Anthony McIntyre muses on the stifled world of republicanism and former republicanism.
A couple of recent events have helped to open a lid on the often-closed world of both current republicanism and its predecessor in the days when it could plausibly claim to have a republican pedigree.
When John O’Dowd announced his challenge to Michelle O’Neill for the deputy leader spot within Sinn Fein it was followed by a period of silence, despite his optimism about the upcoming party and island wide debate. Most thought he was having a laugh as he certainly was not for real. Debate in Sinn Fein is like a Catholic in the Orange Order. Those on the outside looking in were told brusquely to move along, nothing to see here. O’Dowd was effectively muzzled. In any event, the debate:
never happened. There were no hustings, no TV studio head-to-heads, and the initial social media discussion between Sinn Fein members after O’Dowd’s declaration was shut down swiftly.
If O'Dowd was going to win the contest he first had to be able to make his pitch, but the party seemed intent on not allowing that to happen. The appointed one was to remain in place. O’Neill, conversely, merely had to sit silent and the status quo would remain undisturbed, the feathers of the peacock unruffled by the audacious posturing from the pretender to her throne.
The event itself was like a papal conclave. While professing little interest, neither I nor the keen observers were offered a glimpse. Anyone interested enough - I was not included in their number - had to wait on the white smoke which first announced the winner but held back on displaying the score card. The day prior to the vote some wit posted on twitter congratulating O’Neill on her victory the following day. As for O'Dowd he ended up "banished to political Siberia"
A seasoned journalist later rang me to suggest the result was close otherwise they would have announced it. I didn’t concur. Tight or not, the party wears a mask in order to prevent peering from without. And it seems Saoradh - perhaps more honest about wearing masks - having picked up the republican baton dropped by Sinn Fein, is as opposed to scrutiny as its erstwhile comrades
The authoritarian need to dictate and impose its writ appears to be part of the republican DNA. Saoradh showed that it means to carry on in the republican tradition of authoritarian imposition when it refused an invite to the author Marisa McGlinchey to its ard fheis. McGlinchey was angry whereas I would have seen it as a cause to celebrate. The reason given was a pretty lame one: she had written a piece for the Sunday World.
The late journalist Marty O’Hagan, almost certainly killed by protected agents within the LVF, worked for the paper but never refrained from calling it the Sunday Worst. The paper has never been kind to Saoradh and it doesn't take a genius to work out that truth will never be allowed to stand in the way of a sleazy story where the rule of thumb seems to be fuck news, fake news will do.
Still, that is no reason for depriving McGlinchey of a presence at the type of event where she seeks to ply her academic trade. Dictating to people for whom they will or will not write is the match that eventually burns books. McGlinchey has arguably done more than any other writer in recent years to allow what passes for republicanism today to explain itself in its own words. Her engaging book Unfinished Business was considered so subversive of demonisation and marginalisation of those republicans regarded as dissidents it was banned for a while from Maghaberry Jail, which in these somewhat more enlightened times is on a par with a bread and water diet. Saoradh's attitude towards McGlinchey is indistinguishable from that of prison management at Maghaberry.
First they came for the book, then they came for the writer.