Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tagged under:

The Bell and the Blanket: Journals of Irish Republican Dissent

Tonight The Pensive Quill carries a study of the Bell and Blanket magazines by guest writers Niall Carson and Paddy Hoey. 

The Bell and The Blanket: Journals of Irish Republican Dissent
by Niall Carson, University of Liverpool and Paddy Hoey, Liverpool Hope University 


Two publications that appeared at different points of modern Irish history, and which took radically different editorial approaches—the literary journal, the Bell (1940–1954) and the dissident republican online magazine, the Blanket (2001–2007)—evince some compelling shared preoccupations. The Bell is seldom considered as representing the Irish republican tradition; yet both publications question the rewriting of history by republican reformists, and share a spirit of dissent at odds with the historical periods of republican consolidation in which they operated. More important, perhaps, both journals provided fora for radical Protestant voices that ran contrary to their own political outlooks. The publication of such articles was, by definition, a form of resistance to censorship, whether the censors were the state, the IRA, or the modern Sinn Féin. 

Carrie Twomey, the founding editor of the Blanket, was not cognizant of the content of the Bell. But remarkably, her vision for the magazine instinctively drew on a culture of dissent that sought to highlight inconsistencies within mainstream republican dogma—as the Bell had done six decades previously. The stance of the Blanket toward republicanism in particular is not without its critics. Its attacks on Sinn Féin’s abandonment of republican principles is tinged with a regret that—had they known where the party was going to end up—many of its writers would not have taken part in violence during the “Troubles.”1

In 2001, Billy Mitchell, a former Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) chief of staff who had been sentenced to two life sentences in the late 1970s, published a series of articles in the Blanket. These articles demonstrate both the journal’s commitment to publishing a progressive voice from loyalist circles, and make explicit the connection between the Blanket and the Bell. Mitchell, who had become a devout Christian in jail, had developed a sophisticated vision of Northern Irish identity and how it could be refined to accommodate all religious and political traditions. He saw identity politics as a barrier to reconciliation. Mitchell contended that the demarcation of identities, Irish Catholic versus British Protestant, failed to recognize the shared aspects of modern Northern Irish identity. Such identifications, said Mitchell, allowed parties like the DUP and Sinn Féin to dominate the political landscape through isolationist sectarianism.


Mitchell was unrepentant about his Protestant heritage, but he saw common ground between religious and political traditions. In one of his earliest Blanket articles, he speaks of the four cultural identities in modern Ireland: “indigenous Irish Gaelic culture, Anglo-Irish culture, Ulster-Scots culture, and, the cultures of those ethnic groups who have settled in the Province in more recent times.”3 For Mitchell, the only true path to reconciliation in Northern Irish life lay not in the ossifying enshrinement of cultural difference that had resulted in deeper social divisions in the era that followed the Good Friday Agreement, but in a shared embracing and celebration of all these identities:

Each citizen of Northern Ireland has an inalienable right to watch over, promote, protect and enjoy the cultural tradition with which he or she chooses to identify. It is incumbent upon all of us to validate each of these cultures, together with the modes of expression and celebration associated with them.4
Mitchell’s argument had been suggested sixty years previously by Sean O’Faolain, the Bell’s founding editor. In “The Five Strains,” O’Faolain presents a similar description of the racial “strains” which contributed to Irish identity. However, he made no reference to the Scots-Protestant planters of Northern Ireland.5 Although O’Faolain published a codicil in the next issue in the form of “The Scottish Strain” by James J. Auchmutty, this was denigrated to the position of “Public Opinion.”6 O’Faolain likewise showed his resistance to acknowledging the Scottish strain by his decision to omit them again when he wrote his history of Irish identity, The Irish (1947).7 Despite the publication of radical Protestant voices in the Bell, the move reveals O’Faolain’s deeper sympathies with the republican tradition.  

In an article published by the Blanket in 2001, with similar direct parallels to the Bell, Mitchell points to the friendship of the Orangeman Thomas Carnduff and Peadar O’Donnell to express his message for loyalists and republicans. He uses as his role model the Orangeman Thomas Carnduff, who was also from a working-class Belfast background and who played an active role in the Larne gun-running of 1914 with the Ulster Volunteer Force, and eventually rose to become the Worshipful Master of Sandy Row Independent Loyal Orange Lodge. He was also a frequent contributor to the Bell, submitting five articles between July of 1942 and April of 1952. O’Donnell, the second editor of the Bell, was a radical socialist, a veteran of the Anglo-Irish War and civil war, and former IRA commander—and thus an unlikely personal friend for Carnduff.8 For Mitchell, the friendship of O’Donnell and Carnduff represented the public compromises that needed to happen in Northern Irish society, but which also offered the space for these distinct political identities to persevere. He saw the symbolic action of Carnduff giving O’Donnell his Loyal Orange Lodge sash as a metaphor for modern Northern Ireland—as did the eventual safe return of the item to the Orangeman’s family after O’Donnell’s death. Both men, he said, were powerful campaigners for the rights of their respective urban and rural underclass backgrounds. By not embracing the ideological confines of republican or Unionist orthodoxies, they became “prophets without honour amongst their own people.” For Mitchell, the past, and dealing with difference without rejecting the cultural heritage of others, is at the heart of both the peace process and Northern Ireland’s future:
The friendship between O’Donnell and Carnduff reminds us that political adversaries need not dehumanise one another. On the contrary, they should have the capacity to respect each others’ political integrity and dedication to a cause. It reminds us too that those who have worn the uniform of opposing forces need not live in a state of perpetual hatred, base recrimination and ongoing demonisation. As in the case of Carnduff and O’Donnell, dedicated political opponents are very often kindred spirits who share similar passions and, but for an accident of birth, could have been on ‘the same side’.9
Anthony McIntyre, a senior writer on the Blanket and Carrie Twomey’s husband, noted the implicit influence of the Bell on radical republican thought in 2001:

The republican leadership had for long made much of the concept of ‘community as one’. There would be no alternative voices. Sean Russell rather than Peadar O’Donnell being the role model that suited best. The idiocy of the Green Book ultimately came to be preferred to the intellect of The Bell.10
A further connection between the journals is an unstated belief in a civic republicanism, which manifests itself in a libertarian impulse to publish controversial articles from writers coming from a range of political perspectives. The magazines offered a space in which to express an Irish identity that was capable of accommodating inherent tensions while rejecting the exclusivist definitions of political elites, and at odds with mainstream republican thinking. The Bell never developed a clearly identifiable political outlook. Rather, its political grounding can only be articulated in its commitment to the publication of multiple viewpoints, from mainstream political sources and from marginalized voices. It was sustained by a libertarian manifesto that enshrined the right to freedom of expression above the content of what was being expressed.

Given the Bell’s republican background, three trends emerge that demonstrate its interaction with contemporaneous mainstream political ideologies. First, the magazine was committed to rewriting the discourse around republican sacred cows, and to opening up space for dissenting voices within the republican movement. Second, it offered robust resistance to censorship in all its forms, and a commitment to progressive dialectical debates. Finally, as a logical consequence of its stance on censorship, the Bell was committed to publishing strong Northern Irish voices, and in particular, those of Unionists. These three strands offered an ideological template and the cultural inheritance for such future publications as the Blanket. Open-ended editorial policies characterize both the Bell and the Blanket. The capacity to contain competing and resistant voices sets them apart from other publications with more doctrinaire outlooks. Indeed, inculcating this freedom of expression remains their journalistic legacy.

 In October 1940, the Bell was launched with one of Ireland’s preeminent men of letters, Sean O’Faolain, as its editor. Under his stewardship and that of its second editor, Peadar O’Donnell, the Bell would develop into Ireland’s most significant literary journal, and would go on to publish many enduring Irish writers of that generation, including Frank O’Connor, Patrick Kavanagh, Elizabeth Bowen, and Flann O’Brien. The Bell also expanded its scope to include political writing and criticism, notably in its unrelenting attacks on the excesses of literary censorship in Ireland. However, the Bell is also, in many ways, a republican journal. This aspect of its history is often overlooked by those who focus on its political resistance to de Valéra’s government. But republicanism is key to any comprehensive understanding of its formation and culture. Despite the plurality of voices printed in the Bell, in many ways the journal operated as a continuation of the debates occurring within republicanism at that time.

The first editorial board of the Bell comprised O’Faolain, Maurice Walsh, Róisín Walsh, Eamonn Martin, Peadar O’Donnell and Frank O’Connor. All, with the exception of Maurice Walsh, had been active in the IRA or within republican politics.11 O’Donnell had commanded an IRA unit and occupied the Four Courts during the civil war; O’Faolain ran an IRA propaganda unit; O’Connor saw active service in North Cork; Martin was a veteran of the 1916 Rising, and Róisín Walsh was a committed republican activist. Among the Bell’s more celebrated articles are a number that are directly attributable to its connections within this IRA framework. For instance, the first extract from Brendan Behan’s famous Borstal Boy (1958), “I Became a Borstal Boy” appeared in the Bell of June 1942.12 Indeed Behan’s career as a writer was due, in no small part to the support he received from O’Faolain and O’Donnell while he was in Mountjoy jail; O’Faolain even encouraged Behan to seek special dispensation from the warden in order to exchange correspondence.13 Róisín Walsh, Dublin City chief librarian between 1931 and her death in 1949, was a committed political activist and moved in the same circles as Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, Mary Kettle, and Maud Gonne McBride.14 Her involvement with Peadar O’Donnell goes back at least as far as the formation of Saor Éire, where the IRA General Army Convention met in her kitchen in 1931 to underline their commitment to radical socialist republican politics.15

In 1950, the Bell presented a two-part submission written by the IRA activist Francis Stuart concerning the death of O’Donnell’s old IRA comrade, Frank Ryan.16 Stuart’s account contributed to the debate surrounding the IRA’s role in undermining Irish neutrality during the war, and remains controversial even today. Stuart’s reminiscence is both personal and moving. It emphasizes Ryan’s great suffering during the last years of his life, when he was trapped in wartime Germany. The articles are controversial owing to Ryan’s and Stuart’s involvement with Hitler’s government. Stuart had initially travelled to Germany as part of a literary tour, but decided to stay after the outbreak of war, where he had been working in German radio, writing propaganda speeches for broadcast. Ryan, on the other hand, was a personal friend of O’Donnell’s who had arrived in Germany after fighting Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Captured by Italian fascists and imprisoned under threat of execution in Spain for two years, an international campaign to secure his release led to him being handed over to the German authorities. They in turn transported him to Berlin and reintroduced him to the IRA chief of staff, Seán Russell, who was in Germany seeking support for the IRA. 

Russell had chaired the meeting where Frank Ryan, Peadar O’Donnell, and a fellow contributor to the Bell, George Gilmore, were courts-martialed for leaving the IRA army council to form the Republican Congress in 1934, and as such, they make unusual companions in Germany in 1940.17 Ryan and Russell were taken by U-boat to Ireland. However, two days out, Russell was taken ill and died from a ruptured ulcer, and was buried at sea. Surprisingly, Ryan seems to have held no grudge against Russell, even after two years in a Spanish prison. The U-boat returned to Germany, where Ryan remained as a guest of the Nazi government until his death in 1944.18 In the postwar climate of Ireland, IRA support for Germany remained politically sensitive. In exposing the details of how three prominent republicans remained as guests of the Nazi government, the article overtly questioned the judgement of the IRA leadership, and their decision to engage with the Nazi power structure. 

Stuart’s article was an early attempt to vindicate Ryan from any Nazi associations. In doing so, he also attempted to vindicate himself. Stuart’s account remains a moving piece of writing that focuses on Ryan’s ill health, bravery, and kindness. For Stuart, Ryan represented nothing more than a man determined to get home; Ryan had “a deep love of country in the old romantic sense” and “an equally deep faith in the possibility of a reign of social justice and equity.”19 Throughout the reminiscence, Stuart maintained the distance of a detached observer and was keen to stress the random hazards of war that threw them together as exiled Irishmen. Current scholarship tends to confirm that the association of these three republicans was a product of chance—but in 1950, only five years after the end of the war, opinions remained much more partisan and the facts were still contested. O’Donnell, who knew Ryan closely enough to give his graveside oration when he was reinterred at Glasnevin cemetery in 1979, would have been eager to establish his socialist credentials and his anti-fascist idealism. Stuart, it would seem, was acting from a desire to humanize Ryan’s position and to draw attention away from his own active wartime role, if not also to eulogize his lost friend. It is perhaps a tribute to the subversive potential of this article that Stuart’s time in Germany remains a topic of debate today.20 Its impact at the time of publication was nothing short of shocking, as it amounted to a direct questioning of the IRA’s ability to operate effectively. This article represents a stark criticism of the republican leadership at a time when they were still pursuing an armed campaign. 

This was not the only direct criticism of republican strategy in the Bell. The magazine also criticized the IRA hierarchy when it published Stephen Hayes’s account of his involvement with, and eventual kidnap by, the paramilitary organization. Hayes was acting chief officer of the IRA in southern Ireland during Russell’s absence in 1941. At that point, under pressure from the governments of Northern Ireland and Éire, the IRA was an almost spent force. Its leadership in Northern Ireland decided a spy had been leaking information to the Fianna Fáil government, and they suspected Hayes. As such, they issued an order for his arrest and trial. Under torture Hayes agreed to write his confession, but lax security allowed him to escape and turn himself in at a local garda station.21 The controversy surrounding Hayes’s arrest and imprisonment remains current, and although Hayes always maintained his innocence and denied the charges of spying, the issue is unresolved.22 Hayes’s attempt to rehabilitate himself in the public eye and deny the charges of spying were first aired in the Bell. “It never crossed my mind,” he wrote,

that my authority within the I.R.A. was being undermined, however much the I.R.A. might have lost control of the general political development. I had no whisper that a conspiracy was afoot: no whisper that in the feverish situation perfectly innocent happenings were being twisted by suspicion into a trap for honest men.23
The article was an unusual choice for O’Donnell to publish, considering Hayes was a member of the physical-force men who sided against O’Donnell in his split from the IRA hierarchy in 1934. Nevertheless, it was still a sensational story in 1951, coming after Hayes had served a five-year jail sentence for his membership of the IRA. It was also an early example of open dissidence within the IRA hierarchy, even if Hayes’s own political outlook differed from O’Donnell’s more socialist vision.

Under O’Faolain, too, the Bell had offered a forum for voices suppressed and censored from mainstream political discourse. O’Faolain’s politics are much more difficult to interpret than those of O’Donnell. Although he was a savage critic of narrow-minded Irish nationalism, he also maintained sufficient passion for republicanism to write bitterly against Partition. In an often overlooked 1944 pamphlet produced for Denis Ireland’s Ulster Union Club, O’Faolain declared, “When I think of Partition I think of something that is a sin against Ireland, but also I think of something that is a sin against civilisation.”24 Denis Ireland was a radical voice in Northern Ireland during the 1940s, an Ulster Protestant who supported a united Ireland under a republican administration. He was published frequently in the Bell, as Billy Mitchell was later in the Blanket. Although Ireland was not from the physical-force tradition like Mitchell, he also saw sectarian identities as the main barrier to social harmony. Ireland wished to see a united thirty-two-county republic, To this end, Ireland formed the Ulster Union Club to promote the concept of a United Ireland among Ulster’s Protestants. 

Despite O’Faolain’s personal distaste for Partition he saw fit to open the Bell to Unionist writers and artists, and to give them room to express visions of Irishness that he personally rejected. In a letter to a colleague working at the British Broadcasting Corporation he was to confess that. “it is I who must seem tiresome in objecting to Dublin and Belfast. The latter is a foul place and wastes just as much time.”25 Yet, for a man who held such a low opinion of Belfast, he showed remarkable enthusiasm for the publication of its authors. Between July of 1941 and August of 1942, O’Faolain published three special “Ulster” issues, dedicated to the entire province but with special emphasis on Protestant and Unionist writers. This would have risked censorship even in normal times, without the added complication of World War II and Irish neutrality.26

The first special Ulster edition under O’Faolain was a collection of surprising strength, considering that Northern Ireland had, since its foundation, been in the literary shadow of its more productive southern counterpart. Its contributions came from such illustrious names as W. R. Rodgers, John Hewitt, H.L. Morrow, Michael McLaverty, Denis Ireland, Peadar O’Donnell, and Joseph Tomelty. However, the Bell’s most outspoken voice of political Unionism, Thomas Carnduff, did not appear until the second Ulster number in July of 1942. He had formed a strong friendship with O’Donnell, linked by their involvement with trade unionism, although they were at opposite ends of the political spectrum.27 Although certainly not the only exponent of Orangeism to publish in the Bell, throughout the periodical’s history Carnduff remained its most prominent such contributor. Carnduff’s 1942 article, titled “‘Belfast,” is written from the perspective of an active Orangeman and describes his sense of Protestant identity.28 The opening lines of this account are defiant and honest, and reflect the pride of the Ulster Orangemen and their suspicion of Éire:
I love this Belfast of mine. So would you if it were possible to lay aside your natural antagonism to our institutions, customs, and beliefs. To a great many people in Ireland every movement which has a beginning in Belfast must be alien to Irish culture and character. This is a stupid and dangerous attitude. 
Carnduff comfortably asserted that his origins were distinctly Irish, and he did not suffer from the crisis of identity that would lead such writers as John Hewitt or W. R. Rodgers into a style of aestheticized regionalism: “however, I think you will agree that Belfast has a national background. And Belfast is an Irish City, populated by Irish families. The fact that many of our surnames may have originated from earlier pilgrims to this shore rarely interests Belfast-men.” Indeed, Carnduff was confident that literature in Northern Ireland was distinctive because of this sense of Protestant identity, and that this was its main source of strength: “whatever contribution Belfast has made towards Irish Literature, Gaelic or Anglo-Irish, this has to be admitted, it has been a protestant contribution.”

Carnduff’s account is voluble and refreshingly direct in stating his suspicions of Southern nationalism. Just as Billy Mitchell would later eulogize the influences that informed the particularist traits of loyalism in the Blanket, Carnduff’s final paragraph is eloquent and defiant in support of the northern Protestant identity:

All I can say is that I have played in its streets as a child, slaved in its factories as a youth, sweated in its shipyards as a man. I have seen hell let loose in its streets because man has yet to learn tolerance. I have cowered in fear while its people were slaughtered and their homes shattered as the sky vomited death and destruction. Yet its people have been kindly to me, their homes have sheltered me. Whatever be their faults, those failings are also mine. We Belfastmen love Ireland. Every sod and stone and mountain and lake is part of us. There is no land on earth as fair as this Northern land of ours. And I wonder how any man could think otherwise, with the glory of the Mourne country at his side, or the grandeur of the Glens, or the green roll of the Antrim hills ever in sight.29
Such an impassioned appeal on behalf of Unionist Belfast is not unproblematic, O’Faolain demonstrated considerable courage in publishing it, especially as it directly mentioned the Blitz in Belfast at a time when references to the war were vigorously censored by the Irish government.

The Bell ran a gauntlet between de Valéra’s mainstream constitutional republicanism and physical-force republicanism, resisting both discourses by presenting a broader vision of Irish identity. Under the guidance of O’Faolain and O’Donnell, the journal demonstrated a notable acceptance of dissident political voices. In opening its pages to dissenting voices from within the republican movement, and from those violently opposed to it, it demonstrated that restrictive impositions of social identity could not account for the myriad expressions of human experience. Its achievement was to demonstrate that a more holistic attitude to identity would allow for the articulation of contradictions without dissolving the whole. 

By its very nature the Bell resisted censorious reaction, offering a shared platform to all, so that its oft quoted mission-statement could be practiced as well as preached: “whoever you are, then, O reader, Gentile or Jew, Protestant or Catholic, priest or layman, Big House or Small—The Bell is yours.”30 Half a century later, this kind of open-forum culture—explicitly resistant to mainstream media—was facilitated still further by the shift from magazine to web publishing. The Belfast-based internet journal the Blanket inherited the mantle of its more illustrious predecessor. 

Although its literary contributors were fewer and less distinguished than those of the as the Bell, the Blanket published the work of contemporary writers like Malachi O’Doherty and journalists Suzanne Breen, Henry McDonald, and Eamonn McCann throughout its six-and-a-half year lifespan. Launched with the tagline “a journal of protest and dissent,” the Blanket, like the Bell, occupied a subversive space. It did so due by critically interpreting the Good Friday Agreement, while also striving to criticize the mainstream media narratives that were unquestioningly supportive of the peace process. 

Unlike the Bell, the Blanket emerged not from the tradition of Irish letters, but from the activist journalism milieu born of the internet’s use as a tool of protest. The Blanket had grassroots activism at its core, owing to the shared Provisional IRA roots of many senior contributors. Their radicalism had been born in jail, before, during, and after the Hunger Strikes of 1980 and 1981. The name, the Blanket, alluded to the men and women who had taken part in the no-work, no-wash, “dirty” protests of 1976–1981. 

Indeed, jail had been a transformative experience for many of the founding writers on the Blanket; it was there that they wrote and published for the first time. The republican prisoner magazine An Glór Gafa (The Captive Voice), appeared between 1989 and the release of the last political prisoners in 2000, was an earlier publication that shared many contributors with the Blanket. An Glór Gafa presaged the Blanket by providing a space for republicans to debate difficult subjects and publish articles on a range of often controversial topics not often included within mainstream republican discourses, including gay and lesbian rights.31 The Blanket’s Anthony McIntyre was one of those who contributed frequently. An Glór Gafa had broken out of its narrow confines as a prison publication by the quality of the writing it presented, and the Blanket, too, had an impact beyond Northern Ireland. 

Editor Carrie Twomey has established that contributions and analysis from the Blanket found their way into documents of the United States state department, the British Home Office, and were also raised by TDs during discussions in Dáil Éireann.32 The Blanket’s impact can certainly be seen in the mainstream media. McIntyre, its most prolific contributor, also frequently wrote for the Belfast Telegraph, the Guardian, Parliamentary Brief, and the Los Angeles Times; he was routinely interviewed by journalists interested in the landscape of post-peace process Northern Ireland. Many journalists for traditional media outlets, such as Suzanne Breen and Henry McDonald, benefited from their attention to the dissent recorded in the magazine. The Blanket’s achievement is all the more remarkable when we recall that—even though its writers lacked the reputations of O’Faolain, O’Donnell or their list of famous contributors—the magazine gained substantial media space in the contemporary public sphere. It harnessed both the publishing opportunities and inclusive impulses of the new online world. The Blanket was more prolific in output than its 1940s counterpart, publishing twice weekly for six years. There were few rules or guidelines for publication, other than asking authors to put their name to any articles they were submitting, a rule that was only relaxed in cases where the author might have been in extreme danger of reprisal. Unlike the Bell, the Blanket rarely published contributors under pseudonyms; no more than a handful appeared under pen names. 

By definition, the Blanket was less literary than the Bell, and it published articles of widely varying journalistic quality. But like its predecessor, it displayed a witty and subversive streak, publishing satiric work by the newspaper columnist Newton Emerson and the propaganda of its own fictional pro-Sinn Féin member, Jimmy Sands, as well as cartoons by Brian Mór and John Kennedy.33 Its sole aim, beyond critiques of official republicanism, was to give a voice to those denied a space to speak in the mainstream media in a contemporary political landscape dominated by Sinn Féin and the Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). 

The Blanket also represented a tradition of socialist republican armed activism, as earlier embodied by Peadar O’Donnell. Contemporary media narratives, informed by Sinn Féin press and publicity, portrayed the Good Friday Agreement as offering a blueprint for the complete cessation of the republican armed struggle. The Blanket, growing out of the writing of a group of former prisoners who had coalesced in their opposition to Sinn Féin’s political direction, disputed this.34 It also questioned how republicanism’s aims were recalibrated as a struggle for equality in Northern Ireland and as another of the interim bridgeheads on the journey toward a united socialist republic. The Blanket’s purpose, on one level, echoes contributor Henry McDonald’s preface to his polemical book, Gunsmoke and Mirrors: “to challenge an entirely fake orthodoxy . . . that the IRA’s bombs and bullets expended during that period were done so in order that somehow Ulster’s Catholics could become equal citizens in the North of Ireland.”35 McIntyre was likewise critical: “for the Provisional Republican Movement, the long, slow one-way journey away from the core tenets of republicanism, which sustained it throughout its struggle, will at some point be completed . . . the only destination that awaits them is the establishment sea of constitutionalism.”36

The origins of the Blanket lay in the Bobby Sands Discussion Group and the Irish Republican Writers Group (IRWG), both of which sought to articulate the criticisms of former republican volunteers of the peace process. In part, it was motivated by frustration with the republican leadership’s attempts at marginalizing and discrediting dissent within its own ranks of former volunteers:

A group of ex-prisoners had set up the Bobby Sands Discussion Group. Its role was to throw about ideas generated from whatever quarter and to stage public debates. After one lively debate in Derry in early 1995 the leadership closed down the discussion group. Members of DAAT (Direct Action Against Thinking) began to attend discussion group meetings. One “assured” us that the leadership was so clever it was even right when it was wrong.37
After this closure, the newly formed IRWG began publishing Fourthwrite, a magazine unstinting in its critiques of Sinn Féin, but which also sought to place Northern Irish republican politics within a wider socialist framework.

Brendan Hughes, Tommy Gorman, Carrie Twomey, Anthony McIntyre, and Liam O Ruairc
Former IRA prisoners McIntyre, Tommy McKearney, Tommy Gorman, and Brendan Hughes, as well as McIntyre’s partner Carrie Twomey formed the core of the IRWG. As the “propaganda of peace” engulfed Northern Ireland—and particularly nationalist communities—Fourthwrite sought to critique the shift of provisional republicanism away from revolutionary socialism of James Connolly.38 It highlighted the intimidation that some dissenting voices had faced, comparing it to the punishment beatings and murders carried out on other republican dissident groups. Anthony McIntyre observed in the Belfast arts magazine Fortnight that

The Irish Republican Writers Group emerged at a crucial time in the history of republicanism. The Good Friday Agreement had just been accepted by 96% of the Sinn Fein membership. It seemed, in Foucauldian terms, that the anti-systemic soul of Provisional republicanism was being erased as easily as a face in the sand at the edge of the sea.39
As with the Bell, these writers found themselves in the position of occupying a political landscape of post-struggle disillusionment.

Their resentments were fuelled by a perceived betrayal by their political leaders, many of whom were former comrades in arms. After a split in opinion over the direction of Fourthwrite, the Blanket began publication early 2001, after Real IRA man Joe O’Connor was murdered in West Belfast. McIntyre and Gorman explicitly charged the Provisional IRA with the killing, despite an official ceasefire.40 Their homes were picketed by Sinn Féin, and Gerry Adams accused both of being “fellow travellers with the Real IRA” despite his continual denunciations of a futile armed campaign.41 Speaking to Liz Curtis, McIntyre denounced the dissident violence of the Continuity IRA and Real IRA, saying, “I would prefer Gerry Adams’ strategy to that, because it’s not leaving body bags in the street.”42 Despite such declarations, it must be noted that the Blanket can be accused of maintaining an ambiguous relationship with republican groups still actively engaged in, or supportive of, violence.43 For instance, it routinely published statements and articles by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, considered to be the political wing of the dissident Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA). Nonetheless, McIntyre and Twomey remained unambiguous in their personal disavowal of violent means for republican aims. 

McIntyre’s dangerous stance against active republicanism evokes O’Faolain’s before him. O’Faolain, too, wished to break from the violence of IRA activity, and he was wary of the personal threat that gunmen posed. In his resignation letter to Jim O’Donovan, editor of Ireland To-Day and a committed republican activist, he acknowledged the danger posed by the IRA: “Don’t you see the fellows who shot Somerville and Egan [IRA] are the mush who are reducing Irish life to imbecility? You know these chaps. I know them. We worked and fought with them. They’d plug you or me in two seconds in a moment of hysteria.”44 O’Faolain was probably an unlikely target for the IRA in the 1930s, but McIntyre, Twomey, and other Blanket contributors faced a very real threat.  

There is, of course, a paradox inherent in the Blanket’s stance of being, on the one hand, supportive of peace, but simultaneously critical of the abandonment of core ideological tenets that had sustained the republican armed struggle. The dissidents pointed out that republicanism aimed to coerce the British from Ireland forciby and to discredit the notion that Unionist consent was needed for the British to leave. But the Blanket contributors never made clear how it could do so peacefully.45 The magazine was also unstinting in its criticism of republican leaders who—having stated their intent of dismantling the Stormont government and its security forces—moved to taking seats in the devolved assembly and playing an active role in reform of the police service. Dissenting republicans protested that they had fought not for reform of policing and justice, but for the establishment of a new system of policing beyond the sectarian forces that republicans opposed. Much of the Blanket in the years 2001 to 2004 would point to Sinn Féin’s abandonment of both of these principles. 

In February 2002, Gerry Adams, while attending sessions at the World Economic Forum, signalled that neither he nor Sinn Féin wanted to take Northern Unionists into a united Ireland without their consent. Although keen to stress that this was not about a Unionist veto, he told the debate, “I don’t think we can force upon unionism an all-Ireland which does not have their assent or consent and doesn’t reflect their sense of being comfortable.”46 Adams’s statement sent seismic shocks among dissenting republicans. For these groups, many of whom contributed to the Blanket, this was the ultimate betrayal of a cornerstone of the struggle and the principles that had been adhered to in the jails and the Hunger Strikes. They saw Sinn Féin as in effect assuming the mantle of the constitutional nationalists, such as the SDLP, whom they so decried for collaborating with the British in the 1970s. 

Eamonn McCann’s Belfast Telegraph column of that week, reproduced by the Blanket, noted that

Some will remember the deluge of derision which Sinn Fein poured on the SDLP in the 1970s and 80s for signing up to the principle of consent. It was this which, in republican nomenclature, earned the SDLP the alias, ‘Stoop Down Low Party’. The dismay of some who stood up for the Republic and gave years of their lives to the fight to achieve it is natural.47 
McIntyre portrayed Adams’s statement more baldly:

A revolutionary body that settles for and then seeks to legitimise the very terms it fought against simultaneously de-legitimises and arguably criminalizes its own existence. Consequently, historians of the conflict, now armed with the present Sinn Fein logic will in all probability come to view the IRA campaign much more negatively than may previously have been the case. A sad denouement to an unnecessary war in which so many suffered needlessly.48
Eamon Lynch, writing for the New York-based Irish Echo and carried by the Blanket, critiqued the paradox of Official Provisionalism’s now simultaneous acceptance of the principles of constitutional nationalism, while continuing to use the IRA as a policing force in republican communities:

While claiming to have entered a new phase in its war of liberation against the British, the reality is that the IRA is now engaged in little more than a territorial scuffle. . . . This may constitute community defence of a sort, and many nationalists clearly tolerate or welcome it as both necessary and justified. But it is not republicanism. Perhaps when that fact is acknowledged we will be spared the now-familiar spectacle of Sinn Fein conducting a chorus of “A Nation Once Again” when they know the band is actually playing ‘”Rule Britannia.”49

The Blanket sought to escape the narrow identity politics that Sinn Féin occupied in post-peace process Northern Ireland.50 Arising after Twomey and McIntyre’s experiences of the more accessible and open marketplace for ideas that came with the internet and the early online bulletin boards, the Blanket actively sought articles from former loyalist fighters, like Billy Mitchell, and from evangelical Protestants. In doing so, it echoed O’Faolain and O’Donnell’s ethos of embracing these identities, and gave them a place to articulate their positions. In an era of deep polarization in a political landscape dominated Sinn Féin and the DUP, the Blanket, like the Bell, committed itself to a politically diverse editorial agenda—a conscientious decision on behalf of the editors to resist sectarianism and censorship. In a 2009 interview, McIntyre stated that to complain about being silenced by mainstream republican leaders yet not give an opportunity for loyalists and Unionists to write about their position would be an act of hypocrisy.51 Along with McKearney, he had worked alongside loyalist former prisoners, including Mitchell, in producing the Other View, a magazine for political prisoners, from both sides of the sectarian divide. The Blanket also printed the work of the loyalist leader David Adams, a former Ulster Democratic Party councillor and ex-member of the Ulster Defence Association leadership. He wrote for the magazine and contributed his weekly columns from the Irish Independent and the Irish Times for republication.

The most prolific Unionist “Blanketman” was Dr. John Coulter, an evangelical Protestant Orangeman and journalist, who went on to contribute a weekly column for the Irish Daily Star. Coulter contributed the first of an eventual more than one hundred provocative columns in November 2004. His political manifesto was wholly at odds with the republican ideals of the Blanket. For instance, he called for a popular evangelical Protestant revival to happen alongside the establishment of a thirty-two-county united Ireland tied to the British state. Unlike Mitchell, who saw an acceptance of all identities as the solution to Northern Ireland’s problems, Coulter saw the answer to the problems of Partition as lying within existing British state institutions and traditions. Whereas the Bell turned to the poetry of Louis MacNeice, John Hewitt, and W. R. Rogers to evaluate the Ulster Protestant mindset, the Blanket’s publication of Coulter’s work framed the debate not within aesthetic confines, but in controversially hardheaded political solutions. 

For Coulter, Northern Irish Protestants were not the architects of Partition. He saw the solution to the problems of the political divide in the further integration of a united Ireland with Great Britain under the auspices of the British Commonwealth:

Many Southern Catholics and Northern Prods could be attracted to a pro-Commonwealth Unionist movement—driven by an evangelical radical Presbyterianism—which guaranteed their middle class lifestyles would not be threatened by the ever expanding European Union. Revolutionary Unionism would take the British islands—including Ireland—out of the EU and into the global economic security of the Commonwealth.52
Again, we find similarities with ideas expressed earlier in the Bell. The proposed re-affirmation of the link with the Commonwealth in some ways resembled O’Faolain’s sentiments in his “One World” series, wherein he hoped Ireland might follow Canada’s example and impose a federal solution to Partition, writing that “the two parts of Ireland might some day decide, if the circumstances force it into their heads—that federal union was a plan.”53 O’Donnell had also published such controversial solutions to Irish division sixty years before Coulter made his case in the Blanket, when he printed an article by W. Douglas, secretary of the Ulster Unionist Association that made a similar argument, proposing seeing the solution to Partition as lying in further integration with the United Kingdom. Dounglas openly blamed Irish nationalists for the divide that separated the two states: “Ulster is not to blame for the 1920 Act, which separated the North from the South. Her people desired to remain with Great Britain and the British Empire. The real partitioners were the agitators in Southern Ireland, who demanded complete separation from the United Kingdom and the establishment of a State owning no allegiance to His Majesty the King.”54 That the Blanket, and the Bell before it, should publish such similar arguments testifies to their radical nature—and also to the enduring quality of such radical, if impractical, political suggestions.

Coulter’s penultimate article for the Blanket, which appeared just before the magazine shut down, illustrates his revolutionary vision for a new Ireland. Twomey and McIntyre had married and were intent on building a life away from the hostile surroundings of West Belfast. They took a break from publishing in late 2007 and decided to cease publishing after the death of the former Falls Road IRA commander Brendan Hughes in February 2008. The final editions ran in February and May 2008 and consisted of a series of articles that celebrated the life of Brendan Hughes, along with tributes to the Blanket from a range of contributors, including loyalists like Coulter and David Adams.55 In a deliberately provocative argument, Coulter conflated modern republicanism with the seventeenth-century ideals of the Protestant Revival:

Unionists should remember Brendan Hughes; a republican who realised the pitfall into which Sinn Fein had tumbled. So my fellow Unionists, forget the feuds—when Paisley is gone, we can formally begin the process of reclaiming our ultimate birthright bequeathed to us by King William III in the Glorious Revolution. Ironically, it may well have been IRA OCs such as the late Brendan Hughes who pointed the way. Now that’s one of the ironies of Irish politics.56
Here and on many other occasions, the Blanket, like the Bell, sought to steer debates away from the safe environs of the established, and imperfectly formed, consensuses of their times.

Thus, a web magazine—the name of celebrated the struggle of republican paramilitaries and their resistance in the jails of the British state—gave rise to a body of activist journalism that signposted a shift from the revolutionary era ideals of the twentieth century. In a sense, the Blanket signaled the end of an era that O’Faolain, O’Donnell, and the Bell had helped to develop. In 2008. Mick Fealty, the founder of the Northern Irish political blog Sluggerotoole, summed up the Blanket and its successes. “An era of protest has passed,” he wrote, adding that

There are still a few who are attempting to carry on the armed struggle the IRA effectively abandoned fourteen years ago. But for many others, the Blanket gave another, more civil account of a term that has more commonly been reserved for Republican paramilitaries who refused to follow the lead of the Provisional IRA: ‘dissident’.57
The combined heritage of republican and socialist dissent shared by the Bell and the Blanket operated in a similar way. Both were vocal objectors at a time of political stabilization. That both journals chose to publish their criticisms openly testified to their belief in the security of the prevailing political order, despite the obvious risks such criticism entailed and despite their undisguised displeasure with the nature of that order. In their own way, each publication marked a new era in Irish politics, in which the dynamic forces that shaped their world—namely, armed struggle—gave way to a period of self-questioning and criticism. The Bell and the Blanket played a key role in such a process for their respective generations. Their legacy is to demonstrate that once political power has been won, the question of what to do with it often remains to be resolved.


Footnotes 
1. See Suzanne Breen, “Decommissioned Provos Thrown on the Scrapheap of History,” Sunday Tribune, 16 April 2006. The former Falls Road IRA officer and Blanket contributor Brendan Hughes said, “My brother is taking me to Cuba. The revolution improved ordinary people’s lives there. It was a waste of time here.” http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/BH100208.html.

2. Billy Mitchell, “Maintaining Beliefs Without Bigotry,” Blanket (n.d.), http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/maintaining.htm.

3. Mitchell, “Culture and Identity,” Blanket (February, 2002)http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/culture.html.

4. Mitchell, “Culture and Identity.”

5. Sean O’Faolain, et al., “The Five Strains,” Bell, 2, 6 (September, 1941), 13–30.

6. James J. Auchmutty, “Public Opinion: The Scottish Strain.” Bell, 3, 1 (October, 1941), 79–82.

7. Sean O’Faolain, The Irish (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1947).

8. Mitchell, “The Orangeman’s Handshake,” Blanket (2000),http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/orangemans.html.

9. Mitchell, “Orangeman’s Handshake.”

10. Anthony McIntyre, “Dangerous Words, the Genesis of the Irish Republican Writers Group,” Fortnight (September, 2001), available at the Blanket,http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/dangerouswords.html.

11. Maurice Walsh was at that time one of Ireland’s most successful writers, and wrote the short story on which The Quiet Man (1952) film was based. His presence on the editorial board was probably calculated to give the Bell some credibility as a literary rather than political journal. Walsh is interviewed by H.L. Morrow, “The Bellman” in an early edition: “Meet Maurice Walsh,” Bell, 4, 2 (May, 1942).

12. Brendan Behan, “I Become a Borstal Boy,” Bell, 4, 3 (June, 1942). Some biographical details appear in the short extract in the Bell that are absent from the finished version. For example, his prosecution at St. George’s Hall in Liverpool, where visitors can still retrace his steps from the cell to the dock today, is left out of the finished version.

13. Michael O’Sullivan, Brendan Behan: A Life (Niwot CO: Roberts Rinehart Publishers, 1999), p. 94.

14. Margaret Ward, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington: A Life (Cork: Cork University Press, 1997), pp. 336–37. Róisín Walsh was not the wife of Maurice Walsh, though that claim is often made in studies of the Bell. Although they shared the same name, it is difficult to see what else this radical feminist republican would have in common with the author.

15. J. Bowyer Bell, The Secret Army: The IRA (Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1997), p. 81.

16. Francis Stuart, “Frank Ryan in Germany,” Bell, 16, 2 (November 1950), p. 40; and Francis Stuart, “Frank Ryan in Germany,” Bell, 16, 2 (November, 1950), p. 40.

17. Brian Hanley, The IRA, 1926–1936 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002), pp. 104–09.

18. See: Geoffrey Elborn, Francis Stuart: A Life (Dublin: Raven Arts Press, 1990); Seán Cronin, Frank Ryan: The Search for the Republic (Dublin: Repsol Press, 1980).

19. Stuart, “Frank Ryan in Germany,” p. 40.

20. See: David O’Donoghue, “Stuart Had Many Reasons for German Stay Including IRA Role,” Irish Times, 3 February 2000, p. 12; Seán Cronin, “IRA Leaders Were Ideologically Apart But Friends,” Irish Times, 20 April 2000, p. 12. For more on Stuart’s stay in Germany, see David O’Donoghue, Hitler’s Irish Voices: The Story of German Radio’s Wartime Irish Service (Belfast: Beyond the Pale Publications, 1998), pp. 99–105.

21. For an account of Hayes’s arrest and trial see the Irish Times, 20 June 1942, p. 3.

22. Brian Girvin, The Emergency: Neutral Ireland 1939–45 (London: MacMillan, 2006), pp. 83–84.

23. Stephen Hayes, “My Strange Story,” Bell, 17, 4 (July, 1951), 16.

24. Sean O’Faolain, “Partition,” in The North: A Collection of Short Stories, Articles and Poems (Belfast: The Ulster Union Club, 1944), p. 6.

25. Sean O’Faolain to Lloyd Williams 26 December 1937, BBC Written Word Archive Reading. Recont 1. Sean O’Faolain Talks, File 1, 1932–46.

26. Clair Wills notes the severity of Irish censorship during World War II in an effort to demonstrate the state’s strict neutrality to the public. See Clair Wills, That Neutral Island: A Cultural History of Ireland During the Second World War (London: Faber and Faber, 2007).

27. Thomas Carnduff: Life and Writings, ed. John Grey (Belfast: Lagan Press, 1994).

28. Thomas Carnduff, “Belfast,” Bell, 4, 4 (July, 1942), 269–73.

29. Carnduff, “Belfast,” 269, 270, 272, 273.

30. Sean O’Faolain, “This Is Your Magazine,” Bell, 1, 1 (October, 1940), 9.

31. Brendi McClenaghan, “Invisible Comrades, Gays and Lesbians in the Irish Struggle,” An Glór Gafa (Winter, 1991). The article became particularly controversial when Sinn Féin leadership cut it from the edition to be sold in United States. It was reprinted by the Australian magazine Green Left, 22 November 1992. Available athttp://www.greenleft.org.au/node/2588.

32. Interview with Paddy Hoey, Drogheda, 12 December 2010; transcript in the possession of the authors.

33. Jimmy Sands, whose name derived from the ironic loyalist graffiti “Jimmy Sands we’ll never forget you” that appeared after the death if Bobby Sands on hunger strike, was a satiric character who would often “contribute” pro-Sinn Féin articles so ludicrous as to render the official stance ridiculous.

34. Anthony McIntyre, “The Irish Republican Writers Group and the Battle for New Ideas,” Socialist Democracy (2001),http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/ProblemsOfPeace/POPTheIRWGAndTheBattleForNewIdeas.html. McIntyre stated, “The two most frequent anti-Agreement republican writers at the time, Tommy McKearney and myself supported peace but not an empty process or a strategically futile armed campaign.” See also Anthony McIntyre, “Supporting Peace But Not the Process,” Blanket, 21 December 2001,http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/pens.html.

35. Henry McDonald, Gunsmoke and Mirrors: How Sinn Féin Dressed Up Defeat as Victory (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 2009), p. iii.

36. Anthony McIntyre, “Rivers Change Their Course Sometimes But Always Reach the Sea,” Blanket (18 April 2003),http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/riverstosea.html.

37. Anthony McIntyre, “Dangerous Words.”

38. See Greg McLaughlin and Stephen Baker, The Propaganda of Peace: The Role of Media and Culture in the Northern Ireland Peace Process (Bristol: Intellect Books, 2010). The authors argue that the media played a significant role in persuading the public that a dramatic realignment of politics had happened in Northern Ireland with the Good Friday Agreement.

39. McIntyre, “Dangerous Words.”

40. Anthony McIntyre, “The Irish Republican Writers Group.”

41. Ed Moloney, “Adams Article Fuels Republican Dispute,” Sunday Tribune, 29 October 2000.

42. Liz Curtis, “A Rebel Republican,” Irish Post, 26 April 2001.

43. Martyn Frampton, Legion of the Rearguard: Dissident Irish Republicanism (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2011), p. 163.

44. Sean O’Faolain to Jim O’Donovan, quoted in Frank Shovlin, The Irish Literary Periodical 1923–1958 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), p. 79.

45. See “Radio Free Eireann Interview With Brendan Hughes,”Blanket (March, 2000). Hughes said, “I don’t have an alternative, people keep saying to me if your (sic) going to criticize put up an alternative. I don’t have an alternative, the alternative is within the republican movement.”http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/BH60208.html.

46. “United Ireland Will Not Be a Cold House for Unionists,” Republican News, 7 February 2002.

47. Eamonn McCann, “Green Is Still the Colour,” Blanket, (14 February 2002),http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/greenstill.html.

48. Anthony McIntyre, “Republicans Acknowledging a Democratic Basis to Partition,”Blanket (10 February 2002).http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/partition.htm.

49. Eamonn Lynch, “Andersonstown News: Voice of Banana Republicanism?” Blanket (18 June 2003),http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/andersonstownewsbananarepublicanism.html.

50. Kevin Bean, The New Politics of Sinn Féin (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007), p. 248.

51. McIntyre, interview with Paddy Hoey, Drogheda, 11 November 2009. Transcript in the possession of the authors.

52. John Coulter, “Revolutionary Unionism” Blanket (13 November 2006),http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/JC2191106g.html.

53. Séan O’Faolain, “One World,” Bell, 8, 4 (July 1944), 284. See also Brad Kent, “Sean O’Faolain and Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s Midcentury Critiques of Nationalism,” New Hibernia Review, 12, 1 (Spring, 2008), 128–45.

54. W. Douglas, “Impossibility of Irish Union,” Bell, 14, 1 (April, 1947), 33.

55. David Adams, “A Genuine Platform of Free Expression.” Blanket (18 May 2008),http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/DALB.html.

56. John Coulter, “An Irony of Irish Politics,”Blanket (24 February 2008),http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/JCDARK.html.

57. Mick Fealty, “In Praise of a Journal of Dissent,” Blanket (18 May 2008), http://indiamond6.ulib.iupui.edu:81/MFLB.html.




42 comments:

marty said...

This was a trip down memory lane I am not (just )old enough to remember the BELL but the Blanket was a bright light that shone in a dark place,by such I mean from the late 80,s through the 90,s those republicans who saw the republican movement morph into an elite group of con men and women willing to sell 30 odd years of misery death and destruction for a few morsels from their masters table and those opposed to the fledging" peace process" were branded dissidents.republicanism outside qsf was and is fragmented,the Blanket has been a beacon of hope for dissenting voices and slowly but surely people are beginning to make sense of the treachery and sell out that is the gfa and qsf,s part in it,the Blanket and now TPQ have provided a platform for a different viewpoint to be aired and that can only be a good thing.here,s hoping both Anthony and Carrie are able to continue with this superb work for many a long day..

itsjustmacker said...

Firstly, to Niall and Paddy.
That is an excellent piece, which must have taken both of you a very long time to obtain all those resources, To be honest, I actually thought I was reading a book, I felt myself being drawn into it.

But I will refer to today's modern society, which derived from the 69/70s, P.I.R.A. , PSF.
I have been studying a multitude of documents from various sources, some of those sources are from documents released under the freedom of information, or, the 30 year rule, also documents from PSF itself ; that is after the GFA.
I have come to one solid conclusion that Gerry Adams was gotten to by the brits ,(RUC SPECIAL BRANCH/MI5) , possibly more in the higher echelon, were indoctrinated into there way of thinking, ((The British), a shrewd and crude nation). Marian Price was threatened for dissenting , because she and others , myself included, knew , a sell out was on the cards, 30 years of death and destruction 10 men, the bravest of the bravest gave there lives for a United Ireland ,on our own Island , for what?. Who is making all the money, who owns all the rouge builders, who owns massive houses, some have two or three, is that socialist democracy?. But then again, who am I to call anyone, I'm just an old stickie , as a kid i used to post leaflets through the doors for big Frank Mc Glade in Ardoyne, I was there when Internment came in, rough times for nearly everyone, but easy times for the few!. and those few are now well established within a British State. I remember My late Father (R.I.P) and one of my younger brothers being dragged out of our house nearly naked and the British Soldiers smacking them all over the there heads whilst the RUC were laughing at them both, I was told under no circumstances was I to interfere by an OC, I was told I would be lifted as well and that was not what he wanted, I stated right away, Someone has grassed, He looked at me and laughed and said, don't be daft macker, but now I know the whole truth, My Father ended up with 3 broken ribs, my younger brother ended up under a psychiatrist and still is until this very day, but that is nothing compared to all those who died for the (SO CALLED CAUSE) riddled with British Agents. Ask yourself this question, If Adams was supposedly engrossed with freeing the province of Ulster from the British stranglehold and uniting it with the other 3 provinces, Did he take of the Eire?. The British are protecting More Republican Agents than anyone could imagine, and even if those agents came out and made a statement, they would be disowned. They buy the Irish, Sell They Irish, and Shite On The Irish, and that includes those on the Loyalist side as well. In 1971 I had a theory, it was to bomb every financial institution in london. I was laughed at!.

itsjustmacker said...

this is just FOOD FOR THOUGHT.

But you will have to read between the lines as there are so many secret documents, you are not allowed to see them.
The are on SF web site.

http://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/15216

more nets in these documents than there are fish!

AM said...

This is a stimulating piece built on a strong foundation of research and comparative analysis. To this day I remain unsure if the Blanket should have pulled stumps when it did. It seemed appropriate at the time given that the Provos had reached the end of their republican odyssey and were firmly ensconced in the British framework for outcomes. Yet there remains so much to be said about republicanism and its failures. But perhaps that is best left to another project. The British state and partition survived the Provo assault, a united Ireland is as far away as ever, the Provos are part of the British solution to republicanism and the future is orange, figuratively speaking.

marty said...

Anthony the Blanket wound up much to early imo ,but with the Dark gone ,Brian Mór gone John Kennedy awol maybe TPQ was and is the way to go,agree the future is definitely orange ,but I see whats left of the prm as very much part of the problem.we have seen and heard them call on the people to inform,I think they may still have a more sinister role to play yet ,thinking of vol Joe O Connor here,but yes the Blanket was a joy to read and a talking point among the few who dared step out of the party constraints.like moths to the flame such publications will attract attention from people whose minds are still their own and then the debate begins,thats why we need TPQ and sister publications now more than ever,can you imagine this place with only the party lines and their subservient press...

marty said...

Of thread I know and apologise we need a this n that column. but
POLICE ADVISED ASDA NOT TO MOVE KILLERS TRIBUTES;
This is the headlines in todays Irish News. the RUC are as active and orange today as they were in 81,Martyboy and his cronies must be really proud of themselves at this show of respect for victims and the rule of law never mind the equality agenda shown by our protectors in the psni/ruc.those who negotiated the gfa on behalf of prm should be made eat the fucking thing.

AM said...

Marty,

we are on differing sides of the debate over the ASDA thing. It struck me that once the guy died in the horrific act of self-immolation that the response from some republicans or nationalists was way over the top. Much of it was the venting of hatred. Billy Hunter went to jail for a very brutal act against blameless nationalists going about their work. It was a bad killing. But so many from our own ranks carried out killings of blameless unionists and some of those killings were bad. Were one of them to work for ASDA, kill themselves, and ASDA in West Belfast put out a book of condolence I would be fairly annoyed if loyalists and unionists started shouting and calling for the rest of us to follow his example. If we were to start intimidating shoppers from the Shankill or Lisburn Road going there it would be a different matter. Also, each time we complain about a former loyalist prisoner getting a job we simply feed into the arguments used against Mary McArdle by the TUV and DUP. It ends up coming full circle and biting all former prisoners.

I wonder for how long we in general are going to be caught in this rut of taking a one eyed view of everything that was done throughout the conflict.

marty said...

Anthony,My disgust at Hunter was entirely on the grounds that he was involved in sectarian murders of workmates for no other reason than they came from the other side nothing else.he done his time and and in his employment at ASDA he showed his true sectarian colours again by telling a lorry driver to play the sash,proving that some dogs cant learn new tricks,Hunter like those in the Shankill butchers played a dirty part in Britains dirty war and the reaction from that community on their demise leaves me wondering what the fuck we have in common,yes republicans have carried out horrendous actions but I have never seen them glorified in the way loyalist women showed the five fingers on the Ormeau rd in relation to the massacre at the bookies there,or any of their gatherings.also the way ASDA has dealt with this is disgusting,they would not allow us to collect signatures on their premises on behalf of Marian Price,this company and the shore rd branch supplied loyalists with vast amounts of goodies for their 11th night parties.my other point is that the psni/ruc accommodated the blocking of roads and the erection of paramilitary regalia at the "shrine" to this sectarian killer and their subsequent advice to ASDA not to remove the book of condolence, how times have changed didnt the old ruc beat the crap out of the people on the falls rd to get a tricolour out of a shop window many years ago now equality how are ye!, what we have witnessed re this whole affair on the Shore rd is imo a marking of territory by people who are nothing more than blind bigoted thugs(and accommodated with political cover from the local mlas and councillors and backed up by the psni/ruc) who I am glad they describe themselves as British because I as an Irishman would be scundered if they were to claim to be Irish.

itsjustmacker said...

Just goes to prove , The R.U.C. have not gone away, taking orders from top U.V.F. leaders. and, as we all know, They have not gone away either.
Welcome back to the old days of Loyalist supremacy while PSF puppets sit dumfounded and speechless.
We are still ruled by the British , with the Help of PSF of course.
The fact is, whether they like it or not, THE ARE IRISH, born on the Island Of Ireland, and, the British do not give two hoots about them , or , us.
They use you, Abuse you, buy You, Sell You. If the Loyalist sat back and realised what the British have done to those informers , they denied they were British Agents, so my message to those loyalist is, does that not prove what the British think of the loyalist communities, as i stated before, They will Use you, abuse you, arm you to do there dirty work, but dump you once word is out that they were involved. which has been proven. Furthermore, I honestly believe that all commemoration Parades should be held in the Graveyards, not on the public highways, how else are we to move forward?.

marty said...

Itsjustmacker,a cara even in graveyards republicans either get arrested or attacked.

goggzilla said...

I asked Gerry Kelly (politely) recently what nationalist/republicans had got from the so called policing agreement. As with Alex Maskey a few years ago he was unable to give an answer.

AM said...

Marty,

My disgust at Hunter was entirely on the grounds that he was involved in sectarian murders of workmates for no other reason than they came from the other side nothing else.

This happened against Protestants as well. The most notorious case was Whitecross. But there were others.

I don’t know the details of the sash incident other than from talking to a former republican prisoner and a nationalist community worker, both gave me a somewhat more nuanced account. Even if it is as straightforward as you believe I still feel the reaction is way over the top and it reflects something fundamental underneath. It is not your attitude in particular I am talking about but the wider reaction.

All loyalist armed groups played some role in the war dirty or otherwise. And when we reflect at some of the terrible dirty things done on our own side it becomes more complicated even though we still hold to a view that we were much more justified. Maybe the problem for us is that we have too much in common and that annoys us so we make them ‘the other’ as they say. I have long given up trying to find easy answers to these matters. I more or less accept that I am long on questions, short on answers.

yes republicans have carried out horrendous actions but I have never seen them glorified in the
way loyalist women showed the five fingers on the Ormeau rd in relation to the massacre at the bookies there, or any of their gatherings.


She was pretty much a low life but I can think of a few things our own have done. Just off the top of my head there is the case where the Sticks were being slagged off in jail with ‘rock a bye Eileen’ taunts over the IRA killing of six year old Eileen Kelly. After the Shankill fish shop bombing graffiti appeared in Turf Lodge to the effect of ’40 battered 12 well done’. That didn’t annoy me as much as the taunting over the bookies killings but that was probably the them and us mentality in me. I am sure the people of the Shankill were not happy about it.

I take your point about Marian and would have been annoyed but she was not an employee. If say Sean Kelly was to die and his employers put out a book of condolence I would take the view that the loyalists would have no right to deny him that basic human gesture.

Your other point about the cops accommodating road blocks etc is one that needs addressed. I think Martin Og Meehan has raised many questions about the differential approaches adopted by the cops when dealing with loyalist or republican events.

marty said...

Anthony Hunter was not an employee of ASDA when he topped himself,his death was merely I think an excuse for bigots and thugs to crank up sectarian tension,and it should have been opposed by ALL sections of this community,and enforced by the law,not the slightest consideration was given to the victims families by either ASDA or those who glorified a treacherous workmate.

AM said...

Marty,

While I thought he was an employee, that he wasn’t doesn’t change my mind on the matter. I would apply the principal that I would apply to a former republican prisoner. If a former employee opened a book of condolence I would object to the loyalists/unionists kicking up about it.

I wonder why he took his own life in the manner that he did. He was clearly disturbed about something.
As for the point that not the slightest consideration was given to the relatives, we need to face an uncomfortable question: is a victim’s veto to be treated differently from a victim’s justice? I think we need to think this through. The same argument was put out against Mary MacArdle getting a job. All those convicted of killing anyone, myself included, would never find employment if those criteria were applied.

truthrevisionist said...

Anthony,
'the response from republicans or nationalists was way over the top'.

Do you really believe that if an ex-republican prisoner,who had murdered two innocent protestants [not loyalists], who had been sacked from ASDA for 'sectarianism',and who burned to death in an unrelated incident would have, in west Belfast ASDA:

1. The complete railings that front the centre festooned with IRA tributes and wreathes.
2. A book of condolences opened and endorsed inside the shop.
3. Rerouted traffic and PSNI roadblocks protecting an early evening vigil.
4.Shoppers being turned away.

If so, you have completely missed the point of this supremacist exercise in subjugating the taigs. Billy Hunter was a non descript useless piece of unrepentant, unreformed trash, who happened to be a convenient excuse for orangeism to force its' 'one-eyed' version of tolerance down our throats. Just like St Patricks, just like Ardoyne, just like every day in the 'know your place' life of an Irish nationalist in the six counties.

larry hughes said...

'This happened against Protestants as well. The most notorious case was Whitecross. But there were others.'

With hte murders of Catholics at the time the problem may have been the half-hearted manner in which it was done. A bit more of it might have suited at that time. Maybe on loyalist bands buses!

larry hughes said...

'After the Shankill fish shop bombing graffiti appeared in Turf Lodge to the effect of ’40 battered 12 well done’.

First i heard that one...classic lol How did Hunter top himself?

Belfast Bookworm said...

I have to agree with Anthony on this one. Hunter, as sickening as he was to me, was a hero of sorts in his community. You can't argue with them wanting to Mark his passing.

Asda on the other hand should have a policy where they dont allow anything like the book of condolences to operate on their premises. But they're Walmart so what do you expect? Theyre not known for ethical business or trading. And the west Belfast branch was still bursting at the seems despite the issue getting high coverage in the media.

Marty;

'our side' were great at having a laugh at the expense of others - even in death. 'Jokes' about shankill bomb, George seawright's killing, numerous Brits/peelers plastered the Walls of our districts. It's what we do, rub salt into the wounds of enemies where and when we can.

AM said...

Larry,

he doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire. Apparently it was the second effort in a few days.

The manager of the Turf Lodge Enterprise Scheme went out and painted over the grafitti it as far as I remember.

If the Whitecross killings were right what would make them so different from the the two massacres you wrote about? I would have done it too in the day but we change with reflection and age. It sort of leads to a conclusion that some victims are more innocent than others.

BB,

if the book of condolences policy operates across the board fine but in principle I don't have a problem with such gestures. I think the way things are managed differently and preferentially by the state is the bigger issue than the sympathy expressed for Billy Hunter.

As for taunting the other side the list as you suggest is endless.

marty said...

Belfast bookworm as an ardent fan of Frankie Boyle I would describe myself as far away from p.c as is possible to get,yet when it comes to a community hero worshiping the likes of Hunter and the Shankill Butchers then surely you must ask yourself what sort of morons live in these communities,I cant find anything other than they are no longer on this earth in the slightest bit funny about them or their dirty deeds, as Truerevisionist has said I believe his glorification or the Ardoyne and st Patrick incidents were nothing more than a know your place orchestrated by those criminals who masquerade under the banner of loyalism in the name of uvf or uda,the purpose being that they want an even greater slice of the so called social fund £85mill that Peter the punt and Martyboy has stashed away.I am equally sure those leaders of the loyalist people or cannon fodder gave as much concern to Billy Hunters mental health and welfare as did those in prm to the Dark and Kieran Nugent

AM said...

Marty,

Each community has heroes the other community hates. The unionist community were infuriated when we turned out to bury Thomas Begley. It didn’t stop me carrying his coffin. Every group in this conflict produced people the other groups regard as war criminals. But they are respected within their own communities. I might not like that and don’t subscribe to a moral relativism. But I shirk from the notion that nobody is right but us or that there is no view other than the one we have.

More than a few from the republican side set up a work mate or a neighbor.

I have long thought that the Shankill butchers were a vile lot, guilty of the most heinous actions under the smoke of war. But those that killed the hunger strikers don’t figure too highly either.

larry hughes said...

Mackers
know what you mean about stooping to that level re' Whitecross. Massacres worked and continue to work for the Israelis, yanks and Brits who use it as first resort. Bernadette McAliskey stated the war is over the good guys lost. Nails it for me.

Gallows humour is hard to resist at times. It was written on a wall in Lurgan 'Semtex...kills more germs than vortex'. Also in a loyalist estate in Lurgan when RUC men were getting burned out after the signing of the Anglo Irish agreement in '85 'come home to a real fire...join the RUC'. Or Lord Mountbatten had dandruff...they found his head and shoulders on the beach.

AM said...

Larry,

I wonder about the answers to these things much more than I have the answers. Massacres work as does torture and a few other unsavoury things. Rape works for the rapist but ...

We didn't all rush to the IRA or whatever because it was intellectually the thought out thing for good guys to do any more than the loyalists ran to the UVF because they were all neanderthals who couldn't think. It had a lot to do with geographical location. If I had grown up in the Shankill I would hardly have crossed the line to sign up with the republican struggle.

Funny how what is just in life tends to correspond directly with what we happen to think.

Gallows humour is the best. Like yourself, I love it. Somebody once siad there are no racist jokes, just racists who tell jokes. I love a good joke.

truthrevisionist said...

Anthony

'More than a few from the republican side set up a work mate or a neighbour'
I would refer you to the 'Boycott Asda Facebook page where Shauneen McErlean describes the 'actual' method that Billy Hunter used to lure her father and uncle back to MountVermin. She describes how the story of a 'card game' was a side issue. Her father was a store manager and as such had access to bank and wages. One of Hunters' cohorts lured these innocent men on the pretence that he had'nt received any wages, and as an act of decency, they went to the house so that this low life would'nt be left short. That's how Hunter procured his 'lambs to the slaughter'.

If republicans did engage in this form of sub-human treachery, then they were not republicans.
If such people are revered then it diminishes us all.



marty said...

Anthony I am not at odds with what you think or say here a cara and I understand your point,I think what irks me most is the exploitation of the individual. Hunter was after all only a pawn in their game, Thomas Begley another.we have the sight of loyalists commemorating Brian Robinson while the dogs in the street know he was set up by those he swore allegiance to,flip the coin Adams also carried Thomas Begley,s coffin and yet he was in the process of selling out the "struggle" that action has all the hallmarks of a one way trip and the volunteers involved were not privy to that. now qsf,national chairman Declan Kearney is bending over almost in two to appease loyalism with groveling apologies and we see no genuine reciprocation,I find the so called outpouring of grief for Hunter as believable as anything that comes from Adams mouth. that I think is the nub of this whole thing with me.if it was real and sincere I think that would come across,Bobby Sands funeral and those brave comrades as a point,what the business at ASDA and elsewhere says to me is as stated nothing more than criminals exploiting the sectarian nature of their community.as far as right is concerned I think we had that in abundance unfortunately not the might to go along with it.

marty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AM said...

Marty,

Doesn’t much matter about who is at odds with who I suppose. Just an airing of opinions.

The individual is always open to exploitation in these matters. As you say it happened with our own. It doesn’t take much figuring to work out who sat on the army council that approved the operation that led to the Shankill deaths.

I don’t have a problem with them apologising for the war if they think it was wrong. But it is merely an instrument to them: they want the careers so badly that the war has to be thrust into the distant past and hermetically sealed from their current posturing. Do you think for a minute they wouldn’t disappear you in the morn if it suited? If they were in the slightest bit serious they would organisationally fess up to Joanne Mathers, Claudy, Whitecross, Joe O’Connor and a list of others longer than Pinocchio’s nose. How can they tell the unionists or anybody else they are serious when they lie through their teeth about all those matters?

I think we had much more right on our side than loyalism but I feel we should not lose our ability to self reflect and avoid the dangers of believing our own propaganda. Like yourself I have seem too many bad ones on our side to think we could possibly have a monopoly on being good.

marty said...

Well said a cara and I couldnt argue with that comment.

marty said...

Anthony for yourself and Larry only right this time.
paralympic update.4 dead in the epileptic clay pigeon shooting.

larry hughes said...

Marty

love it. the brits are toppers in the paralympics and always will be...steady numbers coming back from Iraq and wherever they happen to be missing body parts.

larry hughes said...

Mackers

A man told me recently people joined the IRA for all manner of resons, to take orders, give orders to get into the 'corner of the mouth gang'....as he said no-one likes to think they are ugly but there are a hell of a lot of ugly people out there!

Still goes down a treat that one when i tell it. cheers.

Belfast Bookworm said...

It is said that John McErlean was smiling when he was murdered & his face still bore the smile in his coffin, indicating he was perhaps 'at home' with those people who plotted to & murdered him. It beggars belief & you're right Marty, that such people are revered in their communities is madness to us but being revered by their own shouldnt come as any surprise.

My granny used to say that once someone died they ceased to be your enemy & I tried to remember that. But sometimes 'jokes' were just too witty not to enjoy.

Hunter had obviously severe mental health problems. Perhaps his background damaged him beyond repair - or perhaps he had problems to begin with & that's what drove him to do what he did.

Belfast Bookworm said...

TR,

'if republicans did engage in this form of sub-human treachery, then they were not republicans'

Two words: honey traps.

marty said...

Anthony another one for a this n that
When Thieves Fall Out;
Two members of the Knights of the Order OF the Holy Sepulchre have been in court over a property deal which one of them failed to honor the house on Belfasts Malone rd was sold to businessman Nicholas McKenna,he had offered to buy the house from fellow knight for £3.5 mill but pulled out when the property boom went belly up the vendor Jim McDonald(not of Corrie fame) and fellow knight a claims assessor for the brit army took his mate to court and now the law says that the bold Nick has to cough up,wonder did Nick turn the other cheek.

marty said...

Peter the punt and Martyboy recently went to China with a host of cronies to sort out jobs,They succeeded 760 jobs from F.G Wilson are now on their way there

larry hughes said...

'Peter the punt and Martyboy recently went to China with a host of cronies to sort out jobs,They succeeded 760 jobs from F.G Wilson are now on their way there'

FANTASTIC and true, American capitalism outsourced all their manufacturing jobs to 3rd world countries and China and if it wasn't for the Chinese military upgrade there'd have been a war with China and its economic 'miracle' long before now. Those fighting that war would have been the same unemployed in America. How screwed up is that? But they would no doubt have been bringing Iraqi and Lybian style 'freedom' to whoever they were shock and awe-ing. [I just love the way the Americans train foreign militias after they wreck some country...train them to shoot US Marines haha].

Also, look at the Churchill insurance advert, 'I love how you know what I'm saying'. A dig at UK call centres based in India no doubt.

marty said...

Martina Purdy news and current affairs correspondent for the BBC stated that deputy Martyboy was in America on party business,one hell of a party I,d bet.probably telling our American friends all about the peace dividends we are now enjoying,unemployment at its highest,homes being repossessed at a higher rater than ever ,suicide on the increase.internment back,no hope no future. yip even the weather is crap.but on a bright note the bearded one promised us a united Ireland by 2016 and we know he does not tell porkies,

truthrevisionist said...

Belfastbookworm,

'Two words: Honey traps'

Three words: Read my sentence.

AM said...

Larry,

that must be Ugly na h-Eireann

Belfast Bookworm said...

TR; I read your post and think you're saying that you believe if people used methods such as Hunter & 'lead lambs to the slaughter' then they were not republicans - which is why I mentioned honey traps. If I've misunderstood you then I apoligise.

larry hughes said...

mackers

'that must be Ugly na h-Eireann'

sure as hell turned out that way!

AM said...

Marty,

It pleases me that you got so much satisfaction from the Blanket. As you know it was hated by the SF mob back in the day. I think it helped illuminate the failure of Provo strategy in terms of moving anything republican forward. TPQ is a much more relaxed form of writing than the Blanket. I think when a writer goes off the boil it does no harm to be considerably less ambitious about the topics tackled.

I have mixed views about the Blanket winding up. It was a majority decision. It was felt that the Blanket was really a running commentary on the collapse of the republican end of the Provo project. When that project reached ground zero with the political endorsement of the British PSNI the Blanket, it was felt had served its purpose. But, yes, there is no bottom to how far the Provos will descend and in that sense there is room for commentary.

I think they may still have a more sinister role to play yet ,thinking of vol Joe O Connor here.

I think this is a very good point which is all too often overlooked in the commentary. Despite all their protestations the Provos killed Joe in a shoot to kill operation. I would never rule it out as a possibility.