Keep throwing, lads. Some of it’s bound to stick

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And so it continues.  On RTÉ’s ‘Prime Time’  last Thursday, Martina Devlin (Irish Independent)  and Charlie Flanagan (Fine Gael)  expressed horror that any parallels might be drawn between Nelson Mandela and Gerry Adams. The fact that Nelson Mandela was central to the founding of the ANC, that he was kept in prison as long as he was because he refused to renounce the ANC and violence was airbrushed out of their assessment. Gerry Adams had talked about a ‘laissez faire’ attitude by the RUC to their own safety in visiting Dundalk and that was outrageous. On the programme I conceded that the term was badly chosen and Adams’s subsequent statement apologised for saying anything that might add to the hurt of the families. But could somebody tell me this: does the Smithwick report use the phrase “laissez faire” about RUC officers’ attitude to their own security? If so, shouldn’t the ire be aimed at Smithwick rather than Adams?

But what did I mean by “And so it continues”, Virginia? I mean the southern political/media blitzkrieg against Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin goes on and on and on. In today’s Sindo, the paper’s group political editor Fionnan Sheahan pronounces the Sinn Féin party as “untouchable”. Fine Gael Junior Minister Brian Hayes says Sinn Féin is a “fanatical, quasi-political outfit” with its TDs mounting a “relentless, zombie-like defence” of their leader.  The leader of Fianna Fail (translation: “Soldiers of Destiny”), Micheal Martin says Sinn Féin’s “mask has slipped”.  The Labour Party’s Ged Nash slips in with his helpful observation: “For most people in the south, the Troubles meant the IRA killing children in shopping centres in England and blowing up people while they were at prayer”.


All this because Gerry Adams mentioned that the RUC officers who were killed by the IRA were careless of their own security. So here’s two thoughts which strike me:

  1. Superintendent Bob Buchanan, one of the two men killed, travelled to Dundalk Garda station from the north in the same car with the same registration plates over twenty times in the months preceding his death, and the car was parked where it was visible to all.
  2. Bob Buchanan and Chief Superintendent Harry Breen were shot dead on a stretch of road in South Armagh where the road dips and screened the area from British army observation towers.  They had no back-up and, I’m told, no weapons with them.

Both those facts I find totally baffling, if the men were alert to their own security. There may be an explanation but on the face of it, it does look as though their attitude to security was indeed laissez faire. That doesn’t mean their deaths were justified – au contraire, since we’re using French. But it does suggest that Gerry Adams’s description was accurate, even if the Smithwick report didn’t use that particular phrase. And that the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments is for the benefit of the onlooking constituents.

Let me be blunt. In the priorities list of southern politicians like Hayes and Martin, any hurt inflicted by Gerry Adams’s remarks on the RUC men’s families comes low on the list. High on the list – at the top – is a fanatical, relentless determination to do anything and everything to prevent Sinn Féin from becoming a political force to be reckoned with in the south. Because if they do, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, who’ve ruled the state virtually from its foundation, will have their neatly arranged apple-cart upended. And to prevent that, they’ll join the zombie-like procession of those in the south’s politics and media who throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Shinners while drawing their moral garments closer around them for fear of contamination.

Let me make a prediction: if the figures after a general election in the south stack up, Fianna Fail and even Fine Gael will enter coalition with any party. And that includes Sinn Féin.

Finally, for the benefit of Ged Nash, Eamon Gilmore, Charlie Flanagan and others who see events in the north during the 1970s and 1980s as the IRA killing children and blowing up worshippers, perhaps a look at this document might help impress on them that the conflict was maybe a bit more complicated than that:

21 Responses to Keep throwing, lads. Some of it’s bound to stick

  1. michael December 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    its a last ditch attempt from the two party state to keep sinn fein out of making up a coalition government the shock and horror of this when it happens will make great reading and viewing

  2. Cal December 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    With a performance like the one you gave on prime time, Jude, I wouldn’t expect a return invite anytime soon. The hypocrisy that runs through the anti- shinners was very vividly pointed out by your good self. The usually unshakable Martina lost her temper at one point, they’re preaching while standing on quicksand. Keep up the good work.

  3. Pat Mac Murphy December 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    They’re running out of ‘credible’ ammo. Any morsel to attack Sinn Féinn is seized upon and they attempt to turn it into a ‘feast’.

  4. freenm December 8, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Maybe it’s just Gerry Adam’s laissez faire attitude towards people’s right to life in general and to their families that causes controversy. That was quite evident in the Darragh Macintyre documentary Didn’t exactly shine after the Robert McCartney murder either.

  5. Taxi Driver December 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    You just don’t get the harm the armed struggle has done to the Irish psyche

  6. Jude Collins December 8, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    TD – I don’t believe there’s such a thing as the Irish psyche. There are lots of individual psyches but we don’t all share one mass psyche. Physically and psychologically impossible.

  7. Pat Mc Larnon December 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    The frustrating thing for hacks like Devlin and Sheehan is that the influence that hacks once had in attempting to form public opinion is most definitely on the wane. One only has to reflect on the musings of Jude’s old sparring partner Eoghan Harris. He constantly harks back to the halcyon days of when people like him decided what could and could not be broadcast on
    Indeed it is a feature of the media in the Free State that journalists don’t even attempt to hide their own political allegiance and are in fact employed on that basis. It also has to be stated that those in the Free State media and political classes that crow so much about the conflict and its aftermath didn’t really experience too much of its consequences.

    • Argenta December 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

      Why then did Daily Ireland(which broadly reflected the Sinn Fein view of things) fail to last the pace?Can we assume that not even Republicans bothered to buy the paper preferring to buy the the other titles about which you are so critical?

  8. bradleem December 8, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    The quotation you refer to Jude…..“For most people in the south, the Troubles meant the IRA killing children in shopping centres in England and blowing up people while they were at prayer”…. was actualy made by the Labour Party’s Ged Nash.

    It wasn’t said by Michéal Martin as you claim.

    Might be a good idea to correct the blog for the sake of accuracy.

    • Jude Collins December 8, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

      Go raibh maith agat, bradleem – I need someone minding me full-time. I shall amend.

  9. Taxi Driver December 8, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    No, Irish people didn’t feel a sense of shame and embarrassment when the provos bombed London and killed people; they didn’t get a backlash of anger when Birmingham was bombed. I remember the news reporter that night saying “this is not a good town to be Irish in” . But you just go on and be pedantic about it.

    • Jude Collins December 8, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

      Why would ‘the Irish people’ (are you Dev in disguise?) feel shame and embarrassment at actions in which they presumably had no hand, act or part. This rubbish about ‘we’re all to blame’ or ‘They make me feel ashamed to be Irish’ is just that – rubbish. You might as well say you were a part of Barry McGuigan winning the world title fight.

  10. Taxi Driver December 8, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Presumably, because these acts were done in the name of Ireland and the people perpetrating them are making those claims. If we take joy in the achievements of Irish people and feel proud of them and proud to be Irish does it not work the other way?

    • jim December 10, 2013 at 1:17 am #

      in the south any way i think possibly the growing urban middle class in the 60’s and the move away from a labourer and small farmer society, the values of one are so different than the other but at the same time there was a link through family ties and values, old values may not be approved of if put on show but they could still be there. Also Dublin/Monaghan maybe more to rattle the psyche than the ra, shock doctrine, did everybody just take it on the chin? I think its possible a lot of people speak with forked tounges in the 26 counties when the topic is the north.

      Given the capabilities of the provos which as well as the trigger men one would presume they would have needed logistical support of a greater pool to operate in, where and who was it? Compared to present republican militants what distinguishes them?,did they have better organizers or personnel that where some how more productive with less? they must of had support beyond the less than 1% the shinners where getting in the polls at the time in the south. I accept that wasn’t expressed in the public sphere through voting for SF or taking a platform of support, though there was section 31 and it was bad for the career of a pundent to do so, so self interest might explain it as well.

      At the same time Martin Ferris in his biography i think speaks about when being on the run being put up in FF houses and FG houses, maybe they where isolated incidents but given the size of the provo operation would it suggest that more where up it it as well, people wearing one hat on one issue and another hat on the other.

      agree with TD that there is a collective physiological issue going on here but not necessarily his/her conclusion.

  11. Jude Collins December 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

    I don’t think it works either way. What right have I to say someone else’s achievements somehow reflect credit on me? Or misdeeds somehow sully me? Think about it – it jes’ doan make sense.

  12. Mick Fealty December 9, 2013 at 12:50 pm #


    Martina was one of the few southern media voices to back Martin for President. One of the usual suspects, she ain’t. If she says the comparison is ill fitted, then I’d give what she’s says of some weight to be honest.

    As for the report, I’ve seen so much comment from so many people who clearly have not taken the time to read it.

    Buchanan was not allowed to carry weapons south of the border under the AIA which specifically forbad RUC officers to do so. Laissez faire? Well maybe. But I don’t think we can really fault the officers for that since the decision was not theirs to make.

  13. Jude Collins December 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    Hi Mick – failte romhat aris….I know Martina was one of the few who didn’t jump feet first on McGuinness’s presidency bid. But she wasn’t allowing for anything other than outrageous for GA to use phrase ‘l f’ and she echoed Charlie Flanagan’s ‘outrageous’ when I tentatively drew a parallel between Mandela and Gerry’s careers. As to the report, I cheerfully confess and have confessed to not having read it – I’m relying on bits others quote and paraphrase. If it’s online I’ll be glad to read at least parts of it (life is short). As to RUC officers ‘not allowed’ to carry weapons south of the border…that was what I was told. All I can say is mmmm. Maybe they observed it, maybe they didn’t. If I’d been an RUC man in the circs, I’d have been thinking of ways round it.

  14. Taxi Driver December 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    If those misdeeds are done in your name they sully you. You must live in a very rareified world if you don’t see that.

  15. Jude Collins December 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    ‘Done in your name’ – I think that’s another empty cliché. Sorry, Taxi Driver, I don’t mean to be deliberately disagreeable, but phrases like that irritate me. If somebody said ‘I’m doing this in the name of…..’ and the blank contains your name, yes, then I’d take serious umbrage. But this mass ‘in our name’ thing doesn’t bear much scrutiny, in my modest opinion. But thanks for your several contributions – always welcome

  16. Taxi Driver December 9, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    Your too long in the lecture hall Jude, by your logic we shouldn’t have raised a shout when Tyrone won the all Ireland

  17. Jude Collins December 9, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    Only if you were from West Tyrone…