ANTHONY MCINTYRE discusses the pressure Saoradh and the New IRA are facing
NIRA and its political appendage, Saoradh, despite their trenchant resistance to reason, might just be feeling the cumbersome burden of a sentiment expressed by the Roman jurist, Aemilius Papinianus: “it is easier to commit murder than to justify it." Heat is not a cerebral thing and need only be felt, not deliberated. NIRA and Saoradh must be feeling the heat although that does not mean they are ready to vacate the kitchen, as the NIRA interview in last weekend's Sunday Times illustrates.
In the immediate aftermath of Lyra McKee's killing there was a hope, a wispy one doubtless, that the more capable people in Saoradh - those with analytical minds who are quick to discern and who sometimes assume the role of public thinkers, who have frequently exhibited empathy, who have not stumbled through their political lives with eyes wide shut - might step up to the plate.
While it would have been a most welcome development had they gone as far as to echo the words of Brendan Harkin and announced that the New IRA were desisting, decommissioning and disbanding, it would still have been positive had they even promised much less. They could have said of Lyra McKee's death that while she was not the intended target, it was wholly unjustified, would not be repeated, that an inquiry was under way to establish the facts, and that their armed activity would at least be put on hold to give them time to consider all their options. It would not have deflected the Katyusha of flak that rained down on them, but it would have given rise to a view that there was some sort of strategic intelligence at play, the possibility of meaningful engagement with them, a more conscious effort to understand their concerns. But no, nothing like that: any hope of reason prevailing simply dissipated with the group’s apologia for those who killed Lyra McKee. The statement was formulaic rhetoric which Eddie Holt might have excoriated:
the language of war, like the language of advertising, political ideology and corporations, is a jumble of jargon, euphemisms and downright lies … a sanitising operation, designed to disguise the reality of butchery.
The somewhat more sophisticated interview given to the Sunday Times by the New IRA may have arrested the credibility freefall but just marginally and only temporarily. The contempt in the interview for the Irish people or any semblance of democracy from those who describe themselves as anti-imperialist and socialist is on a par with fascism and is being described as such. Not that NIRA is politically fascist but it is attitudinally so. In the view of one commentator:
Nothing will dissuade them from using armed violence to achieve their aim. And they have zero support. We know all this because they said so in a Sunday Times interview. They failed to mention that to achieve their aim would entail the overthrow of democracy and the State’s entire system of government. This approach is also known as fascism.
The former republican prisoner and writer Richard O'Rawe has often noted in conversation with me that this is not something new to armed republicanism. It was as prevalent in our own day as it is currently. The fascistic attitude was a serious challenge to our republican credentials, much at ease with obligatory nationalism but wholly at odds with the republican ethos of rule by the people. We got away with it only because of a widespread culture of resistance that no longer exists. There was a well grounded view that we represented something primarily liberatory rather than repressive. Also because we resembled a social protest movement rather than a gang. That image has since been inverted by the posturing of NIRA, which causes it to be viewed more as a Nearly IRA than a New one.
When Saoradh members come out of court in Derry exuding the demeanour of Tommy Robinson more than that of Pat McGeown, the public will reach its own verdict: guilty of something other than republicanism.