Mick Hall • 18 May, 2008
The last edition of the radical Irish Republican e-magazine The Blanket was posted up on May 18th, having written for the Blanket on a regular bases I thought I might mull over my own thoughts about this publication and my connection with it, plus comment on the future of Irish Republicanism. For me it is impossible to separate The Blanket from its co-founders and editors Anthony and Carrie McIntyre. On a personal level, these two have enriched my life; on a political level, they are comrades of the highest calibre, honest, and sound. As an editor Carrie was every writer’s dream: supportive when necessary, but not one to alter or interfere with your copy; all she demanded was that the writing be literate (in my case at times my dyslexic copy must have taxed her somewhat!).
Whilst her husband is well known for his courage and steadfastness, Carrie is his equal. It is often overlooked that at times she came under the most unwarranted smears, about her nationality, political sincerity and such nonsense. In a short space of time there were two attempts to silence them and the Blanket, first a picket, organized by members of the Provisional Republican Movement, when the McIntyres refused to be silenced after the Provos shot dead the Belfast commander of the RIRA, for doing something that the Provos had spent the best part of four decades doing, i e engaging in armed struggle. This ‘picket,’ was followed by the McIntyre’s home being raided by the RUC, who confiscated the computer the Blanket was produced on, plus files and photographs etc.
The Provisionals attempt to censor the McIntyres by picketing their West Belfast home, made many of their staunchest supporters shuffle their feet with shame, not least because Carrie was six months pregnant at the time and Anthony had served 18 years in jail for his work as a Provo volunteer, four years of which he spent on the Blanket and no-wash protest. When a section of the Provo leadership endorsed that picket, it signaled to many that they had begun to lose touch with their core support base and the street. For Anthony McIntyre, a man who had spent four years on the Blanket was hardly going to bend to a mob of howling banshees.
As to the Blanket magazine, it came into being because its founders passionately believed that Gerry Adams and the leadership clique that had gathered around him, were engaged in an on going process that amounted to a betrayal of the core values of left Irish republicanism that had once powered the Provisional Republican Movement; this culminated with their signing of the Good Friday Agreement and its addendum’s, which set partition and the Unionist State-let in stone. In the process Gerry Adams and his gofers turned truth into lies, loyal comrades and friends of Republicanism into enemies and enemies into supposed friends; and turned away from the core nationalist working class support base that had both provided the PRM with volunteers and political militants, and which in the movements darkest days refused to turn its back on Irish republicanism when all others were.
Instead Gerry Adams went cap in had to the green capitalists of the USA and right wing Irish politicians like Bertie Ahearn; plus the British war criminal Tony Blair, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland. In the process this ‘republican’ leadership has splashed all those who had sacrificed so much during the long war, with the filth that is the worst of bourgeois politics; lies, deceit, unnecessary compromise, etc; and for what. As the north of Irelands graffiti artists have proclaimed, ‘Sunningdale for slow learners,’ a reference to the power-sharing executive set up in the early nineteen seventies, a deal that the PRM rejected outright thirty years ago as it would set partition and the Unionist veto in stone.
In the Blanket the McIntyres created what many regard to be the most openly democratic magazine in Irish republican history. That Sinn Féin refused to make use of The Blanket to reply to our critiques of the Adams leadership strategy, preferring instead to set the smear and slander brigade on to the McIntyres, was yet another misjudgment and mistake on their part. I have absolutely no doubt, despite the personal attacks made upon them by certain Provos, the McIntyres would have opened The Blanket to them; indeed a fair amount of what was published was an attempt to provoke the Adams leadership to open up a real debate about where they were taking the Provisional Republican Movement.
Whilst some may be sighing with relief at the thought of seeing the back of The Blanket, it is the right time to put it to bed. Irish republicanism needs to go through a process of renewal, to look to the future; and to continue to fight what are in reality old battles, which are centered on where the Provisional leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have taken the movement, would be counterproductive in the extreme. We have had that argument and debate, indeed it was The Blanket’s raison d’être. It will now be for history to decide whether we at The Blanket were correct in our analysis, or Mr Adams and his leadership clique.
Whilst those Republicans who stand outside of the Sinn Féin political ferment need to look extremely carefully at the last 38 years of struggle and sacrifice, when doing so they must try not to concentrate solely on individuals, and questions of leadership, but consider how the Republican Movement can move beyond what can only be described as a conspiratorial style of organization and practice. Such organizational methodology is perfectly logical if the movement is to continue down the road of being a military conspiracy.
Although if the Provisionals were unable to complete the national revolution after 38 years of armed struggle, it is difficult to see how any present or future incarnation of armed republicanism could do so. For say what you might about some of the questionable decisions made by the Adams leadership in recent years, the generations that made up the ranks of the Óglaigh Na hÉireann were amongst the most determined, steadfast and self sacrificing group of people ever to call themselves Irish Republicans.
However instead of simply recruiting into its ranks the vanguard of the Irish people, perhaps Irish republicanism should consider turning outwards democratically to the Irish people as a whole, and to the democratic progressive political forces within Irish society, whether they be the trade unions, leftist political organizations, NGO’s, community groups, artists or simply individuals, etc. If so, Republicanism must lead by example and have democratic structures that are open, accountable and beyond question. Then we might finally witness the emergence of a United Democratic Socialist Republic of Ireland, Tiocfaidh ár lá. *
* A shorter version of this article appeared in the last issue of the Blanket, which can be found here, http://lark.phoblacht.net/latestnews.html