Irish Blog Whacked

Monday, May 6, 2013


Monday 9th March 1981
I have left this rather late tonight and it is cold. The priest Fr Murphy was in. I had a discussion with him on the situation. He said he enjoyed our talk and was somewhat enlightened, when he was leaving.
On the subject of priests, I received a small note from a Fr S. C. from Tralee, Kerry, and some holy pictures of Our Lady. The thought touched me. If it is the same man, I recall him giving a lecture to us in Cage 11 some years ago on the right to lift arms in defence of the freedom of one’s occupied and oppressed nation. Preaching to the converted he was, but it all helps.
It is my birthday and the boys are having a sing-song for me, bless their hearts. I braved it to the door, at their request, to make a bit of a speech, for what it was worth. I wrote to several friends today including Bernie and my mother. I feel all right and my weight is 60 kgs.
I always keep thinking of James Connolly, and the great calm and dignity that he showed right to his very end, his courage and resolve. Perhaps I am biased, because there have been thousands like him but Connolly has always been the man that I looked up to.
I always have tremendous feeling for Liam Mellowes as well; and for the present leadership of the Republican Movement, and a confidence in them that they will always remain undaunted and unchanged. And again, dare I forget the Irish people of today, and the risen people of the past, they too hold a special place in my heart.
Well, I have gotten by twenty-seven years, so that is something. I may die, but the Republic of 1916 will never die. Onward to the Republic and liberation of our people.      
Bobby Sands

The recruit is also made aware of the importance of another tenet forced on the I.R.A. by harsh experience: motivation. Mindful of the splits and informers which grew out of both internment and more particularly the I.R.A.'s own blanket style of recruiting, he is warned.
The Army as an organisation claims and expects your total allegiance without reservation. It enters into every aspect of your life. It invades the privacy of your home life, it fragments your family and friends, in other words claims your total allegiance.All potential volunteers must realise that the threat of capture and of long jail sentences are a very real danger and a shadow which hangs over every volunteer. Many in the past joined the Army out of romantic notions, or sheer adventure, but when captured and jailed they had after-thoughts about their allegiance to the Army. They realised at too late a stage that they had no real interest in being volunteers. This causes splits and dissension inside prisons and divided families and neighbours outside. Another important aspect all potential volunteers should think about is their ability to obey orders from a superior officer. All volunteers must obey orders issued to them by a superior officer regardless of whether they like the particular officer or not.
This motivation is not merely expected to carry the volunteer through vicissitudes such as capture, interrogation and prison; it is expected to sustain him to the Movement's ultimate political goal - a socialist Republic. It is dinned into him that military action is an extension of political action, therefore the military campaign of the I.R.A. is in effect a political campaign. The recruit is told bluntly: 'people with no political concepts have no place in the Army.' Furthermore, those concepts must be of a particular type: 'All potential volunteers must be socialist in outlook.' The recruit is given a very clear eyed vision of the facts.
Before any potential volunteer decides to join the Irish Republican Army he should understand fully and clearly the issues involved. He should not join the Army because of emotionalism, sensationalism, or adventurism. He should examine fully his own motives, knowing the dangers involved and knowing that he will find no romance within the Movement. Again he should examine his political motives bearing in mind that the Army are intent on creating a Socialist Republic.

Life in an underground army is extremely harsh and hard, cruel and disillusioning at times. So before any person decides to join the Army he should think seriously about the whole thing."  

Green Book


... only to end up ourselves beneath the blade of a Committee of Public Safety or some Dictator of the Proletariat … Nicos Poulantzas

When Bobby Sands died on hunger strike 32 years ago today, for a short time he pushed republicanism into a moral stratosphere from where it could gaze down on its critics, detractors and opponents. It was a commanding height, attained courtesy of interminable suffering, that was never going to be held for long despite the enormous selflessness of the Sands action.  The exigencies of armed conflict, the persistently ebbing support for armed struggle, the relentless attrition and unremitting war fatigue all combined to paint armed republicanism into a corner where strategic versatility was heavily circumscribed. Yet for all of that Bobby Sands and the nine comrades who followed in his wake left a footprint which has never been erased from public consciousness.

Before Richard O’Rawe came along and began his lonely endeavour of chipping away at the block lie, a narrative was set in stone that helped keep the public misinformed. In addition to mediator Brendan Duddy two groups of people knew how fallacious the narrative was and for different reasons these two bodies had little incentive to be forthcoming about the events of 1981. The Committee for Prisoner Safety that ran the hunger strike, to the exclusion of the prisoners on strike, banked all the capital that accrued from ten men dead, using it to promote the political career of its leader to whose wagon it was firmly hitched.  It wasn’t going to rain on its own parade. Until lately the British maintained radio silence although it is inconceivable that they did not put their wealth of  knowledge to major strategic use even though the public might have to wait a while yet to discover the finer details of whatever nefarious transaction occurred there.

The false narrative depicted the British Prime Minister of the day as the Iron Lady who would neither yield nor turn, her intransigence tactile rather than tactical:  despite their best efforts the hunger strikers had failed to break the woman and in the end her malevolence won the physical battle while their victory was a moral one

Since the 2005 publication of Blanketmen, clarity has displaced the manufactured clouds that shielded the false narrative. The Committee has fulminated and fumed against O’Rawe but was possessed of neither the punching power to take him out nor the ring craft to evade his hand speed. Now the ring is his to discourse freely from without any fear of serious challenge. As the late Springhill republican Harriet Kelly was fond of saying, there is a hundred ways to lie but only one way to tell the truth. It has been the one way with O’Rawe since his counter narrative emerged. Assailed by a barrage of lies from the managers of mendacity it has withstood everything hurled at it.

Margaret Thatcher outlived Bobby Sands by almost 32 years. Yet there is a certain irony in that she of all people, the bane of the hunger strikers, has posthumously acknowledged their victory though the release of her archive. She has restored to them the victory the Committee robbed them of. The lady who was not for turning was forced to turn by the moral force of the hunger strikers combined to British state strategic acuity which was even at that juncture moulding a leadership that in the language of diplomacy it could do business with or, in the language of counter insurgency, bring to heel and co-opt.

What is galling about documentation that has been making its way into the public domain is that the British interlocutors dealing with the Committee were ‘appalled’ that the Committee men would continue to refuse an offer that would have ended the hunger strike and saved six lives. The prisoners had already accepted the offer and transmitted this to the Committee which overruled them and sabotaged the transmission of their acceptance to the British, thus ensuring only one outcome: coffins on the streets. The Committee had objectives other than saving prisoners’ lives on its agenda.

Richard O’Rawe, comrade of the hunger strikers, foil of the Committee of slayers, no longer requires vindication. His case is proven beyond all doubt. The Committee cannot even take shelter behind the Scottish legal verdict of 'not proven'. Exposed in its disgusting betrayal of great men its own sorry lot could never hope to match, it can claim its rightful spot in the Hall of Shame.

It is a place where Bobby Sands will never be afforded space.