Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ronan Bennett "AN Irish republican sympathiser..." - ""... would not hand over the Omagh bombers to the RUC. "

Martin; Re:- Ronan Bennett. Martin Says; The review you are about to read was written by a Ronan Bennett and published in The Guardian newspaper on friday 3 April 2009. I had never heard of Ronan Bennett before then. I was concerned by his review and I wanted to find out more about him. A search on google (Ronan Bennett) found that Ronan Bennett had stated; "... would not hand over the Omagh bombers to the RUC. Dismissing the province’s police as a “completely discredited force”, he was forced to issue an apology to the families of the victims. This too was attacked for being half-hearted."

The Omagh bombing;

The Omagh bombing was a paramilitary car bomb attack carried out by the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA), a splinter group of former Provisional Irish Republican Army members opposed to the Belfast Agreement, on Saturday 15 August 1998, in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Twenty-nine people died as a result of the attack and approximately 220 people were injured. The victims included people from many different backgrounds—Protestants, Catholics, a Mormon, nine children,a woman pregnant with twins, two Spanish tourists,and other tourists on a day trip from the Republic of Ireland.

Ronan Bennett, said a senior republican; "He has always been seen as someone who would bat for Sinn Fein,” Ronan Bennett was has also been dismissed by unionists as an IRA apologist. The Daily Telegraph refered to Ronan Bennett as; "AN Irish republican sympathiser..."

Ronan Bennett is also refer to as a friend of Gerry (I have never been in the IRA) Adams.

Marty was not going to let the Guardian newspaper or Ronan Bennett off the hook. A letter was sent to
The Guardian newspaper. However, the newspaper was standing behind Mr Bennett and were not willing to publish Martin's letter. The Guardian, including its legal team, only agreed to publish Martin McGartland's letter after he told them that he would be taking legal action against them and also Ronan Bennett.

The Guardian published the following letter on Wednesday 3 June 2009

When reviewing "Fifty Dead Men Walking" (The trouble with the Troubles, Film & Media, April 3), the film loosely based on my life as an RUC agent, Ronan Bennett discussed the cultural and political significance of informers, who, he observed, have rarely been viewed sympathetically on screen or - when he refers to criminals he met in the Old Bailey - in real life. Mr Bennett may have been commissioned on the strength of his many writings about Ireland but it would be understandable if his negative personal experience of the RUC, in that he was wrongly accused of murdering an RUC officer in the 1970s, had left its mark on him. While I have every sympathy for anyone who is mistakenly charged, I believe it would have been relevant here for the Guardian, or Mr Bennett himself, to point out this background either in the course of the review or as a footnote.

I can be distinguished from the fictional police informers, including those Ronan Bennett says were depicted in the film Battle of Algiers and the novel The Informer and to whom he compares me in this review. Unlike them, I joined the IRA only to infiltrate it, acted consistently to combat terrorism and save life, and did not betray my friends or my beliefs. On the contrary I am proud of my undercover role inside the Provisional IRA as a police agent between 1987 and 1991.

Martin McGartland

Address withheld



The trouble with the Troubles

Fifty Dead Men Walking is based on an IRA mole's true story. So why, asks Ronan Bennett, does it rehash so many hoary old cliches?

Ronan Bennett

The Guardian, Friday 3 April 2009

Scene from Fifty Dead Men Walking Hitting a brick wall ... Fifty Dead Men Walking
A letter clarifying Martin McGartland's views in respect of this article was published on 3 June 2009.

In the subterranean warren of the Old Bailey, many years ago, I briefly shared a holding cell with two east London armed robbers who between them had just been sentenced to several decades in jail. Early in their trial, a third defendant had decided to sell them out and "gone QE" - turned Queen's Evidence - in the expectation of lighter punishment. The robbers were naturally contemptuous of their former associate - toerag, slag, grass, prick, never had the bottle, couldn't even look me in the eye - and so, to their surprise and guffawing delight, was the judge, who told their treacherous friend: "The police say you have helped convict two dangerous criminals. But as far as I am concerned you are just a sneak." The sneak got 15 years.

That is the critical problem the informer faces the world over. No one really likes him, not even the people to whose side he has defected. No one trusts him or his motives, no one can fully find it in their hearts to forgive or overlook his past, no one really finds betrayal - even betrayal of the enemy - truly admirable. Of course, the state's agents - police, special branch, military intelligence, security services - will pretend to the informer that he is very well liked, esteemed, respected, important. Once they have identified the potential asset, they will court him with the ardour of generous and infatuated lovers. In the first flourishing phase of the relationship they will praise and coddle; there will be presents. They will express tender concern for his well-being. They will be understanding, they will be family and will promise to cherish him through thick and thin.

It is all a lie. The informer's fate is to be chewed up and spat out, and he comes inevitably and bitterly to apprehend the true nature of the regard in which he is held by those for whom he has risked everything. In Ireland, the informer is an especially reviled figure. Gypo Nolan in Liam O'Flaherty's novel The Informer - personified on screen by Victor McLaglen in John Ford's 1935 Oscar-winning adaptation - is the archetype: a weak, pitiful and shameful figure, a Judas. The cowering, speechless figure in Gillo Pontecorvo's 1966 masterpiece Battle of Algiers, who, at the bidding of his French masters, consigns his former comrades to torture and death, is made of the same brittle stuff as Nolan. Even Richard Harris's James McParlan, an infiltrator rather than informer in The Molly Maguires (1970), is portrayed as being less than Sean Connery's Jack Kehoe, the man he betrays.
Watch the trailer for Fifty Dead Men Walking Link to this video

The informer's standing is memorably captured in Kari Skogland's new film Fifty Dead Men Walking by a father grieving at the graveside of his executed son. "I don't blame the RUC for turning him into an informer," the father laments. "I don't blame the IRA for killing him. I blame my son for the choices that he made." The informer's acts of betrayal can only sever him from family and community.

In another early scene in Skogland's film, a joint RUC-British Army patrol confronts Skogland's protagonist, the real-life informer Martin McGartland, in the back streets of republican Belfast. McGartland, for reasons that are not entirely clear, bolts for it, leading to a thrilling and well-mounted chase. The authenticity of the sequence is somewhat undercut by the fact that in those days the pursuing soldiers and police would simply have shot the fugitive dead, but it gives the Canadian-born director the opportunity for a powerful visual metaphor. McGartland turns a corner into an alley, at the bottom of which is a door. He yanks the door open only to discover it has been bricked up. There is no escape, no way out. Over the course of the film McGartland will learn to his cost - almost to the cost of his life - that all he has ahead of him are more walls to run into.

Fifty Dead Men Walking is "inspired by" the book of the same name written by Martin McGartland, who joined the IRA in the late 80s and was exposed as an informer in 1991. The title refers to the 50 people now alive who, McGartland claims, would now be dead were it not for him. However, McGartland, who has lived in hiding for 16 years, has denounced the film as misrepresenting his career and his motives. While he admits to having been a petty criminal, selling knocked-off goods door to door, McGartland wants to be seen as more McParlan than Nolan - someone who, determined to do right, sets out on a dangerous mission to infiltrate the IRA rather than a disgruntled member who was suborned, bribed or intimidated into working for the state. The distinction may be important to McGartland's heroic self-image, but it seems unlikely that cinema-goers will make much of it.

The young English actor Jim Sturgess, whose Belfast accent has been brought to perfection by the legendary dialogue coach Brendan Gunn, plays McGartland as a nervy, lovable tearaway. Sturgess turns in a highly watchable performance, full of cocky self-assurance, backchat, conflicted loyalties, roguish charm and vulnerability. Partnering Sturgess is Ben Kingsley as McGartland's special branch handler, code-named "Fergus". The relationship between the two males leads is at the film's heart. In an extended voiceover at the start, Fergus claims to have spotted something maverick and untameable in McGartland that makes him specially suited to the role of infiltrator. McGartland's motivation is never clear. (Motivation is always fraught, always ambiguous: we persist in looking for consistency in people when experience should tell us that we are much more capricious than we imagine or would like ourselves to be.)

Nevertheless, it's hard to avoid speculating that Skogland herself, who wrote and directed the film, couldn't decide what prompted her protagonist's choices. In the film, he is shown witnessing a friend being kneecapped by the IRA for "antisocial behaviour", but Fergus also offers him money and a car, which he accepts (and which the real-life McGartland tends to downplay). Or perhaps the fuzziness is a result of McGartland's complaints after seeing the first cut? Either way, it's a smear in the film's canvas.

Once Fergus and McGartland start working together, the bond between them becomes stronger, and we are asked to be believe that a real affection springs up. Their friendship is confirmed later when Fergus reveals his real name - Dean.

Watching Kingsley, you do not hesitate for a second to believe that Fergus will do everything he can to save his informer. But it's a fabrication. In reality, after the IRA became suspicious, McGartland was abducted and brought to a flat in Belfast. He would have undoubtedly been executed had he not jumped from the toilet window and crashed three stories to the street below. Where was the real Fergus when this happened? He certainly wasn't waiting, with a gun in his hand to fight off the IRA and nurse him back to health.

And what of the IRA in this film? What of the world McGartland has smuggled himself into? In the opening sequence Fergus voices a version of recent Irish history that would not embarrass a Sinn Féin assembly member: Protestants controlled the jobs, Catholics were discriminated against, the IRA was a formidable fighting force. But once the story gets underway, context, history and political motivation are abruptly dropped. The director's palette comes straight from the gangster movie. The locations are the portable fixtures from the underworlds of London, Paris, Belgrade, New York, Moscow: pool halls, boxing clubs, warehouses, empty ruined buildings, drinking clubs.

Leather-jacketed IRA volunteers are either psychopathic or morally derelict. "IRA squad leader" Mickey is a sentimentalist, who cries when his protege is sworn into the organisation. "Intelligence officer" Grace, man-eating and ruthless - "she uses her body like Mata Hari", according to Fergus - is pure erotic fantasy.

In this sense, Fifty Dead Men Walking, so accomplished in other respects, is a disappointment. It rehashes cinematic stereotypes which, with lengthening distance and perspective, we might have expected to have been rethought. The sullen, corrupt godfathers and brutal, apolitical soldiers from Harry's Game (1982), Nothing Personal (1995) and The Boxer (1997) reappear unreconstructed in Fifty Dead Men Walking. On a basic creative and artistic level, they contrast unfavourably with the IRA hunger strikers in Steve McQueen's superb Hunger (2008) and the young UVF paramilitaries in the forthcoming BBC film Five Minutes of Heaven. In both of these, the film-makers have approached the question of the characterisation of difficult, politically contentious subjects with freshness, refusing the easy options and giving their screen characters what they need to bring them alive for audiences - real inner lives.

Skogland ends her film with a series of captions outlining the political progress made since the first IRA ceasefire of 1994. It's a clumsy device, one that may well be there to satisfy financiers worried that audiences "won't understand", and it's somewhat undermined by recent events in the north of Ireland.

But the moments preceding these have a memorable and haunting impact. The IRA track down McGartland, now in hiding. The already battered body receives yet more terrible wounds. A woman rushes to the scene to help him and asks who his family is, who should she contact? Dean, the stricken McGartland whispers, who is now the informer's only family.

• Fifty Dead Men Walking is released on 10 April.


Marty Says; "A Man with such a past should not be writing reviews, stories on such issues without ensuring the readers are fully aware of his background."