Monthly Archives: March 2012

R-E-S-P-E-C-T me and never hit me!

Girls and boys and violence


We need a soul revival to spread the word of Aretha Franklin’s great 1967 hit – one of the first to cross over from black Rhythm and Blues to white pop. Or we need Anna Calvi or Lady Gaga or even Rihanna to do a new cover version of this great anthem. We need it more than ever before because too many girls think they don’t deserve it.

That is the only way to interpret the sad statistic that half of teenage boys think it is ok to hit a girl or force her to have sex. And more than a third of boys actually expect to hit a girlfriend or force a girl to have sex.

On March 5 the government announced that it is extending domestic violence offences to under18s.

This is a positive response to campaigners against men’s violence toward women, and to the evidence gathered both by the NSPCC and feminist activists over the years.

What it tells us is that teenagers’ relationships are no less at risk of violence than adults.

Perhaps this should come as no surprise. But still, it does.  Those statistics provokes a gasp, a spasm of great sadness, and a sudden loss of confidence that the present is surely better than the past, that the future will be more humane and peaceful and that boys will be better and girls will be braver.

Behind those figures there is an expectation of violence; there is the rustle of pessimism among teenagers about the very idea of respect.

For a start, there seems to be a prevailing notion that girls will provoke boys beyond reason, that they will cheat, or cheek and that they will, therefore, deserve those slaps and pushes and kicks.

This is a somewhat different – and more disheartening – worldview from the notion that men and boys are somehow hapless, out of control, or that they are – as it says on the T-shirt – trouble.

It is a view of boys that they are somehow entitled to power in a relationship, and the referee is their pride: injured pride attracts the right to retribution; it is his duty to society and himself to sort her out!

This is not a million miles off the historic defense in cases of homicide -  ‘crime of passion’: he was provoked, his reputation was affronted, and he was therefore, entitled to kill her. Two women are killed every week in Britain by the partners or ex-partners.

Worst of all, the evidence tells us something so dispiriting about our shared ‘common sense’ – the thoughts we have when we are not thinking. It is that we expect boys to be violent and girls to be vulnerable, to be victims.

This won’t do! What young men need is an unyielding zero tolerance of violence, an optimism that masculinity can become non-violent; that intimate relationships will be peaceful. We want to make a break with that historic correlation between masculinity, violence and mastery over women and the earth and everything; and between femininity and victimization.

Let’s go to it sistas, R-E-S-P-E-C-T!




Did the British state collude in the killing of three unarmed republicans?

Sam Marshall’s assassination in 1990

Now we know the security services were there.


The only people who knew that three men were signing on at the Royal Ulster Constabulary post in Lurgan Northern Ireland in 1990 were the three men themselves, their solicitor the police and security services.

It was always a dangerous visit – Sam Marshall, Tony McCaughey and Colin Duffy were Republicans, they were traveling through hostile Loyalist territory to the police station. These visits were part of their bail conditions.

Duffy noticed a familiar red Maestro circling them – these men’s lives depended on noticing everything, and he’d noticed it before.

Minutes later the three were ambushed in a torrent of bullets. Sam Marshall died, the other two escaped.

The smell of collusion has swirled around that ambush for 20 years. It was, of course denied.  Who was in that red Maestro?  And who was traveling in the maroon Rover that accompanied it? The first evidence to vindicate charges of collusion emerged during an extradition case in the US, when the police admitted that the Maestro men were security services personnel. And the weapons that fired the 49 bullets had been used in other assassinations.

Twenty-two years later we have been told by the Northern Ireland Historical Enquiries Team:

that there were eight officers around the scene, and six cars. Two soldiers had followed the men from the police station and ‘partially witnessed’  shooting, only yards away. They did not intervene. The assassins escaped. The guns were not found.

The HET comes to no conclusion about security forces’ collusion in the killing – but does not rule it out.


The men’s families believe that the guns used were part of a cache of weapons smuggled from South Africa by the security services, through their agent Brian Nelson, and distributed among the main loyalist paramilitary organizations.

See a fuller account of this in my book Agreement! The State, Conflict and Change in Northern Ireland, Lawrence and Wishart 2008.


The British re-invigorated a campaign of assassination against republicans – just at the moment when both sides in the Northern Ireland armed conflict were contemplating peace.



Murder report opens 'can of worms'
 Sam Marshall