Omagh March

It occurred to me that my speech or my silence, indeed any action of mine, would be a mere futility – Joseph Conrad.
This afternoon thousands took to the streets of Omagh in protest at last week’s republican killing of PSNI constable Ronan Kerr. Like the funeral of the dead man I saw it only on television. But it seemed to have less of an ersatz feel to it than the funeral. The celebrity cortege in attendance just didn’t cut the emotional mustard.

The funeral was as natural as the on the ground welcome given to Tony Blair in 1997 on the first steps of his journey into a British prime ministerial career. It turned out that ‘the ordinary people of London’ were in fact members of the Labour Party put in place for media effect.

When a certain naturalness is usurped by stage management the effect tends to be lost. Everybody knows their roles and their lines, the scenes are wooden and the movement stiff. That’s why there was so much sceptical commentary about the funeral and the carefully worked choreography.

Today’s event however looked something else. There is always some degree of organisation to these things. Photos of the dead man accompanied by the stencilled caption ‘not in my name’ do not make and distribute themselves. Yet today’s gathering did not appear manufactured for the cameras and for that reason had more of an impact when the cameras rolled. That’s how it looked from this living room.

A very large body of Irish people took to the streets demanding that a very small body of Irish people desist from using political violence. It is as stark as that. At its heart is a question of rights. Who are rights with? Are they with the vast majority who want freedom from republican political violence or the small minority who want to deny them that freedom? It is a question that armed republicans should consider contemplating if not for ethical reasons then surely for strategic ones.

Armed republicanism has been totally outmanoeuvred by the British state. The British have found a mechanism which allows them to facilitate the wishes of the Irish people while at the same time positioning armed republicanism as the major impediment to those wishes. Strategically alone it makes no sense for armed republicans to continue on their present course and be depicted as the Phelps family of Irish political life. This particular family under the directives of Pastor Fred Phelps pickets the funerals of dead US troops on the basis that their deaths were ordained by god because the US permits homosexuality. They appear bereft of any strategic understanding of how US society perceives them.

Failing a strategic reappraisal, those republicans who are determined to thwart the very people they insist on violently freeing against their expressed wishes send a Phelps-like message that they are impervious to reason by virtue of being trapped, or even willingly wrapped, in a history-propelled irrationality. When people are deemed to be beyond reason alternative measures are found to deal with them. Those alternatives are always made easier when the general public is alienated from those subject to the measures.

The response is certain to be more draconian measures and political policing. We can see this under way already with the PSNI planning to dig into some past cases not in the interests of justice – otherwise all cases would be looked at - but on political grounds; the expediency of, in the terms once expressed by British counter insurgency strategist Brigadier Frank Kitson, disposing of unwanted members of the public.

In spite of this the likelihood is that armed republicans will opt for the deleterious course. We know from experience that marches like today’s can all too easily be ignored. It is likely that the current crop of armed republicans will simply copy their predecessors of 1976 who launched an angry discourse, and on occasion low level violence and intimidation, against the Peace People. They might well dig up some of Gerry Adams’ old writings in which he took the Peace People to task for trying to impede the progress of the armed struggle.

If so it will amount to nothing other than a rearguard action. A much weaker armed republicanism repeating the tactics of their Provisional antecedents stand to achieve even less. Why copy failure?


  1. Before Gerry became a 'so called Peacemaker' he had this to say about 'so called Peacemakers'...

    "The weakness of the IRA of that period was that instead of pursuing the war to it's bitter end come what may, they allowed unscrupulous politicians and so called "Peacemakers" to gain the upper hand. The result was the betrayal of the Fight for Freedom followed by a vicious and brutal Civil War and of course partition. It is to be hoped that the lesson of that period will not be lost on today's leaders. There is only one time to talk of peace and that is when the war has been won not while it is raging. The time to talk of peace is when the British have left Ireland, otherwise they will find some excuse to remain."

    Brownie [Gerry Adams] Republican News , May 8, 1976.

  2. I keep thinking of the men of 1916 being spat upon as the were led out under gaurd after the failed Easter rising,we have come a long way since then, republicans are a lot more confident in their position and not intimidated by either state or its new Broy harriers,if we could unite under a single banner and with good will and hard work we could create a non violent alternative to psf,it is in my honest opinion worth considering,

  3. Why is it, according to the media and their brain-dead mouthpieces, that only republicans murder, but the Brits alongside the RUC/PSNI simply kill? Call me cynical, but until the day comes when we see The Belfast Telegraph, Irish News et al, carry front page editorials condemning unequivocally and in an unambiguous manner the murders of Catholics and nationalist by crown forces such as the RUC/PSNI (and using the word murder quite clearly) then all these marches and moaning condemnations from morally bankrupt priests and politicians mean very little to those astute enough to understand the game being played. The spineless and pro-British ‘Irish’ Congress of Trade Unions (still controlled by the Sticks) are laughable and despicable, having never once called for ‘peace’ marches against British murders. In fact, they have never used the word murder once when it comes to nationalists murdered by the Brits and their proxies in the RUC/PSNI. If the newspapers, politicians et al, really want the nationalists and republican community to believe they are sincere, then one-sided condemnation must be ruthlessly ridiculed and placed in the bucket of hypocrisy forever.


  5. None of the dissidents will go against Martin McGuinness in the
    elections- despite the hardliners
    standing in other area's-it looks like Martin has scared the be-jesus
    out of the big-heads

  6. Speaking from an American perspective, we too had a small minority speaking for a reluctant majority in 1776 and they too were demonized by the then government as murderers as were the Irgun and the Stern Gang in what became Israel. All of those so called terrorists became respected world leaders by history. Too much water (or blood) has flowed under the proverbial bridge in the last 42 years for every single Irish man or woman to simply walk away for peace at any price. It has been said again and again that until the British have left for good there will be no peace and the rise of the so called Republican dissidents brings that point home. Forgive? In a perfect world, perhaps. But forget? I think it is unrealistic, and given the way this sham peace process has been jammed down the throat of the inheritors it comes as no surprise that the dance continues.

  7. Mackers,
    the political policing and dracionian methods were well under way prior to this killing.
    What never fails to amaze me about these rallies is they are blantantly selective.
    I maybe wrong, but I don't remember people spilling on to the streets when Paul Quinn was beaten to death in a cow shed.
    I don't remember Adams and Co asking for information to be passed on to the police or the perpetrators to be rounded up.
    The whole spectacle made me feel queasy.

  8. "Martin has scared the be-jesus
    out of the big-heads"..Life puts manners on everyone.. m.henry. Just stick around for the final curtain !

  9. dont remember a peace march organised for vol.john brady ,quite a selective march indeed.

    if these people organised in a non violent way,in an anti imperialist way i think they british state would still use draconian measures against them.
    also,something about all the talk of east tyrone in the media leading up to the 'seizures' in coalisland and dublin,all looks like feolon setting,and planting to remove 'undesireable memebers of the public..wouldnt be the first time....

  10. As you have rightly said Anthony many times before physical force Republicanism is both immoral and counter productive. Analogies with 1916 or 1776 fail to recognise that on those occasions the "rebels" really did represent the people and in both cases the "rebellion" led to success within 10 years. Compare those successes with the outcome of the post 69 Troubles. The plain fact is that violence did not deliver Irish unity, quite the opposite in fact it strenghened the Union. Adams and McGuiness simply recognised that fact and realised that the ballot was the only way forward. Those who remain wedded to physical force may have a variety of motives but political progress towards a united Ireland cannot rationally be one if them as that route has been tried and failed. Physical force Republicanism is more akin to a religious than a political movement. It is as though they believe that Mother Ireland is a blood thirsty diety who can only be worshiped by means of human sacrifice. These true believers don't care if the death and destruction brings a united Ireland all that matters is that blood is spilt. Physical force Republicanism is now best understood as a death cult, not as a form of nationalism.

  11. Nuala hon before Mickeyboy starts, Adams did call for anyone with information on the murders of both Robert Mc Cartney and Paul Quinn to go to the police,he did so with tounge in cheek knowing rightly noone would come foward, it was a tatic the sticks used a lot,the master is a quick learner in matters re covering his ass, [would need to be with his bro] but your right re organised so called pro peace marches,they have lost credibility when they are one sided and not justice based.

  12. Marty,
    I heard him comment on the murder of Raymond Mc Cartney, honestly never heard Adams say that about Paul Quinn, however I am sure it is correct.

    According to McGuinness, all the republicans have joined the PSNI.
    Both he and anti-IRA Mary Lou said there are a considerable amount of nationalist and republicans in the police, wonder did they declare that on the interview?

  13. Nuala Mary Lou is a carpetbagger and Mc Guinness !well hon he,s the man that told Frank Haggerty,s mum it was safe for him to come home,would you really buy a second hand car from either of them?

  14. Sincere apologies for getting the name wrong, I should have said, I heard Adams speak out about handing over information to the police when Robert Mc Cartney was murdered.
    In the case of Paul Quinn, I just remember Conor Murphy implying he was a criminal and his death was the result of criminal activities.

  15. None of the dissidents will go against Martin McGuinness in the
    elections- despite the hardliners
    standing in other area's-it looks like Martin has scared the be-jesus
    out of the big-heads

    So does that mean Martin will actually be standing in Derry, for a change?

  16. McGuinness aint that popular in Derry. I've heard lots of people express their distaste at him fom years ago...a sender-outer, not a doer seems the verdict. Cute hoor.

  17. Marty,

    ‘if we could unite under a single banner and with good will and hard work we could create a non violent alternative to psf, it is in my honest opinion worth considering,’

    But this would still be confronted with those who think that physical force is a right and duty which must be performed regardless of context or what anyone else thinks.


    While I take the point it still amounts to a recipe for minority rule. The same type of logic that applied in Apartheid South Africa – minorities know best; or Lenin’s better fewer but better; or in the Middle East where the descendants of the Stern Gang and Irgun impose their regional minority view point on their neighbours. Why bother with elections when we don’t need them as a minority is better placed to decide? It simply is a recipe for tyranny.


    ‘the political policing and dracionian methods were well under way prior to this killing.’

    That was my reason for using the term ‘more’ and for previously having written in a bid to draw attention to the issue.

    ‘What never fails to amaze me about these rallies is they are blatantly selective.’

    Most rallies are. Few republicans demanding justice for the dead of Bloody Sunday ever marched demanding it for the dead of Bloody Friday. I think it is part of the human condition. The politicians of course lay the hypocrisy on thick.

  18. Sam,

    Some good points there. They still don’t call Bloody Sunday murder.

    Yet I still don’t feel that these marches don’t vent a popular resentment.

    ‘If the newspapers, politicians et al, really want the nationalists and republican community to believe they are sincere, then one-sided condemnation must be ruthlessly ridiculed and placed in the bucket of hypocrisy forever.’

    The nationalist community appear to be as opposed to the killing of cops as the unionist community. The republican community has shrunk to a fraction of what it once was.