● ‘Own up to killing’ – Republican Sinn Féin
Republican Sinn Féin deplores the shooting dead of Joe O’Connor of Ballymurphy in Belfast today by an unknown element. We call on those responsible for this deliberate shooting to declare themselves and spell out to the people what their motives are. Local sources indicate that the deceased was associated with the 32-County Sovereignty Movement. Republican Sinn Féin has no hesitation in condemning this action and points out the obvious dangers that lie ahead. We demand that those who killed Joe O’Connor take responsibility publicly for their action and we express sympathy to his family and friends.
● Belfast RSF offices raided – political expression denied
In an obvious attempt to shore up the tottering position of David Trimble in the UUP the British Crown Forces (RUC) have this afternoon raided the public offices of Republican Sinn Féin at 229 Falls Road, Belfast. By clamping down hard on legitimate political expression of opposition to the Stormont Agreement and the promotion of the Republican alternative to it — ÉIRE NUA, the British occupation regime in Ireland hopes to rescue Mr Trimble and placate the hard-line unionist opposition to him. What price now freedom of political expression under the new Stormont? Republican prisoners are denied political status in Maghaberry prison and open political opposition is blatantly harassed.
● Belfast killing: RSF protests at intimidation of political commentators
In our statement of October 13 last issued immediately following the shooting dead of Joseph O’Connor of Ballymurphy, Belfast, Republican Sinn Féin deplored the killing and called on those responsible to “declare themselves and spell out to the people what their motives were”. Later the Irish Republican Writers’ Group which is opposed to armed struggle was asked to investigate the assassination. Their conclusions were published in the Belfast Irish News of October 17. Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman said: “We state publicly that it is our unshakeable belief that the Provisional IRA carried out this assassination”. They went on: “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”. On the evening of the publication of that report Anthony McIntyre was visited in his home by two members of the Provisional IRA. Regardless of what was said to him the intention was obvious — to intimidate him and stop his political commentary. Republican Sinn Féin condemns this attempted intimidation of a respected ex-prisoner and political commentator which was carried out in a most blatant fashion. We assure Anthony McIntyre and those associated with him of our fullest support against this latest manifestation of the physical repression of those opposed to the Stormont Agreement.
Similarly, on October 17 also, the administrator of the Alternative Republican Bulletin Board on the Internet was confronted personally by two senior Provisionals and as a result of the ensuing exchanges she felt that her life was being threatened. Accordingly she feels constrained to close down the Bulletin Board. So much for openness and transparency under the new Stormont régime. Republican Sinn Féin calls for protest against these denials of freedom of political expression. Are alternative viewpoints now to be suppressed?
● IRSP: Independent inquiry necessary
PRESS RELEASE – PRESS RELEASE – PRESS RELEASE
Re: Vol. J.J. O Connor, Independent inquiry necessary- IRSP
The IRSP are supporting the call by senior non aligned republicans for an independent inquiry into the murder of Oglaigh na heireann Volunteer Jo Jo O’Connor in Ballymurphy.
IRSP Ard Comhairle representative Paul Little said:
“The murder of Vol. O’Connor stands a damning indictment on those who claim to be representing mainstream Irish republicanism, there is little doubt that this was a state sponsored killing, the facts remain irrefutable, a republican lies murdered in his own estate and the only people who benefit from his death are the British and their administration in Ireland. The republican family reject totally this cowardly action and those who carried out this foul deed should find no succour within the republican working class community, there can never be any excuse for republican killing republican. The IRSP say this fully conscious of our own past difficulties when the republican socialist movement came under armed attack.”
In conclusion the IRSP representative said-
To J.J. O’Connors comrades we would say we understand your need for revenge but would caution against a military response., The perpetrators of this vile deed need to stand exposed and isolated for what they are and what they are doing. Let the combined moral weight of Irish republicanism and of our working class communities send the message loud and clear to his killers that they do not have any political or moral mandate to carry out these anti-republican campaigns.”
● Sympathy to the O’Connor family
To Joseph O’Connor’s family I offer sincere condolence. His assassins rendered a service to their masters in Westminster, in Stormont, and Leinster House. They added their names to the turncoats and traitors of the past. The best tribute we can offer Joseph now is to complete his unfinished work, which is to drive the Brits out of Ireland. They have been there too long already. Let the Irish people take control of their own destiny.
● RSF condemns Belfast picketing of political commentators’ homes
Republican Sinn Féin condemns last night’s picketing of the homes in Belfast of Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman by the Provisionals. Both men, as members of the Irish Republican Writers Group had blamed the Provos for last week’s assassination of Joseph O’Connor in Ballymurphy. The victim’s mother and the speaker at his funeral — Marian Price — also indicted the Provos but it was the writers who were singled out for intimidation following aggressive visits to their homes. Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman are established political commentators. Is no one to be allowed to criticise the Provos? Where stands freedom of political expression?
● STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF ANTHONY MCINTYRE AND TOMMY GORMAN
The Socialist Workers Party wishes to express its deep concern at the intimidation of members of the Republican Writers Group in west Belfast.
After issuing a statement concerning the killing of Joe O’Connor in Ballymurphy, Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman have been subjected to veiled threats and pickets of their homes. Anthony McIntyre, along with his wife and children, has been forced to leave his home as a result. We believe that these actions can only be designed to create an atmosphere of intimidation and to prevent free speech.
The Republican Writers Group members have made it clear that their statement was not intended to endanger anyone. However, it appears that others have seized on it as an opportunity to try to close down debate. This is a deplorable denial of freedom and should be opposed by anyone concerned with the democratic right to free speech.
The Republican Writers Group has provided a valuable forum for an open discussion of the future for republicanism, the struggle for socialism in Ireland and other political issues, while at all times rejecting any suggestion of a return to armed struggle. They are to be congratulated for having had the courage to do this. The interest which their magazine has sparked is clear proof of the wide desire for such a debate.
But this debate isn’t welcome to those who feel they shouldn’t have to establish their entitlement to the support of the Nationalist community but who rather claim authority over it.
It is a matter of concern that some members of Sinn Fein are reported to have been involved in the intimidation of the members of the RWG. It is ironic, to say the least, that members of parties which were once themselves denied the right to free speech by the British establishment are now involved in denying the same right to others.
On behalf of the Socialist Workers Party
● Letters to the Editor, Irish News, Irish Echo, Irish Voice
The Killing of Joseph O’Connor
We the undersigned wish to express our growing alarm at the circumstances surrounding the recent murder of Joseph O’Connor in Belfast. Mr. O’Connor was reportedly associated with the ‘Real IRA’ and the dissident republican organization, ‘The 32 County Sovereignty Committee’. Mr. O’Connor’s family have held the Provisional Republican Movement responsible for his death. If this is the case it would mark a very dangerous turn of events in Northern Ireland.
Members of the Republican Writers Group — former IRA prisoners who advocate a non-violent, free exchange of ideas about the Peace Process — were asked to conduct a preliminary investigation into the killing. The ‘Writers Group’ issued a statement published in the Irish News stating that their inquiries concluded that “the Provisional IRA carried out this assassination.” We are not in a position to know whether this is the case or not. However, the fact that a prominent member of the ‘Writers Group’, Anthony McIntyre was subsequently threatened by senior Provisionals does little to allay suspicions and a lot to instil fear in the nationalist community in the North.
It is one of the unfortunate residues of the republican tradition that political disagreements are often “settled” by violence. The free and unfettered flow of ideas is fundamental to any democratic society and the right to dissent must be respected by all. The use of assassination and threat to intimidate those with whom you don’t agree is a censorship that should be denounced by all democrats.
Regardless of one’s view of violent organizations like the Real IRA, the killing of Joseph O’Connor demands an independent inquiry by respected human rights leaders. An inquiry should attempt to both clarify the circumstances of his death and determine the organization responsible. It is in the interests of all those who value freedom of expression that such an independent inquiry should take place. Truth and accountability should always take precedence over fear and paranoia.
Mary Elizabeth Bartholomew, Attorney
Sandy Boyer – Human Rights Activist
Kathy Byrne – Human Rights Activist
T.J. English, Author
Patrick Farrelly – Journalist
Brendan Fay – Lesbian and Gay Rights Activist
Laura Flanders, Journalist and Broadcaster
Mary Ellen Grogan – Human Rights Activist
Janet Noble – Playwright
Kate O’Callaghan, Journalist
Larry Ottway, Musician
James Ridgeway, Journalist
Mary Ann Wadden – Independent Curator
New York City
● SICKENED AND DISGUSTED
I am writing to express my utter disgust on hearing that Tommy Gorman and Anthony McIntyre have been leaned on by Pro-Treaty forces, for their investigation into the assassination of Vol. Joe O’Connor. The IRWG/Forthwrite has consistently maintained its integrity in a sea of Republican discussion, and is greatly respected here in the United States.
It is sad indeed that the dark days of the 1920s are visiting us once again. Now is the time for all Anti-Treaty Irish Republicans to band together, and loudly condemn Treaty thugs who are now enforcing British rule in Ireland.
Irish Freedom Committee/Cumann na Saoirse
● KEEPING THE FAITH
To: Anthony McIntyre
Republican Writers Group
Just a few lines to offer my support (Easy from a distance of 6,000 miles) for the courageous stand taken by yourself and Gorman over the killing of Joseph O’Connor. It is nothing short of tragedy, that the quest for political power and dominance of the nationalist community, by some elements of the Republican family, have degenerated to such depths of depravity. I am confident however, that our people, who have shown such wisdom, courage and determination, in their struggle for freedom and justice these many years, will accept the political leadership of those who would stifle dissent within their own community by acts of terrorism reminiscent of the murder gangs of Britain and the Stormont junta.
Keep the faith.
● SOLIDARITY GREETINGS
The attempted intimidation of Anthony McIntyre and the IRWG should be condemned by all those, whatever their own political views, who support the right to think, speak and act politically. The creation of a forum for real, free dialogue and debate on republicanism and related political issues was long overdue when IRWG was founded, and Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman should be congratulated and supported for their courage in doing so, especially within the context of such bitter divisions in republican circles.
● Article from Padraig MacGill
The abandonment of traditional Republican principles by the Provisional Movement has, understandably, caused much hurt and even bitterness. It’s heartbreaking to remember that, once, the name “Provisional IRA,” stood for what was best and most enduring about the Irish nation. Many great men and women were proud to give their lives and liberties as soldiers in that proud army. After the murder of Vol. Joe O’Connor the initials PIRA can only stir the same feelings of repulsion among Republicans as do the words Free State Army.
As Ruiri O Bradaigh said in his interview with IRWG it’s not like if Republicans had not been through this often enough. It’s happened with Cumman na nGael, Fianna Fail, Clann na Poblachta, the Officials and now the Provisionals. It’s surprising that we do not recognise the absolute inevitability of such defections, focus on the huge task of recovering from them and even begin putting them to good use. And good use can be made of them. Every time the enemy absorbs part of the Republican Movement his strength is, for a while, dissipated. I live in the Free State and the atmosphere here is hugely different from a few years ago when the gloom of special branch paranoia held all intellectual endeavour in thrall. The special branch may still be making a general nuisance of themselves but their influence is receding to the drinking clubs and brothels where these louts hang out. I think the very existence of the IRWG shows that a similar fresh breeze is blowing in the occupied six counties. Similarly, the fact that London and Dublin newspapers are now printing details of British Army and RUC murder campaigns is evidence of changed times. (Though, this is only happening because the British establishment feels that the war is over and that they have won.)
We have to accept that as military leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were pretty hopeless. On the other hand they are very successful vote getters and will, sooner rather than later, be propping up a Fianna Fail administration in the 26 counties. There is a huge market in the 32 counties for an advanced Nationalist party with slightly left leaning policies and a slight whiff of sulphur about them. It’s the same market that DeVelera was so successful in grabbing. It’s a market that’s strictly off limits to unrepentant Republicans. In the late twentieth century men like Adams and McGuinness could not be expected to stay in their ghettoes when this prize was so patently within their grasp.
One final act remains before Provisional Sinn Fein can go on to become one of the most popular parties in Ireland. They must destroy their weapons, thus accepting the legitimacy of British and Free State rule in Ireland and the illegitimacy of all armed struggle against it. I believe the sooner this happens the better. For one thing the provos will no longer be in a position to murder Republicans. (Natives always made the best state assassins.) But more importantly the traditional Oglaigh na hEireann will be able to re-emerge from the ashes, and, hopefully, this time be ready when the people are ready.
● O’Connor killing puts Provos on the spot: Letter to Irish News
REFERENCE the cold-blooded murder of the young west Belfast man Joseph O’Connor and the controversy surrounding the killing.
May I first offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Like many people, I have listened to Joseph O’Connor’s mother on TV stating quite clearly that local residents had witnessed the identity of those responsible for her son’s murder and they were well-known Provisionals operating locally.
Bearing in mind that Ballymurphy is not exactly a cosmopolitan neighbourhood, with due respect to the residents, it is therefore highly unlikely that it could be a case of mistaken identity on behalf of those who witnessed the evil act.
We then had the normally word-perfect senior Sinn Fein member Gerry Kelly on TV attempting to heap scorn on the theory of any Provisional involvement in the killing.
However, he failed miserably to offer any evidence to counter the claims referred to earlier. Why?
Furthermore, Mr Kelly is reported in your paper as saying that he regretted the killing but would not condemn it, claiming ‘this was his party’s consistent position on violence’.
Surely, if we don’t condemn violence – whether it be state violence or otherwise – then we are seen to condone that violence!
By marked contrast, the statement by the two much-respected former PIRA political prisoners, Tommy Gorman and Anthony McIntyre, shows that they reached their conclusion after doing extensive interviews with people who ‘in one form or another, had knowledge of the event’.
They, unlike the Sinn Fein representative, reject violence ‘unambiguously’.
Of course I – like many millions of others – have no way of knowing, apart from responsible journalism, who it was who took such a hideous decision to murder young Joseph O’Connor.
As a life-long active trade unionist and socialist, I am deeply concerned that it appears there have been no lessons learned from the terrible suffering of our fellow working class people on the nearby Shankill Road as a result of such mindless behaviour.
It will take all of Gerry Adams’s diplomatic skills to show leadership in the aftermath of this terrible act.
Hopefully it was not, as suggested elsewhere, a political assassination.
If it transpires that the opposite is true, it is imperative that those who are found to be responsible are dealt with, not violently, by the leadership of their organisation.
Failure to deal with this case as openly as possible will only serve to further undermine the already questionable present Sinn Fein policy.
Labhras Mac Caoilte, Dun Na nGall
● There is something rotten…
Quite a lot has been said and written recently about Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman’s public intervention in reaction to the killing of Joe O’Connor. But nothing has been said about what type of political effects they were trying to achieve. Politics is basically about structural balance of forces, and both O’Connor’s killing and Anthony McIntyre/Tommy Gorman’s public intervention in reaction to it has to be assessed within this framework. This intervention was fundamentally necessary, as the political establishment was very keen to put O’Connor’s killing under the carpet. The usual scenes of hysteria manifested by the Irish and British Government, the Unionists, the Catholic Church and the SDLP (not mentioning Sinn Fein!), as well as their mouthpieces in the media have been very absent after this killing. Someone had to establish what had happened, what this latest development means politically, for the sake of republicanism itself.
Some criticize Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman for calling their own inquiry into J. O’Connor’s death saying that it would have been better if they had let investigative journalists such as Ed Moloney or Suzanne Breen to establish PIRA’s responsibility in the killing. This criticism ignores the strategic value of McIntyre and Gorman’s approach. One has to judge such actions on the political effect generated by them and how they affect the existing balance of forces. If it had been left to investigative journalists to establish the responsibility of the Provisional IRA in O’Connor’s killing, the political effects would have not been the same. The fact that it is someone from Ballymurphy rather than Lisburn Road affects differently the balance of forces within republicanism. It is far more threatening for the Provisional leadership if it is people from the republican grassroots that denounce the killing rather than someone external to the republican community. It means that there are people within the republican community who escape from the control of the leadership and dare to manifest some form of independence. This might encourage other people to imitate them, and means the Provisional might loose further control over the republican community. The Provisionals perfectly understand this as their virulent reaction to McIntyre and Gorman’s position attests. Such a virulent reaction shows how weak the Provisional movement position is, as they feel threatened not just by the “criticism of weapons” of the RIRA, but by the simple “weapon of criticism”.
A basic axiom of politics is that what is good is what strengthens your position and weakens the enemy. By killing O’Connor, the Provisionals thought that they would strengthen their position by sending the message to so-called “dissidents” saying “Look what happens if you try to challenge us in our areas”. But far from weakening so-called “dissidents” and strengthening the Provisionals, it has actually weakened the latter and strengthened the former. The unintended consequence of killing O’Connor for the Provos has been that far from undermining support for the “Real IRA”, it strengthens the idea that the Provisionals are policing nationalist areas in the interests of the British in the same way that the Palestinian Authority polices the Gaza Strip in the interests of Israel. If Provo guns are no longer used against British troops, they are being now used against “true” republicans. The political effects for the Provisionals in the longer term are disastrous.
The political effects generated by McIntyre and Gorman’s strategic intervention show that we have arrived not only at a situation where guns are used to settle political differences, which expresses a lack of internal democracy within republicanism and a profound lack of tolerance of internal dissent, but also at a point where it becomes necessary to kill in order to maintain “peace” and “equality”. It proves that there is something fundamentally rotten within republicanism, and we cannot remain silent about it… For expressing such an opinion, Gorman and McIntyre have been branded “fellow travellers of the Real IRA”. This clearly is a lie, as they have made clear on many occasion that they opposed the RIRA campaign. It proves the point they are making is fundamentally right. What they are trying to achieve is not a return to war, but to create the greatest possible amount of internal democracy within republicanism and create a situation where the events of the past few weeks will no longer be possible.
● Ciaren Perry, Dublin, writes in support of the IRWG
Having worked with the Provos on numerous campaigns over the years ranging from Anti-extradition to anti drugs it comes as no surprise the intimidation that Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman are currently facing. The actual end result of a campaign appears to be secondary compared to controlling it. If the Provos can’t control a campaign they would rather see it shut down, no matter how successful it has been. Having said that, even a cynic like myself was shocked to see what appears to have been the political assassination of a Republican rival, Joe O’Connor. Inter Republican conflict and killing have been regular occurrences in the current phase of the struggle in the 6 counties, the Officials against the Provos, the Officials against the INLA, the IPLO against the INLA etc…but rarely has a killing on the Republican side been so obviously in the interest of the state. It is very telling that in a country where there is usually a lengthy queue to be quoted condemning this and that ‘Terrorist’ action the silence on the killing of Joe O’Connor is deafening. No soundbites of condemnation from Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, Ulster Unionist Party, Democratic Unionist Party, SDLP, Sinn Fein or any of the usual media sources. Tacit approval appears to be the order of the day. I offer my support, for what its worth, to those involved in the Irish Republican Writers Group for providing a much needed focus for the on going debate within Republicanism. It is a sad reflection on the strength of the arguments of those opposed to McIntyre and Gorman that intimidation and rumour are the only tactics they feel can counter the arguments of the IRWG. Ironically, McIntyre and the rest of the IRWG have provided a piercing political analysis of those continuing the armed struggle whereas the Provos hypocritical opposition of “our bomb good, your bomb bad” will inevitably lead to confirmation in the minds of those still fighting, of the futility of politics.
Cieran Perry. Dublin.
● Letter from Padraic Finn
I am writing to express my concern at your treatment by elements within Sinn Fein, designed apparently to stifle discussion and debate within the republican and socialist movements. As a long-standing member of solidarity campaigns and organisations I can only conclude that the defenders of the Stormont Agreement are willing to go to any length to prevent open debate about the “peace process”. Can it be long before a “Palestinian solution” is carried out by the SF leadership at the behest of the British? This led to the torture and imprisonment by Arafat of his former comrades who opposed the Israeli state, aided and abetted by the Israeli secret police.
That is not to say that I support a “return to war”: I don’t, but I do believe that disagreements among republicans should be sorted out by dialogue and not by the gun. If we go down that route then our enemies will have an easier and more overwhelming victory.
● Support for victims of intimidation
The political debate around the Stormont deal has been lost by the Provisionals. The latest chapter of humiliation for the provos came with the decision of the UUC to yet again rewrite the “agreement” in their meeting at the end of October. It is obvious that Trimble and co cannot even be bothered to “housetrain” the provos anymore.
Events of recent weeks have witnessed the clearest exposure of the agreement that is possible. The Stormont deal was about “debate” “openness” a rejection of “violence” its supporters told us. Yet the reality is it has never been more dangerous to articulate the Republican position. To simply say that you believe that the British governments role in Ireland is one that should end before we can have real justice and peace invites death and intimidation to your door. To point out the glaring fact that the provos have sold out Republican principles has a similar result.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my full support to those in the Republican Writers Group and others who have been victims of the provos fascism.
The Republican argument shines brightly, it is up to those who care to articulate our vision at every opportunity.
David McSweeney. Drogheda, Co. Louth
● Deep sense of unease: Letter in Andersontown News
I, along with many other people in West Belfast and beyond, felt a deep sense of unease and dismay when I heard of the killing of RIRA member Joe O’Connor.
I have no direct knowledge of the killing but I have no reason to doubt the findings of Tommy Gorman and Tony McIntyre, members of the Republican Writers Group. They are not members of the Provisionals or of the Real IRA, and they had no axe to grind when they accused the Provisional IRA of carrying out the killing.
There is, unfortunately, a long history of armed disputes within republicanism. There is an equally long history of mediation and of appeals to third parties. What is new is the current intervention of Sinn Féin and their open physical intimidation of Gorman and McIntyre.
Even in the worst of days over the past 30 years, working class people in nationalist areas were able to speak their minds. It would be a terrible irony if one of the first outcomes of a process claimed to be leading to a better life would be the transformation of republican areas into places of silence and fear.
I call on political activists, trade unionists, working class militants and all those who value free speech to contact the Sinn Féin leadership and protest their intimidation of Tommy Gorman and Tony McIntyre.
● The full, unedited statement of Tommy Gorman to the Irish News on 20, October, 2000.
Having talked with many of my friends and neighbours, I am now aware of the distress caused by the recent statement issued by myself and Anthony McIntyre on Tuesday 17 October 2000 and carried in the Irish News of that date. My purpose was not to cause distress and it was certainly not my intention to endanger anyone.
My only concern was to prevent further internecine bloodletting. It was and remains my opinion that this is best done by the achievement of two things.
First is the realisation that nobody can be shot dead without questions being asked as to the reason and the source of the action.
Secondly that by demonstrating clearly that it is possible to use moral persuasion to prevent further loss of life, angry young men may be dissuaded from resorting to bloodletting in a misguided attempt to seek revenge.
My first objective has in some way been fulfilled and I pray that my second objective remains a reality.
● Jim McCorry in the Andersontown News
I can both understand and appreciate the anger which clearly motivated the letter in last week’s columns attacking Tommy Gorman and Anthony McIntyre – ‘We Want the Facts’, October 4.
Through his apology, Tommy Gorman has acknowledged that he made a mistake.
He cannot undo that mistake, although he can respond to the possible consequences as much as possible – as he has done.
The reality is that we all make mistakes. It is part of the human condition.
Whatever any of us do or say has the potential to be ‘wrong’. Equally our mistakes also provide an opportunity for learning and growth.
I believe this is such an opportunity. Republicans are just as vulnerable to making mistakes as anyone else, and indeed have made and acknowledged many over the years.
We seem, however, to have a difficulty in confronting what seems to be a tendency of ‘personality attacks’ based on aggressive criticism and negative labelling of anyone who disagrees with us.
This trend has permeated the republican tradition since its inception and indeed has been assiduously cultivated by successive British government over the past two centuries to our collective detriment. Attacking individuals for perceived or real mistakes allows us to ignore the issues they are raising.
It acts to divide and confuse, and prevents us from addressing the problems which give rise to the differences in the first instance.
And there are issues which need to be discussed even though many people may feel that an open discussion at this time is divisive.
Tommy Gorman, and others, have been attempting to raise them and no-one has more right to ask questions than Tommy.
I am one of those who believe that the existing political strategy of Sinn Féin, in as much as I understand it, had a validity. In the face of the only existing alternative, armed struggle divorced from political directive, it’s worth exploring.
I do not, however, think it will lead us toward that new Ireland which many of us believed was the purpose of the struggle. That is not the fault of Sinn Féin. Those of us who seek that goal have yet to provide a viable alternative.
I also believe that even if the existing Sinn Féin strategy (or is it tactic?) is successful in the terms of those who actively promote it, that it holds great dangers.
With the best possible intentions, each of us can be caught implementing a process which becomes an end in itself.
Power corrupts and access to power is only allowed if it holds no challenges to the existing relationships and institutions.
This system will allow us to be gatekeepers as long as we keep the rabble out of their garden.
As I watch the processing of power in our communities over the past few years, I do believe that we have to be continually aware that any strategy is only as significant as its role in contributing to the building of the sort of society we are striving to achieve. A large part in ensuring that there is a critical awareness of possible dangers in anything we do is provided by those who ask us questions, however unpopular that may be.
Tommy Gorman has been to the fore in doing that. As the Desiderata says: ‘we need to listen to others, even those we label dull or ignorant, they too have their story’.
I regard Tommy Gorman as neither dull nor ignorant but know he has a contribution to make to a much needed discussion.
To allow that discussion to unfold I would plead that we all learn the lessons of listening, and allowing others to question, and to make mistakes in the process, without engaging in vitriolic attacks which serve little and damage much.
● Tommy Answers Back
Andersonstown News, 25 November 2000
One reasonably sure way for people to get into the letters column of a newspaper is to have an anonymous letter writer launch a less than courageous attack on them in an earlier letter. Once access, through the right to reply, has been acquired it is prudent to ignore those too fearful to stand over what they say and use the space to address matters of substance rather than to explore the meanderings of such a feeble mind.
Some media coverage of late pertaining to myself and Anthony McIntyre has been less than accurate and in a minority of cases, most notably that of one Sunday conduit masquerading as a writer, downright malicious. Elsewhere, well-intentioned claims that either of us had made a mistake and now recognise the error of our ways are not borne out by the facts. Republicans should neither kill nor be killed. More than anything else, it is the failure of others to speak out on such matters which makes our position appear all the more trenchant. The situation is exacerbated when some, such as the comradely Jim McCorry, think that one of us may have more right to speak than others. This is wrong. Everyone has an equal right to express their views whatever their perspective, past or present. To argue otherwise is to give people a privileged advantage which actually runs against the grain of the democratic free flow of ideas.
Freedom of political expression is a necessity if republicanism is to fulfil its stated task of liberation. The absence of such freedom may be measured by the price we have paid for adhering to this principle. Intimidation, harassment and vilification have become the stock-in-trade for those who wish to suppress this fundamental right. That is not to say that all who oppose us resort to this. Indeed a substantial number of our critics have waged courageous and up-front critiques of our position.
In any event, despite the cost we have never shied away from publicly identifying ourselves as the authors of anything we may have said. Those who want to speak to the public should not do so with a bag over their heads. Or is contempt for the public such that the public have no right to know who is speaking publicly? Indeed, our refusal to hide behind cowardly anonymity has marked us out for the demonisation we endure.
The American death row writer Mumia Abu-Jamal recently said that ‘I hated the fear that loomed over me as I approached stories or subjects that I knew could get me into trouble.’ And so it has been with us. But that fear must be confronted or nothing will change. It is never easy but we are at all times prepared to risk public flak and organised hounding. Others who have only the cowardice of their convictions seek to hide behind the shield of a pen name and engage in the practice of Swingerology – taking anonymous swingers at those prepared to be openly forthright in their views. Small wonder that we waste no time in debating with such types. What price do they have to pay for standing over whatever views they hold? Obviously, they have no faith in their own position – otherwise why distance their identity from it?
The struggle for freedom of political expression shall continue unabated. Escaping censored Ireland rather than reinforcing its existence has been a prime objective of Irish republicanism. This requires the taking of certain risks. It is an objective that shall never be achieved if a situation prevails where the true renegades are those who renege from their own identities.
● Second picket on writer’s home condemned
Republican Sinn Fein
November 2, 2000
Republican Sinn Fein, Belfast condemns the staged managed pickets on the home of Anthony McIntyre. The second such picket was staged on Wednesday night, November 1.
Anthony McIntyre has given a life’s service to the Republican cause; he is an ex-prisoner and is now a member of the Republican Writers’ Group.
There is no doubt in anyones mind that these pickets are being carried out because Mr McIntyre spoke out against the murder of Mr Joe O’Connor. Free speech is not fashionable with the Provisionals these days.
Republican Sinn Fein calls on every one, Republican and nationalist, to open their eyes to the injustice being carried out in the name of Republicanism in their areas.
The Provisionals rent-a-mob tactic is an oppressive action. Those taking part are playing England’s game. Reject this role the Provisionals would have you play.
Stand up and defend the right to free speech. Don’t suppress it.
● Letter to Andersontown News, 7th November, 2000 Republican Sinn Fein, Belfast
In the past number of weeks Republican Sinn Fein Belfast have released a number of statements.
One of those statements released on October 25th called for a community inquiry into the killing of Mr. Joe O’Connor. We called for a community inquiry because of the climate of uncertainty and tension that was and still is gripping Ballymurphy and Belfast.
We rejected calls for a public inquiry because we do not believe such an inquiry with the end of naming individuals would alleviate the concerns and fears in Republican/Nationalist areas. We also believe a public inquiry would raise tensions and would lead without a doubt to more killings. A community inquiry would have the end aim of naming the organisation responsible for the killing of Mr O’Connor.
The Andersontown News got that statement in full but did not print it. On Monday, 6th November the Andersontown News carried another story of the ongoing pickets at the home of Anthony McIntyre; unbiased towards any group or party and stating the facts as they see them, the Andersontown News cherry picked over the latest Republican Sinn Fein statement, using the rhetoric normally found in the pages of gutter press papers, branding Anti-Stormont Agreement Republicans as dissidents, yet Republican Sinn Fein has stayed true to Republican principles. Your paper also made Republican Sinn Fein out to be the Calvary coming to the aid of Anthony McIntyre, which just isn’t the case. Anthony McIntyre is very able to stand up for himself. Free speech as far as Republican Sinn Fein is concerned is worth standing up for and standing against those who try and suppress it.
Monday’s Andersontown News stated that Mr. McIntyre and Tommy Gorman named individuals. This is not the case. Both men named the organisation that was blamed for carrying out the killing of Mr. O’Connor.
We would point to the fact that some individuals on those pickets holding cards that state their relations are innocent, surely is putting lives in danger. We would call for all those taking part in these pickets to join in the call for a community inquiry. Republican Sinn Fein would also point out that Mr McIntyre is not a member of our party, he hold different views from Republican Sinn Fein and has made that plain to us. He has every right to promote his views in any way he sees fitting. But we are united in one view: the right to free speech without being attacked for it. It has been stated that the pickets are peaceful. The term peaceful doesn’t take in the stress caused to a pregnant woman when 70 to 100 people turned up at her door, and the mum to be ends up in hospital because of it.
Republican Sinn Fein calls on everyone to rethink the situation, and to set about setting up a community inquiry into the killing of Mr. O’Connor.
We also hope that the Andersontown News will be seen to stand up for free speech even if they don’t agree with the party or group that releases statements to its paper.
Seosamh O Leogain
● Intimidation of republicans must end – IRSP
The IRSP Ard Comhairle is calling on the Provisional republican movement and its supporters to end the intimidation of JJ O’Connor’s widow and young children. IRSP Ard Comhairle representative Paul Little said;
“We would call on the leadership of Provisional Sinn Fein to immediately call off its baying hounds from the O’Connor family, this family have done nothing wrong, indeed they were one of the many families who gave succour and support to the provisional movement over their 25 years of struggle.
Those within the working class community who deem themselves to be a cut above their neighbours because of their association with new Sinn Fein should hang their heads in shame. By their use of tactics that can only be described as nazi and anti community they and they alone are bringing our long suffering communities into disrepute.”
In conclusion the IRSP representative said;
“Is this the political change that we were promised, swapping British stormtroopers for Provisional stormtroopers. All talk of the EQUALITY AGENDA from Sinn Fein rings hollow in the face of the facts. Is equality only to be extended to those who agree with the sectarian agenda of the Good Friday Agreement.”
● Intimidation of the RWG
Statement issued November 7th 2000:
The Workers Solidarity Movement is totally opposed to the intimidation of members of the Republican Writers Group in Belfast.
After publishing a statement about the killing of Joe O’Connor in Ballymurphy, Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman have been subjected to threats, and to pickets of their homes.
The Republican Writers Group members have made it clear that their statement was not intended to place anyone in danger, no names were mentioned. However, it appears that the republican leadership have used that statement as an excuse to restrict free speech and discussion.
The Republican Writers Group have helped to facilitate debate among republicans, while at all times rejecting any suggestion of a return to armed struggle.
But this debate isn’t popular with republican leaders who seemingly believe that they are above criticism. They arrogantly give to themselves the right to decide what viewpoints we may hear, and to set limits to debate.
All who subscribe to the principle of free speech should reject this authoritarian behaviour, and join the call for an end to the threats and intimidation.
Workers Solidarity Movement
P.O. Box 1528,
● PROVISIONAL IRA MURDER AND INTIMIDATION IN BELFAST
Workers Power (Ireland)
The killing of Joe O’Connor, a member of the Real IRA, by the Provos is an alarming development which Workers Power (Ireland) unequivocally condemns.
This murder flows from the abandonment by Sinn Fein and the Provos of the goal of a united Ireland and Troops Out. Allowing an organisation to recruit and grow which attacks them for betrayal and pledges to continue the armed struggle is too dangerous for the Provos to tolerate. Hence the killing.
Now the Provos and Sinn Fein have begun to attack a dissident group which is critical of Sinn Fein and the Provos but looks on a continuation of the guerrilla struggle as counter productive. This group is the Republican Writers Group which is led by Tony McIntyre and Tommie McKearney – both ex-prisoners of war and both committed to all Ireland mass action, with a working class focus, as the alternative to Real IRA guerrillaism and Provo betrayal. McIntyre and his companion, who is 6 months pregnant, have had their home picketed by Sinn Fein simply because as dissidents they condemned the murder of Joe O’Connor.
The same treatment has been meted out to Tommy Gorman because he also denounced the Joe O’Connor murder and is associated with the Republican Writer’s Group.
Sinn Fein and the Provos must not be let get away with this murder and thuggery against anti-imperialist dissidents and socialists. We call on all readers of this web page, but especially it’s readers in Ireland, Britain and the US, to shower Sinn Fein with protest notes and letters. Email these to Sinn Fein’s weekly paper, An Phoblacht.