Bridging the Gulf Between Compromise and Abandonment

A slightly edited version of the following piece appeared in the Guardian's Comment Is Free section under the Guardian crafted title, 'By shaking the Queen's hand, Martin McGuinness accepts her sovereignty.' Despite being a pretty ordinary piece there were calls for its type to be censored amidst accusations that it was advocating a return to political violence. Much of the commentary reflects the extent to which the desire to corral writers into a gulag of intellectual obedience continues to exist. The peace process shall not be questioned by the enemies of the peace process. This is the word of the leader.

Tomorrow the former Provisional IRA chief of staff Martin McGuinness will shake hands with the British queen at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. The event has been made possible by the earlier negotiated surrender of the IRA. Surrendering honourably is better than holding out to the last. The leaders of the 1916 Rising in Dublin chose to surrender rather than subject the city’s population to further bloodshed.

In politics as in other areas of life it is often necessary to compromise principles. But there is a gulf between compromise and abandonment that should not be bridged. Otherwise radical ideas and the notion of oppositional currents are devalued. What does it say about the plausibility of the adversarial position if the values espoused in opposition are jettisoned just to make it into office?

McGuinness will not be standing in front of the British head of state on equal terms: as head of another state that had gained its independence from Britain. He is there as deputy head of a state over which the British hold unalloyed sovereignty and which he ostensibly spent much of his adult life trying to destroy.

Peter Hain, the former secretary of State for the North of Ireland, has said that ‘many Republicans will see it as a betrayal.’ He is right. They will feel that McGuinness and Sinn Fein have not simply compromised core principles but abandoned them, principles that he and his colleagues in positions of leadership directed others to both take life and risk losing possession of their own mortal coil in pursuit of. In Derry where McGuinness is domiciled, graffiti has appeared on walls: ‘U Dare Marty’ and 'Sinn Fein sellouts.'  At a rally in South Armagh on Sunday, where many British troops and policemen exhaled their death rattle, courtesy of the IRA campaign, McGuinness was denounced as a traitor who had persistently lied to his volunteers.

Whatever about the intemperate language in which it is adorned, the substance of republican opposition to tomorrow’s meeting hardly renders it the perspective of past-hugging dinosaurs. Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood recently declined to attend a service in the Queen’s presence at Llandaff Cathedral which was laid on to mark the Diamond Jubilee. The Plaid Cymru Assembly member for South Wales West, Bethan Jenkins, described Martin McGuinness as ‘naïve’ for going ahead with the meeting.  Boycotting monarchy is a perfectly legitimate position for republicans to adopt.

Irish republicans who express that dissent do so in the context of a British state which continues to behave badly: just last week it denied a public inquiry into the massacre of civilians in Belfast in 1971 while continuing to seek prosecution of republicans they suspect of involvement in the IRA campaign. This week it is indulging in gratuitous flag waving by having the Armed Forces flag hoisted for six days at Belfast City Hall, riding roughshod over nationalist protests that such action is coat trailing triumphalism.

The British monarchy in opting to shake the hand of McGuinness is hardly unaware of the perspective outlined in the Boston Globe: ‘there are many law enforcement officials, Irish and British, who believe McGuinness was running the IRA or was at least on its ruling Army Council, when the plan to blow up Mountbatten was approved.’ 

Yet it is the path the monarchy has decided to tread, even if holding its nose. Why? Norman Tebbit, who survived the Brighton bomb in 1984, explained it succinctly: McGuinness and Sinn Fein have ‘now accepted the sovereignty of Her Majesty over Northern Ireland.’ Strange bedfellows perhaps but The Daily Telegraph is not out of sync with peeved republicans when it proclaims ‘the British establishment completes the decommissioning of Martin McGuinness.’

Tomorrow’s event will be tarted up in the discourse of the peace process, which invariably serves to mask essences and runs with the decoy of appearances. Despite much discursive massaging the matter has little if anything to do with reaching out to unionists. If Sinn Fein and McGuinness were really concerned with embracing unionist sensitivity they would desist from denying that the IRA carried out the Kingsmill massacre in 1976, an act on an ethical par with Derry’s Bloody Sunday in Derry 1972.   The strategic thinking behind tomorrow’s initiative is consistent with Sinn Fein’s expansionist strategy in the South of Ireland where everything is gauged in terms of conquering electoral terrain, not creating ethical terra firma sufficiently fortified to bear the reconciled weight of two separate traditions.  Sinn Fein’s electoral ambitions, not reconciliation with unionism, is what fuels Martin McGuinness meeting the Queen.

However, having scorned the opportunity during the royal visit to Ireland last year, Sinn Fein’s transparently crass manipulation of tomorrow’s event may end up alienating more votes than it attracts.


  1. First class and spot on .I am going to dump the vatican times and start buying the Guardian.that piece told it exactly as it is,not what "they would want us to believe,superb thanks for putting that up Anthony a cara ..

  2. the hand shake wont alienate half as many as it will attract. for every republican they shaft they gain between 5 and 10 stoops and/or free staters.

    power hungry parasites have a hunger for power and power alone.

    mc guinness didn't even take the opportunity to ask the queen about marian price's internment or the murderous activities of her army on our streets.......

  3. Hodgie its very hard to speak when your tounge is hanging out drooling in awe of being in the same room as greatness,the people qsf loose will be replaced as you rightly say but these will be fickle carpetbaggers and a cara like the sticks before them these opportunistic movers and shakers will imo herald the start of the end of qsf,I agree with the leader comment this pathetic gesture is a shameful disgrace on someone who claims to be a republican,any republican from any country would not wish to shake the hand of any royal,as those in Wales showed so rightly,as Connolly said we serve neither king nor Kaiser..this above all shows how pathetic qsf have sunk.the sight of the brussell model Martygirl riding in the bucket with Phil the Geek in the Titanic centre made me think how appropriate ,I mean here they were in a monument (some say white elephant) to a ship that never went anywhere ,just like the prm, which is lead by one who never was with ones who never did anything themselves...they really all are well suited

  4. Mary Lou on the Vincent Browne show at the minute struggling with the collapse of republicanism under SF. He is hammering her. She needs to stay away from Gerry speak and concentrate on what she knows best, political and social issues in the South

  5. Anthony.. Kane just said it as it is,but when I listened to the accounts by relatives of how their loved ones were murdered by the crown forces both in and out of uniform and of volunteers who paid the ultimate price spurred on by the jingoistic language from Mc Guinness and Adams ,when I think of Bobby Sands and those Brave men who endured so much for so long,Kieran Nugent dying the lonely death through alcoholism The Dark and other decent people who gave so much for the "cause"just to end up with that waster shaking a hand not worth shaking makes me sick..

  6. Marty,

    the image of the McGuinness being 'presented' to the queen used by Alex Kane captured it. They used to bring former leaders in chains. Now they don't have to. I thought the pictures of him standing in line to greet the queen reflected a real hierarchical relationship and then following her around like a dog. Now I understand that it is procedure and protocol but WTF was he doing there? It is not the matter of a human handshake but the system of power inscribed in it.

  7. Anthony, it was an excellent piece and I had it on my Facebook page that very morning, only to be told there had been a complaint lodged by an unknown viewer to my page (ah, they are watching everything we do). Last night, I solved the mystery, when an old friend informed me that the viewer is a well-known Shitter mouthpiece. I won't mention names (unlike the Shitters) but lets just says he's small, looks creepy and writes for a well-known Belfast newspaper and never said an original word in his life.

  8. If it was only a handshake as you say Anthony wtf,but what happened yesterday went way beyond a mere greeting,in fact its was the accumulation of a series of acts of betrayal reaching as far back as the hunger strikes and the needless death of six of those so brave of the brave.the surrender of weapons ,through to calling republicans traitors from the steps of Stormont while in the company of the head of the ruc/psni,a handshake from Mc Guinness is as meaningless as one of Adams books ffs,the picture of him trying to talk to a very disinterested Phil the Geek said it all.I just hope that the people here can take a leaf out of Phil,s book and turn our backs on that waster of a human being ..

  9. The day is coming and faster than some may think when the dinosaurs from the prm will be pushed out of the squeaky clean qsf Brian Feeney has already threw a shot across that particular bow in his weekly column in the Irish News..I believe both Adams and Mc Guinness will become an embarrassment to the party they have ruled with an iron fist

  10. Sam Millar no idea who you could be on about a cara gibme a clue!

  11. I read several reports from Irish friends about their posts on facebook being flagged the past to days

    BUT WAIT! ... I read in the US Mass Media that Facebook and Twitter were single-handedly responsible for the Arab Spring.

    Apparently nobody in the Middle East ever thought to advocate for democracy before you could "Like" it

  12. The Handshake to Heaven
    The one time leader of his idea of republicanism had to do the right thing and shake the Queen’s hand why not, what’s the problem he is doing what comes natural to people who crave power, himself and Adams have been on a power driven agenda since about 1972 when they were released from the cages to meet the British. They have craved power and at whatever price it doesn’t matter who or what gets in their way.
    They are in a very good place for themselves, shaking hands with the Queen (bless her) was the icing on the cake. These guys have no idea about republicanism they even had the Northern Command running the Provo’s trying to isolate the south were possible , They are no way interested in democracy they even have inbuilt rules on the amount each TD MP or MLA can earn they are not republicans but more like Fascists

  13. Is he a mate of bangers Anthony?

  14. Don't know. He shares that perspective. And as we know they are very touchy about the agents of influence. But judge the article on its own merits

  15. I think Tom Griffin has welded together some interesting titbits and built himself a boat,that like the Titanic looks grand and seems solid,but doesnt really stand up to scrutiny,e.g. Would anyone really expect NIO official David Ranson an Mi5 agent to admit that with the aid of agents both covert and of influence that they ie,the security forces intended to undermine the prm not only from within the military wing but like a cancer the whole body like they had already done with the loyalist paramilitaries,and in turn they could then mould and dictate events at a pace which suited them and their careers.I and many others believe that their agents are still at work in the qsf when one could say the need for such activities are long past.MI5 play a significant role not only in the security situation here today but in the political machinations of the two main parties here and in a lesser degree the now almost defunct unionst party, the Atkinson memo is nothing more than just that his and Michael Allisons take on events surrounding the hunger strikes.Richard O Rawe has adequately covered that period and has produced enough documentation to prove beyond doubt that indeed six men died needlessly just to speed qsf,s entrance onto the political field,which is exactly where MI5 wanted all in all not really impressed with Mr Griffins piece Anthony..

  16. Marty,

    it is pretty straightforward how the Agent of Influence strategy would work. The agent wouldn't decide what is done but is merely the agent for its implementation. The agent might be giving out of his own batt that a certain issue must never be compromised on, waving his fist and the like. Brits decide they want a change so the agent is instructed to push a different line and seek to have it accepted. This is why I think you must always raise your eyebrow when you see an instant about turn rather than a prolonged one on the part of those who seek to influence others.

  17. Agree Anthony but to stick with the nautical theme a cara,when you wish to turn an oil tanker(yes it does rhyme) then it must be done slowly otherwise you risk capsizing the thing,now to turn the likes of the prm yip the leadership jump to your (agent of influence)suggestion but the cute hoors know that those in the party are and have been prone to split on major issues ,so in a cunning and even shrewd maneuvering they made sure they had the backings before the made their big asks, I think this is the way that the fly boys in the leadership have shafted their comrades the spooks "softly softly catchee monkey" is the operational way they went here ..

  18. Anthony,

    `hard nosed analysis from Unionist Alex Kane that strips away the guff'

    Caught Alexs' article the other day. A Sinn Feinesque response appeared in slugger authored by Ruarai, a Strategic Communications Consultant - - that attempts to deposit a fresh layer of guff to replace that which Kane stripped away.

  19. SF are a joke. A very sick joke. McGuinness saying I'm still an Irish Republican getting into that car was just pathetic. Regardless of the merits or otherwose of the handshake, the man is an asswipe. Took everyone for a ride and obviously never looks in the mirror or thinks about what he spouts.
    Can't believe where they are and that they got there so painlessly.
    Despair is the only description. TAXI...AIRPORT!

  20. Article nails it. I see pictures of people like Tom French at workers party functions to this day, standing by what they always professed. Then you look at SF McGuinness and Adams and the rest and just end up laughing. They will wear ANY hat just to stay in the political game.

  21. Robert,

    he certainly calls a spade a shovel

  22. AM, as w/ Sam Millar I shared your Guardian piece on FB and soon after got a reaction "what's the alternative? Why does he want to go back to the bad old days?" It's difficult to lodge a critique without being accused of atavism. I find similar difficulties in arguing against my own nation's leader without wanting his opponent either! People find it hard to accept nuance, to accept more than two choices or two loyalties now. Thanks for the piece which deserved a wide readership and I hope it finds it, as with all your journalism.

  23. Mc Guinness was like a big baby, after shaking lizzies hand his face lit up, but he wasn't thinking of 72/73, nor the brave 10 of 81 he kept looking at her as she walked and shook others hands, he walked towards lizzies husband, who done a runner from him. To me Mc Guinness was treated like a single pea in a pod of 1 million, a cast out, but he could not see that, he was to jubliant to see the end of his nose, even Robinson could not hold his laughter back when Martyboy was doing the red faced handshake, he stood out of line to see it, probably saing to himself, victory to us, well to me, He is Correct, they got everything they ask for of PSF.

    Were are the lads who stood with me
    When history was made!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Who SHOT UP the SHERIFF. lol.
    This will make you laugh, Mr Hates Guns Adams =

    Arise Ballymurphy Martyrs , Loughgall Martyrs , Gibraltar Martyrs, The 10 brave men of 81, and all volunteers who died for the cause , especially those setup by the touts within the nutting squad and those who are still here, but left out to other pastures, forsaken by the corrupt leadership Of Mc Guinness and Adams and Co. People just look around you, Drug Barons everywhere, PSF on the Loyalist Hill Of Loyalist Democracy, there stance was, all for one and one for all, If your an Orangeman that is.

  24. It was truly a WOW moment as the "Greaser" Mcaleese would say when Liz the brit left Martyboy mesmerised with her command of the Garlic..her parting comment to him was indeed historical...."Póg mo thóin "

  25. Larry,

    Tom French simply arrived at the conclusions SF arrived at many years earlier. And he doesn’t carry responsibility for all those wasted lives. And he would be more to the left than SF.


    ‘It's difficult to lodge a critique without being accused of atavism.’

    This is one of the problems with the peace process. It is always in search of enemies of the peace process and depict them in a light of violence.


    Even having a go at Bethan Jenkins for expressing a different view – Section 31is alive and well.

    Hardly the first time you have faced the disapproval of the censors. This particular one apparently can say yes in eleven different languages.


    ‘for every republican they shaft they gain between 5 and 10 stoops and/or free staters.’

    I am not so sure it will work for them. It is seen through too easily down here.

    ‘power hungry parasites have a hunger for power and power alone.’

    That is what republicanism was traded in for.


    ‘quite a few, like myself, are seriously questioning when did this betrayal really begin ... In other words how the hell did the most senior IRA member for 3 decades avoid internment, supergrass trails and even assassination attempts?’

    Same with Adams. It seems to be a counter insurgency strategy not just restricted to the British. They try to mould a leadership which they can deal with and keep it in place. It does not follow that leaders like Martin or Gerry are agents but for sure the British would have surrounded them with agents of influence in particular so that the line was pushed. Denis was a case in point. Even today we can see the work of people are in my view Agents of Influence and have been for quite some time.

  26. Headlines in todays Irish News
    Sinn Fein Veteran Quits Over Queen Handshake, .......Angela Nelson who has been involved with the party for 42 years and an ex pow says she has left because there was no consultation over this handshake,, Seen her at the city hall rally against the meeting and when told she would be sacked for being there she replied that she" didnt care"the idea that anyone who has been in that party for so long and as a volunteer and a councillor and yet didnt know how that party works is beyond me ffs woman have you been asleep all this time qsf is not and never has been a democratic organisation,the decision to shake Liz the brits hand came as no surprise to those of us who enjoy watching the antics of the qsf circus and its preforming monkeys,the bigger surprise would have been if qsf had not shaken the "guvnors" hand.

  27. There is speculation that Martyboy presented Liz the brit with a 1000 piece jigsaw of lord Mountbatten..