Some bones to pick

by Eoghan O’Suilleabhain  (8 September 2012)

In their article “The Bell and the Blanket: Journals of Irish Republican Dissent”, authors Niall Carson of the University of Liverpool and Paddy Hoey of Liverpool Hope University write:

“There is, of course, a paradox inherent in the Blanket’s stance of being, on the one hand, supportive of peace, but simultaneously critical of the abandonment of core ideological tenets that had sustained the republican armed struggle. The dissidents pointed out that republicanism aimed to coerce the British from Ireland forciby and to discredit the notion that Unionist consent was needed for the British to leave. But the Blanket contributors never made clear how it could do so peacefully.”45 (Emphasis added – EOS).

45. See “Radio Free Eireann Interview With Brendan Hughes,” Blanket (March, 2000). Hughes said, “I don’t have an alternative, people keep saying to me if your (sic) going to criticize put up an alternative. I don’t have an alternative, the alternative is within the republican movement. (Emphasis added – EOS).

And how right Mr. Hughes was!  Besides the obvious difference between the writers’ use of the plural words “The dissidents…” and “…the Blanket contributors” versus the singular “Interview with Brendan Hughes” there is the matter of their completely overlooking my dissident contribution to The Blanket which makes clear how it can be done.  In “Can You Hear Ho Chi Minh Laughing?” (The Blanket, 1 July 2004), I wrote:

“If no one voted for the Belfast Agreement of 1998 how does that necessarily mean more violence? By 1998 most Republicans were happy to be on a cease-fire with no end in sight. However, the successful government and mass media manipulation of the population and political parties then caused a further cleavage of Irish Republicans that in turn enflamed subsequent internecine feuding and reactionary violence. Radical rejection in the form of boycotts and a general refusal to engage with the invader anywhere would have prevented further factionalism and fostered a far better culture of Irish independence than the usual Brit tit dependence we are seeing now making 2016 no nearer than 3016. (Emphasis added – EOS). (See:

Seaghán Ó Murchú , another contributor to The Blanket, followed up on this idea on “…how Irish republicans can further our cause by peaceable methods.”  See his article there entitled “Magpie’s’ Nest” wherein he writes:

“Ó Suilleabhain’s assertion stimulates my own response. What it lacks in originality it may gain in relevance. Advocating a programme of mass resistance not through physical-force but alternative action against constitutional compromise appears rarely promoted within what I’ve read of contemporary republican ideology. Dominated by militancy over the past three decades and defeated when applying the civil-rights protests of the late 1960s, Irish strategies, as Eoghan’s remark implies, appear to avoid “radical rejection” of the invaders and their collaborationists. Such language, indeed, smacks of the French resistance rather than a society happy to shop at Tescos and participate in the flood of goods from China, the EU, and the rest of the WTO-dominated marketplace.” (See:

Therefore, Carson and Hoey’s academic assertion that “… the Blanket contributors never made clear how it could do so peacefully” is contrary to heretofore published reality.

And what they overlook in facts they overreach in argument:

“The combined heritage of republican and socialist dissent shared by the Bell and the Blanket operated in a similar way. Both were vocal objectors at a time of political stabilization. That both journals chose to publish their criticisms openly testified to their belief in the security of the prevailing political order, despite the obvious risks such criticism entailed and despite their undisguised displeasure with the nature of that order. In their own way, each publication marked a new era in Irish politics, in which the dynamic forces that shaped their world—namely, armed struggle—gave way to a period of self-questioning and criticism. The Bell and the Blanket played a key role in such a process for their respective generations. Their legacy is to demonstrate that once political power has been won, the question of what to do with it often remains to be resolved.[End Page 93; emphasis added – EOS).

How do they figure this?  Would they say same about Chinese dissident Ay Wai Wai or Russian dissident Alexander Solzynitzin?

Did their openly published art and books “…testify to (their) belief in the security of the prevailing political order” or to their belief that their government was just a totalitarian house of cards?

Wasn’t one of the purposes of The Blanket to provide a free speech forum for, among others, people who didn’t believe in the security of the prevailing political order? Wasn’t that the whole point of Marian Price’s protest for which she is now imprisoned?

And how do Mr. Carson and Mr. Hoey figure that colonial government by local co-opted satraps amounts to “…political power… won” for the colony?

Since when?


Posted on September 11, 2012, in 21st century republicanism and socialism, Historiography and historical texts, Irish politics today, Partition, Political education and theory, Provos - then and now, Repression and resistance in the six counties today, Toadyism, Women prisoners. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Some bones to pick.

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