December 08, 2013

Fintan O'Toole on the Mandela-Martin McGuinness comparison

In the New York Review of Books here, Fintan O'Toole wrote in February 1998:
"That journey is treacherous because, though Irish republicans would like to think otherwise, the analogy between themselves and Kenyatta or Mandela is not in fact valid. The IRA’s campaign has not been a war of national liberation, waged on behalf of the majority against an oppressive minority or a foreign power. Its enemies have not been illegitimate regimes but two liberal democracies—the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland—and the majority Protestant population in Northern Ireland itself. The end-of-empire ritual of an old flag lowered at midnight and a new one raised at dawn will not be played out in Belfast, whatever the outcome of the talks. Sinn Fein’s leader, Gerry Adams, may have made the transition from terrorist to politician, but he and his comrades are not about to take over the state. The question on which the future of Northern Ireland depends is whether, without the reward of power, an undefeated paramilitary army can be persuaded to trade the epic certainties of violence for the unglamorous ambiguities of peaceful politics. One of the most resilient and fearsome of terrorist groups, which has withstood all the efforts of the British army and the local Northern Irish security apparatus to destroy it, is being asked to settle for something far short of its goals. And for this incorporation into a liberal democracy of an armed conspiracy to overthrow it, postwar history offers no precedent."
In The Irish Times of Tuesday, September 27, 2011 Fintan O'Toole wrote a piece by the title here, 'Five claims that must be answered on McGuinness'. On his fourth point, O'Toole wrote:
"4. Martin McGuinness is like Nelson Mandela. 
Of all the rhetorical strategies employed in this debate, the most obnoxious is that of whitewashing McGuinness by smearing Mandela. It has been contended that Mandela was responsible for atrocities, like the use of “necklacing” (the immolation of opponents with petrol-soaked tyres). 
Necklacing was a disgusting and unforgivable abuse. There is not a shred of evidence that Mandela sanctioned the practice. He was in prison for almost the entire duration of the armed struggle against apartheid. He was appalled when his then wife Winnie supported necklacing – the issue was one of the reasons for the couple’s split. He personally berated Winnie for her (literally) inflammatory language."
Fintan O'Toole in 1998 in the New York Review of Books here. Fintan O'Toole in 2011 in The Irish Times here.

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