The organisation to which Meehan belonged, the Republican Network for Unity, was sufficiently taxed by GARC’s complaint that after an inquiry it expelled Meehan, one of its more prominent figures with a public profile. A terse statement from the party website briefed readers that:
Republican Network for Unity announce that with immediate effect, Martin Óg Meehan has been dismissed from the party for a serious breach of the Code of Conduct. No further statements will follow.
GARC too said it would be making no further comment on the matter: both bodies, it seems, wanting to lay the matter to rest. In its own statement GARC, very caustically, asserted that:
Martin Og Meehan is tonight isolated and alone, found guilty of collaborating and colluding with loyalists, after passing information to them about a respected Republican and Community Activist ... A community that has suffered so much through collusion, will no doubt be scathing in their reaction to one of our own for assisting loyalists.
Strong stuff. Deemed guilty might be a more accurate way of describing the verdict than the more anodyne "found guilty". There was no trial that we are aware of and secret courts are something that republicans should be loath to recommend as just. GARC’s blistering damnation is the harshest interpretation possible to be placed on Meehan’s actions. Collaborating, colluding and passing information are not charges to be taken lightly. They can be totally ruinous of character and, in a volatile and fractious setting, of life.
Meehan hardly merits the label of collaborating, colluding or informing. GARC at no point showed what information other than the jaundiced opinion Meehan was supposed to have been passing to loyalists. Nor did it accuse Meehan of trying to set up GARC chairman Dee Fennel for anything other than political criticism from loyalism. It would take a very, and in my view unjustified, liberal stretching of Meehan’s supposed words that Fennell needs taken down a peg or two to interpret this is as Meehan suggesting that Fennell be physically harmed.
Meehan, for sure, has a case to answer in the eyes of those republicans and community activists he has worked with for having undermined their efforts. This emanates from his alleged suggestion to loyalists that they “use this”. The “this” that Meehan reportedly urged loyalists to “use” is a Facebook comment by Dee Fennell in respect of republican armed activity. Meehan is also said to have told his loyalist interlocutor that Dee Fennell “is hated in Ardoyne and needs took down a peg or two. You should expose him."
At worst this looks like Meehan being culpable for having backstabbed Dee Fennell to a loyalist while beefing up his sleight with the claim that Fennell is hated in Ardoyne. Perhaps Fennell is hated in Ardoyne but it might only be by Meehan and those who agree with him, hardly something that would lend itself to such a sweeping comment.
Meehan has foolishly, and in an underhand manner, undermined a political project his own organisation was heavily involved in promoting. It might have been a rush of blood to the head, the result of resentment at Fennell’s profile overshadowing his own. Whatever drove him, the criticism of Fennell looks petty, being devoid of substance. Meehan should step up to the plate and take responsibility for his actions, whether he feels they were justified or not.
But to state on the evidence available that he is an informer, collaborator and colluder is grotesque. If liberally sprinkled about for the purpose of denigrating rather than explaining, such terms rapidly diminish in value. Their power of opprobrium lies in their being used sparingly. Tempers might be high but when things settle down as they will, GARC might consider its language to have been a much too intemperate characterisation of Meehan’s bad faith indiscretion.