»  National Review Online

March 24th, 2005

  Confessions of a Premature Anti-terrorist


The McCartney sisters seem to have won American hearts. These, you may recall, are the sisters of Robert McCartney, who was murdered outside a Belfast bar January 30. The occasion of McCartney's murder was, that he had got into an argument about something or other with an IRA capo at the bar. Irritated, the IRA man had ordered his associates to deal with the offender in appropriate style. The IRA soldiers obediently took Mr. McCartney outside and stomped, clubbed, and hacked him to death. In spite of the fact that the pub was crowded at the time — the patrons included two candidates for political office from the Sinn Féin political party, the IRA's front organization — Belfast police have not been able to find any witnesses to the attack. Nobody, including the two prospective legislators, saw or heard a thing.

President Bush invited McCartney's sisters (and Bridgeen Hagans, mother of his children) to the White House St. Patrick's Day bash, in lieu of IRA boss-of-bosses Gerry Adams. Poor Gerry has been removed from the President's Rolodex, Yasser Arafat style, for being a liar, a terrorist murderer, and the accomplice of bank robbers. The presidential "divorce" comes many years too late, in the opinion of those of us who have been watching Northern Ireland affairs a while, since Adams has been those things all his adult life. It is, none the less, very welcome. The fact that the McCartney sisters, along with their deceased brother, seem to have been loyal Sinn Féin (which is to say, IRA) voters all their adult lives, does not seem to have been held against them by official Washington.

As you might be guessing by this point, whoever else's hearts the McCartney sisters won, they didn't lay a finger on mine. Let me try to explain why.

Following their meeting with the President on St. Patrick's Day, the McCartney sisters (and Ms. Hagans) wrote a column for the U.S. press, in which they pleaded eloquently for Robert McCartney's killers to be brought to justice. So far, so good; but then my reading was brought to a dead stop by the following:

What Americans need to understand is that ten years ago the IRA were freedom-fighters — but today it is a different story. We are no longer in a conflict, yet atrocities are still being performed — this time by elements of criminality.

What has happened to Robert at the hands of individual IRA members goes against everything Republicanism stands for. Republicanism is about justice, it's about equality and it's about freedom. That's what the past 30 years of the struggle is all about. That's why 10 hunger strikers starved themselves to death.

Let's just parse that. "Ten years ago the IRA were freedom fighters." Really? Ten years ago would put us in early 1995.

I have just pulled down the most detailed chronicle of the Northern Ireland "Troubles" that I possess, Lost Lives, by David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney, and Chris Thornton. Let's see what is recorded for 1995, shall we?

That was in fact an exceptionally quiet year, with only 9 Troubles-related deaths. (The yearly numbers for the 1990s as a whole were: 84, 102, 91, 90, 69, 9, 22, 21, 57, and 6.) Most were Catholic civilians killed by the IRA under suspicion — in one case hotly denied by relatives of the deceased — of being involved in drug trafficking. The IRA called this their DAAD program — Direct Action Against Drugs. You don't have to be a fan of drug dealing to notice that due process played no part whatsoever in these IRA actions on behalf of "justice, equality, and freedom," and that the opportunity to work off personal grudges in an operation of this kind are legion.

Here is the actual tally for 1995 in detail:

Seymour had been shot in the head by an IRA gunman 22 years previously while helping guard a police station. Suffering massive brain damage, he seems to have been conscious for those 22 years, but could not communicate.

DAAD killing.

DAAD killing.

Killed by a fellow member of his gang, the Red Hand of Ulster Commando (Loyalist terrorists).

Apparently a purely sectarian murder of opportunity. Two Protestant men were convicted.

DAAD killing. Devine was a known associate of Mickey Mooney.

DAAD killing; though Collins's family deny he had anything to do with the drug trade, and the authorities agreed. Collins did, however, have a long rap sheet, both for terrorist and "ordinary" crimes. The terrorist (both sides) and criminal classes in Northern Ireland overlap a lot.

DAAD killing. Johnston was on bail on a cannabis-possession charge at the time.

DAAD killing. McCrory was a known petty thief, joyrider, and small-time drug dealer.

This is, as I said, not a representative sample of IRA "freedom fighting." In other years they were much more active at murdering London newsvendors (2/9/96: Inan Ul-haq Bashir, who was selling newspapers from a family kiosk when the Canary Wharf bomb went off), Christmas shoppers (12/18/83: Caroline Kennedy, 25, mother of 1, killed by the Harrods bomb), elderly royals (8/27/79: Louis Mountbatten, 79), census takers (4/7/81: Joanne Mathers, 25, married, 1 child — NB: census takers are "legitimate targets" to the IRA, along with all other U.K. government employees), infants in car seats (10/26/89: Nivruti Mahesh Islania, age 6 months, daughter of an RAF corporal, shot in the head at point-blank range by brave IRA warrior Desmond Grew, whose career was later terminated with extreme prejudice by Britain's SAS), citizens gathered to pay respects to the dead of the World Wars (11/8/87: Eleven dead when an IRA bomb planted in the Enniskillen war memorial went off — NB: the IRA describe the World Wars scornfully as "England's wars"), and thousands of others, including a steady cull of farmers and their sons in border areas of Northern Ireland as part of the IRA's Zimbabwe-style "land redistribution" program.


The Northern Ireland story is a long and tangled one, with plenty of blame to go around. There are certain things, however, that cannot be reasonably doubted. One of those things is, that the IRA is a perfectly amoral terrorist organization, whose members believe that absolutely any act is justified if it advances the cause — the cause, that is, of driving from Ireland anyone who, in the IRA's opinion, is insufficiently Irish. Another is, that anyone with a pair of eyes and a grain of sense who did not know that fact by 1995, or for that matter by 1975, was practicing willful self-delusion to a degree that beggars the imagination.

Looking back across Ireland's history through the 20th century, I should like some IRA apologist to tell me anything, anything, that was won by what Gerry Adams so winsomely calls "the physical force tradition in Irish nationalism." A united Ireland? The entire effect of the IRA and its "freedom fighting" has been to drive the Irish apart further than ever. Ireland would have been united long since but for the IRA. The independence of the 26 counties? At the opening of the 20th century, everyone in Britain knew that some variety of Home Rule was inevitable. Large swathes of the British political classes supported it. The constitutional changes in Britain prior to WW1 made it only a matter of time, whatever happened in Ireland herself. International sympathy? If sympathy is measured by actual physical assistance, the IRA's main 20th-century sympathizers were Yasser Arafat, Muammar Gaddafi, Leonid Brezhnev, Adolf Hitler, and Kaiser Bill.

Sinn Féin voters in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, their sympathizers in the USA, and dimwitted dupes like the McCartney sisters, should all face the fact that the "physical force tradition in Irish nationalism" has, quite aside from matters of morality, been a total bust, bringing to Ireland misery, destruction, gangsterism, and hate, and that its positive achievements can be counted on the fingers of no hands at all. Time for the IRA to shut up shop? I would say so, Paula, Catherine, Gemma, Donna, Claire and Bridgeen. I would say so indeed. But then, I would have said so 30 years ago, when your "community" was handing out posies to the boys in the ski masks. Call me a "premature anti-terrorist."