the death of IRA volunteer Keith Rodgers in South
Armagh two weeks ago his leadership issued a statement.
In it the claim was made that the dead volunteer had
been 'shot dead by an armed criminal
unarmed at the time of his death. He was not on active
Keith died while defending his community
against armed criminals.'
to a report in the Observer Keith Rodgers was
part of a group 'armed with baseball bats and guns'
who intended 'to attack a number of men who were also
aligned to its South Armagh brigade.' This version
contrasted somewhat with the IRA's and had more in
common with the view of Patrick O'Callaghan, a brother
of one of the supposed 'armed criminals'. He claimed
the dead man was part of a masked and armed gang who
tried to kidnap his brother Kevin. The incident had
arisen out of a dispute over the purchase of land
on the southern side of the border and Patrick O'Callaghan
claimed to have been warned by the IRA that he would
be shot if he had anything to do with building houses
on the land. He also said Keith Rodgers was armed
and that he and the wounded man had been shot with
their own weapons.
days after the shooting Brian Keenan speaking at the
graveside of Keith Rodgers denied that the dead volunteer
had been carrying a weapon and insisted the incident
was not related to a land dispute but had everything
to do with criminality by people masquerading as republicans.
time after the funeral it was reported that mediators
were involved in negotiations between the IRA and
those with whom the organisation was in dispute. What
such mediation seems to have secured is a demonstration
of the power the IRA exercises over its neighbours.
In Mario Puzo's The Godfather, a recalcitrant
film producer was jolted out of his sleep by the blood
seeping from the severed head of his prize racehorse.
He relented and accepted the mafia offer he hated
but dared not refuse.
this week Patrick O'Callaghan withdrew his original
am satisfied that the version of events which was
given to me was in fact untrue. I now fully accept
that the incident was not connected with the purchase
of land. My life has not been threatened by the
IRA over the purchase of the land. I accept that
this incident arose as a consequence of criminal
activity in the south Armagh area. I now know that
Keith Rodgers was unarmed. I also now know that
neither he nor the man injured were shot with their
own weapon or weapons.
virtually repeating Keenan's version of events O'Callaghan
- so at odds with what was initially his own - left
little room for doubt that he had witnessed the horse's
head. This would fit in to a broader pattern identified
by media reports which suggest the existence of a
republican regime of internal repression wielded against
those who do not see things as the IRA do. Republican
sources had allegedly confirmed that the IRA leadership
in the area had issued an edict that anyone who openly
criticises it should be beaten or shot. The victims
would then be branded as criminal.
thirst for total control was manifest in the discourse
employed by the republican leader Brian Keenan at
the funeral of Keith Rodgers. There he fulminated
that 'there is no place in this community, or any
republican community, for degenerates who abuse and
contaminate the struggle
people - a band of vermin.'
language places him in the company of strange bedfellows.
At the march 1990 funeral of UDR man Thomas Jameson,
Willie McCrea labelled those IRA volunteers who killed
him 'bloodthirsty vermin.'
Sunday Times journalist Liam Clarke in a sensitive
but perceptive article suggested that Brian Keenan
should be charged under the North's hate legislation.
In his view the funeral eulogy made Keenan sound 'like
a Nazi'. Some may be inclined to dismiss Clarke's
depiction as being typical of 'the enemy press.' This
would be a woefully inaccurate characterisation.
his writings Bobby Sands protested the use of the
word 'vermin' which he had heard used over 100 times
during his six day interrogation by the RUC in the
autumn of 1976. He later found it was used more by
H-Block screws than anybody else. He felt it was linked
to a need to exercise superiority: 'it is a mentality
that makes it so easy for them to torture us or butcher
us when the opportunity arises. A mentality much the
same as those who maintained and organised the Nazi
this what it was all about - power over the people?
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