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 :)