Thursday, July 14, 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 'post-mortem' the day after the election count was in Ian Paisley's house ; big , over-heated and a bit overpowering , like its owner . Too many things on the walls , thick carpets . Unusually , they moved the talk from the particular to the general and for about thirty minutes , with souls bared , discussed the viability of the various options for 'governing Northern Ireland' (sic) .

Willie McCrea , the 'country-and-western' singing cleric from bitter South Derry , public ranter supreme , talked very frankly about power-sharing ; he felt no need , obviously , to go through the set-piece denunciation : " I could never sell it to my voters , " he said , " not after all the deaths of the last fifteen years . " Harold McCusker , Deputy Leader of the DUP , is right - he said in public a few weeks ago that the taboo had gone and it was now possible to discuss the previously unmentionable without automatically being called a 'Lundy' .

It sounded , mind you , a bit like the recitation of a 'charm' to ward off retribution - he had just finished proposing a tripartite London-Dublin-Belfast conference with no executive powers to discuss matters of mutual interest . Peter Robinson followed him with his new positive relationship with Dublin . Discussion of anything so sensitive as power-sharing is not frequent , however , in the joint working-party . It's an uneasy group , two mutually suspicious parties , individuals who had'nt much to do with each other prior to the agreement , ill-matched leaders . Ian Paisley blusters , tiredly , with nothing to contribute , really , once the microphones are off and the committee room door closes out the public . Everyone says the 'Big Man' is tired , but that does'nt mean he's going .

James Molyneaux , the bachelor who lives and breaths for politics and eats only as "...fuel.. " , has been shaky since Margaret Thatcher so ruthlessly exposed his mistaken trust in her , his conviction that in direct proportion to his visible love of Westminster and propriety , she would 'stand by Ulster' (sic) - he was wrong . But that does'nt mean that Molyneaux is 'going' , either . At least not yet .......


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 .

Sammy Wilson , DUP , does not like to be called a 'socialist' ('1169... ' Comment : we would'nt think that would be a big worry for him ... ) : " Socialism is not a term that people use very often in Northern Ireland (sic) and yet if you look at the things that they (ie Irish Republicans) believed and the ideas they would put forward , I suppose if they lived anywhere else they would be socialists . I would prefer , because of the stigma which attaches to socialism , the term 'radicalism' rather that socialism . One of the problems of Irish history is that the concentration on the constitutional question by nationalists gave the excuse for not dealing with , and not prioritising , the social issues which affected the Protestant people as much if not more in some cases , than they affected the Roman Catholic people . " ('1169... ' Comment - Translation = ' Our people were stressed having usurped your land but you ignored our stress ...' )

With that view of the Protestant poverty , there is little sympathy in the DUP for talk of Catholic alienation : " Alienation ?" says Jim Wells , " There's many who feel alienated all the way to the bank . Catholics in West Belfast have houses that would be the pride of Dublin and many of them have top jobs . ('1169... ' Comment - replace the word 'Catholics' with 'Blacks' .......) How many Protestant barristers are there in Northern Ireland ? (sic) Catholics have prospered and increased in numbers here . They have retained their own educational system , the GAA gets more money for facilities from the oppressive British government than they get down south , in some cases they have their own hospitals , all funded by the state .

I do accept that Roman Catholics feel that the old structure of Stormont did not give adequate expression to their viewpoint , and I am realistic enough to accept that there will be no return to a one-party majority rule state . But the SDLP have been given a veto on all new arrangements for devolved government and until that veto is removed they have no incentive to come to terms with the unionists ... " ....


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 and seven others had escaped from the H-Blocks (on Sunday 25 September 1983) ; they were now 'on the run' . At 8pm that evening they took to the fields again - they were close to the River Bann but could'nt cross it and they made a bed for the night close to a manor house . They then crossed the Bann late that evening and walked towards Scarva ; they walked on the main road to Newry until dawn . On the Wednesday (28 September 1983) they came to a railway line which they followed . It took them across the border - " I still remember every minute of that escape . I did an interview with 'An Phoblacht' two days after I got away . "

Brendan McFarlane is reluctant to say where he has been since the escape ; he claims that to do so would entail giving countries and dates which would in turn identify people . His name was linked with the Don Tidey kidnap and shoot-out at Derrada Wood near Ballinamore towards the end of 1983 , which took place shortly after his escape . However , he says that he was "...definitely not .. " involved with that . Garda Recruit Gary Sheehan and (Free State Army) Private Paddy Kelly were shot dead during that incident . Whilst on the run , he began to learn of other deaths , more friends being killed : on the first Sunday in December 1984 , Provo Antoine MacGiolla Bhrighde was shot dead when an undercover SAS squad was taken on by three Provos . An SAS man was also shot dead . However , a few weeks later , the body of another Provo turned up - that of Kieran Fleming ; he had escaped with Brendan McFarlane from the Maze Prison and had also evaded capture by the SAS squad following the shoot-out .

It was presumed that he had escaped ; he was last seen on the banks of the River Bannagh close to where the shoot-out took place ; he had a fear of water and drowned . Brendan McFarlane says that he "...was out of the country at the time . He (Fleming) had escaped and got out of the ambush and then the water .... I was pretty down when I read about that . It's the type of thing you read about and you say 'Jesus Christ !' "

He laughs when he remembers his arrest ; the Dutch police came through the windows and threw 'flash' grenades - which set fire to the curtains , filling the flat with smoke ! " I was sleeping on the floor . The guys were piling in the windows . I crawled to the door and one of them said to me - ' Excuse me , do you have a key to the front door?' " He declined to give the Dutch police the key ! Among the items that were seized by the Dutch police was an entire collection of Christy Moore albums ; he misses them as they were a tangible link with Ireland at a time when he could not even make a telephone call back , just in case it would be traced and his whereabouts discovered and those who were helping him endangered .......


(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 :)