Anthony McIntyre: Who is McGuinness to talk of treachery?

For a former IRA commander to denounce the murder of members of the British security forces is a betrayal of the truth

Share
Related Topics

Many years ago I looked up to Martin McGuinness. Most within the ranks of the Provisional IRA did likewise. When we were moving into our teens, he was the republican Adonis strutting the streets of Derry with martial airs, putting it up the military might of the British with whatever armed prowess he could muster. When he travelled to London in 1972 along with five other IRA commanders for talks with the British government's William Whitelaw, it seemed proof positive that the armed struggle which had whisked the IRA delegation across the Irish Sea would soon keep the British on their own side of it.

Later, when I went to prison to serve a life sentence for a killing carried out on behalf of the IRA and ended up on the blanket protest which led to the hunger strike deaths of 10 republican volunteers including Bobby Sands, we held Martin McGuinness in no less esteem. We regarded him as our chief of staff directing a campaign that was at the time knocking over British soldiers and police officers like pins in a bowling alley.

Watching him earlier this week stand with a British chief constable and British First Minister for a British-run North of Ireland, himself now a British micro minister, I ruminated on the crossover he had made. Standing alongside these implacable opponents of everything he had at one time fought for, he was now denouncing as "traitors" those who had believed him when for years he had proclaimed the IRA the cutting edge of republican resistance. Like a chastened moral dwarf in the land of the giants, there he was screaming "midget" at everybody else.

My respect for him had already shrunk in the intervening years commensurate to his diminishing republican status. I cannot claim surprise, having predicted it both publicly and privately for the past 15 years. The leadership's ambivalent attitude to the non-republican document, the Downing Street Declaration of December 1993, was the writing on the wall. And it spelled "capitulation".

Since then, beginning with an article in Fortnight, the North's main political journal, I sought to question the direction in which the struggle was moving. For the first year things were OK. Wearing an academic hat for cover I could write and comment pretty much as I wanted. By November 1994, the squeeze was on. At an academic conference I had predicted the type of outcome we have today. Summoned to the Sinn Fein headquarters in Belfast by a friend and colleague, I was asked how it was possible for me to have arrived at such a damning indictment of the leadership's strategy. Despite the obvious logic of the trajectory about to be embarked upon, I was rapidly becoming a "thought criminal".

Not to be deterred from thinking, the following year I received the most sustained applause of the day at a packed conference in Dublin when I alerted the audience of about 1,000 party members that there was only one terminus on the road we had taken – defeat. Although Martin McGuinness was at that conference, it was when Gerry Adams also clapped for me that I knew the Judas kiss had been planted on my cheek.

For the next three years I found myself visited by leadership figures and "invited" to be silent. They were wasting their time as much as I was wasting my own in trying to convince my fellow activists of what was afoot.

On the evening of the Good Friday Agreement, Jeremy Paxman asked me in a Belfast television studio what was my problem with the agreement. My response was as terse as it was accurate: it constituted a British declaration of intent to stay in Ireland when the IRA's objective had been to secure a declaration of intent to withdraw. The party leadership was infuriated. That fury percolated down and soon enough nearly everybody else in the party waxed furious. I parted ways with the organisation I had been a member of for 25 years.

The Real IRA had formed some months before the agreement. I never felt the slightest inclination to join up. It appeared inappropriately named. The Make Believe IRA seemed a more accurate way to characterise it. Not because its volunteers lacked commitment or experience, but if the Provisional IRA campaign had failed so completely, there seemed nothing to suggest to me that any other IRA would reverse that situation.

Despite the killings of two British soldiers and one police officer in the past week by the combined gun power of the Real and Continuity IRAs, there is no reason for me to change my mind. Political in motivation and republican in ideology, the IRAs that picked up the baton dropped by the IRA which Martin McGuinness once led have no serious degree of republican political support. They constitute a much less robust militarily efficient organisation than the Provisional IRA.

Their sense of having been sold out by people like Martin McGuinness goes some way towards explaining why they behave as they do. But they are also sustained by the republican tradition of physical force. And within that tradition there is an unshakable belief that so long as there is a British presence in any part of Ireland, republicans will always be justified in bearing arms to strike at Britain and its forces.

Those of us who have "been there and done that" and who can bear testimony to the utter futility of militarism look on events with a mixture of angst and guilt. Angst because of the lives being destroyed; guilt because the logic we preached in the Provisional IRA is their logic. Treading in our footsteps they will secure the same defeat, but for Martin McGuinness to denounce them as traitors for following the example he set for decades is to commit an act of treachery against truth.



Anthony McIntyre is a former IRA prisoner and the author of Good Friday, The Death of Irish Republicanism (http://thepensivequill.am)

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace