Despite his history and background (ex-IRA "blanketman," imprisoned in his teens, served 17 years in the Maze), Anthony McIntyre’s writings and experiences have fascinated me for sometime. He is a leading voice for those within Irish Republicanism who have disagreed with the Adams clique, arguing not for a return to the euphemistically-titled "physical-force tradition", but a renewal of the ideals he believes the Sinn Fein hierarchy have abandoned.
So, yes, he is (like David Vance within Unionism I suppose) a "dissident", someone who refuses to accept the political orthodoxy laid down by those above in the control pyramid. However, whereas the worst that the likes of Vance (or also myself I guess) who strays from standard Northern Irish Unionist orthodoxy can expect is a proverbial smack across the bottom from the DUP's Press-Office attack-hounds, McIntyre has risked real physical injury for daring to challenge The Adams' Family’s shibboleths
Like "Unionism Decayed", "Good Friday, The Death of Irish Republicanism" is organised on a thematic basis, with chapters covering the Belfast Agreement, republican "martyrs", The Colombia 3, Decommissioning, the 1981 Hunger Strikers, the suppression of dissent, Robert McCartney's murder, informers "Stakeknife" and Denis Donaldson, those who speak out against the Adams-McGuinness party line, the Northern Bank robbery, policing under the PSNI reforms, and ultimately, the final failure of the Republican Movement. Most of the pieces were written at the time of the various events and appeared originally in the ezine The Blanket.
I feel this thematic approach works better here than it does in "Unionism Decayed", mainly because the one underlying thread of the book, that is the complete and suffocating control Adams has demanded and received from the SF cannon fodder, operates as the literary bridge between the various topics. Again, it’s a book, which (although I most certainly would not agree with a lot of its underlying philosophy) is impossible to put down. It would have, in certain places, benefited from updates and occasionally McIntyre employs the unnecessary verbiage of the political post-grad, but in terms of the overall style of the book these really are minor quibbles.
The message he conveys is an optimistic one...from the point of the view of the unionist reader that is! Despite the Spin and PR, Sinn Fein are no closer to their 32-county nirvana than the IRA were at the time of Sunningdale. The Adams' Thought-Police has so stifled free-thought and debate within their own ranks that whilst the young Shinners of the 80s would have been knocking you back with quotes from Bolivian revolutionaries and obscure Austrian philosophers, the present-day Ogras are restricted to painting post-boxes green for Ireland and falling off Orange-Hall rooves whilst nicking union-jacks! More seriously, both within journalism and the blogging world, there is not one Sinn Fein aligned (and like no other party, are there Sinn Fein-"aligned" journalists and bloggers), who is prepared to step outside the ideological strait-jacket and seriously question where their movement, or more particularly, its leadership, is heading. And any political movement which does not constantly question and examine its policies, targets and leadership will not be capable of progressing beyond their idealogical and (in a Northern Ireland context anyway) communal ghetto. Something which all of us involved or interested in Northern Irish Unionism should also bear in mind.
You've gathered by now that this is a book which I'd have no problems recommending to all interested in both Northern Irish politics and the concept of the open society which should underly all democracies. The only query I'd pose to McIntyre, like with Vance yesterday, is "Yes, you've outlined the problems well... any chance now of a solution?" And having read both books in quick succession, the other main question that's left in my mind is that with Messrs Vance and McIntyre both claiming their side lost the "Peace Process"...one of the them must be wrong, which one?