In the four years since the debate began in earnest there have been many cases of premature verdicts announced, based on the telling blow never delivered. The purpose is always the same: cry ‘victory’, mob the man who supposedly rattled home the winner, and the crowd will jump and down in celebration of the goal not scored. The roar of ‘O’Rawe demolished, account comprehensively rebutted’ has gone up quite a few times. For something so ‘comprehensively rebutted’ we find, puzzlingly, his attackers still needing to rebut it.
Earlier this week the key critics of O'Rawe hosted a secret meeting in Gulladuff to which the families of the dead hunger strikers were invited to be addressed by a high powered panel of speakers. The secrecy defeated its own purpose by dint of its inability to keep its own logic a secret. The meeting was hardly just to show the families an action replay of the great victory over O’Rawe that comprehensively demolished him. It represented a fear of cross examination, probing, and cold analytical pursuit of the facts. Others not privy to the secret gathering were barred including the father of a dead 16 year old republican activist shot dead by the British Army in the hours following the death of the hunger striker Joe McDonnell.
To date nothing seems to have emerged from the meeting that would strengthen the hand of those who hosted it. All those comprehensive rebutters for all their comprehensive rebuttals still seem to be taking considerable blows to glass chins that have been left, well, what else other than comprehensively exposed. The man who was supposed to have been on the canvas all those years ago seems to be still in the ring and has been scoring consistently with his jabs against an opposition frequently missing with its jibes. There are signs of growing anger and frustration in the ranks of the opposition that O’Rawe has refused to lie down as commanded and that seconds are crowding into his corner in stark contrast to March 2005 when the book was first launched.
Spectators watching even great players take the ball around their opponent and then around him again and again still want to see the leather hit the back of the onion bag. But dribbling at the mouth and not with the ball at feet has led to O’Rawe maintaining a clean sheet, his net still intact. Pronouncing great victories do not great victories make. Four years after the first great victory today’s proclamations of more great victories sound like Comical Ali’s utterances during the first days of the US invasion of Iraq – loud but empty. The reality check is this: the idea that O’Rawe was counted out is rubbish. Those who did the counting display symptoms of being arithmetically challenged - Ireland united by 2014 and all that.