Issue 4-2022 small

19 July 2001 Edition

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The Irish Times - newspaper of record?

According to an article in the Irish Times this week, the turning point in Irish history in 1981 was not the decision of Thatcher to ignore the election of Bobby Sands in Fermanagh/South Tyrone and let him and his nine comrades die, nor the deaths of many other people in that tragic year of conflict, nor the national and international campaign of support for the prisoners.

No, according to Gregory Allen (Irish Times 17 July), it was the British Embassy riot and the Garda baton charge that was the real turning point in 1981. The deaths of the ten prisoners and all the momentous political consequences merit only an historical footnote, as in Gregory Allen's article. And, thankfully, the nation was saved from the ``psychological wounds'' not of the deaths that year but of the embarassment we would have suffered had the embassy actually been stormed!

On the many people indiscriminately batoned by the GardaĆ­ that day Allen has this to say: ``Innocent bystanders, who should have left the area as the riot reached its crescendo, were inevitably overrun in the baton charge.''

For ``overrun'' read ``savagely batoned''.

A detailed refutation of Allen's version of the 18 July events could be given but this would be to miss the point. The point is that, apart from a couple of articles earlier this year, the 20th anniversary of the hunger strikes has been ignored by the Irish Times. A newspaper which claims to be the paper of record, and which regularly carries historical pieces on all sorts of topics, chose to relegate this key event in modern Irish history. So far it has carried no major feature on the anniversary.

Then, to add insult to injury, we have this piece which, absurdly, places the ``splendid GardaĆ­'' of 18 July at the centre of events that year. This is the willful blindness of the Dublin 4 mentality, recalling events on its own hallowed turf, and relegating all else beyond the Pale.

It is a reminder of the importance of the work being carried out by 1981 committees throughout the country who are honouring the hunger strikers. That work must continue.


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