Mourners in the Funeral Cortege for Bunting and Lyttle
Ronnie Bunting and Noel Lyttle died as they lived - as revolutionary socialist republicans murdered in a conspiracy hatched by the combined military forces of British Imperialism in the Six Counties. The unashamed grief and sense of loss shown in Belfast's Milltown Cemetery last weekend is doubtless mirrored by gloating satisfaction in British militarist and other reactionary circles in these islands.
But in Pearse's historic phrase, they are fools. They understand neither the commitment that drove Ronnie Bunting and Noel Lyttle nor the inspiration that their example - in life as well as death - provides and will continue to provide to countless other Irish men and women. For it was murder on in even grander scale, in the same area and from the same source in August, 1969, that helped spur the two to resistance in the first place. And it was the continued bloody repression, from legal and semi-legal force, coupled with an understanding that socialist policies were the only answer to such barbarity that brought them to the Irish Republican Socialist Party.
The IRSP mourns two more of its fallen comrades but determines to do no more and no less than they would have wished - to carry on and develop the struggle for an independent, socialist Ireland.
The style and method of the double assassination says much about the source and inspiration of the crime. Carried out with orthodox military precision the killers had obvious knowledge of their targets and their local surroundings. It is normally unthinkable for any armed group to drive through West Belfast at 4 a.m. unless, of course, one has prior assurance of free access and safe exit. In the final analysis the exact identity of the killers is of secondary importance. For without at least the assistance, or even direct prompting from the British war machine these and other murders of Republican activists would not have been possible.
Sinister and vivid confirmation of the methods now being employed by British and British trained agents came within days of the murders. Last Sunday week members of the SAS and RUC - masked in similar fashion to those who murdered the two IRSP men - smashed down the door of a house in Twinbrook, West Belfast - as they did to the Buntings' household ‹ and tied up a fifteen year old girl in the same manner as was another IRSP victim, Miriam Daly, who was murdered last July. The similarity of methods applied in all three incidents do not prove a common identity but they do show a common pool of experience, training and resources between the British Army, the RUC and UDR, and Loyalist murder gangs. John Turnley's murder in June, while less clinical and more random, also involved joint RUC and Loyalist killer group members. Given the show trials about to take place for Turnley's murder members of the same groups should take note that they appear to be expendable once their dirty work is done and the need for an exemplary and impartial RUC image is required by their British political paymasters.
In this regard, criticism from Paddy Devlin directed towards the SAS is particularly opportunist even for that SDLP reject. Having attached his colours to the reactionary concept of an independent six county Ulster, Devlin has offered the full weight of his waning credibility to the RUC. He is not so much opposed to the British Army as concerned about the impartial image of what he terms the "professionalism" of the RUC. Republicans and socialists should continue to exploit divisions between the two armed wings of British Imperialism, but we will never take sides between them.
Reaction from other quarters has been equally predictable although muter. The response of the Southern Establishment and media, so morally convulsed over the recent killing of Garda Quaid in mysterious circumstances, has been a loud and studied silence. The assassinations do not slot into the carefully cultivated picture of Republicans as presented by the yellow press. In recent times every act of non-political violence and crime has been falsely and deliberately attributed to Republican groups. The fact of Ronnie Bunting and Noel Lyttle's murders says too much about the motivation and reality of Republicans faced with sectarian murder that is sustained and encouraged by the British war machine.
Another reason for the absence of any outraged reaction from the peaceful constitutionalists of the Free State is their paranoia concerning the IRSP. Their usual hatred and fear of genuine republicanism is compounded tenfold when it comes to the socialist philosophy and practice represented by Bunting and Lyttle. The spectre of red republicanism stalks Southern capitalism nervous of both the social effects of the Northern war for a real republic and as a working class that could waken at any moment from a slumber caused by relative and artificially induced prosperity.
Leinster House politicians and Ireland's nouveau middle class, enriched by the "terrorism" of previous generations and their own sell-out deals with British and other multi-nationals, are not sorry to see the likes of Ronnie Bunting and Noel Lyttle wiped from the map in such bloody fashion. They will sleep easier for it and will privately thank the assassins while their paid scriptwriters in the media prepare future reams of pious and high-sounding denunciations of violence - Republican violence, that is.
The Catholic Hierarchy's sanctimonious voice is missing too in stark contrast to the usual chorus directed at Republican acts of warfare against Imperialism. Ronnie Bunting, in particular, would have expected that. While rejection of his Loyalist background was a clear decision to side with the Northern population against Imperialism, he had, along with Noel Lyttle, an equal contempt for clerics of every denomination who sided with the Establishment against working people. The most sickening, if irrelevant comment came from Republican Clubs the Workers Party who denounced the assassinations as "brutal and callous". It is not so long ago that the stickies attempted to murder Ronnie Bunting themselves. Having failed to do so they gave the contract to the UVF who placed details of Ronnie's lifestyle and movements in their magazine Combat. Just in case any Loyalist assassin could not recognise him the stickies obliged by printing similar details in the 14th March, 1975 edition of the Irish People along with a photograph of Ronnie Bunting. In a cynical attempt to disguise their active collaboration with the fascist murderers of the UVF they added: "Although the two groups (RCWP and UVF) concur in their accusations it is likely that the UVF information comes from its own independent sources and not via the Republican Movement" (sic).
It is necessary to expose the hypocrisy of such groups in order to reach a true appreciation of the contribution made by the two to the Irish people's struggle for liberation. Regardless of their membership of the IRSP both men would have merited recognition from friends and foes alike. Noel Lyttle was an active socialist since the early sixties, joining what many then saw as a socialist alternative, the now moribund Northern Ireland Labour Party. But involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, including the notorious Loyalist/RUC Burntollet ambush convinced him of the need to leave that pro-imperialist party and he helped to found Peoples' Democracy. Disagreement in PD on the National Question, Republicanism and support for armed struggle led him to break away and he became the most prominent member of the Red Republican Party. After detailed political discussion with Belfast IRSP members earlier this year he joined the Party. But his main contribution throughout the last decade was his tireless, almost superhuman efforts on behalf of Republican prisoners and their families for political status.
Politically, his work for the Relatives Action Committee, and latterly the National H-Blocks Committee was of the finest quality and was backed up by a commitment that lasted 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. On a personal level Noel showed his concern for any and every relative by offering whatever human comfort and attention possible no matter how trivial or inconvenient such demands may have appeared to others. Noel Lyttle would have been a target for reactionary murder gangs whether or not he joined the IRSP and our loss, and that of his family, is shared by hundreds of political prisoners and their relatives.
Ronnie Bunting followed a remarkably similar political course. Radicalised firstly by involvement in student politics at Queens University he soon applied such radicalism to the immediate situation. Refusing to shrink from the logical conclusions of his socialism like so many would be middle class radical students, he pitched himself into the activities of the Official Republican Movement after a brief attachment to PD.
When the Officials revealed the extent of their degeneration into a reformist, pro-imperialist rump he helped to found the Irish Republican Socialist Party. For his pains he suffered two murder attempts by the stickies' armed lumpen proletarians and assisted by the latter's felon setting efforts became a prime target for the British Army, RUC and Loyalist killers. Ronnie too, was to the fore in solidarity work for the prisoners.
The IRSP offers its sincere and heartfelt condolences to the families of both men. They have joined the long ranks of martyred Irish revolutionaries and stand in the same mould as Seamus Costello, Miriam Daly and other IRSP members murdered by Imperialists.
We salute them. But the only real satisfaction and tribute we can offer to their memory is a renewed effort to build the Socialist Republican the IRSP pledges itself to achieve