Anthony McIntyre ☠ Some less sceptical thought the moment would never come.
But for those of us who can smell the odour of careerism that seeps from their bones, it was only a matter of time before one of them would opt to become pacesetter.
After having leeched on public sentiment around the hunger strike for career enhancement purposes, Bobby Sands and his generation of IRA political prisoners would ultimately come to be criminalised by some of those who parasitically fed on their memory and outstanding contribution to republican struggle.
For years I had quipped that if required there were those who would march down the Falls Road to proclaim Bobby Sands a criminal and demand that Gaza be bombed. It was the licence of sarcasm with which to yield a trend. It has not reached that point despite the reluctance of the party in Belfast City Hall to demand the expulsion of the Kapo ambassador from Ireland. Still, if careers can be built from the rubble of Gaza ...
What brought the unalloyed repudiation of Sands and his comrades as criminals and terrorists was an attempt to muzzle a media group by means of a SLAPP endeavour, an odious practice which has incurred the wrath of a European free speech coalition. A defamation claim was lodged against Mediahuis because one of its reporters, Suzanne Breen, had published an article with content that a former Special Advisor to Michelle O'Neill took exception to. There was nothing defamatory about Breen's piece. Even Section 31 at its worst would have been hard pressed to suffocate it.
One of the most capable and cautious investigative journalists in Ireland Breen has for decades trodden where others have been reluctant to go. In 2009 the PSNI sought to intimidate her by a legal action aimed at raiding her confidential files. She defeated them. Now Liam Lappin, as part of a wider Sinn Fein assault on the media, has followed suit. The pleadings Lappin made to a Dublin court were so Thatcheresque in content they could have come from the mouths of Paddy Cooney or Paddy Donegan on a bad day. Everybody who had ever joined the IRA or taken part in prolonged and arduous prison protests in defiance of a British bid to criminalise the republican struggle, was thrown under the bus with the assertion that they were part of nothing other than 'a criminal and terrorist organisation operating under the name and style of the IRA.'
Bobby Sands and his comrades were figuratively thrown into prison uniform in pursuit of an argument that was “strained”, “forced” and “utterly unreasonable”, according to the judge who rejected the claim. I wonder what my old friend Pat Sheehan, who almost died on the 1981 hunger strike, will say to Lappin next time he sees him at an event commemorating the dead 'criminals and terrorists'.
At the heel of the hunt it will be much easier for the dead hunger strikers to evade Lappin's characterisation of them than it will be for him to shake off the label of contemptible careerist.
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