I saw Gerry Adams being interviewed about Martin McGuinness on RTÉ’s Six O’Clock News. Adams spoke of the discrimination suffered by Catholics in Northern Ireland in the 1960s, and the mistreatment of Civil Rights marchers. This was used (as always) to justify the Provisional IRA’s campaign of violence, which had the goal of a United Ireland, as if the two (Civil Rights/United Ireland) were inseparable.
However, this was not the case. The demands of the Civil Rights campaign were granted by the early 1970s. Politically conscious Nationalists in Northern Ireland could have worked towards the goal of a United Ireland through peaceful means, and in fact most of them (the SDLP) did exactly that. The Provisional IRA, meanwhile, disregarded the most basic human and civil rights.
To portray McGuinness as a great peacemaker is to tell only half the story, given that his organization was driving the violence in the first place. Things could have been different; other choices could have been made.
Far from achieving its one and only goal (a United Ireland), McGuinness’ Republican Movement drove people farther apart than ever. I find it difficult to see how this represents any kind of success, or anything that we should admire.
I watched two programmes tonight that made me think about the state of this country. The first was an episode of Nationwide that featured young Irish people who are doing very well in London. One of them is Conor Clinch, from Coolock, a 20-year-old photographer who plans to open his own studio. He shows no signs of wanting to return to Ireland. Who could blame him?
I thought of Aer Lingus’ recent marketing campaign in which it brought some family members back to Ireland, squeezing the maximum emotional capital from the tearful reunions while informing us mournfully that over 50% of Irish people wouldn’t make it ‘home’ for Christmas. How many of those people didn’t come ‘home’ because home is now somewhere else—somewhere where they have happily integrated, perhaps married a local person? The sentimental notion of ‘Wild Geese’, tied up with historical victimhood, is no longer appropriate. Continue reading
A rough demo of a song that I have just written.
I won’t be unkind
I will always speak my mind
I will not run, I will not hide
I won’t leave you behind
I will not be blind
What’s been lost I will find
You will see the best of me
When our minds are combined
Filed under Music, Politics
On Tuesday we found ourselves at Lissadell House, the ancestral home of the Gore-Booth family, six years after we first visited it and Co. Sligo. Back then we went to see and hear Leonard Cohen; this time the house itself – famous for its connection with Constance Markievicz (née Gore-Booth) and W.B. Yeats – was the attraction. We looked out at the rain through the windows of which Yeats wrote (and Cohen recited):
The light of evening, Lissadell,
Great windows open to the south,
Two girls in silk kimonos, both
Beautiful, one a gazelle.
(from ‘In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markievicz’)
There’s an extensive and excellent Easter 1916 exhibition in Lissadell at present, including a lot of Markievicz paraphernalia. There is also a wealth of material related to Yeats and his brother, the prolific painter Jack B. Yeats. Continue reading
I watched the second part of the Christy Moore Journey documentary tonight, having watched the first part at the weekend. I’ve always liked Christy and his music: he is a man who clearly cares about a lot of people, but I wish he were not so selective in his caring.
A teenage girl who dies giving birth in a grotto will have a song written about her; names of the Birmingham Six and the victims of Bloody Sunday will be recited in songs. That is right and proper. But teenage girls killed by the IRA in Birmingham and children killed by the IRA in Warrington will not have a song written about them. Their names will not be recited. They are of the wrong tribe for compassion or for outrage. Neither will members of the ‘right’ tribe have their names recited if they were killed by the same tribe. Mary Travers, a 22-year-old Catholic teacher, was murdered by the IRA as she left a church. Christy won’t be writing a song about her.
Christy cares about injustices in Latin America, and that’s good. In our own situation, though, his songs show that he cares only about Irish nationalist victims – not about the victims of Irish nationalism. This is tribalism.
If you want to be a tribalist, that’s fine. Just don’t pretend to be something else altogether – a humanitarian, for example.
I recently came across the following quote from Gerry Adams, justifying the IRA’s murder of Lord Louis Mountbatten (along with a 14-year-old boy, a 15-year-old boy and an 83-year-old woman) in Sligo in 1979:
‘What the IRA did to him is what Mountbatten had been doing all his life to other people; and with his war record I don’t think he could have objected to dying in what was clearly a war situation.’
It’s a strange one. Mountbatten and his companions were blown up while on a fishing trip in the Republic of Ireland – by no stretch of the imagination was this ‘a war situation’. The four people who lost their lives could, and probably would, have objected to dying in this manner.
Mountbatten’s war record mainly relates to the Second World War: he played a prominent role in the Royal Navy. We should not forget that the IRA sided with the Nazis. Continue reading
John Delaney, chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, was in the news this week after he was filmed singing a song called ‘The Ballad of Joe McDonnell’ in a pub. Joe McDonnell was a Provisional IRA member who died on hunger strike in 1981.
It seems to me that, in the predictable controversy that ensued, an important point has been missed, which is that Delaney’s singing of this song was a strange and exceptional act – it stood out. Songs from the most recent Troubles have not entered the Irish ballad tradition and are not widely sung, unlike those from 1916–23 and even one or two from the 1950s. Continue reading
Those who exempt themselves from the taboo against killing will come to see themselves as special. And so it has been with ‘the Republican Movement’ (the term that Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA have used to describe themselves collectively, while denying, when it suits, that any collectivity exists).
Sinn Féin, led by Gerry Adams, does not take criticism well. It sees itself as ‘special’, and above criticism. During the 1990s it virtually invented the word ‘demonize’ by complaining bitterly that it was being ‘demonized’ every time it was merely criticized.
It has emerged in the past couple of weeks that a victim of rape and sexual abuse inflicted by a prominent IRA man was subjected to an IRA ‘kangaroo court’, and that sexual abusers within the IRA were moved across the border, into the Republic, by that organization (while remaining active members in some instances). Continue reading
[I first posted this piece on another blogsite a few years ago]
Moving Hearts were an Irish rock band of the early 1980s that grew out of the revival of traditional music in the previous couple of decades. They made some great music on drums, guitars, bouzouki, sax and uileann pipes, but never quite captured their live brilliance on vinyl. I went to see them many times in Dublin pub venues.
They used to do one song that I didn’t like then and don’t like now, partly because of its dirge-like sound but especially on account of the lyrics. The song is ‘Irish Ways and Irish Laws’ (I WAIL (!)), by a man named John Gibbs.
It is a saga of victimhood: the sort of thing that certain anti-Irish bigots like to claim that all Irish people indulge in all the time. (In fact there was an advanced and sophisticated system of Irish law that pre-dated the Norman invasion and carried on in parallel with the Norman/English system for centuries, but that is not the point.) Continue reading
Sean was a deep thinker, but was not particularly politically minded. He never voted in his life … the only time he could have voted was in the second Lisbon referendum, but he hadn’t registered. He said he would register in time to vote at the next general election.
At secondary school, history was his favourite subject. Early-twentieth-century Ireland interested him particularly … for his Leaving Cert he did a project on the IRA flying columns of 1919–21.
He admired Michael Collins and knew a lot about de Valera, and, in particular, the Irish Free State’s role in the evolution of the Commonwealth in the 1920s and 1930s (much more than I did, as it has generally been overlooked). He sometimes spoke about this. He didn’t sympathize with the modern ‘Republican Movement’. Continue reading