‘GARC & The Dissidents: Enter the Counter-Revolution’ by Donal Lavery


There’s an old saying that you can keep some people happy some of the time, but not everyone happy all of the time. Whoever coined that obviously had in mind the same sort of characters which make up that great bastion of revolutionary thoughts and action – the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective. These individuals have no elected mandate to represent the people of Ardoyne yet have used every avenue and juncture to jeopardise any possible plans towards compromise and reconciliation between the two communities and traditions, not just in Ardoyne but in the North of the island too.
This attitude and their tactics/behaviour reveal something very uncomfortable about them – they are led by people of a fundamentalist (fascist, even?) and authoritarian nature, who couldn’t give a hoot about democracy or forging political consensus. Look at some of the groups they align themselves with and how these people still love to fiercely parade around in intimidating regimental mode (conditioning children to do so also) when most of the nationalist community recognises the need to move beyond the past and towards a more cohesive future. These individuals love reinforcing extreme ideology, regalia and imagery in all that they do, demanding money be spent on murals of a particular depiction that serve only to polarise nationalists even further from their unionist neighbours. Why? Because it serves their obscure purpose. They’re not agents of change or the all-inclusive Republic that was proclaimed in 1916; but rather defenders of a by-gone status quo which they try to align themselves with ever so rigidly. It’s hard to imagine how some of them would even have been admitted into the Provisional Movement or the GPO, to be frank, yet now they are “die-hards”.

These people are not left-wing; they talk left but act with  a kind of right-wing intolerance. Nor are they actually pluralist republicans – ideologically, they’re “blood nationalists”, who want a return to war because it serves their psyche and agenda of stratification over the local communities in which they operate. They love confrontation and rows. They thrive on division and discontent. They love pointing at anti-social behaviour and claiming it’s a product of a failed peace-process when we have one of the lowest crime rates in Ireland and the U.K. GARC and its affiliates, in the various splinter groups have a single goal and methodology – to bring about a state of chaos and a return to war; to convince enough people that the peace process is failing them, so that they can seize power by portraying themselves as the “real republicans”. Never ones for realistic mediation, they don’t believe the North should have any police force at all. They want a breakdown in law and order. They love the idea of British soldiers being flooded in to occupy our streets like before.

Throughout the world we can find examples of how renegade extremes have emerged which make progress and human development difficult by their intransigence. In any post-conflict situation, there are going to be people who fear change, who know and desire war alone. Products of a hostile environment which has passed and is leaving them behind rapidly.
Fearing that American pressure on Mr. de Klerk regarding Apartheid in South Africa could potentially arouse support for the far right-wing and extremes who opposed compromise and change, Mandela (really rather admirably) recognised the need to be pragmatic in his dealings, particularly on longstanding issues of division and culture that generated contentious feeling in his homeland. That’s the approach which must be perpetuated here, however loud GARC shout. We have a conflict of identity among Irish people and whatever the politicians agree to will never be enough by GARC’s books, so it stands to reason not to play or adopt their rules and approaches to things. For even if you deliver their demands, they’ll still find plenty more to shout about.

The best way to expose and change GARC is to highlight the facts and figures to those who are reasonable members of that organisation, but also to the good people who that splinter-group is trying desperately to attract among their ranks. To inform people of the work that’s being done on the ground and to provide adequate facilities for residents in Ardoyne and the surrounding areas to voice their concerns or views to their elected representatives in an aura of regular transparency and accountability. I’m in favour of fortnightly question times being established in local halls and venues, so that people can put issues to their MLA’s, Councillors and MP’s, directly, Unionist and Republican. Of course some of these meetings will become arenas for GARC, to try to instigate show-downs of who can shout the loudest and promise the sun, the moon and the stars. But I think that’s the Achilles’ heel at the heart of it all – that very same approach will demonstrate first hand to the people of Ardoyne and North Belfast that GARC aren’t willing to work with their own elected representatives, never mind other groups in the wider community. People need to reflect on how the behaviour and approach of this group have devalued so many properties in Ardoyne, providing a disincentive to those who do live there and those who would otherwise live and raise a family there. In summing up, I predict that over time they are simply going to self-destruct under the weight of their own indifference to any progress at all. If this deal, which has been reached by good faith and real dialogue, can be shown to work effectively and produce recognisable results on the ground, then GARC is dead in the water!

17 Responses to ‘GARC & The Dissidents: Enter the Counter-Revolution’ by Donal Lavery

  1. fiosrach October 1, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    Boys but that takes me back. Back to 1970 to be exact, when the Provisional Alliance were struggling for recognition and this is the sort of reception they were getting at the time. Almost word for word. From the SDLP, the Britishers, the west Britishers, the churches and all the other ‘sensible software’s. And where are they now? Why they are now in government! Respected members of the Establishment. Granted they had to cast aside all their republican trappings, but there you go.

  2. Eddie Barrett October 1, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    Fine piece Jude, you have absolutely nailed it !

    • Jude Collins October 1, 2016 at 8:25 pm #

      Grma, Eddie – but it’s Donal’s piece…

  3. paddy maguire October 1, 2016 at 10:03 am #

    .The naive and deluded
    .Bruised Egos/Big Fish/Small pool syndrome
    .Touts (new and pensionable)
    .Sticky figured extortionists
    .Opportunist Criminals

  4. Dee de brún October 1, 2016 at 10:33 am #

    Again you try to demonize a group of people who have raised a burning issue in their community. Unfortunately the peace process is not delivering on the ground in many working class republican areas. Attempts to demonize these people in the press and undermine their opposition to a deal, as is their right, has not worked in the past and will not work in the future. The community of the Ardoyne have suffered for decades as a result of sectarian politics. There are now people in power, who arguably did so on the bacjs of this. Perhaps an article exploring the reason for growing discontent in Republican communities and the disenchantment with failure to deliver across the board, east and west, may give a greater insight into the reasons behind growing disquiet.

  5. moser October 1, 2016 at 10:52 am #

    The problem in the North is: too many political parties, too many paramilitary organisations, too many community groups and too Much confusion, and not enough resolution. The political void is expanding, much like the universe, because of a deficit of genuine political structures. We don’t need any more Q&A talk shops – we need an inspirational and inspired vision for the future. What we lack at the moment is, the party with the leader to help us manifest that vision. You blame GARC. I blame everyone involved in allowing the Twadell episode to continue and break the law for so long.

  6. maire ui mhaolain October 1, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

    Electoral mandate ?? For what?? Corrupt political institutions who uphold the rich elite and punish the poor. The rebels of 1916 did not have an electoral mandate. Those who signed the treaty did and look what they did

  7. Daniel Breen October 1, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    Donal, as evidenced in his musings, seems to have little clue as to the people he accuses of being facist a, much less the community he tells us is being mightily served by the political elite. Maybe he should sit down with GARC and these ‘splinter groups’ or better yet look in detail and show us evidence of the great work being done for the people of the district.

  8. Sherdy October 1, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

    But on the other side of the coin, the Orange Order who insist on marching where they are not wanted, have some uncompromising friends and associates:
    The DUP, UUP, UDA, UVF and RHC.
    Are they any better or more malleable people than GARC’s friends?

  9. Dominic Hendron October 1, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

    Good insightful piece Donal.

  10. Tommy October 2, 2016 at 12:23 am #

    No fan of GARC but that parade yesterday belongs in the past. Sectarian groups and their parades have no place in a modern society no matter how much you demonise those who oppose them.

  11. ComradeMagee October 2, 2016 at 8:18 am #

    I wasn’t going to comment on this Donal as in the past I’ve commented on your articles and:
    1 – you never answer any the questions levelled at you;
    2 – a tirade of abuse is normally forthcoming for those who disagree with your political outlook.

    But here goes:

    Donal – out of interest – do you live in Ardoyne? Or is this armchair writing about what your reading in the media or what a few shinners say on social media?

    Every point you make in this article can be levelled at SF too – disappointing article with little or no evidence to back up many of the assertions you level at GARC.

    “the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective. These individuals have no elected mandate to represent the people of Ardoyne yet have used every avenue and juncture to jeopardise any possible plans towards compromise and reconciliation between the two communities and traditions”

    GARC don’t claim they have a mandate – you seem here to believe in some form of censorship preventing them having a say of what is going on within their community – should they not have an opinion? Do CARA have a mandate to represent the people of Ardoyne? Do individuals like Fr Donegan, who was involved in a deal with the OO, have a mandate? Does he speak for the people? Pre NI Assembly, Republicans held Ardoyne etc to random – did they have a mandate to do that? Republicans imitated their own form of justice in these communities – did they have a mandate to do that?

    I think a lot of people are missing the point,
    Including you, Donal – SF from the mid 1990’s were prominent in disputes over orange order parades – it was SF in Ardoyne and other areas calling people onto the streets to protest against these parades – was Martin Meehan not the one who referred to the people involved in the parade as “Orange bastards” – now SF want a compromise on contentious parades and those who protest are demonised? Is GARC not an offshoot of the original SF policy on parades? Is the SF compromise really to help build community relations – where’s the evidence? Or as an establishment party – is this SF yet again cozying up to political unionism in facilitating the same parade they once protested against?

    “the best way to expose and change GARC is expose the facts and figures” – you don’t expose any facts and figures – what facts and figures?

    “To inform people of the work that is being done on the ground” – what work? Another general
    Comment with no evidence to back it up – I live in the community and I witness first hand the poverty, the deprivation, social Issues, anti social behaviour, drugs, lack of community provision, lack of services – there isn’t even a secondary school that serves the area – what is being done on the ground to help this
    Community – one of the most impoverished in the UK.

    “Behaviour of this group has devalued properties” – what? Haha. I’d blame the housing market collapse on that one Donal, not GARC – How much has the behaviour of GARC devalued properties?

  12. Michael Coogan October 2, 2016 at 11:14 am #

    Jude I read an article on your page by Donal Lavery titled “GARC & The Dissidents: Enter The Counter Revolution”

    The entire article was an attack on GARC and anyone who happens to have a dissenting voice to the current political machine.
    Donal claims GARC used every avenue & juncture to jeopardise any plan towards compromise & reconciliation, not just in Ardoyne but across the north.
    I can only assume that you endorsed this article as it is on your page, and I have to ask if both Donal & Yourself are serious. I find it hard to accept that you actually believe this criticism is either accurate or just.

    GARC have not been camped out like a crowd of halfwitts in Twaddell Avenue for the past few years, they haven’t held protests at the City Hall every Saturday over the same period and they haven’t been demanding to parade where they are not welcome. So what exactly have they done to jeopardise any plans towards compromise? Is their refusal to accept the unacceptable unreasonable? They did actually suggest a compromise by the way, they suggested ( not unreasonably) that the orange order parade where they are welcome.

    In Donals second paragraph he provides a description of GARC that if I’m reading it right, would be a more fitting description of the orange lodges camped in north Belfast – fundamentalist, reinforcing extreme ideology, regalia and parading around in an intimidating regimental mode to quote a few.

    He then ridiculously claims GARC are trying to polarise nationalists even further from their unionist neighbours. I would suggest Ardoynes unionist neighbours are quite capable of polarising nationalists without the assistance of GARC. They did so prior to the existence of GARC and continue to do this to the present day.

    Who knew that all this time it was really GARC who have been the route cause of all the trouble over parades in north Belfast.

    Donals insight and insults know no bounds. He goes on to say that GARC are not agents of change, or the all inclusive Republic proclaimed in 1916, but defenders of a by-gone status quo they try to align themselves with ever so rigidly. Donal reckons it’s hard to imagine they (GARC) would even have been admitted to the Provisional movement or the GPO. He has a vivid imagination but also limited. Does Donal not believe that the Provisional movement have a responsibility to listen to and work with people who when all is said and done they helped create.
    The Provisional movement at least in part helped shape the ideology of GARC and other groups who continue to oppose unionist domination/intimidation. As for the GPO comment, if Connolly could find common cause with Pearse, I think they would have no difficulty accepting all volunteers.
    Donal continues his attack on GARC and even has the neck to say they are not left wing, In comparison to who Donal? Are you seriously claiming anyone other than People Before Profit or the IRSP are left wing? I’ve worked for Sinn Fein and they are about as left wing as Donald Trump. I’m not a renegade or someone looking to return to the past, the people who agreed to resurrect a dead issue like yesterday’s parade could be more accurately accused of that.
    Like GARG though, I don’t believe yesterday’s parade was a compromise, it was a capitulation to bullying. Bullying that had cost all of us, and unlike you I don’t believe that GARC were the bully’s or that they were making unreasonable requests.
    Just to finish off. You also claim that GARC will never be satisfied and with each concession they will demand more. I’m afraid you’ll find your comments would be more appropriately directed at the Orange Order, but time will tell.

    • Michael October 2, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

      Well said Michael Coogan. I couldn’t agree more. Why demonise our own people? It’s the same strategy of many previous Westminster and Stormont regimes when they knew they couldn’t win an argument on the issues at hand. Is this what Sinn Fein have been reduced to? (rhetorical question)

  13. Wolfe tone October 2, 2016 at 7:29 pm #

    I think SF and its cheerleaders simply telling people they are right about everything and dissenting voices are wrong doesn’t wash anymore. That tactic has been played out and in all honesty, if folk think this is all part of some master plan or whatever on the part of SF, they really should get out more. They’ve been winging the peace process for years.
    I do wonder how all these people who are praising this ‘compromise’ would feel if it all these hate marches were happening in their backyard. NIMBYism? If it was happening on my street I would be furious and I would have even more fury for any politician who told me not to be furious. The nationalist population deserve politicians to at the very least stand up for them and not encourage acceptance of hate marches. I don’t give a damn if it’s someone’s culture.
    Next they’ll be advocating a return leg for the drumcree hate march. In their almighty wisdom they’d convince themselves that by allowing this they are somehow advancing Irish unification.

  14. Gerard October 3, 2016 at 11:40 am #

    The bottom line with GARC is that they did not protest at the previous two morning parades, didn’t lodge an objection and just didn’t bother their butts getting out of bed. They actually held a protest against the Easter Monday morning parade on Easter Saturday because they had a function on the Sunday night and would not be able to make it early the next morning.
    They have also failed to show at several morning parades since their foundation.
    So, they are not against all Orange Order parades in the area, just a select few. Why, we may ask?
    Well if you look at 99% of GARC utterances and social media output it is anti-Sinn Féin. That is basically their reason to be.
    They have no leadership or vision.
    What they need to accept is this is not 1969, the 70s, 80sor the 90s. The North is not in the state it was in. There is no Orange state any more and Saturday’s agreement by the Orange basically shows that to be a fact. The return parade is over and so is GARC.
    Even if they do hang around they will literally shoot them selves in the foot because not only have they shown themselves to care little about what is best for the overwhelming amount of residents in Ardoyne but they’re behaviour and decision making has shown that they are actually stupid.

  15. peter shannon October 3, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

    how can anyone in there right mind want to go back to those dark days
    they have a few hundred turning up for protests yet thousands live in ardoyne
    they have no support and when its election time sf will have the support of the residents
    of ardoyne as per no one wants gangsters on the streets of ardoyne. the people of the north dont want it