Prosecuting Opinion

Last month I shared a Dublin platform with Dee Fennell, a republican from Ardoyne. This month he is in Maghaberry Prison, having been arrested by British police on charges of encouraging terrorism and supporting a proscribed organisation. 

The basis of his arrest according to the Guardian is opinion he expressed at an Easter Rising commemoration in Lurgan, where he described armed struggle as a legitimate form of action. The Guardian reports Fennell as having said:

Armed struggle must be a contributory factor to a wider struggle ... The use of arms prior to 1916 was legitimate. The use of arms in Easter 1916 was legitimate. The use of arms after 1916 was totally legitimate. In the existing political context of partition, illegal occupation and the denial of national self-determination, armed struggle, in 2015, remains a legitimate act of resistance.

In doing so he was expressing a long standing republican viewpoint not all that different from what is said up and down the country every Easter. Amongst those being honoured are republicans who consciously gave their lives on hunger strike in Long Kesh as advocates of the legitimacy of armed struggle and in defiance of the British attempted delegitimisation of the same through criminalisation. Are those who speak at their graves expected to pull the rug from under their comrades’ great losses and refrain from saying their actions lacked legitimacy just to suit the current British rulers and their gagging laws? 

In my view Dee Fennell has expressed a perspective that while logically consistent with the 1916 Rising ethos is wrong, and wrong for a number of reasons: not least that in the name of asserting the right of the Irish people to be free from the British state, it dogmatically insists on denying the right of the Irish people to be free from the use of arms as a means to resolve any grievances they might have with the British state. In short, one usurpation of self-determination is replaced with another.

Apart from thinking that armed struggle has some form of current justification
Fennell has said little that differs in any substantive way from what Gerry Adams said in a radio debate with the leader of Fianna Fail, Micheal Martin. Adams argued that the Provisional IRA campaign in the North was legitimate, declining an offer from host Fran McNulty to describe the fate of Jean McConville as a war crime. Gerry Kelly, as pointed out by Pete Trumbore, can also be found at Easter legitimising the Provisional IRA campaign. 

Neither Adams nor Kelly were arrested for their legitimization of “terrorism” or their support for an organisation that remains proscribed, the Provisional IRA. Nor should they be. By the same token the grounds for the arrest of Fennell are tenuous and as the commenter DaithD pointed out on this site ‘the gap between one offence being prosecuted and the other being ignored is the space where political policing lurks.’

Is the PSNI stating that it is okay to legitimise IRA armed actions if they took place before the Good Friday Agreement? If they are then why is the PSNI continuing to prosecute people for those actions? Is the PSNI trying to say that such violence was legitimate but not legal?

There seems to be a serious anomaly in British law. Maryam Namazie has drawn attention to theocrats advocating the stoning of gays and adulterers yet who are nevertheless allowed to sit in Sharia courts as judges whereas those who express the view that physical force is legitimate are in the dock.

What this prosecuting of opinion will not achieve is a toning down of discourse that articulates the legitimacy of armed struggle. Those who favour it will simply retreat even further into the shadows from where they will speak to people, many impressionable and all too ready to believe something as long as it is whispered to them.


  1. I don't think that the allegation is about past terrorist actions, but rather that he stands accused of encouraging terrorism right now.

    ‘It isn’t enough to shout’ Up the IRA’, the important thing is to join the IRA. As you leave here today, ask yourselves is it enough to support republicanism or could you be a more active republican?’

  2. Do as I say not as I do! Springs to mind!
    The man does not allow others free speach, fair trial,, freedom of protest, freedom of thought! Ask martin og!

    He weaped what he sewed!

    Never in the ira didn't even always support the ira! Feck him! Let the irpwa look after him! Nobody else has permission!

    Irony is best served warm!

  3. The PSNI had no choice but to act. Masked men firing weapons, and a call to arms in a British town by a very minority faction is not acceptable. The police were right.

  4. Thanks AM, id be interested to see the logic that allows SF to portray a linear transition of the Republican torch from 1916 to 1997, but dilineates current the Republican groupings. Fennells case shows that lies are more important to the Law than truth. When they spoke of putting manners on the Police, I presume most thought they meant good manners?

  5. Cue Bono,

    that may be right that he is charged for encouraging present as opposed to past acts. But it lies in how we are to interpret encouraging. The logic can be extended to others who in legitimising past acts rather than refuting them are feeding into the encouragement of present acts. And this is reinforced by the context in which the past acts were explained at the time of their occurrence: to cite Martin McGuinness - the war will never, never, never stop until Britain goes'.

    But the police chose discretion shaped not by the letter of the law but by political considerations.

    Moreover, were you for example to stand up and advocate the use of police torture as a means to defeat the current armed groups do you really think you would be arrested for it despite torture being illegal and abhorrent? It is not a question of Fennell being right and more a question of the law being moulded to dispose of unwanted members of the public.


    the PSNI arrested Fennell within days of his speech. You think it had no choice and had to act. yet it has been sitting on evidence for years about the torture that its own members engaged in, the perjury, killings, collusion - it has never moved. The PSNI did not have to act against Fennell, it chose to act. There was arguably more of an urgent need to move against some of the flag protestors.

    That said, republicans need to be stating at Easter commemorations that armed actions will produce nothing and if they want to talk about membership of IRAs they should call on those already in them to relinquish membership before they are shafted by a cabal eager to become what they opposed, and more importantly before they kill someone.

    Had Fennell called on the police to shoot gay people voicing dissent against Ashers Bakery, he would still be out. The law permits us to support police violence and call for more of it. And when you have the power to make the illegal legal you can cover a multitude of sins.


    Sinn Fein will be pretty much like the PSNI - they will try to shut people up. Sinn Fein's stance today means it can trace its lineage back to Collins and the Treaty. What a sorrowful mess - at least we are alive to ponder the effects rather than be a dead consequence of it.

  6. AM
    Policing is not easy; dicisions are often complex and challenging, vested interests must be appeased. On most occasions they are damned if they do and damned if they don't. The police are not perfect and have some right bastards in their ranks which damages their reputation but most of the time the PSNI do their best. Not long ago the CIRA murdered one of them in cold blood so they can hardly expect to hold a show of strength and call to arms and not have some sanction. Fennel was deeply stupid and provided his enemy with an open goal.

  7. Peter,

    I think he was most unwise and he should have had the foresight to see where it was leading to.

    That does not mean the PSNI does its best. It is up to its neck in covering up and one sided prosecutions: following all leads unless they lead back to trole of the state. It took the intervention of George Hamilton to even meet the statutory requirement of the Ombudsman to have access to the information, Baggott was trying to deny it. It has sat on Special Branch's role in Mount Vernon for years, delaying as long as possible to the point where the discursive distance between it and the RUC is seen by more as just that - discourse. It is prosecuting a dying republican for trying to kill a prison officer in 1977 the same year as the RUC were torturing countless people in Castlereagh: not one cop charged.

    I just don't see how any of that amounts to doing its best. I think you nailed it even if unintentionally with your comment on vested interests.

  8. Anthony,

    You set me to googling and you do make a damned good point. The Terrorism Act 2006 makes it an offence to make "a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom it is published as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to them to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences." For that Fennell is clearly in the poo.

    However it also makes provision for "Indirect encouragement statements include every statement which glorifies the commission or preparation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of such acts or offences; and is a statement from which those members of the public could reasonably be expected to infer that what is being glorified is being glorified as conduct that should be emulated by them in existing circumstances."

    That is something for which Adams and co could have been prosecuted many times over and I think you are right to infer that there is political expedience at work there.

    I think you are going off at an unecessary tangent when you talk about flag protestors and Castlereagh.

    The Flag protestors were not standing beside armed terrorists calling for people to join terrorist organisations and murder people.

    The accusations about Castlereagh are decades old and refer to a time when the country was being literally torn apart by bombs and murders.

  9. AM
    As I said, damned if you do damned if you don't. CID were trying to nail loyalist murder gangs (like MT Vernon) while SB tipped them off leading to stand up fist fights between officers. Their bosses had to try to walk the line between overt justice and Box citing state security, vested interests indeed. Policing in this country is a thankless job but most of the time they do their best, in my opinion. Look at the mess the Provos made trying to police their areas and their organisation!

  10. Cue Bono,

    I think the legislation is much too ominous in terms of freedom of expression regardless of the peculiarities of this particular case.

    Tangent - no.

    Fennell's rhetorical flourish (because that is what it amounts to in terms of any impact it is going to make) is much less threatening to life and limb than the actions of many flag protestors who on occasion posed an immediate threat but were met with laissez faire policing.

    If 1977 is decades old and of no relevance why prosecute Michael Burns?

  11. Peter,

    presuming it is as you describe it, in what way is that scenario all that different from what went on before?

    As an institution the role of the PSNI is to serve the governing power and the Realm and to do what is considered necessary (not what is necessarily right) in pursuit of that aim. I know from talking to some of them at conferences that they think they are just defending society without fear or favour but when you press the case, they can be very forthcoming in terms of what their role is. On one occasion I sensed remarkable frustration on the part of a senior figure (not Orde who I interviewed for the Blanket and whom you might think I am alluding to) that they were forced to make compromises and take decisions that were based wholly on a reading of the political situation.

    I suppose the main point I am trying to make and which you, I and Cue Bono seem to converge on is that policing decisions continue to be informed by political considerations rather than mere legal ones.

  12. "...policing decisions continue to be informed by political considerations rather than mere legal ones". And always was thus.

    "...many flag protestors who on occasion posed an immediate threat but were met with laissez faire policing". I went to a Tommy McKearney event in Queen's last year and met a group 'fleggers' who had been beaten by the PSNI and jailed for 6 months for refusing to get off a road, hardly laissez faire nor were they more of a threat to the state than the CIRA. CIRA have been murdering people and planning murders, the authorities can't be seen to allow displays such as in Lurgan to go unopposed. Is that selective and political? Certainly but that doesn't make it wrong. You are right there is great frustration in the police that many of their decisions are not in the name of justice and usually involve a rock and a hard place. As I said they try to do their best in diifcult circumstances.

  13. Pater,

    the barrister in court on behalf of residents: "It's our case that the police response has effectively facilitated and encouraged a wholesale bypass of the legislative scheme put in place by parliament to deal with contentious parades in Northern Ireland."

    The widespread nationalist criticism at the time was that the PSNI were doing Sweet FA. Yeah, they beat a few of them but that is what the police do. The screws on occasion beat loyalist prisoners up but it was hardly an indication of where their loyalties lay.

    The UVF were heavily involved in the Flag protests although the phenomenon cannot be reduced to that.

    The CIRA have been at war how many years and have killed how many?

    While one dead is one too much there is a need to keep some sense of proportion.

    Your point that the PSNI can't be seen ... suggests it is all for the optics. And what shapes the optics? Politics not law. It seems they also can't be seen arresting Special Branch or police torturers.

  14. Peter/Cue Bono,

    whoever wants the last word can have it. I've things to chase up in town unfortunately.

  15. Anthony,

    I hope it isn't the last word, but on your points to me. The job of the law is to protect people, but it must also be proportionate and deemed reasonable. Hence the removal of the power to intern people. Fennell however may be lucky in that he does not live in an era when the police had that option, but he is also unlucky to live in the post 9/11 world where promoting terrorism is now an offence in law.

    My point about Castlereagh is not that events in the past should be forgotten about. It is that what happened there has to be taken in the context of what was happening at the time.

    The detectives in Castlereagh were given the task of producing evidence capable of securing convictions against the people who were murdering people by the hundreds on our streets.

    The terrorists were trained in counter interrogation techniques and would have sleep walked there way through modern police interrogations. That is why nowadays silence is seen as an inference of guilt.

    It may sound terrible today to hear that Billy or Sean faced physical assault in Castlereagh in the seventies, but the fact is that Billy and Sean were murdering people and deserved to be in prison. Had the police failed to secure convictions against Billy and Sean then many more people would have lost their lives as a result.

    The statistics from that time show that the numbers of lives lost fell exactly in conjunction with the police and army succeeding in locking up terrorists.

    Incidentally had this been an actual war then the army could have simply employed the same tactics as their enemy. That is they could have simply called at the houses of known terrorists and shot them dead.

  16. One Republican myth I dearly wish was smashed is demonstrated in that quote attributed to MacSwiney, and the mindset it represents :

    …"It is not those who can inflict the most, but those that can suffer the most who will conquer."…

    We know Republicans can endure utter horrors, but it doesn’t move the needle of the occupier. We need orientate in terms of outcomes and effectiveness rather than effort and endurance.

  17. Cue Bono,

    your comment was very slow going up because I was out. The last word was more a case of not expecting a quick response.

    The way I read your comment is that you think torture and brutality was legitimate. There is a lot of context offered as mitigation but no criticism that I can see of the practice

  18. While I believe that the English have no right to imprison any Irishman\woman for voicing opposition to their rule on this portion of our island their might is their right therefore we should as a collective ie all those opposed to brit rule here must stop feeding their conveyor belt straight to the jails ,when republicans gather at republican graves to commemorate those who have gone before,need we in all honesty have to say anything,those in attendance will already be on board message wise therefore as the man said keep it simple keep it legal keep out of their jails on remand for nothing more being bullish in Dee,s case he must have known that that speech was going to land him in remand jesuussss Marian was done for waving a piece of paper ffs, I can forgive stupid but something tells me this is not the case here...

  19. Dáithí, "outcomes and effectiveness"!

    Apply such criteria to the Proclamation if you will and I think you'll agree that there never was much likelihood of an all-Ireland Republic. Republicans unrealistically and uncompromisingly neglected to address the concerns of Unionists.

    That a cohort persists with similar strategies is not surprising. Continuing to promote the myth that Republicanism of the 1916 variety has any substance is as useful as advocating excessive selling of credit without caution and not expecting potential and probable unpleasant consequences.

    As Cue and Peter points out idealist rhetoric very rarely stands up to practical application. Could any of the 'idealists' please provide an example of a functioning society where some degree of 'political policing' doesn't operate?

    Sanity, society and morality are dependent on a consensual shared model of reality. That outliers and their ambivalent supporters fail to foresee and anticipate society's understandable security driven responses only bears evidence to the view that these more individualistic tendencies (and hence very little possibility for lasting strategic alliances between them and cohesive opposition emerging) are both futile and insane.

  20. Anthony,

    It depends very much on what you define as torture. In the 1970s 'Life on Mars' cuture of policing it was common all over the world for the police to physically assault suspects. In Northern Ireland confessions led to convictions and undoubtaby saved lives.

    So the context I refer to is that the RUC were employing tactics which were common place in the Garda, NYPD, LAPD etc at the time. The big difference is that they were saving hundreds of lives. I don't condone it, but it was of its time.

    Nowadays the police can rely on modern technology such as DNA samples, DNA, mobile phone footage etc to gain convictions, and the scandals of false convictions from those days have made such tactics unacceptable. The PSNI are now the most accountable police force in the world.

    Again looking at context the tactics used by the RUC do not look much like torture in comparsion to what the Provos were doing. Half drowning people in cold baths, sitting them on electric cooker rings, breaking their arms and legs etc. That is torture and that is exactly what the Provos did to people who were unlucky enough to be caught alive by them.

    When the RUC achieved a conviction the accused went to prison was fed, kept in warm, dry conditions and given welfare facilities. When the Provos gained a conviction the accused was hooded, bound and shot. Nine times out of ten his booby trapped body was dumped on a border road like a bag of rubbish. That to me is torture both for the victim and for his/her family.

  21. When the RUC achieved a conviction the accused went to prison was fed, kept in warm, dry conditions and given welfare facilities.

    Cue Bono, dont forget their desperate attempts to find humane alternatives to metal bullets with rubber then plastic bullets.

  22. Cue Bono,

    we know what the Provos did. They tortured although one of the types of tortures you talked about I have not heard of.

    Torture is wrong period, no ifs or buts. That holds for the Provos, loyalists and security services. Saying they all did it as if that somehow mitigates it is similar to saying gang rape is not as odious as individual rape because they all did it rather than just one rapist. Claiming it was of its time sounds remarkably similar to what the Church says in respect of clerical rape of children.

    And if it was so successful how was there the false convictions you refer to? I know people who were convicted on forced confessions but who were innocent. Not only were they did an injustice the families of those killed were did one as well: told that the people who killed their loved ones were banged up. I understand that there were loyalists too who had false confessions beaten out of them.

    I think the argument can be made that the state had more success wearing down the IRA killing capacity when it was not so reliant on brutality and torture.

    Even though you say you do not condone what the RUC did (police torture or police brutality, call it what you will) I sense so much ambiguity in your position that it leaves me unsure if you think it was legitimate or if it was not legitimate.

  23. Anthony

    It could never be legitimate because it was illegal. I doubt very much though that it would warrant historic prosecutions.

    We live in a country which has mass murderers in senior political positions. Historic prosecutions for assault would seem pretty unfair in those circumstances .

  24. Cue Bono,

    I don't believe there should be any historic prosecutions either for cops, troops, loyalists or republicans.

    I don't think torture should be trivialised as assault. Moreover, it negates the gravity of false convictions, where people spent decades in prison for things they never did. If police torturers and perjurers who helped secure convictions by lying on oath that they did not coerce confessions should not be subject to prosecution (and I don't believe it serves any worthwhile purpose), then others who participated in that conflict should be treated the same.

  25. Anthony

    I too think that historic crimes should no longer be pursued. I don't say that because I think the perpetrators should get off, but because the manner in which they are currently being pursued is blatantly unfair. If you are a pro sf former Provo then you are above being prosecuted. Everyone else is fair game. That seems to me to be an abuse of the law.

    Can you hand on heart say that you were in prison with many people who were not active Provos? Innocent civilians wrongly convicted?


  26. Cue Bono,

    the majority I was in with were active republicans. But there were people there serving life sentences for things they were innocent of. There were also Provos serving time for killings they never carried out but who had confessions beaten out of them just to clear the books. You might think it was not unfair to the Provo convicted in the wrong but you can hardly make an argument that it was fair to the families of the dead that the police lied to.

    Can you say hand on heart you have ever met a cop who was not at the same time a perjurer? It is probably the same the world over: they all lie to put you down in court. Even when you are guilty they still lie on oath.

  27. Anthony

    My point would be that lives were saved because those Provos were behind bars regardless of whether they were in prison for the actual crimes they were guilty of or not.

    It's not black and white. The Provos claimed give at war and demanded that they be treated as POWs. They also refused internment which would have grAnted the that privilege and demanded the right to be true in court for their crimes. As it was not a war the police and army. Like not gun the Provos down in the same way that the Provos were gunning them down. They had to put the behind bars and the better they became at at the fewer the number of people who died.

    They were engaged In work that saved lives which is pretty commendable

  28. Cue Bono,

    or caused lives to be lost because they prompted more people to join the Provos. As one British journal asked in the early 70s during internment - if the IRA are all locked up why are they still fighting?

    Saving lives is always commendable. But as I said earlier, maybe on another thread, if those who govern will not refrain from murdering the governed what position are they in to call for the governed to desist from murdering? State violence produces street violence. Many more lives could have been saved had the British state opted to do the right thing to begin with. I long ago concluded that the Provos as an insurrectionary phenomenon were not a response to the British being in Ireland but a response to how the British behaved while in Ireland. A change in British behaviour rather than a British withdrawal was what was required to stop the Provos. That is ultimately how it ended up.

    Wars are fought in different ways, conventional and unconventional. State and insurgents use or dispute the term war not for analytical exactitude but for positioning opinion in an endless battle of legitimization/delegitimization. This is why we find so many from the British side willing to call it a war against the IRA which necessitated methods that were not normal. One notable character I spoke to, the late Clive Fairweather, very brisk and very direct and not afraid to be scathing of his own side, was wholly dismissive of the view that it was not a war the British were engaged in.

    Northern nationalists were fortunate to have been white Europeans otherwise there is no reason that I can see why the British would not have gone on the merry murdering missions that they used in so many other countries they invaded.

  29. I was a bit shocked to read this but I'm thinking this was Dee Fennell's Marian Price moment. How silly. His 15 minutes of fame. Perhaps he should be charged with trying to get young nationalists guaranteed jail time because that's the only place they are going with the countless number of self designated IRAs floundering about out there today. He has got what he thought he was arranging for others, 'cute-hooring' young lads into a bit of jail food. Really don't know why these 'republicans' keep tormenting society and themselves. They lambast SF out of a desperation but inability to do the exact same, i.e. get elected.

    Peter, on the other hand, whilst making informed comments gives me the impression that he is stuck on the killing of one RUC man in 2009 as a potential time machine back to the good old days of unionist supremacy via the security apparatus (well paid and easy money for the boys....WATP mentality). How desperate these loyalists are to kick start the security gravy train again. Why not call for Billy boy Hutchinson's arrest and imprisonment over the 'fleg' protestations? I feel Peter's pain and it is a beautiful thing.


    'That said, republicans need to be stating at Easter commemorations that armed actions will produce nothing and if they want to talk about membership of IRAs they should call on those already in them to relinquish membership before they are shafted by a cabal eager to become what they opposed, and more importantly before they kill someone'.

    Spot on, kill someone or put tens of thousands of unemployed loyalists into highly paid employment doing what they love best, annoying taigs. At the end of the day 1916 and the war of independence seems to have been inflicted upon this island so Mickey D could go to Turkey with the British Royals and play the Soldiers Song in memory of those Irish men who died for Britain's Empire in WW1, before the song was even our national anthem. Stay away from republicanism Dee Fennell, you will only get YOURSELF hurt in this day and age. And Gerry Adams welcomes a visit by Prince Charles. Somehow I cannot imagine either Dan Breen or Tom Barry standing on the steps of Stormont with the head of the RIC calling former comrades traitors to Ireland....though when you look at it Collins and Co. did worse than that I suppose. The more things change.....

  30. Henry, in terms of brand recognition, its lasted nearly a century, with sacrifices its promotion every decade since.No chief executive would cast aside such a brand.
    You would be better off making appeals about Unionist concerns to another, Ive made my position clear on this before.

  31. Larry

    Re-join the security gravy train at my age? What you been smokin'? You're clearly obsessed by this. Seek help.

  32. Peter

    Loyalist loss in general. Everything is not always about YOU. As for help, I've been beyond that for several decades.

  33. Sure its got brand recognition, I agree its about a long time Daithi.

    Problem is it doesn't do what it says on the tin: never did, never could and never will.

    That it still commands some brand loyalty with an ever decreasing number of consumers surely must pose as many questions about those users profiles as it does about the brand itself.

    If you or anyone else wants to hold equity in the brand then so be it. Penny stocks are a risky strategy. Affraid I can only recommend a 'sell' position.

  34. Larry

    Don't you remember I am a supporter of NI21? The union is safe so the sooner DUP style unionism goes down the pan the better for us all. Your demons are eating you alive Larry. Life's too short to be a bitter a loser, just get over it.

  35. Peter,

    that must be even more depressing than supporting Liverpool

  36. Haha good stuff Henry, you can of course maintain exposure to any upside moves whilst negating any downside moves with those financial WMD’s , derivatives, namely Options. Captures the sentiment succinctly doesn’t it?
    If things go to plan, ill be based permanently in Inverin within the next two years, so lets leverage our position and enact a hostile then!

  37. AM

    LOL. For a brief few months I really believed they could make a difference, until I realised the only thing Basil loves is Basil and being on the Nolan show! Though they have more chance of winning an election than Liverpool have of winning the league!

  38. Peter,

    I never saw it as a lot more than a media event. There was really not a lot space there for it to fill. Don't talk to me about Liverpool!

  39. "State violence produces street violence."


    I don't think that it can be fairly said that the jailing of known Provos led to an upsurge in support of, and an increase of recruitment of, the Provos. In fact the statistics tell us that after the butchery that was 1972 the death toll went steadily down. The more Provos who were caught and convicted the fewer the people who were being murdered.

    As a matter of interest can you think of one other country which was so liberal of its treatment of a terrorist conspiracy such as we faced here? Certainly not the Americans, the French or indeed the Irish.

    "Northern nationalists were fortunate to have been white Europeans otherwise there is no reason that I can see why the British would not have gone on the merry murdering missions that they used in so many other countries they invaded."

    You mean that they were fortunate that the British did not employ the same tactics as the Provos. If it had been a war then they would have been free to do exactly that and we would be discussing the Northern Irish war of 1970.

  40. Cue Bono,

    I think at this point it is going round in circles.

  41. Peter

    N121 absolutely lost for words. So the only thing to do is continue laughing. I thought it was a motorway, had forgotten them already.

  42. Anthony,

    Fair enough. Thanks for taking the time.

    I bought your book btw. Hard to argue with your analysis.

  43. Anthony,

    Perhaps it is a subtle point for others, but for me, there is a clear difference between expressing an opinion about the legitimacy of certain activities and calling on people to carry them out.

    For example, as stupid as I think to say that suspected child abusers should be shot or castrated, I certainly don't think people should be jailed for merely expressing that view. On the other hand, if someone was to directly encourage or instruct others to target suspects, then I think a line between thought and action has been crossed. The same goes for people who advocate for lowering the age of consent: that should not be a crime, but explicitly helping or advising someone to have sex with a minor should be.

    You are right to highlight the hypocrisy of the justice system in the North in this regard. I don't have any faith in it either, and my instinct tells me that this prosecution is a cynical one. That said, if Dee Fennell went beyond arguing that armed struggle is legitimate and actually encouraged people to participate in it, then I think he has only himself to blame.

  44. Good luck and success with your goal Daithi. T'is a beautiful and magical spot.

    Hope your trading choices are more informed than your political models of reality.

  45. Alfie,

    Cue Bono pointed some of that out above but also delved a bit into the legislation to show how it is in fact selectively applied.

    I take the point about the distinction arguing about 8 years ago that:

    Well, my personal view is, ‘would I say anything that would directly lead to your death?’ No, I would not. Of course there are boundaries in that sense.

    but I still prefer the AC Grayling stance: which I feel has resembled my own position:

    Because it can do harm, and because it can be used irresponsibly, there has to be an understanding of when free speech has to be constrained. But given its fundamental importance, the default has to be that free speech is inviolate except … where the dots are filled in with a specific, strictly limited, case-by-case, powerfully justified, one-off set of utterly compelling reasons why in this particular situation alone there must be a restraint on speech. Note the words specific strictly limited case-by-case powerfully justified one-off utterly compelling this particular situation alone.

    Was Fennell's pronouncement immediately endangering the lives of people? Or was it, as I think, one of those boiler plate rhetorical flourishes that are delivered at Easter?

    The real persuasion of people to join these groups takes place off camera. I would venture a guess and say that more people will be inclined to join because of the arrest than as a result of the speech.

    The people most happy (rather than horrified or frightened) with the speech were probably the security services and the unionists: it provided the reason to remove him from the streets. And on that score he has to take responsibility for giving his opponents a free run.

    As I suggested in respect of Jim Wells, there is a serious danger in allowing the police to fucntion as thought police.

  46. AM

    At least Wells had it in him to resign. There are worse sinners than him who you couldn't shift with one of their own bombs.

  47. Larry, he had probably no choice in the matter. What is more disturbing is that the PSNI are now investigating him for telling a Lesbian couple he did not approve of their lifestyle. As Health minister I think he had to go but had he been transport or something I might think differently. What often happens is a threat of some sanction being used to cower people into silence. It runs parallel with what Brendan O'Neill termed the pathologising of dissent: if SF got away with it there would be an offence created called Peaceprocessophobia and anybody asking a question would be prosecuted.

  48. Henry,I think I missed out the word hostile takeover in my previous comment. Im focused on hi-frequency gold and oil futures moves at the moment (like millisecond level time stamps), when these can be automated soundly, the missus and I will move. In that domain my models are purely reactionary. Much like my politics you might say!
    Ive read another attempt to characterise the Proclamation as an essentially socialist text on here this morning, I fully share your pessimism if this is not wrested from their control.
    Your idea of being the change you want to see only has strategic merit if a) there is the potential for reciprocity from your adversary (there isnt amongst Unionism) b) you are allowed express yourself fully by the adversary (we see with Fennells incarceration there are limits). In short, its a reciple for inertia, and being comfortable with that inertia (perhaps a neccesity for 12-steppers admittedly) .

  49. Anthony,

    "Free speech is inviolate except … where the dots are filled in with a specific, strictly limited, case-by-case, powerfully justified, one-off set of utterly compelling reasons why in this particular situation alone there must be a restraint on speech."

    Yes, I think that's the best formulation of what the limits ought to be. Certainly the current provisions in the law that prohibits "hate speech" and "indirect encouragement" of terrorism are illiberal nonsense.

    Jim Wells is a bigot, but he has just as much right to express his idiotic views as I have to proclaim him a closeted dog felcher.

  50. Alfie,

    you could get up tomorrow morning on RTE/UTV/BBC and call for Gaza to be bombed to the ground by the Israelis and not one cop will be at your door to prosecute you for direct encouragement of terrorism.

    You can freely support the US and British policies of torturing detainees in Iraq or via rendition and you will never see the inside of a courtroom. It is self-serving deceitful cant.

  51. In fairness Dáithí we must acknowledge the commitment of more moderate unionists (of which Peter is an exemplar) to live peacefully in an non-exploitative way with their neighbours. Of course there are the likes of Wells out there too.

    For a 'society' to work effectively there has to be consensual agreements to the rules of engagement. As you will discover when you come to Connemara there's no real appetite for either militarism or revolution in southern Irish society. Lip service to our historical past is exactly that, hollow words that no longer reflect the true essence of the modern Irish citizen. There's an evolving similar trend in the North.

    Most people are primarily motivated by healthy self-interest; a better quality of life for themselves and their children. They are prepared to enter into the social contracts of society insofar as those contracts offer some perceived benefits in terms of enhanced security, education and access to health care.

    To the degree that the State reasonably serves those needs all will be well. Despite many gaps and short comings in services my hunch is that a sizable majority are reasonably satisfied. Sure there are vocal complaints every day but in my estimation there's no real suggestion that the centre won't hold this time round.

    Those that enjoy the benefits of 'society' are more than prepared to accept limits on their freedom. Sure it may make for an interesting after-dinner or on-line discussion as to where intellectual freedom begins and ends but my bet is that in the pragmatic protecting of their own little patch, the censoring and jailing of dissenting voices won't evoke significant sympathy.

    Far from being in a place of inertia Dáithí I choose and act in a pragmatic healthy self-interested manner whenever possible and to the degree that it does not impinge on the rights of others.
    (Though I have been a twelve-stepper Dáithí I have for many years been a convert to Bruce Alexanders social model of addiction; republicanism like most other 'isms' can be an addiction too).

  52. AM

    McGuinness said Wells was a bigot before his wife was ill, a bigot today and will always be a bigot. He said Wells has never spoken to him. (that must be the bigot criteria then, shunning Martin)

    I always classed Wells with the David Calverts of this world but strangely in the early 90s a Catholic small farmer living near him told me he wasn't the worst by any means.

    I'm not a minister of health or anything else so I'll take the plunge and ask, how did one of two women in a lesbian relationship come to have a daughter?

    I'll be voting with mr Wells on same sex marriage when the time comes ... NEVER NEVER NEVER!!!

  53. Thanks Henry,
    when you come to Connemara there's no real appetite for either militarism or revolution in southern Irish society
    Jeez, talk about dampners, my uncles tell me the Spanish trawlers have nicked all the lobster too.
    The best Unionist , is still a Unionist. It is the politics of the usurper, and is only non-violent when assured of its supremacy. I am not a relativist Henry, I don’t believe all claims are of equal legitimacy, that includes British ones on Irish soil. How to best address it remains to be seen. In terms of citizen trends, let me relay one thing: since the increase in immigration to the Britain, there are fewer and fewer friendly ears to Unionist pleas for their little ethno-state.

    Ps I don’t talk of 12-steps disparagingly , too many families are cursed with addiction in one member. I see real faith and power in those groups.

  54. You're a good crack Daithi. You don't accept the legitimacy of the British people in Ireland, but you gloat about the legitimacy of the Irish electorate in Britain.

    You own a tweed jacket with fake leather elbow pads don't you?

  55. Cue Bono, I am pretty sure this isnt meant to be taken literally, but after that, I have no clue what you mean. 500,000 Poles moved to Britian in the last decade, there is no question of them declaring their patch a Polish satelite. Additionally the (thinking) English have had their reservations assuaged with concepts such as the people being a product of the culture, rather than the culture being a product of the people. If you are a Unionist, you are automatically out of step with the mainlaind and drifting further and further away. As i said to HJ, I would rather not get into this anyway, its totally pointless, there will be no common ground, and it comes across blunter than I would like sometimes.

  56. He (Dáithí) is indeed good crack.

    Like yourself Cuey and indeed most of us on here he's doing his best to undo some mad, painful and persistent historical conditioning that led to too much binary thinking; black/white, good/evil, right/wrong ... etc... etc.

    Its a sometimes difficult process, sometimes weird, and once in a while a wonderful one, to unpick our own belief systems and allow ourselves to position ourselves in a more centered spot. My best guess is that by engaging in dialogue and exposing long-held beliefs to challenges of sorts we are all (you included) in that process to a greater or lesser extent.

    At its best its a two steps forward and a one step backwards dance. Dáithí's last comment could also be viewed as just a back-step in preparation for a couple of forward strides!

  57. DaithhD,

    should nationalism be obligatory and have people a right to dissent from the nation? I think, unpalatable as they may well be, these are questions republicans are going to have to mull over if they are ever to seriously grapple with the democracy of republicanism. The latter when stripped down to its core is rule by the people.

  58. Am, I think when a people have been usurped and attempts made to write them out of history, Nationalism becomes an act of resistance.The question isnt whether people can dissent, but whether they should be listened to when they do.
    Take another emotive example : What would a vote on sovereingty within the borders that Israel has drawn tell us?Perhaps, to only ask the “people” when you can expel most of the opposition to a predetermined outcome? Ive said before (and it bores me too) but democracy doesnt always equate with legitimacy.

    We might forget the simple power of the Republican message from age to age, but to paraphrase MMG, its a mistake its enemies dont make.Its probably why there are more laws against its full practicion now than at its supposed peak. At present, democracy would mandate Belfast as part of the United Kingdom (I dont understand the Army Council lineage arguements I am afraid, especially in a democratic context) . I say democracy is a modern idol above all others, unto which the powerful make blood sacrifices.
    It needent of been this way, but people are too lazy to truly hold those in power to account, we need a new method of governence. But first things first, England out of Ireland and all that.

  59. DaithiD,

    I am not really sure what that answer says. I'll put it another way: should people have the same right to dissent from a religion as they would have to dissent from a religion. I have asked this question a few times in the course of discussion. Not because I have an answer to it that satisfies me but because I find the question challenging.

    What does dissenting from the nation really amount to if the nation is obligatory?

    As for Israel the problem there is somewhat similar to the North and the comment in 1954 by
    1954 made by John V. Kelleher resonates deeply: that a political problem is rarely solved by those who ‘tend to see it as it first existed and not as time and society continually refashion it … the history of the problem is nearly irrelevant to its solution.

    That would seem to be in need of addressing.

    And if democracy is not to decide the big issues of our time what else is? Anti-democracy? How then do you deny legitimacy to the Islamists if you actually confer it on them by saying democracy doesn't really matter all that much as what really matters is whatever you are having yourself?

    As for Britain out of Ireland I am reminded of the Brit minister being driven around in a Brit Army jeep on an early tour and he saw "Brits Out" daubed on same wall and he said something to the effect that it was a good ideas but "how, just how?"

  60. AM, I think i get the question, but its because you think of democracy as the best method of deciding things, i do not. And the founding fathers of America didnt either. You think if an artificial majority dissent, then this becomes a legitimate course for rest to follow? Its just the tyranny of the 51% to me. I dont know what will follow democracy, but some technological developments give a clue. (Lets get a bit Sci-Fi on the Quill !) Firstly, peer to peer transaction, outside of a central bank. If a nation state looses the power of monetary system, its ability to levy taxes etc, how long would a state like that survive? What would be its function? With more sophisticated encryption methods, we wont need interlocutors such as politicians in our affairs, we can decide ourselves, what is the need for a parliament to vote on issues we can do ourselves with the click of a button? Are Islamists not a bogeyman in this? I fear unaccountable governments much more. Would people in control of their own affairs not be led as easily into foriegn wars? Isnt this what the left class as an imperial blowback? I dont know all the answers, as ive said before, politics hasnt not caught up with technology at all, when it does, our methods of governance will be infinite.
    Do you think it could be reduced to a mathematical equation? Reducing the happiness of 60m people, and have an answer on a range of outputs like , into a inputs health, wealth, happiness etc that are optimized without prejudice? I can optimize a portfolio of stocks, taking in ~5m data points for one output (profit) its bloody hard, but the former not the leap it might appear.
    Do you think vested interests would want this? Its all hyperbole until the state can be cut off the back of the people. This is republicanism to me.

  61. Ps sorry to double post, I forgot to add, we arent actually denying the legitimacy of the Islamists now either, the Namazie debacle, Hebdo censorship reaction etc.

  62. AM - unless one lives under an autocratic regime I believe that freedom in the broadest sense, which is generally included in most European social democracies allows for dissent form the nation insofar as that after a citizen fulfills his or her duties as laid down by law (paying your taxes & jury service availability) it is thankfully and in essence an issue of freedom of thought.

    In real terms however one can't but expect to be treated as anything other than an apostate if one chooses to move on from any particular grouping in which one was involved; whether its Liverpool F.C. supporters or the Republican Movement one would be naive not to expect a cold shoulder form a certain section of former friends and colleagues. The herd will always strive for cohesiveness. Breaking from the group will generally draw repercussions.

    The questions you pose about nationalism being obligatory and dissent from the nation are fundamental questions that anyone calling themselves republican ought to be able to answer ... unfortunately most are too reactionary and as a result don't have the capacity to even begin to contemplate such pertinent challenges. Such questions ultimately put them in a bind; for if they come down on one side they'd be confronted by the authoritarian and anti-democratic nature of their movement and if they come down on the other they would also have to deal with similar realisations and either withdraw or take on the colossal task of re-orientation and rebuilding.

    Don't expect any of the the loyal comrades to catch your hot potato any time soon.

  63. Henry Joy,

    I am talking of dissent to the point of secession. Dissent can be expressed for sure but the question I was mulling over is whether in principle we can object to people dissenting from the nation in terms of seceding. Is there anything fundamentally wrong with part of India reinventing itself as Pakistan or East Pakistan reconstituting itself as Bangladesh? The apostate issue you raise is very real but the way you raise it makes me think of the individual apostate rather than a "nation" of them.

    One problem I have with Irish republicanism is that it so laced with the absolutism we associate with the monarchy. Which sort of makes it anti-republican.

    I think DaithiD is being generous in allowing me to practice on him because that's basically what we do in the comments section of a blog. But he too is allowed to practice on me. We can't really hold people to account for what they say in the comments section of a blog. Different in an article I think where we set out our stall.

  64. AM, I think I need to use the comments to practice basic English, sometimes it makes no sense to even me. I'm prepared to concede I might be wrong , I'll never understand the democratic notion that all views are valid with legitimacy conferred by consensus.It's not like that in science, and it's the source of profits in finance. I envy you that you so clearly stood in defiance of untruths in your own community, with all the nasty potential outcomes that could be meted out. You must be doing pantyless cartwheels everyday that your predictions are vindicated.

  65. AM. One of the features I like about the comments section is that we all get to throw in our tuppence-halfpenny's worth. Its a learning forum, a place to formulate develop and express our thoughts and ideas. For the greater part I'd like to think this is accepted and tolerated by most. I'd hope Daithí doesn't mind too much being a foil for either you or I.

    Back to the questions you pose. I take your point as to my previous response; I did respond from the perspective of the individual. That said though I don't think the premise that I was attempting to articulate (right to agency, volition, control or self determination) differs much when applied to the collective.

    Do the Scots have a right to secede from the Union? Did and do the Unionists have a right to secede from the 'nation'? Would the people of Donegal have the right to secede from the southern state and join the north should a majority decide to do so?

    I believe yes. Would I wholeheartedly support such changes based on a minimal majority? No. Such changes I believe could only be implemented if a reasonable hope of stability and sustainability existed. In a modern society I'd think it unreasonable to demand our needs be met if that tramples too much on the needs of others. Even if that were not the case, a bill of rights protecting minorities and dissenting voices, with facilities for redress, would also need to be incorporated into such changes.

    Its a complex one AM. Theoretical frames are grand until they meet the real world.

  66. Henry Joy,

    your Donegal reference invites the question of Northern counties having the right to secede from the North. Does repartition make partition somewhat less unjust? I have thought for some time that Northern counties or regions seceding from the union is a much more plausible approach than the notion of coercing the North into a united Ireland. And coercion was what we as armed republicans were about despite some Sinn Fein nonsense that we had no intention of coercing the unionists in. Our outlook was pretty simple Brits Out and Unionists In by coercion.

  67. DaithiD,

    I don't feel delighted to have had my predictions validated. Perhaps that is a result about being much les passionate about the matter than at the time I was predicting. I feel disappointed that despite things coming to pass, so many still live out the pretence, trying to dupe anybody that will listen that they are somehow all that different from the Sticks and Fianna Failers whom they criticised so severely for doing the same thing and doing it earlier.

    A point I make repeatedly to people is that I do not know one of us who left does not feel we should have done so at an earlier point.

    I think for many there is a psychological need to belong to something called "the movement". What the movement does or where it goes is much less important than belonging to it.

    As for standing against the mistruths, sometimes you are in the thick of it before you know it and virtue is fashioned from necessity!! Who seriously wants a hard time?

  68. DaithiD,

    I do think democracy is the best method of deciding things but I don't think it always leads to the best decisions. There is a subtle difference. But that is a risk that must be courted in order to have democratic freedoms. I subscribe to the liberal view that process legitimises outcome rather than ends justifying means.

    I don't believe you can reduce democracy to majoritarianism although without a strong element of majoritarianism democracy would not be.

    And in spite of all your consideration of various models at the centre of your discourse is that phrase "we can decide ourselves" - but we can't decide ourselves if we don't have a democratic way of deciding as then somebody else will decide for us. Democracy is the base line in my view - the challenge is not to replace it but to develop it.

    I am not much of a nationalist, preferring the English radical to the Irish reactionary. Nor am I much of a Catholic (understatement) but I prefer the St Vincent de Paul worker to the austerity promoting atheist.

  69. AM, what I was trying to get across with sci-fi detour is that, Im trying to imagine how technology might shape our future political structures, which havent changed in centuries.Without a state as we would recongnise one today (because of an innability to measure public wealth and tax accordingly) we would be approaching a society of individuals, as such there would be no need to consult others in affairs exclusively pertaining to us, the democracy we understand today. Ive pondered that Kelleher point about a problems solution being irrelevant to its past, and found this article written in 1954

    Its an interesting article, many parts could of written yesterday :

    ...for all the complaining speeches and all the dreary propaganda of these last twenty years, nothing has been done about Partition except, perhaps, to make it worse....


    ...the present government has felt it necessary to place the economy on an austerity basis...

    I will read around him further today ( i get alot of downtime whilst wating for data tests to complete).

    HJ, I dont mind testing others arguements, look at the demolition job Galloway did at the Senate. His arguements were so refined by the time he got there, forged in fiery debates, they didnt know what hit them. I hope to chisel down my theories, if anything remains ill use it to debone my opponents, when I become the queerest menagerie that ever came to Connacht.

  70. DaithiD,

    technology was on the feature when I was studying democracy in jail and that wasn't yesterday! But people still decide whether by pressing buttons or some other system: they might cut out the middle man and the representative but that is not the abolition of democracy but the application of a more direct version of it. And then your fear of the tyranny of the majority becomes very real - I think that it the biggest drawback of direct democracy.

    When we cut to the chase the question that confronts us is one of rights: Do Irish people have a right not to be killed by armed republicans? Or do armed republicans have a greater right to kill them regardless of their protestations? Which gives small bands of republicans rights against and over the Irish people and which denies the Irish people any rights against republicans.

    Not the type of set up I am going to subscribe to.

  71. AM To be consistent in my position I'd have to agree that northern regions also have the right to secede to the southern state, of course the caveats about sustainability and an incorporated bill of rights still apply.
    Both my personal and work experience bear out Kelleher's observation that the history of the problem is nearly irrelevant to its solution. I'd also add that the type of thinking that leads us into a problem rarely if ever will lead us out of it.

    On another point that you mentioned to Dáithí,
    "I think for many there is a psychological need to belong to something called "the movement". What the movement does or where it goes is much less important than belonging to it".
    Absolutely right on target. Its only when one truly understands such phenomena that one can make sense of much of what has happened. Its only then we can make sense of the pretence that runs through not just Sinn Féin adherents but also much of what passes for the Irish political system.
    Many of the basic psychological needs: a need for security, an need for agency and control, a need for status, a need for connection and community, a need for competency and achievement and needs for meaning and purpose are delivered through committed involvement in both paramilitary and political organisations.
    The greater the commitment required by "the movement", the more demanding the movement is, the more secretive and clandestine it is, the more intense the pay-off for the devotee. Add to that the probability that its those who are most vulnerable or those who have been touched by trauma who will seek the most intense stimulation to ameliorate their pain and we have a probable picture of the dynamics at play.

    Anyone placing their trust in the more fundamentalist grouping or parties does so at great risk to themselves and their neighbours.

  72. AM, its arguable individual rights are not maximised under partition, if every side in the conflict disengaged from aggressive posturing, and did not seek dominate the other, what would the island look like? Would it still be partitioned ? Who then is responsible for the choice of Irish deaths in the course of removing partition, and deathless acquiescence ?

  73. DaithiD,

    if I am prepared to risk your life and those of your children because I insist on my right to deny you any right to exercise national self determination in respect of how the country's British problem is addressed, that sort of makes me very absolutist (the antithesis of republicanism) and situates me in the same category of threat to national self determination that I accuse the Brits of.

    Who has the greater right here - me to risk your life or you to be free from my physical force/violence, call it what you will?

  74. Henry Joy,

    I took it as given that you would have applied the principle of secession to Northern counties. We just used different examples to make a similar point.

  75. AM, Shouldnt it read :

    Who has the greater right here - me to risk your life or you to be free from my physical force/violence but be exposed to a hostile states violence?

    I dont think the choice is between violence and non-violence, its about who legitimately wields violence isnt it?

  76. DaithiD,

    even with the add on there is still no evading the question of the relationship between republicanism and the people of the island.

    Dealing with the add on - it is crystal clear that the vast majority of the Irish people think that the British problem should not be tackled in an armed matter. Do they have the right to make that choice? Who has the right to deny them that choice? In whose name is the violence pursuant to the denial of that choice being waged?

    During the course of our campaign the IRA attacked more than one hospital but built none. Given the needs of society I imagine we got things back to front.

    The choice must always be between violence and non violence given the horrendous consequences for people of the wrong choice been made. What legitimises the use of violence? People or some tradition that people's choices are immaterial to?

    If people don't matter then Islamism has called it right.

    And these questions are raised not to trap you but simply for the purpose of trying out ideas. What points come up are being and not scored.

  77. AM, its hard to imagine a resistance movement from a minority faction that doesn’t carry the extreme risks you describe, yet you wouldn’t call yourself a pacifist? I can only counter your view with extrapolating its implications. If what is required for legitimacy is a majoritarian consensus, what would be the argument against the slaughter of the minority Tutsi’s in the Rwandan civil war? is one sides fight more legitimate than the other? In terms of the Islamist, ill turn it back to you : if this regime is what they vote in , in Tunisia , Egypt, Libya etc, does that mean dissent from a minority of liberals, trade unions etc is less compelling, less correct?
    Its good stuff though, a real headf*ck, I wrote several replies, and several revisions. Im still not satisfied!
    As always, I appreciate the time you give to examine these.

  78. Dáithí the legitimacy of armed resistance can never be reduced to a 'majoritarian consensus'. I doubt that this is what AM proposes.

    Context has to be taken into account. What is the degree of oppression? What are the likely consequences for ones own community in the event of continued armed resistance? Can perceived gains be reasonably and positively weighed against the costs involved? Are there alternative means of pursuing one's campaign? Are there alternative possibilities of redress? To what degree is there popular support?

    These and many other questions have to asked and answered before legitimacy can be conferred on any violent campaign. I don't believe legitimacy can be reduced to a simple mathematical formula nor do I believe AM is suggesting that either. However as in the context of any armed campaign to 'rectify' Irish Partition some numbers do need to be factored in: in the refendums in 1998 on GFA 3/4 of 1% of votes were invalid, 14.5% of votes were against the agreement and 84.75% were in favour of the settlement.

    Dáithí, just to be clear on this I am not a pacifist, I don't count myself as either a bleeding heart liberal nor a libertarian but there are circumstances where I reserve the right to violence, and that is to protect myself and those that are dear to me.

    Whereas I may or may not have supported, or may or may not have participated in armed actions, in the past I certainly could not justify nor participated in such actions now.

  79. Henry, neither should anyone try to publicly justify armed actions, as Fennells predicament reminds us. I can't answer all your points directly without repeating myself again.But I don't agree that oppression should be a determining factor, for successful campaign anyway. It's something the enemy can yield on, and split opponents to it's rule. It boosts numbers initially, but idealogues are surely drowned out by 'politicians' in this kind of movement. Adamsites will always win in this kind of grouping.

  80. Great thread guys. AM and HJ pretty much spot on.