Jude Collins

Monday, 6 August 2012

Morrison and O'Doherty on the Nolan show

I’m sorry I missed the debate between Danny Morrison and Malachi O’Doherty on the Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh this morning. I know and respect both men, so I’m sure these points I’ll list were covered in the course of the debate.

Was the IRA campaign justified? Well, that would depend on your perspective. If you’re a pacifist – say, a Quaker – you’ll firmly answer No. All violence is wrong and nothing could therefore justify the IRA campaign.

If you’re not a pacifist – that is, if you believe in violence under certain circumstances  - then much will depend on how you saw the circumstances of 1969-70.  There would have been those who saw peaceful protest through the civil rights movement as futile and decided that the only way to meet the violence of the Loyalists/ B Specials/RUC/British Army was with a violent response. They would point to the killing of Peter Ward and later John Scullion by loyalists as examples of unprovoked violence prior to 1969/70. The same people and probably many others would point to the killings on Bloody Sunday 1972 by the British army. Finally there would have been those republicans who believed that like generations of other Irishmen and women, they were justified in employing violence in an effort to remove British jurisdiction, both political and military, from Ireland.

The charge that’s often levelled at Sinn Féin today is that they condemn those ‘dissident’ republicans still committed to physical force.  This is denounced as hypocritical, since they themselves once employed physical force.  Insofar as I can understand it, Sinn Féin appear to condemn ‘dissident’ republicans because (i)  Sinn Féin believes a united, independent Ireland can be achieved, given markedly different circumstances, by peaceful means; and (ii) the physical force employed by ‘dissidents’ is militarily inadequate and doomed to defeat. ‘Dissidents’, on the other hand, would argue that Sinn Féin have given up on trying to achieve the traditional goals of republicanism and that it is up to them, the ‘dissidents’, to continue an age-old struggle, however out-numbered, to remove British rule from Ireland.

There is another argument which says that while a united independent Ireland is desirable, it is not worth shedding blood for. And a further one that says you're entitled to employ physical force only when you have the assent of the majority of the Irish people.

Finally, there is an argument that says the whole concern with a united, independent Ireland is out-dated and irrelevant, that we live in a post-nationalist era, and that any time  spent discussing the notion of a united, independent Ireland, let alone employing physical force in an effort to achieve it, is time  tragically wasted.

Since I didn’t hear this morning’s programme, I  assume  all of these positions were considered and that Morrison and O’Doherty dealt with them in an informed and logical way. If they didn’t, I’m sure someone will let me know.


  1. A creative blog based on what you didn't hear.No doubt after listening to the debate on the I-player you will give your further views on the merits/demerits of the arguments.If past form is any guide you will get a post from Giordanbruno asking for your own opinions of the morality of violence.I suspect as usual he'll not get a straight answer!

  2. Anonymous 19:40
    As you have pre emptied me I need not ask my predictable question.
    As you point out Jude merely lists the possible views on the use of violence, without telling us where he stands himself.
    Let's hope he proves us wrong.

  3. You first, gio - after you've removed your mask, of course...

  4. Jude
    Of course giordanobruno happens to be my real name.
    Seriously though, that is a fair enough point. I choose to be anonymous, for my own reasons, cowardice perhaps among them.
    You on the other hand put your opinions on various subjects on the Internet for all to read and comment on. Surely you do this to stimulate debate and you must therefore expect follow up questions?
    My questions to you are genuine and I try not to be abusive, so I don't think my identity is relevant to your ability to reply.
    I respect the fact that you do not censor comment on your opinions, though you could speed up your vetting process a bit, to facilitate discussion.
    So Jude, in brief, I am nobody. Just asking questions. If the question is valid it hardly matters who it comes from.

  5. Giordanobruno,

    So we're agreed on one thing - you're a coward. But if it's any consolation, so are 99% of people who comment.
    Re my views on the use of violence. I'd echo my old classmate Eamonn McCann on this : I'm by instinct if not principle a pacifist. In other words, I'm a coward too. But do I think violence can be justified? Not if you're a Christian. But if you're a non-Christian, like virtually all Western leaders, that's another matter. Not being much of a Christian, I believe that if people are attacked or oppressed or occupied by a foreign power, they are entitled to resist that by the most effective means possible. In some cases that may mean using physical force, in others non-physical means. I believe that Britain's claim to jurisdiction in Ireland is and always has been at the root of the Irish Question. I see the physical force of 'dissident' republicans as futile - if the IRA in the 1970s and 1980s weren't capable of affecting British withdrawal, the 'dissidents' have no chance. So to sum up: I believe there are circumstances where physical force can be justified.
    That said, I find your argument for keeping the mask on pretty unimpressive.

  6. Jude
    Thank you for the reply.
    Either you are a Christian or you are not. If you are then you should espouse non violence. To call yourself not much of a Christian simply dodges that issue.
    I am not a Christian. I believe in ,self defence.
    You say there are circumstances where physical force can be justified. Was the situation here in the 1970s and 1980s one of those circumstances?
    I don' t think so.