The ugly (and recurring) mandate of history, or “údarás na staire”…

Responsible for another bright light cruelly extinguished by the forces of darkness, a “new breed of terrorist,” the senior detective told us.

Unlike yesteryear, ‘volunteers’ are not expected to attend mass and recite the Rosary. But that is about it when it comes to anything new in Lyra McKee’s murder. A more valid observation, the “recurring IRA” that writer Eoghan Harris describes.

Harris is a continuum of Irish intellectuals like Seán O’Casey and Conor Cruise O’Brien who understood and doggedly opposed the monster of physical force republicanism.

In 1997, Emmy award winning filmmaker Gerry Gregg made a documentary with Seán Ó Cuirreáin for RTÉ to mark the anniversary of the IRA raid on Brookeborough in 1957. In the film, former Sinn Féin president Ruairí Ó Brádaigh was asked about the mandate for violence. His reply was údarás na staire – the mandate of history.

When it was put to Ó Brádaigh that the vast majority of people had rejected physical force republicanism and opted for democracy as a way to solve Ireland’s problems, he dismissed the expression of popular will as, galar na bunreachtúlachta – the disease of constitutionalism.

For Ruairí, the tide of history would one day be on his side again, just as it had been for Collins and De Valera in 1921. In the meantime, the struggle would continue. And it has. After all, 103 years ago this week the tide was out for Connolly and Pearse and then “all changed, changed utterly” with their executions and martyrdom in May 1916.

Provisional IRA. Real IRA. Continuity IRA. New IRA. All are based on race hatred cleverly disguised. Anti-British, with them defining who and what a ‘Brit’ is. RIC constable. RUC constable. PSNI constable. Magistrate. Unionist. Civil servant. In short, any Catholic or Protestant not towing the IRA line.

Recurring IRA’s strive to undermine the rule of law. They label local police legitimate targets. Here, murder is not murder but a lawful act of rebellion.

In the War of Independence, the IRA/Sinn Féin forced local businesses to boycott police officers and their families. After partition, the RIC was defamed by republican propagandists and Irish media in what academics call ‘dirty war syndrome.’ Many were intimidated and fled. Even Tom Crean got the treatment.

Arguably the world’s greatest Antarctic explorer, his brother Cornelius, a fine rugby player, was a police sergeant gunned down by the IRA. This, more than Tom’s British naval service, undoubtedly kept him quiet in his native Kerry of his selfless and heroic exploits with Scott and Shackleton. Viewed through IRA race hatred eyes the Crean brothers were not Irishmen and definitively not Irish patriots.

The recurring IRA survives because people within the impoverished neighbourhoods it resides are afraid to make witness statements against it. To stand in open court and point the finger at a defendant who may live a few doors away is a life-changing and potentially life-ending decision for them and their family. This is why most prefer to tell the police in private.

I am certain that the detective investigating Lyra McKee’s murder knows who did it. In the Troubles, few murders are a mystery. Intelligence names the culprits. Getting evidence, however, is a much harder task and completely different proposition. Recurring IRAs know this. Add the fact that this breed of terrorist is forensically savvy, and one can see why putting them in the dock is extremely difficult.

In this respect, there was no dividend from the Belfast Agreement. That is, socially and economically deprived communities traditionally plagued by the hard men of violence were not normalised in so far as witnesses came forward to testify against terrorists thereby increasing a 54% murder clearance rate to that of 90% typical of a peaceful liberal democracy.

Instead, the clearance rate for terrorist murders reduced to single digits. Whilst the political process dramatically reduced the number of murders and fundamentally changed policing, these vulnerable neighbourhoods stayed the same. The hard men of violence never went away. And Sinn Féin’s rise did not bring jobs.

According to Saoradh, the blame for Lyra McKee’s death “lies firmly at the feet of the British crown forces.” Provo propagandists said the same of some 1,800 murders and Sinn Féin still do, largely masked by dirty war syndrome through a legacy arrangement of influential pressure groups, wealthy law firms and statutory bodies.

In legacy, the Pat Finucane Centre calls a UVF bomb and gun attack against a bar in Keady in 1976 an “RUC bomb and gun attack.” And the Police Ombudsman condemns RUC officers of collusion with no evidence to substantiate such.

Blame ‘bad Brits’ speaks to republicans who excuse murder, telling them their conscience is clear and for the current crop, not to be softened by setbacks like journalist and writer Lyra McKee (29). The glorious struggle goes on. Keep believing.

The mandate of history (údarás na staire) profits recurring IRA’s and their apologists. Not seeing them for the hate-filled racists they are and not contesting the atavistic forces that move them, keeps the monster in our midst.

What Se‪á‬n O’Casey wrote in ‘The Shadow of a Gunman’ still resonates: “I believe in the freedom of Ireland and that England has no right to be here, but I draw the line when I hear the gunmen blowing about dying for the people when it’s the people that are dying for gunmen.”

No, not a new breed. Not a bit. Very much an old one.

Documenting the Troubles: Journalism and justice in N Ireland” by Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916 is licensed under CC BY-ND