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Framing the narrative… March 23, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Some of the responses to the death of Martin McGuinness are particularly intriguing. Take the IT for example. They’ve a long article by Kathryn Johnston (co-author with Liam Clarke of a biography of McGuinness) where, and the headline is indicative – “The republican’s facade occasionally slipped, revealing a callous disregard for human life” – she writes amongst other incidents about the murder of Mountbatten:

In his journal that night, Prince Charles, colonel in chief of the Parachute Regiment and Mountbatten’s nephew, wrote “Life will never be the same now that he is gone. I fear it will take me a very long time to forgive these people . . .”
Yet by 2015, Prince Charles and Lady Camilla Parker-Bowles had visited. In the interest of our peace, Prince Charles said, we must no longer be prisoners of our history.

And then with context whatsoever is straight onto:

His words were generous, and symbolised growing reconciliation. Less than a year ago, McGuinness met Queen Elizabeth at Hillsborough.
McGuinness is seen walking smiling, towards her, hand outstretched. As they shake hands, McGuinness asks her how she is. She replied, drily, “I’m still alive, anyway.”

Now what is odd about that is that McGuinness, famously, met the Queen in 2012, four years before the meeting Johnston references. That’s not a small detail, it was a fairly significant one in the context of the overall process, and not least for Unionists and Republicans. But Johnston frames the Queen’s comments as being related to the Mountbatten murder etc.

Moreover the Queen’s comments in no less an authority than the Telegraph were contextualised in that paper, hardly one pro-Republican as a joke shared between the two of them.

One doesn’t have to hold a candle for McGuinness to feel that there’s significant problematic aspects with the IT article. It’s not that one aspect of his legacy should not be addressed, but to only present that and to ignore all else is to offer only a part of a more complex, and yes, ambiguous and difficult story.

And for those of us, however semi-detached from Marxism there’s a further problem. The focus on McGuinness in terms of a supposed ‘callous disregard for life that characterised the IRA’s campaign’ is to personalise broader processes. It is indeed true that the campaign at many times exhibited precisely that – but it is short-sighted in the extreme to see it as simply that, or to ignore the processes, which like them or not (and I’d be like I suspect many of us are here deeply critical of armed struggle as a tactic), allowed it to persist across decades and later to see SF gain the political prominence that it has. Or indeed to ignore the factors that led to what was in a way a number of armed campaigns during that period as long extant and suppressed or ignored societal and communal pressures came to the fore.

Gerry Moriarty in the same paper is a fair bit more nuanced and generous.


1. Anthony Mcintyre - March 23, 2017

You have a minor error there – It is Liam Clarke rather than Liam Miller who wrote the book.


WorldbyStorm - March 23, 2017

Thanks Anthony, I’ve changed that now.


2. roddy - March 23, 2017

Clarke and Johnson were/ are a joke.Johnson should let the leader of the party she claims to be a member of speak for that party.Corbyn was a friend and supporter of Martin to the last.To give an example of the absolute space cadet Johnson is,she and Clarke described an “event” where Martin once escaped from the Brits by stealing a white horse from a field and fleeing across the border on its back.I am now heading to his funeral,to bury a man who built a party on the verge of being the biggest in all Ireland.Johnson barely ammassed 200 votes on her last outing..I’ll leave it at that andnot call her and Clarke out for what they are.


3. EWI - March 24, 2017

What’s Johnston’s relationship to Clarke and/or what is/was the WP?


4. Anthony Mcintyre - March 24, 2017

Kathryn is the widow of Liam Clarke. He died towards the end of 2015.


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