28 September 2000 Edition

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Republicans telling our history as it is

Coiste na nIarchimí members came together last Saturday, in Dublin's Tar Isteach offices, to co-ordinate just one of the many projects that ex-prisoners are looking to develop through Coiste.

The organisation is the co-ordinating body of the 24 former-prisoner groups around the country. Their aim is ``to secure the full integration of the republican ex-prisoner community through recognition of the contribution they have made to the community in the past and can make in the future.''

The project is to extend what has already started in the North into a national project of cultural political tourism. ``So much of our history has been hijacked or hidden through the promotion of the revisionist agenda. Now is an opportunity to reclaim it,'' says Eoghan Mac Cormaic, who chaired the meeting.

Ex-prisoners, including Patrick Hackett, from Tipperary, Jim Clarke and Vincent Forde, from Galway, Gay Cleary - who has been much involved in developing the historical background along Art O'Neill's way through the Wicklow Mountains - all talked with excitement at the potential for this project.

The potential for the development of political tourism in the West, where unemployment and emigration still take their toll, is immense. The project offers the opportunity for republicans to play their part, alongside of community groups, in halting the economic impoverishment of the West.

``An intrinsic part of conflict resolution, as begun through the Good Friday Agreement, is to disseminate an understanding of where the new political dispensation in Ireland has come from,'' Mac Cormaic said. ``People who visit this country want an understanding of our history that no longer relies on the lie that would write the struggle for a Republic out of our history. Now is an opportunity to change all this, for republicans to continue their part in the making of history - by telling it.

``This project represents a potential source of self-sustaining employment for the ex-prisoner community. Former prisoners would be self-employed, working in a co-operative environment of mutual trust, free from the discrimination and prejudice which many of them have had to confront in seeking employment''.

The project is integral to the aims of Coiste na n-IarchimÌ - to secure for ex-prisoners their rightful place in the construction of a new Ireland and to foster recognition of the part republicans have played in the history of this country down the years.


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