Take Two


From the Guardian, March 5th, 25

An exchange between Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph, and Danny Morrison


Dear Danny Morrison,

For many, many years, Sinn Fein/IRA have been able to return all arguments about violence and criminality to the evil of “the British state” in Northern Ireland. I’m interested by recent developments, because they seem to have virtually nothing to do with the British state, and everything to do with the people of Ireland, North and South.

As a result of the recent murder of Robert McCartney in a republican area of Belfast, the IRA has been forced to expel three members from the organisation. Do you think that the murderers of Mr McCartney committed a crime? Do you think they should be punished through the courts?  One of Mr
McCartney’s sisters said on RTE: “We now see and we can now hear.” What do you think she meant by that?

I see and hear that Gerry Adams now says he may have been wrong to deny IRA involvement in the raid on the Northern Bank. What do you think? If it is
true that we have now entered an era of peace, can there be any defence for criminal activity? Your policy seems to be “not an ounce, not a bullet, not a shilling”. How can Irish democracy be built on that?  It looks to me, rather like the last days of Soviet rule in eastern Europe, that the people you have been accustomed to control now feel threatened by you, not defended, and they are finding the courage to say so.

Charles Moore


Dear Charles,

It’s nice to talk. All those years of demonising and criminalising republicans and refusing to talk only protracted our conflict. When you talk you begin to appreciate the other person’s perspective, motivation and self-justification.

Yes, the IRA dismissed three of its members involved in the crime of murdering Robert McCartney. It also said there should be no intimidation of or injunction against any witness helping the dead man’s family in their quest for justice. This is an encouraging development with other ramifications for the future recognition by republicans of the PSNI and the legal system, once the reforms and the Bill of Rights we were promised in the last century are introduced.

Do you remember that other murder in Belfast of young Peter McBride? Guess what! Despite being found guilty in the High Court of murder the British army refused to dismiss Guardsmen Mark Wright and James Fisher! That’s some example. They only served three years and after their release they were welcomed back into the ranks! Furthermore, the British government refuses to cooperate with the Irish government into its investigations into the Dublin and Monaghan car bombs which killed thirty-three people. Only 17 pages out of former London Metropolitan Police Commissioner John Stevens 3000 page report into allegations of collusion between British Intelligence and loyalist paramilitaries were allowed to be published. Tell me, Charles, what is going on?!


Dear Danny Morrison,

You seem to think that, because you are a spokesman for Sinn Fein/IRA, I must be spokesman for the British authorities. I am not. My point is that current events in Ireland reveal crimes against Irish people by the IRA in what is supposed to be an era of peace. The alleged wickedness of the British state is not relevant to this question, and you do not answer it.

By saying that there should be no intimidation of those who bear witness against Robert McCartney’s murderers, do you suggest that, in other cases, witnesses to murders should be intimidated? The McCartney sisters say that up to 12 people were involved in their brother’s murder. Will Sinn Fein/IRA insist that they all come forward? I wonder why, shortly after the murder, Alex Maskey hurried down to Short Strand to condemn “heavyhanded” policing. Why didn’t Sinn Fein immediately help hunt the killers?

I mentioned the Northern Bank robbery, but you did not respond. Was the IRA involved, and if so, do you defend its involvement?

Your position on the British state is well known, but Sinn Fein’s attitude to the Irish state these days is more confusing.  Is it a legitimate state? If you do not think it is, how can Irish people accept your good faith in participating in Irish political life? If you think the Irish state is legitimate, why were Sinn Fein Dail deputies photographed visiting Garda McCabe’s killers in prison? Should Anne, his widow, be treated differently from the McCartney sisters?

Charles Moore


Chas, Thanks for answering none of my questions. To yours: I am not a spokesperson for Sinn Fein or the IRA. I was the Director of Publicity for Sinn Fein until 1990 and I was once a member of the IRA. I am now a member of neither organisation. In any clubs yourself? I know exactly what you mean when you say, "the alleged wickedness of the British state is not relevant..."  It never is, comrade.

By the way, it was in the Markets area, not Short Strand, that Maskey accused the PSNI of heavy-handedness. Would you support the IRA hunting the alleged dozen killers of Robert McCartney, arresting them at gunpoint and dropping them off at the nearest barracks? If that's not what you mean then please explain.

Regarding the Northern Bank robbery: was convinced initially that the IRA did it to send a message to Blair after it offered - in his words - a historic, unprecedented deal to the unionists, only for Paisley to call for the IRA to be publicly humiliated and wear sackcloth and ashes in public. Paisley busted the deal and paid no penalty. When Adams and McGuinness robustly denied any involvement in the bank raid I changed my mind. But that's now academic since Sinn Fein has been penalised for something that the IRA may or may not have done. Would you support the salaries and expenses of all members of the Labour Party being withdrawn because British soldiers in Basra were alleged to have murdered or tortured Iraqis? It's the same thing - except the IRA doesn't interfere in the affairs of other nations. Regarding the twenty-six counties: it is a legitimate state though Britain forced it to pay crippling annuities for many years until  Dublin told it where to get off and immediately suffered an economic embargo. And, as I said to you the other day when you were not listening, the British government refuses to cooperate with the biggest murder inquiry in the Republic of Ireland. Incidentally, the IRA people convicted of the manslaughter of Gardai Jerry McCabe, when the IRA was not on ceasefire and before the signing of the Belfast Agreement, have been ruled by the Irish High Court as 'qualifying prisoners' due for release under the Agreement. So, my chum, why are you so enthusiastically in support of the authorities when they renege on their pledges?!


Dear Danny Morrison,

Please don’t get so angry. I know you went to prison for falsely imprisoning an alleged informer, but remember that this is a debate, not an interrogation.

My essential point about the McCartney murder is that Mr McCartney’s sisters believe that IRA men killed their brother and that the IRA is not doing nearly enough to bring his killers, and those who cleared up the mess to conceal the crime, to justice. Are the McCartney sisters mistaken?

You don’t seem to be able to make up your mind about the Northern Bank, but you clearly think that if the IRA did rob the bank that would have been justified (because it “sends a message”). So I don’t understand why you complained, in your first email, about republicans being “criminalised”: bank robbing is an undeniably criminal act, and one you seem happy to support. You say that the question of who robbed the bank is now “academic”, but crime is not an academic question for its victims. In this case, the victims, as well as the bank itself and its depositors, were the terrified kidnapped bank clerks.

How much longer must Irish people suffer IRA crimes? How can these crimes be compatible with democracy?

Charles Moore


Charles, in a vox pop on BBC today several Short Strand residents rejected going to the PSNI. This was followed by Paula McCartney (a sister) who said: “If witnesses are unwilling to approach the police, the family would like them to give statements to the Police Ombudsman.” Chief Constable Hugh Orde said: “If people do not feel able to do that [go to the PSNI] we have no difficulty with them talking to third parties as a first step to build confidence.”

That is Sinn Fein’s position!

Now, the difference between robbing a bank for oneself or for a cause has already been settled by British law, initially in the Emergency Provisions Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act and latterly in the Terrorism Act 2000. Why do you think IRA armed robbers were initially granted political status? The rules of evidence are different and the punishment more severe.

Anyway, it’s a bit rich for Britain that robs not banks but entire nations to be lecturing us!


Dear Danny Morrison,

I feel that, if the IRA really wanted the McCartney murder cleared up, it could do it straightaway, and I feel that you know that. Gerry Adams said that, if he had been in the bar at the time of Robert McCartney’s murder, he would give evidence in court. Yet how could such evidence come to court without cooperation with the police? In other words, is Sinn Fein serious about bringing the McCartney killers to justice As far as the Northern Bank goes, both Adams and Martin McGuinness have described the robbery as a “crime”. So I repeat, why is the republican movement committing crimes? Sinn Fein says it is committed to the peace process, but it seems to be committed to the process, but not the peace.You end: “It’s a bit rich for Britain…to be lecturing us”. As I say, I am not speaking for Britain. My question to you is, “Who is ‘us’?” The victims of republican crimes are Irish people. You tell me you accept the legitimacy of the Irish state. Sinn Fein’s acceptance of the consent principle implies acceptance of partition too. Yet Sinn Fein/IRA still rob and terrorise your fellow Irishmen and women, north and south. Why?

Charles Moore


Charles, as an Irish republican I cannot accept that Britain has any right to rule my community and part of my country: it makes me feel vanquished, as it would you were the roles reversed. If you are going to quote concern for this community then please recognise of which authorities (unionist governments and Westminster rule) it has been the chief victim, that it has overwhelmingly chosen Sinn Fein under MPs like Adams and McGuinness to represent it, that it desires peace with the unionist people and with Britain; and that the IRA - which has sprung from this community - has compromised and on three occasions has put large numbers of weapons beyond use in the interests of conflict resolution.

We here live in an abnormal society, which represented no solution in 1920 and no solution today, and that explains why abnormal things have been done by all sides on each other. I accept moral responsibility for the actions of Irish republicans. I only wish the apologists for the British presence - and you are one - did the same for their actions. In denial you might be, but you will find that though we republicans bear continuing British rule under sufferance we can be great craic and are prepared to love you!

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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison