11 September 1997 Edition

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Mála Poist

Questions of faith

A Chairde,

Caoimhghín O'Caoláin's speech in Chicago touched all the major issues we are all aware of. It was both inspired and forceful. Yet the questions which he did not address arose from his mere presence. They were the most difficult, and the most important questions, and incapable of being answered by him: is the armed struggle over, where will peace take Ireland, and can Sinn Féin truly force a change within the system?

From the perspective of a young American, the real fear is that the armed struggle is over. The information we receive in America, while deliberately fragmented, indicates that the armed struggle is slowly being phased out. It is the feeling of many of the young wrapped up in the American struggle for Ireland, that without the revolutionary force in the north of Ireland, there can never be an equal Ireland, and there can never be a peaceful Ireland.

``Peace'' is a vacuous concept. Caoimhghín spoke of the peace process, and that Sinn Féin is at the table. What is won with this peace, and what is lost without the war? Who is to win from a peace, where Catholics are still packed in ghettos, and given a voice? The voice will ask for food, and the answer will come back freedom, and the result will be hunger. Young Irish Americans want peace, but we recognise, possibly from our detachment and untouched lives, that not all war is bad if the peace means that everything is unresolved.

Caoimhghín indicated that Sinn Féin can make the lives of the Catholics in the north of Ireland better. I believe this, but I need to know if any pro-Catholic, constitutional organisation can force true change in that repressive system. It seems that nothing short of revolution will create resolution. My question is how will Catholics be served in the end.

Young Irish Americans support Sinn Féin, because Sinn Féin recognises the validity of the IRA and its struggle. What came from this speech was more questions. Ones which not Mr. O'Caoláin, but only time can answer.

I would like to personally thank those involved in the Irish struggle on behalf of all young patriotic Irish Americans, in particular those currently fighting in the IRA. We struggle for you, we love you, we owe our souls to you. Keep fighting and never let it enter your minds that there are not people whose hearts you are constantly with.

Next year in a free Ireland.


Sovereignty over people

A chairde,

Negotiations on an all-party settlement cannot be allowed to founder on the unwillingness of one or other community to abide by the Mitchell principles.

This means that the rules governing the talks must be changed to permit them to proceed even if the UUP refuse to accept parallel decommissioning. Only if the peace train effectively threatens to leave without them will the Unionists have an incentive to climb aboard.

If the talks do get going in earnest what should the republicans aim for? Clearly they're not going to get a united Ireland by next spring. What might their half-a-loaf look like?

The best option is to alter the way we have traditionally looked at the notion of sovereignty. Instead of sovereignty over territory we need sovereignty over people. Britain and Ireland would waive claims to territorial sovereignty and assert instead their sovereignty over those people in Northern Ireland who identify as British and Irish respectively.

This would not be a ceding of sovereignty nor a dilution of it in joint sovereignty. There would be no Irish claim, even a joint one, to jurisdiction over British subjects. Imagine a country where the king ruled the men and the queen ruled the women. They would be separately sovereign but have nonetheless a strong interest in coming to agreement about the exercise of those functions traditionally associated with territorial sovereignty. Just so Britain and Ireland.

The constitutional position would thus not have changed. It would merely have been re-interpreted. Initially at least Ireland could give Britain a mandate to exercise jurisdiction over her citizens in the north, allowing time to work out the necessary arrangements. These would be complicated but not impossible. A lot of civil-service head-scratching is better than bombs.

This compromise rules nothing out for the future and allows in the meantime for a democratic resolution of the issue of consent by setting up a framework under which all the people of Northern Ireland, and not just most of them, could agree to live.

Nick Martin-Clarke

Remembering 1922/23

A chairde,

While in full agreement with the contents of the letter, ``Civil War Tragedy'' (28 August), can I make a few points on the issue of Civil War commemorations.

The National Graves Association Ireland has held several commemorations to date relating to this period of our history. In June, a special Mass was celebrated at the Republican Plot, Glasnevin. Many relatives of the executed volunteers attended this sad occasion. Perhaps the most poignant moment was the scattering of rose petals on the Plot.

On 26 July, a bus tour of wayside Shrines/Crosses was held. Those visited included Colly & Cole, Martin Hogan, Henry McEntee, Dunne and O'Sullivan (Deansgrange), to name but a few. The tour finished at the Noel Lemass Memorial. A dignified commemoration was held at each Memorial visited.

In August, the Association turned its attention to Skerries, Co. Dublin, where a plaque to Harry Boland was erected and unveiled by Kevin Boland. Plaques were also erected in Waterford and Cork. The Association's representative in Kerry has undertaken the job of repairing and relettering Memorials - a special thanks must go to this man's continued work.

The Association's annual mass in November (Berkeley Road Church) will be to the memory of all volunteers killed during the Civil War.

In March 1988, the Association will commemorate Killarney, Cahirciveen and Ballyseedy.

Finally, it has always been the policy of the National Graves Association to commemorate the patriot dead of every generation.

Matt Doyle,
Assistant Secretary,
National Graves Association.

Who is sincere?

A Chairde,

It is disturbing to observe how the media acquiesce in the Unionists' description of their bad faith in coming to the talks table in terms of a ``moral'' dilemma over talking to ``violent'' people.

I can only wonder how distasteful some members of the Sinn Féin leadership must find the prospect of talking to Geoffrey Donaldson and Ken Maginnis, both ex members of the UDR, an armed organisation whose members were both directly, and through their feeding of information to Loyalist paramilitaries, responsible for the murder of nationalist people.

It is to the Sinn Féin leadership's credit that they put dialogue and accommodation at the top of their agenda, not the posturing that unionism engages in to try and stall the inevitable change that must occur.

All have suffered, we will soon find out who is sincere about ensuring the suffering ends.

Stephen McEvoy,
BAC 18.

Derry and Antrim commemorations

A chara,

An Phoblacht readers are cordially invited to attend the annual counties Derry and Antrim Commemoration in honour of the area's Republican dead.

The commemorative parade will assemble at St. Mary's Church, Lavey, on Sunday 21 September at 2.30pm sharp, proceeding to Memorial Hall, Gulladuff, where ceremonies will include the reading of the Roll of Honour. This year's guest-speaker is Martin McGuinness MP.

Paul Henry.

Best ever Internet site

A chairde,

Congratulations on the best Irish home page I have ever seen. As a frequent Internet user I find it rare that Irish organisations use the Internet to its full extent A very professional job

Good luck, and keep up the good work

Joe O'Reilly
Dublin 6.

Diana sympathy

A Chairde,

As a socialist, I became almost physically sick at the hysterical sychophancy of the mainstream British and Irish media concerning the death of one of the world's wealthy and privileged. This feeling was further compounded when I learnt of Sinn Féin's message of condolence. Considering this person hails from an aristocratic family, it does not take too much historical groundwork to surmise that such a family have played a major role in the oppression of the majority of people through the private ownership of huge tracts of land. Sinn Féin's comment is all the more difficult to take because they proclaim to be a `socialist' party. If such a show of sympathy was to gain a few political points, are we to expect in the future an adoption of `free market' economics from Sinn Féin and the further marginalisation of grassroots politics?

Brendan McNamara,

A chairde,

Congratulations to An Phoblacht. Your paper was an island of sanity in a week of hypocrisy and hysteria. In particular, thanks to Micheál Mac Donncha, Mary Nelis and Cormac. Keep it up.

Peter Dearing

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1