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.

 Home Page Reviews Ulster comment  Archives  International issues   Links   Conversation with Rabbi Schiller  FAQs   Open Forum  For Sale  Obituaries   Culture and Identity

With enemies like this...

Father Seamus Murphy, the Jesuit philosopher who recently raised a storm of protest after he accused the Gaelic Athletic Association of being a sectarian organisation, has claimed that support for the IRA in Éire is much more deeply rooted than most people realise.

Father Murphy has compiled what he describes as a nine point `ambivalence' test of beliefs and attitudes which he uses to measure the degrees of support for or opposition to the IRA among Éire citizens. It is not Fr Murphy's contention that they are deliberately secret Provo supporters, but that many of them hold to political positions which are inconsistent with serious opposition to the IRA.

In his Studies article, I Don't Support the IRA but... Semantic and Psychological Ambivalence he asks those who describe themselves as Irish nationalists to ask themselves what they feel about the following nine issues:
1. The criminality of IRA killings.
2. The moral equivalence between a Protestant paramilitary 'sectarian' killing and an IRA 'political' killing.
3. The acceptability of voting for Sinn Féin.
4. The duty of Ulster Catholics to support the security forces.
5. The connection between voting for Sinn Féin and supporting the IRA.
6. The acceptability of a united Ireland obtained the IRA way, assuming that there was no other way to obtain it.
7. The Gaelic Athletic Association's membership policy with respect to the IRA and the RUC.
8. The unionist right to refuse unity by consent.
9. The significance of the Republic's constitutional claims to Ulster in Articles 2 and 3.

According to Fr Murphy, the IRA relies more on the tacit support of those who share its political goals than those few who are willing to cheer on every murder or act of violence. He said that it was possible to 'abhor' political violence, yet still support the perpetrators by endorsing their goals. "To think that there is no problem with voting for Sinn Féin or that unionists have no right to refuse unity 'by consent' or that the Republic's territorial claims on Northern Ireland are unproblematic, amounts to watering down one's opposition to the IRA!
   "To deny this amounts to holding that none of these things have any connection to the IRA which is false; it is to delude oneself into thinking that one can oppose the IRA without that opposition having any political implications. From the IRA's point of view, such `opposition' is quite harmless."

Fr Murphy also criticised as unhelpful the all-too-common media description of IRA acts of violence as `mindless and irrational'. This ignored the IRA's real political significance which in turn minimised their moral significance for Catholics. To suggest that Provo volunteers are insane tends to absolve them and their sympathisers of any moral responsibility for their actions. He pointed out that everything that is known about the IRA/Sinn Féin leadership indicated that they are logical and cool-headed not mindless psychotics. Any such group would have collapsed a long time ago.

Fr Murphy said that IRA support was partly rationalised by what he called the delusion that Irish unity was intrinsically good, detachable from the means used to achieve it, and that this abstract and imaginary 'goodness' could compensate for the slaughter, misery and terror which purchased it.

The IRA don't expect the Roman Catholic Church to endorse its 'military campaign' but do expect political support for its goals. As long as priests and bishops keep to denouncing acts of violence they can say what they like, but if any cleric is so bold as to attack the legitimising ideology he is thought to have gone over to the enemy.

Fr Murphy concluded that a just society could not be built in Ulster unless the 'nationalist community' in both parts of the island of Ireland confront and name the evil which comes from its own side of the house.

So far there has been little sign of this. Quite the contrary as we have witnessed the SDLP's John Hume getting into the same political bed as Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams.

James Connolly on Parnell

Father Seamus Murphy's comments on the relationship between 'physical force' and 'constitutional' Irish nationalism show that little has changed from the days of Charles Stewart Parnell. In the Irish Worker (August 15th, 1914) James Connolly wrote of Parnell that he,
"always believed in a physical force party, but would never join it. This gave him always the power to say to the English government that if it did not grant him his moderate demands then the physical force party would take control of Irish affairs out of his hands. And, he would assure Mr Gladstone, `you knowIhave no control over that extreme party."  John Hume of the SDLP has certainly nothing to learn from the example of Charles Stewart Parnell.

Home page



Copyright © 1990 - 2007 Third Way Publications. All rights reserved.