The Blanket

The British State Murder of Pearse Jordan

The best manner of avenging ourselves is by not resembling him who has injured us. - Jane Porter

Anthony McIntyre • 26.11.02

When Pearse Jordan died at the hands of the RUC ten years ago this month, I and other republican prisoners were on the work-out scheme from Maghaberry Prison where it was customary for Long Kesh lifers to serve out the last three months of their sentences in a sort of half board existence. Sleeping in the prison - usually aided by a few pints - four nights a week, the rest of the time was our own or nominally that of whatever employer we were supposed to be working for as part of our smooth transition to becoming ’normal’ citizens again.

After almost two decades in prison and now faced with decisions which would determine whether imprisonment would feature as part of our lives again, the killing of Pearse Jordan was a wake up call. It brought home to any of us considering reporting back to the IRA in any active capacity that life in the organisation for serious volunteers was devoid of frills. While there were plenty of areas within the structures in which to hide, there seemed no reason other than pseudo ones for choosing them as an option. For active volunteers a pitiless existence was what lay ahead. For those of us pondering such a path the seriousness of the matter was etched ever deeper in our minds as we felt a sense of eeriness descend upon us while visiting the flower marked scene of Pearse Jordan’s death at the front of the City Cemetery facing St John’s Chapel. Each time I passed in a black taxi on my way to the bus to return to jail on dark December evenings the thought that a new life was awaiting me while his had ended so soon proved turbulent to any peace of mind I expected to have as a result of imminent release. Two decades earlier we had promised to end it and now volunteers born into it were dying with still no end in sight.

Pearse Jordan graced the ranks of the IRA at a time when membership of the body had a purpose other than lording it over neighbours or maintaining some disembodied sense of esprit d‘corps. He was no ceasefire volunteer or Good Friday soldier - the manner of his end underscoring the point. Some of those who strut our streets and ex-prisoner centres today would not have opened the door to him or his comrades during the course of an IRA operation. Militant republicans of the verbal type, their homes were IRA free zones when the IRA needed houses most; a point often made with understandable bitterness by those who risked their lives and freedom alongside Pearse.

On the morning of his funeral I travelled to South Derry to visit friends whom I had been in prison with. I had not known him and a year would elapse before I attended my first IRA funeral in over twenty years, that of Volunteer Thomas Begley in Ardoyne. Later I would live in Ballymurphy, the home territory of the IRA squad that Pearse belonged to. Through the prism of bereavement it could be seen that a generational change had occurred within the IRA. Although Ballymurphy had lost a number of volunteers during the conflict Pearse more than any other was revered amongst his comrades. Their respect for him mirrored that of the Blanket men for Bobby Sands. For many of them he was the only dead volunteer they had served alongside. Some local republicans named their children in honour of Pearse’s memory. His framed photo adorns the walls in the halls and living rooms of others. On Monday many of them congregated in Milltown Cemetery to pay their respects.

His death hurt them. It still does. The number of times his name has come up in conversation over the years is testimony to his status within local republican iconography. His father Hugh summed up what many of them feel: ‘Every anniversary is difficult. You wonder what he would have been doing now, would he have had children?’ He died as a Provisional IRA volunteer in a war that could not be won. Although, he was not told that at the time. Had he survived a mere two years, like his comrades, he would have been denied any input into the 1994 leadership decision to halt the war - an event being planned as he was losing his life while prosecuting the same war. In the minds of the leadership he was sound enough to risk and ultimately lose his life for the war but strangely, like the rest of us, not sound enough to decide on either ending or persevering with it.

Arguably, the greatest tribute that could have been paid to his Provisional republican memory was in the end not paid at all. A simple display of the moral courage required to say ‘no’ to a leadership determined to go ‘Stick’ would have been more fitting than anything else and at the same time less incongruous with both the etiology and formative ideology of the Provisional Republican Movement.

In terms of republicanism as distinct from the political ambitions of this or that individual republican, very little was gained from this war. But that can never take away from the enormity of the sacrifice made by people like Pearse Jordan. A young New Barnsley IRA volunteer with his life in front of him he gave it all up out of a sense of something wider than himself. And as the Belfast drizzle pounds his grave of ten years people will pause to reflect that his sightless eyes once blazed with a vision of something better. Much better than what we have now.




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It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies.
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Index: Current Articles

8 December 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


The British State Murder of Pearse Jordan
Anthony McIntyre


The Falls And Shankill March As One
Davy Carlin


Alternatives to the GFA?
Paul Fitzsimmons


Ted Honderich: A Philosopher in the Trenches
Paul de Rooji


Uri Davis and the Battle Against Israeli Apartheid
Anthony McIntyre


Palestinian Children In The Night
Sam Bahour


Solitary Confinement Kills
Devrimci Halk Kurtulus Cephesi


6 December 2002


Questioning the Prison System in the North
Liam O Ruairc


Britain's New Moral Authority to Shoot Republicans
Anthony McIntyre


Teething Troubles
Henry McDonald


Setting The Record Straight

Billy Mitchell


Herr Henry Struts Again
Anthony McIntyre


Even the Taxi Drivers Say It: "Likud has Failed"
Uri Avnery


The Letters page has been updated.




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