|Regular readers of Proletarian will recall that in our last issue (No 4, Feb/Mar 05) we reported on the complete lack of evidence behind claims by the British imperialist bourgeoisie, and its lackeys in the occupied north east of Ireland, that the Irish Republican Army (IRA) - and, by association, Sinn Féin - had been involved in December 2004's record-breaking £26.5m heist at the Northern Bank in Belfast.
Then, for a few days in late February, the capitalist media on both sides of the Irish Sea 'went big' on stories suggesting that the case had been cracked. We read and heard at the time that a jubilant Garda Siochana (the 26-county police) had conducted raids on houses in both Dublin and Cork, recovering millions of pounds - or euros, in this case - and supposedly proving that republicans had, indeed, been behind the bank raid.
Funny, then, that no further word has been reported about this alleged breakthrough. It certainly would have been in the interests of British imperialism to do so, had there been any basis to the stories. Perhaps there's still no evidence against the IRA at all. Or are we just being cynical?
Instead, thousands of column inches in the ruling-class press - and a correspondingly disproportionate amount of TV and radio air-time - have been devoted to 'IRA involvement' in the murder in late January, outside a Belfast pub, of one Robert McCartney, a working-class republican living in the Short Strand district of the city.
It should be noted that, throughout their entirely commendable fight for justice, even the family of the dead man are on record as blaming individuals, rather than the Irish Republican Army as a whole.
But, despite this, the family's high-profile campaign has been seized upon by the British state, the loyalists and their international allies to further demonise the republican movement in the run-up to crucial elections in the 26 counties - elections at which Sinn Féin was, and probably still is, set to score major advances.
In the USA, where some 40m people claim Irish descent and where Irish republican leaders have traditionally been welcome at the White House to mark St Patrick's Day, the Belfast killing has had a symbolically important result. Not in the working-class Irish bars and cultural centres of Boston, New York and Chicago, however, where even the BBC showed the rapturous applause generated by the arrival of senior Sinn Féin representatives.
For the first time, Sinn Féin leaders, including party president Gerry Adams, were not invited to share in the festivities with a US president. St Patrick's Day instead saw the arrival in Washington of Robert McCartney's sisters. The outcome of the family's much vaunted presence in Washington and, specifically, its political results, were not yet clear as Proletarian went to press.
But Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin McGuinness had warned that involvement by the McCartney sisters in "party politics" could only play a negative role, involving the manipulation of their grief by enemies of Irish freedom. And he has tried to remind the family that they were present at the recent centenary Ard Fheis (annual congress) of Sinn Féin at the special invitation of the republican leadership.
It is clear that US imperialism is supporting its British counterpart's attempts (or, at least, those of leading sections within it) further to sabotage the Good Friday Agreement, to placate unionist opinion in the six counties, and to set the scene for major behind-the-scenes involvement by British capital in any future all-Ireland republic
In response to what are, after all, serious allegations, Sinn Féin has suspended seven of its members "without prejudice" pending inquiry - one of whom was questioned by both the Gardai and the six-county police, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI, the former RUC), and then released without charge.
The IRA, for its part, has expelled three volunteers (the term used, for historical reasons, to describe its serving soldiers) and has issued a statement. We summarise that statement below, in a series of bullet points, because our party, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), remains committed to Irish freedom, in the interests both of the people of our neighbouring island and of the British proletariat itself.
However, let us preface this summary of the IRA's statement by quoting Gerry Adams on the subject of the McCartney killing and its aftermath: "I want to see the killers in court, as well, and I invited them [the McCartney family] to the Ard Fheis. I think that it's just reprehensible that those involved in the killing have, for selfish interests … and fuelled by drink, stupidity and machoism … refused to come forward thus far. I would still appeal to them to do the decent thing".
"Sinn Féin," continued Adams, "is not involved in criminality, and … my big concern is for the peace process. I spelled out at the Ard Fheis that we need to get our act in order, along with everybody else."
Let us warn any of our more squeamish readers in advance that the summary which follows includes the offer by Oglaigh na hEireann (the Irish-language term for the IRA) to shoot those responsible for the McCartney murder.
This was, of course, condemned by Tony Blair and all respectable bourgeois politicians as "barbaric" and "indefensible". So it's worth making two points here:
1. The killing of Irish people (by the millions) has been a near-monopoly of the English ruling class for more than 800 years, so we at Proletarian find ourselves thinking (to paraphrase The Bard) that Britain, the continuing colonial power, "doth protest too much".
2. The Irish Republican Army is not a debating society, a Boy Scout troop or a branch of the Quakers. Its code of military conduct - voluntarily assumed by all those enlisting in the organisation - explicitly calls for the death penalty in cases of treachery against the republican movement (General Order 5, Part 5).
What now follows is a précis of the relevant IRA statement. We invite all our readers to visit us at archive.cpgb-ml.org for more information about the Irish struggle for national liberation and British communists' attitude towards it.
- The IRA has made it absolutely clear that those who killed Robert McCartney in a knife-fight outside a Belfast bar must be brought to account.
- In a lengthy statement, the IRA revealed that two of its members were among the group that got involved in the dispute that ended with McCartney being fatally wounded outside Magennis's Bar in Belfast city centre.
- The IRA has now expelled three members, and Sinn Féin has suspended seven, following allegations that a group of republicans had been involved in the stabbing and beating.
- In its statement, the IRA made clear that its investigation had identified those responsible for McCartney's death, including two IRA volunteers.
- It revealed that it had made an offer to take physical action against those responsible, in terms of a punishment shooting. The IRA said this was rejected by the McCartney family, and the statement also revealed that the IRA gave direct assurances on their safety to three named individuals who the family alleged were targets of intimidation.
- Although the McCartneys have accepted that the death of their brother was not an IRA action, the matter has been depicted as such in the media. The IRA rejects this view, and will continue to fight against the family's pursuit of justice being incorporated into a campaign to damage the republican movement.
The mounting hysteria over 'IRA violence' and republican 'criminality' must be seen in the context of the forthcoming elections. When the GFA was signed, the British ruling class confidently expected that Sinn Fein would become marginalised in favour of the pliant nationalists in the SDLP. In fact, the reverse has happened and Sinn Fein have not only built their strength in the north, they are also the fastest-growing party in the south of Ireland too.
Further electoral victories and an increased mandate for Sinn Fein will spell the end for many vested interests throughout Ireland, since SF is the only party that is serious about delivering equality to the marginalised nationalists and change in police and governmental institutions. It is also the only party that is serious about the reunification of Ireland.
All the hype in the British and Irish bourgeois press has one aim only: to undermine support for Sinn Fein and bring the peace process back into line with the imperialists' original objective of leaving behind a divided island with pliant, weak governments on both sides of the border.