10 April 2008 Edition
Cuireann An Phoblacht fáilte roimh litreacha ónár léitheoirí. Scríobh i nGaeilge nó i mBéarla, 200 focal ar a méid. Déantar giorrú ar litreachta más gá. Cuir do litir chuig [email protected]
An Phoblacht welcomes readers’ letters. Write in Irish or English, 200 words maximum. Letters may be edited for brevity. Send your letters to [email protected] No attachments please
Anthony Coughlan on The Split
IN HIS interview with Brian Keenan in last week’s An Phoblacht on his involvement with the late 1960s Civil Rights movement, Jim Gibney quotes Mr Keenan as saying:
“Certain IRA leaders wouldn’t talk to me for a long time after the split because they believed I was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. In their eyes I was not to be trusted. They believed I was aligned with Tony Coughlan, who was with the Sticks.”
For the record, and contrary to what seems to be implied in Brian Keenan’s remarks, may I say that I was never a member of Sinn Féin or the IRA, pre-split or post-split. Neither, for that matter, was I ever a member of the Communist Party, either in Ireland or elsewhere.
Such influence as I had on the politicisation of the pre-split Republican Movement during the 1960s was exercised as an entirely independent private person who had no organisational connection whatever with any of the bodies Mr Keenan mentions. Indeed, that has been my political position all my adult life up to the present time.
The only involvement I ever had with a political party was a couple of years’ membership of the Irish Labour Party when I was a student at University College Cork in the middle 1950s, along with Barry Desmond and the late Michael O’Leary, who were contemporaries of mine there.
I was assistant-secretary and secretary of the Dublin Wolfe Tone Society from 1965 to 1969 and as such encouraged those whom I knew in the then united Republican Movement to take up the issue of civil rights in the Six Counties during those years.
I was present as an observer from the Wolfe Tone Society at the foundation meeting of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in Belfast in January 1967. I took part in the first Coalisland-Dungannon Civil Rights march in late August 1968 and was in Duke Street, Derry, on 5 October that year when the RUC’s assault on the Civil Rights march brought the whole issue of discrimination and abuse of civil liberties in the North to world attention.
Doubtless commentators and historians will be mulling over these and subsequent events in the latter part of this year, which will be the 40th anniversary of the first Civil Rights marches. I am naturally anxious that they should get such part as I played in these events right, hence this letter.
The strength of our struggle
OVER the next two weeks, the Sinn Féin leadership goes on the road across the North to update our members and supporters on the progress made in the ten years since the Good Friday Agreement, and a year into our engagement in the Assembly and all-Ireland institutions and on the Policing Boards. It is a significant opportunity for people to learn and discuss where the republican struggle is at in 2008.
To advertise these meetings, Sinn Féin has produced an eye-catching poster. Framed within the image of the island of Ireland are Gerry Adams, Bobby Sands, our ministers in the North and our TDs in Leinster House. We’ve come a long a long way – and the poster says it all. From years of having a few councillors here and there across the island, we now have ministers, TDs, senators, Euro MEPs and a leadership known across the world for their efforts in conflict resolution.
But the poster tells another story: one of the continuity of the republican struggle. Photos of Gerry Adams, Bobby Sands and Gerry Kelly sit side-by-side, just as they were when they sat and debated the way forward in the Cages of Long Kesh together in the 1970s. Arthur Morgan and Conor Murphy represent our party in the two parliaments on this island – they too paced the yards of the H-Blocks together. Michelle Gildernew (now a minister) can look back to the advent of the Civil Rights movement in Caledon all those years ago, and her own bit of family history. And there’s Caitríona Ruane, with her years of work for human rights and the right to decent policing in West Belfast. Now we have Alex, Martina, Daithí and many others sitting down and looking the Peelers eye-to-eye.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, one of the key activists who kept the struggle going in Dublin when times were hard is there. There’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin – our man in Monaghan, and election agent for Kieran Doherty TD – another of those who walked the yards in Crumlin Road and the Kesh.
Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris are there too – legends of the IRA, who fought the good fight over and over again in pursuance of our nation’s struggle.
As the republican leadership travels across the North to talk to our people, one word we shouldn’t be afraid of is continuity. A small number of former comrades may claim it for themselves, but the continuity of struggle – from the jails, the streets and now into the elected chambers across this country, and yet still on the streets – is propelling our struggle forwards.
Sinn Féin Head of British/EU Affairs
Ahern, Paisley and public service
WITH the recent high-profile resignations of Bertie Ahern and Ian Paisley, I was reminded of the words of Young Irelander, Thomas Davis:
“To act in politics is a matter of duty everywhere; here, of necessity. To make that action honourable to yourselves and serviceable to your country is a matter of choice.
“In your public career you will be solicited by a thousand temptations to sully your souls with the gold and place of a foreign court, or the transient breath of a dishonest popularity; dishonest, when adverse to the good, though flattering to the prejudices of the people.”
Maybe Eoghan Harris and his ilk should take note.
Trim, County Meath