Monday, December 10, 2007


At a press briefing on May 3rd, 1983, Bishop Cathal Daly declared that a vote for Sinn Fein was 'a wasted vote' , and that people should think seriously before risking being seen as 'supporting violence' . As polling day approached , the rising crescendo of calls from Bishop Daly and other members of the Catholic hierarchy became increasingly explicit in their support for the SDLP. Against the background of this intervention into the arena of nationalist party politics , Patricia Collins sketches the role played by the leadership of the Catholic Church over the past fourteen years against nationalist resistance .
From 'IRIS' magazine , July 1983.

" The gravest danger which has been created for Belfast Catholicism for half a century. " These were the words chosen by Dr Cahal Daly , Bishop of Down and Connor, on January 18th , 1983, to describe 'republican violence' . The occasion was the funeral of Judge William Doyle , executed by the IRA a few days earlier . However , the danger which Bishop Cahal Daly saw the IRA as creating was not of a religious or theological nature - according to this bishop , the IRA has no moral right to use force against British occupation .

Its methods are therefore 'illegal' and 'evil' . According to the Catholic hierarchy , in fact , in Bishop Daly's own words , IRA violence is the "...greatest evil.." in Irish society . But what of the violence of the British Army , the RUC and the UDR - of which there were plenty of examples in the winter of 1982/3 - ? On November 27th , 1982 , at another funeral - that of young Michael Tighe, gunned down by the RUC in Lurgan -the Catholic Bishop of Dromore , Dr. Francis Brooke , spoke in massive contrast of the RUC's "...most difficult and dangerous responsibility.." and of their job of "...restoring law and order in the Province (sic).." . It would certainly seem that in the eyes of the Church there are two distinct types of violence , only one of which is to be condemned .

During this latest phase of the struggle , Northern nationalists have continually been subjected to political haranguing and preaching by the Catholic hierarchy , which has used all the means at its disposal , from the pulpit and the school assembly halls to the newspapers and television screens , to hammer home its message - 'renounce armed resistance , turn away from the Republican Movement'.......

From 'The Phoenix' magazine , May 1983.

While it is almost impossible to establish the origins of particular cancers or leukaemia , and while still-births and miscarriages are by no means exceptional , the fear of a possible relationship to the illegal and lethal dump is one that has sprung to not a few minds .

Both the County medical officer and the local doctor have , however , discounted any relationship between these cases and the dump : as in all such circumstances , only time will tell . It would , however , help to allay these fears and potential alarm if the authorities were to explain to the people of Kill , County Kildare , precisely the present dangers of the dump .
(NEXT : 'The Policy Of Repression' , from 1982)

Between December 1983 and May 1987 , over 25 republican or nationalist funerals were systematically attacked by the RUC as a matter of deliberate British policy . The objective was to drive mourners off the streets so that later Britain could claim dwindling support for republicanism as 'evidenced' by the small numbers attending IRA funerals . As Jane Plunkett reports , the opposite happened . More and more people came out to defend the remains of republican dead , the RUC were exposed as being as brutal and sectarian as ever , and these two factors , combined with damaging international news coverage , eventually forced the British government to reverse its policy of attacking republican funerals .
From 'IRIS' magazine , October 1987.

In July 1984 , the British offensive was escalated again at the funeral of PIRA Volunteer William Price in Brockagh , County Tyrone . At least 12 mourners were injured , some requiring hospital treatment , after RUC men jostled and trampled mourners . A number of the wounded suffered blows to the head from plastic-bullet guns or batons . The crown forces' operation involved hundreds of RUC men dressed for a riot , backed-up by a similar number of British soldiers and scores of armoured Land Rovers . As Volunteer William Price's coffin left the family home , mourners linked arms and successfully prevented any RUC incursion .

On August 8th , 1984 , the funeral took place in Newry of PIRA Volunteer Brendan Watters who was killed in a premature explosion . The RUC tried to rush the Tricolour-draped coffin as it was carried from the family's Derrybeg home but , once again , a massive display of British military might and firepower was frustrated by hundreds of unarmed mourners who linked arms to form a human barrier .

The crown forces were well aware that the PIRA had paid their final salute to their fallen comrade two nights before - nevertheless , the RUC made several violent attempts to scatter mourners and to seize the Tricolour from Brendan Watters' coffin , giving up only after the determination of the mourners to stop them had proved unshakeable . Other events in the weeks ahead , at Republican funerals , was proof that Westminster had ordered that any perceived symbol of nationalism at a funeral would be a target.......