Politicking – petty point scoring – and our bloody past

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Those who were shouting for the Sinn Fein leadership to be heard on the 40th anniversary of Bloody Friday were really asking for something much more specific.

If all they wanted were words from the republican leadership, then they could have found them in the commentary of Declan Kearney.

There was no need for a dictionary to understand what he was saying.

In an interview with me for the Belfast Telegraph the Sinn Fein National Chairman described Bloody Friday – that day of bombing carnage across Belfast – as “unjustifiable”.

That means indefensible, incapable of being justified or explained, something that Kearney said “shouldn’t have happened”.

“I think there is no republican who would associate him or herself to the view that Bloody Friday should have happened.

“Bloody Friday shouldn’t have happened,” he repeated.

Into his commentary, he coloured in the context of that period – not just Bloody Friday, but Bloody Sunday and the many other Bloody Days that contributed to the highest death toll in any year of the conflict.

That period, he said, should “serve as a stark reminder and monument to this generation of what we can never go back to experiencing again”.

“So Bloody Sunday, Bloody Friday and all of those events do have a context,” Declan Kearney continued.

“They do have a context of their time – a war which had just begun to break out and erupt on the streets of the north and with that came the carnage that that type of war brought,” he said.

The IRA bombing blitz that was Bloody Friday took nine lives and left well over 100 injured.

When we listen to those families and people who were touched by the cold and brutal hand and the orders and actions of that day, we understand how pathetic and trite is that comment that suggests we draw a line.

There is nothing so simple, and nor should there be; no such easy escape from those decades of war – not for the IRA and not for anyone else.

Kearney was absolutely right when he said the past “can never be about one event, or one individual or one incident”.

“We came through a collective experience,” he said.

There were those who chose to ignore his interview – those in politics and the media who were not really asking for Sinn Fein to be heard, but rather for the party President Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to present themselves for interview.

Declan Kearney was seven on Bloody Friday, while Adams and McGuinness were old enough and important enough to have been part of secret IRA talks with the British Government just a few weeks earlier.

So, what was being demanded was an explanation from them.

There would have been questions about who gave the orders on Bloody Friday, who sent the ‘volunteers’ out with the bombs and who would answer for the war crimes of that day.

While those are perfectly reasonable questions the answers are never going to be given in any interview that focuses on one event or one individual or any one day of a violent conflict that was spread out over several decades.

We are also watching a tit-for-tat battle open up over investigations; the argument being that if soldiers are to be probed for their actions on Bloody Sunday, then so too should republicans over Bloody Friday.

It is hard to argue against that argument except to say that this far into a peace process police investigations are not the way to deal with the past; not the way to achieve the information and explanation that is being sought.

We need to ask ourselves, do we want to fill the jails again…

Fill them with republicans, loyalists, police officers, soldiers, with those who worked in Special Branch and the Security Service MI5, with the agents and handlers and managers and policy makers in that intelligence world, with politicians, officials and many others.

If that is what we want, then let us have it all.

Open up all the files, put everyone else under the same microscope as Adams and McGuinness, and examine every day in the same way that the bloody headline days are scrutinised.

How many of those bloody days will have the fingerprints of the UVF’s most senior leader on them – in terms of orders given?

Let us find out was he a paid agent of the Special Branch, what he was paid for and by whom, and was he being paid when he sat in rooms deciding on life or death?

Let us also hear what the handlers and their managers have to say.

If there are to be investigations then let the police pull them all in, including the police.

This conflict was not just about the republican and loyalist “terrorists”.

There were others who did not wear masks or balaclavas, but who presided over killing; who were part and parcel of what happened and players in the dirty war games.

They are people who are not scrutinised in the same way as Adams and McGuinness and that senior UVF leader.

The past is being used as a political play thing – used by all sides when it suits, and that needs to stop.

So, what could happen in terms of another approach?

  • The First and Deputy First Minister could call in a team of facilitators headed by a prominent international figure;
  • That team to meet with designated representatives of all sides – republican, loyalist, security/intelligence, political parties/ governments, churches/media and others;
  • These meetings should establish levels of co-operation in any information gathering process, the possible mechanisms for questions and answers, recommend whether the process should be private/public, make recommendations on amnesty/non-prosecution based on levels of co-operation relating to information;
  • International team should design process including facility for story-telling and report to Robinson/McGuinness;
  • They decide final approach taking decisions out of the hands of the British/Irish Governments. It means the process is internationally designed but then jointly endorsed at the highest levels of local politics.

The former Methodist President Harold Good understands the importance of doing something sooner rather than later:

“To wait another 40 years, by which time even the most recent victims are likely to have departed this life, taking their pain with them, must not be considered to be a viable option,” he told the eamonnmallie.com website.

“We owe it to them, as well as to our children, to lift our peace process to a new level in our search for reconciliation and healing towards the securing of a lasting peace on this our island home,” he continued.

“It will take time for us to find the right words and a mutually acceptable process to address all of the issues related to our contested past.

“To begin that journey now would surely be the most appropriate way of reflecting upon what happened on all such days as ‘Bloody Friday’ and ‘Bloody Sunday’,” he said.

The politicking needs to stop, the petty point scoring, this playing with the past, and we need a process that finally takes all of this out of the hands of the police.

It was a decade ago that the former Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde talked about finding a way to close the book, and doing so with dignity and in a way that best helps the victims.

Forty years after the bloodiest days of our wars, this is the real challenge.

 

 


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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process. His latest book (published by Merrion Press) POLITICAL PURGATORY – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland is now available at www.merrionpress.ie

56 Comments

  1. Totally agree with you Brian. One question – will the politicans stop the petty point scoring and risk losing their seats?

  2. Danny Morrison on

     I declined radio & television interviews before the anniversary. I decided to answer three questions by Brian Rowan for the Belfast Telegraph: do you remember where you were on the day, how did you feel at the time, and what do you think about Bloody Friday now. To have appeared on radio or TV and have given the same answers I gave to the Telegraph would, in my opinion, have hurt and not helped families; would have been exploited by those with a political axe to grind – that I was either totally insensitive or that I was outrageous or that I was being an IRA apologist – take your pick. On the Nolan Show Jim McDowell – in the same breath! – demanded that republicans come out and give answers and then condemned me for doing just that!
    For some, anniversaries are occasions for fighting the war by other means.
    I don’t believe that from the corporate protagonists we will get the truth but might from individuals of their own free will. When I demand the truth from the British I am not seeking the name of the individuals who did this or that [though many victims’ families will want that type of information]. I simply want 10 Downing Street to admit that the establishment was also involved in a dirty war. I want the hypocrisy and double standards to cease so that we can get a clearer view of what went wrong and when and why organisations did what they did.
    Supporters of the union will not countenance their side being accused of dirty tricks, state collusion, war crimes – language which for political [and emotional] reasons they have no problem attaching to the other side. They are in denial. Indeed, the mainstream unionist parties either do not realise or prefer not to concede that what exploded post-1969 was a reaction to fifty years of humiliation and sectarian discrimination. Of course, afterwards many sides reacted disproportionately and the actions of one side produced a counter-action from another side and we ended up lost and entrenched. Many young Protestants joined the UVF and UDA and went out and killed Catholics because of what the IRA did on Bloody Friday – but ALSO because of the blood lust rhetoric of some unionist leaders who then washed their hands off these ruined souls. Many young nationalists joined the IRA and killed because of what the Paras did on Bloody Sunday.
    But it was all beget by injustice – and who will own up to being the original authors of that crime?
    There will never be any such admission, for a variety of reasons. That’s why it is important to build on the progress we have made.

    • Danny
      As former direction of PR for Sinn Fein I guess you may take issue with Peter Taylor and Ed Moloney’s findings regarding your suggestion that PIRA actions were a “disproportionate” response to events post 1969.They agree that PIRA was a Dublin government conceived and sponsored militia which intentionally exploited genuine sectarian discrimination in Ulster for nationalistic purposes, in line with the Irish constitution’s claims on NI.The IRA ethos funded by the Irish government was not in support of the civil rights movement, which sought… well…. only civil rights *within* the British State, Taylor says. He and Moloney say Dublin conceived armed, funded, trained and provided a safe haven for a militia (PIRA) that would live and breathe the nationalistic “Brits Out” mantra instead.Moloney cites Irish cabinet papers from April 1969 – before the start of the Troubles – in which ministers unanimously agreed to create PIRA as a govt funded split from OIRA. One of those cabinet ministers, Neil Blaney, admitted on film for Taylor that the Irish state had “accelerated” the creation of PIRA and that he regretted how it had turned out.Taylor notes in depth that the IRA had no public support in the 1950s and saw this as a huge weakness it had to correct. This clearly undermines any suggestion that PIRA was a mass “reaction against 50 years of humiliation and discrimination”. Taylor and Moloney’s careful dissection of those years suggests rather that the PIRA campaign was created by Dublin primarily as a proxy nationalist militia inside Ulster to extend Irish borders and eject the British presence, as opposed to a popular uprising by Ulster Catholics fighting for their civil rights inside the British state. Not quite the same thing.The weak electoral support for Sinn Fein throughout the IRA’s most active campaigns would appear to bear this analysis out.So is the genuine discrimination against Ulster Catholics in the 1960s still being exploited for nationalistic purposes by republicans in 2012?Of course none of this excuses or absolves the UK government of any of its actions during these years. But surely the above issues should be addressed in order to create firm foundations for a credible truth process which could have widespread support?Sources:Provos – The IRA and Sinn Fein by Peter TaylorThe Sparks that Lit The Bonfire (documentary) by Peter TaylorThe Secret History of the IRA by Ed Moloney

  3. Stafford Henry on

    David Dunseith (RIP) used to call the finger pointing ‘whataboutery’ as one side offered the same back to the other.  We must heal for the sake of those that we lost and our children and grandchildren’s future. I clearly recall driving home on that ‘Bloody Friday’ day to my wife and 6 month old baby girl in the car on my own for a two hour journey and in tears at the news.  Danny’s comments are well made.  We can all ‘seperate’ out incidents to suit but we must agree that that cannot be allowed and only the totality of all the trouble be on the table or wherever it needs to be so that we can have a future looking forward….not back.

    • Thank you for your comments. I call it a table of explanation, and recently have argued that we should stop using the term truth – because all sides will bury secrets. Let us explore how the maximum amount of information is achieved. We are all too close to the events of this conflict, and that is why I argue for an international team to examine what is achievable. Saying ‘sorry’, however it is said, will  not be enough for many people. I remember the first statement the IRA issued to me as I reported on this conflict. It was after the Enniskillen bomb – admitting they placed the device but denying they detonated it. I also remember a statement from the UDA after a woman was shot dead in Belfast – that statement claiming she was a member of the IRA and the sister of a Sinn Fein member. Those claims did not stand up to scrutiny. They were excuses/lies. And those statements, along with hundreds of others, should now be re-visited and re-written to correct the narrative. That could be one contribution from the republican and loyalist sides, but, as I have argued in my piece above, the story of this conflict asks for many more contributions from the many other sides.  

  4. FOR INFORMATION: I have been asked to explain the difference between “drawing a line” (which I oppose)  and “closing the book” (which I support). Closing the book means closing down police investigations. I believe while prosecutions and convictions are possible they act as blocks to participation in what some call a “truth process” but what I prefer to call an information/explanation process. I believe an amnesty/non-prosecution approach is the key to opening up such an information process. So, taking police investigations out of the equation in exchange for information/answers. “Drawing the line” is often used to mean move on, forget about the past, do nothing. That is not what I am suggesting or supporting. I think we need to come up with a realistic approach that delivers the maximum amount of information from all sides – that seeks to address the many unanswered questions. So, in my thinking “drawing a line” and “closing the book” are two very different things.  

    Brian Rowan 

  5. I suppose Barney that closing the book s just not an option for some victims, many of whom are entitled to hold people accountable for their actions through due process.  Victims, and not “security correspondents” should be the people who determine exactly what they want and need – because they are always at the bottom of the queue.

    • I accept entirely that there are many different opinions all of which need to be heard in this discussion. My point is, if we want a truth/information process then the question of amnesty needs to be asked and answered. There will be many who would not consider participation in such a process if there was the possibility of jail. And remember it was a former chief constable Sir Hugh Orde who a decade ago spoke of the need to find some way of closing the book.

  6. It’s a long time since I watched anything as harrowing as the Bloody Friday programme. Nothing has come anywhere near to it, not even fiction, not for a long long time. I was living in Tyrone and at the age I was have no recollection of the reporting of that days events. I have, though, many memories of other events. None on the same scale but all with the same holding of breath, the waiting and standing back and the bang and the flying glass and the silence. All with the sore pit of the stomach and the angst about what would be around the next corner. I was brought back into so many days when the streets were closed or when we stood out on the playing fields and the helicopter landed and the corridors of our school were flooded with those who would know if there really was a bomb. And so I could go on, but nothing like in the same way as so many others. I think the most bizarre memory I have is of sitting beside the window in my P7 class with cellotape on the windows so that if the army barracks directly across the road blew up then the glass wouldn’t go everywhere. Bizarre indeed and on one day at least we pulled the curtains because of a bomb scare and carried on with our lessons. Those memories come back when watching a programme like Bloody Friday. I believe in reconciliation. I believe it is possible and I believe it is a big ambition for which we have to reach in this country. I believe it will be hard and I believe we will find more harrowing times as we make the journey. We might be edging in the right direction but what I want to know at this point is this – was all that bombing necessary? Was it necessary to create a story about how moral it was to send out warnings and try to save ‘civilians’? Was it necessary to go to the extent that things went in order to achieve what we have now? Was it necessary to go on and on and on even it can be explained as a journey for one section of the community hurt and all as they were and wrongly so? Was it all necessary? And if it was then the effects of dehumanising generations of people like me, of taking my face off and taking my speech away so that I could be turned on as a not quite fully human being – was that necessary too? Even if there are those who believe it was all necessary why when they are ready to see the pain inflicted and the suffering endured can they not finish the sentence after they’ve said that rather than going on to say that someone else was to blame? I firmly believe that the interweaving of the stories of unrighteousness is a complexity that we have to address if we are to make that journey towards reconciliation which will take heavy lifting across society. We will have to face the complexity. But we can’t begin with it. I can’t remember when my feelings ran so deep so apologies for some of the stark language but it was a very hard watch. When the Cavehill Cross next takes up residence in the place where I worship I will be reminded all over again and I will be reminded that my experience of remembering that day and all it brought to my mind cannot match those who are reminded every day as they open their eyes that there is no loved one coming home, no explanation for what happened to them, no expression of regret for their loss and no prospect of new evidence either. Drawing a line is simply not possible – not with the memories we all carry. Closing the books is possible but it will take mighty courage and a will for something better than we have now. That will for something better will have to issue in actions as well as words. That which is crooked can’t be made straight says the book of Ecclesiastes – but somehow we can straighten ourselves out for the future which will need to be less crooked than the past and we can only do that with the help of each other.

  7. Robert Mc Clenaghan on

    Excellent article Brian.  However, the British strategy seems to be to play the long game and stall for time.  Did anyone listen to the British Government response to the case of the Mau Mau in Kenya.  In the Old Bailey last week. They admitted torture, rape and murder of Mau Mau men and women while in British detention centres, but their defence was that it happened 60 years ago and it would be hard to have any successful prosecutions now. Replace Mau Mau with Republican/Loyalist and you get the idea.  Hugh Orde is a bad example because as second in Command to Sir John Stevens he knew more than most about the deeds of British Military Intelligence and RUC Special Branch but instead of acting upon it he remained silent and became SIR Hugh Orde and became our Chief Constable who was/is supposed to be investigating Collusion and State Murder to see if anyone can/should be charged.  As someone who lost a grand father in Mc Gurks Bar almost 41 years ago all I can say is the search for truth is not an idle academic exercise but a daily journey which has had many highs and lows but as relatives we feel compelled to make to seek answers on behalf of our dead loved ones who cannot speak for themselves.  A truly International, independent Truth Commission involving every one would be ideal, if not it is going to be litigation, the courts, and civil prosecutions for the next 20 years, or until the files are opened,  the truth told, and the guilty named and shamed.

  8. Excellent piece Barney. I wanted to watch the Bloody Friday programme
    before responding and just have. God, if the horror of that doesn’t
    motivate us all to design a proper process to deal with the past then
    nothing will. The heart breaking images of frightened people staggering
    from one atrocity into the path of another is in some ways a powerful
    metaphor for whats happening more generally in this debate -its hard to
    see for all the smoke, fear, violence, justifiable anger and so forth.
    However, just like in any such scene what is required is calmness,
    leadership, rationality  – a plan in other words – otherwise all of will
    just continue to stagger around without direction. Our politicians
    across the divide have shown themselves capable of outstanding courage
    and leadership throughout the transition but they really have to step on
    this one now – and they know it.  

    • Kieran – I wonder will some people only wake up to how the past has not been and is not being addressed when a soldier, or a police officer or an intelligence official or someone else not from the worlds of loyalism or republicanism is arrested as part of one investigation or another. 
      Is that the shock that is needed?
      In the absence of a process, or a plan to use your word, what we’re watching is a sleep walk into a crisis and another mess.
      Lesley Caroll is absolutely right when she argues below that drawing a line [in terms of forgetting the past] is simply not possible, but closing the book [in terms of investigations] is, but that will take “mighty courage and a will for something better than we have now”.
      I agree with you that outstanding courage and leadership have been demonstrated at a political level to find ways to answer questions that we thought were unanswerable.
      But this question of the past is being avoided.
      Politicians need help.
      They need it locally as well as from international facilitators – and they need it sooner rather than later.
      Robert McClenaghan below spells out the choice – a process to deal with the past or twenty years of battles in the courts.
      Which is it to be? 
        

  9. Do we need to do something about all of this?  Yes, without a doubt, we do.  However it is equally clear that we do not yet understand exactly what to do, or how.  In continuing to explore these questions two principles may be helpful.  Firstly, the need to understand the individual humanity of ALL concerned – which tends to be lost when we lump others into anonynmous groups that are easier to condemn and hate.  Secondly, what happened cannot be understood without appreciating that it was a form of group madness – not that individuals were crazy, but that the group came to behave in a self-destructive way.  That requires us to try to stop justifying our side and to try to begin to understand what happened to all of us,  The huge challenge is for us to find a way in which we can explore these incredibly painful experiences – and I am certain that it must involve ‘difficult conversations’. 

  10. johnhowcroft on

    There are undoubtfully many unanswered and pertinent questions regarding our past, and whilst i understand the need to have answers and gain some semblance of closure, that may or may not be attainable, the current methodologies being applied to extract these answers may not be the best choice.
    As we have seen, whether it be inquiries, prosecutions, investigations or otherwise, it inevitabely deposits a huge financial burden on society, not that we can measure these just on the factor of cost alone, but neither can we ignore. We must acknowledge, even though many may not want to accept, that as a society, we would not have the financial or indeed human resources to investigate every incident, every atrocity,  in what is a bulging catalogue of events spanning 35 yrs or more.
    The reality is, that transitional justice, as it is designed and practiced, is essentially a legalistic based response, and the real underlying beneficiaries could be seen as the legal profession itself as a consequence, and i can’t help but wonder, though i wont assume, what is gained on the social return on investment cost committed to such a venture.
    However, it is not just the financial burden of this methodology, but more importantly, the emotional burden also that we must acknowledge. Indeed, many from the ‘victims/survivors’ sector have expressed that the re-lived trauma of going through the judicial process has placed a massive strain on their own and their families wellbeing, not to mention many not within the judicial realm that have an emerging sense that their particulare story or traumatic event has seemed to have been ignored at the expensive of another (more important one), thus leaving a sense of hierarchy in what events are placed to the top of the agenda and which are relegated towards the bottom, or misplaced and even forgotten.  
    Perhaps the biggest hurdle towards any such process emerging that can begin to deal with our past, is the politics of memory that prevails, that allows it to become a battlefield for justification or blame. 
    Quite rightly, there are a few voices that seem to have stepped beyond those battlelines that have been drawn, we see this with the comments from Republican sources, around that what has become known and ingrained in our memory as ‘bloody friday’, being described as “unjustifiable’ and “indefensible”.  We also see it in comments emanating from Loyalist sources that have classified the victims of the Ormeau bookies in particular as “innocent”, and therefore the actions wrong.
    Anyway, these, in my interpretation, and i may be wrong, essentially deems the decisions taken those awful days, the resulting actions those decisions elicited, and the all too inhuman results of those decisions/actions combined, as being socially and morally wrong. Yet, with particular cognisance to those concerned with what they see as hierarchys of events, ranking in terms of importance, and being dealt with according to that ranking system, these were just two events that represents a mere page within the entire back catalogue of what is still for many recent and painful memory. 
    Both examples represent steps that have been taken, that present a re-writting of the narrative of the time, and maybe for some the absense of a sorry takes away from their credence, but may i refer to the “abject and true remorse” expressed in the Loyalist ceasefire statement, albeit with the caveat “to all innocent victims”. The sorry is already out there, i’m not suggesting for one moment that it makes the pain less or indeed gives closure or a chance to ‘close the book’ as you say, but if a victim is reclassified as innocent, then the previous statement applies.
    if these examples represent a moving away from an entrenched position, where transgressions committed on the journey are justified by the beauty of the destination itself, then these developments are to be welcomed 

  11. VictorCarmichael on

    Barney, so lets say that your framework comes to pass. How do we get all of these people to tell their stories? No more prosecutions as the carrot, so how do we tell the families that?

    This should have all been agreed in 1998, that’s when the international community was behind NI. It now needs Dublin and London behind it to get their version of events or the whole activity would be worthless. Is that really going to happen? And would a commission just end up as a political vehicle for one side or the other? Gerry Adams cant even admit he was in the IRA – would he change that view for an international commission??

    Maybe not popular on this forum, but my preference would be to draw a line under it all and move on. If relatives need to see perpetrators in courts then so be it, its all we have at the minute.

    That’s not very helpful or positive, so here’s an idea for you. You are a journalist, so you tell the story. Lost Lives is a reference to us all reminding us of what happened over the years. Do the storytelling that you refer to in an international commission in a book. Put meat on the bones of what Lost Lives is, tell the stories of the volunteers, police, MI5 and cabinet ministers if necessary. A good journalist(s) telling the story would be much more effective I believe.

    • Victor – thanks for your post, and all opinions are welcome. 
      I know the people involved in the Lost Lives project, and what a huge and significant piece of work it is.
      And I think journalists can make a contribution to a process of information gathering, but I don’t think we can be or should be that process.
      If some table of explanation is established, there will be people who will have questions to ask of us.
      And, of course, the British and Irish Governments need to be at that table – not as facilitators, but as participants in the process.
      What do we tell the families if a decision is made on no more prosecutions?
      I don’t know, because as yet no one knows the shape of any process, who will co-operate and under what terms and what levels of information/explanation will be shared.
      They can only be told something when that something is decided.
      That is why I suggest all of this needs to be explored/examined by an international team.
      If we get to a process and Gerry Adams sticks to his line that he wasn’t in the IRA, then that process will be considered a sham, and there will be only one loser.
      But as I’ve said many times, that process is not just about Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and republicans and loyalists.
      It’s about so many others whose answers up to this point have been far from credible.
      I think the loyalist and former prisoner John Howcroft makes an important point in his contribution to this latest discussion – let us not use the past as “a battlefield for justification and blame”.

      • You can’t get to that kind of process because in the wake of the Boston College subpoenas, no one is going to talk to anyone. No one will give any honest answers as long as the PSNI is going to come for them – and who will ask the questions, knowing now that the PSNI will only subpoena their material? As long as the BC case remains the path pursued, any form of truth or explanation or deeper understanding is lost. And the PSNI won’t even get any prosecutions out of it, either. 

        • And this is why I’m arguing that a process depends on the question of amnesty/non-prosecution being first of all asked and answered.
          If there is the risk of prosecution, then of course, people are not going to tell their stories.

  12. Does this conversation contain an unstated assumption that the past was really about the IRA vs the British state?

    We have had disclosure on collusion in Finucane, Mount Vernon, apologies for Bloody Sunday… let nobody excuse these wrongs.

    But does anyone remember Articles 2&3, Capt Kelly, the Irish govt arms shipments, the Irish cabinet papers about creating the IRA, the refusal by Dublin to extradite any IRA men for trial, the Green Book’s pledge not to attack Irish state forces, the Dublin government training camps across the border for republicans, Smithwick Tribunal….?

    Eamonn asks why mainstream unionists have no interest in engaging in this conversation….
    Perhaps this conversation would have broader credibility and make more progress if it was not shining the spotlight almost exclusively on Special Branch, Mi5 and London etc?

    Many unionists would not trust republicans to take part in a “truth process” due to track record on Saville. The largest unionist party have poured cold water on such a process precisely because of this.

    Is it enough to damn these issues with faint acknowledgement turning once, again to London bashing.. then next week blast mainstream unionists for declining to engage?

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2011/11/22/irish-governments-turn-to-answer-difficult-questions-about-its-past/

    Lastly, I am left asking why in a democratic society the ex-combatants and their old feuds with old enemies are being allowed to dictate the agenda here.

    The civilian victims have already begun to raise a cheer to Nick Garbutt for reminding everyone that they “have not gone away you know”;-

    http://nickgarbutt.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/the-victims-have-not-gone-away-you-know/

    • Philip, good to hear from you  – and thank you for your contribution.

      Several months ago I answered a number of questions here relating to Dublin ‘collusion’ and the Kingsmills case.

      I replied then that the Taoiseach should meet the families, described the killings as slaughter and said the IRA should answer the questions being asked of it.

      So, let me be absolutely clear. 

      This is a process that asks many questions of many sides – not just London and the Special Branch, but also Dublin, the IRA, the loyalists, the churches, the Army, journalists and many others.

      The debate on this site brings in many different opinions, including the thoughts of the former IMC Commissioner Lord Alderdice, former assistant chief constable Peter Sheridan, the commentator Alex Kane, loyalists John Howcroft, Jackie McDonald and Dawn Purvis, the Queen’s Professor Kieran McEvoy, Rev Harold Good and Rev Lesley Carroll  and many others.

      It is not a forum for unionist or special branch bashing.

      Nor is it about forgetting the victims. I have been asked a number of times to speak at events organised by Alan McBride and WAVE, and I know how people have been hurt.

      I have also seen and reported on the bloody horrors of this conflict. I’ve seen the bodies and the rubble.

      So, when I describe as pathetic and trite the notion of “drawing a line”, I’m saying that for those who have been hurt the most there is no such thing.

      And I agree with John Alderdice that there are broken people who can never be fixed and who need all our help.

      You mention Nick’s piece which I have read.

       I noticed elsewhere that he responded to a question pointing to a piece on this site making “similar points”.

      I’m not into a blame game, and I agree with John Howcroft’s comments that the past should not be used as battlefield for justification and blame.

      If we are going to address the past let us do it for the right reasons.

      Of course there are unionists who don’t trust republicans when it comes to truth, and there are republicans who don’t trust unionists.

        

       

      • Nick Garbutt on

         And I’d like to mkae it clear Barney that I agree with you I guess I am just trying to stress how difficult this is and how and why any process needs to have victims at its centre. I think in doing so we should also be very conscious of Mike Tomlinson’s research published yesterday which points to the traumatic effects of the TRoubles as manifested by alarming rates of mental ill health, suicide and drug and alcohol abuse amongst that generation most exposed to the conflict during its worst period.

        • Nick – Good to have you here. I know my son was in contact with you last night on twitter. I haven’t entered that world. I forwarded your piece to a number of people, and I will bring Mike’s research to Eamonn’s attention. It would be great to have a contribution from him to this discussion. Perhaps you could point him in this direction. That generation most exposed to the worst period of the conflict is also shovelling its experiences and hurts on top of another generation, and this is one of the big dangers in not dealing with the past. John Alderdice once spoke to me about the broken people who cannot be fixed…and long after ceasefires and the political agreements, people are still being broken. 
          Please keep in touch and involved in this conversation. It needs every voice and opinion.

          • Nick Garbutt on

             Surely Barney I think this, together with youth unemployment, is the biggest issue we face, and that your piece has energised the debate – as demonstrated by the reaction it has provoked. I posted Tomlinson’s speech in full from the conference I organised on my blog and I believe his “trauma” narrative of the conflict is a very important contribution to the debate you have energised through your piece

          • Dr Michael Paterson, an RUC constable who had both his arms blown off by the IRA and is now a clinical psychologist, makes the following points;-
            Source: http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/local/troubles-victims-should-be-heard-1-4071107 “Some people want the peace process to move forward and want everyone to be on board the bus. But some people cannot get their wheelchair on.”He adds: “The Victims Commission are good people who want to move things on. But from what I am hearing on the ground, victims feel they are being put in the cupboard and forgotten about.“The analogy from Victorian times is that the person with mental illness is locked up and forgotten about.”There is an in-depth interview with him here;- http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/local/the-ira-maimed-him-now-he-puts-them-on-the-couch-1-4071103

          • Philip – I’d read your piece in the Newsletter with Michael.
            And I’ve no doubt there are many victims who believe they’ve been forgotten.
            Michael’s story reminded me of another.
            Again it was an IRA rocket attack on a police vehicle, this time in west Belfast in 1991.
            I reported on the attack, in which an officer was killed.
            He was  Stephen Gillespie who was 31 and someone who I knew.
            In the 1970s both of us had competed for Willowfield Harriers. We were track and road and cross-country runners.
            Just days before the attack he’d had a break with his wife and children, something for them to hold onto and remember.
            There are many such days of killing and hurt that are forgotten and buried beneath the headlines of this conflict – those days that scream out because of the body count.
            The police family was hurt, the Army family, the republican and loyalist communities and many others.
            Many are now forgotten – remembered only by their families and those closest to them.
            I argue for a process that remembers and acknowledges – that offers information and explanation.
            No one should be pushed or rushed into that process, and there will be those who will stay away.
            That is their choice.
            But the past needs a process for questions and answers – from all sides and for every side.
            Doing nothing is not an option. 

          • Thanks Barney. You used to be a bit of a thoroughbred then? 🙂
            But is a key question arising from Dr Paterson not – why are we ‘locking up and forgetting about the victims’?Incidentally, in response to another query on this thread, perhaps a useful distinction is between civilian victims and ex-combatants?There is a world of difference between the Spanish model for victims of terror and the NI model, for example.

        • But what is the definition of a “Victim of the Troubles” – people will again pick and choose and not acknowledge the thorny parts. 

          Rather than pursuing truth & explanation for “the victims” or anything that narrows down the scope, or allows the stalling and hijacking of the process for sectarian agendas, it should not be the “victims” who are put at the centre of any process, but Society. 

          This should be done for the good of society as a whole, and everyone is a part of society, and can contribute and benefit for something done for the greater good of all. 

          Move away from the canonisation of the victims, move away from the seizing of the high ground. Move to atonement, not reconciliation. The troubles were inflicted upon the whole society. 

          We should be wary of turning any seeking of truth as a quest on behalf of “victims”, whom each side will want to lay claim to and neither side will want to acknowledge on the other. That just keeps the wars going, instead of achieving any kind of closure.

      • Thanks for your comments Brian.
        I was not suggesting that no victims and no unionists are on board this train of course. But Alex Kane, for example, has made it very clear he does not trust republicans at all going forward.
        I was noting Eamonn’s piece last month bemoaning the fact that “mainstream unionism” has not caught up with loyalists on reconciliation with republicans.
        https://eamonnmallie.com/2012/06/when-is-mainstream-unionism-going-to-catch-up-with-grassroots-loyalism-on-reconciliation/ 

        I was noting similarly the leader of the largest political party in NI has ruled out support for a truth commission because he just does not believe paramilitaries will tell the truth.
        http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Northern-Irelands-First-Minister-dismisses-calls-for-Truth-Commission-140551353.html
        Similarly the leader of the UUP has made it clear that he does not trust SF’s calls for reconciliation; unionism is not on board here.
        The Conservatives are hardly going to back a truth process without consensus from the NI parties, so the lack of actual unionist buy-in on your conversation cannot be so easily set aside. If the mainstream unionist support was already on board then you would have achieved your stated aims for truth recovery and the conversation would end here.
        The UK govt processes have already presented truth on collusion on Pat Finucane’s murder and Mount Vernon UVF collusion; we have had UK apologies for Bloody Sunday etc. Yet we still have no clarity even on who was actually leading the IRA during the Troubles; there is not an equal comparison on disclosure to date, so politically, who can blame republicans for pressing for even more of the same UK disclosure in inquiries, at no cost to themselves? And who can blame the DUP-UUP-Alex Kane for their unqualified distrust of them on these issues? Right or wrong, that’s politics.

        Of course I was not drawing attention to the much common ground between Nick’s piece and yours (which I am sure many reasonable people aside from the DUP-UUP-Alex Kane- would agree on).

        I was commenting on the fact that Nick’s piece breaks new ground in that it recommends putting the victims first and centre in this whole conversation, which he affirms below.

        Surely any reasonable person would welcome the inclusion of Alan and WAVE in your conversation. But as with the points on unionism above, that hardly means that the main victims constituencies (in both communities) are on board with this conversation. If the DUP and UUP are hostile, how much moreso the majority of unionist victims groups?

        Surely the major obstacles in moving this conversation more mainstream – which is what you want – are that British security is overwhelmingly the repeated focus. By comparison the wants and needs of victims are not and the questions arising for republicans are softened and die a thousand cuts of analysis. 

        If none of this were true, the DUP-UUP-Alex Kane axis would be backing a truth commission, mainstream unionists would be reconciling with SF, Nick Garbutt would not have seen the need to advocate for victims in this conversation and the assembly would have passed a unanimous motion long ago in support of a truth commission?

    • EamonnMallie on

      As editor of eamonnmallie.com I write under my own name as do practically all contributors who adhere to the spirit of this platform for independent thought. I welcome your presence on this website but I seek transparency at all times which logically demands that contributors front up instead of hiding behind sobriquets and initials. Vis à vis your observation ‘perhaps this conversation would have broader credibility if it was not shining the spotlight almost exclusively on special branch, M15 and London etc’ I will now address this spurious claim. Do you think it is an accident that such a broad spectrum of people is posting daily on this site on this matter?  Do you take these people for fools, people from the paramilitary, political, policing, religious and academic worlds? This site is not inspired or motivated by selectivity. It is a broad church. Your insinuation is baseless and unhelpful. The only benchmark in media terms for measuring the relevance of any writer’s postings is the traction attaching to him or her.  Need I say more? I see little support for your point of view. Finally, from where does your myopia spring? If contributors are not preoccupied with the well being of the victims of the Troubles about what else should they concern themselves? Why bother engaging at all? I appeal to you to reflect on what I have said and I do acknowledge there is scholarship attaching to what you have to say from time to time. I hope you can obviate your propensity for carping.

      • Hello Eamonn, I hope you don`t mind me posting. Apologies, but I do disagree with you about Philip`s comments being carping. Perhaps it was the way in which they were expressed. I think his comments do reflect a sizeable section of opinion. I wish more people felt more confident to express themselves openly because it can only help the whole discussion right across our communities.There are people within the communities who genuinely feel that there is an unbalanced focus on the state. That is NOT an accusation against this forum and I hope it`s not taken as such. 

  13. Danny Morrison on

    PhilB asks: “But does anyone remember Articles 2&3, Capt Kelly, the Irish govt
    arms shipments, the Irish cabinet papers about creating the IRA, the
    refusal by Dublin to extradite any IRA men for trial, the Green Book’s
    pledge not to attack Irish state forces, the Dublin government training
    camps across the border for republicans, Smithwick Tribunal….?”
    I wrote in a letter published in the Irish Times twenty years ago that Arts 2 & 3 did not motivate me or my generation. In fact, most young republicans never heard of them until the McGimpsey brothers took a case in the Irish Supreme Court.
    Capt Kelly, as far as I can remember, was in the North on an intelligence-gathering exercise and might also have founded a short-lived paper called ‘The Northern Voice’. I remember my coevals liking him but suspecting him of spying for the Dublin Government. Yes, he was involved in the smuggling of arms [PhilB omits to say that they were seized before they were distributed], but arms were being smuggled into the North from all quarters, particularly from Irish-America, in response to the pogroms of 1969. One of the significant causes of the split in the IRA had nothing to do with Dublin and was not controlled by Dublin. The Republican Movement had been demilitarised over a period of ten years which did cause worry on the ground because of the unionist government’s reaction to the civil rights movement. There were those who warned that what happened in the Thirties and Twenties was likely to happen again. They were ignored – then the pogroms proved them right. So the lack of preparedness for August 69 was a key and emotional factor in the split [besides the issue of ending abstentionism North & South].
    ‘Irish canbinet papers about creating the IRA’ – haven’t a clue what you are talking about PhilB so would ask you to produce chapter and verse. Regardless of what a Dublin government planbne there was a separate momentum towards building an IRA to defend nationalist areas.
    Refusal of Dublin to extradite – I was at the border protesting on several occasions at the extraditions of republicans from the South. Can’t remember all their names but there was Dominic McGlinchey, Goose Russell and Paul Kane to mention but three.
    The Green Book pledge not to attack southern security forces was written into the IRA constitution in  late Forties/early Fifties, thus pre-dating 1969 and had nothing to do with the conspiracy theory that PhilB is attached to and which is currently falling apart.
    Training Camps – yes, there were some in Donegal in FCA camps, I think, for a few weeks after 1969 then they stopped. Mostly training with .22s and shotguns. NOT guerrilla warfare, car bombing, booby-trapping, etc!
    Smithwick Tribunal – does PhilB know the report before it has been published! Fantastic prescence!

    • Hi Danny
      Thanks for taking the time for such a detailed response. I have cited my sources but here is a little more info on several points.

      A Secret Department of Justice cabinet memo, dated March 18, 1969, states: “In different parts of the country units of the IRA (and Sinn Féin) are uneasy about the new left-wing policy of their leadership and about theviolent methods that are being adopted in the destruction of private property. 
      “Their uneasiness needs to be brought to the surface in some way with a consequent fragmentation of the organisation. It is suggested by the Department of Justice that the Government should promote an active political campaign in that regard.”  
      http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/former-ira-member-reveals-ministers-role-in-arms-plot-99815.html 

      Peter Taylor expands on this thesis at length in the Sparks that Lit the Bonfire, with extensive interviews with leading IRA members and former cabinet minister Blaney, Capt Kelly, explaining how this was worked out in practise.
      (In that production he does not pull any punches in exposing wrongs on both sides of course.) It is not my conspiracy theory, he allows these people to tell their own stories in their own words.

      Likewise Ed Moloney in The secret History of the IRA, says recently released papers show that it was the Irish Cabinet and Department of Justice who decided to create the Provisional IRA, but that Ministers Charlie Haughey and Neil Blaney ended up in the dock because they put the policy into action.
      His book examines the allegation that Captain Kelly, Blaney and Haughey conspired to split the Official IRA to neutralise the politically radical and increasingly violent Dublin leadership, while creating an instrument in Northern Ireland that could be controlled by Fianna Fail.Moloney writes: “Cabinet papers of the day that have recently been published acquit Haughey of this particular charge; they reveal that this was a policy agreed upon by all Taoiseach Jack Lynch’s ministers in April that year, long before the August riots [in Belfast, 1969]. The papers show that the Department of Justice had recommended a policy of dividing the IRA’s rural conservatives from the urban radical and that the cabinet endorsed this. Even so, the working out of the policy put Haughey and Blaney at the centre of the scheme, almost as if it was their private freelance plan.”

      • Danny Morrison on

         Thanks for the detailed reply. Ed Moloney’s analysis, in my opinion, is coloured so I will ignore what he has to say. The documents are interesting but my point is that regardless of the intentions of the Irish government and independent of the Irish government things were going that way anyway because of what was happening internally. I think it untrue and a nonsense to suggest that the Irish government created what came to be known as the Provisional IRA. They might have wanted to create a split but the people personally involved were sovereign individuals with their own ideas and sense of direction.
        Apologies for being a bit tetchy in the original response!

        • No need to apologise Danny. These are emotive subjects that touch very deep. I understand that. Thanks for coming back and engaging.

          I feel we are both respecting the others’ story here. I think the facts bear out a story where the role of the Irish government and what was happening within the OIRA were different sides of the same coin regarding the creation of PIRA. Neither view negates or denies the other, rather they are complimentary views of that aspect of history.
          You have minimised and qualified most of what I have brought up, which is your right. But I would conclude by saying that even minimising the historical evidence and facts I have referred to does not challenge one thing; even a minimal role of the Irish government in creating the PIRA was still a role and by anyone’s definition that is still collusion.
          It is hard to gag Minister Neil Blaney this many years on.
          Understandably you want London to come clean. I fully get that.
          But Prof Henry Patterson is adamant that we will only have a full picture of the full role of Dublin in creating PIRA if the Irish government opens up its archives too;-
          http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/local/release-papers-over-arms-shipment-to-republicans-1-3269535 
          If we are really going to live in peace going forward we have got to listen to each other on these issues. Agreed?

          • Danny Morrison on

            “If we are really going to live in peace going forward we have got to listen to each other on these issues. Agreed?”
            Agreed.

          •  Truth/Justice -then we will get real peace-can’t go forward -until we go back to the past. Face it deal with it -heinous crimes against humanity end of ! PIRA PS/f -Murdered over 2057 persons. Loyalists -murdered 1019 persons- State murdered 363 persons -unknown murders 82 persons -Irish State murdered 5 persons -644 civillans murdered  by PIRA and 80 children killed blown to bits by the very ones who used men -women  and children  to do their dirty work  -no excuses please…All guilty as sin – Lost lives read the book.No one has the right to take a life before their time….

    • PS Danny parliamentary research by David Simpson MP found that 93 per cent of extradition requests by the UK for republicans in the ROI were refused during the Troubles.
      Articles 2&3 were evidence of the Irish government’s intentions of course – not of IRA recruits’!
      Taylor in ‘Sparks’ says Irish government shipped 500 weapons to PIRA in NI. Obviously all this was highly secret stuff for obvious reasons. It lends credibility to Politics Prof Henry Patterson’s calls on the Dublin government to open its archives so that the full story of these arms shipments to NI can be brought out into the open as part of an agreed, healing history of the Troubles. 
      For the record, I have no problem countenancing London being accused of dirty tricks, state collusion – not sure about the war crimes though. What do you mean?
      Perhaps you should try mining the Gen Frank Kitson vein more – rich pickings there ref his low intenstity warfare principles used in Kenya and possibly later in NI?

    • Danny, you accuse me of conspiracy
      theories about the creation of PIRA, so I feel compelled to cite
      this.
      In the closing moments of The Sparks that Lit the Bonfire
      documentary, Peter Taylor asks Neil Blaney, the Irish cabinet
      minister who was sacked from the cabinet for importing arms for the
      IRA, if he helped create PIRA?

      Blaney answered: “…We didn’t help
      to create them but we certainly would have accelerated by what
      assistance we could have given, their emergence as a force.”
      Unionist conspiracy or Dublin-IRA collusion?

      Speaking about the need for a truth
      process, no less a person than the Guardian’s Henry McDonald cited
      this same documentary in saying the Dublin government’s role in the
      creation of PIRA must be an essential part of such a process. 
      McDonald said: “An
      inquiry into the events surrounding the split within the IRA and Sinn
      Fein before and after August 1969 is necessary, not only for
      unionists but for everyone living in Ireland. For arguably the
      corruption, the subversion of democracy, the disregard for law that
      characterised the entire Haughey era all flowed from the initial
      poison that bubbled up to the surface during the arms crisis in
      Dublin and polluted politics on the island for a generation.”

      Source:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/feb/17/northernireland.bloodysunday

      As for Smithwick we
      have heard lots of interesting material already. For example the
      chairman Peter Smithwick has strongly defend the integrity of retired
      Monaghan Chief Supt Tom Curran, who said his warnings about Garda-IRA
      collusion in a face to face meeting with Assistant Commissioner
      Eugene Crowley at Dublin HQ met with no interest whatsoever. Curran
      drove the whole way to Dublin HQ to air his alarm about IRA
      collusion because he knew he would not be listened to by his
      immediate superiors.

      Source:
      http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/local/smithwick-tribunal-defends-garda-s-ira-collusion-warnings-1-3460647

    • Danny, you accuse me of conspiracy
      theories about the creation of PIRA, so I feel compelled to cite
      this. In the closing moments of The Sparks that Lit the Bonfire
      documentary, Peter Taylor asks Neil Blaney, the Irish cabinet
      minister who was sacked from the cabinet for importing arms for the
      IRA, if he helped create PIRA?

      Blaney answered: “…We didn’t help
      to create them but we certainly would have accelerated by what
      assistance we could have given, their emergence as a force.”
      Unionist conspiracy or Dublin-IRA collusion?

      Speaking about the need for a truth
      process, no less a person than the Guardian’s Henry McDonald cited
      this documentary in saying the Dublin government’s role in the
      creation of PIRA must be an essential part of such a process.
      McDonald said: “An
      inquiry into the events surrounding the split within the IRA and Sinn
      Fein before and after August 1969 is necessary, not only for
      unionists but for everyone living in Ireland. For arguably the
      corruption, the subversion of democracy, the disregard for law that
      characterised the entire Haughey era all flowed from the initial
      poison that bubbled up to the surface during the arms crisis in
      Dublin and polluted politics on the island for a generation.”

      Source:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/feb/17/northernireland.bloodysunday

      As for Smithwick we
      have heard lots of interesting material already. For example the
      chairman Peter Smithwick has strongly defend the integrity of retired
      Monaghan Chief Supt Tom Curran, who said his warnings about Garda-IRA
      collusion in a face to face meeting with Assistant Commissioner
      Eugene Crowley at Dublin HQ met with no interest whatsoever. Curran
      drove the whole way to Dublin HQ to air his alarm about IRA
      collusion because he knew he would not be listened to by his
      immediate superiors.

      Source:
      http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/local/smithwick-tribunal-defends-garda-s-ira-collusion-warnings-1-3460647

  14. EamonnMallie on

    As editor of eamonnmallie.com I write under my own name as do practically all contributors who adhere to the spirit of this platform for independent thought. I welcome your presence on this website but I seek transparency at all times which logically demands that contributors front up instead of hiding behind sobriquets and initials. Vis à vis your observation ‘perhaps this conversation would have broader credibility if it was not shining the spotlight almost exclusively on special branch, M15 and London etc’ I will now address this spurious claim. Do you think it is an accident that such a broad spectrum of people is posting daily on this site on this matter?  Do you take these people for fools, people from the paramilitary, political, policing, religious and academic worlds? This site is not inspired or motivated by selectivity. It is a broad church. Your insinuation is baseless and unhelpful. The only benchmark in media terms for measuring the relevance of any writer’s postings is the traction attaching to him or her.  Need I say more? I see little support for your point of view. Finally, from where does your myopia spring? If contributors are not preoccupied with the well being of the victims of the Troubles about what else should they concern themselves? Why bother engaging at all? I appeal to you to reflect on what I have said and I do acknowledge there is scholarship attaching to what you have to say from time to time. I hope you can obviate your propensity for carping. 

    •  Truth -Justice -true peace will follow- it was pure blood murder what was done to the Travers family and the other 3,700, murdered 47,541 persons who were injured. It is an insult to humanity to deny their human rights heinous crimes against humanity. 
      “Justice delayed is justice denied” I am very sorry for all those who have suffered at the hands of gun men and women, today are in power- along with state cover ups, who is protecting who? Shame on you all -those who deny the past are doomed to repeat it. An injustice to one -is an injustice to everyone –

  15. Respect is earned not given- a nice little way to keep ex prisoners and those who plan heinous war crimes against humanity busy and content in Stormont. It keeps them out of the streets and ditches so that the Brits can contain them on both sides – killers control the communities. It is all about power greed egos empire building jobs for the boys -families and friends -guilty as sin… True peace will come when everyone of the families of lost loved ones, get justice-an injustice to one is an injustice to everyone-those who deny the past are doomed to repeat it..Read more: 

  16. I would also urge you all to listen to Paul Gallagher, paralysed by the waist down whilst watching TV, and his sound sensible reflections on what needs to be done, for him it is not so much about inquiries, retribution or truth telling, but practical help and support for victims who our society id failing to take responsibility for. Barney – you ashould neet Paul he is an extraordinary and inspirational man  http://nickgarbutt.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/the-voice-we-cannot-ignore/

  17. International team should design process including facility for story-telling and report to Robinson/ McGuinness; You might as well become one of the disappeared.  Report back to the sectarian bigots -don’t insult peoples 
    intelligence,  please. Report back to the most ruthless, dictators, fascists , power ,control bullies -the very ones who created heinous crimes against humanity. Trust as to be earned -respect has to be earned not given…  You must be having a laugh! So we are talking about a truth process – that will stall for another 15 years. And to be honest -the sinners want every one to go away and hopefully die…

  18.  

    SOME THOUGHTS ON AN ARTICLE BY DECLAN
    KEARNEY PUBLISHED IN THE LATEST EDITION OF AN PHOBLACHT:

    A Sinn Fein
    leader has described the meeting between Martin McGuinness and the Queen last
    month as “a huge gesture of reconciliation and friendship” from republicans to
    the Protestant and unionist people.

    But the
    party’s national chairman Declan Kearney went on to accuse sections of
    political unionism of trying to slow down the peace process.

    Kearney, the
    lead figure in a Sinn Fein reconciliation initiative, was writing in the
    newspaper An Phoblacht.

    He described
    that meeting between the Deputy First Minister and the Queen as “an act of
    leadership and vision” – designed to demonstrate “republican sincerity for the
    authentic reconciliation which we advocate”.

    The article
    comes just days after Mr Kearney spoke to the Belfast Telegraph on the 40th
    anniversary of ‘Bloody Friday’ – the description given to an IRA bombing blitz
    across Belfast in which nine people were killed and more than 100 injured.

    He described
    the events of that day as “unjustifiable” – adding: “Bloody Friday shouldn’t
    have happened.”

    But
    unionists are demanding more from republicans.

    “I think it
    is important that the IRA acknowledges in tangible ways the suffering that they
    inflicted throughout the period of the Troubles, including atrocities such as
    Bloody Friday and Kingsmill,” MP Jeffrey Donaldson said.

    “Specifically
    we have asked the Sinn Fein leadership to assist the PSNI in their review of
    the investigation into the Kingsmill massacre,” he continued.

    In that gun
    attack in 1976, ten Protestant men were shot dead as they were returning home
    from work.

    Mr Donaldson
    said that recent words from republicans must now be matched by “tangible
    actions that assist victims in getting to the truth of what happened to their
    loved ones”.

    The latest
    An Phoblacht article by Declan Kearney comes as background contacts continue
    between republicans and a range of people from the Protestant-unionist
    community, including in recent days.

    On the Martin McGuinness meeting
    with the Queen, Mr Kearney wrote:

    “Some have
    since tried to devalue the importance of this gesture for narrow political
    reasons and others have tried to play it down.

    “That’s part
    of the current ‘slow down the peace process agenda’ led by sections of
    political unionism.

    “And that is
    precisely the opposite of what is required.

    “The peace
    process still faces significant challenges,” he continued – “and that’s why a
    new phase needs to be opened up, aimed at addressing and overcoming the
    unresolved hurt on all sides, fear, community divisions, sectarianism,
    partitionism, social inequality and economic disadvantage.”

    He
    challenged political unionism to give “bold leadership”.

    “They need
    to step into, and not stand off, this dialogue.

    “Republicans
    and unionists must become leaders in reconciliation by showing unequivocal
    mutual respect for our different political aspirations and so prove to our
    communities that friendship is possible and fear can be overcome,” he wrote.

    This latest
    reconciliation initiative has its roots in another An Phoblacht article also written
    by Declan Kearney and published at the beginning of March.

    That was
    when he used the word ‘sorry’ – as a challenge to republicans and others to
    acknowledge the hurt caused by all armed actions.

    The hurt of
    Bloody Friday and Kingsmill are obvious and unionists want more from
    republicans; something more than sorry, more than that word.

    They want specific
    answers on who and why.

    And for
    every unionist question, there will be a republican question about the other
    bloody days; about the police, the Army, the intelligence services and the
    loyalists.

    How those
    questions can be asked and answered, and within what framework is one of the
    challenges in this developing conversation.

    If
    information has to be dragged out, then it will not be shared.

    So, finding
    a way, a plan to quote Professor Kieran McEvoy, to make this a voluntary
    process is the work and the task ahead.

    It is something
    that is going to take time – patience and that “bold leadership” that has been
    asked for – not from one side but from all sides.

    But already the
    former loyalist prisoner John Howcroft, writing on this website, has detected
    progress.

    He sees it
    in the Kearney description of Bloody Friday and in comments earlier this year
    by the senior UDA figure Jackie McDonald who described the victims of the 1992
    Ormeau bookmakers attack as innocent.

    Howcroft
    believes both are saying that what happened on those particular days was wrong,
    and that both have stepped away from what he called the battlefield of
    justification and blame.

    Those
    following this debate at eamonnmallie.com will understand that there is a long
    way still to go; that there are many more questions about many other days,
    questions from all sides for every side.(the above news report was written by Brian Rowan)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  19. What is the point of having an opinion “if you delete them” truth hurts ? Denial of the truth! Freedom of speech- censorship- what is new NI. This wee country is toxic and dysfunctional ! Murder-is murder no matter how you do gooder’s, try to dress it up! ( Crimes against humanity) This is not just about Dup-PS/F. I have live through the darkest moments and with respect you have no right to take my comments away shame on you.Victims have every right to get justice for all their loved ones- not those playing games with lost lives!

    • EamonnMallie on

      Maryannaq,

      Please be advised on eamonnmallie.com those posting are expected to identify themselves in a public and transparent manner. This is not a site for promoting invective or using unparliamentary language about politicians. 

      As editor of eamonnmallie.com I have to be mindful of my legal constraints. You are very welcome to post here conditional on the above terms. Should you choose not to act accordingly then I will be left with no choice but delete your contributions. I hope that will not come to pass.

      • Do what ever you want, as far as i am concerned every thing has to be sweet an light don’t rock the peace process NI…” Catch yourselves on”….And i am who i am and speak the truth and this is my opinion….. It is all a game politics, the trouble is that Stormont MLAs are not real politicians just clowns! Join the jokers club dysfunctional house toxic house on the hill. Maybe if we all agree -then there would be nothing to learn- unlearn-relearn. Justice for everyone – not just some. An injustice to one is an injustice to everyone….Ban me if you want ! Crimes against humanity deal with it. No point in sweeping it under the carpet.

  20. As I read and listen and think about what we are trying to explore, I become more uncertain that some of the approaches and instruments proposed are the right ones. 

    It is clear, as Nick Garbutt has indicated, that there is practical help that has not yet been offered which should be more available to individual victims.  There is no reason to wait for this, though there is some more thinking to be done about exactly what is helpful, and this will not be the same for everyone. 

    However, the more general issue which is being specifically addressed in these comments is a somewhat different matter and that is about how our community as a group deals with the legacy of the past.  Individual examinations, recriminations and even confessions of themselves may not be quite the route to deal with that problem, as distinct from the issues for individuals. 

    I am led to this by the observation that it is only possible to see indications of forward movement from those who have stopped trying to establish ‘blame’ on the ‘other side’ – and this seems sometimes to be easier for those who were directly involved in the violent struggle than for those who were either not directly involved or were caught up, almost as bystanders. 

    As a contribution to the continuing exploration on both the individual and group fronts, I attach a YouTube hyperlink to a slot I did a little while ago which picks up on some of the post-conflict mental health issues that need to be part of this conversation. 

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoOsC7cSgNc&version=3&hl=en_GB&rel=0%5D

  21. Brian:
    Essentially, Northern Ireland – maybe all of Ireland – needs a comprehensive narrative of the past that is both unbiased and unvarnished.
    Politics is not about history – it’s all about petty point scoring, and a good thing too, as an alternative to ‘politics by other means’. As I suggested elsewhere, history for most (if not nearly all) politicians is a rich vein of material to be used to their political advantage. We cannot, and must not, expect of politicians those things that statesmen struggle to achieve at no great benefit, and no small cost, to themselves. And every polity has plenty of politicians, but few – or no – statesmen.
    Ireland – the bit we call “The Republic” or “The South” or “The Free State”, depending on our perspective – is, I think, a little bit better served in that respect than is the bit we call “Northern Ireland” or The North of Ireland” or “The Six Counties”, according to taste. The people of NI/NoI have benefited from this, even if some wouldn’t care to admit it.
    There’s a problem, though. To state the obvious, in any counting exercise, the point from which you start counting dictates the size of the answer. So, who will even define what “The Past” is? Where is “year zero” in the Northern Ireland war/conflict/troubles/fiasco/whatever-you’re-havin’-yourself? I believe that people in Northern Ireland, from either side of the politico-cultural-religious divide, an Irish version of the Grand Canyon, don’t even agree about that, but it’s the first item on any agenda, I think. And ‘The South’ cannot be left out of the process, as Unionists and Loyalists would be very quick to remind everyone.
    All of that which you say is accurate and no doubt relevant, but I suggest, only as far as it goes. Do you not, perhaps, think that a broader vision is required? If it is, as I believe it is, the first question becomes: who can frame that vision?