Current Affairs Military Politics

The Propaganda Of Deed, Born Of Frustration

A Volunteer of the Derry Brigade of the Irish Republican Army armed with an American-supplied M60 general-purpose machine gun, Derry City, British Occupied North of Ireland, 1978

The propaganda of deed is an old revolutionary idea that was given new force in the violent political struggles of Latin America in the 1960s and ‘70s, and was soon replanted back to Europe (from whence it came). At its simplest it could mean that any action that drew attention to the aims being pursued by a revolutionary movement or organisation was worthwhile. It meant that there did not need to be immediate military or political gains from any specific violent action. The deed was the gain. In its most well-known form tactics like the assassinations of chosen targets gave minimal risk for maximum return by highlighting the existence of the organisation behind the killing and the cause they were fighting for. Later, as technology advanced, bombings of specific targets were similarly valuable especially if there was little or no loss of life (or the opposite, if that was the intent).

But even the smallest of deeds could serve a useful propaganda end. Of course, such tactics could reach ridiculous degrees of pettiness but all had their effect of publically proclaiming, both to the enemy and to supporters – or would-be supporters – that the source of the trouble, political or otherwise, still existed. Such ideas still inspire to the present day. It is perhaps in this light that we should view yesterday’s attacks by Resistance Republicans, possibly the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA), on two targets in Derry, one a member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the British paramilitary police in the North, the other a medical officer with the PSNI. As the Irish Times reports:

‘BRITISH ARMY technical officers yesterday defused a bomb left in the garden of one of Derry’s best-known doctors.

The device was found by a PSNI patrol at the home of retired GP Dr Keith Munro at Learmount Road near the Co Derry village of Claudy at 2am yesterday.

Five hours later, about 16km away in the townland of Tamnaherin near Eglinton, a bomb exploded outside the unoccupied home of a Catholic police officer.

The explosion at Ervey Road caused blast damage to the front of the officer’s home but no one was injured in the no-warning blast. The officer joined the PSNI three years ago; his home is beside the grounds of Slaughtmanus GAA club and close to St Mary’s Church.

A senior police officer in Derry said he had no doubt that both attacks had been carried out by the Real IRA.

Dr Munro, chairman of the Foyle Hospice in Derry, has been a police medical officer for more than 40 years.

In that capacity he carried out medical examinations on suspects in police custody. A prominent member of the Baha’i community, he is also the author of a book, Building Bridges.

It is the first time a police medical officer has been targeted by a paramilitary group in the North.

Three men, two aged 36 and the third aged 28, were arrested in Derry yesterday morning and taken to the serious crime suite at Antrim police station for questioning about both incidents.’

Two Volunteers of the Derry Brigade of the Irish Republican Army on active service armed with an American-supplied M60 GPMG and an M16 assault rifle, Derry City, British Occupied North of Ireland, 1978

The seeming futility of these attacks would be challenged by those who carried them out. They would argue strong and cogent reasons why they were necessary and the greater strategic purpose they served. But to my mind, like earlier operations, they reveal a degree of pointlessness, a lack of strategic vision or purpose, that undermines any arguments to their validity – or necessity. Rather than the propaganda of deed they have become the propaganda of frustration. Frustration with two governments, and several political parties, who promised more in the Belfast Agreement than they have yet to deliver.

While we are undoubtedly moving towards a reunited Ireland, an inevitability waiting for its moment since 1920, the pace of that movement is so slow that it leads some to wish to hurry it along. Young Irish men and women, especially those in the North who live under the continued British presence, though they can see progress happening in front of them do not see enough. They are impatient for more and that impatience is feeding into the growth of the Republican Resistance forces who now offer the means and mechanisms to express the anger and frustration of an entire generation.

If we are to stem a return to the warfare of the last forty years (though this time on a far shorter timescale and with far more profound results), we must put in place concrete expressions of the benefits of the Belfast Agreement for the Irish community in the North. The Government of Ireland must become an advocate for unity and the facilitator of an Irish citizenship and nationality that transcends the border – and the old reasons for violence.

While we wait for the inevitable change that is coming the government in Dublin, and all Irish nationalist parties, need to spell out what they believe a reunited Ireland will look like and how they will accommodate and integrate the present structures in the North, the executive, assembly, etcetera into that new state. The full legal, constitutional and institutional arrangements need to be teased out, explored and agreed.

All Irish political parties need to organise on an All-Ireland basis, offering the same membership and representation to all Irish citizens regardless of where they live in the nation. All Irish social, sporting, media and business organisations need to be persuaded or encouraged to organise on a similar all-island basis.

A Volunteer of the Derry Brigade of the Irish Republican Army armed with an American-supplied M60 GPMG, Derry City, British Occupied North of Ireland, 1978

Stronger economic ties that make the border irrelevant, leading in time to a single All-Ireland economy with shared tax-raising and distribution powers, must be put in place. The logic for this is overwhelming especially after the crises of recent times.

MPs elected in the North must be given observer status or non-voting seats in Dáil Éireann, with limited speaking-rights and privileges, and access to Oireachtas committees. The election for the office of the President of Ireland must become available to all voters on the island of Ireland, and relations with the North should be moved entirely from the Department of Foreign Affairs to a new joint-governmental body.

And above all, the British separatist minority on the island must be given the guarantees it requires to feel protected and secure within an expanded all-island nation state.

We are all heading in one direction, towards the reunification of Ireland. The question is how do we wish to get there? Will it be through slow and steady political development and change, carefully managed and encouraged by the Irish government and all interested parties? Or another, but far bloodier, conflict?

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2 comments on “The Propaganda Of Deed, Born Of Frustration

  1. Sharon Douglas

    Go raibh maith agat, a Shéamais, Uaireanta, éirím míshásta le an luas, freisin,

  2. “Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey” 😉

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