Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Easter Commemoration Parades took place this year in the North as usual . At the regular venues - Belfast , Derry , Crossmaglen , Newry - the same Proclamation was read , the usual speeches were made and the routine Army Council message was delivered to the faithful .
The only difference this year was that by Good Friday the North's death toll since 1969 had reached 2,500 and Ireland's longest period of civil disturbance appeared no nearer an end .
Behind much of the violence stands the Provisional IRA , organisers of most Easter Parades and , by their own claims , direct lineal descendants* of the men of 1916 . But how strong are they and for how long can they continue the military and political struggle ?
PATRICK MURPHY reports from Belfast .
First published in 'NEW HIBERNIA' magazine , May 1987 .
(* In 1986 the Provisional IRA abandoned that lineage and offered their support to what was to become a Leinster House-registered political party.)

Like any 'business' , the Provisional IRA intend to stay in operation and like any organisation they have made efforts to maximise their efficiency and to therefore produce a high level of 'satisfaction' for their 'members/shareholders' ; it may sound a callous analysis of what has produced tragic human consequences * in the North of Ireland , but then war - guerilla or otherwise - is a callous 'business' and when all the analysis has been done 'murder' is still the name of the political 'game' . (* '1169 ...' Comment : The root cause of those "tragic human consequences" can be laid firmly at Westminster's doorstep . )

All that stands against the PIRA is the Anglo-Irish Agreement (Hillsborough Treaty) which is rapidly falling into disrepute through its vague terms and ambiguous promises ; like all British initiatives in the past 75 years (sic - even then [ie 1987] , it was over 800 years of 'failed British initiatives') it has produced nothing but violence . The long-term solution in the North of Ireland may be difficult to visualise at the moment , but the short-term solution * is simply to live with the problem . (* '1169....' Comment - The 'long-term solution' is to remove the British military and political presence from Ireland , while the 'short-term solution' is for Irish Republicans to continue fighting for that to be implemented.)

That 'task' falls mainly to the RUC at present and their plea for help to the community shows that they do not relish the prospect . And the 'sad' thing is that nobody , apart from their wives and family , really cares . Like the Provos , most people in the North of Ireland have become 'cost/benefit' conscious and the name of the 'game' is survival.

(Next - ' WHERE SINN FEIN STANDS' - from January 1970.)

First published in 'IRIS' magazine , Volume 1 , Number 2 , November 1981 .

The McElwee family's involvement prior to and during Thomas' hunger-strike had brought them almost to the point of exhaustion .

It was suspected that Fr. Denis Faul viewed each meeting about the on-going hunger-strikes as a potential nucleus for an anti-hunger-strike movement ; however , the families of all the prisoners rallied behind those on hunger-strike . After one such meeting , on Friday August 7th 1981 , the families issued a statemrnt which was read by Mrs. Eilish McDonnell , mother of dead hunger-striker Joe McDonnell , which said :

" It is unknown in Irish history for eight young men to die on hunger-strike for the principle of human dignity . We , the prisoners wives , fathers , mothers , brothers and sisters welcome the statements from the protesting prisoners in the H-Blocks and Armagh of July 4th and August 6th . We find them clear , responsible statements . We find the British government guilty of the most callous cruelty and lack of responsibility , care and compassion in the present hunger-strike crisis . We , the relatives , stand in full support of the protesting prisoners and the hunger-strike . "

Fr. Denis Faul was instrumental in having an attack on the Free State government , the SDLP and the Catholic hierarchy deleted , saying that it was all too much for one statement . Thwarted for the time being (by failing to have the whole statement squashed) Fr. Faul's offensive , in the public arena at least , was dormant for a week ; but he 'bounced' back , in full flight , on Friday 14th August 1981 .......


As the Anglo-Irish talks reach their conclusion , FINTAN O'TOOLE talks to activists of Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party and hears that they would prefer civil war to an accommodation with Dublin .
First published in 'MAGILL' magazine , November 1985 .

That there are dangers in any Anglo-Irish deal is obvious , but not so obvious that it goes without saying . That there are dangers in not pursuing an agreement is equally obvious . The task at hand for the British and Irish political establishments is to weigh the dangers against the possible gains .

For the Irish (sic) government in particular , compelling reasons have to be found for running the risk of massively increased civil unrest in the North and possible violent action aimed at the South . The political pressure on the administration to 'pull a rabbit out of the hat' and the public relations challenge of presenting the same proposals in two different ways to two different audiences are not sufficient justification for a deal that does not tackle the immediate problems of the North of Ireland . ('1169....' Comment : as far as Irish Republicans are concerned , those "immediate problems" all stem from Westminster's continuing occupation of part of this island.)

In spite of the evidence in history and the repeated statements of Loyalist political leaders , there has been an abiding assumption among Nationalists that the threat of Loyalist violence in 'response' to anything they see as threatening their position in the 'United Kingdom' is a bluff . In this issue of 'MAGILL' we probe the deep psychological disposition towards a violent 'response' by the semi-constitutional party of 'Ulster' Loyalism - the Democratic Unionist Party , which represents nearly half of the Protestant population . The evangelical , often apocalyptic , turn of mind of the DUP gives little ground for hope that they can be swayed by an appeal to rational , pragmatic calculations .

The evidence of 1912 , of 1920 and of 1972 also argues against the belief that the Protestants are bluffing .......