As the political crisis generated by the killing of Gerard McGuigan by IRA members threatens to spiral out of control the politically weary population is invited to pick sides on what is to happen next, with seemingly everyone in favour of keeping Stormont while everyone knows it’s rotten.
This appears to put the onus on being able to blame someone else in order to defend a sectarian corner and the particular rights assumed inside the settlement.
The ‘right’ attitude to the killing has therefore to be asserted first, although it is of the least concern to the parties involved in yet another round of talks.
As a result a notable feature of reaction to the murder of Gerard McGuigan has been the propensity of nationalist commentators to ventilate on the synthetic character of unionist outrage at the murder. In other words the outrage is fake – they don’t care about dead ex IRA men.
If that were the only point being made the response should be one of agreement. Yes, unionists have ignored state and loyalist violence and have collaborated openly with paramilitary groups so their condemnation of republican violence is hollow. They don’t care about dead IRA men and their actions since the latest killing is guided by purely party political calculations.
But that isn’t all there is to it. The point being made by these nationalist commentators is that what has happened shouldn’t be allowed to upset the current political arrangements because the outrage is phoney. Just as I pointed out in the previous post on this (that the new peace institutions are now the justification for ignoring the killing of others) so expressing outrage at the killing is also to be discounted because the main unionist complainants are insincere.
And the fact that this outrage is insincere means that this is a purely manufactured crisis that originates in unionist bad faith. This bad faith is therefore the problem. The perfidious British however have turned this around, as they usually do, in order to appease unionism.
So nationalists are invited by these commentators to believe that what must be discussed now is not what the danger is to those who fall foul of the Provisional IRA but how the institutions can be saved. The British are happy to go along with this but add that this involves giving the unionists confidence. But since this a purely subjective thing we are in the world of Humpty Dumpty – confidence means just what unionists choose it to mean, neither more nor less.
So yes, nationalists have a point about pandering to unionist hypocrisy but they have a problem when they allow this hypocrisy to become their moral compass by replying to unionist hypocrisy with their own.
They have a problem when they excoriate British pandering to unionist violence while turning a blind eye to Provisional murder. So the outrage at the latter is fake – let’s ignore both it and the event that occasioned it. Then we can have our equal and opposite hypocrisy. Unionists complain about Provo violence but we will turn a blind eye to it and complain about loyalist violence.
In this way the sectarian perfect circle of hell attempts to trap everyone within it, everything and everyone is to be defined by sectarian division.
A prime example of this capture by sectarian division, involving capitulation to acceptance of reactionary political violence, can be seen in the regular political columnist in the largest nationalist paper in the North, Brian Feeney in yesterday’s ‘Irish News’.
So the police fingering of Provisional IRA members for the murder of Kevin McGuigan was “ill-considered”. As I also pointed out before – I wonder would he therefore have considered well-judged the previous failure to finger the loyalist UVF for the attempted murder of a young woman in the same area.
Feeney had a previous column on the unionist invention of the 1960s civil rights campaign as an IRA plot, a fiction of course, but what had this to do with the real IRA plot to kill McGuigan, unless he wanted to claim it too was another unionist fiction?
Instead he goes along with the Sinn Fein line that what this is all about is unionist refusal to live in equality with nationalists: “This refusal to accept mere equality prevents them seeing themselves in the same light as nationalists and republicans.”
He appears totally oblivious to the fact that with this attitude of Nelsonian ignorance of IRA responsibility in murder he should really be writing that nationalists should now see themselves in the same light as unionists, united equally in the same light of sectarian blindness.
By such a descent into sectarianism are nationalist claims for equality to become nationalist equality in sectarianism, which is indeed the political project of Sinn Fein.
He then makes hay with silly and insensitive remarks about “the futile and fatuous attempt to abolish the IRA.” How would anyone know “if someone has left the IRA? . . how would anyone prove they’d left?”
So does Feeney not want to see the end of the UDA and UVF? Would Feeney be questioning as futile and fatuous calls for an end to loyalist paramilitaries if they had just killed someone?
Sure how would you know whether they or the Provisional IRA had gone away or not?
Well here’s a start. You might have a chance of convincing someone they had disappeared if they didn’t kill those who fall foul of them.
Feeney complains that the leader of the DUP Peter Robinson needs to feel that he is “not bound by any constraints that apply to normal relationships.” Leaving aside what counts for normal in the North of Ireland, does he not think such a remark might also be pointed in another direction?
It was bad enough when the British so openly overlooked and colluded in political murder by loyalists but their shameless excuses for the Provisional IRA and its supposed peaceful intentions complete the circle that working people in the North have to break from. In this case nationalist workers should see through the muck apparently thrown at the British and unionists because it’s really being thrown in their eyes. Who else is expected to listen to Feeney?