What Remains

Schild von "Republican Sinn Féin"
Image by PPCC Antifa via Flickr

Whilst media outlets might denounce Sinn Fein for their failure to produce a sufficiently resounding condemnation of the recent killings, it is worth bearing in mind that if even pizza delivery men are considered to be collaborators and therefore legitimate targets, there is a fairly clear implied message there for Sinn Fein, which determines the content of their response.

My first take on the people who shot the soldiers and then the police officer was that they are crazed fundamentalists. For them, the fact of any British rule in Ireland is enough to legitimate their murderous activities. But thinking about it a bit further, I think that behind the apparent ideological purity of their position  lie the motivating factors of betrayal and power usurped.

Let me place that judgement on hold for a minute and consider their actions in terms of the most rational argument that might be advanced from within their ranks. I do so mindful of the fact that the term ‘dissident’ connotes some sort of ability for rational analysis, but also of the fact that these people have no shortage of brutish simpletons among their ranks, and that it may be these people who hold the greatest influence.

The attacks on soldiers and the police would have twofold objectives. One, to draw a draconian response from the British state security apparatus sufficient to reveal, once again, the reality that Northern Ireland is an entity maintained by the threat of massive state violence. Two, to engineer a schism within the Republican movement that would lay bare Sinn Fein collaboration with occupying forces, thereby rallying greater grassroots support for the cause of kicking the Brits out once the traitors can be seen for what they are.  Yet it must, at some point, become apparent to those among them with a propensity to think, that the methods they have employed are scarcely different to those used by the Provisional IRA less than twenty years ago, and if they think that the British presence in Ireland has been strengthened by the Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent formation of institutions, then it must occur to them, at some point, that the only thing they could ever stand to achieve is some sort of similar agreement, twenty years hence, only with them, instead of SF, occupying the position of power, atop a pile of thousands more corpses. That would be the best case scenario for them, which is why I think this has to do with achieving power for the sake of it, rather than being motivated by some sort of concern for empowering the people in whose name they claim to act.

That is the best argument I could make on their behalf. But maybe any long term strategy they might speak of is simply an alibi, and in the end, all they are in it for is the killing and the rush of power that flows from discharging a gun. Maybe they are just Irish republicanism’s excremental remainder.

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2 Responses to “What Remains”


  1. 1 coc March 11, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Perhaps they imagine, against all evidence to the contrary, that they’ll be so much better at it than the previous, eh, contestants, and that 20 years hence they’ll have achieved total victory?

    Or perhaps this sort of outburst is an inevitable outcome of the institutionalised ambiguity that is the GFA where one side claims it copperfastens the North’s place in the UK while the other side simultaneously (and from the same OFMDFM) can claim that the GFA makes a UI a certainty.

    Neither side has had to admit their failings over the previous three decades and so purists on both sides keep drawing the oxygen of legitimacy.

    What is the difference between Soloheadbeg, Lurgan 1997 and Massereene 2009? None that I can see.

    What is the difference between those two soldiers being gunned down in Antrim or Afghanistan? None that I can see.

  2. 2 Hugh Green March 11, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Agree with you on the institutional ambiguity of it. In terms of an inevitable outcome, I’m trying to envisage some situation whereby the internal contradiction wouldn’t bring about, at some stage, forms of concerted, even violent, opposition.

    I mean, if you have a situation where all the main parties are signed up to broadly neo-liberal principles and the only thing that distinguishes them is sectarian designation, someone at the margins is going to object. But the the most powerful objection won’t come from people who reject the sectarian designation as such, but who think that it just isn’t doing what it says it should. Which is why I’m very sceptical about all this ‘Northern Ireland comes together’ stuff we’re seeing in the aftermath. What, people want to be together so they can go about the business of pursuing totally separate national agendas? How long can that last?

    But while I don’t think that the Real-ists can achieve anything concrete, they can render some things fairly obvious. Like when the repellent Shaun Woodward came on the telly the other night to regurgitate the usual ‘all the people of Northern Ireland’ stuff. I mean, that shows you where power really lies.

    In terms of the differences, I don’t see too many either. I guess one (minor) difference between Antrim and Afghanistan is that the churches don’t have a problem with soldiers going over there to shoot and get shot.


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