was heartening this afternoon to watch a nastily
scarred Denis Bradley overcome any trepidation that
may have bugged him to give his first interview
since the vicious attack on him as he engaged in
the innocent family pursuit of watching a game of
football with his young son. Demonstrably frail,
but only physically, he showed no sign of apprehension
as he asserted his determination not to be deterred
from what he thinks, does or writes by people more
comfortable with clubs than they are with pens.
wonders were Martin McGuinness to have been sitting
in the bar with Denis Bradley the night of the attack
would his assailant have been as eager to carry
out his 'mission.' After all McGuinness is hardly
less culpable for the state of affairs that so enrages
republican dissidents. He is also as accessible
as Denis Bradley. The latter was a soft target.
There was never going to be a sting in the tail
for attacking him. Not that either man deserves
their skull cracked, but the array of forces behind
McGuinness is much more likely to return the serve
with considerable illicit power not at the disposal
the past eighteen months republicanism has been
graphically depicted as something malign that travels
around bars battering the defenceless. Since the
incident in Belfast city centre involving Bobby
Tohill, for which republicans were blamed by the
PSNI, the IMC and the London and Dublin governments,
a sordid linkage between republicans and bar room
violence has taken root in the public mind. The
murder of Robert McCartney by Provisionals at the
start of this year reinforced that image, leaving
an indelible stain on the republican character in
the process. The attack on Denis Bradley by dissident
republicans fits into that mould perfectly. A once
proud perspective that waged war, at tremendous
cost to itself, to beat the British out of Ireland
is now reduced to beating Irish people out of pubs.
This commonplace activity is what readers expect
to find in a book about the life of Glasgow gangster
Paul Ferris. That it has become narrativized as
republican behaviour is testimony to the growth
the appalling negative imagery it has not deterred
some from referring to what happened in Derry as
an 'operation.' What Frank Hughes did were operations.
To associate the two types of activity by word usage
seems profane. The attack on Denis Bradley has more
in common with Taliban bullying aimed at women not
wearing the burca as prescribed by the theocrats.
The backdrop makes it very easy for PSNI boss Hugh
Orde to claim that physical force republicans 'have
no political agenda, they are violent, criminal
thugs who are stuck in history and haven't moved
time back I debated the political future of the
North with Denis Bradley at a venue in Derry sponsored
by Fortnight Magazine. While I did not agree with
him he was gracious, witty and intellectually engaging.
At no time did I think he was about to leap up,
Fred Flintstone-like, and clobber me for holding
views not shared by him.
the end of our exchange Denis invited me and a few
others including the republican Micky Donnelly to
the bar for a drink. Micky declined, robustly telling
the policing board member how he objected to the
board's approval of plastic bullets. That was the
end of it; just as it should have been. The rest
of us had a drink before I and the Fortnight team
made our way back to Belfast.
over the Glenshane Pass, I had no idea that Micky
Donnelly and Denis Bradley would soon have more
in common than they thought. The Derry republican
had already been seriously assaulted by fascistic
elements in the city for his insistence on holding
firmly to his own beliefs. The same club wielding
intolerance that pulverised the limbs of Micky Donnelly
and terrorised his family has since deemed Denis
Bradley a persona non grata and as a follow-on set
out to maim him.
matter how democratically mandated a British police
force such as the PSNI might be republicans have
the right not to endorse it. That right does not
extend to intimidating or brutalising others who
take a different position. Denis Bradley sits on
the policing board and supports current policing
because he believes it beneficial to the community.
Those republicans who disagree can oppose without
resort to assault and battery. It is about siding
with a rights-based republicanism and not its power-driven
counterpart. What a strange irony it is that the
PSNI finds itself more popular in these communities
than the type of people who assaulted Denis Bradley.