Alt Amháin - Single Article


airgead  glas  oráiste  corcra  buí  liath

Please email your comments to:

All fair comments, criticisms and praise will be posted!

Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

The slaughter and corruption of Irish youth – North and South

Within the last fortnight, two young men have been shot dead in our country. One, Aidan Byrne (a drug dealer and rapist) was riddled with bullets whilst sitting in a car that was parked about two hundred yards from my front door. The other, Kieran Doherty (a member of the so called Real IRA) was found dumped in a country lane with his hands bound and stripped of his clothing. This second equally brutal and premeditated murder happened in a town I “love so well” – Doire Cholmchille – Derry. Again there was a drugs link to the murder.

I want you, dear readers, to forget about the faults of these two men, grievous as they might have been.

Aidan Byrne

Forget the gutter press headlines of the “Bad Bastard” variety (Byrne) or “Dissident Menace” (Doherty) and concentrate on the fact that they were human beings who came into the world with a cry of hope and bringing joy as they did so. Nobody is born evil, depraved or eaten with greed and malice. These unfortunate qualities are kicked into us by circumstance and by other already deformed human beings who cannot bear to either look upon, or be looked at by, innocence. The Devil and his cohorts has many guises.

Kieran Doherty

These two young men had thrown themselves headlong into separate but, I believe, related “causes” whose final outcome can only be the slaughter and demoralisation of a new generation in Ireland that is queuing up to jump into similar disasters.

It is as if we have some kind of communal death wish. Once we had coffin ships taking the famine stricken out of Ireland, now we have nailed on coffin kids beating a path to various drug gang or anti peace process “armies”.

My point in writing on this subject is the opposite of the usual trite and meaningless condemnations of career criminals or those who reject the Good Friday Agreement. It is rather to remind you all that many of the young people who become involved in these gangs are potentially our best fighters for social change. It is completely wrong to brand them all as scumbags or morons whose politics only go as far as the beer stained Celtic shirt they are wearing. They may well come to adopt these traits but what needs to be stressed (if we are serious about dealing with the problem) is their individual humanity and their reckless, youthful ambition.

Most young people look for a challenge, something that is daring perhaps and preferably slightly illegal. The effort, organisation and determination that it takes to be a “soldier” in one of the above organisations is profound and we can only imagine the effect these people (our young people) would have if their vast resources of energy and bravery could be channelled into a broader communal, anti capitalist response to the social crisis. Opponents of the Irish peace process have their heads stuck so far in the political quicksand that they have not noticed that politics has gone global.

Leaving aside the general coarsening of attitudes that comes in times of economic hardship, what we have at the moment is a situation where small armies of youths are taking sides with particular drugs gangs in places like Dublin and Limerick and then a similar scenario in the North with the added tinge of misguided patriotism and revolutionary kudos. Sinn Féin is now part of the establishment in the Northern administration and it is to be expected that young people will kick against its authority. However, the dissident groups are not offering a focused long term political campaign. They are offering the lie of a “glamorous” armed struggle. An armed struggle that will not materialise in any meaningful way and is therefore futile. An armed struggle that will only serve to demoralise and depoliticise its adherents because the military means becomes more important than the political end (which is supposed to be a new dawn for our youth).

My point here is that the lifestyle of a young soldier in an anti peace process army and a drugs gang will be remarkably similar and the end result will often be the same as well. For both groups are estranged from the communities from which they have emerged.

Essentially, these disaffected youths are given the thrill of power (by the threat of violence and/or large amounts of cash) but without any cautionary instruction in the use of that power or the need to be a better person in a better society.

The Drugs Gangs

Where drug gangs are concerned, one of the immediate effects of this recruitment process is that, in the areas concerned, adults will no longer challenge young people involved in bullying and anti social behaviour because of the fear of repercussions from higher up the criminal chain. Last week, I stopped some young children (who were still in their school uniforms) as they set fire to a bin, They were around ten years of age. One of them was clearly shocked at being told what to do by an adult who was unknown to him and roared – “Ill stab you, you cunt. I’ll get ye shot.”

Will I too one day get a screwdriver in my head as did Harry Holland in Belfast or Polish emigrants Pavel Kalite and his friend, Marius Szwajkos, who were stabbed to death in Dublin?

Yes, there was an immediate and welcome community response to these killings but the fact is that in many areas kids effectively now tell adults what to do. William Goldman’s Lord Of The Flies scenario is being played out in our public spaces. There is no moral or political authority anymore as the middle classes retreat behind their walled estates and smoke their weekend spliffs, whilst their offspring do coke, or some other high, in the “rest rooms” of posh nightclubs in town.

We are nothing if we are not a community and our traditional communal values need to be emphasised in public arenas like blog sites and message boards so that those who have a radical or left wing view of social affairs and politics can encourage a wider community response to the authority gap that exists both North and South. I am not talking about oppressive authority. I’m talking about caring for our communities and those who live in them.

The Dissidents:

Let us be clear - There is absolutely no chance of any dissident group (be that Kieran Doherty’s faction or any other) being able to mount the kind of urban guerrilla campaign that was waged by the Provisional IRA for over thirty years. This truth will hold despite the sporadic and sometimes lethal attacks which the dissidents may be able to carry out and regardless of the fact that (in pursuit of their own anti Sinn Fein agenda) certain website contributors and other commentators continue to talk up the strength and efficacy of anti peace process republican groups.

The “terrorist” paradigm has completely changed now that the West is essentially fighting an oil and finance inspired Crusade against the “Moor” with the resultant stratospheric jump in surveillance and anti insurgent technology. For the dissidents, this means more hunts for informers, real or imaginary, more and more Keiran Dohertys, more and more paranoia in what is already a fish barrel of paranoia. This is what our unsuspecting young people are facing into. This is what they are being encouraged to join.

Add to the above the fact that the Irish people as a whole have voted overwhelmingly for the new political dispensation and it is clear that the dissident groups are faced with a monumental task of very long term persuasion. They are neither prepared for this long term political footslog, nor do they have the desire to carry it out.

Quite simply, walking the streets posting leaflets, standing on picket or white line protests and all the other mind numbing minutiae of what it takes to build a political movement is boring. Its much more alluring to posture (preferably with a mask and petrol bomb or a dissident gun in your hand) as it cuts out that inconvenient middle man called political persuasion. The INLA/IRSP has recognised the truth of the above and has now set about the Sisyphus like job of attracting people to their socialist arguments. I applaud them for this.

If the dissidents want further proof of my argument, they need only look at the Official IRA. The OIRA was in a far better position than the dissidents will ever be in to mount a different kind of war but preferred instead the soft route of retreating into their drinking dens and criminality; their “army” activity reduced to sniping at their “Irish Catholic” enemies in Sinn Féin and the Provo IRA and other much smaller groups like the INLA. Worse, they became agent provocateurs who ended up siding with pro colonial forces in our country.

Perhaps an even better example is ETA in the Basque country, which does have a solid support base but has found the grounds for its military operations to be increasingly stymied by that very surveillance technology I refer to above. ETA’s credibility gap with its own people is now so great that some of its supporters are calling for an end to its campaign. This is unprecedented. The peace process Basques want no more prisoners, no more morgues to visit, no more paranoia. They want at least a glimmer of hope that political movement is on the horizon and they look to our Irish peace process as a workable template.

The third factor which makes a dissident military campaign impossible is drugs. No paramilitary group can avoid the drugs question because narcotics are now the hard currency of the underworld in whichever part of the globe you care to mention. If you want to buy a large cache of weapons, for example, you pay for it with drugs. Nobody deals in cash any more. If you want to live an unregistered life outside of the state’s intrusive mechanisms, you live by and through the drugs trade.

My belief (though I have no proof of this) is that the leadership of the Provisional IRA understood that drugs, and in particular the hugely corrupting effect of the massive financial sums involved, as well the corrosive and addictive nature of the beast itself, would come to have a catastrophic effect on the “movement” and that this was one of the reasons for the pursuit of a peace process. With some individual exceptions, the Provos were remarkably successful in combating the influence of drugs within its ranks but that could never have lasted. This is the world into which our young people will be plunged. This is the world which consumed Kieran Doherty.

To be clear, I do not believe that every anti peace process Irish republican is a drug dealer – far from it - but what I am saying is that dissident groups are inevitably dragged into a drugs maelstrom.

I was in Belfast two years ago and met the son of an IRA man who had recently joined a dissident grouping. His first “operation” was to arrest a drugs dealer and rob him of a wad of cash, with a demand for a regular payment after that. This very serious and dedicated young man told me that the ensuing row over the ethics of what his “unit” had just done nearly spilled over into fisticuffs. The Real IRA has justified the killing of Kieran Doherty by saying that he was involved in similar activities (an accusation strenuously denied by his wife and family). More paranoia. More confusion. Pandora’s box of nightmares is opened and in the background stands MI5 with its centuries of experience in manipulating the fault lines in our resistance movements.

The reason why the Provos were able to prosecute their campaign with remarkable success (the UVF’s David Irvine once called it “the Rolls Royce of terrorist movements”) despite murky and persistent British intelligence entanglements was because they had support from broad swathes of society. Similarly, the central committee of Lenin’s Bolshevik party was riddled with spies but those spies and their puppet masters could not stop the revolution. Thus, if the dissidents are serious about having an Irish revolution (and they have an arguable case) they must begin to build from the ground upwards and take the murders of people like Kieran Doherty and indeed Aidan Byrne as the social signals, the social disasters, that they are and desist from leading more starry eyed youths into a life that offers nothing but misery.


This comment came via email (PL)

Dear Paul,

Very good, logical and thoughtful piece.
by: Pol (contact) - 11 Mar '10 - 12:22
I fully agree with your overall take on the so-called dissidents, but it is up to us older citizens to lead a credible and effective peaceful alternative to violence, on one hand and acceptance on the other. I, personally, am deeply involved in the creation of such an alternative, realising that we were manipulated for years by those who greet such deaths as these with visible self-righteousness and concealed glee. This problem will not cure itself without dedicated action and we will get no help from the upholders of the British way of life who currently control our nation.
by: Proinsias Mac Bhloscaidh (contact) - 13 Mar '10 - 13:01
Thanks Frankie

I would have liked to write a longer piece outlining some of the things that urgently need to be done if we "older people" are going to find alternatives to what's happening at the minute.
You and others are doing great work with the language (Gaeilge) and I do think generally that this is the time to focus on radical cultural issues that get us away from the anglophile approach at the moment. If then we could link jobs and living conditions to culture in the way that Brian Anson did in his Anson Plan, I think we could come up with something challenging and exciting.

buíochas ó chroí

by: Pol (contact) - 13 Mar '10 - 21:01


Comments must be approved before being published.

Meta Information:

Title: The slaughter and corruption of Irish youth – North and South
Date posted: 11 Mar '10 - 09:46
Filed under: General
Next entry:  » Extended reaction to the previous blog on dissidents and drug gangs
Previous entry:  « As another RTÉ personality stands for Fine Gael - we discover that George Lee was on Leave of Absence

Baile - Home