31 July 1997 Edition
Outmanoeuvering the British
I salute the leadership of the republican movement for its brilliant outmaneouvering of the British and the Unionists and its success in getting the decommissioning obstacle removed from our road. It should not be replaced. As Leon Trotsky pointed out, political consciousness often lags behind circumstances and those who are not incapable of really understanding politics will all soon come to understand what has been achieved. As for the few detractors, either through stupidity, malice or mischief, let us leave them to pick the bones on the dustheap of history.
The republican movement as a whole must keep its eyes on the prize and focus on the future and commence a dynamic campaign for the maximum outcome to the current political process. It is not we who are afraid of constitutional change in Ireland. We call for a new constitution for a new Ireland. For those ``politically significant institutions'' which Tony Blair promised Irish nationalists in his Belfast speech on May 16th to be inclusive, dynamic, deep and wide all-Ireland institutions. Whatever is achieved, we will at every stage point the way to the next step towards the united, democratic republic of equals envisaged by the United Irishmen in 1798. It is not we who will be negative. There will be no return to the past. In any referenda we will positively campaign for the ideal of the United Irishmen. We will talk to and endeavour to work with anyone who shares even part of that goal, even the PUP if they are breaking from Unionist supremacism and increasingly identifying as a working class party? Forward to the united, democratic socialist republic of Ireland!
Last October, I wrote urging Republicans to reframe the decommissioning debate as being an issue of self-defence for nationalist people. Much has happened since then and the public political debate has once again returned to the difficult question of decommissioning. Unfortunately, the concept of self-defence still doe not appear in press accounts of the Republican Movement's political position - at least not in the American press.
For example, the Associated Press wire stories this week described the Republican Movement as being unwilling to ``decommission'' because it would be perceived as a ``surrender''. It almost sounds like recalcitrant football fans disgruntled over their team's won-loss record. I have to tell you, most people don't care whether Republicans' sensibilities are offended. To be blunt, it sounds like whining.
In political debate, morality really does matter. Just about the only morally defensible reason to have a gun and be prepared to use it, is in the defence of human life. Not coincidentally, that is why the IRA is in no position to ``decommission''. Unilateral disarmament is not an option for a group of people facing a heavily armed and hostile force. It might help if the rest of the world understood that the IRA's guns defend people living under the threat of death.
Once the issue is redefined as self-defence, the entire political debate shifts. Can Tony Blair or George Mitchell guarantee the safety of nationalist people? Who do they propose to implement their guarantee - Ronnie Flanagan? Until there is a realistic answer to that question, no one can, or should, expect the IRA to decommission. And, ``decommissioning'' should not block negotiation of a peace settlement.
Thomas J. Fox,
Deireadh Seachtaine John Joe McGirl
A commemorative weekend will be held in Ballinamore from August 8th to 10th in honour of the well known Republican John Joe McGirl who died in 1988 and who was seen by many as bridging the generations from 40's and 50's to the new birth of a popular republican struggle in the 80's.
John Joe McGirl had been a Sinn Féin TD, a republican prisoners on many occasions, a former Chief of Staff of th IRA, Chairperson of Leitrim County Council and a Sinn Féin Councillor at the time of his death. He was especially close to the leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and the drive to politicise republicanism.
Martin McGuinness MP for Mid Ulster will give the John Joe McGirl memorial lecture in the Commercial Hotel on Friday 8, followed by a function with Clann Rí. On Saturday evening in Slúbh an Iarainn Hotel there is an exhibition and talk on the prison struggle with writer and former H-Block prisoner Eoghan MacCormaic plus Frances McHugh, sister of republican POW in an English jail.
On Sunday afternoon a monument will be unveiled at the Republican Plot, Aghnasheelin to the volunteers killed at Geltan Hill in March 1921 plus a plaque is being erected in memory of Volunteer Francis McGirl, killed in an accident in 1995. This will be followed by an Irish evening in McGirl. Gerry Kelly, Belfast will give the oration on Sunday.
Solidarity from Scotland
My wife and I arrived in the Six Counties late on Saturday 5/7/97.
I awoke at 4.30am on Sunday to hear that the RUC stormtroopers had yet again battered without mercy the residents of Garvaghy Road. BBC and UTV showed all to clearly the severe injuries inflicted on the men, but even worse the brave women with blood flowing form their heads, a courageous community on eh cross once again.
We visited Garvaghy Road on Monday 7/7/97 early in the morning having to pass through loyalists, RUC and crown forces with two Saxon armoured vehicles, I took some photographs the area was in a state of wreck caused by RUC/army attacks many of the residents were in a state of shock and who could blame them after what they had suffered. We returned by Blins Street when the call came from the residents of that small and beleagured but enormously courageously community at the Lower Ormeau Road. I told my wife I intended going down to an area of South Belfast I know so well and would support my fellow nationalists no matter how long it took to oppose orange sectarian marchers who have treated the nationalists people who live there with contempt for so long. I had intended to leave my wife in Belfast making sure she was on the 4.20pm bus going to Bangro County Down back to the flat we had hired for 2 weeks. I would then walk via the markets area down Ormeau road watching out for any potential confrontation at the infamous Donegall Pass then onto the Lower Ormeau Road where through peaceful means the nationalists would see off not only orangemen but RUC crown forces as well, at about midnight on Thursday 10/7/97 the news was given on UTV's ``Insight'' programme that the range order had capitulated all over the Six Counties. Make no mistake about it this was turning victory for nationalists all over the Six Counties where contentious marches are held it must be repeated again on the 9th August when further contentious marches are held int the rea finally the residents of Garvaghy Road should follow the example of their fellow nationalists of the Lower Ormeau Road who know that the force of numbers count.
Cairde Sinn Féin,
Thanks for help
Through the page of AP/RN I would like to publicly thank members of Sinn Féin for their kind assistance on a research field trip to Belfast I made at the end of May. Their kindness was especially appreciated as everybody was incredibly busy int the aftermath of the election victories in the Six Counties.
In particular I would like to thank Martha at the Sinn Féin office in Belfast and councillors Tom Hartley, Bobby and Danny Lavery.
University of the West of England.