Irish Republican News · July 16, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Helping the Brits

By Geraldine Kelly (for the Blanket)

Once he fought them tooth-and-nail, now he saves their skin. There have been many transformations in politics down through the years, but few have been as dramatic as that of Gerry Kelly.

To see a once committed IRA volunteer clearing a path for the occupation forces and waving them through Ardoyne - an area which suffered appallingly at the hands of the British military for decades - is truly remarkable.

It is visible proof for anyone naive enough to still have faith in the Provos, that not only are they no longer republicans, they are active counter-revolutionaries. Gerry Kelly doesn’t yet sit on the Policing Board but he might as well because he did a good enough job, without a salary, for the PSNI on Monday night.

We should be clear about events that evening. The PSNI and British Army were there to ensure a bunch of supremacist thugs passed through a nationalist district. Gerry Kelly helped them do their job.

I’d understand if Kelly personally decided against resistance to the police and Brits. Maybe he thought that sort of thing was no longer for him. Maybe he feared the response from the crown forces. There would have been nothing shameful in Kelly not becoming involved in the rioting himself, in just walking away.

It would be a position with which many of us would instinctively disagree, yet it would be an honourable one. But Gerry Kelly did what he had no right to do. He attempted to stop other people, who do believe in resistance, from challenging the Brits and their PSNI henchmen.

He attempted to pacify the crowd. We saw him clearing the way for the Brit Land Rovers and how they trusted him! Did you see how quickly they moved through when he gestured? Clearly, they didn’t suspect for one minute that he would lure them into a trap. Gerry Kelly, the former Old Bailey bomber is now seen as friend, not foe.

Kelly was hissed and booed by the crowd but he should have been chased. He doesn’t live in Ardoyne and he should have been treated with as much courtesy as any outsider coming in and attempting to tell the people what to do in their own streets.

How different is Gerry Kelly to the old SDLP politicians who arrived from time to time in areas where they didn’t live, and tried to lay down the law? The irony was that the SDLP representative, Martin Morgan, behaved far more honourably than Gerry Kelly on Monday evening. You’d have expected Morgan to have been clearing the way for the crown forces but, to be fair to him, he didn’t. It was Kelly who saved their bacon.

Again, it would be understandable if Kelly was urging restraint in a situation where nationalists were massively out-numbered, where it was obvious they would be hammered. But Ardoyne was a scenario where, for once, nationalists were in a strong position. They had the upper hand. It was the Brits and the cops getting the hiding. Yet Gerry Kelly wanted it to stop.

The sight of nationalist youths armed with batons, riot shields, and hammers, getting laid into the crown forces, is soul-stirring stuff for many radicals and revolutionaries. It brings back memories of days when one could be proud of republican resistance.

‘Dissident’ republicans have been heartened by Ardoyne and the spirit of its people in taking on the state and ignoring the Provos. But the challenge is to build on events in Ardoyne. Those who remain true republicans haven’t been able to do this significantly in the past. Exactly the same scenarios have prevailed on the Lower Ormeau and Garvaghy Roads and the Provos have always managed to put the lid back on.

They do what they always do - voice anger to the media against the crown forces (despite the fact they actually helped them); send in their ‘A’ team to reassure the locals their grievances are being addressed; and then let the whole thing fade away.

Sure enough, on Tuesday, Big Gerry arrived in Ardoyne to support Wee Gerry by meeting the residents. It looked good, it sounded good, but it was all about dissipating grassroots anger, pacifying people, and securing the status quo.

There was Gerry Kelly, man of the people, playing the victim. Normally, you couldn’t get the suit off him with a crow-bar. But a suit doesn’t do justice to an arm in a sling. So Kelly appeared jacketless and in a short-sleeved shirt, looking appropriately wounded for the cameras.

Again, those who remain true republicans are unfortunately letting the Provos set the agenda. Why wasn’t the anger in Ardoyne immediately channelled the next day into a white-line picket to show that residents were unrepentant and still raging against the State? There is a myriad of other activities anti-Agreement republicans could have organised to show the community there is an alternative to the Provos.

Gerry Adams, Gerry Kelly and their ilk can live with the odd bit of argy-bargy after a march. What the Provos fear is people, who have been far too loyal to them since 1994, realising that their attempts to pacify the situation wasn’t a misjudgement or a bad call. It was a symbol of how they are now actively upholding partition and British rule in Ireland. They are not misguided, they are collaborators.

Hissing and booing Gerry Kelly for one night is pointless. What terrifies the Provos is the possibility of long-term anger, of people deciding they’ll never vote Sinn Féin again; they’ll never listen to anything big or wee Gerry say; they’ll make up their own minds and do their own thing; they’ll laugh at the idea that Provo leaders are working in the interests of the working-class nationalist communities from where they once came; they’ll realise that no-one who remains republican would ever, ever dream of helping the Brits.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News