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.
Pauline and I watched Ken Loach’s film Jimmy’s Hall on Friday night. It was very emotional: we were both in tears at the end, and Pauline said to me ‘Think how great Ireland could have been!’ The film is based on the true story of Jim Gralton, the only Irish person ever to be deported from Ireland.
It is set in a small rural community much like our own, in the 1920s and 1930s. Gralton, a socialist, returns to Ireland from the US, having left in the aftermath of the 1919–21 war here. His friends and neighbours ask him to reopen a hall for use as a community centre, where people can meet for cultural, social and educational activities. He duly opens the hall, with assistance from the friends and neighbours, but the local parish priest resents its existence, believing that the Roman Catholic Church should control everything. 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
Further to my ‘Plugging the enemy’ post, I thought this might be of interest. I posted it on MyT in January 2009.
Ireland saw a significant anniversary last week … on 21 January, it was exactly 90 years since the first sitting of Dáil Éireann (the Irish parliament).
73 of the 110 MPs elected for the whole of Ireland in the December 1918 general election, instead of going to Westminster, met in Dublin to declare an independent Irish Republic in defiance of the British administration.
On the same day, the first shots were fired in the ‘War of Independence’ when members of the Irish Volunteers (soon to become known as the Irish Republican Army) killed two armed policemen who were escorting a consignment of gelignite at Soloheadbeg, Co. Tipperary. Continue reading
Filed under History, Ireland
When I was a small boy living in a small town in Co. Tipperary, an old man lived across the road from us whose name was Jack Meagher. I must have been quite young when he died, because my memories of him are vague. I think he was from up the mountains … an old-style countryman, garrulous and jovial, who would walk in the back door of our house without knocking and declare ‘God bless all here!’, then stay chatting for hours. Jack was a character.
Years later my sister told me something about him that I hadn’t known – he had been in the Old IRA* of 1919–21, and had, it seems been the local brigade’s executioner. When prisoners needed to be killed, in reprisal for the execution of IRA prisoners by the British, Jack was the man that did the deed. He didn’t fit the stereotype of the old soldier who ‘doesn’t like to talk about the war’; apparently he had no qualms about regaling my uncomfortable parents, around the kitchen table, with gory details of how he had ‘plugged’ some unfortunate captive. Continue reading
Filed under History, Ireland