The Death Of A Traitor

Deaglán Ó Donghaile writing in Irish Dissent gives a very different view of Martin McGuiness from the more prevalent one in the media.

To the memory of my mother, Martina Donnelly

The only unfortunate thing about Martin McGuinness’s death was that it came at a time when I was very busy with work and unable to respond sooner. I am not at all bothered about his slow and, apparently, very painful end because in 1998 the Sinn Féin militia, under his direct orders, attacked my family. Armed with guns, nail-studded baseball bats (yes, you have read that correctly – they used baseball bats that had nails hammered into them), iron bars and mace gas, they attacked us. They did so with a ferocity that cannot be imagined by those who have not witnessed such horror unless, perhaps, they have had it described to them in detail by someone who has experienced it. My three little sisters, aged 11, ten and six years old, were all hospitalised with trauma wounds, including punctures on their arms, legs, backs and heads caused by those nails, and they also suffered poisoning from the mace gas. My father’s leg and hand were broken and, along with his children’s injuries, his puncture wounds had to be treated for infections that were caused by the nails. My mother was also very badly wounded, and suffered the worst of us all: as a result of the injuries that she endured that night, she developed the ovarian cancer that would take her life some years later.


Violence is a singular and totalising phenomenon, and it is never more so than when it is inflicted in the name of power against children. The violence that was inflicted on my family at 10pm on the night of Sunday, June 28th, 1998 (just days after the formalisation of the Pacification of Ireland Process with the re-opening of Stormont) was the latest incarnation of British colonial violence, camouflaged by its local deliverers: British proxies from the Sinn Féin militia who were posing as Irish republicans. The British state attempted to disguise its presence in our home but immediately, in the hours, days and weeks that followed, and then during the years that have passed since, what was hatched on that night became so obviously apparent that it is now a matter of public (if unofficial) record, and is being spoken about openly. Even in the darkest times of state terror and government violence – for this was government violence, committed in the name of Stormont, Westminster and the Blairite imperialism that would later on murder over a million people in Iraq – the truth has a strange way of coming to the surface. It does not, of course, appear in the official discourses of the press and the establishment, but resides instead in the resistant consciousness of people who recognise colonial power and its agents, and who choose to speak out against it.

An Agent of Colonial Violence

Years before they established death squads in Iraq, New Labour acquired valuable practice in deploying them in Ireland with the help of their local puppets. In Derry and elsewhere, Martin McGuinness was a key agent of this power and, as its principal native avatar, he was the one to whom the British could always turn whenever spectacularly violent forms of pacification were needed. He was the one who could activate the required force in all of its barbarity, and they were the ones who believed that they could use him to silence dissent and erase, with the application of this terror, the possibility of a United Ireland (I am referring here to the real possibility of Irish unification and not the empty simulation of it promoted by Sinn Féin, then and now).

Murder and brutalisation were sanctioned with the official and unofficial blessing of the state from its local to its highest levels, and what we have seen with the death of Martin McGuinness is the closure of a very significant node within its grid of power. To be sure, its light had been faltering for some time, and its value was rapidly diminishing before he was ever diagnosed with the amyloidosis that killed him. For some time he could not walk the streets in Derry without being jeered at for being a traitor, and it was with the greatest irony but without, of course, any grasp of the concept, that he pressed charges against a young man who threw eggs at him in the Bogside. That power, which circulates across all of its circuits, dominating them until they are burned out and extinguished, now no longer illuminates one of the most important contacts in the history of British intelligence and counterinsurgency.

The Question of Power

From the then-Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam (who, while expressing her “love” for McGuinness, insisted that such attacks were not ceasefire violations but the good and necessary work of “internal housekeeping”) to the judge who, reluctantly convicting Hugh Sheerin, one of the attackers who broke into our home and lauded him as a family man, to the police who arrived on the scene, minutes after my father had been stopped and questioned about his movements by them, under threat of immediate arrest under the Special Powers Act if he did not reveal where he was going and when (“to home”, he replied, “are you sure? Are you sure about that?” they kept demanding), this shared power percolated through the entire system, along with their shared violence. That night, my father remarked to me about the strangeness of the police’s questions because, despite a lifetime of harassment at their hands, he had never experienced them being so determined to establish beyond any doubt the fact that he was going home, and precisely how soon, as they did just then when they stopped him while driving on a journey from a shop that took less than two minutes. Just as he told me this, the gang burst through our front door, and this happened within less than another two minutes of his arrival: exactly as long as it took him to tell me about his strange questioning at the hands of the RUC.

When the police appeared, again only minutes after the Sinn Féin gang had left, their only expression of surprise at what had happened was over the fact that we had fought back and that so many of the attackers were themselves injured. We also witnessed the reality of official consternation at a plan gone wrong when they discovered that their proxies had left behind, along with a lot of their own blood (which, of course, was never converted into DNA evidence), a mace gas spray canister that my mother had knocked out of one of their hands. “Who else saw this? Who else knows about this?” they kept shouting. Of course, they made sure that nobody else would ever know about it or see any reference to in the official narrative of what happened that night: this piece of evidence was quickly disappeared for good when, in their words, “it was just lost in the Strand Road” – i.e., hidden by them in their local barracks.

In the Service of Colonial Power

This week, apologists for Martin McGuinness have been trying to explain what did on behalf of the British state as the result of a very dense political process, the very meaning of which is so complicated that it lies beyond the comprehension of ordinary people (they used to call it “the bigger picture” but now it’s just referred to as “the complexity of the process”). They are also claiming that their party is not wilfully serving the furtherance of British policy in Ireland, while telling their supporters that they must keep facilitating the mysterious, ever-shifting dynamic and rituals of a system and structure that is beyond their understanding. The mystery, they insist, requires complete submission to the rules of power, forever demanding further demonstrations of their prostration in increasingly humiliating displays of obedience. For the thoroughly unthinking, these proposals aren’t difficult to absorb – they’re just what you do when you’re told to, because “that’s politics”, and “the way things work”. Orwellian doublethink of this kind has always had a profound hold over the weak-minded, and as Orwell warned, state terror is where official thought control always begins.

The final defilement, committed during a life that spiralled ever-downward into an abyss of degrading servility, was the moment at which McGuinness, with his trademark leer, posed for photographs with Elizabeth Windsor and clapped while physically stooping his body as a portrait of the English queen, for which he raised the funding, was unveiled in London. As images of this incident were circulated around the world, politically conscious people were asking, “What have the British got on him?” It was, without doubt, the most revealing public incident during his parallel careers, both official and unofficial, in the service of British authority, and it will forever be his epitaph. It reveals an individual who, entirely bound by his own practice of betrayal, desperately served the commands of his handlers. Having become so immersed in the game of power, he really had no choice but to crawl along its corridors in Westminster and Chelsea, where he found his true home as a flatterer of the establishment. There was no greater humiliation in the history of constitutional Irish nationalism and there certainly is not a lower depth to be plumbed than this.

All of this predates Orwell, and the doublethink that he identified has its origins in the colonisation of Ireland where, throughout history, we find that true subjugation begins and ends within the minds of the conquered. In 1914, James Connolly defined this as the practice of “ruling by fooling” and in Ireland colonial political control has been exercised through this means for centuries. It was established through the system of “surrender and re-grant” during the sixteenth century, when chieftains bent to the English crown, and modernised in the coercion measures that were imposed throughout the 1800s and officially entitled “Peace Acts”. Today, it is visible for those who choose to recognise it in the internment of Tony Taylor. His illegal incarceration is now labelled “detention”, just as it was in 1971, because this is a more palatable noun with which the British government can promote coercion and a much less frightening concept for the public to grasp, just as it also was for the Apartheid régime in South Africa.

Today, the rest of us have a choice. We can choose to submit to such lies and believe those who, in praising Martin McGuinness as Bill Clinton and Alastair Campbell did, continue his work of distorting the past, controlling the present and condemning the future. Or we can choose to challenge them and, in so doing, liberate ourselves.


  1. This is a thought provoking and well written article. There's so much in it that it would need read again and again. To me it brings up two very topical questions, 1) 'cognitive dissonance' where we can not let ourselves believe facts that are so terrible to comprehend and 2) political and media indoctrination. On both counts I am pessimistic because both concepts are so prevalent and practised and the powers that be know they work. Also it is a shame that those who profess to seek social change, freedom and justice use the very same concepts of manipulation and coercion.

    This could also be said about violence and intimidation where so called revolutionaries resort to terror tactics similar methods of the oppressor, where anything is justified in the name of war, the end justifies the means.

    "The Fidelista ethic of violence, in which the moral high ground is permanently retained, is of relevance both to resistance/liberation movements and to states. It is hoped that the study would contribute to the setting out of a moral and ethical third way and sketch the contours of a different kind of hero: modernist, rational, internationalist; fighting full-scale wars when necessary, but never resorting to targeting of non-combatants, physical torture and execution of captives."

  2. To me quisling $inn £eind micro minister Martybroy mcGuinness was the embodiment of that classic definition of a revolutionary,ie,a social climber with a bomb, in his case someonelse could do that bit ,they tried to sell us the crap that his past was not important (try telling that to his victims) but rather how he finished , yeah of course that was the words from the establishment, that this waster took to like a duck to water ,he by his own admission was a complete failure in Stormont admitting that the DUP had made fools of them for the past ten years ,put that alongside his failure as a military commander and yip you got it a total fucking waste of space, what I couldn't understand at his funeral was why they put the tricolour on his coffin,the butchers apron would have been more fitting give those in attendance and the fact that he so willingly served the crown , maybe now his past will be properly looked at and his families wealth investigated.I for one didn't shed any tears at his passing,

  3. Talk about understated tag line for an article ('different view')!
    I think this story is key to understanding the hostility towards MMG is not just that he changed his mind with respect to some republican traditions, its that he tried to physically coerce those who didnt make the transition with him, sometimes with lethal consequences.Your family clearly suffered a trauma at his instruction, but not being medically knowledgeable, I didnt think a physical attack,brutal as it is, could lead to ovarian cancer.
    Whilst I wouldnt publically gloat over anothers lingering death, I concede I would at least think same if my partner was attacked with studded baseball bats,overall a very worthy addition to spectrum of opinion of MMG death.

  4. Agreed thought provoking and very comprehensive - it just shows once again that when the establishment or their new found friends use coercion, intimidation and violence it is "housekeeping" or neccessary for the greater good

    - one strange (or maybe not strange) thing to come out of all of this is that Adams is once again front and center, parading around as the sole protector of the future of both the six counties and the Free State - if he could bottle whatever he has he would put Teflon out of business - unreal - how many more times can he pull this off or rather be allowed to pull this off.

  5. As a Prod - but not a unionist - I wanted to believe the spin about McGuinness 'reaching out'. But his funeral convinced me to look at Mcguinness in a totally different light.
    The British state went OTT on his death with a private message from the Queen & major establishment figures turning up to lionise him even Clinton being flown in.
    The bubble burst for me. This guy was a British agent. How else can you explain his history & the behaviour of the british state towards him alive & dead?
    He was no Mandela - Mandela spent 30 years in jail for his beliefs. He was no Guevara - he died for his beliefs.
    Mcguinness spent hardly a night in British custody yet he waged a 25 year war on them without a hair on his head being touched.
    He made the transition from untouchable 'ruthless killer' to elder 'statesman'. What else can explain this miracle but that he was in the employ of the British state & was simply following orders?

  6. Cushy Glen

    I agree. They are attempting to credit him with Mountbatten and Warrenpoint. When Airey Nieve was killed the leading lights in the INLA were assassinated in a very short time. Bunting Little Miriam Daley etc. They British wanted McGuinness and Adams alive. END OF.

  7. Cushy Glen, this allegation is explicitly made in the Stakeknife book. There are such misery brought about by misapplication of the label, more proof is still needed. MMG didnt have many obvious vices, he didnt drink or womanise,its hard to imagine what coercion could of been used to turn him.The problem with the Harkin books claims is there are stories about doctored bullets being used to foil Grugg's assasination attempt on Adams that just sound farfetched, so his other non-Scap claims must not be taken at face value.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. DaithiD said: "MMG didnt have many obvious vices, he didnt drink or womanise,its hard to imagine what coercion could of been used to turn him."

    Lot's of politicians don't drink or womanize.

    So it's not necessarily a matter of being coerced as it is co-opted & corrupted.

    Remember this is Ireland: "A nation of cute whores."

    No different really than Guatemala as a client state for external powers.

    Martin McGuiness just got in a long line of subservient Irish politicians:

    "(Liam)Lawlor was also a European member of the controversial private political group, the Trilateral Commission."

    Not bad for a refridgerator mechanic from Lucan.

    And not bad for a butcher's assistant from Derry.

  10. Owen, I guess there are many reasons why someone could turn or just change their mind. Its just a past demonstration of an inability to cope with emotions, manifest in immersion in drink,women,drugs etc seems to be the common thread in all those stories.

  11. Daithi D Scap wasn't compromised or coerced he willingly went to other side , he wasn't the only one ,,

  12. Wow such a powerfull article.The author has told with clarity the reallity of MM