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Women show pols how to handle IRA bullies
The Chicago Sun Times ^ | March 15, 2005 | JOHN O'SULLIVAN

Posted on 03/15/2005 2:59:49 AM PST by elhombrelibre

Any day now the cartoonists will start drawing Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, his sidekick Martin McGuinness, and their gruesome accomplices in the Provisional IRA as the Addams Family -- all fangs, claws, pointed ears, and butcher's knives.

In the space of a few weeks, the reputation of Adams has sunk from "the Nelson Mandela of Ireland" to that of the mouthpiece of the local Murder Incorporated. Even Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) crosses the road when Gerry approaches, and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) remembers a previous engagement that will force him to cancel his speech at the next Sinn Fein fund-raiser.

What had Northern Ireland's Murder Incorporated done that it has not done before to cause such a nervous distancing from reliable old friends? Murder? What's another killing when you already have more than 2,000 deaths under your belt?

What has made the difference, apparently, is that the Sinn Fein-IRA machine suddenly looks as if it may be losing the support of its "base" -- i.e. the Catholic working class areas of Belfast which the IRA has controlled by threats, killings and "punishment beatings" since the Good Friday Agreement brought peace of a kind to the city. And all because of a pub brawl.

In the Sinn Fein-IRA stronghold of the Short Strand, a man got into a quarrel with some IRA "volunteers." He was savagely beaten on the instructions of their local chieftain. When his friend Robert McCartney -- himself a Catholic and Sinn Fein sympathizer -- went to his assistance, his eye was gouged out, his throat was cut, and he was cut with a knife from sternum to throat, "gutted like a fish" in the words of Kevin Myers. McCartney died, and his friend survived only because he was rushed to a life-support system.

After the crime, the IRA men removed the tape from the pub's security system and warned the 70 witnesses present to say nothing of the incident. Nothing unusual so far -- nothing to compare with the recent crucifixion of a local youth who had offended someone in "the Rafia." Almost 50 other people have been murdered in similar circumstances, and their frightened families have quietly buried them.

McCartney, however, had six brave women -- five sisters and a girlfriend -- who were determined that he should receive better justice . They campaigned publicly for a trial of his murderers. Their campaign ignited public anger and indignation where previously fear had prevailed. Graffiti attacking its IRA "protectors" appeared in the Short Strand. Crowds attended McCartney's funeral. As the crime became internationally known, Adams and Sinn Fein were disinvited from the White House celebration of St. Patrick's Day -- and the brave McCartney women were invited instead.

When Sinn Fein-IRA, seeking to extricate itself from this almost unprecedented experience of bad publicity, offered to murder his IRA murderers, the women were tempted but refused. What they wanted was justice rather than revenge.

Will they get it? Is Sinn Fein about to discover it must finally choose between democratic politics and criminal murder? Will the IRA finally be forced to disband to make the Belfast peace a genuine one?

It is not easy to be optimistic on any of these counts. Even though Sinn Fein-IRA has publicly called for witnesses to McCartney's murder to give evidence to police, their private instruction to locals has been very different. Not a single witness has come forward -- to the police, that is, since the IRA has apparently interviewed several. Meanwhile, the rafiosi believed by locals to be guilty of the crime still swagger through the area's clubs and pubs.

Doubtless, too, Adams and his consiglieri calculate they can survive this rebellion of ordinary Catholics as they survived earlier ones. Before the McCartney women, there were the "peace women" in 1976.

Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan led large demonstrations of Catholics and Protestants to protest against terrorist violence when three children were killed by the car of a fleeing IRA gunman. They were awarded the Nobel Prize. But they believed that peace was above politics; the two women parted company -- Williams going to Florida, Corrigan becoming an international "peace activist," and their movement faltered and declined. It is now a decent but modest fringe organization -- testimony to the truth that peace must rest on something more substantial than a temporary mood of public anger at a bestial crime.

Full and permanent peace will arrive only when governments mobilize public opinion in support of a firm declaration to terrorists of all stripes: Disband or face exclusion from the political process and (in due course) prison.

The Bush administration knows this. Its Northern Ireland envoy, Mitchell Reiss, said recently: "It's hard to understand how a European country in the year 2005 can have a private army associated with a political party." And it is believed that the White House was prepared to invite Ireland's democratic parties to Thursday's festivities (as well as excluding Sinn Fein) if the London and Dublin governments agreed.

Only Britain's Tony Blair and Ireland's Bertie Ahern seem nervous of such a firm response. That is a turnabout for the Brits in particular. London used to want Washington's cooperation in cracking down on Irish terrorism. Now it apparently wants U.S. cooperation in NOT cracking down on terrorism.

Blair and Ahern demonstrate the melancholy outcome of the appeasement that the peace process has become. In the end the appeaser becomes so committed to the process of appeasement that he cannot hold the aggressor to account for his aggression. So, naturally, his aggression continues. Unless Blair and Ahern learn courage from the McCartney women and firmness from Bush, the Addams Family will continue to frighten, maim and murder for another decade or two.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: britain; england; greatbritain; ira; ireland; johnsullivan; northernireland; scotland; uk; unitedkingdom; wales

1 posted on 03/15/2005 2:59:49 AM PST by elhombrelibre
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To: elhombrelibre

Blair is utterly useless here. For some reason he says nothing against the IRA/Sinn Fein.

He has made one statement over this killing and that was only when the IRA offered to kill their two members.

But it's great to see a Chicago paper, call it as it is.

2 posted on 03/15/2005 3:23:39 AM PST by crazycat
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To: crazycat

Yeah, and O'Sullivan is a pretty keen observer of politics too.

3 posted on 03/15/2005 3:25:21 AM PST by elhombrelibre (How many days has it been since John Kerry said he'd sign an SF 180?)
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