The Wonka Theory of Everything

What has been noticeable in the continuing debate about the hunger strikes prompted by the publication of Richard O’Rawe’s book Blanketmen four years ago is that in recent months those most critical of the author have appeared ideationally bankrupt. Any new evidence, insights or interpretations all seem to be reinforcing the O’Rawe perspective. At the beginning of April when the Sunday Times produced documentation indicating that Margaret Thatcher despite her unyielding public stance was privately committed to making substantial concessions to end the strike, Sinn Fein was reduced to falling back on the tried and failed rebuttal that the documents originated with British military intelligence.

When much that was new emerged from the Derry Gasyard debate the party claimed that there was in fact nothing new at all and that what charges had been made there had been:

comprehensively rebutted by documentary and witness testimony when they first appeared. The deaths of all the hunger strikers is the direct responsibility of a British government intent on defeating republicanism. It is regrettable that there are some who have preferred to ignore the truth of what occurred and seek to use events then to further their anti-Sinn Fein agenda today.

At the secretive Gulladuff meeting those disagreeing with Sinn Fein’s version of events were said to be driven by an anti-party agenda.

Added to this are Brendan McFarlane’s comments in London that the ongoing debate fits into a wider effort to undermine the current Sinn Fein president and main negotiator on the Sinn Fein side during the hunger strike: ‘all this information is specifically being used to target Gerry Adams and discredit both him and Sinn Féin.’ You would actually think Roland Dahl was writing the party script.

‘You see Charlie’, he said, ‘not so very long ago there used to be thousands of people working in Willy Wonka’s factory. Then one day all of a sudden, Mr Wonka had to ask everyone of them to leave, to go home, never to come back.’
‘But why?’ asked Charlie.
‘Because of spies.’
‘Yes. All the other chocolate makers you see had begun to grow jealous of the wonderful sweets that Mr Wonka was making, and they started sending in spies to steal his recipes.’

This amounts to little more than an assertion that that people who are sceptical of the party go to bed at night and get up the following morning with only one thing on their minds – frustrating the political career of Gerry Adams by stealing his chocolate recipe. As if there are not more important things in life than that; going for a pint, watching a game of soccer, reading a book etc. As well, it overlooks the more plausible view of Professor Paul Bew who pointed out some time back that British state strategy under Tony Blair and Jonathan Powell was about ensuring that the Adams leadership stayed in position. That leadership was considered the best bet for the success of British strategy. Talk to any British official and you get something similar. At a conference in an English university a number of years ago myself and Catherine McCartney pulled faces at each other as we listened to a British minister defend the Adams leadership against criticisms of it in obsequious tones the likes of which are normally only witnessed at Sinn Fein Ard Fheiseanna or in a Thursday column in the Irish News.

Whether intentional or not, the ‘everybody is out to steal Gerry’s chocolate recipe’ mantra amounts to a discursive subterfuge which seeks to disguise the usefulness of the Adams leadership to British state strategy in Ireland.

It is noticeable that Danny Morrison, the most prominent opponent of the O’Rawe perspective, avoids the ‘securocrats at work’ argument. Alert to the nuances of the PR game he is presumably aware that it is synonymous with a guilty plea given what the securocrats have been blamed on over the years. This is why both Brendan McFarlane and Sinn Fein have sounded less plausible than Morrison. Few buy into the notion that the British state seriously want to do Adams or the peace process harm. Although spinning it that way helps the credulous see a master plan that doesn’t exist in order to remain blind to the disaster plan that does.


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  2. I hear Sinn Fein is launching a new chocolate bar called, ‘Party Faithful’. It’s thick and full of nuts!

  3. yeah and Disney want to make a sequel to the kion king featuring the Sinn Fein leadership its called the lying bastards

  4. Jasus Krist!!!
    There is only one answer to this Wonka factory of fruit and nuts.
    Sarcasm !!!
    The long war of the "Buttons."

    Ah well it was a good laugh so SF get some credit for that.

    The Never Ending story might a worked better!

  5. Kate, it fits because the article is addressing the responses to the O'Rawe accusations and the documents that have emerged since that book came out. British strategy at the time of the hunger strikes was considerably different than it was under Blair even if the objective of neutralising republicanism as a threat was the same.

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  7. Anthony

    Was at the annual Beechmount commemoration today and Pat Sheehan was the speaker.

    Pat spoke very well as always and amidst his words, he defended the Republican Movement's Leadership as one which he fully supports. Having gone more than 30 days on hunger Strike when it thankfully ended, and having given so much to the cause, I tend to have more faith in people like him than I do in a lot of the 'Hate Sinn Féin Brigade', most of whom I never saw or heard of during the struggle. He also claims not to have heard anything about the issues now being raised in connection with deals that could have been done at anytime during the Fast?

    I haven't read much into this myself so I am perhaps not qualified to say too much on it, but I do get a sense that the debate will not lead to a conclusive and certain conclusion as people have already made their minds up about what they wish to believe.

    My personal wish is simply that the brave comrades are resting in peace and freedom whilst the debate rolls on.



  8. Westie,

    Pat is a good guy and was ahead of the pack in prison in realising that the armed campaign was going nowhere. He took a lot of flak for saying so. In my view he supports the strategy while at the same time knowing it will not deliver anything remotely republican. He seems to think it is the best thing on offer. I know when Richard’s book came out he and I had a brief conversation about on the road it and he felt Richard was wrong. But since then the evidence is there to add ballast to Richard’s claims and not much to his critics. I think we should have faith in our own reason and not in people. Pat has one view and Gerard Hodgins another. Which sort of cancels out any rule of thumb for following a hunger striker’s view on the matter. The issue can’t be settled by faith. I am not sure it can be settled at all. But from talking to a range of people and opinion formers the feeling I get is that there is a general view that Richard is not making it up and his critics have been less than persuasive in their responses. Apart from Morrison who has made a robust case? The narrative as we knew it has been thoroughly ruptured and will never be the same again. While believing O’Rawe all along I felt at the start there was an innocent explanation that would account for what he had to say. I am more sceptical today. And not because of anything the O’Rawe perspective has to say but down to the manner in which the other side has handled itself.

    Talk another time