ in the way he did is really low.

    He has a right to partisan views and to not wear the poppy, of course he does. And people have a right to point out his hypocrisy, sectarianism and petty-mindedness.

    Also it would be interesting to know who actually wrote that statement for him. Republican omertà will prevent that coming out I’m sure, but from reading his tweets I’m guessing it wasn’t McClean himself 🙂 Oh and is it really so awful or shocking to point out a footballer might not be that clever? Brains aren’t everything anyway, character is much more important. But with McClean, he seems a bit short on that too.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    That’s good that Morrow was able to do that and I appreciate your words there. Despite what I’m saying about McClean, I’m not actually a “poppy fascist” and I do believe in freedom of choice on these things, where people have sincere objections. It’s just in his case (as with the whole Irish Republican anti-poppy stance), there’s a galling disingenuousness about his protest. Opting out of the remembering of people who died serving in their country’s armed forces, when you support their murderers, but claiming its due to your acute sense of right and wrong … while plying your trade in their country, among their friends and relatives … pretty galling.

    Republicans want to define the Army’s contribution in terms of its mistakes; and Bloody Sunday was one of many. But the big picture is, the Army sacrificed way more of their own lives across the whole Troubles than Republicans did, saved many, many more lives and took many, many fewer. It was principally there to protect the public from paramilitaries, people McClean chooses to honour, and they got bullets and bombs for daring to stand up to them. Over a thousand lost their lives, many more were wounded, maimed and traumatised for life. So wear that badge with pride, James, wear it with pride.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    and you still didn’t actually answer the LVF point …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The agenda is support for the rule of law. It is OK to use pejorative words about crime, whether by paramilitaries or anyone else, including state actors.

    Terrorism is a distinctive area of activity with its own characteristics, so remains a useful term. There are some instances where it’s unclear whether a force is terrorist or a military force – Islamic State for example – but really there’s little ambiguity with the Provos or Loyalist paramilitaries, it’s classic terrorism.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    he called all Belfast Telegraph journalists ‘bigots’, labelled NI fans ‘sectarian’, Catholics players who say they like playing for NI ‘liars’ , his favourite song is an IRA song and he wears a badge commemorating the Republican dead but he refuses to wear a shirt with a print of a poppy on it because it would be ‘disrespectful’ … yes he’s done nothing to warrant the vitriol ..

  • MainlandUlsterman

    see above

  • MainlandUlsterman

    playing the man repeatedly, SK

  • But the Troubles were grounded in the very idea for nearly half the population of the territory that the rule of law was either invalid or untrustworthy. So to simply dismiss the aim’s of one side as “classic terrorist” or “criminal” is convenient and simplistic. No organisation sets itself out to or inflict terror for the sake of inflicting terror. Most, if not all the major atrocities in human history were carried out by ordinary people who believed that they were good, that they were innocent victims – possibly even that they had God on their side – and that their enemies were the ones inflicting suffering and harm upon them

    As far as you’re concerned, what are the distinctive characteristics that necessarily separate state military violence from “terrorism”? Seeing as you’re so keen to bring the term into use, would you define the US government as a terrorist force, for example?

  • I didn’t see its relevance, but I’ll try if you really insist.

    I wouldn’t think too highly of someone “talking about the murder of Catholics as part of a noble struggle”, but then, James McClean has done nothing of the sort in relation to Protestants or any other group of people, so I don’t accept the reference in this context.

    On this imagined player “refusing to wear a black armband on the death of a national figure because they were an Irish Catholic and our LVF-supporting player had relatives who had been shot by the IRA”, whilst that would be rather unsavoury in its explicit sectarianism, I’d respect his right to do so (as a general rule, I’m against foisting against their will anything upon anyone who is not causing real harm to another person), but then a pretty neutral black arm-band doesn’t possess the same connotations that a poppy does.

    Nor do I see the connection between this national figure being an Irish Catholic and the player having had a relative shot by the IRA; there’d be no reason for the player to hold Irish Catholics liable for the actions of the IRA. I hope that’s not a subtle indication into your own underlying mindset there!

    Nor did McClean abstain due to some animosity towards a specific religious or ethnic group of people, so the alleged mirror or parallel doesn’t quite make sense or hold up. Your scenario is a very cartoonish portrayal.

  • Carl Mark

    so no evidence then, now that is man playing!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The analogy isn’t exact of course, but close. So you’re recognising it is an explicitly sectarian act, so we’re in the same place there. I also agree he has a legal right to do so but morally we don’t have to respect him for exercising it.

    The analogy was that McClean had a relative who was killed due to rogue Army action, so has generalised from that an attitude of refusing to honour fallen servicemen and women more broadly. In my example, the Protestant equivalent player made a similar sweeping generalisation from one IRA murder of a relative to a broader antipathy to those he (wrongly) considered part of the bigger machine behind it. They are not exactly the same of course but it’s close enough.

    The key is, player with blinkered views about his own community’s unique suffering refuses to take part in a largely apolitical commemoration, because what happened to him has made him unfairly resent a whole body of people not involved in that incident.

    McClean may claim a lack of animosity towards Protestants, but he has a funny way of showing it. He calls people ‘sectarian’ for being Northern Ireland supporters and ‘bigots’ for writing for the Belfast Telegraph. When referred to glowingly as a fellow Northern Irish lad by Colin Murray on MOTD he charmingly tweeted “Colin Murray get it right will you its (sic) Irish”. It’s fine to correct Murray, it’s McClean’s call what he wants to call himself. But it’s the rude, brusque way he treats a genuinely friendly comment that makes me think this guy doesn’t like Protestants very much. He’s also spoken in May 2012 about how awful he found the Northern Ireland home support (anything to do with many of them being Protestants, I wonder? No I’m sure it’s because they are all bigots for supporting Northern Ireland).

  • Carl Mark

    and I have repeatedly asked you to prove your claims and you have not offered one shred of proof!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Feb 2013 – tweets naming IRA-glorifying ditty “The Broad Black Brimmer” as his favourite song. Banned from twitter by Sunderland.
    Jan 2014 – pictured wearing Republican Easter lily badge on his tracksuit, commemorating IRA dead.

    Then there’s the other stuff that goes along with those kind of revolting attitudes – just casually awful narrow-minded stuff:
    May 2012 – in an interview, says if any Catholic said they felt part of the NI squad, they are “a liar”. Portrays Northern Ireland fans as sectarian.
    2012 – taunts Northern Ireland fans on twitter over the Republic’s qualification for Euro 2012.
    Nov 2013 – describes the Belfast Telegraph in a tweet: ‘belfast telegraph is nothing but a bitter sectarian (sic) paper you expect anything less by now.’
    Further tweeted about Bele Tele: `why would you even waste your time reading that toilet roll journalists are bitter bigots at it’.
    April 2015 – complains about Sunderland ‘hanging him out to dry’ over not wearing a poppy: “Pre-game, the press officer went out and issued a statement saying that I wouldn’t be wearing a poppy, that it was my own decision and that, as a club, they fully supported the poppy appeal.” This
    apparently anodyne statement outraged McClean, who seemed not to grasp why the club would not sympathise with his stance and prefer to favour the poppy appeal.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    see post of a minute ago

  • Carl Mark

    A Easter lily badge and that makes him a terrorist supporter that it, thats your proof!
    come on grow up.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    … and the IRA song was a bit of a give away. Come on, what are you pretending here, that’s he’s Naomi Long?
    The badge is an overtly Irish Republican badge. The difference between Irish Republicans and Irish nationalists is the belief in the use of armed force. If he’s just a nationalist, I have no problem. Republican, or UVF supporter for that matter: big, big, big problem.

  • Carl Mark

    says the man who believes that those murdered by the state and its agents were necessary deaths in the greater struggle!

  • Carl Mark

    so am I right in thinking the song was related to the Easter rising or the war of independence.
    So Irish Republicans are terrorist supporters if they wear a Easter Lily or sing a song about the events that led to the forming of the Irish Republic.
    bit of a leap in logic there.
    So according to you we are all terrorist supporters, by the way I am a Irish republican and not a believer in violence, again I say ,You go stereotype boy!

  • Carl Mark

    OK got your proof, wore a Easter lily and sings a song, all those UVF bands at the twelfth and those who go to listen to them or hire them to play are they all terrorist supporters as well, how do you feel about them wearing the poppy, is that not a insult to the British forces have the emblem worn by terrorists!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes it is

  • Carl Mark

    The Broad black Brimmer a song about the war of independence, (in the same league as the famine song do you think) and since he didn’t like the press statement that is proof positive that he is a supporter of terrorism.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    what is Irish Republicanism though without the violence? Good old-fashioned Irish nationalism, surely?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I haven’t justified any murders. Careful about throwing around those kinds of accusations.

  • Carl Mark

    And are all those who play in, follow, or hire UVF/UDA bands terrorist supporters, noticed you didn’t answer that one, wonder why?
    the only problem is that if you apply the same rules across the board then a lot of OO members and unionists ARE BY YOUR DIFINITION “SUPPORTERS OF TERRORISM.

  • Carl Mark

    Sorry Nationalist and a republican are similar but have differences, Nationalism in Ireland would be more catholic more insular.
    But I admire your attempt to control the language in the debate.
    I refute completely that to be a republican I must support violence.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes the UVF / UDA band hirers and supporters are supporters of terrorism. I mean it when I say we should have zero tolerance to this stuff.

    There may well be plenty on the loyalist side who fall foul of that. So be it. I’d think it’s a relatively small proportion of unionists overall though – certainly, there is a very small unionist vote for paramilitary-based parties.

  • Carl Mark

    Did we not have a chat where you said that the killing carried by the government and its agents were necessary in the fight against the IRA.
    that sounds very like condoning murder to me.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Here’s a test: would he condemn outright, do you think, the IRA’s “Armed Struggle”? I wonder does he do this after the first verse of an IRA song or the chorus?

  • Carl Mark

    But all the Unionist parties must be supporters of terrorism as they stand behind the Pride of Ardoyne band (which wears proudly the names of dead terrorist on their uninforms) to march past the houses of the victims of loyalists.
    So it would appear that while unionists may not vote for terror groups they vote in great numbers for those that support them.

  • Carl Mark

    I don’t know why don’t you ask him! instead of jumping to wild conclusions.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    ‘Murder’ by definition is a killing carried out outside the legal bounds of the reasonable use of force. Any murders by security force personnel would obviously be wrong – and some did happen. So it’s fairly straightforward to be four-square against those. Where you’re getting confused is that you may regard all taking of life by the security forces as murder, which legally and morally isn’t correct and wasn’t what happened. So I’m not condemning every instance of the security forces taking life – sometimes it was justified, for example in self-defence or when intercepting terrorists who posed an immediate threat to life.

    But I would agree with you that more members of the security forces who did cross the line badly should have been prosecuted. And a LOT more terrorists. Pretty much every killing they committed did was murder.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    if only he could talk …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    not violence now, as the Republican Movement has decided against it for the time being; but the test is, do you outright condemn the IRA or not?

    On the unionist side for example, I outright condemn loyalist paramilitaries, so call myself a unionist rather than a loyalist (to avoid other people confusing that and to distance myself from loyalist paramilitaries, who appall me). If SDLP supporters of Troubles days are now to be termed Republicans, the terminology is going to get very confused. But look, if you want to call yourself an anti-violence Republican, that’s fine. It would be great if all Republicans were like that.

  • sk

    “But it’s the rude, brusque way he treats a genuinely friendly comment that makes me think this guy doesn’t like Protestants very much”

    Jesus wept. I was brusque with a friendly bus driver earlier this week because he was late showing up. Clearly I don’t like Protestants very much.

    He corrected Colin Murray about his nationality, he therefore hates Protestants. He was critical of a newspaper, he therefore hates Protestants. He doesn’t want to commemorate the army that murdered- I say again, murdered- his relative. Clearly hates Protestants.

    This is really ugly, but I think it boils down to the poppy thing. He’s insufficiently subservient for your liking.

    Very bitter.

  • Carl Mark

    well I condemn the IRA outright, I also condemn the Unionist parties out rightly, for 50 years of organised discrimmation, for violently opposing attempts at peaceful change and for regular supporting loyalist killers and forming terror groups when it suited them.
    Do I pass your test and would you pass mine?
    and while unionists stand beside terrorists (not a new occurance ) I think your claimed difference between them and loyalists is not really a difference at all.
    wouldn’t it be great if unionists stood up to loyalists, and wouldn’t it also be great if the rest of the world accepted your claims of unionist innocence, but they don’t.

  • Carl Mark

    Oh he can and if you asked him in company they would all laugh at the idea of someone stopping halfway through a song to make a disclaimer.
    Tell me when you sin g god save the queen, during the more militaristic verses do you stop singing and make a statement distancing yourself from them.
    for gods sake wise up.

  • Carl Mark

    I must say I believe your claim that your day job involves the meaning of words as your skill in trying to explain (both now and in other posts) away both unionist and state misdeeds is quite obvious, but you can call a murder what you want it is still a murder (just one you approve of)

  • Carl Mark

    Does NI, Scotland and Wales not have governments of their own?

  • Carl Mark

    My Father volunteered and fought in WW2 (while the OO stopped marching in case the English noticed how many fit young men were not going to war) got wounded, came home and was discriminated against by war dodgers.
    He never wore a poppy was he being obnoxious?

  • james

    I’d say he had earned the right to do as he pleased in that regard. It was not uncommon for men who had been through it and, no doubt suffered terrible things, not to wear a poppy. We, the majority who didn’t have to fight in those wars owe an unpayable debt to the generation that did. Wearing a poppy is a symbol of our respect for what they endured on our behalf. I believe that a public figure and a role model for children choosing not to wear one – against the conventions of his sport – is disrespectful. I feel I’ve been fairly clear on this.

  • Carl Mark

    Yep and he had the poppy police on his case every year, people who sat at home during the war would question his loyalty every year.
    Not a lot changed, we still have the poppy police pretending loyalty while saying nothing about the fact that terrorists are shaming the poppy every day, but a young man politely refuses to wear one and next thing you know a smear campaign starts.
    Paisley was a classic example,dispite being of a age to fight (or if his principals didn’t allow fighting a medic maybe) but stayed out of uniform , never stopped him wearing a poppy as big as a saucer, and giving off about other people’s loyalty.
    My point is anybody can decide to wear a poppy and when I hear unionists tackling it misuse by loyalists then I might begin to take their views on something like the issue in hand as more than just sectarian point scoring.

  • Carl Mark

    Firstly I would ask the Rugby players if they share your opinions before using them for a bit of whataboutry!
    and it should be noted that more than a few Irish people think the Soldiers Song is not a appropriate Anthem for a modern Ireland,

  • Carl Mark

    yep, he will be a millionaire by now and I somehow don’t think he will be signing on the social security when he packs in footie.
    But Barnshee loves his offensive stereotypes, alas they are very rarely if ever based on any actual facts or indeed in reality!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    they are devolved, not autonomous

  • MainlandUlsterman

    if you regard the IRA and UUP as moral equivalents, I agree that does make you a Republican! That’s one of the mistakes that characterises the Republican outlook.

  • Carl Mark

    But of course, in your world(and very few other peoples) the years of unionist misrule, discrimmation, and violence when change was demanded, either did not exist or is irrelevant.
    But we have had this discussion many times and I think you are throwing it up now because you have dug a very deep hole and would prefer to change the subject.
    Now you accused McLean of being a terrorist sympathiser because he wore a Easter Lily and liked the broad black Brimmer,
    then you got all righteous and give out the oul “Unionists don’t vote for terrorists” line.
    I pointed out that bands hired by the OO and supported by the main Unionist patties not only wear terrorist uniforms but play sectarian and terrorist tunes, ergo those who support those bands (if your logic re McLean, applies to unionists as well as nationalists) then those people are as guilty of being terrorist supporters as the footballer.
    This means (by your own logic) that all three main unionist parties are terrorist supporters.
    Would you like me to post pictures here of the many Unionist leaders (past and present) sharing platforms with terror group leaders, wearing red berets, standing with bands linked to terror groups, attending UVF organised parades?
    Surely all those thing are more terroristy (made that word up, since your day job is the meaning of words let me know what you think of it)than wearing a Easter lily and liking a song.
    I eagerly await your reply

  • MainlandUlsterman

    same old, same old, CM. If you’re still in denial about his IRA sympathies, and determined to ignore my condemnation of Loyalists who do the same thing, we’re not going to get very far. Likewise the line about all unionists being terror supporters doesn’t become any more true no matter how many times you repeat it.

    You seem to want to say that everyone who has a go at terrorist sympathisers is a hypocrite. Could it just be possible that quite a lot of people, call them weird, genuinely hate terrorism and don’t buy any of the excuses for it?

    What have you got to say to the average unionist who just wanted both Republican and Loyalist terror to stop? You seem to deny these people exist. Yet almost everyone I grew up with falls into that category.

    Being a unionist these days does not mean you support the malpractices of the old Unionist Party pre-1972. Trying to portray ordinary unionists as necessarily on a moral level with the IRA and UVF is pretty insulting, and just not factually correct. Most unionists are appalled at paramilitary Loyalism and want nothing to do with it. You can’t just pretend they’re all terror sympathisers on the basis of what some dodgy DUP politicians have indulged in. Very few of the people who vote even for the DUP, I would suggest, look kindly on those instances of DUP politicos being friendly with paramilitary figures. UUP voters, even less so.

    When I talk about Republicans, I’m talking about people who vote for the openly IRA-supporting Sinn Fein. Not just openly supporting it, but part of the same organisation and whose leaders are former IRA men. Awful though some in the DUP are, there is just no comparison when it comes to terrorism with The Republican Movement. It is absurd to suggest otherwise.

  • Carl Mark

    Five paragraphs of avoiding the question,
    Actually five paragraphs on not a lot really.
    Please stop trying to divert attention from the question,
    If McLean is a terrorist supporter for wearing a Easter Lily, what Does Clontribret, Drumcree, Ulster Resistance, supporting terror linked bands, pacts with terror groups representatives say of the politicians involved in them.
    Or if you don’t feel able to answer you could just withdraw your nasty remarks about a young man.
    But please no more attempts to change the subject.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Congratulations on filibustering your way out of that conversation. I think we’ve said our pieces by this stage. Pointless continuing and really wearying to read stuff that just ignores my points. If we were properly interacting I might continue, but it’s just the repeating of already-answered points at this stage. We don’t agree, let’s move on.

  • I’ve been occupied with other things this past week so apologies for the late reply as only getting a bit of an opportunity to return to this properly now.

    You’re assuming by virtue of his Easter lily remembrance that he is further advocating violence and killing. I don’t think that’s a reasonable jump to make. You don’t know what the Easter lily means personally to McClean.

    ‘The Broad Black Brimmer’ is a popular folk song referring back to the 1920s. Of course, it is not to everyone’s tastes, but it does not necessarily indicate any particular stance on the use of violence in a modern or contemporary Irish context. It’s a piece of music; not a literal exhibition of James McClean’s political convictions.

    As he stated, he is happy to remember or commemorate the sacrifice of those killed during war. Presumably, he’d just rather do it privately than through the display of a symbol with which he does not feel all that comfortable or to which he does not feel all that culturally accustomed. He never ever suggested that he found the specific remembrance of those killed at war disrespectful. His issue was with the symbolism used in the fanfare and what the fetishised poppy represents to him.

    It takes two to tango; the Belfast Telegraph referred to McClean as a “turncoat” in a since-amended headline, so no surprise McClean sensed a bitter bias against him on account of his cultural preferences. Why you think he “regards views outside the Republican orthodoxy as intolerable”, I’m not sure. You’ve not provided any evidence to justify such a statement.

    With regard to Catholic-background players playing for NI, McClean has his own experience (pre-Michael O’Neill, who seems to have helped big time image-wise) and knowledge of the experience of close friends and former club team-mates of his to substantiate his position. This might be of interest to you: http://irs.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/10/07/1012690210380584

    It features interviews with Eugene Ferry, Niall McGinn, Paddy McCourt, Shane McEleney and Michael Gault. Ferry and McEleney spoke of alienation and treatment experienced as players from the Catholic community. I included some of the quotes in a post here: http://foot.ie/threads/147164-Eligibility-Rules-Okay?p=1619124&viewfull=1#post1619124

    Many players share(d) McClean’s discomfort with the symbolism, as you can read for yourself. Well, watching players like McGinn and Chris Baird near-squat during the anthem is evidence in itself: http://i437.photobucket.com/albums/qq94/bhamilton82/gstq.jpg

    Intolerant and narrow-minded that someone from a Catholic/nationalist/republican background might not warm to ‘GSTQ’ and the Union flag? C’mon, it wasn’t dubbed the “butcher’s apron” as a joke. Likewise, the “Northern Ireland flag” or Ulster Banner was the flag of what many knew as a “unionist junta” between 1953 and 1972 and has come to be associated with extreme and militant loyalism, so you can see why a nationalist might not feel comfortable playing under it. McClean opted not to partake, as you advise, and he was absolutely loathed for it; a lad from a Catholic-background having the audacity to go his own way. How dare he!

    Anyway, is that how it is for NI fans like yourself with regard to Catholic-background players representing NI; like it or clear off? Rather intransigent in spite of all the promising talk and a bit of a cop-out if the talk is supposed to be believable… Gerry Armstrong’s findings on a potential anthem change suggested similar: http://www.nifootballdaily.com/Blog/a-new-stadium-but-a-sporting-anthem-too-far/6795

    Armstrong noted:

    “Predictably, there’s one view that thinks the move could bring a few more Catholics back to international matches at Windsor Park. But on the other hand it has become clear there would be a significant number of dissenters among the fans who have supported us through thick and thin.

    The research I’ve done points to a conclusion I had foreseen all along – there is no point, no benefit, when it comes to bridging the yawning gap in society here.”

    There’s cross-communal leadership for you… Utter cowardice.

    Where and when did McClean brand the atmosphere and decent fans as “sectarian”?

    Whether he sat down and actually penned the entire poppy-related statement itself is inconsequential. Maybe he did; maybe he didn’t. Either way, he put his name to it. It’s not some republican conspiracy protected by omertà, good lord.

    And “monkey boy” is not as “thick” as many bitter NI fans like to make out; he’s a very disciplined athlete who doesn’t drink and who has gotten where he has through hard work and determination. He also knows who he is, possesses a refreshing cultural awareness and isn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd. Your own means of measuring the intelligence of people you’ve never even met may be exceptionally limited in scope, but all of the above is indicative of something going on upstairs.

  • McClean has never stated anywhere that he supports murderers or anyone’s murder.

    And don’t be so naïve; the British Army was there to protect British interests in Ireland – as demonstrated by its flagrant and hypocritical disregard for the law of the land under which it supposedly operated – and served to stimulate support for a militant republican response.

  • I’m recognising that the intent behind your example’s stance is sectarian because you’ve clearly outlined it to be so; he refused to wear an armband for the specific reason that it was in memory of an Irish Catholic. It doesn’t mean I agree that McClean’s stance is remotely sectarian. As I’ve made clear, I don’t feel your analogy is appropriate. It’s a wild misrepresentation.

    On the idea that Bloody Sunday was a consequence of a few bad apples or “rogue” British Army action, I’m afraid the evidence doesn’t really suggest so. Eamon McCann, an undisputed expert on Bloody Sunday if anyone is, considering he was a witness and attended the hearings daily, offered a tremendous analysis in July of 2010 of the second attempt of Saville to insulate those higher up the chain of command after Widgery first attempted it back in the ’70s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x83lt5zDRbg

    McClean didn’t exactly refuse to honour specific servicemen and women. He opted out of wearing a poppy and of participating in a militarised spectacle because of what it symbolised for him. There’s a crucial distinction you’re either innocently missing or intentionally overlooking so as to tarnish McClean’s reputation. He wasn’t making any sweeping generalisation based on one incident or some personal whim. The British Army’s record in Ireland is not a glowing one and lots of people – unrelated to Bloody Sunday victims – completely agree with McClean’s position as the poppy represents similar for them. Your analogy is way off as the poppy is explicitly related to the British Army and its actions. In your example, the player bizarrely possesses animosity for all Irish Catholics because he had a relative killed by the IRA; that’s not a mirror image of McClean’s stance, position or circumstances at all.

    I don’t really understand why you want to bring in a silly made-up analogy anyway. Can’t we just talk about McClean; real life?

    You talk of McClean being “blinkered” but then state, without any hint of irony, that the poppy remembrance is a “largely apolitical commemoration”. You can’t be serious. The militarised and politically-charged fanfare and social expectation to participate falls somewhere between nauseating and disconcerting.

    Who are you claiming McClean “unfairly resents” exactly? Protestants? Members of the British Army? I’m afraid you’re the one jumping to unfair conclusions here.

    Why wouldn’t McClean have corrected Colin Murray on his careless error? It had nothing to do with Murray’s religion, nor do I understand why you would assume it is indicative of McClean having something against Protestants. Murray should know better than to throw around such loaded labels so casually when he’s from the north himself. Can we even discount with certainty that Murray wasn’t having a cheeky dig or on the wind-up considering he knew rightly McClean’s background? It’s no wonder McClean didn’t think much of it. And then we have this sort of customary crap from the Belfast Telegraph: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sport/football/international/colin-murray-get-it-right-james-mcclean-reveals-why-he-snubbed-northern-ireland-28713401.html

    Maybe I’m being over-sensitive, but it just reads like the author is on a wind-up too.

    What did McClean say exactly in relation to “how he awful he found Northern Ireland fans”?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You did describe him as an Irish republican though. Are we in such an Orwellian place now with republicanism that it now denies its attachment to the “Armed Struggle”?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The Saville Inquiry didn’t look at the whole Troubles of course but did find the following as regards the Bloody Sunday killings, Volume 1, Chapter 4. Worth a read before concluding Bloody Sunday was somehow typical of the Army, or part of a conspiracy from on high against the Catholic population:
    “4.2 During the course of the Inquiry, allegations were made by some of those representing the families of those who died on Bloody Sunday and those wounded, that the politicians in both the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Governments, as well as the military authorities, had planned not simply to stop the civil rights march and to mount an arrest operation against rioters as set out in the orders for Operation Forecast (the operation to contain the march and deal with any rioting), but rather to use 1 PARA for the purpose of carrying out some action, which they knew would involve the deliberate use of unwarranted lethal force or which they sanctioned with reckless disregard as to whether such force was used. On this basis it was submitted that the civil and military authorities bore responsibility for the deaths and injuries on Bloody Sunday.
    “4.3 These allegations were based on one of two propositions, either that what happened on Bloody Sunday was intended and planned by the authorities, or that it was foreseen by the authorities as likely to happen. We are of the view that neither of these propositions can be sustained.
    “4.4 In order to consider these allegations we looked in detail at what the authorities were planning and doing in the weeks and months preceding Bloody Sunday; as well as what happened on Bloody Sunday before soldiers were sent into the Bogside. We found no evidence to substantiate these allegations. So far as the United Kingdom Government was concerned, what the evidence did establish was that in the months before Bloody Sunday, genuine and serious attempts were being made at the highest level to work towards a peaceful political settlement in Northern Ireland. Any action involving the use or likely use of unwarranted lethal force against nationalists on the occasion of the march (or otherwise) would have been entirely counterproductive to the plans for a peaceful settlement; and was neither contemplated nor foreseen by the United Kingdom Government. So far as the Northern Ireland Government was concerned, although it had been pressing the United Kingdom Government and the Army to step up their efforts to counter republican paramilitaries and to deal with banned marches, we found no evidence that suggested to us that it advocated the use of unwarranted lethal force or was indifferent to its use on the occasion of the march.
    “4.5 It was also submitted that in dealing with the security situation in Northern Ireland generally, the authorities (the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Governments and the Army) tolerated if not encouraged the use of unjustified lethal force; and that this was the cause or a contributory cause of what happened on Bloody Sunday. We found no evidence of such toleration or encouragement.”

    I think by the end of the inquiry, Lord Saville was better informed on Bloody Sunday and a better and fairer judge than even the omniscient Eamonn McCann 😉

  • Historically-speaking, why do think that has been?

    When your community or class has been in political dominance and the “rule of law” has propped up and helped sustain that dominance, built upon the subjugation of “culturally-inferior” others, why would you ever have needed to bother yourself worrying about engaging in armed insurrection to try and force change of the status quo? Unionists have always enjoyed a position of privilege; it’s easy to condemn consequential unrest from such a vantage point. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that nationalist support for parties favouring continued armed struggle has subsided as northern society/unionism has grown more accommodating of nationalism and the concerns of nationalists.

  • Irish republicans need not be militant in their convictions, nor is there a single republican orthodoxy. Sympathy or support for armed struggle in the past doesn’t quite equate to advocating murder either, if indeed McClean does sympathise with past armed struggle.

  • Saville was a member of the British establishment under scrutiny, of course. Not necessarily saying he was inherently compromised or that this would automatically render him guilty of having an agenda, but worth remembering before putting complete faith in absolutely all his findings.

    Anyhow, McCann challenges the above position with evidence-based arguments in the 2010 speech.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Republicanism without the armed force is just constitutional nationalism though, isn’t it?

    You say “sympathy or support for armed struggle in the past doesn’t quite equate to advocating murder”. But Republicans did commit rather a lot of murders in the “armed struggle”, no? Hard to see how you can sympathise with it without sympathising with the murder part of it. Though I’m sure the sympathisers like to tell themselves it somehow wasn’t murder (those Brits were asking for it after all).

  • Irish republicanism amounts to a political belief in an independent island-wide Irish republic. It doesn’t have to be militant and is entirely civic/secular in nature.

    Irish nationalism is an assertion that there is an Irish nation. There is a cultural element there. Indeed, you might even find Irish nationalists content with the present constitutional arrangement. It may or may not possess an ethnic/Gaelic flavour, although I don’t think this necessarily has to be so.

  • This, without any mention of armed struggle, seems a pretty fair summary of the difference between Irish republicanism and Irish nationalism: https://theirishrepublic.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/republicanism-versus-nationalisms-1/

    Armed struggle is not integral to the republican ideal; it is simply a method to an end that many decided to employ in the past and is one that some still continue to employ in the present. Even though it has been or is used in practice, it is not a theoretical necessity, nor would a preference for some militant form of Irish nationalism (if there was to be such a thing) necessarily make one an Irish republican.

    And I don’t think sympathising with armed struggle necessarily equates to sympathising with murder either. There are those even who were engaged in the armed struggle of the IRA who will acknowledge that their military campaign was not without fault, both practically and morally.

  • And who set or defined the purported “legal bounds of the reasonable use of force”? It always helps having the arm of the law on your side, although the state indeed broke that too. Of course, the UK’s rule of law in the north, enforced through violence and the threat of such, was fundamentally disputed, so it would naturally flow from this that so too were the terms employed by the state to frame those parties in conflict considered in the right (the state and its agents) and those others considered to be transgressing (armed opponents or paramilitaries).

    Words like “terrorism” (objectionable political violence in contrast to approved political violence) and “murder” (objectionable killing in contrast to approved killing) are legally, politically and morally-loaded in this context and in the partial sense you wish to employ them; “The things that they do that we don’t like are illegal because we say they’re illegal.” That sort of mono-dimensional self-fulfilling idea doesn’t really get us very far in terms of comprehending root causes of complex communal movements declared illegal or transgressive by officialdom and so, in turn, doesn’t get us very far in getting to grips with how to move on from conflict.

    Rather than illuminating our vision of the facts or ultimate truth, such lingual framing clouds or blinds our understanding of the conditions that provoked such conflict through crude simplification as it attempts to impose or enforce one particular subjective value system over another, as if it were inherently or objectively more valid, and serves to divide the respective parties in conflict into black and white, right and wrong or good and bad. I’m not sure partial moralising and pontification gets us very far besides provoking further enmity. No communal conflict is ever that simple – and no-one (bar the sociopathic perhaps) engages in it simply for the sake of conflict – so for that reason, I try to avoid language with loaded connotations as much as I possibly can when discussing such disputed or contested matters. I like to think I apply that principle to all sides and it’s certainly not to say that a critical eye cannot be cast on perceived misdemeanours and transgrassions; just to say that standards ought to be applied impartially.

    However, if one party breaches its own self-declared moral standard, code of conduct or set of definitions, I think it fair to hold it to account on its own terms and to expose its hypocrisy when apparent.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    And as pointed out many times on this thread and elsewhere, I am holding it to account on its own terms – I’ve been very clear about how important it is those few members of the security forces who committed murder should be prosecuted and not just the terrorists. Being on the right side does not excuse murder.

    The rest of your argument is really a further fleshing out of the post-modernist point-dodging, which we can summarise as ‘everything’s subjective, society has no right to impose laws on people because in doing so it has to make ‘subjective value judgments’, so ‘your’ laws don’t apply to me.’ That argument doesn’t work, for a few reasons:

    1. You take the view that because a body of people, namely Irish Republicans, disputed the very application of UK law in Northern Ireland, and therefore that UK law does not apply to them (or possibly to anyone in Northern Ireland). It would be strange indeed if a minority were able to unilaterally withdraw its consent from the law of the land applying to it, without some form of territorial secession from the state. While Irish Republicans in Northern Ireland may wish to secede from the UK, they have not been successful in that and it remains part of the UK. Indeed Irish Republicans themselves formally accepted current UK sovereignty over Northern Ireland in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, while campaigning for a future change to that.
    It follows from that that the criminal law that applies in Northern Ireland is the one applied by the UK state (i.e. one largely based on the common law developed in England and Wales, as well as Northern Ireland, and subject to statutes emanating from Westminster). But don’t minorities have a right to say the state’s laws do not apply to them? Well, no. Article 8.4 of the Declaration on the Rights of National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities 1992, which sets out the range of globally agreed protections for minorities, says “Nothing in the present Declaration may be construed as permitting any activity contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations, including sovereign equality, territorial integrity and political independence of States.” In other words, it doesn’t give minority groups a right to form a state within a state, or resile en masse from the national law of the state (“territorial integrity”). It would be a recipe for chaos if it did.
    And in UK law, the IRA and UVF are proscribed organisations, their killings of their victims are/were criminal acts. State security forces on the other hand have a legal right and indeed obligation to use force where necessary to uphold the rule of law and protect the public. So in the UK, as in every state on the planet, the use of force by terrorist groups in pursuit of political ends cannot be treated as if it were of equal value with state forces doing their jobs. Again, it could hardly be otherwise, or you give anyone with a gun and a grudge licence to kill, while giving no backing to those you’re asking to protect the public. Societies with those rules simply can’t function – see Somalia.
    The rule of law does matter. Of course you can question and seek changes in the law or in the behaviour of state forces – but democratically and peacefully through argument, not by nail-bombing shoppers, taking pot shots at policemen, machine-gunning people to death or hammering nails through their hands.

    2. You may counter: yes, but the criminal law in Northern Ireland was so discriminatory against Republicans that there was no duty to obey it. And indeed there is no blanket moral duty to obey the law – morality and the law are overlapping but different concepts. However, this doesn’t work as an excuse for the IRA’s activities either.
    Firstly, the figures and the evidence on prosecutions, as recently re-confirmed by Da Silva, show the criminal law was applied as much, or more, to Protestant as Catholic terrorists. So there is no foundation in the argument that the criminal law was being abused by the state to pick on Republicans.
    Secondly – and I think this really puts IRA apologism to bed – whatever criticisms of the criminal law in Northern Ireland are, the murders by the IRA would be contrary to any criminal law system in any country in the world. The criminalising of that behaviour is not unique to Northern Ireland, or the UK – it is universal. Legal philosopher HLA Hart, writing of the relationship between legal positivism and natural law, talked of “the minimum content of natural law”, a set of core observations about human beings that account for the remarkable similarity in the core body of prohibitions common to legal systems across human societies. Restrictions on the use of violence – in particular, the prohibition on murder – are common to every legal system ever observed. So, this cannot be seen as somehow the British state applying double standards, unless you think all laws against murder the world over are hypocritical and wrong.

    To take a step back, I think you’ve fallen into the trap of, seeing some ambiguity in the world of moral reasoning, mistaking that for a complete arbitrariness – that really, we are all free to make up our own systems of morality or law. It’s just half-baked thinking I’m afraid. It doesn’t work, because we can’t escape being humans living in societies. As soon as we have other people involved, our freedom to choose whatever rules we want are necessarily limited, if we want a functioning society and not an apocalyptic wasteland.

    The pro-IRA argument falls down there: what the IRA did would be prohibited in any country in the world; the condemning of the IRA is not a conspiracy against the Irish. The state’s taking responsibility for the rule of law and reserving a monopoly on the use of force is also common to every country in the world – again it’s not some great crime against Irish Republicans.

    Declaring for yourself a right to kill, even if you have some limited support from similarly murderous followers, does not change that. Otherwise we would have to look with equanimity at the actions of Anders Breivik, Dylann Roof, the Baader-Meinhof gang, the UVF, the Charlie Hebdo killers and so on.

    There are many grey areas in moral philosophy but IRA and UVF terrorism do not reside in one of them. No matter how much Republicans or Loyalists try to re-write it. Indeed, it is awful to see such abject horror and cruelty portrayed as if it resided somewhere on the scale of reasonability. It is and was utterly wrong by any standards. Not because its opponents are self-serving or lack subtlety over moral questions, but because it’s the blunt and simple truth.

    Simply dismissing negative judgments about paramilitaries as ‘pontificating’ or ‘moralising’ begs the question: what are we to say about what they did then? It isn’t pontificating, surely, to condemn the slaughter wrought by Anders Breivik, Martin McGuinness, Dyllan Roof or Billy Wright, all earnest people with strong ideas, prepared to target and kill innocent people in peaceful democratic societies for those ideas. Condemning what they did isn’t optional, it’s fundamental to being a decent human being and to having a stake in a decent forward-looking society.

  • Once again, apologies for the delay in responding. I’ve been occupied with family visiting, a wedding and work this past week or so (as well as a few other loose ends from a flat-move) so not had time to properly consider and respond to what you’ve written.

    I’m not a blind or absolute moral relativist. I can still judge things through the optic of my own personal moral compass; I just do it (or I would like to think I do it) in the knowledge that my own moral compass is little more than a product or combination of my genetic temperament and the social/environmental stimuli, conditions and circumstances I have perceived, experienced and responded to throughout my life. My compass is not the be all and the end all and the prevailing morality of the day is generally and naturally the majoritarian one or that with the greatest degree of social consensus or power behind it. It doesn’t make it absolutely right just because a larger number of people might happen to adhere to it. I can say that something is “right” or “wrong”, but there is no objective value or truth in that; it’s just my perspective. Likewise, other people (be they Gerry Adams, HLA Hart, the UN or whoever) can say those same things as me; they may or not enjoy superior wisdom, sure, but it doesn’t add any further objective weight to what are simply collective opinions. Morality is just power through a transitory or arbitrary consensus of perspective.

    Everything is still subjective after all and popular morality changes and evolves over time, often radically so. In the future, generations may look back in horror at our meat-eating cultural habits just as we look back in horror at certain now-abhorred habits popularly exhibited and justified by our predecessors; slavery, racism, hanging or wearing fur, for example. That demonstrates that morality is anything but an absolute or constant, but that it is flighty, nebulous and constantly subject to change. Even killers and their supporters (be they of the state, of opponents of the state or isolated individuals) will possess a personal morality and will attempt to rationalise their killing through it.

    That’s all I sought to point out; that the words we use to describe certain things are simply indicative of a subjective perspective. I didn’t make any prescriptive “is-ought”-type leap from there in terms of whether or not society has a right to impose and enforce laws, rules, codes and so forth. I’m simply saying there is no reason to assume that those laws, rules and codes simply by their existence are the right way or the only way or that they are immune from criticism and scepticism. From that, you appear to have assumed I’m trying to excuse or justify something – you oddly frame my argument as a “pro-IRA argument” – when really I’m just trying to explain and improve my understanding rather than shut down debate with loaded terminology.

    Out of interest, seeing as you are so sure of what “murder” is on some purported objective (or meta) level; without reliance upon or an appeal to ambiguous terminology or the law of the land that defines it and renders it unjustified on unlawful by definition, when is a killing a “murder” and when is it not a “murder”?

    The current rule of law is ultimately enforced through violence and the threat thereof. This is how society functions and how the state keeps its denizens or subjects in order. It is how things like the concept of private property and the accumulation of vast sums of capital by a tiny elite are sustained. You seem to be under the impression that the state, founded upon violence, is inherently right simply because it is the state and it declares laws that we all should obey and that any violence against or in reaction to the violent imposition of its rule of law will always be inherently unwarranted. It’s a peculiar and subservient position.

    The IRA’s armed campaign wasn’t in reaction to the idea that the UK criminal law was enforced unfairly or specifically prejudiced against militant northern Irish Catholics. It arose from numerous other factors, including a general abuse of authority by those in power, along with the social suppression of the legal, constitutional, economic, cultural and democratic interests of the nationalist community. There was little democratic outlet open to change things for the fairer. Meanwhile, resulting civil disobedience and protest was met with resistence and violence which only begot further violence. The state made it so that this appeared the most viable means for many within the nationalist community to assert their rights. Would the nationalist community have remained in their second-class position without the use of political violence by certain actors purporting to be acting on the community’s behalf? It might well have, although, admittedly, we can’t say for sure. What we do know is that when equality and recognition was eventually extended, there was a cessation in the use of political violence as tool for radical change as the conditions that provoked it in the first place along with the communal sympathy for it or will to physically force change no longer existed. No surprise. There was no appetite for further militancy because vastly fewer people saw a continued need for radical change worth sacrificing or risking life for. There’s very obvious correlation and causality there. Did the use of political violence expedite this social levelling or emphasise the perceived need for it amongst those otherwise reluctant to concede? It probably did. That’s not necessarily to justify it either, but asking that question – as ugly as it may seem to get into the notion of comparative costs – is far more worthwhile a pursuit towards a better understanding of history and of where we want to go than simply condemning as absolutely wrong what was a communal reaction to a particular experienced situation. You conveniently ignore that the state didn’t adhere to its own laws either during the Troubles, so the state’s own criminal law (inherently partial by its very existence) is not much of a yardstick by which to cast some sort of moral or absolute judgment or by which to try and understand the violence.

    Of course murders would be contrary to bodies of criminal law the world over; the criminal law invariably defines murder as illegal and contrary to its code of expectation. Murder *is* unjustified killing by definition. You’re using a loaded or value-laden term and engaging in tautology. It is over the more legally-neutral word, “killing”, which we find verbal dispute. Everyone will agree that unjustified killing is unjustified because it *is* so by definition. Not everyone will agree that all killing amounts to “murder”, however, and that’s the case on all sides of conflicts, as unfortunate and ugly as that reality is. I’m not sure I feel qualified to provide a concrete answer as to what is what within the context of complex socio-political conflict but I get the impression you feel you do, so feel free to clarify. I would personally like to think killing could be avoided at all costs and I absolutely abhor the idea of coercion, force or violence at the most basic, fundamental level, but I would suggest those deaths that are reckless, indiscriminate and irrelevant (the innocent) to a conflict would most certainly be unjustifiable (within the context of a conflict). Those too are ambiguous terms, however, that are difficult to concretely define. Participants might deem deaths necessary for the idea of self-defence/preservation, attaining social equality, “the greater good” or as part of a “just war”. Also, the idea that there is even a conflict in effect may be disputed by one particular side.

    My general point is, and as you can probably tell, I find it rather difficult to place concrete labels upon things; human phenomena happen for a reason, but if I have not experienced those reasons then perhaps I feel I can never truly understand what it feels like to have experienced them. As a direct result of that perceived lack of knowledge, I perhaps don’t then feel entirely qualified to make an absolute or concrete moral judgment at times on human responses to such experiences. You might think of it as a cop-out or “point-dodging”, but I don’t have a solid answer to what is universally right and wrong. And I really want to be clear that that’s not to condone anything in particular, nor is it to suggest I am amoral and believe anything goes; it’s simply to say that I fear oversimplification because I’m obviously not omniscient. I’d like to think my line of thinking is more consideredly empathic (than sociopathic!), but I’m sure you’ll respectfully disagree. That isn’t to suggest I cannot also feel empathy for all the victims of all violence either. It is to say that, ultimately, I find working out why something has happened and dealing with that more conducive to progress than casting moral judgment.

    No criminal law blanketly defines killing as illegal, because – and this is perhaps an unfortunate indictment of our very nature and condition – it is commonly and conventionally understood by humans, historically and legally, that certain types of killings are justified, valid or legitimate. Which types we see categorised as such can vary depending on political culture or persuasion. Some legal systems permit abortion, for example, whilst others classify it as murder. Of course, any termination of a foetus will amount to “murder” if the criminal law concerned says it is so. And it is only to be expected that legal systems would seek to restrict political violence counter to the aims and aspirations of those who have codified and legislated for that legal system. The simple status of being a legal system doesn’t necessarily confer moral righteousness.

    Likewise, whilst you might argue that humans all have a set of core values, I would suggest that self-interest and survival take primacy and it has been a common trait for societies historically to condone the idea of just war in furtherance and defence of a particular society’s interests and to the detriment of another society’s interests (including the killing of some of its members). Not even a conventional and multilateral framework of international law can stymie the reckless and indiscriminate killing (and we have what is referred to as “collateral” as well) by purported liberal democracies in the name of defence but in furtherance of their already-suspect geopolitical interests ultimately. And yet, if not popularly celebrated, those who engage in such killing are insulated by their society’s legal systems. This is the double standard and for this reason it is difficult to have faith in the supposed methods and systems of universal arbitration and their purported defenders.

    “As soon as we have other people involved, our freedom to choose whatever rules we want are necessarily limited, if we want a functioning society and not an apocalyptic wasteland.”

    When two societies clash, who decides whose system of rules is morally superior? Nobody; the more powerful society and its over-riding morality might well consume or subsume the lesser society (as is so often the case historically), not necessarily because it is more righteous, but because it is more powerful. It’s a power-game ultimately.

    Do you view all violent political rebellions, insurrections or revolutions (within a state) as inherently wrong or unjustified then, or what conditions might have to exist for you to feel they are not absolutely illegitimate? I mean, surely you’re not saying that the “state’s taking responsibility for the rule of law and reserving a monopoly on the use of force is also common to every country in the world” automatically confers righteousness upon such a self-declared reservation of responsibility? The Easter Rising of 1916 (which involved politically-motivated killing) is popularly celebrated across Ireland – indeed, even officially so by the southern state – but you have it down as absolutely wrong and illegal because it fell foul of the laws of the UK at the time? Or are you suggesting that it might have assumed legitimacy retroactively once the southern state gained independence? Or are you suggesting that it might have assumed legitimacy only once the UK state acknowledged that it was part of a war/conflict? I’m not sure what your answer will be, but surely the uncertainty and these questions aptly demonstrate the moral greyness over the area of the use of particular nomenclature in conflicts over political power.

    Our of interest, how would you define the political violence of, say, Nelson Mandela? You must have strong negative opinions on him and other former MK members?

    I’ve not said anyone has a right to kill; you’re the only one attempting to put absolutist labels on human conduct here in order to legitimise and delegitimise.

    You appear to be implying that counter-state political violence inexplicably erupts from isolated bubbles in what are otherwise “peaceful democratic societies” and that such violence is “cruel” and “horrific” simply for the sake of those engaged in it exercising cruelty and horror. Really? Don’t you think the very conditions of the societies in which people live are the causal source of violent reactions and that it’s worth trying to understand the root of the discontent so that we can try and work with it and pacify it? Or would you rather just keep dismissing manifestations of discontent as “wrong”, spawning further animus and failing miserably to suppress them. The north before and of the Troubles simply wasn’t a “peaceful democratic society”. It was for that very reason, whether right or wrong, that a concerted armed republican struggle – that wasn’t a new phenomenon anyway in British-controlled Ireland – gathered communal sympathy/support.