28 October 1999 Edition

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Kelly puts record staight in wake of Lynch death

Sinn Féin Assembly member John Kelly, a leading republican at the centre of the 1970 arms trial, has argued that history is being rewritten in the wake of the death of former Taoiseach Jack Lynch and says that a few historical facts need to be cleared up.

Kelly says that after August 1969 and as a result of advice from James Kelly, an intelligence officer with the 26-County army who assessed that sending 26-County troops over the border would endanger nationalists in vulnerable areas, a strategy to arm nationalists in Belfast, Derry and other flashpoint areas was set in motion.

Kelly says: ``It is important to note that this was not an alternative strategy to moving troops north. It was an integral part of the military strategy that was providing for a continuing deterioration of the situation.

``In these circumstances, armed provisions had to be made to enable nationalists on the ground to hold the line until such time as stabilising forces were in place, whether that be United Nations forces or a combination of Irish and British forces.

``Having accepted Jim Kelly's analysis of the inadvisability of sending troops in, the same Taoiseach then months later had this man dismissed and put on trial for carrying through what he understood to be the other part of the stretgy, ie ensuring that nationalists would be defended in the flashpoint areas.''

Subsequently John Kelly, Irish government minister Charles Haughey, Belgian business person Albert Luykx and Captain James Kelly stood trial for attempting to import arms. But the jury accepted they had not acted illegally on the grounds that the importation attempts had been sanctioned by the 26-County government.

Kelly says: ``In staging the trial, Jack Lynch did not act as the guarantor of the safety and political well-being of Six County nationalists, as was his constitutional obligation under Articles Two and Three of the Irish Constitution, but in fact became the second guarantor of British policy in the Six Counties.

``We now know that northern nationalists have suffered the effects of that policy and for politicians and political commentators to suggest that this policy of Jack Lynch's prevented blood bath and civil war flies in the face of all that happened in the last 30 years.

``In fact, by Jack Lynch reneging on his commitment to northern nationalists, he signalled to the British that his government were washing their hands of their obligations to the six north eastern counties of this island, despite constitutional obligations.

``Whatever Jack Lynch's legacy was to the 26 Counties, his legacy to the Six Counties was one of vacillation, indecision and ultimately one of appeasement which left northern nationalists as the Palestinians of Ireland.''

Kelly said that if Lynch's legacy is to be rcorded it should be warts and all. ``If any epithaph is to be written for Jack Lynch it should be, restating his own words in the immediate aftermath of August 15th 1969: `It is obvious that the RUC are no longer accepted as an impartial police force. Neither would the employment of British troops be accetable, nor would they be likely to restore peaceful conditions, certainly not in the long term'.''


Jack Lynch - The leader who stood idle

By Mick Derrig

THE DEATH of Jack Lynch has triggered an oilslick of syrupy obituaries. They followed the coffin like a hypocritical in-law wanting to put on a public show before the will is read.

Lynch had attracted more than the usual share of eulogies because he wasn't Charlie Haughey. He wasn't one of the Mohair Mafia.


We were assured that he was decent man in his private life and business dealings.

I don't doubt it.

The reason for the obituaries in all the papers (including this one) is that he was in the top political job in Leinster House when the British sent in the troops in in 1969. Had he stayed in legal practice after his GAA days were finished, he wouldn't have merited a fraction of the coverage his passing demanded.

Here he was - the papers told us - the decent man from Cork who had saved ``us'' from Civil War in 1969. I thought of him as weak and ineffectual, but nothing more. He sat transfixed, a rabbit in the glare of headlights, as Belfast's Bombay Street burned.

He realised that the ``National Army'' gave him few options. His only viable military strategy, the generals informed him, would have been to order the army into Newry, which they felt would have achieved nothing.

In one sense, what he did was far worse than nothing.

He went on RTE and said that we wouldn't stand by - and then he did exactly that!

Despite that, up until recently I wouldn't have harboured a great dislike of him. That changed a few Sundays ago.

Eamonn McCann reproduced in the Sunday Tribune a transcript of a telephone conversation between the reputed leader of the Irish nation and British Prime Minister Edward Heath on the night of Bloody Sunday 1972.

There was written evidence of what Fianna Fáil are really like. Away from the stage Irishry of their Ard Fheis, here was `Exhibit A' of just what a failed political entity they had become by 1972.

Fifty years after the Tan War, the British Army had mercilessly carried out a cull of Taigs in Derry in front of the world's media. Ireland was numb with shock. The Bogside grieved. People throughout the world stood stunned.

So what could the Hurling Hero from Rebel Cork muster up on the phone? On that night of all nights this is what we got:

``I'm sorry for disturbing you at this hour, Prime Minister.''

Many people at that time gave their votes unflinchingly to Lynch and his party because they remembered the people who set the party up. In 1927 the only reason they were able to set up the ``Republican Party'' was that they had, somehow, escaped the Free State firing squads. Whatever the merits of setting up a 26-County ``Republican Party'' in 1927, the founders were genuine. Some of them barely had a spare shirt, never mind one from Paris that cost what a student nurse gets in a year.

Lynch was the first of the Fianna Fáil Taoisigh who didn't fire a shot in anger. When faced with the imminent probability that the Billy Boys were going on the rampage in the Six Counties - again - he did nothing.

The claim that Fianna Fáil would, if push came to shove, ``stand by the people in the North'' was found to be so much electioneering codswallop. If Billy was going to wipe out the Taigs in his wee Ulster and the Brits were going to stand idly by, then that was okay by the Soldiers of Destiny.

Sadly, it turned out that in 1969 Lynch commanded a Legion of the Rearguard that was worse than useless.

It's enough to make you weep.

An Phoblacht
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