This website is a forum for political debate and the exchange of ideas. Unless indicated, the opinions expressed in any article, commentary, argument or review is solely that of the author and not necessarily that of the publisher.
Deadly divisions return
IN THEIR FASCINATING BOOK, INLA: Deadly Divisions (reviewed in Ulster Nation volume 2; issue 8) the authors carried as an appendix an interview with Hugh Torney, the INLA chief of staff at the time of publication. Hugh Torney was described as "A seasoned paramilitary who survived three feuds. Known variously as "Cueball" and "The Ball" to his ex comrades, he is admired at least for his staying power and tenacious commitment to a shrinking movement. One former comrade who fought alongside him against the IPLO [said]" The Ball is really dedicated to the cause. He does tend to centre power around himself and doesn't trust anyone else."[page 346] - A good Stalinist!
Jack Holland's and Henry McDonald's book chronicles the story of the birth of the INLA and its bloody history of feuding, indiscipline, ruthlessness and vicious savagery. They asked Torney if, given its history of splits and feuds, he could be confident that there wouldn't be further schisms in the near future. His answer was, 'It is true that since the foundation of our movement, there were divisions, which has on occasions manifested itself in vicious armed attacks by ex-members. ... Now we have a programme of political education for our volunteers end strict vetting procedure. We encourage widespread debate and we believe that divisions are part of our history but not part of our future'. No doubt, Mr Torney was genuine in his optimism but it has proven to be ill- founded. Today he has been expelled from the INLA and has been sentenced to death by the new leadership. Graffiti along the Falls Road and Divis Street denounces him as 'Q-Ball- MI5 agent'. Ciaran McLaughlin of the IRSP has denounced Torney's 'GHQ Staff' faction as a bunch of ‘mavericks and associates of drug pushers that are being run by a British agent.'
This latest dispute seems to have had its origin in the arrest by gardai in Balbriggan, Co Dublin of Hugh Torney and five other INLA men last year. They were apparently intercepted transporting arms to Ulster. When they appeared in a Dublin courtroom, the men announced from the dock that the INLA was calling a formal ceasefire. This was not approved by the Belfast Brigade of the INLA which has the backing of the Irish Republican Socialist Party and the INLA inmates in Portlaoise Prison. According to these INLA prisoners, the Balbriggan faction acted without authority and was thus expelled from the 'republican socialist movement' last November. Proving that divisions are still a major part of the INLA's bloody present, they were expelled from our ranks because they disgraced our dead martyrs, our members, the prisoners, our relatives and supporters - they sullied our struggle.' Several members of this faction are now on the run having jumped bail.
Gino Gallagher, publicly the 'prisons spokesperson' for the IRSP, took command of the INLA after Torney's arrest. Shortly after he took over the republican socialist movement, Gallagher announced that the IRSP would reorganise and raise its public profile. 'The party opened offices on the Falls Road. Gallagher gave a long interview to the Irish News. He admitted that, 'the IRSP certainly does have an image problem and unfortunately a part of this was due to its own political errors, organisational defects and neglect - flaws that we have now resolved'. He went on to deny that the INLA was a fanatical and undisciplined sectarian splinter group. INLA activists did not go out to kill innocent Protestants - perish the thought.
However, 'The killing of a loyalist is in no way a sectarian act. To say it is, is to to display either political ignorance or malice... The republican socialist movement is not only non-sectarian but anti-sectarian.' Given the INLA's involvement in the massacre of innocent worshippers at a Pentecostal church for no other reason than they were Protestants, this rhetoric convinces no-one.
The INLA are avowed Marxist-Leninists who worship at the shrine of Marx, Lenin, Engels and Connolly. Like Lenin and Stalin they are only too happy to liquidate whole classes of enemies of their utopian vision of an All-Ireland Workers' Republic. Like Stalin, this means turning on their own comrades with deadly effect. Unlike Soviet Russia, however, those who are marked down for liquidation in the INLA hit back hard. The Torney faction opened the hostilities on January 30th when they assassinated Gino Gallagher. At first it was not clear who had been responsible for his death. There was a lot of speculation in the media and the IRSP denied any rumours of a purge or a split in the republican socialist movement.
However, several weeks later John Fennell - a founding member of the INLA - was found dead in a caravan in Bundoran, just over the border in Co Donegal. Fennell had been brutally tortured. He reportedly ‘confessed' to a part in Gallagher's killing and implicated several other men. His captors beat him to death with a concrete breeze block. A statement from the IRSP claimed that the murdered man was not and never had been in any way associated with the republican socialist movement. This was an obvious lie. A masked guard of honour paid their respects at Fennell's funeral.
Since then there have been a number of shootings as each faction has tried to wipe out one another. The pro-Gallagher faction managed to slay Barbara McAlorum, a nine-year-old child, as they fired indiscriminately through the window of her north Belfast home. The Torney faction has called upon the pro-Gallagher faction to disband. As fear of getting caught up in the increasingly reckless gunplay on the streets of Catholic areas of north and west Belfast grows, Sinn Féin have called on both factions to disband. Neither seem inclined to pay any heed. It will be interesting to see if the IRA force such a disbandment by killing prominent members of each faction as they did when they suppressed the IPLO in October 1992.
This is possible. On the other hand, the Provos may back one faction and help it to gain supremacy. The Torney faction say that the ceasefire which they declared in the Dublin courtroom is still in operation, apart of course for the ‘direct action' which they are taking against the ‘militarist gang which uses the name' of the IRSP-INLA. The announcement from the IRSP, which backs the pro-Gallagher faction, that the INLA has ended its suspension of military activities and will operate from ‘a position of defence sod retaliation' could be of use to the IRA.
According to the Irish Times, an IRSP source said the INLA will use the term ‘defence’ very loosely. This is particularly ominous. Any INLA hostilities against Protestant or security force targets in Ulster itself could trigger off a violent response from the Combined Loyalist Military Command. This in turn could provide the excuse which would lead to the full resumption of the IRA campaign. It is not clear what the IRA have in mind. At present they seem to be reluctant to do anything to provoke the CLMC. We hope that this continues.In the meantime, both INLA factions are intent on wiping out one-another as erstwhile comrades on each side are denounced as drug dealers, criminal elements or British spies.
Who needs British spies given the INLA's bloody history? In an additional twist, the IRSP released a menacing statement from the pro-Gallagher faction denying that there is a feud at all and threatening journalists over 'media hype'. 'There is a limit to our patience. Print the truth or nothing a! all.' Now, that's one novel way to win friends and influence people. National liberation and socialism how are you?
A THIRD WAY FOR ULSTER
Copyright © 1990 - 2007 Third Way Publications. All rights reserved.