I am not from Ardoyne, but as a Republican I had every right to protest against bigots and stand shoulder to shoulder with the residents. I remember on many occasions being asked to go to similar protests and in fact sat linking arms with Tom Hartley and Jim Gibney on the Ormeau Road in 1996. I can't see any difference between then and now. Perhaps this is the price that some pay for getting into bed with unionists? - Pádraic Mac Coitir.

Last Saturday’s North Belfast march by the Royal Black Institution has once again flagged up the contentious issue of parades and the limitations of Sinn Fein’s state centred reformist strategy which has thus far failed to bring relief from sectarian coat trailing to communities like Ardoyne. It also gave cause for reflection on one of the more colourful moments of the marching season.

What happens up North generates little interest this side of the border. Even the 12th of July was a normal day here, its significance lost to most, until the scenes of rioting and police attacks melded to create a news story. In truth it was after the 12th that I realised the 12th had in fact occurred.

Shortly before leaving for holiday abroad I, like many others, courtesy of the internet, viewed the much discussed verbal confrontation between Sinn Fein’s Bobby Storey and a masked youth during the annual July disturbances in North Belfast.

Assimilating and filtering the images led to a range of possible depictions, some no more than a fleeting wisp. The first cast Storey as a prisoner governor experiencing in-your-face defiance from a protesting prisoner determined not to be cowered by authority. ‘Yeehaw’, the youth’s contribution to the exchange, was one of the cries blanket men would hurl in the face of a governor to drown out his voice during the farcical adjudication process.

That image, analytically infantile as it was, soon dissipated as something else took shape, this time of a mature Storey making a coherent and robust defence of community order against the recklessness of his youthful opponent. Here, ‘yeehaw’ was a statement symbolising not politically inspired defiance but cerebral nothingness. Larry Hughes aptly summed it up in his pithy observation in TPQ that it 'doesn't give much inspiration.’ Storey’s intellectual conquest of what opposition he faced should at that point have been absolute.

It proved not to be and that image, like the first, drifted. The picture that finally crystallised and took root was one of Storey blowing an opportunity gifted to him by circumstance to illustrate what his party alleges is the shambolic political content and nihilism behind much of the rioting. How he dealt with it led to the audience seeming to attach less import to ‘yeehaw’ than it did to Storey’s angry but ultimately lame dismissal of the rioter for being masked. The chair of Belfast Sinn Fein, long associated in the public mind with the hooded IRA, incongruously described the wearing of the mask as ‘ridiculous.’ At that point whatever case Sinn Fein might have made was drowned out by jeers of ‘yah, boo, yah, boo’.

On the day irony seemed to elude Storey, his performance comparable with a hypothetical scenario where Ian Paisley confronts a young firebrand preacher and tells him it’s ridiculous to be brandishing a bible. Nor did there appear to be much in the way of cognisance of the gathering of masked PSNI members whom, according to Pádraic Mac Coitir, a former republican prisoner and long time friend and comrade of Bobby Storey, ‘battered and dragged us off the road.’

Even among Sinn Fein’s republican critics there is a view, as expressed by Larry Hughes on TPQ, that ‘the activities of recent times resembles nothing more than mindless vandalism’; a void expressed in the grunt of ‘yeehaw.’ It is not that Sinn Fein has, therefore, no case to make for its position, even if it is one that can only be made from within a reformist framework. Storey, unlike his colleague Sean Murray in dealing with Padraig Mackel of Eirigi on BBC Talkback, opted for diktat rather than dialogue and consequently failed to produce an argument that would have prevented the masked youth from hogging the limelight with two politically unintelligible syllables.

Storey’s value to Sinn Fein lies in the IRA legitimacy and tradition that he brings to the party’s handling of the parades issue which, like much else in the party’s trajectory, constitutes a reversal of what went before, again caught so well by Mac Coitir:
I was one of the people involved in a peaceful sit-down protest on the Crumlin Road on the 12th July. I was disgusted, but not surprised, when I heard the utterances of Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly when he condemned us for doing what he and others had done for years on the Garvaghy, Springfield and indeed Crumlin Roads.

But the IRA tradition and the authority it is meant to generate works only for those who were members of its organisation, not those who accuse it of having gone wayward. Storey’s choice of discourse when confronting his masked adversary undermined the IRA laden gravitas he sought to bring to the exchange. The moral of the story - if you read a riot act to a rioter, particularly if you have rioted yourself, don’t feign surprise if you get a riot.


  1. I've always been curious about why whenever a really sophisticated operation occurs that is attributed to the IRA Storey always seems to be the "mastermind". Maze escape, Thiepval barracks, Castlereagh break in, Northern Bank robbery. Is that just a media creation or is there something more to it because whenever I've seen interviews with him he comes across as a total buffoon. Just kind of repeating the great leader's lines. Doesn't seem to possess the creativity or think outside the box capability that you would think someone who designed those operations would possess.

  2. Ryan,

    anything but a buffoon. The repetition of the great leader's lines is a phenomenon visible in many authoritarian groups. When politics is anchored in a personality cult the moulded in the image of the leader factor is enhanced. He certainly handled the yeehaw incident poorly.

  3. Ryan, thinking outside the box is not an option that Sinn Fein accords to any republican.

    Seen great brains that Storey's ousted for daring to embark on such a luxury.

    Incredibly intelligent people can be made to look incredibly stupid, when they are placed in situations that they are not fully programmed for.

  4. In his previous existence 'Big Bob ',was a 'neck down' Republican, a safe pair of hands who would unquestioningly follow the movement's line to the letter. No intellectual input required.The spin created around him as being a kind of latter day Michael Collins has a lot to do with the Sf agenda of trying to maintain however tenuous and spurious a link they can with traditional republican values. Therefore we have Storey the legend. Smoke and mirrors.

  5. Kellmor,

    'a safe pair of hands who would unquestioningly follow the movement's line'

    in that sense he is no different from many of the rest of them. But this happens throughout movements with a totalitarian bent. There is no doubt about SF spin and manipulation. However, I have long seen the view of him as some sort of fool as very short sighted. I think I took Malachi O'Doherty to task on this in a review of his book The Trouble With Guns about 12 years ago. Malachi had borrowed a term from a Chris Ryder book to castigate Storey which was sufficiently ambiguous to allow the inference that he had no intellect. I have always found such comment grossly wide off the mark

  6. Ryan, thinking outside the box is a dangerous pursuit for republicans.

    Any republican that thought outside the box could very easily have ended up inside one.

    Bobby knows what side his bread is buttered and will always act accordingly.

  7. Nuala,

    one of his roles is enforcer of the line, whatever the line

  8. Most 'effective' political Organization's have the likes of a Bobby Storey, solid and not over ambitious is the best way to describe them and it would take a foolish man to regard them as slow.

    They can be relied on to carry out almost any task, and without question and that is why they are such a valuable asset to the Organizations they serve. I do not believe this is because they are yes men, (or women) it is far more complex than that, unless there is a real viable alternative, they rarely move against a sitting leadership as they see no good coming from such a move.

    So they solder on, even though they are well aware those they serve are not fit to wipe their boots. It would have been interesting to read Storeys mind when he was sent down to confront the young protesters.

  9. Mick,

    that is an interesting way to view it. I think the sort of person you describe may be also an authoritarian personality who exhibits the need to obey and be obeyed.

  10. Anthony, where can I watch the video of the confrontation? I tried searching for 'Bobby Storey' and 'Ardoyne' on youtube, but without success.

  11. Alfie,

    this is a slightly longer version than the one that I saw

  12. Nuala,

    'Incredibly intelligent people can be made to look incredibly stupid, when they are placed in situations that they are not fully programmed for.'

    I think this is an apt explanation of what we have seen going on in SF. I remember being at meetings when people came out with the line but they had no great belief in it and when asked an off message question had no cue. Yet they ignored the old adage about what to do when in a hole. At a large gathering in Conway Mill, one of them feigned illness to avoid having to present the case any further.

  13. BOBBY STOREY had words that day with youths who had man utd masks on, hardly traditional, the hard ones now see the brits off the streets, its now time for them to fight,
    i have not read to many on the pensive quill who say what specific group that they support,
    i see dissidents in the same manner
    as the brits or drug dealers, just another mystery,
    people are being approached to join the new group, any-one recall
    being approached to join the RA-

    how much to we love IRELAND, to die for it, to kill for it, to go to prison for it, to live for it,
    to be right for it, war, war and peace, peace in public, hate in the eyes of those we love.
    to write for it.

  14. Thanks for the link, Anthony. I couldn't help but laugh at Storey; indeed it was he who looked ridiculous. Still, the riots were a PR victory for the Orangemen. I suppose I'm in no position to give lectures to those masked youths in Ardoyne either, given that I've never had to endure triumphalist sectarian marches where I live; however, I'm sure that some sort of nonviolent civil disobedience would have been more effective - it certainly would have been more media friendly.

    Incidentally, I don't buy into Ruth Dudley Edwards's apologetics for the Orange marches. She claims that the "Glorious Revolution" is worth celebrating as it marks the beginning of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy in Britain and it introduced a Bill of Rights for subjects of the monarch. It doesn't seem to concern her too much that Catholics were denied all these rights for over 100 years afterwards. To my mind, celebrating the "Glorious Revolution" is like celebrating the birth of South Africa in 1909.

  15. Alfie,

    the rioting is detrimental to the community. While the bulk of it do not want orange triumphalism it certainly does not think rioting is the cure. Sinn Fein's criticism of the rioting is not without validity. The manner in which Storey made the argument, however, switched the focus from the intellectual vacuity of the youth and made for a self-parody.

  16. Mackers, of course the rioting is detrimental to the community, however, people like Storey were never overly concerned about riots or 'proud districts' when it suited their agenda.

    I really did not think much of the young rioter either, all round it made uncomfortable viewing, but the shinners only have themselves to blame.

    michaelhenry, do you engage in a wee tipple before you write your post?
    Or maybe that should work in reverse, maybe we should partake before we read it!

  17. Nuala,

    that is absolutely right. All of which makes their case all the more threadbare.

  18. Alfie,
    I like your comment about Ms. Edward's "Glorious Revolution". I always see these Orange parades as another way to flaunt their so-called "triumphalism" over Catholics. I also compare their parades to that of the Klu Klux Klan marching through an all black community in the south.

  19. Helen,

    "I also compare their parades to that of the Klu Klux Klan marching through an all black community in the south"

    Helen perhaps you can explain where Nuala previously failed in comparing the Orange Order with the Klu Klux Klan. It makes for great propaganda but quickly dies a death when scrutinized.

  20. Robert , what scrutiny, you did not scruinize what I said. I told you that the Klu Klux Klan comparison had been made by a Liberal Multiculturist in a book written by Will Kymlick et,al.

    I also told you the same multiculturalist theorist had quoted a former senior English police officer as saying, what is tolerated in Belfast (in relation to orangemen) would not be tolerated in London, Manchester or any of our cities.

    Regarding scrutiny, scrutinize the web and you will see a lot more than liberal multiculturalists draw the comparison between orange men and the Klu Klux Klan!

  21. Fionnuala,

    With regard to this comparison there is no requirement for me to scrutinize the web or listen to liberal theorists. I often find such theorists like weather men want to try going outside sometimes.
    Try as you and others might there is no escape from the multi national aspect of the Orange Order. It's African membership renders null and void any comparison with the Klan.

  22. Robert,

    I think many nationalists took the view that it was like the KKK because a substantial portion of the membership advocated Protestant supremacy and many of them displayed hatred toward Catholics. For nationalists there were points of comparison.

  23. Robert, you said my claim did not stand up to scrutiny! What scrutiny?
    I did not say the orangemen were the Klu Klux Klan, however there are big similarities between them and the white hoods.
    I did not know you had a problem with theorists, as you seem to use Freud quite often.

  24. Fionnuala,

    I don't have problems with theorists per se. My issue here was with a patently erroneous comparison between those who are racist and those who are evidently not racist.


    Somewhere within that supposed supremacy the Orange Order found it within their hearts to allow those they sought to laud over the use of their halls throughout the country.

  25. Robert, the Orange Order are fundamentally racist and you know it?
    If you cared to scrutnize some of those opinions which you appear to be closed to. You will read that amongst all their other little attributes, they are considered racist as well as religious bigots.

  26. Fionnuala,

    This all sounds good but I can only relay what I see and experience and as an Orangeman I can declare with all sincerity that we are not a racist organisation. As for being a religious bigot. I suppose the wee Catholic boy my daughter invites into our household on an almost daily basis stands testimony to my bigotry. How about socalising with my Catholic workmates or my Catholic sister in law and brother in laws, nephews and nieces. Given any further thought to those socks?

  27. Robert, why do you resort to nonsenscial statements about socks? Is it to deflect from the fact you are wrong?

    This is a purely hypothetical question, however, on the assumption that any of those catholics you speak about should wish to join your orange lodge, would they get in?

    One of your English grandmasters has recently ran for the Westminster elections on a BNP ticket! Your lodge over here refused to condemn him.

    I would just like to ask how many times a year does he march round Devon?

  28. Fionnuala,

    Membership is open only to Protestants. Why should those mentioned want to join? Does'nt diminish them any less in my eyes. Why should they be? We make no secret of our opposition to the church of rome - I'm proud of that opposition. I'm in good company here on this matter albeit for different reasons.
    Nick Blakes political opinions are a personal matter - they are not shared by the Orange Order. Liam Adams, for instance, has a certain bent for young girls does that make all republicans peadophiles? I think not.

  29. Robert, why is your order only open to Protestants? Has it anything to do with your deep rooted hatred of Catholics?

    Why are are you talking at cross purposes in relation to you being against Roman Catholicism and okay with Catholics?
    It is the same thing!

    Do you think the butchers asked their victims, if they were Roman Catholics or just plain ordinary Catholics.

    One of your grandmasters was also a paedophile and I know that does not make all the grandmasters paedo's.
    However, if you are claiming to be so multicultural and anti-racist should you not be more than a little concerned that one of your flock, a grandmaster no less is running on a BNP ticket?

  30. Robert,

    'Somewhere within that supposed supremacy the Orange Order found it
    within their hearts to allow those they sought to laud over the use of
    their halls throughout the country.'

    True but effectively answered by another poster.

    True, yet hardly the reason many nationalists were able to compare them with the KKK.

    ‘Liam Adams, for instance, has a certain bent for young girls does that make all republicans peadophiles? I think not.’

    Why prejudge Liam Adams but not Billy Wright?

  31. Robert,

    ‘Resentment, I have heard it said, is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person

    Like that one now.

  32. Anthony,

    "Why prejudge Liam Adams but not Billy Wright"

    You are entirely correct. My presentation of that point denied Liam Adams the presumption of innocence. Accordingly that should have read,"Liam Adams, for instance, allegedly has a certain bent for young girls does that make all republicans alleged peadophiles? I think not."

  33. Robert,

    not that I disagreed with your comments on him. Just wondered about the strain between the positions. You dealt with it

  34. Fionnuala,

    "Robert, why is your order only open to Protestants? Has it anything to do with your deep rooted hatred of Catholics?

    Perhaps for the same reason why Republican organisations are only open to Republicans. Or an environmental organisation would'nt be open to the CEO of BP. Sinn Fein councillor Billy Leonard, for example, is a former RUC officer, member of the Orange Order and I assume a Unionist. Having foregone the former he qualifies for membership and is admitted to the latter. An atheist organisation is hardly going to admit a person of faith while that person epouses beliefs that are at direct odds with it's tenets.
    Accordingly the answer is no.

  35. The cost of policing a 10 month protest camp at a north Belfast community interface has topped £9 million !!!!!!

    How any social houses could that build? How many extra nurses, teachers could be employed or other jobs could be created by 9million?

    Whats wrong with GARC's proposal and force the O.O. up Forth River that runs parallel to the Crumlin Road..?