20 January 2005 Edition
SF split response
I would like to take this opportunity to respond to both Eoin Ó Murchú's and Eugene McCartan's criticisms in last week's issue of my article the previous week on the 1970 split of Sinn Féin.
Firstly, to Eoin Ó Murchú, I would like to point out that rather than some Stalinist tactics to airbrush the face of Seán Garland onto that of Cathal Goulding, the error, as pointed out by the editor last week, was down to production. As to Eoin's comments, I find I have great difficulty in responding to these. If he could perhaps point out where he thinks the article was historically inaccurate rather than issuing an edict that the article was "ludicrously unbalanced" and "wrong", both the readers and I would find this more enlightening.
I agree with Mr Ó Murchú's description of the events of 1970 as being both important and tragic and I feel that a greater understanding of them may be had through open debate rather than the mere rubbishing of another's account of them.
In Eugene McCartan's rather lengthy response, he accuses me of using the language of the Cold War. In my mind, words like "manipulate" and "infiltrated" perfectly encapsulate the behaviour of Goulding and his ilk. They and the expression "converted to Marxism by a Russian spy" can be sourced to Joe Cahill's 2002 biography, hardly someone I would describe as a retired British spook.
His defence of the Communist Party of Ireland I find baffling, as the CPI was never mentioned in the original piece, I did, however, mention the CPGB and note that Mr McCartan chose not to mention his comrades in England. Where Mr McCartan's argument appears to fall down is his belief that anyone calling themselves a Marxist (as Goulding and his supporters did) must be a member of the CPI.
I myself can assure Mr McCartan that when Bertie Ahern next calls himself a republican or even a socialist, I will refrain from writing to the Socialist Voices stating he is not a member of Sinn Féin.
I acknowledge the support the CPI gave the Republican Movement in the 1960s and I never equated the behaviour of Official Sinn Féin with the CPI. My criticism of Goulding's three-stage theory was of its content rather than structure. Mr McCartan stated that Marxism is not the enemy of national freedom and can be a sharp weapon, a sentiment with which, as a socialist republican, I agree. It can, however, in the wrong hands be doubled edged.
Shane Mac Thomáis,
Baile Átha Cliath.
In defence of Seán Russell
It is heartening to see a paper such as An Phoblacht at the centre of debates around important historical and political issues in Ireland. This is a feature generally lacking in the Irish media.
With regard to one of these issues recently aired in your pages, I would agree with Brian Hanley (An Phoblacht 13 January) that republicans should not 'blindly defend' Seán Russell or anyone else in the history of the republican struggle and that critical analysis is crucial to revolutionary political understanding.
That said, I would contest his depiction of the IRA during the 1930s or '40s as being pro-Nazi and his assertion that Seán Russell was not in touch with other foreign agencies on behalf of the IRA. On the contrary, in his recent book Reds and the Green, Emmet O'Connor points out that Russell accompanied Pa Murray on a trip to the Soviet Union to secure arms for the IRA. Furthermore, as an historian Brian Hanley should know that it was republicans, foremost among them members of the IRA who, in the 1930s, confronted head-on Ireland's only organised Nazi-style group — the Blueshirts, and who helped to crush this odious fascist forerunner of the Fine Gael party.
In relation to another interesting debate conducted in this paper and sparked by Shane Mac Thomáis's column of 6 January, I would share some of the concern expressed in recent correspondence about the language and terminology used by Shane in relation to the republican split of 1969/'70. The cause of the upheavals in the Republican Movement of that time was not Marxism. Indeed, it was counter-revolutionary reformism of the most irresponsible kind, as practiced by a hopelessly out of touch leadership, which caused the crisis.
My problem with Shane's terminology is that it feeds into a hoary old myth that the element that became the Sticks were 'left-wing revolutionaries' while the rest of the Movement were 'conservative nationalists'. This is a simplistic and hopelessly flawed argument used by various enemies of modern republicanism and is a variation on the ludicrous conspiracy theory that 'Fianna Fáil created the Provos'.
The proper place for socialists in Ireland is at the forefront of the struggle to establish a national democracy. James Connolly, Ireland's leading socialist thinker and activist of the 20th Century, understood that. Indeed, Connolly's whole life and work encapsulated the idea that socialism and national liberation are but two sides of the one coin. Connolly was no stranger to Marxism but I am sure that Shane Mac Thomáis would not accuse him of 'infiltrating' the republican struggle in the early years of this century or 'manipulating' it towards socialism. Connolly's legacy is a shining example to revolutionaries everywhere — Marxist and non-Marxist alike.
Where's the proof?
It angers me when I see an obvious attempt to ruin the Peace Process that so many people have worked long and hard to bring about. In my mind, I believe that is the case with the recent statement by Hugh Orde regarding the recent Northern Bank robbery.
It is appaling to me that a high-ranking member of the police service, in this case the PSNI, can point a finger at the IRA as being behind the robbery without a shred of evidence to back it up. I would like to believe the Canadian media would not be so quick to join in the witch hunt and would, I hope, ask for some proof before doing so.
Does this man not realise, or care, how much damage his one statement could have on the peace process, which is clearly entering a critical stage? Does he really want to diminish the decade-long efforts of Sinn Féin to bring a peaceful close to the deadly situation the people of the Six Counties have been forced to live with for far, far too long? Perhaps that is the goal.
All I could do was shake my head in disbelief when I realised the IRA had released a statement indicating it was not involved in the robbery. Has it come to that? It's baffling that the IRA needs to deny something even before it is accused. The Army leadership must have seen the writing on the wall, however.
It is very unsettling to watch the mainstream Irish and British media simply accept Mr Orde's word at face value. Is the PSNI perfect? Was the RUC?
I must admit, though, when I first heard news of the robbery, my initial thought was, 'Well, the IRA will get blamed for this one now.' Sadly, I was bang on that prediction.
Mr Orde, you say you have proof the IRA was involved. If so, let the rest of the country in on some of it, will you? Offer up a shred or two, sir, so the rest of us may be so enlightened.
Poor police work threatens the Process
Hugh Orde's inability to furnish a bit of evidence implicating the IRA in the Belfast Bank raid is but a small indication of the unprofessional manner around which this man has built his investigation. No sooner had 'experts' labeled the robbery a paramilitary one, then Orde and his underlings were assigning blame to the IRA. Orde never publicly — and presumably never privately — considered the more likely possibility that this was a UDA operation.
The UDA has steadily transformed itself from loyalist murders to organised criminals. The transition has been quiet publicly displayed, most notably during the early 1990s when Johnny Adair and some allied with him from the Shankill Butchers attempted to seize control of the UDA and influence similar front groups. The UDA at present is far more geared towards organised crime. Money laundering operations by the UDA were uncovered throughout the mid-1990s, and are we to believe they are no longer in operation? Would they not be able to successfully 'wash' the large sum netted in the Belfast Heist? Are we to believe the UDA is not capable of robbing a bank?
The refusal of the PSNI to even consider, let alone pursue, an investigation of the UDA is an injustice. It is not Sinn Féin, nor Gerry Adams which should be sidelined from the Peace Process, but Ian Paisley and his unionist underlings - which are not open to negotiations of any kind — that should be sidelined.
This letter is not intended to implicate the UDA in the raid; it is merely to assert my belief that Orde's investigation was poorly conducted, and did not consider the UDA, which is as likely — and perhaps more likely — to have the means available to carry out the raid as the IRA.
Orde's predisposition to seek out the IRA from the onset of the investigation meant a professional, fair, investigation was never a possibility. As such, his 'findings' should be taken as little more than speculation until evidence is produced.