This is a review of Matt Treacy’s book by a member of Sinn Féin. Published in the interest of balance.
Frankly, while I enjoyed reading Matt’s book I think he might have been better to have sat on it for a while. While he and others assert their right to tell their own stories there is more at stake than peoples’ reminiscences.
Treacy along with other former POWs and activists has fallen out with the party. Some of the reasons for that I can acknowledge and they are not unique. Current party members deal with them in other ways. They have not walked away nor joined the anti republican forces.
Some of the criticism made by those who have left is personalised and vindictive. Unfortunately Matt has fallen partly into that trap. His and others “revelations” play into the hands of the right wing press and are part of an offensive against Sinn Féin and a republican left alternative to the politics of austerity.
Why would anyone claiming to be a republican write for the Sunday Independent? They align themselves with Eoghan Harris and Ruth Dudley Edwards who are part of what Treacy would not so long ago have described as anti national elements. Frankly, to read some of what Treacy has had to say caused me more shock than were he to turn up on Hill 16 next Sunday wearing a Tyrone jersey and waving a Palestinian flag.
Touching on the book itself, it has merits. The more republicans write about their history, even from a personal point of view, the more it adds to the stock of historical knowledge. The drawback is that it can be used against republicans in the present, so it is not neutral history.
I know something of the events he describes. Not so much the ones that took place before Treacy came out of prison, but the electoral successes of Sinn Féin after 1997. As Treacy says in the book events like the election of Marylou McDonald to the European parliament in 2004 were major achievements and Matt was a key part of that.
He also worked for over ten years as part of the party team in Leinster House. He claims to have become disillusioned as far back as 2005 when the IRA made its courageous initiative to bed down the peace process, and says that he did not vote for the party any time after then.
A more cynical chap might accuse Treacy of hypocrisy. I know it is not as simple as some of his detractors make out, but making the voluntary contribution to the party the key issue is frankly not going to convince people that your motives are other than personal.
It is true that the party has handled financial and other personnel issues clumsily. That is part of the difficulties of running a large and expanding political movement. Some of the current disputes are frankly embarrassing. I have my own view on that, and which is why I choose not to attach my name to this viewpoint.
I do not accept Treacy’s and others claim that the way he was treated over the financial stuff, and the way internal discipline is conducted is a reflection of any dictatorial mentality on the behalf of the leadership and those entrusted with running the party. The party is democratic to its core and while I have voted against some decisions in the past like policing I accept the democratic decision of the party.
Treacy seems to imply that party members are sheep and will vote whatever way they are told, including if the leadership proposes to enter a coalition with a right wing party in the 26 counties. He also implies that entering the Stormont Executive with the DUP represented an acceptance of an internal settlement whereas it was crucial to save the peace process and advance nationalist objectives and equality.
Treacy claims that represents an acceptance of partition and repeats the claim by other dissidents that the project will never deliver a united Ireland. In support of that claim he refers to electoral figures which he says show that a border poll would not succeed in approving a united Ireland. On the face of it that might seem to be the case but it neglects the party’s outreach to unionism and gestures such as recognising the fact that most northern unionists have a loyalty to the British union and to its monarchy. Which we recognised through the brave gesture of meeting the current Queen of England.
We are confident of winning over sufficient unionist support, especially in the aftermath of the decision by the British to leave the EU, that northern unionists will come to see the practicality of a united Ireland. That will not be on the basis of a sectarian headcount as Treacy implies but on winning over people to our vision of an Ireland based on equality.
Matt Treacy’s book A Tunnel to the Moon: The End of the Irish Republican Army will be launched in September and is currently available through the following sites: