In today’s blog, Catherine Mc Cartney explores a communique on Pornography written by female IRA prisoners in the mid nineties, chastising their male counterparts in the Republican Movement.
‘The ultimate form of domination, next to murder, is rape.’
Very few would disagree with the above sentiment eloquently articulated by the authors of a ‘communique,’ smuggled from Maghaberry prison, which can be accessed below. The writers put pen to paper in response to what they believe to be a serious failing on the part of their fellow comrades. The tone, language and coherency indicate that much thought and discussion had been spent on the subject matter. The communique does not give the background to the dressing down of their comrades however it is clear that the women had become aware of behaviour which seriously displeased them. This compelled them to question not only the actions of their comrades in arms, but the status of women in the eyes of those very comrades. The subject matter is pornography and the communique lays out the misogynistic nature of the practice and rationally explains the connection between it and sexual violence against women. The consequences of the acceptance of the objectification of women and children as subjects to be enjoyed are highlighted i.e. sexual violence.
From the tone it is clear that the communique is part of an ongoing conversation within the republican community relating to this matter. The women are unequivocal regarding the connection between pornography and sexual violence against women and strongly rebut the claim that it is harmless or the link unproven, this suggests that the men have been defending their behaviour. The men’s defences are dismissed, ‘it is not enough to reject ‘hard core porn’ and reject child pornography while using it at all,’….
‘to do this is to use feeble excuses to try and distance oneself from the abuse of women’.
Importantly they declare,
‘Pornography offends us as women who have fought against oppression. Members of the Republican community should not be participating in further abuse’.
The men are not appealed to or pleaded with but commanded,
‘You men must examine your actions and ask if you want to be part of a revolutionary process’.
Pornography is anti-revolutionary and anti-women and abusers must not take part in the ‘process’. The authors slap down any attempt to minimise excuse or justify the actions of the abusers, simply put the abuse of women and children is anti-revolutionary therefore it follows that perpetrators cannot be part of the revolution. The women are clear; there is no place in the movement for abusers. It can be assumed that sexual violence against women and children by members of republican community also falls into this category. There is no doubt if the women had been aware of this, it would have elicited an equally if not more robust condemnation and call for action.
So, what became of the writers of the communique and what has changed over the past decade and a half? The communique was written in the 1990s and portrays fiery, feisty and convicted women who are clear in their understanding of what the ‘revolutionary process’ is about. It’s about equality, empowerment, progression, protection of children and it’s about freedom from oppression. There are no signatories on the ‘communique’ therefore we cannot be sure what happened to these women. The women who proclaimed, ‘as a woman this offends me’ and who demanded ‘You men must examine your behaviour and actions…’ and powerfully,
’It is hypocrisy to oppose the violence of strip searching while indulging in pornography’
may be dead, may have left the party or may remain in elected positions currently within Sinn Fein.
Sinn Fein now administer the rule of the regime that stripped searched the women at Maghaberry and stands accused of covering up rape and other sexual crimes against women and children by republicans. The dismissive treatment of victims who have come forward to tell their stories of abuse and further traumatisation by internal investigations echoes the ‘hypocrisy’ referred to in the communique. This hypocrisy was clearly demonstrated at the Ard Fheis in February where Gerry Adams was treated to a standing ovation and rapturous applause before he even uttered a word of his speech. The same party faithful’s response to those who dare suggest that a leader who stands accused, in the public court, of covering up child abuse, and who may not be the best person to head up a progressive and modern party. It is not beyond possibility that some of the women, who drew up the communique from a prison cell in Maghaberry all those years ago, sat at the top table as the house was brought down with this rapturous applause. If so, they have joined in the applause for a man who admitted that he believed his brother had raped his four year old neice – yet allowed him to continue to participate in the ‘revolutionary process’.
The irony is that these women now articulate the ‘feeble excuses’ of the perpetrators rather than the honesty expressed by the women in the cells,
‘If you don’t care say so, don’t make excuses’
As a woman this offends me!