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Gunmen, Get Lost!

It was the Saturday after St Patrick’s Day and roars went up in homes and pubs as Ireland thrashed England at rugby: the joyful, harmless chorus of the underdog. On that same afternoon there was another roar: the now familiar cry of anguish and confusion as workers doing their weekend shopping—this time in Warrington—became the victims of a carefully planted bomb. One of those shoppers, out with his father to buy a present for Mothers Day, was a little boy of less than four years of age. He was murdered—another "war victory” for the IRA. Another boy, aged twelve, out shopping for Everton football shorts, was so facially disfigured by the blast that his parents had to identify him by his watch. He died days later.

We live in a society that makes quite a habit of murdering children. Over two hundred have been killed as victims of the warfare in Ireland over the last quarter of a century. The youngest was six months old. The unspeakable thuggery of the paramilitaries—of both sides, regardless of religious or ideological labels: all of their gods are wanted for murder—is a shadow of the legally sanctioned bombings of children. in Vietnam, in Libya, in Iraq, in Afghanistan.

Those who bring violence on to our streets in the name of liberating us— liberating anybody—are our most profound enemies. Only the most dogmatically programmed Leninist, still clinging to the belief that those who blow up defenceless children arc heroic fighters for colonial liberation, and the most detached and ignorant Irish American Catholics, with their rosary in one hand and their contributory cheque to the NORAID murder machine in the other, can condone, defend or apologise for what has been done. And then, with the imaginative intelligence of lemmings, competing with their IRA rivals to commit ethical suicide, the UFF joined in within a week of the Warrington atrocity to murder five new victims, one of them a young man of only seventeen.

“Enough is too much”

Sitting in a Dublin cinema on a rainy afternoon watching the Oscar-winning film The Crying Game was an electrifying experience. The film itself (which must have one of the least predictable twists of any film ever; one which probably detracts from the poignancy of the unambiguous attack on terrorist violence) shows vividly the cold and callous and futile world of IRA violence. (In this it contrasts well with the pathetically idealised Sinn Fein innocence depicted in the American film Patriot Games.) But that afternoon the film was not the main event.

I had just come from a meeting at Trinity College Dublin (there were several of them in the week after Warrington) where person after person, representing many organisations and none, had voiced their contempt for the perpetrators—all of them—of the kind of hate-filled murder campaigns which small, undemocratic gangs have dared to initiate in their names. The overwhelming sentiment in Dublin during the days following Warrington was that violent action was pointless and reprehensible. On one page of one day’s edition of the Irish Times (26 March) the letters and editorial blasted responses to the bombs, which were significant not for their uniqueness but for the extent to which they were reflected by everyone I spoke to in Dublin. Wrote John Sullivan:

    "Last Saturday, while Ireland cheered on 15 heroes in green, a four-year old child was blown apart in the name of Irish freedom. No excuse, no "accident of war", no apportionment of blame for alleged unheeded warnings can hide the IRA’s murderous intent. It is incumbent upon ordinary Irish people everywhere, who reject the realisation of national aspirations through violence, to protest . . . against those in our community who offer even the most tacit support to any terrorist organisation."

"As a mother of a small boy I am writing to express my disgust and contempt at the murder in Warrington of a three-year old boy by the IRA” began the letter from Allison Collier. "Both killing sides are interchangeable—most of all in their politics of devastation and fear", declared the editorial. In every bar there was spontaneous rage. (It says much for a culture that the killing of children incites such feeling). Over 30,000 people signed a peace petition at Trinity College. When Susan McHugh, a Dublin housewife, called in to a TV phone-in programme to say that "enough is enough" and "ordinary people" must stand up and be counted against the violence she was surely voicing the view of the majority.

The four days which intervened between McHugh’s call and Sunday afternoon were filled with an energy it was impossible to miss. A demonstration was called to be held at 3pm in O’Connell Street (the widest central street in any European capital city). Political leaders were banned from taking the platform; they had done nothing to end the killings so far and their speeches would not be welcome at an event which belonged to the people. At one meeting I expressed the view that no nation and no government was worthy of the support of the wealth-producing majority; we had no countries to die for, only a world to live once it is our own. Several people cheered—it was a cheering atmosphere— but it was obvious that more than favoured sentiments would need to enter the minds of the millions before the death of nation and statehood could become a reality.

Peace rally

The O’Connell demonstration, held with noted irony outside the GPO which was the scene of the Easter Rising of 1916, was one of the most moving events that this writer can recall. Tears flowed openly and with no shame. The presence of thousands of people straining to unleash pent-up passions for human brother- and sister-hood might be dismissed by the cynics as empty moral gesturing, but to this socialist it was comforting proof that humans are happier striving for peace than conspiring for violence.

One recalls the ghastly and tasteless Falklands victory parade through London: certainly there was feeling there, but it was the contrived, regimented unmelodious patriotic phoney-feeling which is as fragile as the wooden sticks on which schoolboys were told to wave Union Jack idiot-symbols. The Dublin Peace Rally was workers showing that guns are not part of our nature.

Of course, little really changed. Still the paramilitary chiefs pursue the total-blindness policy of an eye for an eye; still those leaders are now mainly racketeers, living in personal luxury thanks to protection rackets and robberies carried out for the pointless “cause” by impoverished ghetto- dwellers; still there will be those who will try to argue tortuously that the murder of someone on "the other side” is somehow less of an atrocity than violence against their own. It is easy for those with good memories to think back to the Peace People in the 1970s who, after a short-lived peaceful campaign against sectarianism, withdrew into obscurity for reasons that are still a matter for historical interpretation. It is at least possible that this time the momentum will be kept up—the widespread desire for peacefulness and hatred of the murdering few might just be uncrushable.

Speakers from various religious denominations addressed the rally. For a socialist this was hard to take—the only consolation being that it is better to hear them imploring listeners to love their neighbours as themselves than their more typical business of blessing bombs which have state approval. It was good to see The Dubliners, whose repertoire of occasionally nationalist songs has left a sour taste in the mouth of many a socialist music-lover, stand up and denounce the murderers. It was pleasing to see that Sinead O'Connor made it to the rally and preceded her song by saying, in marked contrast to the God Squad, that we should not wait until we die to reach "The Kingdom of Heaven”, for it was within all of us to bring it about down here on Earth now. From someone who had advocated the abolition of the money system the meaning, if not the words, made much sense.

I was not the only one who left the mass rally after three hours of almost non-stop heavy rain with a sense of elation. That afternoon several thousands of us had played the crying game and realised that we could do more than weep; we could make peace our practical objective. But there will be no peace while the economic and political motives for killing are implanted within the very social order which dominates our lives. Peaceful capitalism is like non-combative mugging. Capitalism or peace—it must be one or the other.

Steve Coleman