Watch The Beetles Scuttle

History Ireland, Volume 17 No. 4, July/August 2009

Thursdays, 10pm, 21 May—25 June 2009, TG4

Irish revolutionary history has been replete with the informer type. The degree to which they shaped it may have been exaggerated by their handlers, victims and journalists alike but it is indisputable that their role has earned them no small amount of contempt and hostility. The tout assumes the persona of the bogeyman, to be kept both figuratively and literally at arms length. The scene from The Informer when the blood money he received for setting up his IRA colleague, Frankie McPhilip, was pushed with a cane across the table to Gypo Nolan by his British Army paymaster, conveys the depth and pervasiveness of the distancing and the contempt.

Often ‘Brussels sprouts’ ended their days in a field or alleyway courtesy of a bullet summarily despatched without compunction into the region of their brains; the coup de grace on occasion administered by fellow touts. The Provisional Movement is said to have killed around 70 informers, only a minority of those who functioned as agents and continue to do so today within its ranks. Their funerals were sparsely attended gatherings poignantly underlined in the TG4 six part documentary series Brathadóirí with footage of mourners shuffling along behind the coffin of Eamon Collins.

Yet for something so reviled there, a la pederasts, seems to have been enough of them. While it might be inflated to claim that the Provisional IRA was brought to it knees, weighed down by the burden of informers, the organisation’s defeat cannot be fully understood outside the part played by such people. They undermined military activities to such an extent that suing for peace looked an increasingly viable option for the Sinn Fein leadership to pursue, tasked as it was with the strategic management of the IRA. Then they helped sideline opponents of the peace process in favour of others more favourably disposed towards the Adams leadership. That sidelining was the role attributed to Denis Donaldson by Davy Hyland and Martin Cunningham in their contributions to Brathadóirí.

Brathadóirí, as its title suggests, set out to examine the role of the informer in the political violence that beset the country for much of the last four decades. Whereas the role of the informer is inseparable from the Northern conflict the series illustrated just how insidious the phenomenon had become in the Republic as well. Irony is added when it is considered that the programme is launched at a time when the former US State Department diplomat Kendall Myers, who had some involvement in Northern Irish politics, finds his lumbering frame in a US jail on warrant of allegations that he was an informer for the Cuban government. The seeming ubiquity of the phenomenon is enhanced.

The programme makers certainly tried to avoid being superficial. They interviewed a wide range of people including some who were serious figures and authorities either in or on the world of international espionage. This was accompanied by a serious degree of psychological profiling which weaved its way through the narrative. Being analytical rather than sensationalist, it had none of the drama that goes with an informer scandal in the making.

The series despite starting strong never dropped pace. It opened up thematically and then focussed on case studies as the narrative joined the dots between theme and evidence. For the average viewer the human story may have overshadowed the thematic. It was no less interesting for that.

Old favourites featured such as Denis Donaldson and Freddie Scappaticci, with Donaldson getting a full programme when in fact a greater delving into Scappaticci may have proved more revealing. Less well known, but hardly inconsequential, informers were documented also. Pat Daly’s role in burrowing into the INLA was explored in a way that raised serious questions about the British state intelligence services. The first episode clearly showed their role in supplying the weapons and car to allow Daly to commission a grave act of illegality so that other INLA members could be arrested in a Bristol sting operation.

Much of the working assumption that guided the viewer through the six episodes was the less than salutary role of the authorities, both British and Irish. Officialdom turned two blind eyes to what agents were doing and undermined investigations into atrocities that might have exposed their cynicism and complicity. There was something particularly loathsome about the role of the Dublin government in that it always put the interests of the British state before those of its own citizens. This drew particular critical attention in Brathadóirí through its scrutiny of ‘the Badger’, a member of the Garda Siochana who had spent much of his Garda career in the pay of the British as one of their agents.

Motivation was another theme and Colin Wallace, a former British Army Black Operations specialist turned whistleblower, said that there were three motives for informing: duress, money and revenge. What Brathadóirí did not tell us was that IRA internal security people routinely found from those they interrogated that duress was the strongest of the three. The determining motivation was the fear of jail, particularly heightened amongst those who had been there before and who had long since become disabused of any romantic illusions about doing time for the cause.

The RUC, no stranger to dirty tricks, had its perspective articulated by former head Assistant Chief Constable, Raymond White. Although White claimed the use of informers is the only real alternative to retrospective investigation the programme forces us to conclude that in some cases there would be nothing to retrospectively investigate were it not for informers having carried out the actions that later become the object of investigation. White’s demeanour betrayed a latent hostility toward human rights groups and others who may ask questions of those in the British state’s security services who he claims had to get their hands dirty.

Paradoxically, the most useful role an informer could play is in the post-conflict situation. Public understanding of the conflict would be enhanced immeasurably if current and former members of the Irish and British security services were to come forward and cast some light under the stones the legitimacy of the respective states rest upon. Then watch the beetles scuttle.


  1. Anthony
    a spooky subject. I think everyone functioned on the premise that EVERYONE around them was a tout. More time spent plotting the thwarting of touts than plotting ops.
    A friend and I when we were very young went to Dundalk in 1983to join the 'movement' and were knocked back at that time. Imagine my cold sweat/relief when many many years later I saw the Belfast man who 'interviewed' us as none other than Steaknife himself.
    I would hazard more than a guess that the operations side of the Republican Movement succeeded when it did in spite of the leadership rather than because of it.
    'Riddled' with touts is what I was told from the HORSES MOUTH as to the state of affairs in the movement in 2004/5
    Adams Mc Guinness and co shouldn't be touched with a shitty stick. The Brits have hundreds of years of experience and looking at Donaldson and Steaknife I suggest the entire 'leadership' is most likely rotten.
    Thank heavens we're alive and life is good. Personally Europe is my political focus and narrow parochial politics, [other than my attempts to embrace and reignite my love of Irish History- ALL sections of it] can take a hike. Hopefully the reptiles that are left in so called Republican politics will get their cumuppance electorally sooner rather than later. The only thing they haven't got in their make up is a concience or shame.
    May God help all those who were thrown to the wolves or humiliated and slandered by self serving 'cute hoors' and sadly they're in abundance.

  2. OH how right you are Anthony, problem is as you know there would be one hell of a pile of stones, both sides of the borber,but it sure would be the way to go, good blog Marty F

  3. OMG I'm going senile, there's an entire decade gone AWOL there-I was told the movement was riddled with rats in '94/5 by a wonderful comrade near Dundalk then.
    Certainly hope at my age I don't lose any more decades coz the next three all being well are my lot!
    Couldn't you imagine if an mi6 guy went public in the 80's/90's there'd have been a mass exodus of SF members and activists lol the British exchequer might have been bankrupted by the witness protection programe!! Stormont much cheaper by far.
    Seriously though when you have Donaldson, steaknife, sandy lynch and who knows how many others in Adams'hip pocket you have to wonder why/how the leadership [Adams+Mcguinness] remained on top for all those years. Some people were beyond question and others were expendable as soon as convenient/necessary. Doesn't bear thinking about.
    By the way-were Spurs in action today?

  4. Touts are nothing new, to quote P.J McCall's brilliant 'Kelly the Boy from Killane',
    "...and poor Wexford, striped naked and hung on a cross, her heart stripped by traitors and knaves.";
    written in the 1890's about a revolution in 1798.
    Simple solution, kill em all.

  5. kill em all?
    that's a stalinist solution to a major domestic problem. where to start..hmm from the TOP down perhaps lol
    Sad reality is there'd be few left when the job was completed. But I don't think the Irish patriot dead and the thousands of duped+betrayed will rest easy until the present scoundrels and self servers have been 'put beyond use.'
    Only then I think can the entire Republican history be ended with dignity and not treachery. A new begining for all the Irish people based on honesty and integrity which is what Irish Republicanism was all about. There's no place or need for violence within these islands and within a European context the Brits/Unionists aren't anyones master. However to be where we are did not require the betrayal and trashing of 800 yrs of history and integrity by the self serving leeches in SF.
    God rest the patriots in peace. Maybe when the SF leadership have also served their purpose they too will get a volley! We can live in hope.

  6. Larry,
    Yeah, a bit of an overreaction on my part, but I wonder how many brave volunteers were ambushed and killed as a result of informers.
    To be honest I don't know what can be done, and don't know enough about the situation on the ground to comment intelligently, I would have been better off saying nothing.

  7. urban_underclass,
    not a bit of over reaction that I could see. Free speech is a wonderful thing and there's a difference between expression of sentiment and maliciousness and outright treachery.
    I suspect too many people who were little 'Gods' in the movement and in place forever and a day were likely toxic. Idealists were literally money in the bank to those guys.
    However I've commented enough on this topic because too many good people were ruined and destroyed emotionally and charachter wise by trash as it turns out.
    Finishing on the Stalin theme though..I believe it was he who said "A gossip is more dangerous than a killer." So sayeth the man who eliminated about 30 million of his own people just to keep the rest in line. A sensitive soul nonetheless eh? lol

  8. Stalin’s purge was at a costly price and based on the informer system killing almost two thirds of his political party leader’s military advisors and generals which in turn forced Stalin to sign a non aggression treaty with Adolf Hitler in 1939.
    In 1942 the battle for Stalingrad became a ritual slaughter with more than 1.5 million confirmed casualties on both sides. Stalin’s vanity was again in control against the vanity of Hitler.
    By 1943 Marshal Zhukov and his military strategy had effectively destroyed the Nazi war machine in Russia. Both Generals faced with ridiculous orders from their respective leaders held their ground.
    General Von Paulus who understood a tactical breakout was his only option denied by Hitler surrendered the city ironically to save his remaining troops in defiance of the Nazi leadership for that he was stripped of his rank and declared a traitor and disgrace to the Wehrmacht and Germany.

    Stalin’s purge and use of informers murdered plenty of good political leaders.
    The fact that the Nazi’s made it as far into Russia is proof of his sociopathic delusional mind a butcher rather than a leader of the people.

  9. Tain Bo, you will now be officialy pronounced a heretic, guilty of a thought crime against the proletariat, a man who slipped into ideological error and who is now subject to the pull of counter revolutionary ideology and bourgeois deviationist tendencies. I am less surprised that the revolution failed than I am at it ever having started to begin with. All power to the cretins!

  10. I was on my way to bed though had to write a quick note on your excellent comment.
    I had a good laugh as I looked for the best place to hide.

    Committing atheistic blasphemy on my part won’t win me any friends though it should brighten the debate. I am convinced the socialist thought police will condemn me for treason.
    There is actually a comparison within the few words yet I expect the reactionary left to slight my point.
    Strange how Sinn Fein have purged so many good republicans from their ranks (a similar mistake made by Stalin,) I am probably wrong yet it seems Mr. Adams believes he cannot be replaced, sounds Stalinist in my mind.
    Politically Sinn Fein continues to blunder using the old republican mantra (when needed) and selling the new Sinn Fein is a failure as recent polls show.
    The weakness of the party being they have closed the door on furthering republican ideology and replaced it with a Sinn Fein ideology?
    More political blasphemy but it is difficult to say anything positive about Sinn Fein or its leadership as they still continue with their anti republican purge in the name of Sinn Fein Republicanism?
    I think I used Stalingrad as the population of the six counties is roughly the same as the death count in the battle, minus the exact number unaccounted for.
    Stalin I could care less for he had his own version of history.
    The main point being no one ever questioned the leadership and now the leadership is writing their own version of how they saved Ireland.
    I would welcome a defense of Stalinism and offer no apology as his informer network had many innocent people murdered.

    On a better note, I read a little of that book on terrorism and was bored 22 pages in. I was surprised as I thought the article would have a number of comments.
    I am still trying to respond as it is an interesting subject hopefully I will finish the thought.

  11. Sorry I mentioned Stalin, it was in gest- dialectic materialism and the old marxist Leninist favourits will be all the rage now lol. We should be more worried about the lumpen proletariat at the moment if anyone could give a monkey's...however the lumpen proletariat would tell you where to 'get off' as they're more concearned about the value of their former council houses regardless of being on the dole!
    I think Adolf and Stalin like the [sectarian PSNI]when you look at their actions and pshycotic personalities [Jack Hermon] is it maybe just a case that they were misunderstood and didn't get enough parental attention? Or weren't allowed to mix with other kids enough? I would'nt take the analysis end of things too serious. But SF certainly did nullify any independant thought. People I spoke to in Derry recently rekon not only were you not allowed to speak but thought was a no-no too. Can't wait for a time when ex well revered and respected "Republicans" stand as independents to bring a halt to the sychophantic steamroller of SF. But I hope heavy left wing rhetoric of old doesn't hamstring the efforts if and when it happens. There'd be no negative or 'counter revolutionary' intentions in independent candidates, sure how 'counter' can you be in accepting a UK/DUP stormont lol. It would give people with some pride left someone to vote for. If we are accepting Stormont and an internal settlement then lets have a solid political alternative to the decievers ruling the roost at the moment.
    Think Adams has been fettered since the 70's by the BBC and everyone else inside and outside the movement-I first heard of him on a Panorama programe after which he was elevated to God like status in his wee joe 90 spec's.
    The amazing thing is that ego's are more fragile than perhaps we may think. I saw a young lad accuse Adams+SF of being the SDLP for slow learners and he stood up to Gerry in the looked like a new and uncomfortable experience for Joe 90 So maybe an odd chink in their electoral armour will knock them back more than anyone could imagine-like the Unionists losing complete control-a big come down for them!
    The only problem is that candidates with genuine Republican credentials even non violent ones, will likely face the wrath of the PSNI at elections or poling stations. Seems from recent experience the PSNI don't like anyone rocking the political boat/ status quo either.

  12. Tain Bo

    I don't think there are too many SF supporters commenting on this blog.
    I vote for Labor (Ireland), it's the only real socialist party active in my constituency.

  13. Larry

    No bother on the Stalin comment a debate works better when things are not a one sided agreement, so no need for an apology.

    Urban Underclass

    I think the Sinn Fein readers are there though would cop out with the same pathetic excuse that this site is just an SF bashing ground. It would be a step forward if they would break away from the party line and add a comment on issues or articles that may be critical of SF policy.
    My thought on their lack of comments is simple they really have no argument and outside of their safety zone would be difficult for them to convince non-believers.
    Saying that it would be interesting to actually hear their opinions but maintaining an absence gives credence to their false belief that all that comment, here do so to bash SF.
    In fairness all political parties are public servants (insert laugh) so they should be able to handle public criticism.
    This does not stray too far from the informer system though politely in political party terms it is called spying and espionage fancy words for touts and traitors.

    Well at least people can accuse me of Stalin bashing so SF should not be worried about people expressing an opposing view.
    Not to worry the 100 year anniversary is nearing so SF will have the magical road into a united Ireland well paved just in time for Easter 2016.

  14. Tain Bo,

    I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again but:

    Sinn Fein = A Party of Political Opportunists

  15. This PSNI problem is something that was to be sorted out after Patton. That was binned like the border commission. SF are under the cosh of the DUP[Ulster presbiterian taliban] in a UK internal settlement. NOT what people who died, were imprisoned and or thrown to the wolves by electoral careerists had 'signed up' to. Of course SF supporters won't comment here what can they say? Holding on to the weapons and pushing for repartition would have been a more Republican strategy in my view. Outdated possibly but more Republican than internal electioneering.
    The FF party in the south were extremely relieved at SF failure in the recent election. I spoke to a few who were emotional and agitated after the outcome claiming that FF were the peacebrokers! SF strategy failed with considerable FF relief.
    Now that Joe 90 [Adams]and co. have us resigned to all being Free Staters accepting Taliban rule in the north-we should look for independent candidates without the SF baggage who can work for tangible social progress. Forget the national issue and forget SF.
    On the informer issue Mc Guinness has said enough. Awful for a leadership that advocated their execution to now be recruiting them. I'm sure the guys in cage 11 might have recommended a more dignified wind up of Irish resistance if the clock could be turned back. Perhaps they'd take a leaf from the UVF cages and put a vice or two to good use!
    I wonder would the SF leadership like to meet with the families of men who broke in the barraks and eventually ended up executed as touts with the family shame and all that went with it? Wonder what would they say to those relatives? Don't think SF should be callling for touts especially to the PSNI as presently functioning.

  16. Larry

    It would be interesting to hear what the magical "strategy" is, considering that is a war cry within the SF ranks.
    It makes no political sense that SF cut away a large number of its base support.
    They have no chance in the south and continue on with the joke they call a "strategy?"
    It would not be beyond a stretch to assume that SF is still infected with British agents?

    Urban Underclass

    That would sound better as a party of missed opportunity?

  17. Tain Bo,

    In The Republic recently there have been a spate of ugly internal rows in SF and several local representatives have left the party.
    It seems that there is not as much electoral cake to go round as these opportunists expected after Good Friday.
    Like the proverbial rats leaving the sinking ship it seems to me.

  18. If it isn't possible to encourage principled Republican veterans to stand on an honest and up front partitionist ticket undermining and exposing Adams+SF at the ballot box for their betrayals, and denying them a free run uninterupted, then maybe pro partitionist SDLP should be actively supported.
    Better that than allowing the SF chameleon to continue scot free. At least the SDLP were honest with people from the outset.
    I just feel SF should not continue to be rewarded for what they've done and Republicans of integrity should step up to the mark and show that internal politics could have been done without a load of MI6 rats leading the Nationalist community into a disgraceful betrayal.

  19. The informer system definitely played a key role in softening militant republicanism. The psychological use both exposing and masking worked perfectly for British Intelligence there would be no countering the infiltration.
    Even the execution of informers or alleged informers was a weak deterrent.
    To this day the informer system is in operation the psychological war continues with the eyes of suspicion cast upon everyone and anyone.
    There is no defeating an invisible enemy; the militant hold outs face the infiltration effect on a larger scale of what is factual and what is paranoia.
    Either way it is still a crippling weapon and will garnish the same results another victory for British intelligence.
    50 years from now perhaps the true nature of paid informants will be declassified and academics can question the subject with a more factual approach.

    There is no solid opposition to Sinn Fein’s dominance which sounds surprisingly dangerous yet it is understandable as anti treaty republicans are split amongst themselves and seemingly are not offering or concentrating on a political alternative to oppose SF. The irony they too would have to drop the militant agenda and favour political discourse.

    At the same time the fact that SF has no republican opposition should be a victory for the party though that is a very hollow one. I say that as they should have a higher percentage of the vote, they don’t, losing ground with no opposition is not exactly a party in control of itself let alone a party that is in control of the destiny of a country.

  20. Maybe when SF have been allowed enough snake in the grass rope to hang themselves and decent genuine people have recovered from the sociopathic behaviour and shock of it all then an alternative will materialise.
    SF have burned the bridges but eventually like Dev in reverse their crafty antics may catch up with them. Lets hope.
    I saw Dutch Doherty on RTE yesterday and the subtitle was 'community worker'-NOT SF?- so please God maybe it beginneth already?

  21. ......And this isn't a Sinn Féin bashing site - I wonder?!

    rats, scoundrels,trash,leeches.... not to mention wanting a few of them stiffed and anybody, even the SDLP to sort them out at the elections - no, its all very objective blogging!

    I picked up this quote from Padraig Wilson's speech the other night at the Hunger Strike commemoration, although it probably doesn't equate to anything given that he is still in the SF corner.

    'I've been asked at various times over the years if it was all worth it. I've always responded that everything that I've experienced and all that I've been a part of were necessary and worthy. Mindful that some people might think that's an easy answer to give because I'm alive and well, I can only say that any other response would be a lie and a betrayal.

    'I committed myself to fulfilling the legacy of our comrades in whatever way that I could. Everyone has to find their way of fulfilling that legacy.'



  22. Westie!
    Had to post in two parts.
    (part 1)
    You should have posted the entire speech I read nothing new in it; there is an interesting book from around 400 BC, called the art of war. The speech you mentioned is much the same as Sinn Fein’s strategy “trying to salvage a victory from defeat.” You can find the answers in the book.
    Certainly there is no questioning the volunteers and people who held the line through the campaign they are deserving of the praise.
    The leadership is questionable perhaps the party faithful would dispute that yet the equation does not add up or the Sinn Fein formula “less is more” makes no sense politically?
    I would wonder if divergence is a great way of herding the sheep after reading the speech I thought if mono-tone desperation inspires the flock then truly what hope is there for the party.
    I know it is just SF bashing yet once again with no surprise your comment is empty and reactionary?

    “To this day the informer system is in operation the psychological war continues with the eyes of suspicion cast upon everyone and anyone.
    There is no defeating an invisible enemy; the militant hold outs face the infiltration effect on a larger scale of what is factual and what is paranoia.”
    Will the militant holdouts rebuke my point or just accept it as a fact considering it is a polite way of saying “It’s over.” Will they call me an anti treaty republican basher?

    “And this isn't a Sinn Féin bashing site - I wonder?!

    Rats, scoundrels, trash, leeches.... not to mention wanting a few of them stiffed (your comment implies all said this) and anybody, even the SDLP to sort them out at the elections - no, it’s all very objective blogging!”
    If the comic Dave Allen had said this it would be funnier… “Objective” you seem to think well for the readers and under the SF law of making ice cube’s in the Sahara your point is pointless and melts under its own merit.

    Here is the great part you class the entire site as anti SF based upon? You fire a line out then like the best of the best use a paragraph from a speech to extol the virtue of those who do the thinking for you.

  23. Part 2

    I could reverse your comment and pull a Sinn Fein and accuse you of TPQ bashing? Did you consider the article and actually notice the commenter’s and based on the few comments you go off on a tangent “Objective?”
    I am not speaking for anyone who commented or comments on this site and I have no objection to their opinions… would you feel better if I whispered behind the party’s back?
    I wish Sinn Fein followers would comment considering the party wish to promote dialogue?
    This article I was not going to make a comment until “Stalin” that sparked my interest as I enjoy reading history and the histories of conflict. I was writing a comment on the more interesting article in my mind “Understanding Terrorism and Political Violence.” I ask a question can you honestly call the site an SF bashing ground or hypocrisy is a tool for a failing party.
    “If so why would they publish pro SF comments?”
    You should show some balls and admit you are wrong and accept that people have opinions that differ from yours!
    Freedom of speech no censorship these are rights for people if the party cannot stand up to minor criticism without the “we are right everyone else is wrong, party bashers feeble excuse” then good luck.
    Your comment exposes once again your total lack of conviction the pendulum effect, there is but one party and their name is SF, curse the infidels who dare not accept these gods.
    SF is there to serve the people yet they dictate to the people from the new testament of the SF bible… I am not a believer.
    Your comment done nothing but reinforce what is true no one should say anything about the great party.

    “This is my own opinion”…so please direct your misplaced words to the correct comment and try a little thinking without SF verse and line.
    To those who read out of interest maybe “Westie” would explain why the site is here solely to beat up a party that really needs no help as it blunders through its political infancy.

    Read my comments and explain why I am just bashing SF? Wait Stalin bashing is ahead of SF bashing.

  24. Westie
    Padraig Wilson can justify himself however he sees fit and if he can live with that then good for him. Personally I recon if at 17 yrs old I'd been told where we'd be ending up I'd have saved myself+my family a lot of pain and been a good wee boy and joined the SDLP.
    That's all. What do ya think yourself? Would Martin Mc Guinness sit ddown with David Mc Veigh's brother and explain why he's now calling on people to inform? I was sent to the mans house to collect photo's from the cages at 18 yrs old not knowing who the man was coz the SF locals hadnt the BALLS to go there!
    Delighted your posting-obviously you aren't in a mental straight jacket. God Bless ya.

  25. TP “necessary and worthy “
    Would love to read your understanding of these noble words. I am absolutely galled in this year of 2009 to be reading that here we have the great Sinn Fein leadership calling for the good people of Northern Ireland to inform on fellow republicans, Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross for less . How can anyone support such traitors? When the British offered the people of this state a better deal than we now have in 1974 we were told by the same leadership to shoot and blow it into hell and that is what we got. On the question of Sinn Fein bashing, boy do they deserve it telling us one version for years and then when they got the sniff of power they very quickly took the British stance on how to run our wee six. What next form them maybe intern all dissidents ?

  26. I rekon we ARE doin a bit of SF bashing to be sure,but it's not doing any harm,likely doin little good![head and wall]This is a site where people who put their own wee flags to the mast in the bad old days can'talk'and it's important that we have somewhere to express ourselves. I wouldn't put Westie down too much as he at least has the decency and dignity to put his case.Please keep posting Westie.
    It's not like we're getting at the UK labour party from afar-we know these guys,we did jail with them.I just find it incredulous that the likes of Kelly who did big time is surrounded by Ego's who did very little of it. He should know better.
    I was blinkered in the past myself and truely believed Gerry and Martin had the answer. To have met them would have been awesom. It's crazy to be in a situation now where looking at them doing what they are doing, I would cross the street to avoid them if they were in town. [at best-..mite throw a dog turd at em at worst lol]I never thought I would or could say that. I'll say it once more-if this isn't an ego trip for these guys why don't they step aside and let the SDLP get on with it? Why do we need SF it's laughable if it wer'nt so depressing. 'Come in number SF your time is up.'If it's over then its over. We don't need a nordy FF. Go and get a proper job and try and fit back into society-the one you near demolished and let the ordinary career politicians get on with it. I wonder where do SF have a beer? maybe they have a wee bar of their own where no one says anything controversial and the duke box hasn't any Dan Breen music on it lol
    I read on your site Anthony that Keiran Nugent was in a bad way. I've been there myself, not through politics but family matters near had me in rehab. I'd like very much to have been able to sit with Keiran beside the river and listen to him. In my heart of hearts I would. In my heart of hearts I'd not sit in the Carlton club with Gerry and Martin. They have bogg all to say.

  27. Tain Bo
    there is no 'magical' strategy. That's the point I think. SF basically should shut up shop and stop contaminating Ordinary Decent Politics. They should leave the career blarney merchants to get on with it and stop insulting and antagonising those who contributed to 800 years of Irish history. Casement must be spinning in his grave and I bet he and Slab Murphy will have a rite oul chat when Slab checks out!

  28. Westie,

    Like Larry, I hope you stick around and keep commenting. I don't visit this site for the Sinn Fein bashing. But given my negative experiences of SF (in the South) I can't help but join in.

    I follow this blog because I want an intelligent republican perspective on Northern Ireland.
    I have been following a very good moderate unionist blog for a while now, and yet for ages every nationalist blog I hit was either a stunningly boring Sinn Fein party line, or utterly juvenile.

    I like this one, the writer, and the commentators seem to know what they are talking about and at the same time manage to be entertaining. I don't know any of them.

    Apart from a very brief period working with SF down here (that was disappointing on every level), I have not been involved in Republican politics or the armed struggle. That said I am a republican and a socialist.

  29. Interested,
    how correct you are. The same leadership is the problem I rekon. Trimble and Paisley are gone...maybe time Gerry and Martin took a bow too. If there's a bad smell in the fridge toss the source the f@#$k out. And boy do they smell.

  30. Tain Bo,

    I used the term SF bashing because it was referred to by you as a typical response from SF supporters so I didn't want to dissapoint you a chara! Mind you,I would ask the question, why would you predict such a reaction? - and talking of reactionary, I see you were quick to respond to my comments, and in what could be described as a less than complimentary post, you included the not uncommon jibe, 'why not try a little thinking without SF verse and line'. But don't worry, I have the BALLS to take it.

    I have commented on many blogs that Anthony has posted and have given my opinion. On that point, I will retract my comment inferring that this is a SF bashing site, i.e. the Pensive Quill, but I don't doubt for a second that there are those who blog simply to have a go at the party, the provisional movement and anyone, well the very many actually, who are still so paddy thick that they just follow like dumb ass cows in the field because they haven't the wit to conduct any political analysis or formulate any opinions for themselves.

    If you read down the comments on this particular article, as I was doing, I almost forgot what the actual blog was about, hence my first post. Read over them again yourself and tell me it isn't straying off the point a little and into a wider criticism of SF, which included the quotes and inferences I made in my original 'contribution'. And if you think they were all objective and fair comment, then I guess we'll agree to disagree again.

    You yourself referred to SF supporters staying within their safety zone etc. and Not to worry, the 100 year anniversary is nearing so SF will have the magical road into a United Ireland well paved just in time for Easter 2016.

    What does this latter point actually mean? It reads like a sarcastic mocking of the aspiration for which so many have suffered and died. But I'm sure that is not the case.

    You also have a go at the 'Strategy' again, almost as if it is a sin or simply downright folly to keep talking about a United Ireland.

    Do you wish to see the day, and do you have ideas on how it could be expedited?

    Larry talked about forgetting the national question and just get on with social political progress. (I paraphrase)

    I'm sorry but this isn't an option in my world. The national question is what it's all about. As for socialism in politics, what does or would that look like right across the 32 counties of Ireland? Is this any more or less achievable than a 32 county republic would be?

    Larry is keen to have alternative Independent Republicans contesting against Sinn Féin in elections. I don't have a problem with that at all. It could be healthy and I am all for exploring as many options as possible to promote, not demote the 'National question'.

    Sinn Féin and the wider Republican family has too many good people who have sacraficed their lives or the best part of them, taken courageous risks and remain as steadfast and respected leaders within our communities - these are the people I will defend when it appears to me that they are all being labelled as unworthy or less worthy of being Irish Republicans.

    You do not read too many blogs from SF supporters castigating those who do not think the same as they do on this site, perhaps I reacted to what I deemed an unbalanced series of comments for this blog?

  31. Just to finish on the latter, I will repeat as I have on a few posts that I totally disagree with the line being taken on passing information about other Irish Republicans to the PSNI. I know that it does not sit easy with any SF member and supporter that I know and I would hasard an educated guess that it hasn't happened on too many occasions thus far. However it is a major issue that will need to be debated both within or outside the party - it won't go away.

    Finally, finally, Interested, you asked me to explain those 'noble words, necessary and worthy' they were Padraig Wilson's words about his own time whilst on active service with the Army and including his many years during different spells in jail. So, I guess only he can honestly say what they mean to him in this context.



  32. Larry
    If you can’t join them beat them… I may as well get my wooly bashing mask on.
    You have now committed political blasphemy confessing to party bashing “shame on you for having your own opinion” picking on the hard pressed party.
    If Sinn Fein had any sense they would use sites like this to gauge support factors and at least offer an opinion of why they refuse to hear any opinion other than the party.
    I don’t think you will need to worry about closing shop the party is politically bankrupt after selling off their most important assets.
    I don’t see a rise in support anytime soon the decline is nicely masked Mr. Adams sounds very unsure defending the party in recent defeats. Who is to blame for the defeats? The party!
    I think I will stick to independent thought fair play to those who comment as we should be able to discuss the last 40 years freely.
    Face it the political system in the six counties is and always has been a farce.

    Best a luck

  33. I have some experience of SF tactics and have experienced them in action. The art of smearing everyone is very finely honed. I remember how the Relatives For Justice [a broad calition against supergrasses] was hijacked by SF in the Felons club in Andytown. Also the relatives for justice was in Lurgan/Craigavon was sabotaged by SF after false acusations that the door of a house that was used by all political groups had been left unlocked. Totally untrue but any excuse was enough to start a slanging match and leave relatives deflated and disgusted enough to walk away. If they can't control it they'll wreck it.
    This has gotten off subject for sure. But it's started with a PSNI issue and for me the lack of SF interest in these issues today is very revealing. Like the Greens in the South they'l do anything for a wee job in 'government.' That's what's depressing. Seems a disaster where these guys have ended up.
    Physical force Republicanism was not interested in popular electioeering. It was designed to apply enough pressure and pain to the Brits for them to opt for disengagement. Popularity was never an issue. It's intriguing to see Gerry Kelly complain of a listening device in Stormont that time when it transpires that Martin and Deinis were filling the Brits in the entire time in advance..20yrs in advance ha ha. Don't think in all good concience Westie you could take a lie detector on that issue and say with certainty you disagree? Even if unproven Martin reeks enough to stay clear of.
    I would'nt bash SF for the sake of it. It's simply not a sincere political party and I know politicians are generally rotten to the core, but that's no reason for me to support the Provisional Republican movement any more.
    I admire your loyalty and we were all the same at one time. But stepping back from the unwaverying loyalty and looking at these people and where they are today..NO THANKS.

  34. Westie...

    I will respond to your comment as fairly as I can after I have a proper think.

  35. Comrades,

    Like old solders the world over, Irish republicans love to chew the fat and when doing so spit the gristle into the bin, and there is nothing wrong with that, but let me ask this.

    Would you have preferred the PRM's campaign to have gone down in glorious defeat without a trace left within the body politic, bar the broken lives and cold graves. Or as things have turned out today, have the contradictory world of Irish republicanism still playing in all its forms, a role within both the political chancellories and increasingly once again the street.

    Irish republicanism, due to the nature of its English foe has never been a one act game. As with all struggles to bring about human emancipation, we must always play the long game, for if we do not, when we suffer a defeat, a setback, or events have not gone as we would wish, we as individuals can so easily spiral down into despondency.

    Lutta continua

  36. TP
    Sorry I misquoted you I was just taking a broad view of the Post plus all comments. The biggest problem with Sinn Fein is that the game of politics that they have had to take up is hard to play. Most people understand their problems but when the leadership make crazy statements that sound more Unionist than republican and people react does that mean we are bashing them. Opinions are healthy .I think that a change of leadership is long overdue, is it a case of nobody wants the “job”. Most times now when Martin and Gerry speak they sound like not only have they gone stale .but they sound so silly “a United Ireland by 2016” is but one example.

  37. I was looking through you tube and saw Martin Mc Guinness stating very forcefully that no amount of votes or electoral success would ever remove the British from Ireland, it would be the cutting edge of the IRA that would do that.-then there was the traitors speech beside the PSNI cheif constable.
    I cannot for the life of me see how anyone can square that. No shame in the man. Also I notice the Aran sweater has been dispensed with for the fine suit. Some 32 county soverenty people were also posted and talked quite a bit of sense in that SF will involve itself in the Policing board and present it to grass roots as another 'tactic'on the road to a united Ireland. If involved in UK politics then better whole duck than no dinner, but I can't watch them in action.
    It's a very long way from Teebane to the policing board. It's not SF bashing I just fail to see how there's any point in continuing to give unquestionable loyalty to a deviation of that magnitude-it's stunning. Without a change in leadership!! The ability to do a 'full circle' like that makes me wonder about their integrity in days gone by. I wonder what the RUC/PSNI members think of Martin? [barge pole springs to mind]
    I tried to copy paste the video's without success. But it's there on you tube. I agree with the notion of voting for genuine constitutional polititians. At least you know what you're dealing with. It's all very sad.
    As one of the speakers said if SF think a 25 year war and all the pain and suffering was undertaken for a few seats in Stormont then they are very much mistaken. I'd have been better able to retain some respect if the Provo's had dumped weapons and admitted defeat with some dignity rather than the lies offensive they are still engaged in.
    It's personal judgement. I saw steaknife and Donaldson on their too and for some reason the sound had been deleted..But 20 yrs with Donaldson and 25 with Steaknife. There's collusion for ya! As I said before it's the families of executed informers who I feel for.How must they feel looking at Mc Guinness talking like that. What an awful waste.
    Put ya off politics period.

  38. Westie

    I was not having a go at your conviction belief and integrity your comment was in general about the site and out of context with this article. What you said is as valid as any other comment; I have no problem with your opinion. No doubt you have the balls to take it; the line would have been different if you had directed your point at the few comments that prompted such a swift response/defense?
    Having a go at the site instead of the few people commenting is hardly an objective? I took my time replying I was in no hurry to get into we agree on disagreement.
    I have a couple of good friends who read the site who would agree with your view so not everyone has the SF bashing agenda for visiting/reading the articles.
    I also know a few readers who don’t comment as they feel they would be out of their depth. That being my main reason for saying you are wrong about the site not on a personal level on the debate/argument grounds.
    I agree the posts strayed far from the article I had posted what I thought would be my last comment just before you posted, the comments had run past their course. If anything I was expecting a socialist to condemn me for mentioning Stalin.
    Though on saying that your comment sparked a new round and considering you took the time to answer me obviously a fair reply is in order.

    I stated the party is trying to salvage a victory from defeat!
    The very recent loss in the elections would be a clear indication of a party that over stretched itself running on the ticket of nationalism/republicanism and showing so poorly I don’t see my comment as beyond belief?
    Is this part of the long term strategy if so it is not convincing, if you view fact and see it with idealism then naturally an opinion can seem distorted. I am not mocking the party the voters have spoken.
    As for the long war of attrition we can agree it is and has been over?
    Now the political war of attrition has replaced the military one.

    Perhaps I am completely wrong in questioning the date 2016 would that not be a war cry? Certainly I would see the Unionists accepting that position as a threat because of the historical importance and implications the Easter Rising brings?
    If that reads as a mockery as you point out then I am out of order.
    Though I dislike pointing out the fact that Irish people were being murdered long before 1916 or is that also a mockery?

    Certainly mistakes are made but it seems blunders are made and being made by the leadership of the party, a change would not be out of the question.
    Who else is at fault for losing support for the party if not the leaders?

    I went beyond my comment and comparison with Stalinist similarities class it as having a go. Though I will state again SF would do well gauging support based on SF bashing and legitimate critique.
    We may not agree Westie but hopefully in our life time we can continue not agreeing under the same flag in a republic that so much has been lost for.

    Well said Mick…I think Irish Republicanism will survive this minor spat.

  39. Hadn't the chance to follow this thread up until now. Didn't realise how intense it was. Westie, I thought you SF types were long since told to clear off!! Saw nothing in PW speech that would ease the misgivings of a doubter. Thinking something is worth it is a subjective matter. I might think a couple of quid is worth a pint, someone else might think a couple of hundred quid. The best way to measure is to contrast and compare; what did they promise to achieve as against what they delivered; what they said about others who pursued what they themselves have delivered. We have the much referred to classic case of the comment that there would never be IRA decommissioning because it would be surrender. When decommissioning happened, up went the shout from the same source, ‘no surrender.’ People judge these things for themselves.

    Your argument It is authority based rather than reasoned. 'PW is a good guy therefore what he believes must also be good' type thing. Don't think it computes. One of the early arguments against the Provisional critique of the Sticks was that Goulding, McMillen, O’Hagan etc had all done time, were good men and would hardly be selling out. What they say must be sound. Didn’t turn out that way.

    These things have to be evaluated on their own merits and internal consistencies.

    The blog is not a SF bashing one even though did not make that accusation against it – at the same time it will not curb free expression by stopping those who wish to bash SF. I think some of the criticism of you on this thread was unfair and without justification but we play by big boys’ rules – knocks go with the turf.

  40. I feel there's an innocence or [no disrespect intended here] nievety in Westies loyalty to the Party. Maybe that's why youth was always attractive to the movement? Fresh material to work with.If SF suss Westie's engaged in debate here it may end up in a less than pleasant experience. Like the 'cold shoulder' persona non grata and the black sheep/unclean syndrome all rolled into one.
    Don't want to go into any more 'bashing'though I do feel my points have good merit and have not been addressed by anyone who can either explain either how I'm mistaken or explain why it's got to this. Let alone justify it all.
    I enjoy this site because the articles are always an inspiring read and the people posting [whoever they may be] have good points to make and are worth logging in to catch up with.
    Long may it continue...looking forward to the next post/article so we can get off the 'snitch' theme lol it gets everyones dander up!!

  41. Good article Mackers. I read it in History Ireland a couple of weeks ago. There is some succour to be taken from your point that the majority of informers probably started on this path under duress, insofar as it helps to understand the mindboggling sense of betrayal when one of our own turned out to be working for the other side. Given the fairly senior positions of some of the informers it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they must have had significant military and political impacts on the direction of the war and peace strategy. Minions like myself will probably never know the full impact. It should be taken as a fact that the British have informers and facilitators in every organisation on this island. But it would be equally important not to let this fact cripple us into paralysis, and incessant doubt, and wild unsubstantiated finger-pointing, which sometimes does happen.
    It is clear to me now that we were not going to win the war anyway, even though for years I hoodwinked myself into thinking it was possible, and was in an environment in the Kesh where the more logical and realistic me was kept well in check. I don't believe the Sinn Féin leadership are to blame for the failure... we did not have the backing of the Irish people, and we were largely cut off from the rest of nationalist/republican Ireland, both geographically and in terms of the time lapsed since partition. The Sinn Féin leadership are the product of a deeper failure, not the architects of it. The same could be said of the various other traditional republican groups. We were always in a position of weakness, even if we didn't recognise it. And in this position, the informer can wreak twice as much havoc as he or she could in different circumstances.

  42. Seán Mór,

    'I don't believe the Sinn Féin leadership are to blame for the failure... we did not have the backing of the Irish people, and we were largely cut off from the rest of nationalist/republican Ireland, both geographically and in terms of the time lapsed since partition. The Sinn Féin leadership are the product of a deeper failure, not the architects of it.'

    As perceptive a comment as is out out there. I think the SF leadership is culpable for a lot of things but not for failing to win an unwinnable war.

  43. I beg to disagree, SF ARE to blame for the failure. The 'party' was never more than a mouthpiece for the IRA. Mc Guinness and Adams redirected all energies to popular electioneering. The IRA was a small group of unrepresentative patriots, who had the begrudging/tacit support of the population. The solitary man in the corner figure of the IRA volunteer? thankless cause? SF [ modern ] took an organisation that faught the brits with second rate weaponry for decades that had finally become well armed and had generated popular support after the hungerstrikes and laid it at the door of 10 downing street.
    The Republican movement never had more support or weapons in 800 yrs of Irish history than it had when it was SOLD.
    SF ARE to blame!

  44. Larry

    Thank you for your misguided compliment if you think I am younger than my years would suggest. (your comment about the attraction of youth and material to work with). I have been about for many's a year and have experienced a lot more than peacetime republicanism!

    I do not share your view that I will be blackballed in any way for my participation on this site, maybe more naivety on my behalf?!

    And finally, I do not agree that the IRA were at it's strongest in terms of capability or support when the discussions commenced about ceasefires and all that came thereafter. There may have been more weapons, but there was much more infiltration of the ranks, which were in themselves diminishing. in terms of quantity, and for fear of sounding arrogant, which I don't mean to be, quality. Personally, and not because the party says so, I think that was the right decision at the right time. You don't need to have an armed struggle to have a struggle and you don't need to win all wars by military means alone.

    I believe that the armed struggle was necessary, kicking off with a means of defence of our communities in the late sixties through to a strategic armed campaign throughout the seventies and into the eighties in an effort to force britain to think about its continued presence in Ireland. Alas, it became ever more apparent that this was not going to achieve our aims and indeed was only going to result in more death and more jail with little benefits in return, which is why I think a new roadmap needed to be considered, and quickly.

    The debate about the roadmap and the individual twists and turns that have arisen, I accept are up for debate, but not the original decision to end the military campaign.



  45. Anthony

    Just on the point of Padraig's speech - I didn't mean to portray a simple argument that because he and other good guys are saying things, that they have to be right.

    However, at the same time, their opinion and stance has to be respected in the same way as others, especially those who through their experiences and sacrafices, have earned the right to say whether they believe their actions and lives were worthy and necessary.

    I think the fact that such guys remain politically active is testament to their lifelong dedication to something that they believe in, and wish nothing more than to see through to a fitting ending for themselves and their comrades, from whichever quarter they came from or moved towards.

    There are many such men and women, who you don't necessarily see on TV or the newspapers but who continue to be a major part of the wider republican movement that would be aligned with the SF perspective.

    I am content and proud to work alongside these people, as well as those in position of leadership throughout the actual party.



    ps no worries about playing with the big boys - and didn't think I had over reacted to the 'criticism!ly to the

  46. Westie, no to your credit you did not over react to the criticism. I just thought it was a bit unfair to you.

    On having respect for people's views - I think we respect the right for people to have views but there is no reason why we should respect the views they hold.

    I think your last post just about summed things up - the IRA campaign failed lamentably.

    As a result republicanism has gone out the window. SF are now into reformism pure and simple. Not being a revolutionary myself I am not going to lambast a reformist strategy for the sake of it. But there is nothing wrong with holding to the basic republican tenet that reformism will never deliver a united Ireland.

    One problem I have is why SF continue to pretend they are into the business of revolution.

    Talk again


  47. Westie,
    I think younger more recent recruits to 'the struggle'?? have less to battle with concience wise than us older people who lived through it all. I'm not from a dyed in the wool Republican family where it was like a family business or traditionn to be 'involved.' I never had that luxury. I was also more AGAINST the Unionist Taliban than for a Socialist Republic. But I don't think I'm mentally as fit as you are regardless of age because the mental gymnastics is giving my wee brain a cramp trying to square all the duplicity.
    For example recent street theatrics and a 'real' incident in Armagh left Conor Murphy and the party looking daft. To be engaged in glorification on the one hand and condemnation on the other is mind numbing. Why not really go for it and suggest Denis Donaldson should not have resigned from the party but instead held up as a role model and been nominated as the first IRA man on the policing board? WHY NOT??
    I genuinely hope SF succeed in getting the best possible deal for ALL N. Ireland citizens and wish you every success in persuit of that noble objective. But no offence Westie street theatre doesn't make me want to stick my chest out with pride-gloryfying how great the 'RA were,it's a reminder of a total and shameless surrender. I wish Adams and Mc Guinness would stop rubbing our noses in it-those of us who can see the wood for the trees that is.

  48. Note from IRA man raises questions on Loughgall.

    A typed note from one former IRA commander to another may shed light on a mystery surrounding the killing of eight IRA men and one civilian, shot by the SAS in 1987, in what subsequently became known as “The Loughgall Ambush”.

    “VWC” has seen the document in question, which is part of a wider archive of material smuggled out of the H Blocks in the late 1990’s.

    Dated 6th May 1995, just weeks before an inquest into the killings took place, the note contains the following revelations;

    1........ A suggestion that men convicted of IRA offences conspired between them to offer false evidence at the inquest, if called to the witness stand.
    2........ Corroboration of the theory that at least one IRA man escaped during the shoot-out.
    3....... For the first time, further information regarding the alleged discovery of an informant.

    Writing to “Badger”, believed to be a high ranking IRA man in Tyrone at the time, Brian Arthurs, once a former top Provisional – now at odds with the current Sinn Fein strategy, and whose brother Declan was killed at Loughgall; begins,