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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 Easter Rising Meets The Life of Brian

(Republican Sinn Féin denounces the Real IRA as “traitors”)

In the understandable publicity surrounding the bombing of the British Security Service’s (MI5) building in Belfast, a revealing spat between the exploders of this bomb - the so called Real IRA - and the main Irish Republican anti peace process group of dissidents - Republican Sinn Féin - went unnoticed and largely unremarked.

First of all, with regards to the bombing itself. Given MI5’s nefarious exploits in Ireland, the harsh reality is that very few Irish nationalists would be concerned or surprised at attacks on the MI5 building, assuming that no person is injured in such attacks. Thus, many people might then raise half a cheer at news of the bomb and the Real IRA will congratulate itself on having perpetrated a devastating attack on the “Brits” and also at having dealt a blow to supporters of the peace process. Then, reality steps in.

We learn that damage to the building itself was negligible and that an absolutely petrified taxi driver was forced to carry a deadly bomb in his car right across Belfast to the MI5 building, whilst the “soldiers” of the Real IRA held his family hostage. By all accounts, he ran from his car once he had done what he had been told to do and shouted an alert to police. His life, and that of his family, will never be the same again. The taxi driver could have no idea that the bomb would not explode on the way to its target.

Before I explain my opposition to the Holier Than Thou stance of the dissidents (and why more importantly it is anti historical), it should be stated that the decision to site MI5’s new offices in Belfast was a disaster for those arguing for a new peaceful dispensation. It was a clear undermining of the Irish position and an encouragement to those who argued that we still had a British administration in the North.

The move was obviously a bargaining chip in the negotiations for the doing away with the border between north and south, the standing down of the broadly despised RUC police force and the withdrawal of large numbers of combat troops. As British army barracks were being dismantled all over the Six Counties, hard line unionists could point to the establishment of MI5’s offices in Holywood (no not that Hollywood – Belfast’s Holywood) as a major signal of England’s intent to look after its own. The intention is perhaps understandable, in terms of reassuring pro British hardliners to sign up to the peace process. However, the decision to allow MI5 a continued role in the post peace agreement security strategy was far more than a slap in the face for Irish people, it was a straight kick in the genitals.

A very good and concise pro British security analysis of the setting up of the MI5 offices in Belfast can be read here at

For all that, the realpolitik of dissident car bombs and sporadic attacks is that they will not derail the peace process. What is far more likely is that the dissident groups themselves will continue to splinter because of the huge pressure that is now upon them to mount attacks so as to simply survive as military organisations (and thereby also maintain their self perceived prestige). In other words, the dissident paramilitary tail will wag the political dog instead of the other way about.

Any group engaged in military actions is forced to be clandestine and therefore paranoid. Sensing spies and informers around every corner is not a good basis for furthering political ideas.This is the experience of each generation of Irish republicans but still there are those who refuse to digest it, or learn from the past.

To speak quite bluntly, if as a political group you have not built up a groundswell of public support for your activities (a process which takes years, if it succeeds at all), actions like stopping people from the North travelling by train to rugby matches in Dublin (and everyone is aware that these passengers are mostly Protestant by the way); causing long traffic tailbacks for Sunday shoppers; holding families hostage, or making threats to “deal with” groups that oppose your views are the actions of a bully not of a freedom fighter. In truth, you really are a terrorist in Leon Trotsky’s classic definition of that term because you have no social context (or support) for your actions.

(Leon Trotsky (with glasses) featured in Diego Rivera's famous mural - Man, Controller of the Universe

It may surprise many readers of “Cic Saor” that Leon Trotsky, who founded revolutionary Russia’s Red Army, and was its first brilliant commander, was a fierce opponent of individual acts of terror to further a political cause. Trotsky called it adventurism and, crucially, said that these acts "belittle the role of the masses in their own consciousness". Nothing, not one act of self gratifying terror, can replace the only real agent for social change and that is mass consciousness of the urgent need for change.

Much closer to home, there is an Irish military general whose career puts even the likes of Leon Trotsky into the halfpenny stakes and truly shows up the political piousness of republican dissidents for what it is. This general is Aodh Mór O’Neill (Hugh the Great O’Neill - Earl of Tyrone 1550 – 20th July 1616). Hugh O’Neill bankrupted the English treasury, as whatever army Queen Elizabeth the 1st sent against him was destroyed by O’Neill in a series of devastating campaigns of guerilla warfare. O’Neill was described by military leaders in Europe as one of the greatest generals of the 16th and early 17th century.

This same O’Neill, one of the greatest of Irish heroes, was quite happy to take the English shilling when it suited him, accept his earldom, attend court in England, treat and negotiate with the English administration at Dublin castle, visit Queen Bess and kneel humbly before her, and generally accept that some form of English presence in Ireland was probably irrevocable.

Aodh Mór Ó Neill - One of the greatest military generals of his age

The point for O’Neill was what would work best to maintain a Gaelic order in Ireland, not make some false show of principle about never dealing with the English. He very nearly succeeded in his utterly pragmatic approach. If the Spanish forces who landed at Kinsale in 1601 to lend support to O’Neill had landed at Killybegs (Donegal) instead, we would probably all still be speaking Irish and walking round in Celtic togas instead of Levi Jeans but there would still be those in our country who look to England as their cultural home. This is a fact of our historical legacy and O’Neill recognised it and used it to his advantage.

Thus, with the shades of Trotsky and Hugh O’Neill at our shoulder, we descend into the dissident Irish republican world of virtuous posturing, finger pointing and Not An Inch rhetoric.

At this year's Derry ceremony to commemorate the Easter Rising, a senior member of Republican Sinn Féin denounced the Real IRA and its tiny support base as “traitors”. The commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising is a revered event for all Irish people and it must have been painful for Real IRA supporters in attendance to hear their own group being denounced from the speaker’s platform at the Derry event. In fact, a group people from the 32 County Sovereignty movement (the Real IRA’s political wing) left the commemoration in protest at what had been said.


Liberty Hall, Dublin 1917 - commemorating the Easter Rising the year before.

It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that the leaders of the Easter Rising in Ireland publically declared that their sacrifice was made in the hope of creating an Irish Republic where all citizens, of all creeds and beliefs, could live in harmony.

As far as I am aware only the local newspaper, the Derry Journal, reported the events in Derry and my congratulations go to the unnamed reporter. The Journal’s report can be read here.

According to the Journal, the main speaker, a Mr. Emmet White from Offaly, told the assembled crowd:

"We have many groups who call themselves republicans. We have the so-called Real IRA who are fighting for a 32 county republic or so they say. What did they do between 1986 and 1997? They were willing to accept the Provo agenda. They are traitors. They should put down their arms and go home. There can be no dilution of principle."

A masked man then spoke from the platform on behalf of Continuity IRA members, denouncing the peace process and describing peace supporters (that would be most Irish people) as treasonous and threatening to take action if we continued to “protect Ireland’s foe”. Of course, the threats were aimed primarily at Gerry Adams and the provisional Sinn Fein leadership but the logic of dissident thinking is that we are all legitimate targets, whereas only they hold the true flame of the Irish struggle alive. Hugh O’Neill would shake his head at the whole farce of it.

Can dissident republicans (some of whom are entirely genuine in their beliefs and aspirations) not see what they look like to the outside world? The whole scene could have been lifted from the Monty Python film The Life of Brian.

Take this dialogue, for example, where People's Front of Judea member Reg (John Cleese) is sat in the amphitheatre with his comrades as they discuss who they hate most - tying themselves in knots over names in the process:

Reg: The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front.
Stan: Yeah the Judean People's Front.
Reg: Yeah.
Stan: And the Popular Front of Judea.
Reg: Yeah.
Stan: And the People's Front of Judea.
Reg: Yea...what?
Stan: The People's Front of Judea.
Reg: We're the People's Front of Judea!
Stan: I thought we were the Popular Front.
Reg: People's Front!
Francis: What ever happened to the Popular Front?
Reg: He's over there. (points to a lone man)
Reg, Stan, Francis, and Judith: SPLITTER!

Tá ár dteanga ag fáil báis agus níl aon treoir ag an t'aos óig - our language (Gaeilge) is dying. Our young people have no direction in life and certainly no political aspirations, whether they be about our language or Ireland, Gaelic and free. The Irish economy is in ruins and the fat cats have simply lined their pockets and skedaddled with the aid of government. The fishing industry has collapsed and we have no small scale infrastructure in place to generate local economies. Yet all the dissidents can offer is a slanging match about who is the most genuine Irish republican and issue threats to those they disagree with. For there can be no “dilution of principle”.

It seems to me that journalists and commentators have not done enough to properly investigate and expose the political and tactical weaknesses in the dissident position. I am not talking about meaningless condemnations but proper journalistic analysis.

In fact, what has happened instead is that, as the peace process has taken hold, a number of journalists have chosen the likes of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness as the primary focus of their investigations. Well known journalists like Ed Moloney have gone further and have embarked upon what can only be described as a crusade against the pro peace process Sinn Fein leadership accusing it of a lethal duplicity and mendaciousness. Moloney’s new book (Voices From The Grave) apparently directly accuses Gerry Adams of having ordered the death of “disappeared” Belfast woman Jean McConville. This follows on from Moloney's book on the IRA (A Secret History of the IRA), in which he accuses the Adams faction of having sacrificed the lives of IRA men for the sake of a covert political agenda. Wikipedia has a good account of Moloney's career thus far here:

See -

I have always been a great admirer of Moloney’s work on collusion between loyalists and the British state. His work on the activities of UDA quartermaster William Stobie, for example, was outstanding. I should also point that he was one of the few journalists to expose the continued activities of the Official IRA and its links to the Workers Party and to receive a number of threats for his commendable research. However, all that said, I think there is a major flaw in his analysis of the Sinn Féin leadership as Moloney's sources of information regarding the Adams leadership group in Sinn Fein very often come from that very same anti peace process constituency referred to above, which clearly detests Gerry Adams more than the Brits.

The arguments put forward by Moloney and others with regards to the leadership of Sinn Féin may, or may not, be true. The Sinn Féin leadership was involved, along with the IRA, in guerilla warfare with the British and presumably would have had to throw smokescreens and be mendacious on occasions just as the British were. However, the net effect of the assault on Sinn Féin is very often to present dissident republicans as honest brokers in the argument, when in fact (as we can see from the events in Derry described above) they might be said to have the biggest axes to grind. To illustrate this, the question must be asked as to why those IRA dissidents who have now raised the issue of Jean McConville's awful fate were not shouting about this issue from the 1970s onwards once it became clear that she had been abducted and executed as an informer?

There is an excellent critique of Ed Moloney’s position at writer and broadcaster Jude Collin’s blogsite:

(I will return to this issue in subsequent blog posts on Cic Saor, which will also include a review of Ed Moloney's book on the IRA)


Dear All,

If it is confusing in the minds of dissident republicans, I amn't sure how I would define the state of my own mind!!

Might I ask a question or two? (All correction will be appreciated.)

Dissidence has arisen from a feeling of neglect. Neglect, or perceived neglect, by main stream political workings for specific areas of a grass-roots population.

What is this neglect? Is it continued humiliation in the form of economic desperation, physical state harrasment, ongoing psychological and very dangerous mind games played between a certain few that manifest visceral hatred?

If the above suggested responses are correct there is an unholy amount of sadness in the hearts and minds of Irish people.

So how does one truly get to the bottom of this ? How does one cure the sadness ?

My limited experience working with people shows that if you scratch the surface just a little the harm and fear that has accumulated within comes to the forefront and in the hands of a ‘healer’ the abcess bursts, the tears flow and the build up of extreme tense energy explodes to leave the individual once again apt at thought and reasoning.

Now I might well be considered pretentious to insist that our dissident leaders experience such emotional work shops and it may well be that such an approach surpasses any definition of naivity.

However, simple observation of mankind confirms that we all need at some point a shoulder to cry on and in the case of the Irish nation I would imagine we need many shoulders and much time.

What troubles me particularly at this time is that such an approach has been suggested by the Catholic hierarchy to ‘absolve’ the anger and sadness of all those involved in the child sex scandals

The Oxford University Dictionary definition of ‘absolution’ before it heads into the ecclesiastical version is the following, ‘Formal setting free from guilt, sentence, or obligation ;…’

That would sound good for a gathering of all involved in the ongoing human and political tradgedy of Ireland. It would also sound good for the Catholic hierarchy in order to unravel the masking and evil cover ups of the immediate past ; maybe then civil justice could be done..

So in conclusion, if we create real reconciliatory structures where judgement can be cast aside for a determined amount of time maybe, just maybe, we can attain reason from all involved and then maybe, just maybe, people can accept, define and admit their own responsabilities whilst working on a sure path to reconciliation and justice. Naive ? Utopic ? Workable ?
by: Finn Anson (contact) - 20 Apr '10 - 10:55
Finn a chara

I would love to see your proposal acted out in reality but, in my experience, getting in touch with one's inner self is way down on the list of priorities of your average dissident. I remember once pointing out to a self professed revolutionary that he was stressed and he invited me outside for a punch up!

As for the Catholic hierarchy, its position thus far has been that it is for the CHURCH to decide how WE feel.

ádh mór

by: Pol (contact) - 20 Apr '10 - 11:14


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Title: The Easter Rising Meets The Life of Brian
Date posted: 19 Apr '10 - 20:39
Filed under: General
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