more I listened to Martin Cunningham, the sharper
his insights became. Many years spent lecturing at
college have honed his verbal skills. And it is not
hard to imagine him delivering knock out blows to
opponents arguments across the council chamber.
I was aware that in his role as a Sinn Fein councillor
he had raised the issue of the PSNI having set up
two South Down men for arrest, which when probed further
showed a much wider systemic attempt involving the
British Army and the DPP to pervert and corrupt the
course of justice. When UTVs Insight
decided to investigate the incident, it produced a
devastating critique of the justice system. A few
short years ago Sinn Fein would have been found screaming
from the rooftops, citing the Insight findings
as irrefutable evidence of an irreformable state.
But now it appears that the laws of political correctness
and the logic of the peace process have descended
on such issues and it is ill-advised to broach them.
simply, I was very unhappy with the party turning
a blind eye to two young men in this constituency
who were interned on the basis of state falsified
evidence. This incident was on a par with the British
justice meted out to the Birmingham six and the
Guildford four. It was obviously orchestrated and
choreographed at the highest level. Sinn Fein failed
to support me on the council even though I named
the British agent involved along with the PSNI and
the forensic personnel involved. I was very disappointed
with Sinn Fein on that. This was a human rights
issue and it made no difference whether those being
abused were republican, loyalist or people not involved
in any political activity.
why should this be so? Has Sinn Fein not taken up
the issue of dissident republican prisoners in Maghaberry
and asked that they be given segregation? Why would
the party raise that human rights issue but ignore
another? At this Martin Cunningham looked at me quizzically
as if to ask are you serious? He reached
to his file and pulled out an official looking document,
which pertained to a House of Commons select committee
report into the separation of prisoners in the troubled
jail. He cited a portion of the evidence presented
by the NIO security minister Jane Kennedy.
had testified that when the NIO talked to Sinn Fein,
the party argued that it was concerned that some of
its natural supporters were taking part in street
protests in support of the prisoners. It advised the
NIO that the British Government should move to take
away the support for the prisoners by giving them
a degree of separation.
sounds very much like SDLP-speak when Bobby Sands
and his comrades were on hunger strike. I am 50
years of age. The hunger strike made a lasting impression
on me. McLaughlin always refers to the hunger strikers
to sell his line. When I read things like that Kennedy
statement, I get very angry. What would Bobby Sands
and the other nine hunger strikers who died have
thought of that? Give them a degree of separation
so that our supporters wont kick up too much
and we can get back on the Stormont gravy train.
How must the Sands family feel when they hear or
read something like that?
Fein has denied assisting the Brits on this matter.
But as it is generally safe to believe something once
it has been officially denied by the party, its stance
on this must be treated with the usual thorough scepticism.
Martin Cunningham was obviously of the belief that
Sinn Fein only moved to support segregation for republican
prisoners because it had to. The partys brazen
collaborationist approach aimed at undermining physical
force republicans indeed had so much in common with
the SDLP stance in 1981. And for its sins John Humes
team won the opprobrium of the comrades of the ten
dead hunger strikers who accused them of clinging
tenaciously to their role of imperialist lickspittle.
That Sinn Fein felt dictated to by the agenda of the
protesting prisoners must have infuriated the party.
Sticks always hated having to support physical force
republicans. And now that Sinn Fein had gone
Stick, I asked Martin Cunningham for some insight
into the depth of animosity towards dissident republicans.
After all, many people can remember the days when
the party leadership would address Micky McKevitt
answer merely served to reinforce a recurring image
in my mind when I think of Sinn Fein gatherings. It
is that of the hate meetings organised by the party
in George Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The activists were briefed on who was to be hated
most this week, even if they were loved last week
and might be loved again the following week. But for
this week the revolutionary task at hand was hate,
is like a disease. They definitely do not want you
talking with people who are viewed as dissident
republicans just in case you might catch the disease
that the dissidents have. They are hated more than
the RUC, the British Army or the SAS. The British
and the PSNI dont need a shoot-to-kill policy
any more because there are people there who are
prepared to do the dirty work for them.
explained to him that I was only too well aware of
this. In October 2000 Provisional nationalists had
shot dead a member of the Real IRA, Joe OConnor,
and then sent the Kray Twins to the very house we
were now sitting in to intimidate both me and my pregnant
wife. This was followed up two nights later by a mob
howling words to the effect of, who the hell
are you? Sinn Feins lies are true. But
who is it that is now under the greatest threat from
Sinn Fein, if it is certainly not British troops,
police or loyalists?
who dont agree with Sinn Fein. I dont
agree with violence myself because it is counterproductive.
But anybody who voices opposition to Sinn Fein will
be marked. Within the party the leadership would
rather you talk to the unionists than to the SDLP.
Thats how bad it is.
suggested to him that Sinn Fein hatred for dissident
republicans stems from the fact that Sinn Fein were
once the dissidents, and that the very existence of
republican dissidents reminds Sinn Fein figures of
what they used to be and of how they promised never
to become what they are now. I then asked him how
people in Sinn Fein feel when they see the Provisional
nationalists using brutal violence against republicans
who dont agree with the organisation?
was shocked and disgusted with it. Lots of republicans
within the movement oppose the attacks but an elitist
element within it is responsible for these attacks.
he must have fears for his own safety?
of the area I live in I always have checked under
my car but now I do it twice. When I see what has
happened to people who are not Sinn Fein republicans,
I am more concerned about my safety now. They seem
to be prepared to go to any lengths to keep control
of an area. Republicans may not attack me directly
but I am of the opinion that they could set me up
to be killed by a bad element in the constituency
that was responsible for the Loughinisland massacre.
I fear that they might convey to the loyalists that
I am a thorn in their side as well.
that Bobby Tohill has already expressed similar concerns
to the Andersonstown News he must now think
such a scenario is plausible?
plausible given the type of people they have become.
I have expressed this fear to others that it could
happen. It is a big fear of mine.
felt obligated to remind him that if the republican
leadership ordered his murder he would be killed.
Knowing that, was he still prepared to carry on with
expressing his viewpoint? He was adamant that while
he could be killed or injured he would never be censored.
Fighting censorship was one of the main planks
of this party.
thoughts combined with determination from a man who
gave so much of his time to a party that has turned
its own belief system upside down under the guise
of tactical manoeuvring of the moment. Even if Provisional
nationalists have no intention of wreaking vengeance
on republicans who oppose them, through recourse to
loyalist death squads, the culture of fear that has
mushroomed as a means to protect the vested interests
underpinned by the peace process, has so terrified
people that they now think the Sinn Fein leadership
is capable of almost anything in its zeal to suppress
ONE: Sinn Fein & Democracy Be Damned: Interview
with Martin Cunningham
THREE: Sinn Fein A Dictatorship: Interview with Martin
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