Mc Geough, a former IRA member who was jailed in the
USA for the attempted importation of Stinger surface-to-air
missiles, conducted a very interesting interview with
Observer journalist Henry Mc Donald recently.
Geough, now a teacher, is a former Sinn Fein National
Executive member and by his own
admission was a key figure in the IRAs East
Geough, who has now left the republican movement,
took Sinn Fein to task on various moral issues, including
gay marriage and abortion. Claiming that some Sinn
Fein members are anti-Catholic in their outlook with
these difficult topics, Mc Geough said, I, as
an Irish nationalist and a Catholic, never want to
see the day when there are abortion clinics
in every market town in Ireland. But looking around
there is no political grouping willing
to take a stand against that.
he claimed that you would never get a Sinn Fein leader
not making anything
other than a politically correct statement on issues
such as abortion or gay
August 1988, Mc Geough was arrested whilst crossing
the Dutch-German border with two AK-47 assault rifles
in his car. He was charged with attacks on the British
Army in the Rhine and held for four years in a specially
built German detention centre.
German trial was interrupted by his extradition to
America on the charges of attempting
to procure the Stinger missiles and was extradited
to the USA back in 1983.
subsequent deportation and sentencing in the USA saw
him serve three years in American
jails before his release in 1996. He has also stated
that it was his strong Catholic
faith that helped him through his lenghthy periods
addition to his moralistic viewpoints Mc Geough has
also tempered his outlook with
a strong and highly conservative Euro-scepticism.
people, I believe, wish for a society where faith,
decency, pro-life convictions and
national self-determination within Europe can flourish;
and not to be swallowed up
in a dictactorial EU bureaucracy.
is odd to say the least that Mc Geough, who spent
the larger proportion of his formative years
preparing to and actually succeeding in smuggling
large quantities of missiles, guns and
explosives into the north, does not appear to see
any contradiction between his former
activities and his current political outpourings based
on his personal moral assessment
of his erstwhile comrades. In fact Mc Geough has not
forgotten the conditions and
circumstances that led him to become a senior IRA
figure in Tyrone and beyond.
says it was his patriotic duty to join
the Provisionals in 1975 and maintains the view
that the IRA campaign was a just one.
was a soldier. I came into contact with other soldiers
and no civilians were involved.
believe it was a just war, and that
peoples and nations have a right to defend themselves:
that the English have no right to be in Ireland,
or any part of it. Bear in mind that the
Catholic Church has chaplains in almost every army
in the world.
Geough remains resolute and steadfast to Patrick Pearses
notion of a Gaelic Catholic Ireland
that always stressed the importance of the relationship
between culture, religion and
resurgence in recent years of nationalist sentiment
in many parts of the world, together with the erosion
of national barriers through the rapid expansion of
technologies and economic structures, has made questions
on the nature of
the ideology more pressing than ever before. Nationalism
has always harnessed the
past as a tool of its own justification and the course
that its proponents seek to make
it take in the future. One point has always been the
extent to which people should
be permitted to act on the basis of loyalty to those
to whom they are specially related.
That is, is there such a thing as a benign form of
nationalism? The admiration that
people link to the past achievements of their countries,
either physical or ideological are
fine, that is until these highlights become part of
a political structure and are then forced
upon people who are perceived to be culturally diverse.
When they are in turn shackled
to cultural justification of these achievements and
in turn marshalled by the supposed
moral or ethical codes of any given religion, in effect
polishing a political system
up with a veneer of psuedo-divinity the alarm bells
should start to ring at once.
connection between nationalism and religion is also
a dangerous one. Woodrow Wilson,
the father of national self-determination, constantly
stressed that there is a rigid
analogy to be drawn between religious commitment and
patriotism. Ones nation is
the symbol of a rich cultural and linguistic heritage.
It involves questions of ultimate individual
indentification and legitimacy. There are all sorts
of ceremonial and ritualistic celebrations
associated with national life. After all, the common
perception is that a country
is something which are supposed to be prepared to
we can see how the supposed virtues of nationalistic
devotion have a religious flavour
to them. If contemporary nation states are conceived
of in quasi-religious terms it
is little surprise that movements such as the IRA
sprang up. It is also why Gerry Mc Geough
feels totally at ease speaking in what appear to be
conflicting terms, since he would
believe that his views and his past actions are no
more contradictory than the ideology
of nationalism itself.
link between nationalism and religion has to do with
the impulse of the modern nation
to monopolize the legitimate use of physical force
with a given territory. The point of
nationalism is to achieve statehood in the sense of
political and legal control. This is the
essence of the notion of national self-determination.
effect, religion is typically concerned to set the
ultimate standards for the use of force and
the conduct of political and legal affairs. This is
a subject of deep and sacred significance
and it is a fundamental kernel of religious belief
Ireland as a whole, but particularly in the six counties
a favourite war cry of Unionism that they would be
hapless victims of an overtly papist state in the
event of Irish re-unification. Despite the supposed
secular outlook of the Republican doctrine that stretches
back to the 1916 proclamation and the promise to cherish
all the children of the nation equally, the ensuing
sectarian overtones post 1969 would have done nothing
to convince Protestant Unionists of that ideal. Add
to this the De Valera constitution of 1937 heavily
imbued with the rigid Catholic dogma of Archbishop
Mc Quaid and it is little wonder
that Unionists kicked viciously against a united Ireland
on this level as well as of course
as many other levels.
is why it is surprising to hear people like Mc Geough
still talking in these terms.
completed his degree in history of all subjects at
Trinity, one wonders what, if any
influence this had on his thinking. Having definite
thoughts on issue such as same sex
marriage and abortion are his perogative, but to harness
it to a criticism of the outlook of
a nationalist programme, is derogatory not only to
himself but to the ideology which he once
carried guns to defend. Modern Irish society has been
made the better for the increased
level of secularism that it is slowly gathering. The
erosion of church power is
a boon to the progression towards real peace and eventual
United nations resolution on the Elimnation of Intolerance
based on Religion or Belief, adopted in 1981, demonstrated
considerable distance between religion and the state.
It is a radical departure and accordingly, the grounds
on the basis of which a government
legitimates its use of force are sharply distinguished
from religious belief of any kind.
Its relevance of a model for Irish circumstances
is perfectly obvious and outstrips the
narrow and outdated Catholicism exemplified by Mc
Geoghs interview, whose past
actions do not equate with his current thinking except
with in the confines of his own mind.
Patriotism whilst a virtue, has too long been justified
by religious codes of all kinds.
is no need to think that the human rights approach
means abandoning religious commitment
and belief. But it does, without doubt, require rigourous
re-examination of the
role of all our religious traditions in the light
of our current experiences in the past half
decade. Religious nationalism is one of our most staunch
demarcation lines and has
only been highlighted further and enhanced greatly
as a result of the agreement of 1998.
Mc Geough not only narrows his moral and religious
views to a political programme
but is assuming that all Catholics are nationalists
and all Protestants are unionists.
As a republican and a history teacher, a case of thorough
revisionism may be in
order for him.
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