Tilting at Giants with a Brush Shaft

Today The Pensive Quill carries an article by guest writer, Mark McGregor

Tilting at Giants with a Brush Shaft by Mark McGregor

The annual SF Hunger Strike commemoration is becoming the set piece event in the constitutional ‘republican’ calendar. It consistently throws up the most controversy and, given the silly season it falls in and dearth of much true news, it generates masses of media and internet comment from even the laziest commentator.

A friend had remarked that controversy around the use of a GAA ground, involvement of an ‘independent’ member of the DPP, military dress and re-enactments, including an armed ASU, meant it had gone down badly for SF. I absolutely disagree, I think it went how they planned.

This event and associated elements seem deliberately designed to demonstrate a sense of militarism in a movement completely stripped of any radicalism and provide a comfort blanket to those unable to recognise how fully constitutional and establishment what they support truly is.

Dressing up the young people of OSF as Na Fianna Eireann and having them lead by a ‘republican movement’ colour party while others ‘re-enact’ being part of an ASU is certainly going to raise a response from the MSM and SF’s partners in government. However, it isn’t a real subversive activity, it is just bad theatre.

This movable feast of commemoration in recent years seems to be held where dissent against the SF line is growing most. Last year Derry, this year Tyrone — places even the most fervent SF member will accept they have been facing problems with resignations, apathy and defections to other groupings. Increasingly the Hunger Strike events seem designed to create a media storm and sense of radicalism for SF in areas where they face problems with being perceived as part of the establishment — and a neutered ineffectual part at that.

So people are bussed in from around Ireland, a monster rally is held, militarism is draped all over proceedings, controversy is created and all from a state party of law and order fighting hard to be part of supporting institutionalised ‘justice‘ in the north. But the troops are reinvigorated and go away feeling like they are still part of something radical and not just supporters of yet another establishment political party.

The deaths that are meant to be commemorated get lost in a vast pantomime of ridiculous inappropriate ‘street theatre’ and political slanging matches. No consciousness is raised and the memories of the dead are part of yet more party political jousting.

So the ‘party’ is enriched by building a false sense of militarism in areas that are increasingly recognising the complete defeat experienced and the militarists being remembered are a footnote for most in the charade that develops.

Seemingly attached to this event comes the Ogra SF weekend away (camping without cordite), where yet again they engage in another distasteful aspect of remembrance, in their case celebrating the killing of the enemy. After their trip to the site of the Warrenpoint bombs they haven’t learnt that touring sites of your enemies’ death is inappropriate and ghoulish. So this year they made part of their tour incorporate a visit to the site of Ballygawley Bus Bombing.

This kind of commemoration would cause uproar if the ‘other’ side considered it; if loyalist band members took a tour of Loughgall for example imagine the SF outrage.
It looks like SF want to have links to militarism — commemorate it, re-enact it, visit the sites where it was at its most devastating and encourage youth to see it as a noble and legitimate aspect of republican struggle — but at the same time utterly condemning those that would become part of an armed republican group today. Condemning, without any sense of irony or shame, those that seek to advance republican aims by actually being part of, not re-enacting, an ASU in Meigh.

SF increasingly place themselves in situations that threaten to make them look ridiculous — celebrating a military heritage, engaging in militarist displays, commemorating militarism (one member recently went as far as to declare the IRA the only legitimate army in South Armagh) and condemning real armed republicanism. It increasingly seems either a schizophrenic or deliberately deluded organisation that presents and celebrates armed struggle in areas they face problems but condemns true militarism, never giving a mention to the fact their true commitment is to constitutionalism willingly controlled within a British state.

Time for the pantomimes to stop.


  1. I suppose from the outside looking in these things might appear like a pantomime to some. I took part in the commemoration; I don't really support Sinn Féin any more, but I did think this was a fitting way of trying to remember the sacrifice and courage of the hungerstrikers, and by and large I thought the street theatre and displays of Irish culture, and historical information relayed on the stage were positive and informative. My own two girls learnt a lot from the commemoration, and asked a lot of questions. Sure, I squirm a bit when I realise where we have ended up, and I know these things always have a current political purpose (some of which this article touches upon, although in an overly negative way in my view), but I decided to go along to probably the biggest expression of remembrance you can attend in this country. I am glad to have been able to stand shoulder to shoulder with former comrades and friends, and younger people, at this event. And believe it or not, I still had my critical faculties intact the next day.

  2. Perhaps going to these historical or 'incident' sites as condoners and apologists today is just an extension of what they've been engaged in for an extremely long time. Appearing to be the upholders and or championing the cause whilst actually engaged in the dismantling of the struggle. I'm surprised anyone's still buying this scam.
    It's also a control thing-keeping their mitts on the source of their rise to political prominence and respectability. The hungerstrikers and the IRA, who they've now long since put to rest RIP. A continuation of the same oul blarney.
    I suspect if there were [doubtful] any PSNI/branch officers taking photo's they were well nervous. The sham fight at Scarva must be the inspiration. Actually the participants in that pantamime are much more genuine.

  3. I think that old favourite "The grand old Duke of York" springs to mind when I read that excellent blog,my advice wold be ,watch were they stick that brush shaft, MartyF

  4. I just read in detail the incident in S.Armagh where a PSNI patrol sped off in the face of an IRA [NOT provo/unionist] roadblock. Maybe they thought they'd arrived at the wrong event? lol Obviously not. I notice Conor Murphy is hiding behind the possibility of civilian casualties in order to defend the PSNI.
    Big change from the time Conor was in the Crum for a 900lb landmine at Camlough. This type of incident really does highlight the victory the RTP's [ rough tough provies]won for the Irish people in the occupied 6 counties. Just a little throw back to the old 'revolutionary' rhetoric there.
    SF military festivites and pantamimes and sham fights at Scarva...the best pantamime of the lot is Conor Murphy standing in S. Armagh performing as spokesperson for the Brits. Hope to see more comedy like this at a village near you soon.
    Unfortunately from what I've been reading on Conors behalf-there's no cure for Schitsophrenia. The person with the disorder thinks they are perfectly fine. However they can seriously damage the health of normal people trying to figure them out lol.

  5. Perhaps your observation of purposely contrived behavior is the most accurate. The belief that if one rides all the horses one can't lose the race. The only flaw in that old saw is that if you ride all the horses you must also ride the losing horse.