In support of revolutionary violence

10th October 2001

LET me first declare an interest. My grandfather was in the IRA during the War of Independence and he was interned by the British in Ballykinlar in Co. Down.

There is an effort abroad in this city to suggest that this man was a terrorist – that the struggle that he was involved in was a criminal conspiracy. This loose talk comes on foot of the state funerals of IRA men who were buried in Mountjoy Jail, the most famous being Kevin Barry.

The idea is that because all these men were involved in violence, the State should not distinguish between them and their adversaries. Because we’re all against violence now.

This is news to me. Every single political entity in this state favours the use of violence in some circumstances.

Some of the commentators foremost in decrying the state funerals for the IRA men supported the recent Nato bombing of Yugoslavia (which included the deliberate killing of journalists), and are gung-ho about the US teaching Bin Laden a lesson.

So the idea that the IRA are now untouchable because they used violence is nonsense and a double standard amounting to rank hypocrisy.

At the time in question the British had no intention of ever allowing the Irish people to determine their own future. The only considerations for the British were the interests of the British. The Irish could keep on voting for whatever they wanted for as long as they wanted.

In these circumstances the revolutionary warfare of the IRA was more than justified.

Also, around this time, the ‘constitutional nationalists’ were collaborating with the British, encouraging young Irishmen to join the British Army in the service of a dictatorship occupying a quarter of the surface area of the planet.

Some 50,000 Irish soldiers died as a result and if they were in any way effective we can assume they took another 50,000 German and Turkish soldiers with them. So that’s 100,000 dead men to the ‘constitutional nationalists’. Sort of puts the Provos in the shade, don’t you think?

The destiny the British had in mind for a self-rule Ireland was a puppet state like those (at the time) of Canada and Australia which would supply cannon fodder and cheap meat for the empire in time of war.

Another ten years of ‘constitutional’ politics and they might well have achieved their goals.

Under these circumstances the undertaking of the Volunteers, the Citizen’s Army and the IRA was breathtaking. Their refusal to bow to the might of the British Empire is truly one of the heroic stories of the twentieth century.

Their courage has been an inspiration for many people across the world. Now we’re faced again with the ideology of the established order. In the aftermath of the atrocities in America the idea being pursued is that only state forces can legitimately use violence.

In an instant, the struggle for liberation of people worldwide is being criminalised because the interests of the dominant power demands it.

I, for one, reject this out of hand. As an optimist, I am convinced that violence is unjustified in almost all cases (including Northern Ireland). But revolutionary violence against injustice is legitimate. We can only judge the legitimacy of violence on a case by case basis. Perhaps history can be the only judge.

Kevin Barry and his comrades fought for this Republic and in the wider struggle of the weak against the powerful. Their comrades lie in graves in South Africa, Palestine, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, East Timor and many other places.

I will be going to the State funerals and anyone with a whit of republicanism and socialism should go too.