The Irish News
October 17, 2000

Killing Republicans-- That Was Not Our War

Statement from Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman, former long term republican 
prisoners, who set up the Republican Writers Group journal, Fourthwrite.

13 years ago this week, Francisco Notorantonio was murdered on the orders 
of the British State. Last Friday his grandson was murdered in the same 

Joseph O Connor, 26, father of three, was a Republican. Our stringent 
opposition to the Real IRA, of which he was a volunteer, in no way 
minimises our abhorrence towards his political assassination. He was part 
of a wider republican spectrum which exists in opposition to the Stormont 
regime. It was primarily his disagreement with the regime that cost him his 

It is not our purpose to sensationalise the circumstances surrounding this 
political assassination. We are aware of the knock-on effects of spurious 
allegations and alarmism. But we shall not be intimidated, bribed or 
blackmailed by the imperatives of the peace process whereby we would 
emulate many in the media and politics who endlessly speculate about who 
might be responsible but ultimately avoid saying anything that 'might not 
help the peace process'.

In the wake of the attack the Irish Republican Writers Group was asked to 
begin the unenviable task of interviewing people who in one form or another 
had knowledge of the event. Also interviewed were relatives of Joseph 
O'Connor. Despite the sensitivity the Writers Group felt compelled to 
probe, press and challenge, declining to accept anything that was 
speculative. As a result there is no room for doubt. We state publicly that 
it is our unshakeable belief that the Provisional IRA carried out this 

BBC Panorama's exploration of the Omagh bombing issue helped create a 
climate of moral anathema which was taken advantage of by those who killed 
Joseph O'Connor. It was subsequently made easier for them to assassinate a 
member of the Real IRA rather than other republicans opposed to the 
Stormont regime. The real purpose of the killing was not merely to kill a 
member of the Real IRA but also to kill off any semblance of alternative 
republicanism, even that which is exclusively peaceful in its opposition to 
the Stormont regime.

Whatever reasons given by the IRA leadership to its volunteers who were 
involved in the operation, this murder is a state killing, perpetrated by a 
movement that is deeply entrenched in the apparatus of government at 
Stormont. When a branch of the executive has at its disposal a private 
militia capable of and willing to politically assassinate republicans in 
nationalist communities we are left with Brown-shirtism. We are forced to 
ask what has really changed? Is the protection of a republican's life from 
state murder a mere privilege determined by their attitude to the state?

We repudiate this political assassination, and we repudiate the motivations 
behind it. We reject totally any call for revenge and state unambiguously 
that there are no circumstances in which Real IRA activity against 
republicans or others could be justified.

We call for an open inquiry monitored by international observers. We cannot 
abide the tragedy of this country's history repeating itself in the murder 
of Irishmen by Irishmen in accordance with the needs of the British. What 
difference is there between the Free State murder of Rory O'Connor in 
defence of the 1922 British treaty and the murder of Joseph O'Connor in 
defence of the 1998 British treaty? Are the politics of Stormont 
republicanism so insecure and suspect that murder of republicans is 
required in their defence?

Assassination of republican by republican can never lay the foundation for 
a just and lasting peace. We do not believe actions such as the murder of 
Joseph O'Connor will lead us into a United Ireland, transitional or 
otherwise. We do not think the threats and intimidation that have 
surrounded Republicanism prior to Joseph O'Connor's death and those threats 
sure to come indicate any hope for justice or freedom.

Friday's murder has fueled our increasing doubts as to whether our part in 
this war has been worth it. What did we fight to achieve? The state murder 
of republicans in order to secure political cleansing and impose conformity 
is not what our war was waged for. It is a most dishonourable outcome to an 
honourable struggle. We will never support the politics or politicians that 
this type of killing serves. We shall confront them at every turn through a 
strategy of relentless open critique. Armed only with the moral force of 
our ideas we shall promote republicanism and intellectual freedom against 
the now malign physical force of their guns. Republicanism should never 
again use guns in pursuit of its ideals but if we are unwilling to face 
guns in defence of those ideals we shall have neither ideals nor dignity.

Anthony McIntyre and Tommy Gorman
Irish Republican Writers Group

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