15 March 2001 Edition

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Mála Poist

1981: Let's remember it all

A thousand people gathered last weekend in the imposing sanctuary of St Patrick's Cathedral New York to commemorate the 1981 hunger strikers. With dignity, pride and pain, an activist community remembered those dark days. So many commented that ``it feels like yesterday''.

Msgr. Eugene Clark spoke of the prisoners' immeasurable sacrifice and the hunger strike's profound political legacy. It was a fitting and proper tribute.

But it wasn't always so. In 1981 we, that is, the people who supported the hunger strikers and their five demands to be treated as political prisoners were pariahs on our own streets and frequently in OUR churches. For daring to march we were beaten off the streets and shot with plastic bullets by the RUC and British Army. For putting up posters we were arrested and abused by UDR patrols and gangs of loyalists. For daring to mention it in school we were hauled before headmasters.

When we gathered as a community to say the Rosary in our chapel, the gates and doors were padlocked and chained for the first time in the church's 100-year history. Remonstrating with the parish priest only brought scorn on prisoners' wives and mothers, who turned to prayer for spiritual comfort in the face of the most profound adversity any of us could imagine.

Not content to lock us out and force us to kneel on the street to pray, the priest then castigated us from the pulpit. People were named in an attempt to shame them. Relatives of prisoners were publicly humiliated. Our Catholic religion and the Irish Hierarchy were used against us to cow and beat us into accepting the criminality of our loved ones. Those who were our spiritual leaders (with some truly honourable exceptions) were not on the side of the poor and oppressed. Their actions and statements frequently give comfort to our abusers and their inactions were at times both unchristian and immoral.

How many priests visited their imprisoned parishioners as Christ preached? Prayers were frequently offered for dead soldiers and RUC men and we were encouraged to feel a communal shame at the deaths of our oppressors. Few such prayers were offered for dead republicans. Masses were refused, priests pulled flags off coffins, the remains were barred from churches and the clergy even threatened to ban funerals of dead republicans altogether.

Numerous funerals were brutally attacked by the RUC and the British Army opened fire with both lead and plastic bullets at the funeral of Joe McDonnell.

The political legacy is still unfolding and it is, I believe strongly, a positive one. The Catholic Church's actions resulted in the alienation of a huge numbers of people to a situation today where Mass-going is a minority activity.

Saturday's mass made me very sad and very, very angry at what we have lost and what was taken from us. It's alright now to remember but shame on us if we forget how it really was or the people who did the right thing in `81.

Oistín MacBride

New York

For a few dollars more

A Chairde,

Aren't Michael Noonan, Jim Mitchell, John Bruton, Esat, Telenor, etc ``passing the 50,000 bucks''?

Is mise,

Cllr Dessie Ellis,


Dublin 11

Jackie Griffith remembered

A Chairde,

This year marks the 58th anniversary of the death of Volunteer Jackie Griffith, Dublin Brigade, Óglaigh Na hÉireann, who was shot dead by Gardaí in Holles Street, Dublin on 4 July 1943.

Last year, the Jackie Griffith/Mairéad Farrell Sinn Féin Cumann reinstated the annual commemoration in his honour after a gap of seven or eight years. Over 150 people took part. This year there are bigger plans afoot. The commemoration will proceed from Ringsend Village via Pearse Street to Holles Street, where an oration will be given. En route, it will stop for a minute's silence outside The Widow Scallans in memory of Volunteer Martin `Doco' Doherty, Dublin Brigade, Óglaigh na hÉireann, who was killed while defending others in a UVF attack on the pub on Saturday 21 May 1994.

Afterwards, there will be an informal get together in the upstairs lounge of the Widow Scallans, where there will be music, poetry and an exhibition on Volunteer Jackie Griffith, along with some light refreshments.

Plans are already afoot to have a memorial erected near the spot where Jackie lost his life. It is expected that this memorial will be in place for the 60th anniversary. We also hope to have the first official outing of the new Jackie Griffith/Mairéad Farrell Sinn Féin Cumann banner, which bears the image of both Volunteers, at this year's commemoration.

If any of your readers have any items relating to Jackie Griffith, ie. photos, newspaper cuttings, mass cards, books, etc., could they please contact me on (087) 293 3441 in relation to getting copies made of same. Diligent care will be taken of all items loaned to the exhibition and they will be speedily returned. We have already amassed a fair amount of items but more are always sought after and appreciated.

This year's commemoration will take place on Saturday 30 June. Please keep an eye on the Imeachtaí section of An Phoblacht for the assembly time.

Jason McLean,

The Jackie Griffith Commemoration Committee,


Unity is the key

A Chairde,

As a Friend of Sinn Féin I found Danny Morrison's article `Comradeship?' interesting, important and, obviously, sad. To see people who have suffered past hardships together fall out, is a tragedy.

But it seems to me that the Irish Republican Writers' Group (IRWG) considers it legitimate to suggest that the Sinn Féin leadership is the plaything of the British counter-insurgency forces then, given the devious world in which we live, it is equally legitimate (perhaps even more so) to suspect that it is, in fact, the IRWG which is being manipulated by the British secret state. Anti-progressive elements have far more to gain from a fractured Republican Movement than from the `moulding' of a few key personalities in Sinn Féin.

Personally, I don't think either of these scenarios is the reality but counter-insurgency, through the power of wealth, media control and state-of-the-art technology, is today more sophisticated and complex than ever before and almost any scenario is possible. I offer an example.

I have just finished a book - When Corporations Rule the World - by an American businessman who appears to have suddenly found a conscience. His book is a devastating indictment of the evils of globalisation - so devastating that two thirds through the book I seriously doubted its credibility and actually wondered whether it was the secret brainchild of the corporations themselves.

Compared to the power of his critique of world business control, the author's solution to the destructiveness of globalisation is impossibly idealistic and naïve; he simply asks us to create the peaceful ecological revolution. I suspect that the corporations will find that `answer' far easier to manipulate than the violence which will unfortunately, but inevitably, confront global business power.

I hope the Republican Movement will stay united on the path of the Peace Process despite terrible frustrations it is facing. It seems to me obvious that it is this unity that the status quo really fears.

Brian Anson,

Milhac d'Auberoche,


SDLP risks rewarding the wreckers

A Chairde,

As a native of Tyrone, where there is an excellent chance of gaining two nationalists in the Westminister election, I am dismayed by the failure of the SDLP to respond positively to Sinn Féin's invitation to discuss co-operation to maximise the number of nationalist seats. This selfish attitude is especially alarming as the SDLP risks handing three seats [West Tyrone, Fermanagh/South Tyrone and North Belfast] to non-representative anti-Agreement Unionists.

I would appeal to Sinn Féin to write to the SDLP again and I would implore them to respond more positively this time. This is a major opportunity to end misrepresentation by anti-Agreement unionists, save the Good Friday Agreement and even build upon it by, for example, strengthening the All-Ireland Bodies so we can have a more coordinated all-island approach to Foot and Mouth, including banning so-called `UK' ice hockey matches in Belfast. In the longer term, this should lead to people in the north being able to fully participate in the Celtic Tiger economy, where unemployment is under 4% in contrast to the north, where over 10% of nationalists are still without a job.

If the SDLP would agree to cooperate with a fellow pro-Agreement, nationalist party, it would be a win-win scenario for everyone except the anti-Agreemnet wreckers who have held back progress for too long.

Seán Marlow.

Dublin 9

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1