Wrong Tune

There is undoubtedly a serious problem in North Belfast around the Billy Boys longing to be ‘up to our neck in Fenian blood, surrender or you die’, which is not going to be resolved by shooting at cops, stoning obnoxious parades, rioting or the myriad of other forceful measures employed against Orange encroachment. For all the commitment of those determined to use them, armed actions have demonstrably failed to prise one British finger away from the North. Nor, in a more localised context, are armed republicans going to find themselves treated by the state as Billy Wright was when he threatened massive violence against police lines in Drumcree, forcing the state to buckle. That has only ever worked to get Orange marches through, not halted.

Nor will a solution be cobbled together from the diatribes against republicans currently being vented by some Catholic politicians. There is no escaping it. Sinn Fein will always struggle with the albatross called the past which hangs tenaciously around its neck. No matter how much Gerry Kelly has set his face against the old tried and failed methodology of physical force republicanism, because he has embraced a position previously described in the most pejorative of terms by his party, any criticism he has to make of republicans choosing to follow the armed example he laid down, at no small cost to himself and others, will be ignored. Their response will be to follow his other example of being impervious to criticism thrown his way by Catholic politicians opposed to his unmandated armed campaigning. Concisely expressed, because he bombed London armed with a mandate of no votes he is in an awkward position any time he ventures out to condemn republicans for using the same violent means sans mandate in pursuit of the ends his generation failed to secure.

Fionnuala O’Connor was succinct on the matter when she wrote earlier in the year:

Sinn Féin has the additional problem of facing its own past in new
confrontational form. Its Stormont representatives say the dissidents have no mandate, no strategy. Every other party North and South, and the bulk of the population, thought the same of the IRA.

When those who have ‘been there, done that’ instruct others ‘not to go there or do that’ it pretty much sounds like ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ It takes little imagination to predict the type of response likely to be provoked by that. Nevertheless, there must be a certain republican satisfaction to be derived from Sinn Fein squirming as it is forced to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Free Presbyterians and British police officers who fire plastic bullets at the community Sinn Fein claims to represent.

It is not the sort of satisfaction that can be drawn down when other politicians sing from the same old hymn sheet which Sinn Fein now render a flawless cover version of. It would be different if all the parties were issuing some new form of condemnation against some new violent phenomenon but they aren’t. The DUP, for example, is saying nothing new about the type of activity we have just witnessed in Ardoyne; just the same as they were saying when Martin Meehan defended the district in the early 1970s. Nor is any other political party saying something 180 degrees removed from what they have always said. Sinn Fein, itself alone, is the party with a different song. And when it is in tune with the malodorous tones of Willie McCrea, what a rasping, grating effect that has on the republican ear canal.

As the late American satirist Ambrose Bierce might have said of Willie the singing bigot: ‘hypocrisy: prejudice with a halo.’ What republican would want to keep tune with him?


  1. Good strong points as ever and the difficulty for Sinn Féin in criticising others for doing exactly what they did themseleves, is clear to see.

    One point I am struggling with in your posts though is the term catholic politican. The church is dying, many if not most people who vote SF, or any party for that manner, are no longer church going. So why the use of this phrase. I simply find it grabs my attention and deflects from other things you write

  2. Starry Plough, it is a good question and one I would like to elaborate on at some length. So, I will put a piece together explaining why I think it is an appropriate descriptive term based on an underlying analytical assumption. If you feel it needs to be critiqued after that, as you may well do, then you can have full space in the blog to do so rather than have your response tucked away as a comment.

  3. The truth according to who ever wants to believe it. I find the content of the post amusing, great to see Gerry Kelly stand up and defend Stormont and also make such comments about rioting and shooting at his police force, has he forgotten how he and his comrades vilified SDLP and Peace campaigners for exactly what he is now condemning, how long will Sinn Fein voters listen to and support this two faced dribble.

  4. It's not so long ago the shinners used to refer to the SDLP as the 'Stoop Down Low Party' when they themselves have 'Stooped Further!'

  5. Can't agree with the direct comparisons between SF now and the SDLP position in the eighties. One reason for this - every Ardoyne resident I heard from was totally disgusted at the wreckage and ruin going on the area by kids and a lot of outsiders. I don't think there were too many residents in nationalist areas during the eighties who strongly opposed what the majority of young men in their areas were doing out of frustration and hatred of the system that was condemning them through intimidation and brutality on a daily basis. I suppose I feel the same about the support for armed struggle then and now - which also makes it different two decades on.

    Those who choose not to recognise the difference, 'in my own opinion', only do so to have a go at SF. A question, I would pose to those is, do you think Gerry Kelly and other SF representatives are wrong in what they are saying about Ardoyne - maybe that's not what you are saying, but the emphasis on their hypocrisy rather than whether they are right or not, leads me to my opinion of what motivates these comments.

    I did think while watching the TV coverage of what was going on in Ardoyne - had it been back in the old days, there would have been plastic and lead bullets being fired by the RUC and British army - without a doubt. Does the absence of both type of bullets and more significantly, the absence of the latter force, not also confirm the major difference between when Gerry and others were 'doing' and the current day when they are 'saying'?



  6. Westie
    I spoke with quite a few Ardoyne residents including family members who live there rather than watch videos or listen to the state reports. They have a different view from your sources as for outsiders agitating Mr. Gerry Kelly is not exactly a local of Ardoyne so to dispute who can and cannot enter into the area is ridiculous.
    I am unclear what media source denied plastic bullets being dispense by the cops if you are flag waving for one side at least point out the very unnecessary massive police presence which is in itself is not welcomed in that area. Where the cops and Loyalist Orange order all from this general area? No one mentioned that in the one sided report.
    If Sinn Fein had let it pass without pointing fingers and blaming locals and outsiders for the problem then obviously it would have faded away quietly. Sinn Fein seems desperate to enforce their control.
    Kelly spoke of micro groups which logic would dictate could only pose a micro threat so why emphasis the insignificant if nothing more than to get a few minutes of face time on the news. It is clear that Sinn Fein demand they are the rightful and sole owners of republicanism unfortunately they can’t accept others do not follow their beliefs. Why do Sinn Fein fear these micro groups makes no sense but then the decline of support for Sinn Fein would probably give a more truthful accurate answer.
    I suppose it is a matter of whom one speaks with.

  7. Tain Bo

    I suppose I must have spoken with different Ardoybne residents than yourself and that is fine - I know there is divisions within Ardoyne and the surrounding areas which reflect the wider debate this forum permits.

    I am certainly not flag waving and you were right to highlight the long standing cause of the problem, i.e. the totally unnecessary loyalist return march through that area. SF haven't changed their stance on that and have been to the fore over the years in opposing these, with notable results through the reduction of these in many areas across the North.

    My refernce to plastic and lead bullets was to highlight the difference between now and a time when members of the Provisional Movement would have been involved in riots - that was the jist of the article. The RUC and British Army would have started firing if a pebble had landed within 10 yards of a jeep. You might think this a bit crass of me but I also think that the nationalist people have moved on from street riots and no-one can tell me that kids, as young as there were running about in the middle of it, serves any useful or positive purpose for our people.

    As for the final point, SF's support across the North seems to be holding quite well, despite predictions to the contrary. Time will tell on that one cos' as the old saying goes: 'You can fool some of the people some of the time.....'



  8. Westie

    I agree with you that the stone throwing days should remain in the past and more importantly the militant days are over which leaves only dialogue.
    I am not a strategist though see little point in Sinn Fein losing future voters/supporters by condemning residents (the mostly rioting youths) and not putting the real reason for the minor rioting on the sectarian marchers. The short term Sinn Fein look good for the media the long term how many of those young people will vote Sinn Fein in a few years? I personally can’t condemn the kids as I threw a few stones over the years ironically for the very people who now condemn the mindset they created.
    I am more realistic when it comes to the cops I would doubt the restraint was out of love and respect for the GFA. They are aware that the cameras are everywhere so their actions are restricted, killing a rioter now would spark more trouble not just on the streets but in the media and would reinforce the sectarian theme the cops desperately try to pretend is still not a factor within its ranks.
    On the subject of talking with people yes divisions run deep and here is another failure of Sinn Fein some people will not speak ill of the party as they don’t want to be labeled dissidents and I can’t fault them for that.
    My opinion on the riot is simple the march could have been re-routed and that would have ended any opportunity for the trouble and the locals could have went about their business (on both sides) undisturbed by the No Surrender antagonists.

    Another strategic failing of Sinn Fein (and I detect with your comment “they are holding up” sounds less than convincing more like holding on?) they are playing the isolationist role branding with the help of the British media anyone who does not agree with their leadership is a traitor a non republican. This can only be viewed as the work of outside influences on the party and its willingness to capitulate to the British government wishes of destroying any republican opposition beyond the control of Sinn Fein.
    The aftermath proved more interesting than the riot as Mr. Kelly seems to have provided unsubstantiated allegations naming a Mr. Catney as the Belfast leader of a dissident group.
    This is a greatly disturbing trend and hypocrisy coming from a party that readily boasted in past days about executing informers.
    Which would leave one wondering how much collusion is carried out sounding more like a Stalin purge rather than a party open to dialogue.
    Sinn Fein and the double standard is a failing policy as it drives away support for the party this elitist policy is confusing removing itself from the people with a closed door “I can’t be a republican unless Sinn Fein says so?”

    Realistically and simply Sinn Fein could be viewed as going from the party that did fight the hand that beat us to the party that wipes the arse of a foreign government that did beat us.

    Would I vote for peace and democracy “yes” would I vote for Sinn Fein “no” as they are or by omission an elitist movement by denying people the right to assert their republican beliefs? I am not endorsing any dissident view only my own as I don’t agree with Sinn Fein and according to their policy that would make me a non republican. Personally I believe Sinn Fein would have maintained being the people’s party but excluding a sizeable part of the people is a risky political move they took one that has no political pay off. Sinn Fein denouncing the violence is one thing I can understand however it is ludicrous for Sinn Fein to repeatedly denounce republicans as non republicans.

    Thanks for the banter Westie

  9. Westie, since the start of time people have forsaken causes to become what they previously opposed. In their defence they have invariably cited ´things have changed.´ Also since the start of time radicals have critiqued those who have abandoned causes by means of measuring the gap between what was promised and what was delivered. It is a legitimate mechanism of accountability. Those who abandon causes out of political necessity or out of political conviction can confront the critique head on sure in the knowledge that they did what was right and did not betray. Those who abandon causes out of political hypocrisy want the critique suppressed because they know their hypocrisy will be exposed.

    This is what makes your post disappointing. You take the view that those who use the time honoured radical method of critique do so only to have a go at SF.

  10. Tain Bo - I obviously don't agree with all your views on SF and i'm sure there'll be other debates.

    Anthony - Sorry to have disappointed you a chara.

    Maybe as a minority view on the forum, I am falling into the time honoured position of 'defending your corner, no matter what'.

    A useful discussion as always, and one to ponder and follow up on at a later time perhaps.



  11. Westie, I would not make too much of the supposed difference between the community attitude to rioting in the 80s and today. Apart from the hunger strike era I imagine people found rioting a serious inconvenience. That was how it was as we moved through the 70s away fronm the early years. By 1976 when the riots were going on over Frank Stagg people hated them. And of course the SDLP response was what the SF response is today.

    As to whather Gerry Kelly was right or wrong few will argue that if he was trying to stop people getting hurt or worse he is a devil. But was it done out of political conviction or simply to advance the agenda of SF?

    Furthermore, what was his position consistent with? From a constitutional nationalist/reformist perspective he was right. From a republican7radical perspective he was wrong. What made him even more wrong was that for a number of days he failed to mention the Orange Order or the PSNI roles as being causal factors. He employed the hoary old one of tiny groups and outsiders that can be found in any Daily Telegraph commentary riots from the 1970s.

    Moreover, who but Shinners alone could you have spoken to from Ardoyne when they did not tell you that plastic bullets were fired? They alone sought to have discourse on that silent. And you repeated it. It would not have been too hard to find people from Ardoyne not supportive of the riots to tell you that plastics were fired.

    You did not tell us either about the use of terms like ´Fenian scum´and ´Fenian bastards´ used by the PSNI that SF line up with these days. You seem to think a violent PSNI assault on the nationalist community of Ardoyne represents progress. You did not mention the guy pulled from his home being manhandled by a PSNI assault team. To that add 28 day detention, a purpose built supergrass unit, the widespread use of informers and the total control exercised by MI5 - then consider the claims for progress you make. If progress depends on all these things being subject to the law of hush then you need to ask yourself what has become of your republicanism, if it is now just what SF leaders tell you it should be.
    The emphasis on hypocrisy was in relation to Willie McCrea. I merely used the radical method for measuring where SF were against where they are.
    I don´t have a problem with you defending your corner. But when it is a corner you are stuck in by the PSNI, the British and the DUP surely you should be breaking out of it not defending it.


  12. Anonymous

    I have chosen to stay with the mainstream Republican Movement for a whole host of reasons that are not the subject of this post or many other that appear on the forum. Just one very minor but important example, if Sinn Féin are so anti Irish Republican, why do we put so much effort into ensuring that our brave dead are continually remembered with dignity and pride year on year, as evidenced by the leaftlets I have just deposited round doors in my area for the Kieran Doherty wreath laying ceremony on Sunday, along with the quarterly WB News which has as its front page headline 'Next phase of struggle for unity must begin'. The paper itself contains articles about the continued regeneration of the irish Language, Bombay Street 40 years on, the murder of Harry Holland, the Pearse Jordan collusion farce, a tournament to honour Fian John Dempsey and a major commemoration event to honour the Hunger Strikers in a few weeks time. It also contains an article with Gerry Kelly where he categorically blames the orangemen and the PSNI for the events in Ardoyne. But granted he does criticise those who he believes instigated the riots on 13th and he makes his case in the article. He mentions the Peeler's use of force, including plastic bullets. My reference to these in my earlier post was the comparison between the hunger strike days when the RUC and Brits fired them at will, day and night, most of the time with limited or no provocation at all - that was simply a comparison I was making with regard to the original post.

    So, going back to my point, I don't think I need to question my Irish Nationalism/republicanism too much because in my opinion, it is more about what you are as an Irish man or woman, how you live and have lived your life throughout the troubles and beyond, what your prioritues and principles are, your music, your language, your family, your true friends and your conscience.
    I am content with most, if not all of the above. No-one has a monopoly on Reublicanism and I never condemn those who don't agree with SF and I enjoy learning from their different perspective, provided I think it is objective and with substance.

    You say that I must have only spoken to 'Shinners' from Ardoyne, as if they are people not to be regarded as significant or honest brokers in all of this. Does that enable you to be objective in your viewpoint of all that is happening within Irish Republicanism?

    I personally hope that there can be some effort at debate and reconcilliation between the different strands of 'republicanism' within our community, but I will not accept people telling me that they have got it right and all of us 'Shinners' should be condemned as 'traitors' not worthy of the cause!......and before you jump on my use of the 't' word, I have already stated in an earluier post how wrong this was.... and doesn't belong in this debate from either or any side, imo!



  13. Westie

    I am not a dissident and don’t subscribe to the militant theory of pulling a wheelbarrow from the front weighed down with dead history.
    You assumed that I must be a dissident for having a go at Sinn Fein’s policy of criminalizing republicans even if you don’t agree it would be a difficult task to prove otherwise considering the well documented statements from the leadership.
    I understand Sinn Fein’s role though on a personal level I see the abuse of their political power.” It is not their role to police the country quite the opposite.”
    This is just a reflection of their former days when the PIRA did control or police republican areas.
    I don’t see substantial growth of support for Sinn Fein outside of their old strongholds.
    You said you don’t agree with some of my points and left it at that with a future debate. I assume you even doubt some of the policies of Sinn Fein or at least are not convinced with their way forward?

    I would like to see more comments in here from all sides as the forum is open people should take advantage of putting their view out. I am sure you have friends who would comment after all as the leaders talk in political jargon that never resolves much so the best way to gauge things is on the street level. There is no closed door policy at a street level.

  14. Westie, sorry for forgetting to sign off on the last post you replied to. It was me, Anthony who wrote it but with being away mastering the different format has defied me!

    The reason SF put so much into commemorating the past is that they don´t want it torn from their grasp by somebody else. Seems simple enough. It is a matter of positioning themselves in the eys of a section of their support base. If Bobby Sands was carrying out some sort of operation today they would be calling for people to tout on him. They are afterall doing it against some of those who were on the blanket with Bobby.

    As for the WB News ´the next phase of struggle for unity must begin´ we have all been hearing that for years. A bit like pray and you will go to heaven. Proof, we would like a little more of. You don´t surely believe any of the guff about a united Ireland in 2016?

    Gerry Kelly has got up a bit late in the day I am afraid. His criticisms of the cops and Orange Order were forced out of him. Go back and follow the timeline. A republican instinctively would have been at the British police and sectarian marchers from the get go, not the other way round.

    As for whether the Shinners are honest brokers - go have a look at their record for honesty. Need I say anything at all? David McKittrick once said that 10 out of every 9 people talked to don´t believe SF. If they are as honest as you suggest why did they not tell you about plastics being fired? And you know that there was no one opinion in Ardoyne. The people you talked to made it out as if there were.

    Whether or not we think SF are traitors, they called the SDLP traitors for doing what they are doing now. And you can hardly disagree that they do have a strategy of touting.

    Keep posting, better than writing slogans on the wall threatening each other.


  15. Anthony

    I thought the last post read like one of yours and had actually addressed my response to you before I read it again!

    Personally, I think you are being a little disingenuous with regard to SF's motivation for commemorating the fallen republicans of our past. A lot of time, effort and money have gone into establishing fitting memorials and the places and events act as a constant and poignant reminder to us all of what has been sacraficed and why we all need to work towards a united Ireland, no matter what means, strategy and duration chosen or necessary to achieve that goal.

    Also, the point about Bobby Sands; I suppose many could say that were he alive today, he would be saying the exact same thing as the SF leadership. I didn't know him personally but from all I have read and heard, I suspect he might well have been one for the political, rather than armed strategy?

    I don't see SF as a touting party - I think that is a fairly crude way of decribing the political and presentational dilemna they face once they decided to share power in the North.

    One final point, when I was referring to 'Shinners' in response to your first post, I'm not necessarily talking about the leadership or even the elected representatives, I was as much referring to the people on the ground who work for and support the party in all of it's activities, many of which are local and don't hit the headlines. And going back to the previous point, I don't know any of my friends/comrades who would tout on other republicans, no matter what the leadership might have to say on TV.

    Tain Bo - I didn't actually think of you as a dissident - I don;t like the word in the first place. I just thought of you as someone who doesn't support SF = maybe that is a contradiction on my behalf, but again, I wasn't thinking 'dissident'!

    I think SF have a very difficult job at present, and I certainly think they get things wrong across a range of issues, both in the normal day to day politics of things North and South, and on how they handle the opposing voices of Republicanism. But I'm not for jumping ship - I still think there is a lot of good people with good intentions, and so long as I think they are working for the Irish people to achieve an Irish nation, I'll give them my support.

    Anthony, if GK did say what it is alleged he said to the cop, I think that would be sad and I would not support such actions.



  16. Westie, we can only agree to differ on the issue of commemorations. My logic is more persuasive to me than it is to you and vice versa. In my view it is impossible to stand shoulder to shoulder with Willie McCrea and the PSNI against republicans while at the same time honouring the republican dead, some of whom died at their hands or as a result of their prompting.

    Furthermore, this is central to my critique - SF is not working towards a UI in the slightest. They might talk about it but that is as far as it goes. Same criticism they made against everybody else for doing what they are now doing. The party, ringfenced in to partition and the union, by the partition/consent principle has no strategy for a UI. Talk to any Brit official, Irish official, most serious journalists or academics and you get the same answer - UI not forseeable. Having said that the armed republicans have no chance of getting it either. And I have no time for armed campaigning. SF are right on that much. I just wish they would cease pretending they are a republican outfit. At least if they were to say they are a reformist party we could measure the strategy much more sympathetically rather than forever seeing the shortfall between it and republicanism.

    On Bobby if he were alive today, he might be saying the same thing as the leadership, he might not. He might be a foreign aid worker or a doctor. We have no idea and should not presume to know. What we do know is that when he died he opposed any power sharing executive at Stormont, any British police force, any consent principle. He died an anti-Stormont republican. That is all we know.

    Far from it being crude to see SF as having a touting strategy it is much more sophisticated than describing touting as a ´political and presentational dilemna they face´.The dilemma is that they settled up for the defeat of republicanism and now choose to support touting to maintain their bit of power.

    You even acknowldge that it is touting yourself when you say the following:

    "I don't know any of my friends/comrades who would tout on other republicans, no matter what the leadership might have to say on TV."

    I happen to know that you are right about this. Many in SF will not tout. But the leadership policy is one of supporting touting. You admit as much in your comment quoted above.

    Anyway, another bit of grouching done.



  17. Anthony

    I know the main issue you have is the Reformist v Republican question.

    However, do you genuinely not believe that SF and the body of people that represent/support the party are not sincere and committed in their quest for a Free and Independent Ireland. You'll probably know that Conor Murphy is to lead a country wide project over the coming months/year to engage with people about how to progress the ideal.

    You have your opinions and good reasons for those opinions, but I don't see this as window dressing. And constantly talking about it is the only way to achieve it, imo, the more we talk, the more it is talked about, the more people become aware and the more intellectual ideas get chucked into the melting pot. I'm not suggesting any timescale for realistic achievement but I do believe it can be achieved. As I have stated before, there haven't been any other parties North or South who make any effort to have a United Ireland as a standing agenda item. I think you will see SF maintain this as a top priority issue in the public domain, through election campaigns and in party communications for as long as it is necessary. Surely that can only be positive and stands them apart from any possible previous comparators?

    Finally, you were right to quote what I said/typed about the leadership - one minor point when I wrote 'no matter what the leadership might have to say on TV, I mean't to emphasise the 'HAVE TO'. I know it doesn't change much, other than the fact that it is the dilemna they have got themselves into rather than something they say out of genuine belief that this is what people should actually do, i.e. tout!

    Hope that makes sense?!

    Think we'll sign off on this one when/if you choose to respond to this rant.



  18. Westie, very briefly. Look at how the Adams international campaign ofr unity is laughed at when considering the campaign by Conor Murphy. It was viewed a lot like the march for truth along the Falls, something not to be taken seriously. That ended up being ridiculed as the march for half the truth. I see nothing in these things that will secure their supposed objective.

    As for the strategy of touting many republicans will confirm that SF have been encouraging informing against them. A number of drug dealers in North and South Belfast are adamant that SF told them to identify to the PSNI the identities of those who allegedly attacked them or told them to leave the areas. Now it it is a tough one to call on who to believe druggies or SF. But like all who went down the same path before SF I would say the druggies and the republicans are probably right on this one.

  19. Westie, sorry. That was me posted just above