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Posts Tagged ‘ Troubles ’

News in Brief – Storms Hit Hard As Gun Law Repealed

weather

So NIB is back after prolonged Christmas hols and what’s been happening around the country?

We’re all underwater as storms continue to wreak havoc like the last guest at your New Year’s Eve party, who wasn’t invited anyway and then turned up with friends in tow and ate the entire prawn ring, but anyway. According to those in the know, jobs are looking up, crime stats are down and soon North and South might be getting along. Continue reading

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Adams Must Decide How History Will Remember Him

If the truth will have its way, another sad chapter of Northern Ireland’s violent history may finally be closed, should the testimony of an ex-IRA volunteer be joined to that of former IRA man, Brendan Hughes, and other former members who told their stories to the Boston college project whose aim it was and is to create and collect a repository of oral history concerning the Troubles.

Major pressure is to be heaped upon Gerry Adams in the Dáil following an interview given to the Sunday Telegraph by Dolours Price, a former member of the feared inner sanctum. Price, who was married to actor Stephen Rea, has remained disillusioned by the peace process and what she sees as Adams’ betrayal, and gave the Sunday Telegraph an interview concerning what she told the Boston project. The 61-year-old, who now lives in a quiet suburb in Dublin, has claimed that not only was Adams in the IRA but it was on his orders that victims were ferried across the border, a bombing campaign against a series of targets in mainland Britain, including the Old Bailey, as were the kidnappings of those viewed by the IRA as traitors, including one Jean McConville.

The allegations against Adams are nothing new. The family of Jean McConville in particular have always maintained the Sinn Féin leader’s role in her execution during the early 1970s on the basis of accusations concerning repeatedly relaying information to the British army through a radio in her home. Adams resolutely denies any involvement in the young woman’s death which has in some manner come to represent the atrocities committed by the IRA during the Troubles alongside the Omagh bombing. And until now no real hard evidence could be put forward to stick on Adams. Even when combined with the testimony of Brendan Hughes released by the Boston College after his death as per his agreement in the book ‘Voices from the Grave’ which offers a starkly different story to the one which Adams has always painted (namely his active involvement in the IRA), the proof is circumstantial and those who criticise him have a potential bias, being former IRA men and women who felt betrayed by a former leader. Unsurprising, really, when considering that the Troubles and the truth rarely go hand in hand.

The response from Adams hasn’t really been surprising. The solid, hard evidence mightn’t be there but public opinion will quite possibly mount against Adams, alongside political pressure from his colleagues in the Dáil who wouldn’t mind having a different scapegoat in the public eye (James Reilly, we’re looking at you). So really, at the heart of it, Adams will decide his own destiny. Despite the Good Friday Agreement which finally ended the Provo’s long armed campaign in the North, a page cannot be truly turned to a new side while the major players on both sides of the coin are not only publicly active in the present but shadily skirting their past. A new dawn is on the horizon with a new generation but the truth must out first. While he keeps his mouth shut, no one wins. The families of the disappeared want to know who and what caused their loved ones to die and is a constant and horrifying reminder of those thirty years of fear and violence.

Eventually, the truth will come out. Whether through legal wrangling or the passage of time and the deaths of those who told their stories, the contents of the Boston College project will be revealed, and new evidence will undoubtedly come to light. Two corroborating oral witnesses could be dismissed. Many more will surely not. And who knows what other dark secrets are yet to be revealed from within the depth of those archives. Adams and his image would do far better if he revealed any secrets he might be hiding about his past now, under no pressure and of his own accord. History, they say, will be the judge of us all. Adams must decide what it will say.

TG4 Documentary On Female IRA Members Causes A Stir

A new TG4 series has become mired in controversy after the broadcast of its first episode on Thursday night. Mná an IRA is a six part documentary series which, according to its makers, Loopline Film, will investigate the “involvement of women in active service with the provisional IRA in modern times.”

The series begins with a look into the life of Rose Dugdale, born to a wealthy family in England, educated in Oxford University, before becoming increasingly politically radicalised during the late 1960s and early 1970s, culminating in her joining the Provisional IRA in 1973.

There is something rather unsettling, however, about the way in which she is portrayed. From the beginning, she is referred to, for example, as a former soldier, and a member of Oglaigh na hÉireann, a title reserved for the only legitimate armed forces on this island, the Irish army. The programme charts her ascension in the socialist movement in England, moving over to republicanism in Ireland, interspersed with snippet interviews with former jailed republicans, or academic authorities. They paint a very bleak picture of life for Catholics in the North during the 1970s, certainly evoking sympathy for their existence as second class citizens. What is disturbing is the way in which the violent response, the campaign waged by the IRA which claimed the lives of more civilians than occupiers, is almost normalised. As Rose herself says during one of the many clips of her interview, one had to accept, when taking up the cause of Ireland’s freedom, that you might have to kill people. Darker still is the assumption, “that’s the only way you deal with them.” And this seems quite normal, acceptable. That is not to lay the blame solely at the feet of physical force Republicans; obviously each of those groups in the North was as bad as the other. Dugdale comes out of the programme looking like a freedom fighter, enjoying a well-earned rest after a hard life of necessary violence. And, although the focus of the programme, as stated by its makers, is on those involved in the IRA campaigns and why they joined in the first place, noticeably absent are any hard questions about her decision to pursue the violent route, and, of course, the impact of her actions on the victims and their families.

In an interview with John Murray on RTE radio, Dugdale went even further, dismissing the notion of IRA atrocities. “I wouldn’t accept that the IRA has carried out atrocities,” she contended, “I think that is your language, it is certainly not mine. I think that is a fairly ridiculous statement…” In the end, this is a woman who took part in the raid on Russborough House, pistol whipping an old man and his wife before tying them up in a chair, who threw bombs inside milk cans from a helicopter hoping to land them in a barracks, and who completely condoned a plan in which her boyfriend kidnapped a doctor in an attempt to release her from prison. “Fair play to anyone that was involved in that,” she says. The whole programme seems like a celebration of her life of violence rather than a condemnation. If these were the actions of Unionists, would they be glorified in the same way by TG4?

People may argue over the cause at the heart of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and even more so about the violence wielded by those on either side. That period in our history is a shameful one, regardless of stance, and cannot be understood as well by those of us examining it second hand. What can be understood, however, is that the violence and bloodshed suffered in the North over those 30 years is nothing to be praised, nothing to be glorified, not forgotten certainly, but remembered, something to be learned from. The one positive about these programmes is the insight into the mindset of the people involved in the IRA’s campaign against the British state, the complete willingness to use violence even when there are other methods available, and the way in which they completely rationalise attempts at murder.

Since the programme aired last week, a board member of TG4 has criticised the series, arguing that executives must now take a closer look at the direction of the remaining five episodes. Concubhar O Liathan stated that Mna an IRA is a “serious stain” on the television channel. Writing in the Sunday Independent, O Liathan argued that “If the first programme is any indication of what’s to come, it will be nauseating and heartbreaking for the victims of the IRA and their relatives.”

Kevin Myers, writing in the Irish Independent earlier this week warned of the dangers of halting free speech, speaking of Trinity College’s decision to prevent BNP leader Nick Griffin and Holocaust denying historian, David Irving, from speaking at the Hist. Freedom of speech, he argued “is not dependent on intellect or eloquence or political content. Quite the opposite. It tolerates ideas that are offensive, cretinous, ludicrous, bizarre, grotesque and nauseating, merely drawing the line at incitement to hate or to inflict violence.” People like Rose Dugdale should indeed be allowed their platform, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with her. We just have to be careful what they say from it and how we shape it.

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