Deaglán Ó Donghaile writing in Irish Dissent gives a very different view of Martin McGuiness from the more prevalent one in the media.
To the memory of my mother, Martina Donnelly
The only unfortunate thing about Martin McGuinness’s death was that it came at a time when I was very busy with work and unable to respond sooner. I am not at all bothered about his slow and, apparently, very painful end because in 1998 the Sinn Féin militia, under his direct orders, attacked my family. Armed with guns, nail-studded baseball bats (yes, you have read that correctly – they used baseball bats that had nails hammered into them), iron bars and mace gas, they attacked us. They did so with a ferocity that cannot be imagined by those who have not witnessed such horror unless, perhaps, they have had it described to them in detail by someone who has experienced it. My three little sisters, aged 11, ten and six years old, were all hospitalised with trauma wounds, including punctures on their arms, legs, backs and heads caused by those nails, and they also suffered poisoning from the mace gas. My father’s leg and hand were broken and, along with his children’s injuries, his puncture wounds had to be treated for infections that were caused by the nails. My mother was also very badly wounded, and suffered the worst of us all: as a result of the injuries that she endured that night, she developed the ovarian cancer that would take her life some years later.
Violence is a singular and totalising phenomenon, and it is never more so than when it is inflicted in the name of power against children. The violence that was inflicted on my family at 10pm on the night of Sunday, June 28th, 1998 (just days after the formalisation of the Pacification of Ireland Process with the re-opening of Stormont) was the latest incarnation of British colonial violence, camouflaged by its local deliverers: British proxies from the Sinn Féin militia who were posing as Irish republicans. The British state attempted to disguise its presence in our home but immediately, in the hours, days and weeks that followed, and then during the years that have passed since, what was hatched on that night became so obviously apparent that it is now a matter of public (if unofficial) record, and is being spoken about openly. Even in the darkest times of state terror and government violence – for this was government violence, committed in the name of Stormont, Westminster and the Blairite imperialism that would later on murder over a million people in Iraq – the truth has a strange way of coming to the surface. It does not, of course, appear in the official discourses of the press and the establishment, but resides instead in the resistant consciousness of people who recognise colonial power and its agents, and who choose to speak out against it.
An Agent of Colonial Violence
Years before they established death squads in Iraq, New Labour acquired valuable practice in deploying them in Ireland with the help of their local puppets. In Derry and elsewhere, Martin McGuinness was a key agent of this power and, as its principal native avatar, he was the one to whom the British could always turn whenever spectacularly violent forms of pacification were needed. He was the one who could activate the required force in all of its barbarity, and they were the ones who believed that they could use him to silence dissent and erase, with the application of this terror, the possibility of a United Ireland (I am referring here to the real possibility of Irish unification and not the empty simulation of it promoted by Sinn Féin, then and now).
Murder and brutalisation were sanctioned with the official and unofficial blessing of the state from its local to its highest levels, and what we have seen with the death of Martin McGuinness is the closure of a very significant node within its grid of power. To be sure, its light had been faltering for some time, and its value was rapidly diminishing before he was ever diagnosed with the amyloidosis that killed him. For some time he could not walk the streets in Derry without being jeered at for being a traitor, and it was with the greatest irony but without, of course, any grasp of the concept, that he pressed charges against a young man who threw eggs at him in the Bogside. That power, which circulates across all of its circuits, dominating them until they are burned out and extinguished, now no longer illuminates one of the most important contacts in the history of British intelligence and counterinsurgency.
The Question of Power
From the then-Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam (who, while expressing her “love” for McGuinness, insisted that such attacks were not ceasefire violations but the good and necessary work of “internal housekeeping”) to the judge who, reluctantly convicting Hugh Sheerin, one of the attackers who broke into our home and lauded him as a family man, to the police who arrived on the scene, minutes after my father had been stopped and questioned about his movements by them, under threat of immediate arrest under the Special Powers Act if he did not reveal where he was going and when (“to home”, he replied, “are you sure? Are you sure about that?” they kept demanding), this shared power percolated through the entire system, along with their shared violence. That night, my father remarked to me about the strangeness of the police’s questions because, despite a lifetime of harassment at their hands, he had never experienced them being so determined to establish beyond any doubt the fact that he was going home, and precisely how soon, as they did just then when they stopped him while driving on a journey from a shop that took less than two minutes. Just as he told me this, the gang burst through our front door, and this happened within less than another two minutes of his arrival: exactly as long as it took him to tell me about his strange questioning at the hands of the RUC.
When the police appeared, again only minutes after the Sinn Féin gang had left, their only expression of surprise at what had happened was over the fact that we had fought back and that so many of the attackers were themselves injured. We also witnessed the reality of official consternation at a plan gone wrong when they discovered that their proxies had left behind, along with a lot of their own blood (which, of course, was never converted into DNA evidence), a mace gas spray canister that my mother had knocked out of one of their hands. “Who else saw this? Who else knows about this?” they kept shouting. Of course, they made sure that nobody else would ever know about it or see any reference to in the official narrative of what happened that night: this piece of evidence was quickly disappeared for good when, in their words, “it was just lost in the Strand Road” – i.e., hidden by them in their local barracks.
In the Service of Colonial Power
This week, apologists for Martin McGuinness have been trying to explain what did on behalf of the British state as the result of a very dense political process, the very meaning of which is so complicated that it lies beyond the comprehension of ordinary people (they used to call it “the bigger picture” but now it’s just referred to as “the complexity of the process”). They are also claiming that their party is not wilfully serving the furtherance of British policy in Ireland, while telling their supporters that they must keep facilitating the mysterious, ever-shifting dynamic and rituals of a system and structure that is beyond their understanding. The mystery, they insist, requires complete submission to the rules of power, forever demanding further demonstrations of their prostration in increasingly humiliating displays of obedience. For the thoroughly unthinking, these proposals aren’t difficult to absorb – they’re just what you do when you’re told to, because “that’s politics”, and “the way things work”. Orwellian doublethink of this kind has always had a profound hold over the weak-minded, and as Orwell warned, state terror is where official thought control always begins.
The final defilement, committed during a life that spiralled ever-downward into an abyss of degrading servility, was the moment at which McGuinness, with his trademark leer, posed for photographs with Elizabeth Windsor and clapped while physically stooping his body as a portrait of the English queen, for which he raised the funding, was unveiled in London. As images of this incident were circulated around the world, politically conscious people were asking, “What have the British got on him?” It was, without doubt, the most revealing public incident during his parallel careers, both official and unofficial, in the service of British authority, and it will forever be his epitaph. It reveals an individual who, entirely bound by his own practice of betrayal, desperately served the commands of his handlers. Having become so immersed in the game of power, he really had no choice but to crawl along its corridors in Westminster and Chelsea, where he found his true home as a flatterer of the establishment. There was no greater humiliation in the history of constitutional Irish nationalism and there certainly is not a lower depth to be plumbed than this.
All of this predates Orwell, and the doublethink that he identified has its origins in the colonisation of Ireland where, throughout history, we find that true subjugation begins and ends within the minds of the conquered. In 1914, James Connolly defined this as the practice of “ruling by fooling” and in Ireland colonial political control has been exercised through this means for centuries. It was established through the system of “surrender and re-grant” during the sixteenth century, when chieftains bent to the English crown, and modernised in the coercion measures that were imposed throughout the 1800s and officially entitled “Peace Acts”. Today, it is visible for those who choose to recognise it in the internment of Tony Taylor. His illegal incarceration is now labelled “detention”, just as it was in 1971, because this is a more palatable noun with which the British government can promote coercion and a much less frightening concept for the public to grasp, just as it also was for the Apartheid régime in South Africa.
Today, the rest of us have a choice. We can choose to submit to such lies and believe those who, in praising Martin McGuinness as Bill Clinton and Alastair Campbell did, continue his work of distorting the past, controlling the present and condemning the future. Or we can choose to challenge them and, in so doing, liberate ourselves.
‘State colluded with IRA cover-up attack’
(Irish News) This article appeared first in the June 27, 2005 edition of the Irish News.
A veteran Derry IRA man who was vocal in his criticism of the Sinn Féin leadership has accused republicans of colluding with the state to silence him.
Mickey Donnelly, one of the original ‘hooded men’ who successfully sued the British government on torture charges, claims a gang who beat him and his family in 1998 were assisted by police.
Mr Donnelly’s allegations follow last week’s conviction of 38-year-old Hugh Sheerin from Marlborough Road in Derry for his part in the assault.
Sheerin was given a three-year suspended sentence at Belfast Crown Court after being found guilty of hijacking a taxi, detaining a person against his will, causing grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm, possession of a weapon and five counts of assault.
No-one else has been convicted of any charges relating to the assault on Mr Donnelly, in which he suffered a broken leg, fractured hand and serious head and body injuries.
He said the gang burst into his home and used a CS spray on his wife and assaulted his daughters, one of whom was only 11.
At the time he accused a Provisional IRA punishment gang of carrying out the attack.
But in a letter to The Irish News Mr Donnelly went further and accused the RUC – and latterly the PSNI – of colluding with republicans to “cover up of the actions of the Provisional IRA’s armed gangs”.
He alleged that the police knew of the attack on his home beforehand, that they “facilitated” the perpetrators and “hampered” the investigation into the assault.
Mr Donnelly said he was beaten up because of his opposition to the Good Friday Agreement.
In his detailed allegations, the Derry republican said that on the night of the attack he was stopped at a police checkpoint minutes from his home.
“The patrol’s only question to me was whether I was returning directly home,” he said.
“I refused to answer this question and was threatened with arrest. After persistent repetition of this one question I was only let go after I answered in the affirmative.”
He said that five minutes later a gang of six armed men entered his home and assaulted him and his family.
Mr Donnelly alleged that police officers arrived at the house moments later – even though the incident had not been reported.
He listed a further series of allegations which include the police’s failure to take forensic evidence from the getaway car, losing vital clues and failing to interview suspects.
The former Long Kesh internee alleged charges were only brought against Sheerin after the assault was raised with the Police Ombudsman’s office.
Mr Donnelly claimed that Sheerin pleaded guilty to the charges in order to prevent damaging revelations for Sinn Féin and the PSNI.
“We can only ask who are they protecting and why?,” he said.
“Why has no action been taken against the other members of the gang?”
A Sinn Féin spokesman last night (Sunday) dismissed Mr Donnelly’s allegations, adding that Hugh Sheerin had not been charged with IRA membership.
A police spokesperson said that if Mr Donnelly was not satisfied with the police investigation then he should contact the Police Ombudsman’s office.
Mr Donnelly did not direct any of his criticism at the judge in the case who handed down a suspended sentence to Sheerin.
In his judgement Judge Weatherup cited a number of reason for the suspended sentence including the time which had lapsed since the events, Sheerin’s “stable family relationship, dependent children, mature years, ill health” and the absence of a paramilitary background.
The judge also took into account his guilty plea and accepted the police opinion that he had had “a periphery role” in the attack.
Sheerin’s employment history also had merit as did his “settled family circumstances” and “good background”.
The judge said Sheerin was “regarded as a quietly spoken, articulate, thoughtful individual” who a Probation Service report declared to be “of low risk to the public and low likelihood of reoffending”.
Sheerin’s record was at least 13 to 15 years old and “concerns a number of minor motoring indiscretions relating to R plates, driving licences and one incidence of careless driving”, he added.
June 28, 2005
This article appeared first in the June 27, 2005 edition of the Irish News.
I have often wondered why those Irish republicans who opposed their former comrades decision to sign the Good Friday Agreement concentrate their fire on Gerry Adams, while giving Martin McGuinness a free ride. Not least because whilst Adams may have his faults, he is not known for inflicting violent retribution upon those who cross him or disagree with his strategic decisions. He has enough confidence in his own ability to win the argument by internal debate and bureaucratic maneuver to have to silence his critics in a violent way.
The same cannot be said for Mr McGuinness who is known for his unforgiving nature, and has a history of using the ultimate sanction against anyone who threatens his reputation.
However it is more than this alone which made me decide to republish the article below, for unlike Gerry Adams, McGuinness seems to have relished being a senior figure in the Stormont six county government which gives its allegiance to the British crown. Whereas Adams views participating in the north’s sectarian administration as a necessary evil if Sinn Féin is to become a major player in the 26 county Republic of Ireland
The article below covers an attack on the family home of Derry Republicans Mickey and Martina Donnelly. Mickey was the man who allegedly recruited McGuinness into the Provisional IRA, he was also one of the ‘Hooded Men’ who were tortured in 1971 by the British army, and the last prisoner released after internment was ‘officially‘ ended.
In 1986 he was among those who walked out of Sinn Féin’s Ard-Fheis after the party voted to end its policy of abstentionism, and went on to become a founding member of Republican Sinn Féin.
One would have thought Donnelly’s years of working closely with McGuinness would have protected him from the vengeful attack he and his family experienced in 1998. But it seems not, and here the first deputy minister again differs from Adams. For the latter had no greater friend, and later no greater foe than Brendan Hughes, and while his underlings may have besmirched Brendan’s reputation, all to no avail I might add as he was not the type of revolutionary who could be silenced, actual physical violence against a former comrade were not Adams style.
Up until the present day little happens within the working class nationalist communities of Derry without McGuinness’s knowing about it. When members of the PIRA went to the home of the Donnelly’s and their children in 1989 they were undoubtedly on an errand for Mr McGuinness.
Mickey’s wife Martina died last October, in his round up of the years events Anthony McIntyre recently wrote this on the Pensive Quill:
Martina succumbed to the cancer she lived with for five years, leaving behind her grieving husband Mickey and five children, Ruairi, Deaglán, Una, Niamh and Caoimhe. A Derry woman who knew her simply summed her up as ‘well known and loved in the community and for me what always stood out was how proud she was of her children.’
With those same children she was, in June 1998, to endure the horrors of a visit by PIRA goondas.
Her husband Mickey was an uncompromising republican and whatever we might think of his views, he certainly delivered them with passion and frankness. When Mickey smelled a rat he didn’t hang around on the off chance that somebody else might raise the alarm. He did it himself. And for that, this man, who endured the tortures of the British state almost three decades earlier, found himself in the position of having to face them all over again, this time from people who wanted to be part of the same British state Mickey spent a life time opposing.
In order to silence his republican criticisms shortly after the Good Friday Treaty, a Sinn Fein gang broke his leg, having forcibly entered to his home in order to beat him. The attack was vividly described by his son Deaglán:
My parents and sisters returned from a trip to buy milk … Exactly ten minutes later four masked men wearing combat clothing burst into the room and one shouted ‘IRA Provisionals’. One sprayed ‘mace’ tear gas into my mother’s eyes and into my little sisters’ faces and started to beat my father.
They had baseball bats studded with nails and iron crowbars. Niamh climbed on top of the armchair and jumped on one of the thugs to protect her Daddy, but he threw her to the ground and clubbed her on the leg with a nail-studded baseball bat.
Úna then jumped across her father to protect him and her back was badly beaten. Caoimhe was still sitting on his knee and she was also beaten by the Provisional thugs.
We fought them out to the kitchen where they beat my father to the ground. One was shouting “you cost us a seat you bastard.” I was still fighting the fourth one, but he pulled another revolver and shouted ‘stop or you’re shot’.
They went back into the kitchen and all five cease-fire soldiers went about beating one unrepentant Republican, as he lay on the ground, for refusing to surrender his ideals. Although my father was now lying on the floor with a broken leg he wrenched a crowbar from one of them and kneecapped him with it. My mother tried to intervene, but one of them stuck his arm in her face and said ‘IRA Provisionals, fuck off’. Tina got to the phone and raised the alarm, the Broy Harriers left.
Although five members of the Provisionals’ party militia walked into our house two of them had to be carried out. Some of them fell on the driveway and one injured himself badly on some building blocks by falling on them. The blocks were covered in blood.
McGuinness confronted by Martina Donnelly
The night following the attack Mickey Donnelly’s wife, Martina, confronted Martin McGuinness at his home. Thinking that Martina had come to plead for clemency McGuinness naively invited Martina into his house but instead she questioned him about the fascist attack on her family on his own doorstep, in full public view of the neighbourhood.
McGuinness opened his door but stepped back into his hallway on recognising Martina. When she asked him why five members of his party beat her children and her husband with iron bars and baseball bats studded with nails, McGuinness replied, significantly, “I wasn’t here.”
He then stepped forward in what an eyewitness described as “an absolutely threatening manner” and proceeded to point his finger into Martina’s face. He then said “Your husband has been calling me a traitor all around this town for the past twelve months.”
After a slight pause Martina said “Oh, so that’s why you did it,” McGuinness did not deny this accusation and Martina said “Sure, that’s all you are, Martin – a traitor and a collaborator. You’ll be sitting with the British government in their assembly. In fact, you’ll be part of the British government there.”
McGuinness replied, “Keep your voice down. My children are inside” while his wife, Bernie shouted “Just shut the door on them.” Martina then asked, “What about my children? You sent five masked men to spray gas into my children’s eyes and to beat them and their father up.” McGuinness then declared “I’m not listening to this” and slammed his door violently.
Martina then addressed him loudly through his open window repeating “child-beater”, “collaborator” and stated “Sure, you’ll be running the place for them.”
The Hooded Men, By Denis Faul, Raymond Murray
Interview with the 14 Hooded Men of Northern Ireland about their torture at the hands of the British Army.
From the Pensive Quill: