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Friday 29 April 2011
The British government has ruled out publishing “advice” it received on the murder of Derry man Kieran Doherty.
In his report into the February 2010 shooting of Kieran Doherty, Lord Carlile – the government’s independent advisor on the activities of the security services – said that MI5 had no connection to Mr. Doherty’s death.
Lord Carlile found that there was no “misbehaviour or infraction by anybody connected directly or indirectly with the public service” in connection with the murder.
However, this week at Westminster, Foyle MP Mark Durkan asked if the government had any plans to publish Lord Carlile’s report.
In a written reply, the North’s Secrtary of State, Owen Paterson, ruled this out.
“It has been the practice of successive governments not to comment on matters of this nature,” he said. “I do not intend to depart from that practice or to publish Lord Carlile’s advice to me.”
In response, Mark Durkan branded the Secretary of State’s remarks as “a circular exercise in evasion.”
He added: “As Kieran Doherty’s family knows, this proves that neither Lord Carlile’s role nor any other procedure offered the sort of scrutiny or accountability for the security services in Northern Ireland that apply to the Police Service.”
Mr. Durkan said that both he and the Doherty family noted the “variation in language” used in respect of Lord Carlile’s work on the case.
“In his original letter to me, undertaking to look at the issues, he used the word ‘investigate’. In his oncluding letter, he referred to his work as an ‘inquiry’.
Meanwhile, the Secretary of State now refers to Lord Carlile’s ‘review’. The Secretary of State also describes Lord Carlile’s submission to him as ‘advice’ but, elsewhere, he and the NIO have called Lord Carlile’s letter to me a ‘report’.
“The fact is that the family of Kieran Doherty do not have anything they can call a report.
The Secretary of State does not have something that he is calling a report and the letter which I received is not, contrary to NIO lines, what even Lord Carlile would call a report.”
A man has appeared in court on charges linked to dissident republicans.
Michael Patrick Finbar Johnston, 28, from New Lodge Road, in Belfast, was arrested while he was walking in the city’s Antrim Road area on Thursday. Police discovered four bomb timers.
Mr Johnston has been charged with having articles for the purpose of terrorism and of preparing for acts of terrorism.
He was remanded in custody to appear again on 26 May.
Mr Johnston’s solicitor requested if his family could have a “closed visit” with him as the alleged offences have “come as an almighty shock to them”.
By Sheena Jackson
Friday 29 April 2011
A barman who was blasted 15 feet across the room in the Droppin’ Well bomb has spoken out for the first time in almost 30 years in an effort to help survivors of other atrocities committed during the Troubles.
Martin McCann was 17 years of age when the INLA bomb exploded in the village bar on December 6, 1982. 17 people were killed.
The teenager walked away from the no warning blast, uninjured – but not unaffected.
For the last 28 years there hasn’t been a day when the horror of that night hasn’t “haunted him”, when he hasn’t asked himself, ‘Why did I survive?’
Only last year, after several anxiety attacks, Martin realized something was wrong.
“I’ve been playing bowls since I was 17,” he said. “Last September I found a reason not to be secretary of the League.
“At that meeting where I announced it, a lady said she could see the pain in me. I left that meeting knowing something was wrong. The next few days I was really down and my wife Patricia knew there was something badly wrong.”
Within days Martin met with a local doctor and members of the Limavady Mental Health Team. Then he started counselling.
“It was the best thing I ever did, asking for help. The only thing that my depression could be related to was the bomb.
“If it wasn’t for the counselling I’d still be running away from it all.”
By speaking out, Martin hopes to encourage others who have suffered in silence to seek help.
Limavady SDLP councillor Gerry Mullan said Martin is very brave, very courageous and very selfless to come out in public and try to help others.
Colr Mullan said funding support for bodies to help victims must be re-visited.
“That is the reality and without support groups there would be no hope for the relatives and victims of atrocities such as those just mentioned,” he said, adding: “The whole issue of support for funding for victims needs to be revisited. Funding must be available for such organisatios and others that have a history of bringing comfort to the forgotten victims of the Troubles.”
Thursday, 28 April 2011
The Real IRA has rejected a call to meet a priest for face-to-face peace talks.
Fr Michael Canny offered to meet the paramilitary group after it pledged to “execute” police officers irrespective of their religion.
In a statement issued yesterday, a source close to the dissident republican movement said it was rejecting Fr Canny’s overtures for unconditional talks.
He said: “While Fr Canny said he did not wish to engage in airwave diplomacy, we find that impossible to equate with Fr Canny’s media comments that the dissident republican movement has no room in which to manoeuvre and that the actions of dissident republicans were those of evil men.
“Because of these pre-conceived beliefs expressed by Fr Canny in the public domain, we do not feel there would be any merit in meeting with him.”
Bobby Sands in the Cages of Long Kesh
4 March 2011
‘THE BIRTH of a republican: from a nationalist ghetto to the battlefield of H-Block’, by hunger-striker Bobby Sands, was first published anonymously in Republican News on December 16th 1978. It was reprinted in An Phoblacht/Republican News on April 4th 1981, after Bobby had been on hunger strike for one month.
The smuggled-out article, introduced as “A blanket man recalls how the spirit of a republican defiance grew within him”, is a semi-autobiographical account. For example, although blanket men had been denied compassionate parole for the funeral of a parent, as described in the article, Bobby Sands’s mother was very much alive and, in fact, she addressed the Belfast rally held on the first day of his hunger strike, calling for support for her son to save his life.
The birth of a republican
FROM MY earliest days I recall my mother speaking of the troubled times that occurred during her childhood.
Often she spoke of internments on prison ships, of gun attacks and death, and early morning raids when one lay listening with pounding heart to heavy clattering of boots on the cobble-stone streets, and as a new day broke, peeked carefully out the window to see a neighbour being taken away by the Specials.
Although I never really understood what internment was, or who the Specials were, I grew to regard them as symbols of evil. Nor could I understand when my mother spoke of Connolly and the 1916 Rising and of how he and his comrades fought and were subsequently executed – a fate suffered by so many Irish rebels in my mother’s stories.
When the television arrived, my mother’s stories were replaced by what it had to offer. I became more confused as ‘the baddies’ in my my mother’s tales were always my heroes on the TV. The British Army always fought for ‘the right side’ and the police were always ‘the good guys’. Both were heroised and imitated in childhood play,
At school I learnt history but it was always English history and English historical triumphs in Ireland and elsewhere.
I often wondered why I was never taught the history of my own country when my sister, a year younger than myself, began to learn the Gaelic language at her school I envied her. Occasionally, nearing the end of my schooldays, I received a few scant lessons in Irish history. For this, from the republican-minded teacher who taught me, I was indeed grateful.
I recall my mother also speaking of ‘the good old days’. But of her marvellous stories I could never remember any good times and I often thought to myself ‘Thank god I was not a boy in those times’ because then– having left school – life to me seemed enormous and wonderful.
Starting work, although frightening at first, became alright, especially with the reward at the end of the week. Dances and clothes, and girls and a few shillings to spend opened up a whole new world to me. I suppose at that time I would have worked all week as money seemed to matter more than anything else.
Then came 1968 and my life began to change. Gradually the news began to change. Regularly I began to notice the Specials (whom I now know to be the ‘B’ Specials) attacking and baton-charging the crowds of people who all of a sudden began marching on the streets.
From the talk in the house and my mother shaking her fists at the TV set, I knew that they were our people on the receiving end.
My sympathy and feelings really became aroused after watching the scenes at Burntollet. That imprinted itself in my mind like a scar, and for the first time I took a real interest in what was going on.
I became angry.
It was now 1969, and events moved faster as August hit our area like a hurricane. The whole world exploded and my whole little world crumbled around me.
The TV did not have to tell the story now for it was on my own doorstep. Belfast was in flames but it was our districts, our humble homes, which were burnt. The Specials came at the head of the RUC and Orange hordes, right into the heart of our streets, burning, looting, and murdering.
There was no one to save us except ‘the boys’, as my father called the men who were defending our district with a handful of guns. As the unfamiliar sound of gunfire was still echoing, there soon appeared alien figures, voices, and faces, in the form of British armed soldiers on our streets. But no longer did I think of them as my childhood ‘good guys’, for their presence alone caused food for thought.
Before I could work out the solution, it was answered for me in the form of early-morning raids and I remember my mother’s stories of previous troubled times. For now my heart pounded at the heavy clatter of the soldiers’ boots in the early-morning stillness and I carefully peeked from behind the drawn curtains to watch the neighbours’ doors being kicked in and the fathers and sons being dragged out by the hair and being flung into the back of sinister-looking armoured cars.
This was followed by blatant murder: the shooting dead of people in our streets in cold blood.
The curfew came and went, taking more of our people’s lives.
Every time I turned around a corner I was met with the now all-too-familiar sight of homes being wrecked and people being lifted. The city was in uproar. Bombings began to become more regular, as did gun battles as ‘the boys’, the IRA, hit back at the Brits.
The TV now showed endless gun battles and bombings. The people had risen and were fighting back and my mother, in her newly-found spirit of resistance, hurled encouragement at the TV, shouting “Give it to them, boys!”
Easter 1971 came and the name on everyone’s lips was ‘the Provos – the People’s Army’, the backbone of nationalist resistance.
I was now past my 18th year and I was fed up with rioting. No matter how much I tried or how many stones I threw, I could never beat them – the Brits always came back . . .
I had seen too many homes wrecked, fathers and sons arrested, neighbours hurt, friends murdered, and too much gas, shootings and blood – most of it my own people’s.
At eighteen-and-a-half I joined the Provos. My mother wept with pride and fear as I went out to meet and confront the imperial might of an empire with an M1 carbine and enough hate to topple the world.
To my surprise, my schoolday friends and neighbours became my comrades in war. I soon became much more aware about the whole national liberation struggle – as I came to regard what I used to term ‘the Troubles’.
Things were not easy for a Volunteer in the Irish Republican Army. Already I was being harassed and twice I was lifted, questioned, and brutalised, but I survived both of these trials.
Then came another hurricane: internment. Many of my comrades disappeared – interned.
Many of my innocent neighbours met the same fate. Others weren’t so lucky – they were just murdered.
My life now centred around sleepless nights and standbys, dodging the Brits and calming nerves to go out on operations.
But the people stood by us.
The people not only opened the doors of their homes to us to lend a hand but they opened their hearts to us, and I soon learnt that without the people we could not survive and I knew that I owed them everything.
1972 came and I spent what was to be my last Christmas at home for quite a while. The Brits never let up. No mercy was shown, as was testified by the atrocity of Bloody Sunday in Derry.
But we continued to fight back, as did my jailed comrades, who embarked upon a long hunger strike to gain recognition as political prisoners.
Political status was won just before the first but short-lived, truce of 1972. During this truce the IRA made ready and braced itself for the forthcoming massive Operation Motorman, which came and went, taking with it the barricades.
The liberation struggle forged ahead but then came personal disaste– I was captured.
It was the autumn of ‘72. I was charged and for the first time I faced jail. I was nineteen-and-a-half, but I had no alternative than to face up to all the hardship that was before me.
Given the stark corruptness of the judicial system, I refused to recognise the court. I ended up sentenced in a barbed wire cage, where I spent three-and-a-half years as a prisoner-of-war with ‘special category status’.
I did not waste my time. I did not allow the rigours of prison life to change my revolutionary determination an inch. I educated and trained myself both in political and military matters, as did my comrades.
In 1976, when I was released, I was not broken. In fact I was more determined in the fight for liberation. I reported back to my local IRA unit and threw myself straight back in to the struggle.
Quite a lot of things had changed. Belfast had changed. Some parts of the ghettos had completely disappeared and others were in the process of being removed. The war was still forging ahead although tactics and strategy had changed.
At first I found it a little bit hard to adjust but I settled into the run of things and, at the grand old age of 23, I got married.
Life wasn’t bad but there were still a lot of things that had not changed, such as the presence of armed British troops on our streets and the oppression of our people.
The liberation struggle was now seven years old and had braved a second (and mistakenly-prolonged) ceasefire.
The British Government was now seeking to ‘Ulsterise’ the war, which included the attempted criminalisation of the IRA and attempted normalisation of the war situation.
The liberation struggle had to be kept going. Thus, six months after my release, disaster fell a second time as I bombed my way back into jail!
With my wife being four months pregnant, the shock of capture, the seven days of hell in Castlereagh, a quick court appearance and remand, and the return to a cold damp cell, nearly destroyed me. It took every ounce of the revolutionary spirit left in me to stand up to it.
Jail, although not new to me, was really bad, worse than the first time. Things had changed enormously since the withdrawal of political status. Both republicans and loyalist prisoners were mixed in the same wing.
The greater part of each day was spent locked up in a cell. The Screws, many of whom I knew to be cowering cowards, now went in gangs into the cells of republican prisoners to dish out unmerciful beatings. This was to be the pattern all the way along the road to criminalisation: torture and more torture to break our spirit of resistance. I was meant to change from being a revolutionary freedom fighter to a criminal at the stroke of a political pen, reinforced by inhumanities of the most brutal nature.
Already Kieran Nugent and several more republican POWs had begun the blanket protest for the restoration of political status. They refused to wear prison garb or to do prison work.
After many weekly remand court appearances the time finally arrived, 11 months after my arrest and I was in a Diplock [no-jury] court. In two hours I was swiftly found guilty and my comrades and I were sentenced to 15 years. Once again I had refused to recognise the farcical judicial system. As they led us from the courthouse, my mother, defiant as ever, stood up in the gallery and shook the air with a cry of “They’ll never break you, boys!” And my wife from somewhere behind her, with tear-filled eyes, braved a smile of encouragement towards me.
At least, I thought, she has our child. Now that I was in jail, our daughter would provide her with company and maybe help to ease the loneliness which she knew only too well.
The next day I became a blanket man and there I was, sitting on the cold floor, naked, with only a blanket around me, in an empty cell.
The days were long and lonely. The sudden and total deprivation of such basic human necessities as exercise and fresh air, association with other people, my own clothes, and things like newspapers, radio, cigarettes, books and a host of other things made life very hard.
At first, as always, I adapted. But, as time wore on, I came face to face with an old ‘friend’, depression, which on many occasion consumed me and swallowed me into its darkest depths.
From home, only the occasional letter got past the prison censor.
Gradually my appearance and physical health began to change drastically. My eyes, glassy, piercing, sunken, and surrounded by pale, yellowish skin, were frightening.
I had grown a beard and, like my comrades, I resembled a living corpse. The blinding migraine headaches, which started off slowly, became a daily occurrence, and owing to no exercise I became seized with muscular pains.
In the H-Blocks, beatings, long periods in the punishment cells, starvation diets and torture were commonplace.
March 20th 1978, and we completed the full circle of deprivation and suffering. As an attempt to highlight our intolerable plight, we embarked upon a dirt strike, refusing to wash, shower, clean out our cells or empty the filthy chamber pots in our cells.
The H-Blocks became battlefields in which the republican spirit of resistance met head-on all the inhumanities that Britain could perpetrate.
Inevitably, the lid of silence on the H-Blocks blew sky-high, revealing the atrocities inside.
The battlefield became worse: our cells turning into disease-infested tombs with piles of decaying rubbish and maggots, fleas and flies becoming rampant. The continual nauseating stench of urine and the stink of our bodies and cells made our surroundings resemble a pigsty.
The Screws, keeping up the incessant torture, hosed us down, sprayed us with strong disinfectant, ransacked our cells, forcibly bathed us, and tortured us to the brink of insanity. Blood and tears fell upon the battlefield – all of it ours. But we refused to yield.
The republican spirit prevailed and as I sit here in the same conditions and the continuing torture in H-Block 5, I am proud, although physically wrecked, mentally exhausted, and scarred deep with hatred and anger.
I am proud because my comrades and I have met, fought and repelled a monster and we will continue to do so. We will never allow ourselves to be criminalised, nor our people either.
Grief-stricken and oppressed, the men and women of no property have risen. A risen people, marching in thousands on the streets in defiance and rage at the imperial oppressor, the mass murderer, and torturer. The spirit of Irish freedom in every single one of them – and I am really proud.
Last week, I had a visit from my wife, standing by me to the end as ever. She barely recognised me in my present condition and in tears she told me of the death of my dear mother – God help her, how she suffered.
I sat in tears as my wife told me how my mother marched in her blanket, along with thousands, for her son and his comrades, and for Ireland’s freedom.
When the Screws came to tell me that I was not getting out on compassionate parole for my mother’s funeral, I sat on the floor in the corner of my cell and I thought of her in Heaven, shaking her fist in her typical defiance and rage at the merciless oppressors of her country. I thought, too, of the young ones growing up now in a war-torn situation and, like my own daughter, without a father, without peace, without a future, and under British oppression. Growing up to end up in Crumlin Road Jail, Castlereagh, barbed-wire cages, Armagh Prison and Hell-Blocks.
Having reflected on my own past, I know this will occur unless our country is rid of the perennial oppressor, Britain. And I am ready to go out and destroy those who have made my people suffer so much and so long.
I was only a working-class boy from a nationalist ghetto but it is repression that creates the revolutionary spirit of freedom.
I shall not settle until I achieve the liberation of my country, until Ireland becomes a sovereign, independent socialist republic.
We, the risen people, shall turn tragedy into triumph. We shall bear forth a nation!
An Irish Republican Army splinter group condemned next month’s visit to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth II, April 25, 2011.
By MEGAN CHUCHMACH
April 27, 2011
A splinter IRA group has issued a warning in advance of Queen Elizabeth’s upcoming visit to Ireland, calling the queen a “war criminal” and saying it will take steps to make sure that she gets the message that she is “not wanted on Irish soil.”
A man wearing a ski mask, a beret and a green military outfit delivered the message during an Easter Sunday rally at a cemetery in Derry, Northern Ireland, less than a week before the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, Elizabeth’s grandson. He claimed to be a member of Oglaigh na hEireann, a name used most recently by a faction of the Real IRA, one of several splinter groups that reject the Irish peace process and have claimed credit for a recent uptick in political violence.
“Oglaigh na hEireann urge all self-respecting Irishmen and women to resist the upcoming insult that is the visit of a British monarch to Irish soil,” the man told the crowd in a seven-minute speech. “The queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and not wanted on Irish soil. We will do our best to ensure she and the gombeen class that act as her cheerleaders get that message.” “Gombeen” is an Irish term that means profiteer or moneylender. Elizabeth is scheduled to visit the Republic of Ireland for three days in May.
The masked man condemned the Irish peace process and threatened the further killing of police officers. A 25-year-old police officer, Constable Ronan Kerr, was killed earlier this month by a car bomb in Omagh, Northern Ireland. “Those who think they are serving their community are in fact serving the occupation,” said the man, “and will be treated as such.”
He closed by vowing that that “the IRA, in cooperation with others, will continue to resist the occupation to the best of our ability. … Victory to the IRA!”
The traditional, or Provisional, IRA, has declared an end to armed struggle, but several dissident Irish Republican groups like the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA have mounted a new campaign of political violence in recent years, with more than 40 significant attacks in 2010. Experts say the resurgent Irish Republican groups also want an attack inside England to demonstrate their strength.
Senior British security officials told ABC News there is “concrete intelligence” that the groups have been trying to move operations beyond Northern Ireland to London. MI5, the security agency in charge of countering domestic terrorism in Britain, has recently increased surveillance of suspected Irish terror leaders, shifted resources from Al Qaeda to the Irish groups and raised the threat of Irish-related terrorism from moderate to substantial.
Concern has also been heightened with the upcoming Royal Wedding, which has captured the world’s attention and could be an attractive target for terror attacks, say experts.
“I think there’s no doubt the dissidents have the intent, and they are increasingly showing they have the capability,” said Martyn Frampton, a professor at Queen Mary University of London and author of “Legion of the Rearguard: Dissident Irish Republicanism.” “If you put those two things together, you do have a very serious threat.”
26 April 2011
They think they have bought half of us off with the withdrawal of the British garrison in Ireland to barracks and fooled the rest of us into believing that bail outs and tax breaks for the rich are somehow in the interests of working people. However the fools they have left us armed with something far more dangerous than any bullet or any ounce.
The historical legacy and political ideas of James Connolly should act as a guide to the actions that republicans and socialists should be engaged in.
Ninety-five years after the execution of Irish socialist republican James Connolly, Ireland remains under the yoke of capitalism and imperialism.
On Saturday, May 7, éirígí has organised a gathering where the way forward for the national liberation and class struggles in Ireland today can debated and discussed.
‘Saor Éire’ in the 1930s was central to the project of radicalising a generation of activists and it is fitting then that it will today be the title for a gathering which hopes over the coming years to achieve the same end.
Saor Éire 2011
Venue: Ashling Hotel (Parkgate Street, across from Heuston Station)
Date: Saturday, May 7
10am – The resources of Ireland for the people of Ireland?
The giveaway of Irish natural and the struggle to reclaim them. Speakers: Maura Harrington (Shell to Sea) and more.
11am – James Connolly – Idol or Ideologue for Irish Republicans?
Speakers: Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh (author) and Dr Brian Kelly (lecturer, QUB).
A discussion on whether Irish republicans only see James Connolly in terms of his involvement in the 1916 Rising or seriously use his writings and actions over his lifetime as a guide to their political commitments.
12 Noon – Fighting back against the EU/IMF cuts
Speakers include éirígí’s Daithí Mac An Mháistir, Pepe Gutiérrez from Latin America Solidarity Centre and Brendan Ogle of Unite the Union.
1pm – Break
1.30pm – No Queen Here – Why we oppose monarchy and imperialism
Brian Leeson of éirígí, Roger Cole of PANA and others will take part in a discussion on the imminent arrival of the commander of British military and why imperialism in Ireland and abroad must be resisted.
3.30pm – James Connolly Commemoration, Arbour Hill cemetery.
Related Link: http://www.eirigi.org
21 April 2011
AN Irish state probe into claims of garda collusion with the IRA will open to the public in June, it was announced last night.
The Smithwick Tribunal was established in May 2005 to investigate if gardai colluded with the IRA in the murders of chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan.
The inquiry will also inquire if other state employees played any part in the alleged collusion.
The senior RUC men were gunned down in south Armagh as they drove across the border after meeting with gardai in Dundalk on March 20, 1989.
The Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for the murders.
The News Letter revealed earlier this month that the public hearings were set to begin shortly. According to Irish department of justice briefing papers from March 2011, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the tribunal has cost over 8million euro so far.
The inquiry, which is expected to hear five months of evidence, has written to legal teams setting the opening date for Tuesday, June 7.
Lawyers have been summoned to the tribunal in Dublin for a sitting on May 17 to make applications for further representations for people or organisations the inquiry may involve.
Jane McKevitt, solicitor for the tribunal, said the June 7 hearing will be an opening statement only.
“The tribunal thereafter intends to commence hearing evidence on Thursday June 9,” she said.
“It is not possible to forecast how long the hearings will last at this time.”
Senior RUC and garda figures will be among those represented at the tribunal, as well as a former British agent who spied on the IRA, known as Kevin Fulton.
The tribunal began following an approach by Ulster victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer. He said the announcement that public hearings will start was “welcome but overdue”.
“We believe the remit has been widened and this was why it took so long to get to this stage,” he said.
“I believe many will be shocked by what will come out of these hearings.”
The hearings will take place at the tribunals base on 9/13 Blackhall Place, Dublin 7.
27 April 2011
On Saturday evening 30/4/11 @ 7pm, a discussion and debate will be held in Conway Mill about the life of the late Brendan (The Dark) Hughes.
The discussion will include Paddy-Joe Rice, Terry Hughes and Anthony McIntyre.
It will be chaired by Maidstone Escapee, Tommy Gorman.
No doubt the hall will be packed and anyone coming should come along early….About time the Dark’s legacy to Irish Republicanism was heard.
Ardoyne Republican asks that Brendan’s memory be honoured again this Saturday.
Tuesday April 26 2011
USUALLY it is the realisation that you are back in work early the next morning that ruins a Bank Holiday Monday night — either that or RTE’s poor choice of TV movies.
On Easter Monday night it was neither. Instead, it was an item on RTE’s Nine News about the 32 County Sovereignty Movement’s rally in a Derry graveyard.
The package featured plenty of footage of several hooded men in quasi-military dress carrying flags and marching in formation followed by what sounded like a local Derry accent reading out a vicious and nasty threat to you and me.
While it might be argued that 300 or so fringe fascists gathering together merits some news coverage, RTE — and, in fairness, others — crossed the lines by giving that level of coverage to the speaker.
Several sentences, if they can be termed as that, from his rant were broadcast in full.
Here is a guy basically threatening us all and RTE carries his threat to a wider audience than the 300 or so gathered there before him.
My problem with all of this is that the ill-advised manner and nature of the coverage inadvertently conveyed the impression that this was a political message, albeit a distasteful and repellent one.
No, it is not.
This is not some gang of political slow learners.
These are not people who have found themselves casually left behind while the rest of us move forward and try to find a way of living together.
These are people who did well out of the Troubles and the violence and have no intention of giving any of it up.
There is no political motivation here. It is about criminality and community control. And to be fair this is something that was highlighted by RTE presenter Tommy Gorman.
But the point that was not highlighted nearly enough was that these criminals are not far removed from the gangs in Limerick or Dublin. And would we think it acceptable to feature members of the McCarthy/Dundon gang or the D22 gangs on our nightly TV news threatening others?
Of course not, so neither should we be expected to tolerate this. There is no appreciable difference.
To even accept the group’s usage of the IRA tag is allowing them to mask their real criminal purpose. It is something we must stop.
The Provos had no right to use IRA, these thugs have even less than no right.
The fact that almost all the other major TV news services, North and South, as well as RTE, gave this level of exposure does not suggest some softening in attitude to these guys.
Rather it is like some form of journalistic auto pilot, programmed from the days of the Troubles, that kicks in when an editor hears of dissident republican or loyalist activity.
The other question yesterday’s rally raises is how was it allowed to happen at all?
Not the rally as such, but the speech, the incitement to violence and the threat to any young Irish man and woman who wants to serve in the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
In a way the fact that the colleagues of the murdered Constable Ronan Kerr showed such restraint on the day, in the face of such provocation is a tribute to them and to their professionalism.
Derek Mooney was political and policy adviser to a cabinet minister 2004-2010 and a public policy consultant since the mid-90s
By Cormac Byrne
Tuesday April 26 2011
GARDAI have cranked up security for the royal visit amid ominous threats from dissident republicans.
Sources fear the queen could be targeted by a sniper attack on her visit to the capital.
Residents along Queen Elizabeth’s route in Dublin have been visited for a second time by gardai conducting background checks.
Windows and balconies are being probed by investigators in a bid to minimise any possible threat of a sniper attack.
The Real IRA issued a chilling warning that the queen is guilty of “war crimes” and they would ensure she “gets the message” during her three day visit.
There are growing fears that dissident groups may carry out a terrorist attack to coincide with the visit which is just three weeks away.
Four republican groups remain active and all have shown their capacity to carry out gun and bomb attacks in recent months.
The British monarch will visit the Guinness Brewery, the Garden of Remembrance, Aras an Uachtaran and Croke Park during her 72-hour visit to Ireland in May.
Uniformed officers have been visiting thousands of residents who live in properties overlooking the sites and the routes the Queen may use.
“Two gardai came to our door yesterday and asked us could they be let in,” one Dublin resident told the Herald.
“They were asking lots of questions, they were looking for the car registration numbers for any vehicles we might have and the details of people who have a set of keys to the apartment.
“They asked us for basic background information and where we had lived in the past.”
Security sources believe that a sniper attack may be the only viable terrorist threat to the queen during her visit.
Gardai were keeping tight-lipped about the reports and security arrangements are being kept top secret.
“We will not be discussing any of the security issues surrounding the proposed visits later this year,” a garda spokesperson told the Herald.
The state visits of Queen Elizabeth and US President Barack Obama represent the largest security operations ever put in place for foreign dignitaries.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has said that the operations will involve thousands of gardai and will cost millions of euro.
He said that he had sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting that a separate budget be established for the visit because the existing garda budget could not cope.
In the coming weeks, garda focus will centre around dissident-republican groups who are planning street demonstrations during the queen’s visit. About 40 Islamic extremists living in Ireland will be under surveillance for both visits.
It will be the first visit of a British monarch in a century. The queen’s grandfather, King George V, visited 100 years ago when Ireland was part of the UK. He spent six days in Dublin in 1911.
Garda anti-terrorist officers are drafting contingency plans for the queen’s security.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police in London provide a royal-protection squad, which travels with the monarch at all times. Close protection is expected to be provided by garda special units, including the ERU, while the Army Ranger Wing using snipers — some in helicopters with .5 heavy-calibre sniper rifles able to kill at over a mile — will be deployed for close protection of residences where she will stay, most likely Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park.
The queen is expected to land at Baldonnel airbase, while no-fly zones will be in effect over Farmleigh and the airbase will be patrolled by armed Air Corps PC-9 planes.
The Army Air Defence Regiment, with surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns, will be used to protect airports.
As members of Sinn Fein celebrated the 95th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising and prominent members of the party denounced the use of violence by dissident groups, Gardai have declared that Donegal will not provide a safe haven for dissidents or any other terrorist group.
The Gardai in Donegal are involved in ‘unprecedented’ cooperation in an effort to thwart a new terror campaign by the Real IRA – and have vowed to prevent the county being used as a ‘safe haven’ for gunmen and bombers and have mounted armed undercover checkpoints along border areas in an attempt to curb any further activity.
Last week the terror gang behind the Omagh bomb announced it had recruited former members of the Provisional IRA and was now calling itself ‘the IRA’ however security sources have insisted that the gang is the Real IRA.
Security sources however, have insisted the gang is the Real IRA.
There are fears the Real IRA plan to step up its attacks in and around Derry and Strabane in the coming weeks and Gardai are determined the terrorists won’t be able to see Donegal as an easy getaway route.
A senior Garda source said that Donegal will provide no safe haven for any of these people.
“There is little or no support for dissidents in the North and there is very little support for them here either.
“We have now unprecedented cooperation between police forces north and south and we are determined to do everything we can to prevent further attacks.”
Gardai have already stepped up patrols along Border routes and are in constant contact with PSNI officers north of the Border and have manned armed undercover checkpoints along the Border.
Since the murder of 25-year-old PSNI constable Ronan Kerr three weeks ago which provoked anger from across the political divide, the PSNI have warned that dissidents are continuing to target its officers.
26 Apr 2011
Police have said an investigation is under way into a rally at a Derry cemetery on Monday at which masked Real IRA members read out a statement.
The dissidents threatened to kill more police officers.
Superintendent Chris Yates said police had decided to “run a low key operational response to the event”.
“An investigation has commenced and I would appeal to anyone who has any information regarding this incident to contact police,” he added.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement organised the rally at the City Cemetery to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
It is regarded as the political wing of the Real IRA, the organisation which claimed responsibility for the Omagh bomb which killed 29 people and unborn twins in 1998.
It also killed two soldiers in Antrim two years ago and exploded a car bomb in Derry last year.
Superintendent Yates said: “Any alleged breaches of criminal law reported to police or coming to our attention will be rigorously and thoroughly investigated.
“The PSNI work to ensure that all their actions are appropriate, proportionate and lawful.
“Our priorities are to protect the public, preserve public order, uphold the human rights of all and gather evidence of any wrongdoing.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has said he believes talks are ongoing between dissident republicans and the British government.
“I did say that last year and I think what I said was vindicated by those investigative journalists who came to realise that what I was saying was absolutely true,” he said
“There can be no doubt whatsoever that representatives of the British government were speaking to the highest levels of what is called the Real IRA.
“As for the situation at the moment, I would be surprised if there isn’t still some means of communication between them.”
The Democratic Unionist Party’s Nigel Dodds said he would oppose any such talks with dissidents.
“Primarily because they have shown not the slightest interest in wanting to move away from violence,” he said.
“I think that’s a very different situation from the sort of engagement there’s been in recent times with other groups.
“These are groups that have shown they are engaged in the most bloody and dastardly types of planning and plotting against members of the security forces and I think they deserve a resolute security reaction and response.”
In its statement read out at the cemetery, the Real IRA said police officers would be targeted “regardless of their religion, cultural background or motivation”.
The organisation also expressed its opposition to the Queen’s impending visit to Ireland.
“The Queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and is not wanted on Irish soil,” the statement added.
Tuesday 26 April 2011 10:16
A veteran county Derry republican has said Martin McGuinness “should have been executed” for calling on people to give information to the police.
Mickey McGonigle made the comment during an Easter Rising commemoration held in the City Cemetery on Sunday, organised by Republican Sinn Féin. Around 30 people attended the event.
The Dungiven republican also claimed the Deputy First Minister is “committed to the police”.
Republican Sinn Féin (RSF) split from Sinn Féin in 1986 over the party’s decision to take their seats in Leinster House. RSF have remained a small party since then.
Speaking at the end of the short commemoration event, Mr McGonigle said; “Martin McGuinness told the late Sean Keenan and I in a house in Creggan that he would not support anyone going into Leinster House but he had already made his mind up about that.
“He told me in 1987 that he would not be going up the steps of Stormont and look at him now. Martin should hang his head in shame. He is too much committed to the police and the British military.”
He also criticised the Sinn Féin leader’s call for people to give information to the police on the activities of dissident republicans.
“He tells people to give information to the police. In his time in this city there was people shot for that.
“He also, along with Gerry Adams, oversaw the giving away of guns. People were also shot for that. That is treason and he should have been executed,” he said.
The unscripted outburst came at the end of a commemoration event during which wreaths were laid at the Cúchulain monument on behalf of “the leadership of the republican monument”.
A statement from the leadership of the Continuity IRA was also read by Pat Barry.
The statement claimed the group have been “carrying the war to the enemy” in the last year.
Messages from the Continuity IRA prisoners in Maghaberry and Portlaoise prisoners were also read out.
The prisoners’ messages called for an agreement reached last year to reduce tensions in Magahberry prison to be implemented.
Seanin Brady, granddaughter of Mr McGonigle, recited a decade of the Rosary in Irish and the main oration was delivered by Cait Trainor, Armagh.
During the oration she criticised the upcoming visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland and condemned what she described as “harassment” of republicans in Derry.
She also said; “The quislings at Stormont think they have pacified the republican people with power sharing but they are sharing British rule.
“Stromont politicians tell people they have no other option but we have the alternative.
“We will not accept concessions. The only thing we will accept is a full British withdrawal,” she said.
The commemoration was brought to a close by Whitey O’Neill playing the National Anthem.
25 Apr 2011
DISSIDENT republicans are living in a fool’s paradise if they think they can re-unite Ireland by violence.
While they seem like ‘fighting words’, the tough assessment actually came from Martin McGuinness.
Addressing a traditional republican commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising, McGuinness said the action of the renegades was futile, stupid and selfish.
Claiming the countdown was on to a united Ireland, Stormont’s Deputy First Minister told crowds at Loup, Co Derry, that it had to be achieved peacefully and democratically and with unionist support.
He also rejected claims from the extremists that they were the true IRA.
McGuinness claimed the IRA that existed during the Troubles was not a war mongerer.
“They were a revolutionary force who when an opportunity to advance the struggle for Irish unity through peaceful means was established it removed itself from the political equation,” he said.
“The IRA by its nature was of the people and for the people.
“It could not have survived and fought the British state the way it did if it was small and unrepresentative.
“People should be under no illusion, the small factions currently engaging in armed actions are not the IRA and they are not advancing national and democratic objectives by their activities.”
He added: “Irish people are united in support of the Good Friday, St Andrews and Hillsborough agreements, attempting to overturn the will of the Irish people is not only futile it is stupid and selfish.
“Ireland can now only be reunited by the further development and outworking of the power sharing and all-Ireland institutions which were endorsed by the Irish people in the referendum in 1998. No act of violence will advance the cause of reunification by one millimetre.
“It is patently not possible to advance towards Irish reunification by any means other than peaceful and democratic processes.
“Those who believe that Ireland can be reunited without the support of the Irish people are living in a fool’s paradise.”
Delivering an address at the graveside of Sen Larkin, a republican executed during the Irish Civil War, McGuinness said unionists had to feel welcome in a united Ireland and acknowledged that many were terrified at the prospect.
“Change is always difficult,” he said.
“When taken in the context of a conflict resolution process, change can be traumatic. And this can be made even more difficult when there are those, both within sections of unionism and within the British political and military establishment who still want to hold on to the old ways.
“Our goal as Irish republicans is an Irish unity that is inclusive, that unionists will feel welcome in, that they are a part of.
“There is much work to do. But we believe that we are in the countdown to a united Ireland. We believe that together we can make further progress and truly transform society on this island forever.
“We are all on the journey. It is always easier to begin a journey. The hard thing is to end it.
“Sinn Fin is in this process to the end. We want the British government and the Irish government and the unionists to work with us and to finish the work we have all started.
“The length of the journey can be shortened and the ups and downs on the road can be smoothed out if we go at it collectively. If we do it together.”
DEAGLÁN de BRÉADÚN, Political Correspondent
27 April 2011
GOVERNMENT RESPONSE: THE REAL IRA and other paramilitary groups opposed to the peace process have no mandate for their violent actions, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has said.
The Labour Party leader said he was “absolutely disgusted” by the Real IRA threat, issued at an Easter Rising commemoration in Derry, to kill further members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland in addition to the late Constable Ronan Kerr.
“The sight of somebody appearing in a mask and menacingly threatening Catholics who join the PSNI, nationalists who join the PSNI, that they will be killed, threatening the governments and threatening the people of this country, that belongs to the past and that is the past,” he said.
Mr Gilmore added that the dissidents are tiny groups who have already done enormous damage, most recently when Constable Ronan Kerr was killed. The Labour leader added that they have no support in any part of Ireland or in any part of the Irish community, North or South.
“They have no mandate. The arrangements in this country have been settled by the Good Friday Agreement. It has been voted on by the people of this country and nobody has any right to challenge that in the way that these people are doing. The Government is absolutely determined that they will not succeed and the gardaí will work with the PSNI in bringing them to justice,” he said.
The Tánaiste added that both governments would work together and would work with the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly to build the political institutions and advance progress.
He said the kind of threats that were made are menacing and have no place in the Ireland of today.
The Minister was asked if the Government would be introducing any extra security measures to deal with the paramilitary threat.
“There are additional security measures that are already in place and the gardaí have been working very closely with the PSNI and indeed have been working very successfully with the PSNI. The Government has reviewed the security situation and we have discussed that with the Garda Commissioner. We are absolutely determined that these people are not going to succeed,” he said.
On the possible role of intermediaries, Mr Gilmore added that if anybody could persuade dissidents from the path that they are on and from the threats that they are making, then he would welcome this and hoped that would be helpful.
The Tánaiste was accompanied by US congressman Richard Neale who said: “My credentials on the North are perhaps unmatched in the United States and there can be no room in a representative democracy for somebody standing with a mask, making threats.”
He said the idea of a representative democracy is to make sure there are no masks. “The Assembly is up and running, there are elections on May 5th and, not to miss the point of just how far we’ve come, part of the distance that we have all travelled has been in putting together a representative democracy, where people are free to use the crucible of politics to make a point and then to accept negotiation.”
He asked who is more Irish than John Hume or Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness? The congressman said they would make the argument that “there is no room in the democracy that is in place for this sort of activity”.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described the dissident groups as “deluded criminals”.
Mr Martin said the threat from the Real IRA is further evidence that terrorist gangs have no respect for the sovereign wishes of the Irish people.
“These deluded criminals fail to comprehend the true meaning of republicanism and quite clearly have nothing but contempt for this country and its people.”
The Fianna Fáil leader added that the island remains united in its revulsion for those who killed Constable Ronan Kerr. The public outrage after Constable Kerr’s murder proved that this country was unwilling to be dictated to by criminals, he said.
Mr Martin said that any terrorist group that believed it could return Ireland to the violence of the past was mistaken. Attempts to attack the peace process would not be tolerated and would not work. “We must continue to send out a strong and clear message that the PSNI, in close co-operation with the gardaí, is a force for good on this island.”
DAN KEENAN, Northern News Editor, and GEORGE JACKSON in Derry
27 April 2011
A SENIOR Catholic priest in Derry said yesterday he was willing to meet with the Real IRA to discuss their threat to step up a campaign of murder against police officers in Northern Ireland.
Fr Michael Canny, administrator of St Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry, who is also the official spokesman for Bishop Seamus Hegarty, said he was making his offer of talks unconditionally.
Fr Canny’s offer follows a public statement from the paramilitary group in the city cemetery in Derry on Monday in which they said they would continue to “execute” police officers irrespective of their religion.
It also criticised the Catholic Church and the GAA for giving their support to the PSNI.
Describing Monday’s renewed threats to PSNI officers as “bizarre”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness denounced dissident groups, claiming none of them could describe themselves as the IRA. “These groups are running around describing themselves with various titles with ‘IRA’ in it. They would be more appropriately regarded as not the IRA but more akin to Baader-Meinhof or the Red Brigade groups,” he said.
He told the BBC the “stupid and selfish” dissidents were “betraying the people”, trying to sabotage the peace process, end working relations with unionists at Stormont and “turn back the clock on policing”.
They were “imposters” who are doomed to failure, he said.
Commending Fr Canny for his offer of unconditional talks with dissidents, Mr McGuinness said they needed to heed the will of the Irish people.
He accused dissidents of viewing everyone as the enemy.
“Not just Sinn Féin [but] all of the other political parties on this island and the Catholic Church, the GAA, Protestant churchmen – they see all of us as the enemy.”
Mr McGuinness restated claims he made last year that “representatives of the British government were speaking to the highest levels of what is called the Real IRA”.
He said he would be surprised if such contacts were not being maintained. The British government denies such contacts.
A Government source in Dublin said there was “nothing for the Irish Government to talk about with these people”.
“The Irish Government has not been engaged in any channels, backwards or otherwise, in terms of the issues that the dissidents are raising,” The Irish Times was told.
The Government accepted that the British government was not in talks with dissidents again because there was nothing to talk about, although it had no opposition to Fr Canny or Kate Carroll, widow of murdered PSNI officer Stephen Carroll, making overtures if they wished.
Mr McGuinness admitted that dissidents were dangerous and capable of mounting occasional armed actions. But he added: “They are very heavily infiltrated and we have seen huge successes by the Garda in the South and the police in the North against them with the recovery of weaponry which was there for the purposes of . . . usurping the will of the people of Ireland.”
Speaking in Derry yesterday Fr Canny described the Real IRA statement as chilling, threatening and disappointing.
“By their actions they have placed themselves outside the democratic process and it is incumbent on us all to persuade them to reflect on that position,” he said.
“To that end I would be willing to meet with them, to listen to them and to tell them where their campaign is going. Their campaign means death, imprisonment and misery and has nothing to offer society.”
Branding the dissidents “a small unrepresentative minority whose methods will result in death, despair and misery for society and for themselves”, he added: “The time for that is long past.”
By Connla Young
Wednesday, 27 April 2011
A suspected parcel bomb addressed to a republican support group in Scotland has been intercepted in Belfast.
The Army bomb squad was called to examine the suspect package at Musgrave Street PSNI station last night.
It is understood the package was addressed to republican support group Cairde na hÉireann (Friends of Ireland) which has offices in the Barrowlands district of Glasgow.
Strathclyde Police last night said the package recovered in Belfast was similar to four others intercepted in the west of Scotland in recent weeks.
It emerged last week that parcel bombs sent to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two other high profile supporters of the club, Paul McBride QC and Labour MSP Trish Godman, were capable of causing serious injury or death.
Scottish police say they believe the latest package was sent at the same time as the previous four and is linked to the previous devices.
It is believed the package was regarded as suspicious at Tomb Street sorting office in Belfast on April 12.
It was then taken to Musgrave Street PSNI station where it remained in storage until last night when an alert was raised after police received new information.
The PSNI confirmed the most recent suspect package did not “originate” in Northern Ireland. The other four packages were all posted in the west of Scotland.
Tomb Street sorting office is the Royal Mail’s National Return Letter Centre and all undelivered mail is sent there.
It is believed that although the suspect package was addressed to Cairde Na hÉireann it was not delivered and redirected to Belfast. Strathclyde chief superintendent Ruaraidh Nicolson tried to ease public fears over the recent spate of parcel bombings.
He said: “This latest discovery will become part of the ongoing investigation.
“We’d like to stress that there is still no intelligence to suggest that these packages pose a threat to the wider public and we would urge people to remain calm.
“The person or people sending these packages are clearly determined to cause fear and alarm to the individuals or organisations concerned.
“This is an utterly despicable crime, committed by an individual or individuals who are prepared to put people in harm’s way simply to attract attention to their callous and cowardly actions.”
Just last week Cairde na hÉireann’s national organiser in Scotland Franny McAdam told the Belfast Telegraph the attacks on Neil Lennon reflected a wider problem in Scottish Society.
He said: “We would see what happened as more about anti-Irish racism than sectarian.
“Take the bullets sent to Niall McGinn, Paddy McCourt and Neil Lennon earlier this year.
“They were three Irish-born Celtic players and that incident was motivated out of anti-Irish racism.”
Story so far
Parcel bombs addressed to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two other high profile supporters of the club, Paul McBride QC and Labour MSP Trish Godman, were intercepted last month.
Last night’s potentially deadly discovery in Belfast brings the total number of suspect parcel bombs to five.
Two of the original four parcels were intercepted at Royal Mail sorting offices in the west of Scotland last month, both addressed to the Celtic manager.
The first one was found in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, on March 4 and the second was intercepted on March 26 in Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire.
Lennon, 39, has endured threats and abuse throughout his career and was forced to retire from representing Northern Ireland in international football after claiming he had received death threats from a loyalist paramilitary group.
He was the victim of a street attack in the west end of Glasgow in 2008 and earlier this year received a package containing bullets.
Celtic players Niall McGinn and Paddy McCourt, both from Northern Ireland, were also sent bullets in the post.
25 April 2011
The dissident republican group, the Real IRA, has threatened to kill more police officers and declared its opposition to the Queen’s first visit to the Irish Republic next month.
A statement was read out by a masked man at a rally organised by the 32 County Sovereignty Movement in Derry on Monday.
It was organised to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Northern Ireland has been on a high state of alert in recent days.
In a statement read out at the City Cemetery in Derry, the Real IRA said police officers would be targeted “regardless of their religion, cultural background or motivation”.
On the Queen’s visit, the masked men said: “The Queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and is not wanted on Irish soil.”
The police have asked the public in Northern Ireland to be “particularly vigilant” over the Easter holiday period due to the severe threat level posed by terrorists.
On Saturday night, a haul of suspected bomb-making equipment was found by the PSNI in south Armagh.
The Real IRA killed two soldiers in Antrim two years ago, and last year exploded a car bomb in Derry.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement is regarded as the political wing of the Real IRA.
The dissident republican terrorist group claimed responsibility for the Omagh bomb which killed 29 people and unborn twins in 1998.
Wolfe Tone’s ideal is still attainable and we could do worse than again look north for inspiration
21 Apr 2011
ON MAY 5th, Assembly elections will be held in Northern Ireland, after which the DUP and Sinn Féin will be returned as, respectively, the largest and second largest parties.
This will allow Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to reclaim their positions as the assembly’s First and Deputy First ministers, which is all that need concern us about the elections. It is of secondary importance that on governance the assembly is largely inept.
When we have progressed far enough on reconciliation, this will naturally assume precedence. For anyone who had begun to take Robinson and McGuinness for granted, Constable Ronan Kerr’s murder was a grim reminder of the vital role the two leaders are playing. The contrast between what they represent and what dissident republicans are offering is stark.
But what of these dissident groups, what is their ultimate vision? Tempting though it is to pretend otherwise, they cannot consist entirely of grudge-bearers, romantic fools, criminal elements and easily-led youngsters. There are surely some activists among them who, as self-professed republicans, have an idea of the kind of all-Ireland polity they want.
Is it maybe their intention, as was ludicrously proposed by their forbears, to unite the island first and then let the people decide? Hardly, since they reject what the people of Ireland as a whole have already decided, which raises the question of whether those who use force to try to overthrow the democratically expressed will of the people can legitimately claim to be republicans at all.
Perhaps the dissidents are best described as extreme nationalists. Still, they are not alone in seeking to unite Ireland without making plans for the other side. This is far from being just an abstract discussion point.
The Belfast Agreement allows for reunification. In the eventuality, disparate people with widely differing loyalties, suddenly thrown together, would require accommodating. Such would be the core changes to societal dynamics, relying on the extension of pre-existing arrangements would be disastrous. The occasional rhetorical flourish from those seeking unity is no substitute for preparedness.
Besides, self-professed republicans haven’t a great record when it comes to matching reality with fancy rhetoric. Every time I see or hear Wolfe Tone’s famous line misquoted (which is often) to give “Catholic” pre-eminence over “Protestant”, it strikes me as a fitting metaphor for the Republic that was created supposedly in line with his ideals. They too were distorted to elevate “Catholic” above everyone else.
A Republic was built, but not on Irish republican principles. Protestants and dissenters were frozen out of teaching, nursing, policing, the Civil Service, and much else besides. Pushed to the margins of society, all but the most tenacious fled north or over the water to Britain.
A Catholic state for a Catholic people was hardly the singular Irish identity that Tone had in mind. It is striking how few of the annual pilgrims to Bodenstown ever thought to publicly challenge this marriage of Church and State, which would have been anathema to the man they were paying homage to. Perhaps they were too fixated with the mote in their Northern neighbour’s eye to notice.
In fairness, moves are now eventually under way to wrest control of education – though not yet control of health – from the Catholic Church, but there remains a fixed, narrow sense of what constitutes a true Irish person.
The land envisaged by Tone is still out there, requiring only courage and conviction to build it. The dissidents can’t manage it, but neither can anyone else who confuses narrow Irish nationalism with Irish republicanism as outlined by its founders. We ignore the possibilities opened up by the Belfast Agreement at our peril. Paradoxically, those interested in uniting Protestant, Catholic and dissenter could do worse than again look northwards, this time for inspiration.