A Dublin friend rang the other night to say that he had just been to the most depressing public meeting in his life. It was organised by the Irish Republican Writers Group (IRWG), ostensibly to mark the twentieth anniversary of the hunger strike, but didn't. No plans were announced on how to honour the ten dead men, but another public meeting was announced for Belfast.

What depressed him was that the night was devoted to one attack after another on Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein and the great 'sell-out'. Ex-prisoners Tommy McKearney, Brendan Hughes and Anthony McIntyre were on the platform. It appears they have nothing else to talk about.

Last year in a series of letters to this paper members of the IRWG complained about personalised attacks on themselves by other republicans in order to discredit their criticisms of Sinn Fein. But as I pointed out back then it was actually the IRWG who specialised in personal attacks on the integrity of Sinn Fein leaders, as the intemperate writings in the first issue of their magazine, 'Fourthwrite', proved. Gerry Adams was "a modern day de Valera". Brendan Hughes criticised republicans "who have big houses and guaranteed incomes" and spoke of a confident British counter-insurgency strategy to "mould leaderships which they could deal with", which isn't far from calling someone a collaborator.

Brendan was quoted in 'The Observer', I think, before Christmas, once again going on about their big houses, big cars, big offices, big suits. I asked him why was he attacking Gerry Adams so much, a former comrade. He expressed surprise and denied that he was attacking Adams. He told me who he was actually referring to, a former Belfast man who lives in County Louth and who is now a relatively wealthy businessman. I pointed out that that individual left the Republican Movement when the ceasefire was called. But a few weeks later, Brendan, in an interview, got stuck into Gerry Adams once again, this time naming him.

Ciara Twomey, the partner of Anthony McIntyre, and a member of the IRWG, was the main moderator for the Alternative Republican Bulletin Board (ARBB) which propagated IRGW statements on the internet. Last October the British Ministry of Defence issued gagging notices against several newspapers prohibiting them from naming an IRA informer working for MI5 whose codename was 'Steak Knife'. It was alleged that in order to protect 'Steak Knife' from a UFF assassination bid in 1987 Brian Nelson, at the behest of MI5, diverted the UFF to Ballymurphy man Francisco Notarantonio whom they killed.

After this MI5 story postings appeared on Ciara Twomey's ARBB speculating who the informer was. Alex Maskey was named as a suspect. So was Seamus Finucane, Jim Gibney, myself, Tom Hartley, Eddie Copeland and Martin Meehan. According to the Board's policy statement its purpose was "to foster an atmosphere of congenial, intelligent debate." Personal attacks will not be tolerated, it claimed. Here is a flavour of some of the things it published: "It [Steak Knife] must be Gerry Adams. His book was a flop… If it [his money] didn't come from MI5 then he must have stolen it from the Republican Movement." Or this: "It's not Paddy Doherty. He works for the Special Branch." Or this: "Can I have £10 on Martin McGuinness…"

The latter was followed by other posts giving odds on Gerry Adams and Alex Maskey being the informer. Ciara Twomey is from the USA and has lived in West Belfast for about a year. When I phoned her and asked where was the intelligent debate, the comradeship, she defended the remarks and posted a notice saying that I had sounded intimidating. When two ex-prisoners complained personally she closed the Board and claimed that she WAS intimidated. (This happened shortly after the killing of Joseph O'Connor when the IRWG carried out its 'inquiry', concluded that the IRA was responsible, which led to names being bandied about.)

The website of the IRWG, however, carries on the tasteless tradition of the ARBB. It publishes a section called 'The Angry Rebel'. Out of twelve postings nine are anti-Sinn Fein or anti-IRA, one is anti-British and another is anti-Catholic Church. Under the spoof 'Speech by Sinn Fein Yuppie' it attributes the following, which says a lot for the author's perverted mentality: "We shall never forget you Paddy Sands. Your death on hunger strike in 1985 was the catalyst for the struggle which has achieved all the goals we ever wanted."

And another speech: "We are here today to pay tribute to those four men who went 53 days without food during the first H-Block hunger strike in 1980. The hunger strike leader Raymond McCartney is an inspiration to us all." Raymond McCartney is clearly singled out because he is still in Sinn Fein. Yes, we are all thick Paddies in the pockets of MI5 and hadn't the brains to work out our own peace process or what was in the best interests of our people.

During a recent television documentary on the history of Long Kesh Brendan Hughes in a reflective piece said that what he missed most and felt sad about over the years was the loss of comradeship. We know what you mean, Brendan.

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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison