Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Northern Ireland: An Unholy Alliance

Irish democratic socialist republican group éirígí responds to the media bias and misinformation being bandied about in the wake of recent attacks in the Six Counties of northern Ireland.

Two other responses can be read here and here. Some good background on the issue can be found here.



éirígí director of publicity Seán Mac Brádaigh analyses the recent media reaction to events in Ireland.

An Unholy Alliance: What lies behind media coverage of recent events?

A spectre haunts Ireland, the spectre of republicanism!!!

James ConnollyMedia attacks on Irish republicans are not a new phenomenon. As long as there has been resistance to British rule in Ireland there have been journalists willing to do Britain’s work and attempt to demonise and criminalise republicans. The Sunday Independent in particular has a long tradition of anti-republicanism. Almost 100 years ago under the ownership of William Martin Murphy, it acted as cheerleader for British army recruitment; encouraging Irish men to go and fight in Britain’s imperial wars. Those who stayed with the Irish Volunteers and fought in the 1916 Easter Rising were described by the same paper as being involved in ‘criminal madness’. According to the paper ‘no terms of denunciation would be too strong to apply to those responsible for the insane and criminal Rising of last week’. Not satisfied with the fact that following the Rising thirteen men had already been executed; the Sunday Independent continued to bay for more republican blood. The editorial of 12th May was explicit in its demands:

‘Certain of the leaders remain undealt with, and the part they played was worse than that of those who have paid the extreme penalty. Are they, because of an indiscriminate demand for clemency, to get off lightly, while others who were no more prominent have been executed?’

Their wish was duly granted. On 12th May 1916 a seriously wounded James Connolly, the man who had fought so vigorously against William Martin Murphy during the 1913 Dublin Lockout, was strapped to a chair and executed by a British army firing squad. The same fate befell Seán Mac Diarmada.

So it was no surprise to find that last weekend the Sunday Independent launched an ill-informed diatribe against republicanism in general and éirígí in particular. The author of the piece is the paper’s so-called ‘security’ correspondent, and committed fantasist Jim Cusack. Jim Cusack is an experienced hand at the black art; he has been the most persistent advocate of the Sunday Independent’s particular brand of anti-republicanism. Author of a book on the UVF, Cusack has built his ‘journalistic’ career on the back of spreading lies and innuendo about Irish republicans. He also regularly acts as a mouthpiece for Gardaí, with consistent claims on their behalf that they lack the resources to deal with crime.

Justice for the Forgotten criticised Cusack for his remarks on the bombingsThe fog of anti-republicanism clouds his approach to many issues: for instance he has argued that British collusion with loyalist death squads in the 1974 Dublin/Monaghan bombings is an ‘unfounded conspiracy theory’. Renowned for a liberal interpretation of the truth and a less than rigorous approach to checking his sources; Cusack has on occasion been made to look less than competent. The 2006 Dublin riot during the ‘Love Ulster’ parade is a case in point. Firstly Cusack claimed that fellow fantasist Willie Frazier’s Love Ulster inspired march was no loyalist affair rather a march of ‘victims of IRA violence’. Unsurprisingly, Cusack neglected to inform his readers that the ‘Love Ulster’ organisation was founded by a coalition of loyalist groups including loyalist paramilitaries. Or that in August 2005, UDA leader Jackie McDonald was on hand to launch the ‘Love Ulster’ newspaper, as it was offloaded from a boat at Larne harbour, in an attempt to rekindle memories of the UVF gun-running operation at the same harbour in 1914. Cusack claimed that the riots had been co-ordinated by a coalition of republican groups.

Below is a short excerpt from his interview with Newstalk radio the morning after the riot:

Jim Cusack: There was a fair a bit of planning. Absolutely, a fair bit of planning. There was 2 or 3 groups involved here, it wasn't just them. And also, it wasn’t just Republican Sinn Féin, there was other groups as well. There was the political wing of the Real IRA and there was almost certainly in collusion with other groups and Sinn Féin people were there in the background.

NewsTalk106: Jim, where is your evidence for that?! You are the only person I’ve heard saying this.

Jim Cusack: No I’m not...


Jim Cusack: What Gardaí aren’t saying this?

NewsTalk106: The Gardaí are saying they still don’t know.

Jim Cusack: Well y…Ask the guards. Why don’t you ask the guards, (well, you know what I mean but the guards, oh sorry, the guards [?]broke an[?])…

NewsTalk106: They are still saying they are not sure if the riot was orchestrated – they actually don’t know, as we speak.

Jim Cusack: No, no, no, you’re quoting official spokesmen (you know) and they don’t say anything that’s any significance whatsoever. The Garda management made a mess of this here – whether or not they had the intelligence and I believe they did have the intelligence. They just didn’t act on it and this got out of hand.

NewsTalk106: If they had the intelligence, Jim, why would they not act on it?

Jim Cusack: Well, there’s all sorts of reasons for that there (I mean), they don’t want to over-spend on overtime and stuff like that. There’s resource and human resource led management in the police force which really doesn’t tally with the needs of what’s going on in the city sometimes.

Clearly, Jim doesn’t like to let facts get in the way of the particular fanciful narrative he has created. Indeed he has been criticised both by community representatives and the Gardaí for some of his wilder fantasies and sensationalist reporting. Last April in a front-page piece for the Sunday Independent he claimed that ‘carnage was averted at a funeral in Limerick after a man armed with an automatic handgun was prevented from gaining access to the cemetery during the burial of murder victim James Cronin.’ The piece had absolutely no basis in fact and was dismissed as ‘wild speculation’. His latest fantasising involves éirígí and is a fine example of feverish imagination and appalling journalism.

éirígí - founded in 2006 or 2007?It is difficult to know where to begin analysing this piece because from the outset Cusack gets some very basic facts completely wrong. A cursory search of the éirígí website would provide some information on the background and formation of éirígí as a campaigns group in Dublin in May 2006. Cusack and his political ‘sources’ it seems have other ideas and would like to create an altogether different narrative: one that fits the Sunday Independent and his new political ‘sources’ agenda. So he reports as ‘fact’ that ‘éirígí was formed in early 2007 after a group split from Sinn Féin when the party voted to support policing in the north’. This is simply wrong. And it is an attempt to suggest that éirígí has but a singular agenda. Unfortunately for Mr. Cusack and his new political ‘sources’ there has been much published about éirígí since its formation in May 2006, some of it in fact written by Cusack himself, and which dispels this particular lie.

Lest he has forgotten, let us remind Jim what he wrote in the Sunday Independent on 28th September last: ‘the decision by the Sinn Féin party leadership to soften its socialist position on economic and what are termed core republican issues has led to resignations and defections to a group called éirígí [which] started life two years ago in Dublin’. So which is it Jim? Perhaps he might return to his political ‘sources’ to clarify the matter. Or perhaps if he can’t trust them or indeed himself he might check with his peers. He could start with fellow ‘security’ correspondent Tom Brady, who wrote in the Irish Independent back in July 2006 that the Garda Special Branch was ‘closely monitoring members of éirígí’. Or he could have checked the story published by fellow Sunday Independent journalist Maeve Sheehan on 21st September last, which reported that éirígí was founded in 2006. One imagines that checking facts and sources is the staple of any credible journalist. While Cusack’s political ‘sources’ might be keen to portray éirígí in a particular light and to manipulate facts and spread falsehoods, a story published in the Village magazine by Scott Millar, on 22nd June 2006 would have provided Cusack with at least an accurate date as to the formation of éirígí. The article briefly quoted current éirígí chairperson, Brian Leeson: ‘This group has emerged from Dublin-based political activists who felt that what was needed was a credible campaigning group that was going to promote Socialist Republican politics in Dublin and challenge a lot of the inequalities we see around us.’ So while Cusack and his political ‘sources’ would like to portray éirígí as simply the ‘anti-policing party’, fundamentals such as the truth have got in the way of that particular line.

Theobold Wolfe ToneWe then move on to Cusack and his ‘sources’ description of éirígí as an ‘extremist group which has sought to link itself with legitimate protest over the last two years’. The falsehood that éirígí was established in early 2007 has already been dispelled. Now to the allegation of ‘extremism’ and ‘manipulation’ of other groups: what does Cusack and his ‘sources’ mean by ‘extremist’? éirígí is unashamedly a republican and socialist party. It seeks to be part of a movement that establishes a republic based upon fundamental principles of liberty, equality and solidarity.

We stand by the pledge of Wolfe Tone ‘to unite catholic, protestant and dissenter under the common name of Irishman’ and his belief that ‘our freedom must be had at all hazards. If the men of property will not help us they must fall; we will free ourselves by the aid of that large and respectable class of the community - the men of no property.’

Like Fintan Lalor we wish to see Ireland ‘free from the centre to the sea’.

We believe as James Connolly did that ‘the British government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland and never can have any right in Ireland’.

And unlike those who pay it lip service; we stand by the commitments set out in the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil:

‘the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies to be indefeasible, and in the language of our first President. Pádraíg Mac Phiarais, we declare that the Nation's sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the Nation, but to all its material possessions, the Nation's soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the Nation, and with him we reaffirm that all right to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare’.

If this is what the Sunday Independent and their new political ‘sources’ consider to be ‘extremist’ we are proud to carry that label.

Arguing for the rejection of the Lisbon Treatyéirígí does not seek legitimacy from any group or campaigns. We have not as Cusack implies sought cover behind any group. We are an open democratic political party that has organised political campaigns and events in conjunction with many other groups and individuals. We were proud to play our part in the defeat of the Lisbon Treaty last summer. Unlike the establishment we respect the democratically expressed will of the people in rejecting the Treaty. However, as the Treaty will be put to the people a second time we look forward to working alongside our colleagues in the Campaign Against the European Union Constitution (CAEUC) and defeating it a second time. We take inspiration from the community in Rossport, Co. Mayo who have been harassed and bullied by the state and demonised by the media and will continue our work in the Shell to Sea campaign. We are equally proud to take our place alongside the massed ranks of those who oppose imperial wars. As affiliates of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance and the Irish Anti-War Movement we will continue to oppose the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and support the people of Palestine in their struggle against Israeli oppression. We will take our place alongside workers on the 30th March, as we did last month when 120,000 people marched in opposition to government cuts. éirígí will not be deflected from any of this work. We will continue to organise politically. We do not require nor desire the approval of nationalist politicians and we certainly do not seek ‘legitimacy’ as others might from imperial powers in London or Washington.

There is a bizarre twist to Cusack’s piece which is somewhat baffling. Not a man known for his regular jaunts to west Belfast, he claims in his piece that the homes of éirígí members in that part of the country were picketed following the killing of two British soldiers in Antrim last week. Clearly his new ‘sources’ are attempting to portray éirígí as a group that is isolated within the republican heartland of west Belfast and its members treated as ‘outcasts’. This came as a great surprise to the very many members and supporters of éirígí in west Belfast. There were no pickets of any description outside the homes of members of éirígí. Indeed had Jim, the not so intrepid reporter, actually done some work and bothered to check his sources he might have discovered that éirígí in west Belfast hosted a very successful function last Friday evening on the Whiterock Road. The event was advertised in advance and held to mark the 90th anniversary of the First Dáil. It was filled with members, supporters and members of the public, with no pickets to be seen. Perhaps Cusack might like to elaborate on his ‘source’ for this particular fantasy.

So there it is. A tissue of lies and fabrications served to undermine legitimate political activism. Republicans should not be surprised nor deflected by this. There are clearly many forces at work. The fact is the media and certain political representatives and organisations are seeking to criminalise and demonise republicanism. That they are doing so in conjunction with British state forces and the reactionaries of the Sunday Independent, and other erroneous outlets, is a worrying development. It is a tactic tried and tested by countless British administrations. It has failed every time. And it will fail again. éirígí will vigorously defend its right to organise politically. It will defend the integrity of its organisation and membership. It will not allow the gutter journalism of a Sunday Independent hack, nor mischievous briefings from anonymous political and state ‘sources’ to deflect it from playing its full part in rebuilding republicanism. There has been much recent bluster from nationalist politicians about denying republican groups room to breathe. éirígí does not seek nor require the approval of any politician. It will continue to work alongside others in building popular support for republican and socialist demands.

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