Time for physical force is long gone
Irish News, 13 November 2000
Recent coverage in your paper of the heated fall out resulting from the shooting of Joseph O’Connor has been characterised by certain errors. On October 26 it was claimed that I had ‘backtracked’ on a statement of October 17, issued jointly with Tommy Gorman, stating the Provisional IRA was responsible. No such backtracking took place.
On November 4 it was reported that ‘men were accused by leading dissident Anthony McIntyre of killing a Real IRA chief’. At no time did either Tommy Gorman or I accuse ‘men’. We named no one either publicly or in private. Individuals’ names were of no concern to us. We named an organisation, not its members, not anyone.
Furthermore, in three separate editions of your paper I was erroneously described as a ‘former republican’. This feeds the language of demonisation. I am a former Provisional IRA volunteer, not a former republican.
On November 4 your paper quoted someone who picketed my home but who declined to disclose their identity, claiming that their brother-in-law had been ‘named in this so called investigation’. Where and by whom was this person named? Certainly not by us. We shall see the inside of a prison cell for the rest of our lives rather than name individuals.
This anonymous person further claimed that my home was picketed because concerned people had not been able to speak to me face to face. This is untrue. No attempt was made to speak to me. Indeed, on the morning of the picket I stood in the shop with one of those later involved in the picket. He said nothing then. Moreover, the Provisional IRA found no difficulty in speaking to me face to face in my own home.
If the picket only occurred because people had not been able to see me, why harangue my partner who is six months pregnant for twenty minutes while I was at a conference in Co. Tyrone? If it was me they wanted to see why picket her? The truth is that this was never about speaking to me. Rather, it was a Sinn Fein led attempt to intimidate me through my family. That is not to say that all those who participated had no genuine fears. Many had. Those fears, however, are fuelled less by what myself and Tommy Gorman said in our statement of October 17, and more by Sinn Fein falsehoods which amount to accusations that both of us endangered loved ones of the families involved in the picket.
We endangered no one. Sinn Fein’s attempt to move the focus from a culpable organisation to ‘endangered individuals’ is the cynical exploitation of family fears. It has more to do with Sinn Fein fears for itself than for any family.
The Ballymurphy community is indeed owed an answer. It is owed an answer as to why a member of that community was killed. Concerned relatives deserve answers also. We are prepared to address their fears. Sinn Fein is owed absolutely nothing and will receive as much.
Following the O’Connor family, the family that has suffered most in Ballymurphy as a result of the fall out has been our own. Out of our home, children’s lives disrupted, my partner just discharged from the RVH Maternity where she was housed for four days following the latest picket, my own life in possible danger after a totally dishonest Sinn Fein allegation in a US newspaper that I was a fellow traveller of the Real IRA. All of this has been suffered because I refuse to be intimidated out of my beliefs.
The irony of it all is that had the Real IRA have killed a Provisional IRA volunteer myself and Tommy Gorman would have behaved no differently. We would have repudiated them every bit as forcefully. The difference is that Sinn Fein would have cynically carried us through Ballymurphy shoulder high.
Physical force republicanism has had its day with or without the Good Friday Agreement. Yet how can we ever begin to effectively move away from it for good if people are prepared by their actions to state that the gun still has a legitimate role in the settling of political disputes? How can the Real IRA ever be persuaded away from armed activity if the message transmitted to them through the killing of Joseph O’Connor is that republicanism still has a right to take life in pursuit of its goals? What merit has any condemnation of those who bombed Omagh if those condemning are prepared to reinforce the intellectual well from which the Real IRA drinks?
What the sorry saga of the Joseph O’Connor killing has demonstrated is that, despite all the hand wringing and pious hypocrisy emanating from Provisional republican ranks in relation to the Omagh bombing, they themselves have their intellectual fingerprints all over that bomb. True condemnation would lead the way by rejecting the use of physical force entirely rather than murdering the volunteers of the Real IRA.