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category national | politics / elections | opinion/analysis author Thursday October 13, 2011 16:03author by An Puc ar Buile Report this post to the editors

Observing the recent series of interchanges between Martin McGuinness and his varied and many opponents in the Republic’s media and political circles, An Puc has been minded of experiments carried out by the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud.

Observing the recent series of interchanges between Martin McGuinness and his varied and many opponents in the Republic’s media and political circles, An Puc has been minded of experiments carried out by the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud.

No, not all that weird stuff about phallic symbols and Oedipal urges (although Freud would no doubt be interested in Gay ‘Oliver Twist’ Mitchell’s much trumpeted childhood deprivation and Enda ‘The Artful Dodger’s’ role as a surrogate father). In his studies of the concept of “negative hallucination”, Freud proposed a fundamental principle about how human beings make sense of the world that seems instructive when it comes to the collective amnesia many in the South’s elites seem to suffer.

Freud set out by experimenting with hypnotised patients, whom he would convince to deny the existence of something patently obvious e.g. that there was furniture in a room packed to the hilt with tables and chairs. He would then ask the patients to retrieve an item from the other end of the room and Freud would watch as they carefully plotted a path around the furniture, which, in the hypnotic state, they genuinely believed wasn’t there. The interesting part came when Freud pointed out the route they had taken around the furniture and asked why they simply didn’t walk straight to the item with no deviations on the way. Various responses, such as “I moved to examine a picture on the wall”, or “I saw a friend and moved towards her”, illustrated something very revealing about the way we think.

Freud concluded that his subjects had made up reasons for – or “rationalised” – their behaviour because of the “falsifying character of the ego”. The ego’s task is to maintain a fabricated appearance of consistency and completeness at all times — to comfort us in our belief that we understand things, particularly our own behaviour. In short, Freud argued, our brains develop all sorts of fancy explanations for our behaviour when we simply find it difficult to explain or justify. In some ways, subconsciously, we all tell ourselves a few lies now and again to explain away uncomfortable or inexplicable truths: baldness is a sign of virility; nasal hair makes me distinguished looking.

But could these theories be applied to more widespread narratives, such as our concept of history, or more specifically, the Irish revisionist view of political violence? Could it be that we compulsively ignore things that we find uncomfortable in our recent history because of our own collective guilt about inaction or evasion?
An Puc has been mulling over this question of late as his humble caprine mind becomes increasingly bewildered by the anti-republican tone of the presidential debate. Gay Mitchell continually blames Martin McGuinness for the entirety of the Northern conflict — inexplicably, because his ranting is not doing him any good in the polls. Last night Mitchell said that if republicans had accepted Sunningdale, the conflict would have ended in 1974. Nowhere in this anti-logic was any consideration of the fact that, historically speaking, large-scale loyalist violence and civil disobedience aided by British capitulation ended Sunningdale. Mitchell had actually, in a curiously gymnastic act of intellectual acrobatics, turned the course of events in 1974 on its head.

In this regard, the contrast between the incredibly uncritical, rhapsodic reception lavished on the head of the British army some months ago and the increasingly hysterical vitriol being heaped on Martin McGuinness could not be more glaring. How do revisionists and anti-republicans square this circle? How can they become so exercised by the (tragically plentiful) errors of the IRA, yet be struck dumb by the arrival of a monarch whose army, along with others, has killed the best part of a million people in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade?

The compulsive refusal to recognise the central role of the British government in the conflict in the North of Ireland is characteristic of Freudian negative hallucination; zig-zagging across the laboratory floor, the revisionist avoids all the things he cannot see and then makes up a load of reasons why he’s taken this particularly irrational historical path. Perhaps it’s that those who can’t rationalize their inaction following the pogroms, and the beating and shooting dead of civil rights protestors in the late 1960s and early 1970s, feel the need to project their guilt onto republicans: the IRA didn’t fight a clean war (was there ever one); therefore we’ve turned our backs on the lot of you beastly Northerners. Such a plague-on-both-your-houses mentality can only justify itself by compulsively ignoring the atrocities of the British government, the Orange state and loyalism, the effect of internment without trial and of course the origins of the conflict in sectarian inequalities.

If you don’t believe this, or think I’m just doing some rationalizations of my own, well just consider how many times politicians and journalists in the south take an interest in the cases of Pat Finucane or Rosemary Nelson – solicitors shot dead in highly questionable circumstances, in which British complicity is suspected – and then compare it to their fascination with a handful of republican killings. Elites in the Republic have managed to purge their guilt for inaction, when Irish citizens ninety miles up the road were being tortured and burned out of their houses, by reimagining the tragic origins and sustained injustices of the thirty-year conflict. The IRA is to blame, they say; the British government is nowhere to be seen. This evacuation of the British from their own conflict – the historical equivalent of saying bankers have nothing to do with the recession, or X Factor has nothing to do with ruining the weekends of middle-aged men – requires a significant capacity for rationalized denial.

Martin McGuinness pointed out the irony last night, on RTÉ’s largely predictable and ponderous Primetime debate (until the Danagate moment), that Tony Blair had a greater grasp of the dynamics of the conflict in the North than the reactionary media and politicians of the South do. Senior figures in British governments and intelligence agencies have long recognised their disastrous role in fanning the flames of war, while Irish elites, with grotesque postcolonial sycophancy, seek to reassure them that they did nothing wrong. As G.B. Shaw once put it: “put an Irishman on the spit and you can always get another Irishman to turn him.” The prime example of this servile posturing in the current campaign has been Gay Mitchell’s somewhat mischievous suggestion that we re-join the British Commonwealth and take on the queen as Irish head of state (making his own presidential bid a bit of a paradox).

Joining the Commonwealth would mean forgetting why we’re independent in the first place, and this kind of “remembering to forget”, as the great thinker Michel Foucault might put is, is characteristic of the pathology of reactionary revisionism. In this peculiar way of thinking, it was okay for Fianna Fáil founder-member and government minister Frank Aiken to blow up a British troop train in 1921, but not for the IRA of 1982 to do something similar; it was okay to fight tyranny without a mandate in 1916 (for that could be achieved retrospectively in 1918) but not to do so in the present phase of the conflict (after which Sinn Féin has ended up in government). British collusion in the murder of intractable solicitors or many of its own alleged citizens is to be forgotten, as is the British government’s obdurate determination to secure a military, rather than political solution to the conflict, until the 1990s brought a new dispensation. Most of all, you must remember to forget.

Strangely, those who lived with the chaos of the conflict north of the border have moved on, whereas south of the border the Miriam O’Callaghans of the world can’t help themselves when the opportunity to excoriate a modern-day republican presents itself. As McGuinness and Sinn Féin rise dramatically in the polls, and as Fine Gael and Labour brace themselves for the consequences of their first dirty deed in government - the budget - the likelihood, nonetheless, is that such attacks will act as a boon to a party seeking to position itself in opposition to the cosy consensus. The very negative hallucination of further "austerity" will make it difficult for media pundits to continue their tunnel-vision focus on Sinn Féin's past as the party marches ever more confidently into the future.

Related Link: http://anpucarbuile.blogspot.com/
author by P.J.G - Nonepublication date Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

..........the 26 Counties and I agree 100% with that last comment.. We let them down when they needed help, now we're trying to pretend

that what McGuinness and all the others were involved in had nothing to do with us. But come 1916 we'll all be out waving flageens and

saying how great Collins and Lemass were when they went around Dublin in the War of Independence killing at will. I'd like to know

what the naysayers in the South think is different between what Collins ordered and what the I.R.A did. It's either right or it's wrong to

take a life in a military conflict. Which is it? If it's wrong, every Fine Gael T.D and Councillor should take down their pictures of Collins

from the wall behind their desks, and ditto for F.F with Lemass and De Valera . If it's not wrong, we should all put up pictures of

McGuinness because he was involved in exactly the same type of struggle. Or are we prepared to look away again in case we lose the

8 Billion we begged off England, and because the Queen is helping us to sell a few horses?

author by scorchpublication date Sat Oct 15, 2011 09:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ninety-five per cent of the population in the south of Ireland sat back and gave absolutely zero support to the Irish Nationalists in the six counties during the recent troubles, scared of becoming involved, scared to stand up to their old enemy.
Today the same people criticise those who took action. Action that they took no part in because of extreme cowardice, you can hold your heads in shame or at last show a bit of decency and shut the fuck up!

author by Fior Gaelpublication date Fri Oct 14, 2011 16:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

how ironic that the 26 county republic to which MMcG always saw himself more a part of than the 6 counties will now reject him at the ballot box, because of all that happened in the 6 on all sides forgiveness and acceptance comes more easy. down here we do what Irish people do best that being never forget. looks like its back to the assembly with martin

author by Redundant Republicanpublication date Fri Oct 14, 2011 16:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I am not concerned whether the Blair quote is true or not. What is true is where Sinn Fein have taken republicans. We conceded articles 2/3, we agreed the principle of consent in occupied Ireland, we made sure that Stormont returned and was workable, we decommissoned, etc etc etc etc. These are not illusions or figments of my imagination. Republicans lost the war and to the victors the spoils. Of course the DUP work well with Sinn Fein, they squeezed every piece of republicanism out of them , they have made them part of unionism. To become a "popular" and "respectable" part of the political process, Sinn Fein have left all their principles behind. They have become the new SDLP in the 6 counties and they have become the new Fianna Fail in the 26 counties. Remember how we as republicans despised the SDLP and FF, now you may understand how I feel about Sinn Fein. As Bernadette Devlin said after the GFA, " the good guys lost".

author by Giolla Mearpublication date Fri Oct 14, 2011 09:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

@Redundant Republican:

Interesting Tony Bliar quote. The British state never withdraws without leaving booby traps designed to weaken/damage/destroy those who opposed them. (Just think of the "Treaty Negotiations" which started 11 October 1921, 90 yrs ago on Tuesday, which, by political means, set back 26 county independence by many years and caused considerable damage to Irish politics as a whole.) Seventy-odd years later, it was more realistic to conclude that, as things turned out, the Provisionals could not win a clear military victory over the British forces. But equally, as it turned out, the latter were not able to win a clear military victory over the Provisionals. In light of this, the current mode is not unreasonable.

@Poc ar Buile:

Useful commentary on RoI President election - thanks. MMcG is not my preferred candidate; nor do I think he will actually win the race. But the effect on southern politics of his intervention, which you describe so well, is much more important than the actual outcome of the election itself. For that reason MMcG gets my number one.

author by Redundant Republicanpublication date Thu Oct 13, 2011 21:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Tony Blair is quoted in Alister Campbell's autobiography " The unionists were too stupid to realise that they had won and sinn fein were too clever to admit that they had lost". These words were allegedly spoken on the night sinn fein signed the gfa and guaranteed the surrender of every republican belief and principle. I would have some degree of respect and some measure of understanding where sinn fein have taken us, if they had simply told and acknowledged the truth that we (republicans) lost the war.

author by an pucpublication date Thu Oct 13, 2011 20:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree that there is a mismatch between what SF is doing in the North and is saying in the South, but then the party will probably argue that it is the Tories who are implementing the cuts; SF is simply trying to limit the damage they do. From your point of view, you would surely find some common cause with this argument? SF and most republicans of all hues will say that the British are still in control in the north and that is what they've set out to dismantle. But SF has decided to do that by the means which cause the least suffering to the people of Ireland; it's decided to convince people of the merits of a republic and hopefully unify Ireland by long-term reconciliation.

Your point regarding 'old' and 'new' IRAs rings true for many republicans. However, my view on this does draw a line between what happened pre-GFA and what has happened since. The IRA always said that it would accept the democratic decision of the Irish people (a central tenet, surely, of republicanism), which had not been expressed in a national franchise since 1918. In 1998, the entire island voted on the same day. The agreement reached was not a republican one, but it did provide the opportunity to end decades of tyranny, inequality and injustice. It was carried with a preponderance of the vote of the Irish nation, at a time when the British had given up on a military solution to the conflict.

If you're a republican, you have to consider who you're struggling for: who are your 'people'. If there is the absence of the kind of severe tyranny Northern nationalists suffered pre-GFA, and if the Irish people have decided to implement a nationally endorsed agreement, then you have no choice, if you're any way reasonable, but to accept that situation and try to convince those around you of your own beliefs. What the various dissident militarist movements are doing at the moment clearly has nothing to do with that; a bomb in the centre of Derry in 2011 convinces most people of only one thing - that the people planting the bomb are misled, or nuts.

The great Fenian leader, John O'Leary, once said that 'there are certain things you must not do for your country'. Wanton acts of political violence, committed in the absence of any community support, in the context of a democratically agreed national program, and in a state where, for the most part, people can campaign and express their views freely, makes no sense at all. Old men who encourage young men to go to jail for this should hang their heads in shame.

Ask yourself what James Connolly or Pádraig Pearse were doing up until the outbreak of World War I: struggling, non-violently, through street politics, the education system, media outlets, pamphlets and political organisations for meaningful political change. It was only as a last resort, in the context of the British refusing to implement successive Home Rule bills, and the arrival of loyalist militarism (which was enough to make the British withdraw promised reforms) that they planned an insurrection. If they were alive today, you can bet these men would not condone senseless violence. Don't be a young fool for some old half-wit who hasn't read his history.

author by independent republicanpublication date Thu Oct 13, 2011 18:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

an puc,i believe you have wrapped yourself in a bubble.
the fact that you blatantly ignore martin mcguinness' hypocracy and sinn feins hypocracy is typical of those in sinn fein today. pathetic really. to think people cant see through the bullshit.

the fact that sinn fein is implementing cuts on behalf of their british masters in the north whilst pretending to be opposed to cuts in the south aside, some of what you say is so laughable

'it was okay for Fianna Fáil founder-member and government minister Frank Aiken to blow up a British troop train in 1921, but not for the IRA of 1982 to do something similar; it '

how about it was okay for ruc men to be shot in 1997 but not now in 2010/2011?
wee martin is a twat if he thinks he can fool people with the 'good old IRA' nonesense

you claim that it is the southern establishment that is guilty of this 'good old IRA' stuff yet martin has done exactly the same standing beside ruc/psni men calling irish guerrillas as 'traitors'
it was ok for the PIRA to blow people up in enniskillen but not for the Real IRA to shoot british soldiers in massarene!

catch yourself on.no one buys it.
'The very negative hallucination of further "austerity" will make it difficult for media pundits to continue their tunnel-vision focus on Sinn Féin's past as the party marches ever more confidently into the future. '

are you serious? the current sinn fein party knows a lot about hallucination. having abandoned republicanism for power under british rule whilst still trying to pass themselves off as republican.

an puc,wake up.

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