"Q: What do you say to those people who are unhappy but are pulled the other way by feelings of loyalty?
A: Examine their consciences. Take a good look at what is going on. If they agree - ok. If not then speak out." - Fourthwrite interview with Brendan Hughes
Yesterday the Belfast News Letter ran a piece by Gemma Murray based on separate interviews she had conducted with myself and Richard O’Rawe. While not a joint venture the opinions expressed complemented each other and amounted to a rejection of the armed activities of physical force republicanism. Gemma Murray’s report reflected accurately what we had told her. There was nothing taken out of context and we were not misrepresented. Today the News Letter followed up with further comment from Tommy McKearney.
What has come as a surprise is the response to our comments, as if it is the first time we have made them. Yet what we said had been said many times before. See for example the following piece from The Blanket published 11 years ago, 'Silent But Lethal'.
Those who persist in a belief that physical force offers a way out need to reflect and think again. They are certainly not devoid of intelligent leaders or activists. For many of them the current debacle they view, as they gaze over the debris of a past struggle, is for the most part the result of being cheated by the Sinn Fein leadership rather than being defeated by the sheer weight of the political and military forces arrayed against them. Despite Sinn Fein machinations, the strategic balance of forces was never remotely tilted in favour of republicanism. No victory was possible. There is no shame in losing to superior forces. But it would be shameful to prosecute an armed campaign that has no chance of success and which can only fill the jails and worse.
Republicans owe it to each other to provide frank critique no matter how unpalatable that might be. Tonight TPQ reproduces the piece by Gemma Murray to facilitate discussion on the issue, in the comments section and beyond. Readers can consider the merits or demerits of the points made as they see fit; at the very least, the ideas should be considered and debated rather than hidden away - there is more to fear from silence than frank talk.
"The most important thing at the moment is truth. The next most important thing is that people should be allowed free speech. The third objective is to force republicanism to broaden the base of debate."
- Brendan Hughes
Dissident campaign madness and it should stop, say former IRA men
by Gemma Murray
Two former senior IRA men yesterday branded the ongoing campaign by dissident republicans as “madness” and called for them to stop.
Antony McIntyre and Richard O’Rawe spoke out after a serving PSNI officer revealed to the News Letter that dissident republican numbers are swelling even further “with young recruits who have had no previous connection to the conflict”.
Seventeen bomb attacks have been carried out in the Province by dissident republicans in the last six weeks.
Mr McIntyre said: “Republicans lost the war and the IRA campaign failed and the dissidents need to be told that it failed rather then be allowed to continue thinking what they do.
“It cost so many lives.”
The former IRA man, who now lives in the Republic, said he believes the “current republican armed campaign is disastrous”.
“On Friday night anyone’s kid could have been in the city centre.
“After Omagh (bomb) that sort of thing should never ever have happened.”
Mr McIntyre added that he believes Sinn Fein needs to tell dissidents “that the IRA lost the war”.
“Armed republicanism was defeated and it was given up,” he said.
“That needs to be explained to them. They are making republicanism seem pathological instead of ideological.”
Richard O’Rawe said he did not believe the original IRA campaign “was worth one life”.
He said: “I don’t see any direction to what dissident republicans are doing – or any strategy.
“And I certainly don’t see any hope of them succeeding in removing the British from Ireland and getting a united Ireland.”
Mr O’Rawe, from Belfast, added that he believes their “whole campaign is insane”.
“There is no strategy to it and I don’t see any reason for it,” he said.
“It is going nowhere and it should stop.”
Former life prisoner Antony McIntyre, above, spent 18 years in the Maze, with four of those on a dirty protest.
After his release in 1996 he completed a PhD in history in Queen’s University. He has since worked as a journalist and author.
He was involved in the Boston College oral history project and is currently embroiled in controversy after transcripts of the interviews held by Boston College, were subpoenaed by the PSNI in relation to an investigation of the 1972 abduction and killing of Jean McConville.
Richard O’Rawe was IRA public relations officer in the H-Block during the hunger strike in 1981.
He is a strong critic of the IRA campaign and the current Sinn Fein leadership.
Mr O’ Rawe, a published author, wrote Blanketmen: An untold story of the H-block hunger strike. He has taken part in numerous documentaries on the IRA.