20 February 1997 Edition
1798 to be remembered
I read with interest articles concerning the bi-centenary of 1798 in the Irish Times and the Sunday Tribune which spoke of a memorial to be erected ``as an apology and a gesture of reconciliation from the people of Wexford'' for an incident at Scullabogue the day following the massacre at Ross. I wonder were the ``Irish diaspora'' requested to donate towards this memorial? The native Irish people are still waiting for an apology for the Penal Laws, Cromwell, the holocaust of 150 years ago or Bloody Sunday 1972.
It would appear from the articles that the Dublin `98 committee has no plans for the Croppies' Acre or Luke Cullen's grave. No doubt we will have many French visitors and it will be interesting to hear their views when they visit the burial ground of two Officers of the French army, Matthew Tone and Bart. Teeling, now a soccer pitch for the military in Dublin. Some serving soldiers erected a small memorial some years ago near the railings, not at the graves. As of today there is a pair of football boots on top of the memorial. How appropriate.
There is a rumour that the graves of the United Irishmen at the Croppies' Acre is to be turned into a car park for the convenience of visitors. Perhaps one of your readers could confirm or deny this.
M. Ni Céarnaig (Rúnaí),
National Graves' Association
In the name of open and comradely discussion I agree with `No Other Law' (Mála Poist 23 January), a significant re-evaluation of the peace strategy must be undertaken.
A partnership with conservative Nationalists and their parties will only produce too-often repeated soundbites. The problem is that the same interests that led to partition are still in play; business interests who are unaffected by the inequality and injustices of the Six Counties They allowed partition to be born, nursed it and maintained it in its historical illegitimacy. There is no pressure on them to move forward on this.
By appealing to the leadership of these parties, the Republican strategy takes a back seat.
The secrecy further empowers the conservative nationalists by playing their game. The core strength of republicanism is that it is a movement for and by the people themselves - not any sort of elite. It is the nationalists of the 26 Counties that must be courted. The movement should be brought back to the people north and south.
The strategy allows the fears of persecution and repression of religious and personal freedom to be fuelled by the looming spectre of Catholic triumph and retribution.
This fear is contrary to the concept of the republic that is being fought for. It must be clarified that its nature will be anti-imperialist and anti-colonial not anti-Protestant. It is not a desire to strip them of their `Britishness' but to empower all of its citizens with freedom and equality in a state that is blind to see green, orange, black or blue, but sees only a person with inalienable rights.
Prosperity can be one of the greatest unifying forces, provided it is shared with all. The British and the business class have extracted enough from Ireland, we have seen how sectarianism has been utilised to maximise profit only to be spirited away - not re-invested in these communities.
Are we to reject the prospects for an economic rejuvenation? Is it not possible to manage foreign investment to be both beneficial to both community and investor?
Riddle of the sands
I am English, a Protestant and middle class and as far as I know, I have no Irish family connections. But I support Sinn Féin and call for an orderly British withdrawal from the north east of Ireland.
Some people, especially my Irish work colleagues, ask in total astonishment about my Sinn Féin support. When the discussion becomes a little heated, as it does from time to time, I tell them that nothing is black and white.
I remind them, if they didn't already know, about those people of English descent who fought and died for the cause of Irish freedom. It may come as a surprise to some that the great Theobald Wolfe Tone's English ancestors did not arrive in Ireland from Surrey, England until the 17th Century. Another great person, Robert Emmet's family were English settlers in Ireland, Erskine Childer, Thomas Ashe, Countess Markievicz, Skeffington, Mellows and Pearse all had roots in the English Home Counties. The Home Rule giant, Charles Stewart Parnell's family left my neck of the woods, Cheshire, in the 17th century, I am proud to say.
One could even look at the leadership of Irish Republicanism today. Adams is a well known English name, common in Ireland since the Cromwell times. Joe Austin owns another well known English surname. The English ancestors of the courageous Bobby Sands (RIP) arrived in Ireland during the plantation of Ulster. I believe the name Sands is rooted in Sussex.
As I say, nothing is black and white. I like to think the above-mentioned, and myself in a small way, have tried and are still trying to put right the terrible wrong done to the Irish throughout the centuries by our shared English ancestry, a blood line that should not be denied.
We should not all be tarred with the same brush. This struggle is not about race but justice. As Bobby Sands said, ``Everybody has a part to play.'' I, for one, will carry on supporting the Irish struggle for freedom.
Economic plain speaking
Having read Sinn Féin's new discussion document `Putting People First', which sets out a major role for the community in economic development and after attending the Monaghan conference on the document, I would like to make the following points:
• While the language in is a bit academic, the document offers a good analysis and points the way forward for economic development in marginalised communities.
• We need to spell out in plain language what we mean by terms such as social economy, extensive workplace participation, economic democracy etc.
• When the document has been altered and accepted by the party as part of our economic policy, we should publish a shorter version in leaflet form for wider distribution.
• We have sound policies on most issues and these are set out in our policy documents but what we have failed to a large extent to do is pull the main points out of these and inform the public about them. We tend to internalise our policy documents.
Finally, while Sinn Féin cumainn and activists need to be invovled in economic development in their communities, we must continue to protest and demand social justice for our marginalised urban and rural communities.
Design for Féile
Féile an Phobail is celebrating our 10th anniversary this year. We are looking for artists and young people to design this year's Féile programme cover and T-shirts. The winning design will feature on 45,000 programme covers and 5,000 T-shirts. A first prize of £150 and a free pass to all Féile events will be presented to the winning designer. Closing date is 28 February 1997. This competition is open to everyone.
We are recommending that the applicants keep the design simple and that it should reflect the 10th anniversary. All artwork will be returned to applicants.
We look forward to receiving your entries.
Peadar O'Donnell biography
Mercier Press has commissioned my co-writer, Anton McCabe, and me to write the first biography of Peadar O'Donnell (1893-1986). We would be anxious to hear from anyone who knew, met or corresponded with O'Donnell during his long and eventful life.
My contact address is 60A Waterloo Road, Dublin 4 (01 667 4158).
The missing bus
Can I bring to your attention another callous act of barbarism by the jack-booted RUC thugs that maraud our land with apparent impunity?
The IRA called off its ceasefire over a year ago, yet we have still not heard one word from the RUC or their bloodthirsty cohorts in the British Army about the ``busload of primary school children'' in County Fermanagh.
For more than 25 years this bus has roamed the backroads of Fermanagh like the Marie Celeste, turning up just seconds after each IRA attack on the British. From the UTV News to The Irish Independent we heard the RUC explain - at times almost ruefully - that if the bomb had exploded a bit earlier, or a bit later, the bus and the toddlers would have been smithereens.
Now, despite the fact that the war is back on, there's no sign of the tiny tots.
What terrible fate has been visited upon them? Are they being kept in a holding cell in Castlereagh Torture Centre? Is the bus jammed into a narrow laneway where it can't turn, the only way out blocked by those squat little security bollards that the British seem to love?
My darkest fear is that the British have decided that the little ones are now surplus to requirements, and have simply `killed them off'. Or worse, the bus driver has been ordered to drive round and round that ugly roundabout outside Larne, knowing that the IRA's North Antrim Brigade doesn't consider the structure's red-white-and-blue trimming to be a prestige target.
This disgraceful lapse in RUC propaganda must be opposed. Reinstate the `busload' now!