Earlier this afternoon Catherine Mc Cartney released a statement regarding the Labour Party’s plans to hand Mairia Cahill a seat in the Irish Senate. Ive posted both press release and fuller statement at the bottom. Catherine’s brother Robert McCartney was murdered by members of the IRA in 2005 in Belfast and she has campaigned since for justice for her own family, as well as other victims of paramilitary and state violence.
In the statement posted below Catherine Mc Cartney makes it clear she sees the appointment of Mairia Cahill is an abuse of the Oireachtas by the Labour Party. “Without explanation, the appointment appears to be made solely for political purposes.” Cahills appointment by Labour to the Seanad is seen as bizarre choice to make.
Catherine Mc Cartney herself has been deeply critical of Sinn Fein following her brothers murder, its attempted cover up and related intimidation by republicans. When Sinn Fein signed up to the new policing board – and in effect supported the families demand for those who murdered Robert Mc Carthy to be held to account through the courts – some local republicans left the party and joined the ‘dissident republican’ milieu. The statement references that Mairia Cahill left Sinn Fein at this point over its change in policing and joined the Republican Unity Network (RNU), acting as National Secretary. Cahill rejects that she left Sinn Fein over their stance in policing. And also says she was National Secretary for RNU for “a couple of hours”. Which to most people familiar with political organising seems a pretty strange set up.
What’s even stranger to many people is how and why the Labour Party decided to appoint Cahill to run in the Seanad by election. Its an election that only TD’s and Senators can vote it, and will need the support of Labour bosses in government Fine Gael. Labour explanation so far has been all motherhood and apple pie (pro Good Friday Agreement, committed to peace and democracy and the rule of law) with zero specifics.
There is no doubt that Mairia Cahill has clear demands for justice. It in no way minimises or trivialised the specifics of that to say she is one of thousands of people and hundreds of families seeking the same. History suggests that a seat in the Irish Senate will do little to transform the work of those on the ground campaigning. But what does that actually look like?
Current negotiations in the north are struggling to find a genuine truth discovery framework. Families of victims want a format with the necessary financial and social resources. One aimed at uncovering truths regardless of how unpalatable they are. It would include the failings of paramilitary policing and the cover ups of abuse.
What’s much more contentious is an honest examination of the role of ‘legitimate authority’, ie nations states. This demands total transparency around the role of the British state in arming and running paramilitary organisations who murdered hundreds of people, including neighbours in my village. It requires talking about how the British intelligence community used knowledge of sexual violence, abuse of children or simply personal experiences to blackmail people into becoming informers. It also means taking on board that collusion happened in the south as well.
These things might be described as ‘explosive’ within news headlines, perhaps understandably. But on another level it speaks to a mundane reality that ‘legitimate authority’ is often based upon the most illegitimate and unjustified actions of state power. Understanding this asks us to unlearn assumed facts of terrorist monsters and decent governments. Its demands challenging the deep and widespread public ignorance on this side of the border. We don’t stop reproducing fucked up situations without we make a conscious effort to understand how not to. Or more specifically, We dont get to to stop those with the will to happily reproduce inequality and injustice without public conversation how it actually happens, not how we are told it happens.
It was only since moving to Dublin 15 years ago that I realised the ritual regularity with which the three main parties of the Dail use the pain and suffering of people north of the border to score points. Whereas in a sensitive, emotional mature democracy, one would hope that the realities and mechanics of a war could create learning and empowered knowledge that is ultimately beneficial to us all.
Instead, what is possible is negated by what is politically expedient. Where truths could be explored and shared humanely and intelligently, rather other peoples experiences and pain are fodder in the pantomime of party political power.
This selective dissonance played out again last week with the visit of Bolivian president Evo Morales.
Michael Dywer was a Irish security guard-turned-mercenary, murdered in Bolivia in 2009. His family demand and obviously deserve a full account around the circumstances of his death. Minister of Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan ‘supported’ family calls for an international investigation. Yet the Irish state isn’t really interested.
Any rigorous international investigation into Michael Dwyer’s death has to look at the series of events that led to him being shot to death in a hotel room in Santa Cruz. It is inevitable it would explore how and why right wing paramilitaries from Eastern Europe linked up with former Irish Rangers security companies. It has to look at how armed mercenaries were recruiting young Irish security guards involved in pushing through a Shell gas pipeline a remote west Mayo.
Such facts is already in the public domain, due in large part to the research work by people involved in resisting Shells pipeline. Is it ironic that those who felt the physical effects of policing in Rossport would be more curious about how Michael Dywer died than the Irish state or the private security firm he worked for? Or is it reflective of something else?
To date no Irish government has taken any steps to investigate what is already know and what remains unknown around the Irish aspects leading to Michael Dwyer’s murder. Enda Kenny might make shit up about armies and ATMs but you can rest assured he has no interest in actually uncovering the unpalatable truths of the murder of a young Tipperary man. Not when its leads back to his own doorstep in Mayo.
And other Irish families of murder victims demand justice from a state that is unwilling to cooperate.
It is this context that Catherine Mc Cartney’s statement is worthy of wider public acknowledgement. The appointment of Mairia Cahill to run occurs in a specific context. This includes the maneuverings of electoralism in the Dail. When we exclude the neoliberal cannibalism within the Labour party, Sinn Fein are Labours biggest existential threat.
Labour appointments isnt just cynical in that it’s a transparent move against Sinn Fein. It is deeply inauthentic in relation to survivors of abuse and those campaigning for a meaning framework for justice and truth in the north. I can stake no possible claim of understanding the specifics of Mairia Cahills decision to run as a Labour Senator. And its pretty understandable why she wants to land punches on Sinn Fein.
Though if feels and looks like Labours play here actually results in creating hierarchies of victims around the ‘troubles.’ This is precisely what is important about the perspective Catherine Mc Cartney bring in her statement.
“It is vital for victims’ families, fighting for truth and justice to be entitled to work with elected representatives who should operate from a position of integrity and independence”
Cahills appointment to the Seanad.
“ leave(s) us isolated from those political parties who support this nomination”
In a statement to all sitting TD’s and Senators she expanded on this point.
“I fail to understand how a family like our own can ask political parties to hold SF to account regarding matters of truth and justice, (issues which remain at the forefront of peace process) whilst at the same time those parties ask no questions of Ms Cahill, and provide no answers to the public.”
It‘s up to Labour to disprove the widely held belief that the appointment is really poorly thought out opportunism. Yet that itself wouldn‘t rescue it from a fairly simple truth. The main political parties in the south, and Labour in this instance hold up the grimness of war, and the very often brutal experiences of our fellow humans on this island, as tokens and faux currency for their own small minded games.
Catherine Mc Cartney Press Release
“I have stayed silent up to now about my disgust regarding the nomination of Mairia Cahill to the Seanad because of outstanding civil proceedings I am taking against her”.
“Reservations I have surround her alleged senior position in RNU (the political wing of the terrorist organisation,Og na hEireann) which, it appears, was as recent as 2011. I have today written to Oireachtas members outlining my concerns.
It is vital for victims’ families, fighting for truth and justice to be entitled to work with elected representatives who should operate from a position of integrity and independence”.
“I am asking the Labour Party and Ms Cahill to provide a credible explanation regarding emerging revelations of her involvement with RNU and to do so before the Seanad election.
Without an explanation, the appointment appears to be made solely for political purposes. This undermines the campaigning work of victims’ families, from all backgrounds who campaign for Justice for their loved ones.
I am calling on Joan Burton and the Labour Party to reflect on their decision to nominate Ms Cahill to the Seanad position”.
Dear Senators and Deputies,
I am writing to express my concern of, and my objection to Ms Cahill’s nomination to the Seanad. This is on the grounds of her involvement in the dissident group RNU, as highlighted by Mr Beades and others over the weekend. Furthermore, the outright refusal of the Labour Party to provide a comprehensive explanation in relation to this matter only adds injury to families such as my own.
As you will be aware my brother, Robert, was murdered by the IRA and Sinn Fein members in 2005, and in the aftermath the IRA embarked on a cover up, which rendered any prospect of justice impossible. A key and essential factor in our campaign was pressuring republicans to cooperate with the PSNI and due to this stance my family suffered greatly.
Robert’s friend was badly beaten
We were issued with death threats
My sister and brother’s fiancé (and two children had to leave the area)
We were vilified and condemned
Our lives were completely transformed due to his murder and our campaign.
This did not deter us in our quest for justice however; a quest we continue to this day. When SF did sign up to policing some of those involved in Robert’s murder moved to the dissident groups in protest.
If the revelations regarding Ms Cahill are accurate, then she also moved to the dissidents in opposition to SF’s shift on policing. It has been cited in the press that Ms Cahill was the National Secretary of RNU from 2010-2011, a very senior position. This cannot be regarded as a minor issue or an irrelevance to the appointment to a political office.
I would also like it noted that Ms Cahill did not inform me of her involvement in RNU when I brought her into my home in 2011. On the contrary, she claimed not to be involved and to be in fear of them. It now appears that at this time she was National Secretary.
Ms Cahill’s nomination to the Seanad, in the absence of any full explanation for her involvement in a group which was actively discouraging people to engage with the police, is unacceptable and a gross undermining of victims of the IRA and dissident republicans. I fail to understand how a family like our own can ask political parties to hold SF to account regarding matters of truth and justice, (issues which remain at the forefront of peace process) whilst at the same time those parties ask no questions of Ms Cahill, and provide no answers to the public.
I have been silent on the issues surrounding Ms Cahill’s case. This is due to civil proceedings in process regarding a harassment case I have taken against Ms Cahill.
In 2011 I invited Ms Cahill into my home, because I believed her to be a woman facing a similar experience to our own (i.e. coming up against the Provos). I supported her as a woman, a feminist and a justice campaigner. I did not allow her previous involvement in SF to cloud my judgement of her experience or need.
I am now aware that I was not given the full facts and circumstances of Ms Cahill’s position and activities. I have decided to write this letter because I believe the same now applies to the public, who deserve better from democratic politicians. Also, I believe that as a family seeking justice this appointment will leave us isolated from those political parties who support this nomination (without providing a full explanation acceptable to victims of the IRA and dissidents). The duplicity inherent in the lack of transparency and honesty relating to Ms Cahill’s role would make it difficult for me to engage on basis of integrity and independence.
I will leave it to your judgement regarding her suitability in the light of the revelations, but would ask that you demand a full and comprehensive explanation to be provided and published. This would be with a view to protecting the integrity of victims of republican violence, past and present.
I feel I must mention one more thing. In a message to me, Mairia Cahill claims to have recorded me without my knowledge and expressly infers that she will use this material to damage me in some way. It is my view, and I’m sure the public would agree, that this behaviour is not befitting of a member of the Seanad and should also be addressed.
I would hope that you receive this on the basis upon which it is sent- a genuine and proven concern for matters relating to the rule of law, justice and truth.
Catherine McCartney (sister of Robert McCartney)