They’re not going anywhere you know?

Brian Arthur’s recent Sunday Tribune interview with Suzanne Breen (October 24) has raised some eyebrows among those who aren’t in tune with on-goings in East Tyrone.

Breen claims the split among Republicans in East Tyrone was “previously unreported”, which isn’t strictly true. The following account appeared on Indymedia a year and a half ago, which I blogged about during the build up to this year’s Easter commemorations. The Provisional’s apparent loss of much of its East Tyrone grass-roots support won’t be news either to the 1,000-3,000 (depending on who you listen to) who turned up in Galbally for the Martin McCaughey/Dessie Grew commemoration last month, where Brian Arthur’s and Peter McCaughey made similar comments to those repeated to Breen in the Tribune. (McCaughey and Grew were shot dead by undercover British soldiers in 1990.)

What is perhaps most significant about the interview, coming after the recent broadcast of the ‘Voices from the Grave’ documentary is the seemingly growing consensus and realisation among those who dedicated themselves to the Provisional’s military strategy, that they have been  supplanted (even suppressed) by those eschewing the political strategy. Many like Arthurs are now looking at Stormont and asking themselves what it was all about anyway?

“No one can deny there have been changes in the north but it is an equality agenda being pursued. People did not die, they did not take up arms, for equality. They did so for Irish freedom.”

Some of those who have opposed the Provisional movement’s strategy since Good Friday in 1998, have been asking why it took Arthurs 10 years to realise what they have claimed all along. Arthurs was believed to have been central in garnering support for the political strategy in Tyrone up to 2008, but the breaking point appears to have been the decision to endorse the police (i.e. sit on policing boards), which many Republican families in East Tyrone, particularly those with family members killed on ‘active service’ could not stomach. Many of those families subsequently refused to allow Sinn Fein members sitting on policing boards to speak at commemorations.

Martin McGuinness’ “traitor” comments after the Masserene killings helped entrench the growing resentment toward Sinn Fein. As Arthurs described to Breen:

“We were disgusted when Martin McGuinness stood at the gates of Stormont with the Chief Constable of the PSNI after Massereene and demonised republicans. He did not speak for us.”

With so many disillusioned, Republicans who have fallen foul of the Sinn Fein strategy have united around the concept of commemoration. A number of small Republican societies have emerged in the eastern half of the county with the prophetic mantra “East Tyrone remembers”. They include, Dungannon’s Thomas Clarke Society, Galbally’s Padraig Pearse Society, Coalisland/Clonoe’s Eamonn Ceannt Society and Stewartstown’s Joe McKelvey Society. Indeed while “East Tyrone remembers”, some of the imagery on display in Galbally during the recent McCaughey/Grew commemoration is the kind Sinn Fein are keen to forget.

The commemoration, attended by several thousand juxtaposed with Sinn Fein’s own commemoration in the chambers of Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, where Martin McCaughey during the 1980s became the youngest elected representative in Ireland. Around 80 were said to have attended the function to the outrage of Unionists.

While these societies may be dedicated to upholding the memory of dead Irish Republicans, they arguably hold the potential as workshops to formulate a separate strategy from the Provisionals. They are not unlike the Republican clubs that remained in existence in the North before 1968, who carried a small torch for militant Republicans through a period of relative normalisation.

In any respects they haven’t gone away and in fact appear to be growing in support with plans to create more such clubs around the county.


About AldousDuke
Mid Tyrone journalist, not so freelance any more.

5 Responses to They’re not going anywhere you know?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention They’re not going anywhere you know? « Aldous Duke --

  2. alex says:

    There are a number of points I would like to make,

    Arthurs says he supported the GFA, it’s not too hard to realise what was coming down the line regards policing in the near future, what did he expect?.

    Also Aldous you have not done your research very well if at all,
    you say the endorsement of police/policing boards was the breaking point for Arthurs but even he says himself he withdrew support for Sf’s strategy in 2008!!
    Even if it was at the beginning of 2008, it is near a year on since SF voted to endorse policing and take up positions on policing boards.
    There are people sitting on policing boards in E Tyrone because Brian Arthurs ORDERED them to do so, I wonder how they feel now?

    Secondly to persume the people who attended the commemoration share Artrhurs view on SFstrategy is misleading, I attended and I am a firm supporter of SF, and was Barry Mc Elduff not in attendance?

    I know some people there no longer support SF, some never did, but a lot there still do and judging by the last election results I didn’t see any disgruntled republicans even standing never mind increasing in support, probably because the last time they did they got humiliated.

    lastly, in relation to..’ they arguably hold the potential as workshops to formulate a separate strategy from the Provisionals’
    I suspect you are right here and I have no doubt come election time these ‘societies’ will be bank rolling some ‘independents’ in particular in the council elections which would of course expose the lie that they are merely remembering Republican dead.
    I have no problems with people disagreeing with SF strategy but if your going to be outwardly attacking former comrades why not be honest about it instead of using the Republican dead as a platform to do so. After all Just a quick glance on the Dungannon societies web page and you see this ..

    ‘ It is an independent Organisation which gives no allegiance or favour to any political organisation . Individual Members may favour or indeed be involved with political organisations but Cumann Tomas ui Cleirigh as a collective body will remain independent’

    not so much independent after Arthurs interview to of all people Suzanne Breen?
    It wasn’t so long ago she was sticking the boot into Arthurs and co when they were at Martin Mc Guinness’s side now they are running to her giving an interview.

    There comes a time when you can only make excuses for people for so long before a parting of the ways, unfortunately some people can’t deal with the demotion too well.

    p.s Don’t just become another ‘lazy journalist’ at such a young age, they’re ten a penny these days.

  3. AldousDuke says:

    First off Alex thanks for taking the time to comment so extensively, I greatly appreciate your engagement. I take your point about the date of the policing endorsement, however if you read the post I have stated “Arthurs was believed to have been central in garnering support for the political strategy in Tyrone up to 2008”. I have also made reference to the apparent delay in Arthurs ‘switching sides’ was criticised by some ‘independent’ republicans. It’s not a straight forward story, but I’m not privy to what goes on in Brian Arthurs’ head.

    There’s no doubt that the fall-out over the policing endorsement took a while to come to a head. I believe the high emotions surrounding Easter commemoration brought the whole thing to breaking point, particularly in the case of families who have lost members on active service. I’m not going to get into the split in the NGA again.

    I am well aware of reports of the West Tyrone MLA and some of those still aligned to the provisional movement attending the Galbally commemoration. However practically all the anti-GFA organisations were represented and you have missed the point completely. Galbally was organised by the Padraig Pearse Society with the families at the centre. Sinn Fein were not remotely in the picture and compare that with the SF function in council chambers. I wan’t there, but were there any representatives from the families in attendance?

    You are obviously a firm supporter of Sinn Fein and obviously uncomfortable with the criticism being levied by “former comrades”. Arthurs’ comments are highlighted because of his profile, but it represents a fairly large body of opinion who were shocked by McGuinness’ traitor’ comments after Masserene. Anti-GFA republicans have made no imprint at elections yes, but neither is that the point here. Sinn Fein have been extremely successful in attracting the new young vote, making ‘X’ on the ballot paper from hard-line grass-roots republicans irrelevant. But that body of opinion is not in the decline.

    As for being a lazy journalist. No one is paying me to maintain this blog, I do it as a hobby in the evenings after I come home from my day job. Where is else is this issue being covered, save for extremely partial forums? I’ve taken interest in a highly divisive issue, but I’m not looking for any thanks. Feel free to send me any information on issues you feel warrant a story on and I’ll promise to give them time of day.


  4. alex says:


    I don’t deny that there has been a parting of the ways and I don’t know if there was or was not any family reps of former IRA volunteer and SF councillor Martin Mc Caughey’s at the council ceremony, however I suspect you think there wasn’t and that’s fair enough. One thing I can say is there were friends and comrades of Martin’s represented.

    No one person or political party, be it SF or whoever can claim to speak for the dead or know what their stance would be on the current political situation and it would be wrong to claim that we do, the important thing from my point of view is that they are remembered.

    I’m not so much ‘uncomfortable’ with criticism as long as it is constructive and articulate but forgive me for being taken aback when someone who actively campaigned and ordered, ordered, others to sit on policing boards now accuses them of being informers, it’s a bit rich.

    p.s keep er lit.

  5. kevin murray says:

    I never gave anyone permission to use my fathers memory to promote the thomas clarke society ,quite frankly i am disgusted. My fathers memory is precious,he died on active service for what he believed to be a just cause NO society has the right to claim his memory.We don’t want his face on any more posters or placards relating to the thomas clarke society or anymore pop up society,VOL.KEVIN MURRAY PROVISIONAL IRA DIED 15TH MARCH 1974 LET HIM REST IN PEACE. I don’t agree with the political situation at present and did’nt do long before many others, leave my fathers memory in peace.

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