Last week, I received a couple of emails (24/25 April) from Brendan O’Neill regarding my article “Brendan O’Neill, Brexit and Irish Republicanism”. In particular, he was most upset that he had been described as a supporter of dissident Irish Republicanism. The first email can be read at the end in the link above.
The one I received from him on 25 April said the following -
I am still receiving emails — including one threat of violence — with regards to your incorrect and defamatory claim that I spoke in favour of republican dissidents in London in 1997. If you haven’t already, might you consider tweeting about the fact that I have corrected these defamatory assertions and drawing attention to the letter I wrote to you, which I see you have now published?
All the best,
While I was happy to publish Mr O’Neill’s reply (and tweet about it) regarding his attendance at the Republican Forum, I must take issue with his statement that what I wrote was “incorrect and defamatory”.
Here is the UK Government’s guidance on “Defamation: Libel and Slander”. Under “Defences to defamation” Section 7d, it says that “the statement constituted fair comment on a matter of public interest: that is, opinion which any person could honestly hold, based on facts known at the time… “.
Now, the contemporaneous report quoted from the 1997 Republican Forum meeting started off like this-
Note the phrase that the meeting “unanimously agreed to send solidarity greetings to Republican POW in Limerick prison, Josephine Hayden”. It didn’t say it was “unanimously agreed to send solidarity greetings” apart from Brendan O’Neill of the Irish Freedom Movement who was more concerned about defending the rights of Orange Order marches. As such, I would say that what I wrote constituted “fair comment on a matter of public interest: that is, opinion which any person could honestly hold, based on facts known at the time…”.
After all, I don’t think that anyone would doubt that Josephine Hayden, who was convicted of gun-running for Continuity IRA (armed wing of Republican Sinn Féin), would be considered a “dissident Republican”. As this article in The Observer (13 August 2000) stated — “In her first interview since completing her sentence, Hayden repeated her support for the continuation of ‘armed struggle’ and expressed her opposition to Sinn Fein’s peace strategy.”
Of course, we are talking of events and political views held in 1997. As to what Mr O’Neill’s present views on dissident Republicans are, some idea can be surmised by an article he wrote recently (“Let Lyra rest in peace”) where he referred to the so-called “New IRA” as the “Zombie IRA”. Perhaps if Mr O’Neill were to declare his unconditional and unequivocal support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in defeating and capturing the murderers of Lyra McKee it would help stop the abusive emails he has been getting. I would certainly hope so.
Why does all this matter though? Well…
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party have three supporters of Spiked Online standing as candidates in the forthcoming EU elections — Claire Fox, James Heartfield and Alka Sehgal Cuthbert. The first two are ex-members of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) as are much of the core grouping around Spiked Online. Ms Cuthbert is a long-term associate of the same network and, according to this article, is also an ex-member of the RCP. The Irish Freedom Movement (IFM) who Brendan O’Neill represented at the Republican Forum was a front organisation of the RCP.
Now, the RCP “disbanded” in the late 1990’s but, as an article in Spiked Online (September 2007)* by an ex-member said -
I never left the RCP: the organisation folded in the mid-Nineties, but few of us actually ‘recanted’ our ideas. Instead we resolved to support one another more informally as we pursued our political tradition as individuals, or launched new projects with more general aims that have also engaged people from different traditions, or none. These include spiked and the Institute of Ideas, where I now work.
Claire Fox is standing as number one Brexit Party candidate in North West England. This EU Constituency contains Warrington. Here’s what the RCP had to say about the Feb/March 1993 Warrington bomb attacks — “we defend the right of the Irish people to take whatever measures are necessary in their struggle for freedom”.
Ms Fox was a long-standing member of the RCP at the time of this atrocity when the IRA killed three year old Johnathan Ball and 12 year old Tim Parry. Now Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party want her to be an MEP for the area.
The journal of the RCP’s Irish Freedom Movement (Summer 1993) carried a similar response of defending “whatever measures necessary”.
Not only that, but the RCP/IFM decided to heckle and disrupt a peace commemoration in Hyde Park held the month after the two young boys were killed. From the same issue page 4 -
Further on (page 18), Claire Fox (under her pen name “Claire Foster”) wrote that the peace movement spawned by the Warrington attacks was all built up by the media.
The RCP/IFM view of the IRA’s bombing campaign is best summed up by here in November 1981 by another of their front organisations the “Smash the Prevention of Terrorism Act Campaign”.
Of course, perhaps members of the RCP/Living Marxism/Spiked Online network have “recanted” their views on the IRA’s bombing campaign.
I certainly think that voters the Brexit Party are targeting would be interested to hear what Claire Fox, James Heartfield and Alka Sehgal Cuthbert have to say about it. In particular, the ones in North West England constituency (which I emphasise contains Warrington) where Ms Fox is the Brexit Party number one candidate.
Perhaps, if any journalists read this post, they’ll ask them.
Colin Parry sent out this tweet on 1 May.
There was an interview with him in the Daily Mail 3 May.
After Colin Parry’ tweet and interview, on 4 May and 6 May, there were rallies in NW England for the Brexit Party featuring Claire Fox, Nigel Farage and Ann Widdecombe. On 4 May I posted the following post-
*Funnily enough, this article has disappeared from the Spiked website. I had to use web.archive.org to find it.
Follow up (8 May 2019) on the political background of Claire Fox and the RCP. As Ms Fox featured as an election candidate for the RCP in 1986, they declared on their front page “We back Gadaffi”-
Follow up (2 May 2019) on London EU elections. — “The Brexit Party, the RCP and Enniskillen.” The Brexit Party have put Alka Sehgal Cuthbert (“ex”RCP — the organisation which gave unconditional support to the IRA bombing campaign) up in the EU elections in London. On the same list is Aileen Quinton who is an outspoken campaigner for victims of terrorism because her mother Alberta was killed in IRA Enniskillen bombing of 1987.