13 January 2005 Edition
The accuracy and reliability (or otherwise) of Shane MacThomáis's ludicrously unbalanced Remembering the Past article on the Provisional-Official Split (An Phoblacht, 6 Eanair 2005) is best illustrated by the picture of Seán Garland, which is captioned Cathal Goulding.
Can you not get someone who knows what they're talking about to give an informed and objective analysis of an important and ultimately tragic moment in Irish republican history?
The old diet of anti-communism doesn't really advance any understanding, particularly when it's so spectacularly wrong.
Eoin Ó Murchú,
Cluain Dolcáin, Baile Átha Cliath 22.
• We hold our hands up on the miscaptioned photo, an unfortunate production error in no way attributable to the author of the article. See also our Features section for a reply from the Communist Party of Ireland. - Ed.
Rather than continue to blindly defend Seán Russell's historical reputation, perhaps the recent controversy over the attack on his statue might prompt republicans to critically examine the record of the IRA during World War Two.
To claim, as last week's An Phoblacht did, that Nazi Germany was just one of many states that Russell was engaged in negotiations with is simply not true. From 1936 onwards, Russell was in contact with Nazi Germany, mainly through American IRA supporters. Tom Barry claimed that he walked out of the 1938 IRA convention because Russell wanted to commit the IRA to a bombing campaign funded by Nazi money.
During Russell's time in Germany, the IRA was issuing statements claiming that the Nazis would be welcomed in Ireland as 'liberators' and complaining that de Valera's government was under 'Jewish control'. At the time, there were many republicans who disagreed with this strategy, though they do seem to have been a minority.
It seems to be forgotten by those who still echo the 'England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity' argument that the Nazis were directly responsible for the death of 1,000 Irish people in Belfast during World War Two. IRA support for the Nazis and what that would mean for Irish people in reality was openly debated in the Irish republican and left press during 1940. It should at least be possible to have an open balanced discussion on this issue now.
Phibsboro, Dublin 7.
Disband the RIR
The British Government at present is considering axing a number of army regiments in a cost cutting exercise. Much of the debate has focused on regiments like the Black Watch, which recently served in Iraq. However, as part of this process of axing army regiments, the British Government should abolish the RIR.
The RIR is a discredited force that should have been wound up a long time ago. The logical outcome of the peace process is that a regiment like the RIR should go. The only reason that this regiment is retained is as a sop to unionists. Over the years, unionists have unashamedly claimed this sectarian militia as their own private army.
Indeed, up through the years this has been part and parcel of the mindset of unionism. Retaining a local militia to keep the natives in their place was always part of the thinking within unionism even before partition. Up through the years we have had the raising of local militias to defend planters and the yeomanry to quell the United Irish Movement in 1798. After partition, we had the infamous B Specials, who unionists defended unashamedly before the British Government was forced to abolish them.
Nationalists will welcome any moves to get rid of this regiment. It has always been seen by many as sectarian. Sinn Féin will be pressing for the disbandment of the regiment as part of the process of demilitarisation. We are nearly ten years into a peace process and we do not need the RIR to be in existence.
The RIR was a continuation of the infamous UDR, whose members moved en masse to the RIR when it was formed. Nationalists from right across the political spectrum would welcome any moves which spell the end of this force. It is time for this regiment to go. This should happen as part of the peace process.
The RIR regiment had acted in a partisan manner against the nationalist community. Many nationalists over the years have looked upon the RIR and the former UDR as nothing more than a continuation of the unionist militias formed to keep Catholics in their place. Its association with loyalist paramilitaries only reinforced the suspicions of many within the nationalist community that this regiment was sectarian.
The British Government talks about acts of completion in the peace process. One act it should carry out is to get rid of once and for all the private armies of unionism. There is no justification for the British Government maintaining this sectarian militia, whose only existence is to allow unionism to keep its nationalist neighbours in their place.
Councillor Paul Butler,
Lisburn, County Antrim.
Tackling the mental health stigma
Recently, the media highlighted the report from the National Suicide Research Foundation to the Department of Health. This report revealed that hospitals throughout Ireland treated a staggering 11,000 patients admitted for cases of self harm. In addition, it went on to stress the link between drug/alcohol consumption and increasing suicidal tendencies among people.
Following on from the alarming picture that this report paints, it is now imperative that the Department of Health takes practical, coordinated and strategic steps to address two crucial contributory factors:
1) The stigma that is still attached to those who suffer from mental health problems such as depression.
2) The worrying trend of growing drug addiction and alcohol consumption among people.
It is now that mental health promotion should become a formal function of the education system. We need a system that recognises and acknowledges the pressures that young people face daily. For this to happen, those who are charged with shaping the formative years of children must be given modern, continual and quality awareness training.
Also vital is the role that local communities can play in helping to develop and direct a programme that will effectively deal with the growing number of children and teenagers falling foul of substance abuse. The Department should consult with local communities to harvest constructive ideas and opinions from those most affected by the problem. It would also help in obtaining knowledge particular individual communities that may demand adaptability in the implementation of any such programme. The community should also be an understanding, strong and cohesive unit of support for any person who may have a drug or alcohol problem. Victims of substance abuse and especially those who developed mental health difficulties as a result, should not be criminalised, degraded or humiliated. They need genuine and affordable help.
Unfortunately, the help currently available is completely inadequate. The mental health services have been crippled by lack of foresight and underfunding. This is why the response to the causes of mental health deterioration and substance abuse must come primarily from our communities and work its way up through the various levels of public administration. The alternative is to settle for further 'initiatives' from the Department that will be out of touch with reality and will inevitably become bogged down in governmental bureaucracy. Such inefficiency will ensure that vital resources will never make it to the frontline of primary mental health care.
The involvement of the community is crucial to ensure that the Department is made completely accountable for the implementation of any practical response. Why should we settle for anything less?
Sinn Féin Corcaigh.
Falls Road Curfew 3-5 July 1970
In July 1970, the British Army imposed a curfew upon the residents of the Lower Falls area of Belfast. Did you live in the Lower Falls at the time? Were you in any way involved with or affected by the curfew?
I am a Danish student undertaking a research project on the effects of the curfew and am anxious to trace individuals who would be willing to complete a short written questionnaire. I would greatly appreciate any help readers can offer me. You can ask for full confidentiality, if you wish.
Please contact me at the address below or via e-mail: [email protected]
Vibe Martens, c/o Dr Martin Doherty,
University of Westminster,
309 Regent Street,
London W1B 2UW, England.