Fuck Every Cause That Ends In Murder And Children Crying

I have never been a fan of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, knowing only too well how petty it can be on a good day and brutal on a bad. I also feel it is one of the few entities of state officialdom in the North that has managed to find shelter from the reformist winds of change that have breezed through - there have been no hurricanes laying flat the old - other institutional corridors of power. 

Nor can I foresee myself ever abandoning the perspective of the imprisoned in favor of their jailers. Scabs cross picket lines and as my sympathies were always more inclined toward Scargill than Lynk, I don’t envisage figuratively turning the key on a cell door. 

Back in the day I could on occasion be found rejoicing when the Prison Service was attacked by the IRA, feeling that somebody had settled up on our account. It was little more than the revenge induced satiation that comes with seeing a vicious foe downed. 

I felt none of that late last week on learning that a member of staff at Hydebank Prison had narrowly missed death when an “up and under” exploded beneath his vehicle as he travelled to work. Having been a republican prisoner was circumscribing enough without adding to it by continuing to be imprisoned in a mindset that sees in political homicide chivalry because it is done to the sound of trumpets. 

Whatever the problems of the North are, and there are doubtless many, any redress will most certainly not be found in the application of strategically bankrupt armed force. Lethal on occasion, armed acts by republican groups are at best only marginally, if at all effective. They induce no political change and instead serve to justify the existence of a security apparatus that will sound the siren for more power over society in the form of greater anti-civil liberties measures and repressive legislation on top of the considerable raft already in place. If this is all the proponents of armed action can secure, their most salient achievement is a shackling of society rather than any liberation of it, incrementally moving it in the direction of a “carceral archipelago” where citizens are increasingly surveilled and controlled.

There is no war against the British in the North, just the rare armed attack from any one of a number of republican groups at best drawing legitimacy from their own ideological rigidity and not from the people whose interests they spuriously claim to be advancing. Senior PSNI officer Stephen Martin inflates the relevance of armed republican activity with his assertion that their potential is at "the upper end of severe". In terms of their ability to make anything happen, armed republican actions are not severe at all.

Politically powerless, strategically sterile, militarily miniscule it is exceedingly challenging to find a logic other than that of tradition for these armed actions. If they serve a purpose other than to sate some existential need for retribution against a perceived injustice, I wholly fail to see it. Strategicless armed adventurism easily qualifies as the antithesis of what a republican strategy should be.

Martin McGuinness, who armed republicans will not listen to anyway, said those who carried out the attack need to "reflect on the futility of their actions and realise there is no prospect of them achieving anything in this way." He should know, having directed an armed campaign that claimed the lives of many prison staff, just to end up philosophically endorsing and routinely administering the very partition he long sought through armed struggle to overthrow. 

Not all Sinn Fein’s elected representatives are as unambiguous as McGuinness. Tony McCaul, one of the party’s councilors in the Causeway Coast and Glens is someone armed republicans will see as making more sense than McGuinness. Commenting shortly after the attack, although not in relation to it, Councillor McCaul said armed attacks were a question of expediency, that “Republicans can never rule out any tactic including violence.”

His main difference with the bombers seems to have been not that the attack on the prison officer was wrong: just the timing. It just doesn’t happen to be expedient right now.

Bobby Sands’ much cited comment on the laughter of our children seems so far removed from last week’s bombing attack which caused no children to laugh. More applicable than the words of Sands are those of his fellow writer Iain Banks: “Fuck Every Cause That Ends In Murder And Children Crying.”

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

22 comments to ''Fuck Every Cause That Ends In Murder And Children Crying"

  1. Hard to argue with those fine words a chara especially with an image of a child or children crying, it is ridiculous that after the sellout by the leadership of the Ra that so many really good men and women gave their all and suffered so much degradation for a truly noble cause and the end result is as far from the noble ideals that one can imagine, we witness the public disagreement by Bobby Sands family and those touts and carpetbaggers in the Bobby (Booby Sands in quisling $inn £eind speak)Sands Trust, this is what we have been reduced to, attacking the odd cop or prison officer will do nothing to advance the cause one iota and if truth be told it subsides the security industry by feeding its conveyor belt with bodies into the prisons and in turn into the hands of orange bigots which most of these people are , Call me cynical but after that last attack on a prison officer on Friday we were told that he survived because the bomb fell off, and later we were informed that its possible that C4 explosive was used ,well by my reckoning if the van was not blown to bits, then surely the road must have taken the full force of the explosion , but looking at the tv clips nah neither the van nor the road seemed to badly damaged , leading me to think here we go again in Tony bLIAR,s words another dirty war and this latest attack was allowed to happen if somewhat jarked, why should we continue with outdated tactics that suit the brits and the camp followers those who used to say "we are not in the business of condemnation and now rush first to the camera to condemn all, we should take a leaf out of the SNP,s book .play the bastards at their own game and build a united opposition on the ground ,its working for them and not one youngster in jail or in an early grave or as Anthony says no kid is left crying, we have spilt enough blood ...

  2. "Need for retribution to a perceived injustice" the last
    time I checked Ireland was still partitioned republicans
    and their families continue to be harassed if they don't
    support a particular narrative, prisoners are enduring
    terrible hardships daily, sinn fein an co.continue to be
    silent on these issues, while I have my own views on
    strategy and what is and isn't viable, but to suggest the
    republican struggle is a" perceived injustice" I dont
    believe our former comrades have stooped to
    that level yet.

  3. Very well put and I admire your honesty. Personally I can not condemn the bombers, I can not condemn loyalist sectarian violence either. They are not the cause and they know not what they do. I do condemn the establishment, British, Northern Ireland and Republic, the leaders, the schemers and political manipulators, especially for greed and power. It is them and always has been them who caused the problem and continue it.
    If only the bombers and loyalists could see this and act in the interest of common man.

  4. I remember how angry and bitter against 'themmuns' I was, when I was young.

    Now I am older I realise that nothing is worth killing over. I'm not negating anybodies righteous rebellion against injustice, only pointing out that murder from whatever quarter invariably wounds civilians and the innocent in some way. And this perpetuates the hate throughout society as a whole.

    I hope this 'up and under' was planted by an old man still holding on to a passed war, and not a young person blinded by the hatred of elders. But still, very glad nobody was murdered.

    Hopefully this will be the last we see of such antics.

  5. Sean,

    your comment would have more to it had the article referred to a misperceived injustice. A perceived injustice does not necessarily equate with a wrong perception of the injustice.

    Republicans perceive partition as an injustice but not everybody shares that perception or they do not subscribe to it as thoroughly as republicans. A republican perception of the injustice of partition is not one held to the same degree by others. It is not wrong to say that for republicans partition is a perceived injustice. It does not mean an imaginary injustice.

    The republicans involved in armed activity today perceive it an injustice that they do not have the right to kill in pursuit of their goals. They feel it is their right and that others do not have the right to prevent them. Many feel they should not even be criticised for their activities. Yet that would very much seem a clear example of a misperceived injustice.

  6. Question 1

    if someone who has authority over others is behaving badly towards someone in their charge, how do you stop such behavior when all normal avenues are closed off. When it's pointless making a complaint to the individual's immediate superiors, it's pointless complaining to their superiors and so on?

    Question 2

    When prison officers who worked in the H-blocks were killed, did it have any impact on the behavior of their colleagues in the jail. Did they moderate their behaviour, or did it make the way they treated prisoners even worse?

  7. Answer 1.

    You can hardly murder them. Who would be safe in a society where such transgressions were punished with murder.

    Answer 2:

    H Block screws were not killed although two of the most brutal were caught up with long after the protest ended. It made no appreciable change. It on occasion made it temporarily worse until tempers subsided. The worst of the violence eased at the start of 1980 when the O'Fiach initiative began. 1980 was an easier year than the two preceding years.

  8. AM you are spot on in your analysis. There seems to be those that believe the denial of self determination gives them an unalienable right to use force or that historical republicanism maintains that right forever, which is nonsense!
    It is long past the time for people to wrap up any armed campaign. An honourable way is to follow the ending of the border campaign, not the farce that the RM/ Shinners have persisted with.

  9. You can hardly murder them. Who would be safe in a society where such transgressions were punished with murder.

    I am not suggesting you should, I suppose the answer is democratic accountability and political change, the problem is in a sectarian stitch together like the north, for some this looks like a long way off.

    How armed struggle can bring this day nearer in the current situation is a mistery to me. The numerous IRA's increasingly remind me of Hirō Onoda, the Japanese soldier who fought on in the jungles of the Philippines for 30 years after WW2 had ended, oblivious to not only Japan's defeat, but also how it rose from the ashes of defeat into a modern and prosperous democracy. Once in 1946 when they found a leaflet which said the war was over, he and two comrades decided it could not possibly be genuine so they fought on for another 29 years.

  10. Mick,

    there are bullies in every walk of life and democratic accountability is not a quick way of dealing with them. As Mencken says there are times when everyone of us wants to raise the black flag and start slitting throats. And there are mitigating circumstances that usually apply to people who act in the heat of the moment but much less so to those who sit down and plan capital punishment and would have the chutzpah to shake their fist at the state if it decides to administer the death sentence.

    Democratic accountability is slow, messy, uneven, but ultimately societally better than the psychologically satisfying act of in your face revenge. The personally aggrieved individual invariably wants a justice that collective society generally thinks much too harsh.

    The idea of warlords ruling over fiefdoms and dispensing their own brand of justice might suit some on the basis of if you rob Peter to pay Paul, you can always rely on the approval of Paul. But the Pauls make up only a tiny section of society and the solution has to be searched for in societal terms.

    Life is messy and at the heart of liberty goes risk. As one of the characters says in The Walking Dead "why are dingleberries brown? Because it is just the way shit is"

  11. Thank you Anthony for courageously speaking out about this futile act.

    Some former comrades might claim its hypocritical of us to change our opinions as to the use of violence, they may argue that one can't now legitimately criticise acts that we may have previously supported or indeed may even have been a party to. I'd counter that is an unsustainable and shallow justification for gratuitous retribution masquerading as intelligent critique.

    Its surely now beyond doubt that there's no current popular mandate for violence. Neither is there I would argue any longer a historical one. The supporters of such acts may throw up 'The fools, the fools they have left us our Fenian dead' and other historical justification but the people have spoken and superseded such shibboleth with a mandate for exclusively peaceful means if unity is ever to be achieved.

    Its heartening to read your wise and ethical commentary AM, particularly so from a man like you who endured so much hardship within the penal system. Some might say it would have been so easy to have let this one pass without commentary and on the other hand there's also the argument to be made that these 'clowns' besmirch the more noble aspects of the earlier campaign. Either way you have my admiration and respect for taking a stand on this one. (its useful to have a moniker, hands up I don't have your courage, these people are dangerous and ruthless)

  12. HJ, whilst I agree in general with couragous tendency of the author, is it courageous to condemn this, what you call a futile act?
    It is those that advocate it that stink the house the out, whilst running the risk of jail.
    It is these sentiments that can only be delivered behind a mask these days, but I would guess they would say its about a person that seeks to de-individuate by putting on a uniform that unfortunately torturers also hide behind, realising some of the corperate responsibility. And whether its judged as futile will be on comparisons in the future with the case of it never happening against the realised,cumulative effect after. I dont see where crying children factor into it, they certainly dont in other analyses of equally important events.

  13. Anthony,

    As ever, a breathtakingly brilliant critique. You crossed the rubicon a long time ago, does the unambiguity of Banks indicate a crossing of the lexicon also?

  14. Robert,

    it does not necessarily follow. Did the IRA murder Paras at Narrowwater? In my view no.

    Banks made a very strong statement that allowed for no manipulation of the text and paraphrasing would not have done it justice.

    What I feel is this: war gives rights to combatants. It also denies them rights that civilians have. In a war (Voltaire seems to suggest it is all just a murderous rampage) the combatant has the right to kill but also no right not to be killed. That strips war killing (in the absence of war crimes) of the murder tag.

    Outside of a war those who would be considered combatants during a war have the full rights available and the same constraints imposed on them as civilians.

    What is taking place in the North is no more a war than a pimple is cancer. The hyperbole required to describe both as something other than they are is too great to even begin contemplating. The torturous quasi theological reasoning involved might induce a swoon that would quickly lead to a coma.

    If people have a right not to be killed then how else are we to describe their planned wilful killing other than murder? Political murder might be accurate but murder no less. The use of the term murder can imply a strong discursive protest against the violation of rights. It can also be used to criminalise the action in a context that has a long history of contentiousness. How they wish it to be mean is the property of the applicant. How it is interpreted may well be beyond their control.

    In the absence of alternatives, yet subject to further persuasion, I think political murder can be most useful. It states that the motive was political but also states that the deceased was no less the victim of an abuse no lesser than murder. It might be summed up as politics does not justify murder; that the act is no less egregious because it has a political tag stuck onto it.

  15. DaithiD,

    courageous is not the way to frame the presentation.

    Equally it requires no courage to sit anonymously behind a keyboard proclaiming the resistance and promoting armed actions. Very few openly take the courageous (but foolish) stance to state their views on it because of the threat of imprisonment.

    Crying children factor in because of one of the searing commentaries on Stalingrad "A woman soldier fancied the war to be a scene of fire, crying children, scampering cats but when she got to Stalingrad, the sight was worse."

    It is about the horrors of war and who other than a horrible person welcomes horror? It is something that should only ever choose you, leaving you with no choice and not something that you choose.

    Your reasoning would basically allow anybody with a grievance to kill as a means of redress ... including those opposed to blasphemy.

  16. Equally it requires no courage to sit anonymously behind a keyboard proclaiming the resistance and promoting armed actions.

    Which I definitely wouldn't do as its severely detrimental to ones liberty, I give no opinion on it, and I reason nothing of my own. HJ often refers to the size of Irish opposition to the dissidents actions, I wonder then how he equates critiquing them with bravery.Surely this is mainstream opinion? But i should add justifying and condemning the actions are not mutually exclusive in terms of bravery, it depends on ones personal circumstance i guess, I am definitely not criticising you AM.

    Ive never understood the Bobby Sands/laughter of children quote, but the British might paraphrase it to their revenge will be the apathy of our children.Stalingrad is not really whats on offer though is it?

    I saw on a previous thread your libertarianism was mentioned, I think this explains one aspect of your post. If an Irish Republican decides to take armed action against the State, its not the same as someone killing for Blasphemy laws. One might think that from a libertarian perspective though,assigning some legitimacy to all ideals/not valuing someone less for holding those ideals.

  17. DaithiD,

    I never took it that you were criticising me. Nor would it concern me had you been criticising. It is what we do.

    I think Henry Joy's point is that when you speak out against totalitarian types they tend not to like it and they might be tempted to do something about it.

    I think the Bobby Sands quote is very simply understood - when children can laugh because they are no longer subject to the denial of laughter through war.

    Killing people causes children to cry - it is no Stalingrad but that is hardly the point. Broken bodies and crying children are what is being offered instead of the laughter of children.

    If someone decides to take armed action against the state (and society - don't leave that out) it is no different from somebody taking armed action against the state (and society) for not having blasphemy laws. It is about the imposition of opinion through violence. Talk of libertarianism is a smokescreen.

  18. Our revenge will be the slaughter of their children !... As a UFF poet might of said.

  19. DaithiD,

    I know. The UFF are bastards. They bombed Warrington.

  20. Jeez, these kids have had a raw deal : our children's revenge will be our slaughter?

  21. The guy died: is there anyone who can honestly describe it as a gain rather than a loss? Misery and grief seem to be the only things that have resulted from this and perhaps long jail sentences: no political or strategic gain and no appreciable change in prison conditions.


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