Lyra McKee’s murder was, as a journalist, as President Higgins said, “an attack on truth itself.” It is also very much an attack on Ireland’s truth. For as long as Derry, Down, Tyrone, Armagh, Antrim, and Fermanagh remain under the control of the British state, separated from the rest of Ireland, so long as Britain keeps part of Ireland subject to the priorities of England in Westminster, and ignored, dominated, and neglected, there will always be the potential for a return to violent conflict. People’s lives will always remain under the shadow of violence and the horrors of war.
Risking making the greatest understatement of the decade, it’s fair to say that we are in a mess. Given that both the government and the opposition are committed to leaving the EU, and given that right-wing mobs are now gathering around Westminster with placards depicting executions and advocating political violence – a sure indication we have reached a pre-revolutionary phase of this unfolding shambles, there will be no re-run of the Brexit referendum and there will be no so-called People’s Vote. Those ships have sailed. Whether we like it or not, we are now heading into the abyss.
Getting the proposal through the Commons will require 325 votes. Before this crisis the government had, together with its confidence and supply purchase, a majority of one – with 326 seats. It no longer has this. With a conservative estimate of losses, the government’s vote is reduced to about 276; that’s 50 votes shy of the majority it needs. So, can this vote be passed? Of course, but nothing is guaranteed. We can exclude from the equation Sinn Féin’s 7 seats. The Irish republicans refuse to take their seats in the British parliament. This brings May’s shortfall to somewhere closer to 40-45 votes.
As David Cameron stood in Westminster pretending to apologise for the actions of British soldiers in Derry in 1972 he kept his lips tightly sealed about Ballymurphy. Few, even in Ireland, outside the Republican movement have ever heard of what happened from 9-11 August 1971 in the Belfast housing estate of Ballymurphy. I’ve been to Ballymurphy. My friend, Fr. Paddy McCafferty, is the parish priest at Corpus Christi parish on the estate, and I had never heard of what the British Army did there. The Channel 4 documentary the other night was an eye-opener.
Lying – or pure and unadulterated political “bullshit” as Harry Frankfurt would call it – has become the norm in how the right wing Brexiteer British government does business. It has realised that just enough of the population is gullible enough to swallow whatever it is told and that the rest are too docile and controlled to do anything real about it. This puts us all in an incredibly dangerous position, one that cannot be overstated.
Tiocfaidh ár lá may well have been the “battle cry of the blanketmen,” but it is also a proclamation of continuity. McDonald’s Sinn Féin is not a new Sinn Féin. It is the same party with the same vision and, while it continues to attract new members, it is largely supported by the same people who supported the party right through the Troubles to the present day. If Mary Lou McDonald wants to be accepted as the new face of Sinn Féin then she has to carry this old guard along with her, and that means reminding them too of the fights of the past.
States simply do not survive this level of internal division, and – as we can see from the headlines on every newspaper – Britain is no exception. The very forces that held the United Kingdom together in the past; a strong English state, a sense of shared hostility towards everything on the other side of the English Channel, and England’s willingness to exert brute force on its possessions, are now wholly evaporated. The dominant opinion both here and around the world is that England is in a tailspin, the centrifugal force of which is pushing Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales out.