3 September 2009 Edition
RTÉ fantasists' field day
If Lynch Had Invaded
Tuesday, 1 September
Reviewed By Mícheál Mac Donncha
For 30 years a censored RTÉ did not report what was happening in the North. Now they are reporting what might have happened. If Lynch Had Invaded promised much but turned out to be an absurd programme that took the scenario of a possible ‘invasion’ of the Six Counties by the Irish Government in 1969 out of its wider political context and then flogged that scenario to death.
The programme-makers endlessly repeated the point that the small, ill-equipped Irish Army would have been annihilated by the British Army. And even on the narrow premise they chose, only one ‘invasion’ scenario was envisaged and only one outcome.
Those in the Fianna Fáil Cabinet advocating military intervention to prevent the slaughter of nationalists in the North were characterised as hawks and hotheads, unlike nice Jack Lynch whom T.K. Whittaker said did not have “a background of that kind” and who was “civilised”. (‘Intervention’ is a more appropriate term, by the way, as you do not ‘invade’ territory that your constitution claims as your own.) Presenter Keelin Shanley said such an intervention would have been “Ireland’s Bay of Pigs”. Hang on a minute. Wasn’t the Bay of Pigs when the US superpower tried to invade the little neighbouring island of Cuba?
This programme reeked of the smugness, servility and blinkered vision of Dublin 4 concerning everything to do with the North. It was only concerned with the repercussions of events for the political class in Dublin and for the economy in the 26 Counties. Northern nationalists once again were marginalised in the story. There was no mention of how the crisis developed in the Six Counties. The Civil Rights Movement was not mentioned. The Belfast pogrom that actually took place three days after the crucial Cabinet meeting was not mentioned.
Crucially, the programme took no account of the sense of utter betrayal among Northern nationalists when the Fianna Fáil government failed to intervene in any effective way, either militarily or politically. Nationalists were forced back on their own resources and turned to a reorganised IRA which, in the years that followed, defended the nationalist community and waged effective guerrilla war against the British Army and the RUC. Meanwhile the Lynch government locked up republicans, helped the British to patrol the Border and censored the broadcast media. This policy served to prolong the conflict for three decades.
One of the greatest concerns of the Lynch government and its successors was not how to assist nationalists in the North but how to repress sympathy and support for the IRA in the 26 Counties. This public sympathy was reflected in their own Defence Forces. A former soldier who served in a Border town in the early ‘70s told me that in the wake of Bloody Sunday he had the keys to the armoury in his barracks and offered them to the local IRA who refused to accept them as such an action would have been contrary to the policy of non-confrontation with 26-County forces. There are many such stories yet to be told but we’ll be waiting a while yet for RTÉ to tell them.
‘INVASION’ SCENARIO: The programme-makers endlessly repeated the point that the Irish Army would have been annihilated