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.
Sinn Féin will never take up its seats in England’s parliament. Nothing would disgrace Ireland more than that betrayal. The Irish Republican sees this as taking a piss on the graves of all those who have laid down their lives for Ireland, on all those who have resisted and stood firm, on the graves of all Ireland’s martyrs. Sinn Féin will never sit in England’s parliament. No matter how bad things get in Britain, Sinn Féin will stay in Ireland and watch as England’s crows come home and tear that nation of liars and murderers to pieces.
This style of political policing – all the way down from Whitehall in London to the police officer doing her or his job – has one objective: To subtly and then not-so-subtly intimidate people. The hope is that it will put average, law-abiding people off activism. No one wants to be of interest – no matter how friendly they are – to the police, and less still want to be watched by the intelligence services of the state. But what this is, in reality, is an attempt on the part of the British state to disempower us – the electorate, the demos of the democracy.
This is the temple before the altar of which another Rebel could intone: “I say to my people’s masters: Beware! Beware of the thing that is coming, beware of the risen people who shall take what ye would not give.” And this is, at least in part, the meaning of Wolfe Tone’s grave; that its incompleteness is the promise of completion, that this is not over – that Ireland’s enemy should take heed. Something “is coming.” This grave in Bodenstown is not pretty. Its symbolism and meaning are dark – nightmarishly dark, but they are necessary.
Scotland has not quite learned this yet. Of course, there are many of us in the Scottish independence movement who are well aware of the lies, the deceptions, and manipulations of England, but still the Scottish government, the SNP, and various other well-meaning independentistas are operating like innocents – believing, in spite of the now overwhelming evidence, that British politicians can be trusted, that the BBC will provide a fair and balanced platform, and that in the end Britain will honour the democratic decisions of the Scottish people.
Brexit was always making this more likely, and it makes perfect sense for dissidents to strike first. They have the most to lose from the collapse of the GFA. So, this was exactly what happened. Former Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams called for resistance to Brexit – political resistance, but the interpretation of that call by dissidents, keen to usurp the position of Sinn Féin and get the ball rolling on a fresh Intifada that can be escalated with the right encouragement from the British security forces, was of course going to be armed resistance.
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.
The counter-voice – such as the political voice of the SNP, Sinn Féin, or Plaid Cymru – is the modern equivalent of the pillory or the stocks. This is where the enemy is presented, carefully framed and expertly mitigated, so as to make it serve the purposes of the state. We may hear the voice and see the face of Nicola Sturgeon, for example, but the narrative – the most important element of “the news” – is always that of the British state. No BBC broadcast featuring a counter-voice will leave the audience in any doubt as to dangerous nature of that voice.