Killing Republicans — That Was Not Our War

Killing Republicans — That Was Not Our War
Statement from Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman, former long-term prisoners, who set up the Republican Writers Group journal, Fourthwrite.

(This statement ran in the Irish News, 17.10.00)

13 years ago this week, Francisco Notorantonio was murdered on the orders of the British State. Last Friday his grandson was murdered in the same street.

Joseph O Connor, 26, father of three, was a Republican. Our stringent opposition to the Real IRA, of which he was a volunteer, in no way minimises our abhorrence towards his political assassination. He was part of a wider republican spectrum which exists in opposition to the Stormont regime. It was primarily his disagreement with the regime that cost him his life.

It is not our purpose to sensationalise the circumstances surrounding this political assassination. We are aware of the knock-on effects of spurious allegations and alarmism. But we shall not be intimidated, bribed or blackmailed by the imperatives of the peace process whereby we would emulate many in the media and politics who endlessly speculate about who might be responsible but ultimately avoid saying anything that ‘might not help the peace process’.

In the wake of the attack the Irish Republican Writers Group was asked to begin the unenviable task of interviewing people who in one form or another had knowledge of the event. Also interviewed were relatives of Joseph O’Connor. Despite the sensitivity the Writers Group felt compelled to probe, press and challenge, declining to accept anything that was speculative. As a result there is no room for doubt. We state publicly that it is our unshakeable belief that the Provisional IRA carried out this assassination.

BBC Panorama’s exploration of the Omagh bombing issue helped create a climate of moral anathema which was taken advantage of by those who killed Joseph O’Connor. It was subsequently made easier for them to assassinate a member of the Real IRA rather than other republicans opposed to the Stormont regime. The real purpose of the killing was not merely to kill a member of the Real IRA but also to kill off any semblance of alternative republicanism, even that which is exclusively peaceful in its opposition to the Stormont regime.

Whatever reasons given by the IRA leadership to its volunteers who were involved in the operation, this murder is a state killing, perpetrated by a movement that is deeply entrenched in the apparatus of government at Stormont. When a branch of the executive has at its disposal a private militia capable of and willing to politically assassinate republicans in nationalist communities we are left with Brown-shirtism. We are forced to ask what has really changed? Is the protection of a republican’s life from state murder a mere privilege determined by their attitude to the state?

We repudiate this political assassination, and we repudiate the motivations behind it. We reject totally any call for revenge and state unambiguously that there are no circumstances in which Real IRA activity against republicans or others could be justified. We call for an open inquiry monitored by international observers. We cannot abide the tragedy of this country’s history repeating itself in the murder of Irishmen by Irishmen in accordance with the needs of the British. What difference is there between the Free State murder of Rory O’Connor in defence of the 1922 British treaty and the murder of Joseph O’Connor in defence of the 1998 British treaty? Are the politics of Stormont republicanism so insecure and suspect that murder of republicans is required in their defence?

Assassination of republican by republican can never lay the foundation for a just and lasting peace. We do not believe actions such as the murder of Joseph O’Connor will lead us into a United Ireland, transitional or otherwise. We do not think the threats and intimidation that have surrounded Republicanism prior to Joseph O’Connor’s death and those threats sure to come indicate any hope for justice or freedom.

Friday’s murder has fuelled our increasing doubts as to whether our part in this war has been worth it. What did we fight to achieve? The state murder of republicans in order to secure political cleansing and impose conformity is not what our war was waged for. It is a most dishonourable outcome to an honourable struggle. We will never support the politics or politicians that this type of killing serves. We shall confront them at every turn through a strategy of relentless open critique. Armed only with the moral force of our ideas we shall promote republicanism and intellectual freedom against the now malign physical force of their guns. Republicanism should never again use guns in pursuit of its ideals but if we are unwilling to face guns in defence of those ideals we shall have neither ideals nor dignity.

Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman
Irish Republican Writers Group


17 October, 2000

The Irish Republican Writers Group condemns the sinister afternoon visit (17.10.00) to the home of Anthony McIntyre by leading members of the Provisional Republican Movement. We regard this as an attempt to intimidate, threaten, and frighten into silence both Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman.

Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman have made it clear that they are not spokespersons for any organisation apart from the IRWG. They are determined however that they will not remain silent about the murder of another republican.

Their position and that of the IRWG is unambiguous. No party has the right to kill a republican and thereafter escape public condemnation for their actions. To allow any party to do so would be to invite a situation similar to that pertaining to the Argentina of the Generals – where political opponents could disappear without trace or explanation and where a political opinion is held subject to the tolerance of the assassin.

The IRWG calls on all others who value freedom of speech, expression and conscience to publicly state their support for the stand taken by these two men.

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