Plenty of people had plenty to say about the McCartneys'
trip to the United States. They were tripping over themselves to get in
shot with the family and the SDLP finally came out on top, booking the
flights, organising the itinerary, lining up a press officer to take
care of them in Washington.
Perhaps those people should do the right thing now and tell
the McCartneys that it's time to start thinking before they speak.
Because while in the early days when they spoke from the heart about
their loss and their need for justice, it was affecting and moving, now
they've turned into what appears to many nationalists to be unionism on
The IRA are Nazis. Gerry Adams was involved in the cover-up of
their brothers' murder. No, they wouldn't shake his hand if they met
him in the US. We're on a mission to dispel any romantic notion that
Americans may have about the IRA. We're claiming responsibility for Ted
Kennedy refusing to meet Adams and it's a victory for our campaign. For
someone like me, who would like nothing better than to see the guy who
killed Robert McCartney standing in the dock, that central issue got
lost two weeks ago when the insistent demands for justice turned into
the white noise of propaganda and vilification. You mention the name
McCartney in West Belfast today and the image that is conjured up is no
longer one of a family man embracing his children, it is one of a group
of women who have lost the run of themselves; who are prepared to
dismiss the republican struggle and the vast amount of sacrifice and
suffering that went with it for the sake of a soundbite and another
spot on the teatime news; a group of women who for some reason believe
that the killing of their brother is worth the suspension of the peace
process. The prospect of another 30 years of horror and another 3,000
lives for the death of a man in a pub brawl seems like a poor bargain
It's easy for the McCartneys standing in the middle of another
media scrum or having honeyed words whispered into their ears by
anti-republican politicians and hacks to forget that it's not just
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness who are listening when they speak.
When the McCartneys say they're going to America to dispel romantic
notions about the IRA, when they compare the IRA to Nazis, those who
are most angered are not P. O'Neill or his volunteers because they're
big boys and well able to take care of themselves. Rather, it is the
widow in whose home a plaque commemorating her IRA husband takes pride
of place; the mother whose IRA son has been dead for decades and hasn't
seen an inquest yet and for whom the press and most politicians have
been not her friends, but her tormentors.
You don't have to be a republican to accept that republicans
are fiercely proud of their dead sons and daughters and husbands and
brothers. And you don't have to be a pyschologist to understand that
any attempt to take away their dignity and pride with blanket
statements about thuggery, about the end of romance, about Nazism, will
cause as much pain, if not more, as the McCartneys are themselves
feeling at the moment. If the McCartneys only knew the vast store of
bewilderment and anger that there is out there among ordinary
republican families then they might stop and think; and if they don't,
it's because they are surrounding themselves with people to whom Bobby
Sands was thug and a criminal; to whom the IRA is a criminal conspiracy
and nothing more. For these hangers-on the idea of a photo opportunity
is to get the family to stand side-by-side with another family from
Derry whose loved one died in a brawl, not because there is a special
camaraderie or natural fellow-feeling between people whose relatives
die in street fights, but because it served a political purpose.
As for the SDLP, well, time will tell the tale of how the
people judge their role in all this. It's clear now that Martin
McGuinness was not offering a threat, but a very sound piece of advice
when he advised the family not to get caught up in party politics.
Because what gains they made on their trip to the United States have
been dissipated by the revelation that the SDLP organised the flights
and itinerary and supplied a PR guy a former party activist to
baby-sit the family in Washington. Nothing wrong with that, of course,
except it would have been nice if somebody had thought to tell us about
it instead of waiting for Daily Ireland to put it in the public domain.
In retrospect, the McCartneys although they'll hardly admit it
may now be wishing that they had taken McGuinness's advice
instead of dismissing it so quickly. How ironic that the advice they
spurned would have served them well, while the advice that they're
accepting is taking them on the road to nowhere.