Amid calls for the legacy investigation into the actions of British agents inside the Provisional IRA to be expanded, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement recall the brutal ambush twenty years ago this week of 26-year-old Joe O’Connor.
On this day in 2000, two agents of the provisional movement executed young volunteer Joe O’Connor. They did this with the explicit support of the British government who, in the words of the then “secretary of state” Mo Mowlam, supported ‘internal house keeping’.
The British state, via the provisional movement, sought to break the then reformed Republican movement which was intent on preventing the counter revolution taking place in Ireland at the time. The aim of the British government was to disarm and absorb the Republican movement into the mechanisms of the British occupation. To do this they used false promises, British “funding”, influence exerted from the many state agents they had/have in the provisional movement as well as the genuine hopes of the Irish people for a settlement that was sold to them as being able to bring about both unity and peace.
Joe was not content with sitting back and becoming a voice of discontent or becoming party to what he saw as the complete abandonment of the Republican struggle. This is why Joe was cowardly murdered by agents of the provisional movement. This is why the British government sought to crush the reborn Republican movement including the 32 County Sovereignty Movement. Joe knew that the so called Good Friday Agreement delivered nothing but the complete capitulation of the Republican struggle in return for a nationalist role in the occupation of Ireland.
What Joe believed at the time was a minority position, and many who opposed the Good Friday Surrender were ostracized and attacked by the provisional movement. However, what Joe and many others foresaw in 1997 has come to pass and is common knowledge today. The only legacy of the Good Friday Agreement has been the further entrenchment of sectarianism, the continued deprivation of communities and the perpetuation of poverty, exploitation, political oppression and a suicide epidemic across Ireland that has tragically touched the lives of many families and Republicans.
Those who believe that any change can be brought about while British occupation continues in Ireland, need only to look at the path taken by others such as Fianna Fáil, the Workers Party and Provisional Sinn Féin. Joe recognized the unavoidable reality that there would be no freedom in Ireland until the criminal presence of British rule is removed.
While those who cowardly executed Joe succeeded in taking his life, they failed to silence the Republican movement. Joe will always be remembered as a courageous and faithful Irish Republican. Those who took his life will forever be remembered as nothing more than the bloody hand of British rule in Ireland.
We in the 32 County Sovereignty Movement remember Oglach Joe O’ Connor with pride.