" A wealth of information..."

"1169 And Counting is a wealth of information on our Republican past and present , and demonstrates how the Irish political landscape , like that of any nation, will never be a black and white issue..."

(From the ‘e-Thursday’ section of the ‘Business Week’ supplement of the ‘Irish Independent’ , 21st August 2008.)

IRISH BLOG AWARDS 2017 - ooops! It seems that our entry application was "not completed in time to be considered.." (?) and, as such, we are not now in the running. But we wish all the best to the successful entrants and to the organisers, and we hope all goes well for them on the day!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fionnuala O'Connor on the struggle for the Loyalist leadership as the politicians and their paramilitary allies gear up for a strike .
From 'MAGILL' magazine , March 1986 .

The DUP's Frank Millar is a much-resented thirty-one year-old with no following ; not least because he repeatedly asks the most belligerent of his colleagues if they will themselves lead the fight they so often predict with apparent glee . Last week he told a BBC radio interviewer that no , he could not envisage any circumstances in which he would take to the streets and fight the members of the RUC .

The trouble is that not only do most of Millar's working party colleagues see the inevitability of confrontation with the RUC , but that there are almost as many different destinations envisaged for the campaign - independence , integration , a confederation of the 'British Isles' (including the 'Republic') , power-sharing of some kind - as there are working party members ! Which is perhaps inevitable , given the different elements of Unionism they represent .

Not to mention the state of Unionism , generally . It is pointless to try fitting the 'Ulster' Clubs , for example , into a neat scheme of Unionist opposition ; the old monolith is long gone and while talk of a mass identity-crisis is overdone , there is no doubt that unthinking allegiances have probably had their day . One of the many Official Unionists who have joined their local 'Ulster' Clubs defends their present function as a neutral , extra-party 'meeting-place' : but maintains their eventual place depends on circumstances -

- " Whether they'll 'slot in' behind the political parties as the infantry or take the lead fronted up by Robinson , who knows ? It's very like 1972-74 , when the lead moved from one group to another depending on circumstances ... " .......


The Democratic Unionist Party would prefer a Civil War to acquiescence in a role for the Dublin Government in the affairs of the North of Ireland after the Anglo-Irish summit .
FINTAN O'TOOLE spoke to DUP activists about the depth of their opposition to the Anglo-Irish deal and their willingness to resort to violence .
From 'MAGILL' magazine , November 1985 .

The Reverend Ivan Foster , DUP , states - " I have a dread in my heart at ever being under a Roman Catholic regime . I don't anticipate that if we were under a United Ireland tomorrow , that my house would be burned down and I'd be put out on the street and my children butchered , but without a shadow of a doubt , there are those who at this moment dislike me so much , not me as an individual but me as a being , that they are prepared to back those who would plan my murder and kill me , back them by their votes , back them by their support , back them by not turning them in .

Have I not got grounds for fearing therefore a political change that will give greater freedom to those people who feel that way ; freedom to express their opposition , to act out that opposition , act it out business-wise , social-wise , every way ? "

Gregory Campbell , in another world , might have been a socialist ; the Waterside in Derry where he has always lived is no bastion of Loyalist privilege - " My parents were'nt members of any political party , and paid no heed or interest to politics . My father was a serviceman in the navy . We were just the average Protestant family in Northern Ireland (sic) . The thing that pushed me into involvement in politics was the whole Civil Rights scenario , and the whole nationalist complaint and agitation that they were getting a raw deal . That was the clincher for me because I saw on the television screens and read in the papers where people like John Hume and the beginnings of the SDLP were agitating for Catholic rights , and at that same time I saw the type of community that John Hume was from and the type of living standards that they had , which were very similar to my own .

Barry White's biography of John Hume makes great play of the fact that Hume was a working-class Catholic - no bathroom , two up , two down , outside toilet . Well I had the exact same . I saw the nationalists were campaigning for better living conditions , jobs , voting rights , and yet everything that they were campaigning for , I had'nt got either . I had'nt got hot running water , I had to go outside to the toilet , I had all the disadvantages that the urban Catholic had , and yet they were campaigning as if it were an exclusive prerogative of Catholics to be discriminated against . I felt the exact same way ....... "

('1169... ' Comment : if Mr Gregory Campbell was happy with his lot , then that was his business ; but he had no right to insist that others should not seek to improve their living conditions . Or was it because those 'others' were Catholics ? Perhaps he was of the opinion that they were getting a bit 'uppity' ...)


Last month , BRENDAN McFARLANE was ordered by a Dutch court to be extradited back to the North to serve out a sentence of 25 years . He is appealing the decision . His companion GERARD KELLY had his plea accepted that his offences were political . BRENDAN McFARLANE has been on the run since he led thirty-seven men in an escape out of the MAZE PRISON in September 1983 . In an exclusive interview with MAGILL at Bylmerbages Prison in Amsterdam , McFARLANE talks about his life , his youth and upbringing , and his involvement with the ARMED STRUGGLE in the North .
First published in 'MAGILL' magazine , April 1986 .

Brendan McFarlane is still visibly shaken and emotional when he talks about the 1981 hunger-strike : he had smuggled a 'crystal' radio into his cell and had an aerial hooked-up to it - he left it on at night so that he could hear the news in the morning . He listened to the BBC news at 2am , and learned that Bobby Sands had died at 1.17am ; " I was shattered , " he says .

He was considered the 'soft underbelly' by the British , in relation to the hunger strike ; he knew each of the men personally and had a close friendship with Sinn Fein leaders on the outside , especially Gerry Adams . During this time he became pale , tense and nervous . The ten men who died on hunger strike are never far from his mind - " There's not a day goes by but I don't think of them . It was a traumatic experience and it took a lot out of me mentally and physically . I never experienced anything like it in my life , and I don't think I ever will . Just talking with guys two and three and four days before they died . It's very hard to see it , to feel it ...the pressure ... the dedication they had . I've never seen anything like it anywhere . "

After it was over , the men began to re-group and build on the concessions that they had gained from the hunger strike ; they as good as had their five demands , even if they were known by another name . Out of that came the Armalite/Ballot Box strategy - Brendan McFarlane says that "...it came out of the forces of the establishment lined up against the Republican Movement . It was progress on a big scale . Otherwise how could we get 43 per cent of the Nationalist vote ? " ('1169...' Comment - "progress on a big scale" ? Not as far as this scribbler is concerned . It gave the 'wannabe' politicians in the Movement the leverage to eventually 'water down' the actual objectives [as opposed to the then stated objectives] of the Sinn Fein organisation ; 'nationalists' [as opposed to Republicans] began to show an interest in the organisation as they [correctly] figured it was attempting to 'turn its back ' on what they termed "violence" and which we considered , and still do , as self-defence in a just war . If "progress" can be measured in "votes" , then Fianna Fail , for instance , or the Unionist partys , are much more 'progressive' ! And what "per centage" had Wolfe Tone got ? Or Padraig Pearse ? )

Brendan McFarlane subscribes to the idea that no matter what military operations are carried out by the IRA , their support will not fall below a certain level .

But if the men were building on the reforms gained , they were also thinking of escape - Brendan McFarlane was instrumental in the planning of the mass break-out from Long Kesh (re-named the Maze) in September 1983 . He led thirty-seven men through the wire .......


(Please Note - the '1169...' crew will be 'shutting up shop' on Friday 15th July next for at least/about/hopefully (!) one week [maybe two - if the cash stretches... !] - we are off to the 'Sometimes Sunny Southeast' ; Waterford , for a bit of a break . Leave your e-mail address (on the back of a €50 note !) in the 'Guestbook' and we might send you a postcard . And you might also get spammed ... - Sharon :)