[Marxism] Anthony McIntyre on IRA disarmament

Philip Ferguson philip.ferguson at canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Aug 2 16:11:09 MDT 2005

'My only emotion is indifference' 

The IRA member's reaction 

Anthony McIntyre
Sunday July 31, 2005
The Observer 

Anthony McIntyre served 18 years in prison for IRA activity. He is
currently a republican columnist with the online journal, the Blanket.

Whatever one may think of Seanna Walsh's views or his management style,
there can be little to quibble about when it comes to his courage and

A fully committed IRA volunteer who lasted the distance and mastered
challenges faced by few others, he was leader of the H-Blocks IRA in
1982 as it made the transition from prison protest to accommodation with
the regime. It was an accommodation that benefited the IRA much more
than it ever did the prison authorities.

In a twilight zone where the old certainties had crumbled for many of
us, Walsh had the necessary vision to set the IRA on course for some of
its most remarkable achievements in prison.

When I watched him read the IRA statement announcing a formal end to its
armed campaign against the British, my only emotion was indifference.
Better, no doubt, that he read it than some career-bent politician who
had shunned republicanism when association with it came bearing a hefty
price tag. It is difficult to work up the energy required to feel
something when formalities are all that we are left with. It is
comparable to receiving a death certificate many years after a loved one
has died. The raw emotion was vented at the time of the event rather
than at the point of its much-delayed announcement.

I have long come to accept that the IRA lost its war with the British
state. Whatever way it seeks to camouflage last week's statement in the
garb of ongoing struggle, it has effectively settled for an internal
Northern Ireland solution. Having Walsh read out the statement was an
attempt by the Provisional leadership to smuggle into the subtext the
imprimatur of Bobby Sands. We have no idea what Sands would have thought
today. But at the time his death was an act of defiance against
everything the Provisional movement has come to embrace today.

Throughout the peace process IRA volunteers were treated with contempt
by their own leadership; allowed no input, the end game was always
withheld from them. The British were never in any doubt where it was all
going. They assiduously aided the Sinn Fein leadership in its slow
strangulation of the IRA, which saw Western Europe's most formidable
guerrilla army degenerate into a new Official IRA - the Sticks - an
alternative republican body, regarded as traitors and despised by the
men of the Bobby Sands era.

Sands once famously remarked that our revenge would be the laughter of
our children. Our children, if they are generous, will not laugh at us
for fighting a futile war, merely for pretending that it was somehow

>From his grave Sands may ruefully ponder, 'for what?' From his own,
Cathal Goulding, long-time chief of the Official IRA, will smugly say:
'We are all Sticks now.'

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