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3 August 2006 Edition

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The English poet Alexander Pope once wrote that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing", and Irish Times foreign editor Paul Gillespie's article on the Celts (not the Glasgow football club, the other crowd. - Ed.) last weekend really proves the point.

Having attended a lecture on the paucity of archaeological evidence for a Celtic invasion of Ireland, Gillespie extrapolates from this well-known fact the idea that somehow this deals a death blow to Irish nationalism which is supposedly based on such a Celtic provenance in Ireland, at least according to Gillespie.

In the real world, you would be hard put to hear talk of Celtic nationalism at any Irish nationalist or Republican meeting, and the supposed significance of the Celtic connection to the struggle for Irish freedom exists only in Gillespie's mind. Most Irish nationalists have long been aware of the pre-Celtic element in the Irish ethnic make-up, and the influence of pre-Celtic culture on our music and art. We are, like most other nations, a multifaceted group.

What Gillespie cannot deny, and therefore passes over fleetingly, is the fact that we speak a Celtic language and that by the time St Patrick came to Ireland in the 5th century Gaelic, an extremely archaic form of Celtic, was exclusively spoken in this country - pre-Celtic and Welsh having succumbed to it.

Gillespie's explanation is that this was not the result of 'invasion' - the assumption of a dominant position in Irish society by Gaelic-speaking people (even though the mythological tradition backs up this view, Gillespie notwithstanding) - but of 'diffusionism'.

And if you don't know what this word means, don't worry because neither does Gillespie. If the word means anything, it means that the Gaelic language acquired a dominant position in Irish society because of trade!

Unfortunately, there is even less archaeological evidence for this than there is for a successful invasion. But it is an undoubted fact that Gaelic linguistically dominated Ireland from at least the 5th century, and possibly as early as the 3rd, until the Tudor Conquests of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Gillespie's ignorance of the complexities of this question would be merely embarrassing if it wasn't for his extraordinary attempt to claim his theory as destroying the moral and intellectual basis of the Irish people's fight for freedom.

It seems that any theory, no matter how tenuous, that can play a part in undermining Irish nationalism will be encouraged by the "paper of record".

The "paper of record", of course, didn't leave it at that. Saturday saw the most grotesque piece of drivel from the pen of former Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald that even the Irish Times has ever published.

In his opinion piece on the Op Ed page, the South's most prominent Unionist railed against the protocols for Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) agreed by the British Government.

In the course of a straight attack on Sinn Féin, the bold doctor repeated the various canards put forward by the SDLP, declaiming CRJ as an attempt by Republicans to intimidate nationalist communities in the North.

What the good doctor ignored of course is that when nationalist voters were given the choice, in their majority they voted decisively against those who now urge us to support the RUC (or the PSNI or whatever they now call it). They rejected the SDLP and supported Sinn Féin.

At bottom, the doctor is still trying to win the war that imperialism has lost. He demands that Republicans must bow the knee to the old instruments of their oppression and is outraged that they won't.

FitzGerald and all his ilk are unable to face the fact that northern nationalists have good reason to hate the RUC, and that no police force can be acceptable that excludes Republicans. He refuses to back the moves that would enable Republicans to take their place in policing their own community without sectarian interference.

But the most ludicrous part of the doctor's defence of the RUC was his amazing claim that "for 35 years Irish governments have never hesitated to defend the right of Northern nationalists from abuses." Was this during the period of the Garda 'Heavy Gang'? Or when FitzGerald brought in the extradition process to hand Republicans over to the brutalisation that went on in Castlereagh? Or when his Government ignored RUC shoot-to-kill actions? What a hypocrite!

But what dishonesty, yet again, from the Irish Times to present such a one-sided debate in the name of 'free speech'.

FOCAL SCOIR: Far be it from this column, or from Republicans in general, to sympathise with Mary Harney. But the attack on her in Ireland on Sunday was disgusting, when it deliberately lied in claiming that Harney had arranged for her very seriously ill mother to jump the queue in Tallaght hospital. This didn't happen, because that isn't the way that Tallaght operates.

But it is the way that Ireland on Sunday operates.

The point is that untrue attacks of that kind only help people like Harney because it weakens the credibility of real attacks on what she is doing as Minister for Health.

But, then, when did Ireland on Sunday ever analyse in a critical way her policies in health? Or their impact on working people?

An Phoblacht Magazine


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