Sinn Fein walks an excruciating line between McAuley the hero and McAuley the villain

On the morning of the 7th of June 1996 in the Co Limerick village of Adare, heroic Irish soldiers, acting under the authority of the legitimate Government of Ireland, attempted to liberate vital funding and – in the course of their duties –were forced to open fire upon cowardly agents of the traitorous Free State government, killing one.

If you don’t recall it quite like that, there’s a good chance you’re an establishment stooge or – like me – an FF/FG/Labour lackey. It may even be possible you’re Endangering The Peace Process. I remember two Gardai deliberately targeted by a Provisional IRA gang and shot – one fatally – while they protected an An Post social welfare delivery.

At Sinn Fein’s 2003 Árd Fheis, Pauline Tully read out letters from her then-husband Pearse McAuley and from the three other men then imprisoned for the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe. The assembled Sinn Fein delegates – then campaigning for the early release of Garda McCabe’s killers – rose for a standing ovation.

When McAuley was released in 2009 – having served ten and a half years – he was picked up at the prison by Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris.

Last week, McAuley was sentenced to twelve years – with the last four years suspended – for assault causing harm to his estranged wife Pauline Tully last Christmas Eve. “Assault causing harm” doesn’t do justice to his brutality.

McAuley punched Ms Tully, kicked her and then stabbed her thirteen times with a steak knife. She suffered horrific physical injuries and unimaginable psychological trauma.

During the course of a calculated and cruel attack lasting nearly three hours – “It wasn’t frenzied,” Tully told RTÉ’s Marian Finucane, “It was intermittent” – McAuley brought their two small children “down to say goodbye to” their mother.

It seems certain that Tully only survived the ordeal because McAuley eventually passed out from drink and she was able to crawl from her house to get help.

The deputy leader of Sinn Féin, Mary-Lou McDonald, came out at the weekend to criticise what she saw as a lenient sentence.

“Yet again we see a very light sentence in my view, given the scale, the viciousness and the premeditated nature of that crime.”

I agree with her completely. There is no doubt that we have a serious problem with sentencing in the Republic, especially in the areas of sexual assault and violence towards women. After all, Ireland is a country where a man can actually confess to rape and still serve no time in prison.

McDonald – a shrewd media operator – knew she was on thin ice talking about the former Republican hero and she reacted defensively when asked about Martin Ferris collecting McAuley from prison.

“Listen to me, let me tell you; lots of people across society unbeknownst to themselves, know, work with, live beside people who are domestic abusers and who are violent to their partners.

“The culpability and responsibility for that violence and for those actions reside with the individual who carried them out. So I think it is entirely wrong to try and drag in third parties and to name them in different contexts as though that were part of the scenario and the awful situation that Pauline and the boys went through.

“I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think it’s appropriate and I don’t think it does a service to victims of domestic violence.”

There’s Sinn Féin’s dilemma. To the public right now, McAuley is a monstrous figure who deserves to be reviled for what he did to his former partner.

He’s also an untimely reminder that McAuley is a Sinn Féin hero for killing a Garda during what Sinn Féin is attempting to sell to the voting public as a just war. Sinn Féin’s political opponents will do everything in their power to connect and highlight those two facts.

Isolating the violence carried out by McAuley when he was in the IRA from the violence carried out by McAuley when he was in Pauline Tully’s house – in essence telling us that the murder of a Garda is a different beast altogether from what goes on behind closed doors – would be a tall order for most but that is precisely what Sinn Féin is trying to do.

This suggests yet again that Sinn Fein will do and say whatever it thinks the audience wants to hear or whatever it thinks will get it through the latest crisis du jour.

So now the line to be walked is that in times of war, terrible things happen but violence for political ends – while regrettable – is justified. To Sinn Féin, political violence is the good violence whereas domestic violence is the bad violence.

Of course, for the Provisional IRA’s campaign to have been war rather than terrorism, Sinn Féin will have to convince those of us who lived through the Troubles that we’re remembering it wrong.

For the Provisional IRA to have been a legitimate army fighting a just war, they would have to have had – as they claimed – the mandate of the government of Ireland. The problem with that is the vast majority of the electorate does not believe the legitimate government of Ireland is the IRA Army Council.

It’s a hard sell to try and persuade voters in the Republic that the legitimate government of Ireland was (and possibly still is) a bunch of hard chaws in the back room of a West Belfast pub.

In 1996, Pearse McAuley was part of the IRA gang which shot and killed Detective Garda Jerry McCabe. Sinn Féin demanded his early release. In 2014, Pearse McAuley inflicted horrific violence upon his former partner. Sinn Féin’s deputy leader says he should get a harsher sentence.

Mary-Lou McDonald is absolutely right about our lenient sentencing regime, but Sinn Féin – having previously campaigned for his early release – has a breath-taking cheek to say Pearse McAuley deserves a longer sentence for failing to kill someone than the sentence he served for actually succeeding in killing someone.

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  • Jollyraj

    Would you feel the same way about the ISIS jihadi?

  • Jollyraj

    Essentially, the only thing you seem to contribute to these chats seems to be “what about (……….)”. Fred West was English, certainly, but you simply don’t have English equivalents of yourself rushing to defend him on the grounds that other people in other countries have done similar things. Which is basically what you do, John.

  • Jollyraj

    He has, in his attempt to paint the IRA as in some way legitimate soldiers, as opposed to being the cowardly thugs that they were, attempted to justify their actions. Can you see that?

  • Jollyraj

    Fine so. Looked to me like you were saying he was justified in his terrorist acts. Are you not saying that, Robin. Would you feel that he was or was not justified in carrying out attacks at the behest of his superiors?

  • Robin Keogh

    I feel sorry for those who are either brainwashed or tortured into acts on behalf of ISIL, I feel more sympathy towards the families of the culprits who are left to not only mourn their son or daughter but also have to live with the shame of what their child has done. More than anything else I feel intense sorrow for all those victims of ISIL who are innocent of any tyranny against the Muslim/Arab/Middle Eastern Community but have been erased out of an act of hatred rather than as a result of a just fight. ISIL have no revolutionary aim to unite people, no accomodation for human diversity, no regret for the killing of innocence, and similar in some ways to the old Unionist Regime of Ulster; no tolerence of those of a different political or religious persuasion. So, to answer your question directly, No.

  • Robin Keogh

    Dont confuse empathy with justification.

  • Hugh Davison

    Well, to many people at the time, that’s how they were regarded. We’ve moved on a bit, I suppose. You might regard them as thugs. That is your right. ‘cowardly’ I’m not so sure about. Plenty of thuggery was exercised by state forces too.

  • PeterBrown

    All very admirable but does it address or answer my question? Peter Shirlow was very eloquently pointed out on GMU this morning the double standard between those calling for transparency and justice from the state whilst offering nothing to their own victims except the sort of platitudes trotted out by their supporters on this very thread – claiming terrorism is wrong (except when we were responsible) and only our opponents need to be held accountable for their past actions.

  • PeterBrown

    Whataboutery of the highest order without any justification for the equivalence when they are on different rungs of the same ladder and (deliberately) ignoring the point itself

  • Mary Anna Quigley

    When it suis them- shameless,will say anything for a vote, means protection of rapists child abusers wife beaters- brass necks attention seekers themselves alone.

  • Mary Anna Quigley


  • Robin Keogh

    Lol…thats my line. In any event u need to use an asterix as an emoticon in front and after, to signify the act rather than just the word. So instead of just commenting ‘yawn’, in future try – *YAWN*, all upper case for added punch.

  • John Collins

    Well several loyalist and Republican terrorists have rightly spent long terms in prison for their crimes. Yet not a single British soldier from Colthurst Bowen or the man who murdered Richard Boyce to the present day have served long sentences for their crimes. And when we see ex British Soldiers traipsing to the gates of the HOC to stop any investigation into their behaviour how soon will it be before any suspected rogue Gardaí will be picketing Leinster House to achieve the same results. As regards whataboutery well you do not do it Peter. However when I described the fate of Richard Boyce and his family you had no opinion. What you do is a very selective silence.

  • barnshee

    “You say that the Irish people brought the Monaghan/Dublin bombings on themselves”

    The Irish people elected the politicans who armed the murder gang -that refused to extradite murder suspects –that some were held to account is a stable door closing.after the horse is long gone.

    As you indicate there is a direct line connecting atrocities
    (Shankill /Greysteel being another example)

  • John Collins

    Well for a man or woman that seems to know all about all my posts you don’t seem to have ever replied to any of my them or indeed contributed anything to the debate before now that I thought was worth replying to. If everyone who puts forward a different point of view is to be accused of whataboutery that is fine but it sure will not stop me contradicting those I feel need to hear a different view. I admire those like Barnshee and Peter Brown among others who stand and defend their viewpoint their on its merits. If calling Fred West a serial killer, which he most certainly was, means I am in any way justifying his conduct I sure feel you have a problem with the English language.

  • barnshee

    You might like to research the numbers “convicted and sentenced for a horrible crime like thousands of others in NI’s conflict history since 1920” You might highlight the numbers murdered -say 1920-1969

  • John Collins

    Well Barnshee as early as 1970 Haughey, Brennan, Boland and Blaney were among those thrown out of Ministerial positions and brought before the courts. The extradition requests were refused by judges and not the government, And maybe there was a feeling that any person from an Irish Nationalist background would not get a fair trial in GB. The outcome of the Birmingham Six, Guilford Four, and the McGuire Family cases among others did little to dispel these doubts. The fact is that the Kingsmills Ambush victims no more than the victims of the M/D bombings were murdered by equally sadist thugs cannot be overlooked. And remember today the GB Government are still very reluctant to help with extradition of the M/D Bombers so it sadly works both ways. I must also point that Sinn Fein got very little support indeed in the South while the troubles were in progress. I might add that if our current Labour Party had not sold out on every scintilla of left wing principle Sinn Fein would still be a very small party indeed here.

  • PeterBrown

    Erm what i do is ignore tansgents about incidents that occurred before my grandparents even met each other where all the protagonists are undoubtedy dead and concentrate on those who are still gettign away with murder – those British soldiers are merely pointing out that they have not been treated the same as those they were protecting us against and that is factually accurate

  • Jollyraj

    Ah sure, John, I did respond to one. That’s why you then responded to me. If you think what I’m saying is that calling West a serial killer is justifying his actions, perhaps the difficulty is yours. What I’m saying is that other people point out that many in the IRA were serial killers, and Republicans try to pretend they weren’t.

  • John Collins

    I have frequently described both Republican and Loyalist killers as murdering cowardly thugs which is what they were to the last man

  • John Collins

    The Irish Government gave money for arms to Nationalist Communities to protect them from armed to the teeth Loyalist thugs who were completely devoid of any interference from the RUC. They did not give arms intentionally to any murder gang. It was widely reported that the Unionists had no bother getting licensed guns and that there was a fair amount of illegally imported guns, going back as far as 1913, still hanging about in their side of the equation.
    The attitude to RCs from some on the Unionist side at that time was well summed up yesterday in an article in the Irish Times. Seamus Mallow approached a Unionist Councillor in the late sixties in order to request the Local Authority to provide a house for a Catholic man and his family, who were in the most dire need of same. The said Councillor grunted, sorry replied, that ‘No Catholic pig-or any of his litter- will get a house while I am here’ In fairness he did go to say that a local Doctor and Publican, both Protestant, did help him to get the house over the grunter’s, sorry Councillor’s, head.