Killing Ciaran Doherty

The killing of Ciaran Doherty by the Real IRA just outside of Derry City on Wednesday evening was laden with evocations of the ‘bad old days’ when bullet lacerated bodies, were left bound and gagged at the side of a road on full public display. Over the decades many Derry men met a similar a fate; Jock Lynch in 1974, Franko Hegarty in 1986, two of the names that spring to mind. Killings which look no different from the slaying of Ciaran Doherty: brutal, chilling and sordid. The likeness drew the following precise observation from Brian Rowan: ‘all of what the dissidents are doing comes from an IRA book.’

There has been much condemnation of the killing. The North’s British First Minister Peter Robinson and his deputy Martin McGuinness spoke on behalf of the Northern Executive when they repudiated the ‘dirty deed’. McGuinness made the point that the republicans responsible for the killing need to realise that the war is well truly over. It might have helped fortify his repudiation of the killers had he said the war is well and truly over because it was well and truly lost; that the lesson of the Provisional IRA campaign has been salutary – do not fight wars that are not winnable, achieve little and exact a price in gross excess of the purchase.

Martin McGuinness’s Assembly colleague Martina Anderson also criticised the killing in strong and forthright terms. She put a lot of visible energy into challenging the people who took Ciaran Doherty’s life: her judgement, how dare they bring this type of activity to the streets of Derry. She may well be genuinely sincere in her revulsion. But the background of her party always places a low hanging ceiling on the moral authority Sinn Fein representatives can reach when making such condemnations. Representatives of other parties which have no history of association with republican political violence sound all the more plausible in their rejection of events like that which took place on Wednesday evening. The condemnation issued by Mark Durkan of the SDLP sounded natural rather than forced.

The Real IRA in claiming responsibility for the killing of Ciaran Doherty, who was the one time commander of the group’s volunteers in Portlaoise, accused him of knowing the consequences of certain associations he had maintained. In its statement the republican military group alleged that Ciaran Doherty was a senior member who had relationships with a criminal gang linked to the drugs trade.

That is no reason for having killed him. There is no war or legitimate targets. The Real IRA might well think it is carrying on in the tradition of the Provisional IRA when it dispenses this type of brutal justice; that because an army council signs off on the action that it somehow becomes morally superior to any other killing that takes place on the streets. While Real IRA inflicted fatalities may differ from a criminal killing it can hardly be claimed in their defence that they are any more meritorious.

The growth of the Real IRA, despite it being effectively red carded after the Omagh bomb, is in part a consequence of a growing realisation that the Sinn Fein leadership negotiated a very poor return on the Provisional IRA campaign. Sinn Fein being able to sit in the middle of a British administration and label other republican traitors is not what any republican ever envisaged as a worthy objective.

This realisation that little in the way of republican objectives were secured should be extended to the point where it allows for an acknowledgement that the Provisional Movement did not sell out a campaign that could have been prosecuted successfully. The Provisional movement sell out lies not in the defeat it sustained but in the management of that defeat which saw it defect to the British side and has it body and soul now backing an armed British police force.

The logic is stunningly simple: unwinnable wars are invariably lost. The Real IRA in trying to reinvent the Provisional IRA wheel will do what wheels do – go round in circles. No matter how many bodies like that of Ciaran Doherty lie strewn on darkened roads, that circle of futility will not be broken – just hearts.


  1. I'm not saying the killing of Ciaran Doherty was right or wrong. That's not my call....

    Ciaran Doherty was a member of the RIRA, involved in large scale drug smuggling...was interesting enough to the RUC/PSNI, that the spooks made overtures to recruit him as an informer...

    In their (RIRA) eyes he became probably a liability.

    But he was a member of a terrorist organization and by becoming a member had to play by 'Big boy's rule's.

  2. Found the whole thing quite sickening. Just get such a bad feeling about that type of so called justice, punishment whatever. Lessons should have been learned from these type of killings in the past. How many informers and their handlers were actually knee deep in the skullduggery which eventually led to such deaths.
    There is a family somewhere trying to come to terms with this, nothing big about the boys who done this.

  3. Frankie, taking what you say as given about the consequences of one's own actions in these matters, it should still be an easy matter for anyone to make a call on the rightness or wrongness of the consequence

    Nuala, I would add to that by saying we now know from experience that some of those who ordered this type of action were being handled themselves

  4. "The logic is stunningly simple: unwinnable wars are invariably lost. "- just so glad people didn't have this attitude in USSR during the WWII. Otherwise you'll be all speaking German now.

  5. It seems to me that there is something in the Irish psyche that tells young Irishmen they must go out and blow up their fellow Irish men women and children. No were can I find such a statement that condones such an evil deed. We have had to put up with for 40 years another form of IRA telling us it is their right to shoot and bomb everyone into oblivion because that is the right of the Irish people. I would love to know what rights I have because like 5 million others on this island I would love to live a little and not have the safety of my children put at risk by people whom tell me they represent me. My only conclusion is that looking at the monetary gains the Sinn Fein/Provo leadership made from fighting in the name of Ireland, could this be what is driving the present crop on. This man lost his life because he was involved in drugs, this to me answers a lot of questions, example “he wasn’t sharing the goodies “so he paid the ultimate price.

  6. Sorry Frankie but your opening line “to say that the killing of this man was right or wrong was not your call”. If you could please give me the reasoning behind this as I am completely baffled by what it means.

  7. Fionnula I agree with you all informers were/are up to their eye's of all sorts of skullduggery...That's the nature of the game. And from what I've read in the papers on the net,heard on the radio etc...Ciaran Doherty wasn't shot because he gave information on RIRA activities, more because of his connection to a cannabis find in Donegal. And when he went public last year about the MI5 harassment all MI5 did was up the anté. Someone deamed him a liability.
    I think taking a human life for any cause is wrong (unless it's self defence, you or me situtation). My thoughts and prayers are with the Doherty family..A small girl growing up fatherless..I don't even want to think about what he went through in the last few hours of his life...probably 5-6 people invovled directly with his death, no i don't think that's big..But unfortunatly thats one of the rules of the game.
    But ultimatalty he was in part responsible for his own death. He knew the risk's invovled. Everyone does today. The rules where written in part by the PRM during the dirty war.

  8. Interested. The majority of Irishman and Irishwomen took up arms because the genuinely believed they did not have any alternative, few did it for any type of monetary gain. Most of the people I knew in the republican movement were people of the highest integrity. Many of them suffered horrendous personal loss.
    I too would have liked to have felt safe as a child. I remember holding my da's hand watching our friends and neighbours trying to get their meagre possessions from their burning homes in 69. This was not a one sided war. Just really feel that to use a man's death to score political points is a bit of a low blow.

  9. tulyachka1000, I suppose that is why the Germans should never have fought it. They could never have won it. Directed by a military idiot ordering them into an unconquerabe vastness, there was only ever one result there as far as the German army was concerned

  10. Anthony...Just finished reading your article again and you said...

    "In its statement the republican military group alleged that Ciaran Doherty was a senior member who had relationships with a criminal gang linked to the drugs trade.

    That is no reason for having killed him. There is no war or legitimate targets"

    Then a thought crossed my mind..

    At the center there was 500,000 euro(GBP) worth of cannabis that was undercovered in a house that was connected to Ciaran Doherty..Someone lost a lot of money. Nothing polictal about it. Someone (or a group) lost a lot of money. And someone had to pay the ulitmate price. people have been killed for a lot less.

  11. Frankie, you suggest a possible reason for his killing but one I think unlikely. I imagine the people who killed him were greatly annoyed that as a former O/C of their prisoners in Portlaoise and a member of their group at the time of his death, he had pulled the body into disrepute. The Provisional IRA on occasion did likewise. I guess the people who lost the money were the druggies he was associated with and they did not kill him. For your view to be right the Real IRA would have had to be behind the drugs operation. I don't think that likely but then it is just my opinion

  12. Fionnuala
    I always get the same reply every time I use my argument that the Provo’s used the movement to feather their own nest , I do of course remember and still see the British force being used against our people , but take a look around you and see how so many of the Sinn Fein people live . I would never use anyone’s life to score points because I am not a political person.
    PS Take a trip into south Armagh some time and see the wealth

  13. Hi Anthony... very sad as far as links with drugs or not... it was over money there as bad as the Gangs here in Limerick..its another way of making money... you know were you stand with gangs.. FREE Ireland my ass!!!!! people are sick of this so called WAR in there heads... you wont see the RIRA take out gang members in Limerick
    you said it THE WAR WAS LOST AND ITS OVER!!!

  14. Interested. To be honest I agree with you that a lot of former provos have feathered their own nest, in fact they have feathered a considerable few nests as some of them are megarich. However, you cannot discredit an entire movement because of the actions of a few individuals. A lot of decent people took part in the armed struggle. Many of these people were intelligent and articulate and could have succeeded in any walk of life had they not chosen their particular path.
    PS May be you should watch the "Hunger" DVD to appreciate the unbelievable courage displayed by people in the H Blocks, people who were trying to ensure our Irish children had the chance of a decent future.

  15. Tony, you might be right. What I offer is an opinon. I don't claim to know the difference between one set of them and another. But those I do know a long time and who function in these groups are not in it for the money. Their thinking is absurd, their war repulsive - but that does not certify their motivation as financial gain.

  16. Mackers. Just an opinion also. I would say as with most things you have your finger firmly on the pulse. You are extremely perceptive in relation to certain situations. So I would believe your analysis is as near to the truth as we will ever get.

  17. Fionnuala
    I have watched Hunger several times and cannot imagine the hardship those men endured.
    While watching same I often wonder what they would think of the outcome of all their suffering.
    If I sound a bit harsh its because I have seen so much unpatriotic behaviour from a lot of senior republicans that kind of clouds my judgement at times .

  18. Nuala, thanks for your encouragement. I never thought it was too hard to be perceptive about the way the movement was going. We did have a first edition to read from - the Sticks. There was really nothing new in the internal management of the change. Goulding used all the same tricks. Opinions - at least it is great to be able to have them and not be hounded for it. The dam of censorship has been breached and the voices rushed it before the censors had time to patch it. Now it is too wide.

  19. Mackers. My son always said that yourself and Tommy Gorman were the trailblazers in relation to speaking out. I have to agree with him. Both of you had the courage to speak out while the rest of us nodded in silent agreement. I think both of you suffered the harsh end of censorship, however the fact that they never managed to silence you, said so much more about both of you than it did about them. A member of Sinn Fein passed a particularly vindictive remark to me last night about Dolours I asked her, did she think they were robbed because they could not picket her home? I think these days they are much subtle with the censorship, however now that their leader is on the backfood, they are unleashing their usual tirade of abuse against anyone who gives an opinion.
    Has Marty done a runner?

  20. Nuala, neither myself nor Tommy could see why we had no right to an opinion and the leadership were entitled to talk any old guff they wanted. I don't think other people lacked courage. I think they lacked a good dose of scepticism. Also there are situations people find themselves in where they might wish to say something but can't for a lot of reasons and not because of a lack of courage. I didn't always speak up when I should have. It is just life.

    It does not surprise me that a SF person would be vindictive toward Dolours. It is the only way they know how to deal with people who don't buy into any of the nonsense.

    Marty has gone off the radar. We were just saying today how we miss his banter.

  21. RE: 'No matter how many bodies like that of Ciaran Doherty lie strewn on darkened roads, that circle of futility will not be broken – just hearts.' So what be the answer Anthony what be the answer to all of this? All killing is hideous/tragic but what be the answer to resolve more of the same? Everyone talking but no-one making sense of what is deemed senseless yet no-one addressing what underpins the why these deaths still happen... In a way you circled the whole thing... * I do not crow over or applaud violence but i surely know why it all keeps happening. RE 'it should still be an easy matter for anyone to make a call on the rightness or wrongness of the consequence' It should also be an easy matter to address why it all still happens imo. All the convoluted theories and speculations and so forth can not bring the dead back to life this we know. Tis no revelation.

  22. Think that killing was disgusting..have had a feeling that Mi5 and 'Branch' were keeping the dissident pot simmering for overtime and perks benefits. Now we have Derry people being intimidated by regular so called punishment shootings and now a murder.AND THATS WHAT THAT WAS.
    Also, the securicrats have kept their livelyhood ticking over long enough for someone with mortar and bomb making capability to step into the equasion [ Newry and Brownlow] how long before a town centre aquires listed buildings..some listing to the left and some to the right..?
    Everything said about SF totally correct, missmanaged a surrender..and treated everyone with contempt..let em get on with it, run their british admin course.

  23. Anthony

    Your point about managing the defeat rings true. The surreal display of victory through the streets of West Belfast on the announcement of the ceasefire bode ill for the transition to a politics of truth telling.

    As for the RIRA there was something of a 'performance' in their treatment of Kieran. These people are so desperate to assume PIRA's mantle (a hopeless task in the absence of a coherent, if unwinnable political strategy) that they have opportunistically taken out one of their own in order to shore up their own identification as the 'real thing'.

    It's interesting indeed to examine how Sinn Fein's representatives, in their current media performances, are tragically constrained and compromised in challenging the mimetic obsessions of the RIRA people.

  24. Interested.
    I know exactly where you are coming from. I have to observe their distinctly unpatriotic behaviour most days. I just be grateful that I do not have to look at them in my house anymore. The garlic must have worked or maybe it was something I said about big "pompus".

    These so called patriots agreed this precarious peace. They did not care that it wasn't even a just peace. They settled for a papering over the cracks exercise and now the cracks have began to reappear.

    They left us in this abysmal mess and then have the bare faced cheek to pontificate about the latest awful death. I really hope their thirty pieces get them through.

    I agree with Larry Hughes let them run their brit admin, hope they run it into the ground

  25. why should we let them run a brit state? thats just a stupid idea,they are part of the partionist arangement on the island,they are part of the problem they should be exposed for the rats they are and opposed,just like the rat collins,we're thought down south in school that he was a hero, because he fuckin wasnt,he was a sell-out like adams faction,letting them get on with it?? fuck that.

  26. ewok.
    There is absolutely no comparison between Micheal Collins and Gerry Adams. Collins did not spend years lying and deceiving his own people, while, he and other members of his party feathered their own nests.

    Unlike Adams, Collins he did not lie about his past and he certainly did not send people out to do things he had not got the guts to do himself.
    Growing up, my home was dominated by opposing views on Collins, however, try as I may I could never categorise him like Adams.

    In relation to the brit state, unfortunately us people in the North do not have any option in relation to letting them run it.

    To be honest I hope they do run they're little brit admin into the ground. Just feel so sorry for the people up here who deserved so much and got so little.

    People such as Mackers, Tommy Gorman, Brendan Hughes and others spent years exposing these people for what they were and they paid dearly for it.

    That's why I kind of resent it when people like yourself treat us as if we all took it lying down. However, if you think I,m stupid that is your prerogative

    Where's is Marty when I need him?

  27. Peter,

    think you have got to the crux of many matters there. A very salient point is the one made about the incongruity between victory parades and truth telling

  28. Nuala, hopefully Marty is on holiday - he is needed to add a bit of colour to the place. It was interesting how a couple of year ago SF began the rehabilitation of Collins. Gerry kick started it with his comments on the amount of republicans that existed throughout Ireland - even Fine Gael had its Michael Collins tradition. I remember thinking on reading that - 'ah here we go.'

  29. Watched the Spotlight slot on Ciaran Doherty - in terms of PR it was a disaster for his killers. They came across as brutal and sordid.

  30. Anthony last week before Ciaran Doherty was killed..Brian Rowan made this assessment about the the car bomb in Newry...

    "This is an assault on the peace strategy of Adams and McGuinness, a battle for authority inside the republican community.

    The dissidents know their war will not force the “Brits” out and will not remove the border. So, the fight is about something else, about saying in this violence that Adams and McGuinness sold out, but we fight on.

    It would be viewed as a direct challenge to the authority of the mainstream republican leadership from inside its own community.

    The dissident war is not with the British and the security forces. It is about something else, something much more personal. Something much closer to home."

    My question is how close to the truth do you think he is...

  31. Mackers,
    Really hope Marty is on holiday. Marie, his other half mentioned to me that he was having tooth trouble, Albert said the most likely scenario is "non -payment of the internet bill"
    Anyway, hopefully he will make a speedy recovery.

    Can I just commment on the Brian Rowan report. Certainly not an expert on this type of republican activity. However, if they're goal is to embarrass Adams and Mc Guinness then they have had a degree of success.

    I remember being at a meeting of republicans many years ago. At the meeting Mc Guinness announced that, "there would never ever be another IRA"
    Remembering back it was one of those strange cringy meetings. Where the elite sat at the top table and spun all the crap and dribble to semi-stunned listeners. One of those meetings, you left feeling more puzzled than you were when you entered, but you wanted to believe them because, what else was there to believe?

    So if someone is embarrassing the crap out of them, it is a case of fair play, but I really think we should credit these groups with having more than one string to their bow.

  32. Macker,
    would just like to ask could I use your term "Borefast Agreement" to answer a letter in the Irish News?

  33. I see Liam fighting extradition. Wonder is he in the country even, took conveniently long for the warrant to be issued eh?
    Be interesting to see if he gets any grief in Maghabbery. Maybe on Lockup.

  34. Mackers, can I rephrase what I said earlier. In reply to a letter in the Irish News. I used your words about "The Borefast Agreement causing drowsiness" However, I stated they were the words of an author/ journalist. Just in case you thought I was claiming them, wish I could though!

  35. Frankie, I don't think there is any one size fits all explanation. I tend to feel that Brian Rowan's take is the way SF would like to have it read. But whereas it might hold up for this or that individual it might not for others. There is an element of it there alright but as a general explanatory theory I think more evidence is needed before it would acquire a strong status.

  36. Nuala, feel free. Glad you find them useful. No need to source them