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1 October 2009 Edition

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The breathtaking hypocrisy of Garret FitzGerald

Former Fine Gael Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald has joined the chorus of those who are attempting to revive the spurious allegations of Richard O’Rawe, comprehensively refuted when they emerged in 2005, that republican leaders deliberately scuppered a ‘deal’ that could have saved the lives of six of the ten hunger strikers of 1981.
Such hypocrisy is breathtaking. What concern did FitzGerald ever show for the hunger strikers, the H-Block or Armagh prisoners or the nationalist people in the Six Counties? Like the rest of the political establishment in the 26 Counties he stood by while prisoners endured years of torture and as the crisis in the jails was growing towards its tragic climax. And then, rather than support the just demands of the prisoners, he dithered in the face of British intransigence.
FitzGerald’s New Ireland Forum of 1984 was conceived with the primary purpose of shoring up the SDLP which was facing a major challenge from Sinn Féin. The republican party was excluded and the policy of censorship and exclusion of republicans was reinforced under the Hillsborough Agreement of which FitzGerald and Thatcher were co-sponsors.
It is clear from FitzGerald’s interview in the Irish News this week and from his previous writings that his main concern before, during and after 1981 was that the British Government might be talking to republicans and that this should stop. With Thatcher, he embarked on one of the most intense rounds of repression in the period after 1985 when the Border was reinforced and collusion between British forces and unionist paramilitaries was stepped up.
The same FitzGerald was portrayed as a great liberal, yet every Government which he led, or in which he served, renewed broadcasting censorship of Sinn Féin. This denial of information and closing down of dialogue helped to prolong the conflict.
It is important that FitzGerald and co. are corrected and challenged, firstly for the sake of the memory of the hunger strikers and for their relatives. They need to be challenged secondly because their spurious allegations form part of an effort to discredit the republicans of 2009.
Such efforts will fail. They will never distract republicans from their task of achieving the just, peaceful and united Ireland for which the hunger strikers gave their lives.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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