Dissidents on the wrong side of the tracks – and history

The mind of the Republican dissident must be a very dark and dilapidated place, bereft of ideas and locked into a grim past.

No hope and nothing to offer, except a return to what they might consider as the golden days of bombing, shooting and wrecking.

While most of us are trying to move – however hesitantly – forward, they remain wedded to a creepily repetitive liturgy of violence and destruction.

You might expect that sort of narrative on their ‘heroics’ from a Unionist, right?

But hold on, isn’t one of their aims the reunification of Ireland? Do they not see themselves as the ‘inheritors’ of 1916? Is it not the case that everyone else has sold out, leaving them alone to carry the Republican mantle of Pearse, Connolly et al?

Let’s see just how those who seem to share their warped mindset set about making that vision of ‘an Ireland of equals’ a reality.

Monday morning, I was up at 6am for an early train journey – to Dublin, to sample the atmosphere of that great city 100 years after the rising.

It certainly wasn’t going to change my politics or turn me into a mad Rebel. After all, on Easter Monday last year I became the first Unionist to sing an Orange song in the GPO on O’Connell St.

So I was hardly likely to be dissuaded from my loyal ways by a day’s wandering around, taking in some of the re-enactments and maybe even a talk or two on the events that changed this island forever.

There was me in the house, waiting for my lift over to the railway station for the train to Baile Átha Cliath: loudest floral shirt I could find, vittles for the journey (banana, a few biscuits and some good oul Norn Iron Tayto – yes, that’s right, the ones made in Tandragee, Co Armagh, not them ‘other’ wans made in Ashbourne, Co Meath).

Aye, and some reading as well. I always read when I’m on the train, except when we’re passing Malahide, where I excitedly rush from one side of the carriage to the other to take some photos in the hope of a shot fit for the Newsline weather segment.

As for the reading, I’d a wonderful little book of WW1 poetry, not the big name stuff, but verse written by local soldiers – Protestants and Catholics – from the fronts of the Somme, Ypres, Verdun and other places still etched deeply in our collective memory.

Sadly, not a page was turned, not a Tayto was eaten and not a Newsline-fit picture was taken, as my Free State foray was cancelled just as suddenly as the original plan for a rising on Easter Sunday was cancelled by Eoin Mac Neill.

Trouble on the rail tracks at Lurgan. A common-enough occurrence and one which has disrupted the travel plans of countless Enterprise users over the years. All the usual contingency plans swung into place but the inevitable delay, bus transfers and potential hassle that entailed made me think again.

So I didn’t go. I had wanted to be there early to make it worth my while and it just didn’t seem worth while anymore.

‘Trouble on the tracks’ encompasses a wide variety of moronic entertainments for those whose patriotic Republican responsibility it is to stop the trains. Burning vans at level crossings; petrol bombs thrown at police, and that old favourite – flaming bins on the line.

What idiot could possibly have thought it was a good idea to sabotage the rail link on a day when they knew many would have been going to Dublin for a bit of crack after the solemnity of Sunday’s commemorations?

Sure, they stopped me, as a Unionist, from going, but I’m sure they prevented or at least hugely inconvenienced many others too – and among them would have been a not insignificant number who might prefer a verse or two of ‘James Connolly’ to ‘Billy McFadzean’ (same tune, very different words).

These bold patriots certainly have a sense of occasion. They’ve about as much chance of uniting Ireland as I have of uniting Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in a civil partnership.

At least I had a Plan B. I stayed at home and watched an excellent Apprentice Boys parade. It might sound odd to switch from visiting Dublin on Easter Monday to enjoying a Loyal Orders march: but I guess I tick a lot of cultural boxes.

That’s the difference between the real world and the dissidents. They tick no boxes (apart from the one for being idiots) and they’ve no Plan B…

  • John Collins

    There is no talking to those people. Generations ago De Velera, who fought with Tom Clarke, said he could not talk for Tom Clarke as Clarke ‘was now dead’. Everyone that voted in 1918 are long since dead and their mandate would have only lasted for about five years anyway.
    On a lighter note have you tried the O’Donnell crisps from the rich Golden Vale county of Tipperary. Almost guaranteed to turn the most sensible and composed Unionist into a weeping sentimental Nationalist. Well maybe not but damn good all the same.

  • chrisjones2

    “The mind of the Republican dissident must be a very dark and dilapidated place, bereft of ideas and locked into a grim past.

    No hope and nothing to offer, except a return to what they might consider as the golden days of bombing, shooting and wrecking.”

    I think that is unfair. Perhaps they all aspire to sit as MLAs in a British Assembly with a British salary passing British legislation and taking tea with LIz. Its something to aim for if they get sense

  • Mac an Aistrigh

    Why do we never see their spokespeople on the TV?

  • Glenn

    Sinn Fein member Catherine Seeley from Lurgan, claimed on radio this morning that those republicans who caused trouble and rioted in Lurgan, were a minority and had no mandate.

    How ironic Ms Seeley, here is news for you and all of Sinn Fein/IRA who were out canonizing and celebrating similar events that happened in Dublin 100 years ago. The rebellion 100 years ago was carried but by a minority and they did not have a mandate, so what’s the difference. Is it because they don’t follow the politics of the shinners/provos???

    Seeley and Sinn Fein/IRA with their parades, triumphalism, speeches and tweets (“lets have a new rising” Gerry Adams 27 March 2016), have made republican martyrs out those who took part in the failed rebellion 100 years ago, and there’s unfinished work. So with their Sinn Fein/IRA parades, triumphalism, speeches and tweets they are feeding new groups who see themselves today taking up the terror and the unfinished work, work they left unfinished when they signed up to policing and entered a partitionist power sharing parliament at Stormont.

  • Jag

    Shame Ian, it’s a fairly frequent occurrence (around once a month, though recently it’s been closer to twice) for the railway line between Newry and Belfast to be disrupted and the disruption always seems to be “around Portadown”. I suppose it gives the dissidents some sense of self-importance and potency and gets in your face.

    No idea what the dissident mindset is, maybe a former national secretary could do a blogpost for Slugger with her own perspective on the matter.

    However, because the NI railway is so crappy anyway (2 hours to Dublin! a proper 125mph service would do it in 45 mins) the replacement bus service between Belfast and Newry is just as quick. Shame you didn’t make it, maybe next year.

  • Jag

    Did you not catch Des Dalton on the Nolan TV Show a fortnight ago.

  • Cosmo

    The sooner, informers are celebrated and rewarded as ‘whistle-blowers’, the better.

  • Granni Trixie

    Surely you will all remember that during the troubles the Peace Train Organisation came into existence to highlight the ridiculousness of people claiming they wanted a UI and at the same time placing bombs on the train tracks! Do we have to resurrect PTO.?

  • Mac an Aistrigh

    Afraid I missed that. Was this the session Jupitus had to follow up light heartedly and described as surreal?

    Still think apologists should be kept under more intensive media scrutiny

  • KillickThere

    Tiocfaidh ár choo choo

  • Jag

    Yep, that was the programme a fortnight ago.

    I suppose the BBC would argue it provides airtime which is proportionate to the support base of the dissidents, which apart from pockets of Derry seems miniscule.

  • Croiteir

    On the wrong side of history is the sort of remark that should warrant instant post deletion. Over 100 years ago a man who would no doubt have been placed on the wrong side of history launched an attack on a post office which changed the historical trajectory. There are no guarantees that cannot happen again. Events dear boy.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    You mean if they get a sense of the goodies that political power can bring?

  • Thomas Barber

    So its damned if they do and damned if they dont ?

    Perhaps if they acted like Oliver Cromwell and murder thousands upon thousands you’ll post up how good they are.

  • Thomas Barber

    William of Orange didn’t have a mandate in Ireland either but that doesn’t stop unionists glorifying his actions.

  • Glenn

    King William took his mandate from Parliament in London, who sent him to fight those who were trying to invade Ireland, as he was King of Ireland. Did you want him to let some foreign army invade Ireland and cause mayhem. Anyway the shinners/provos are fine with it, as they are now part of that rich history in their partitionist parliaments, and meeting the Royal Family.

  • Bill Slim

    You’ve done whatbout the Boyne and whatabout Cromwell. Anything else in your box of historical whataboutery ?

  • Thomas Barber

    He got no mandate from the Irish people nor did the Parliament in London that illegaly give him that mandate. Was the Dutch dwarf and his army of European mercenaries not foreign.

  • Thomas Barber

    Yeah. Who gives a toss what you think.

  • Redstar

    I never actually accept that sort of estimation. Let’s not forget we were told by the establishment for 40 years the Provos had no support. Now that they ARE part of the establishment we are supposed to forget the cries of ” they have no support?”

  • Glenn

    Well there’s history for you. Can we British have the stolen years of Patrick, when he was kidnaped from Wales or England by Irishmen who had no mandate to invade Wales or England to kidnap and enslave people.

    Anyhow maybe Ireland did not want to be part of the popes rich tapestry for Europe then, was it more of “ourselves alone”.

  • Thomas Barber

    You dont know much about Patrick then do you, he was tiger kidnapped for money, held for ramsom, he escaped and loved Ireland so much he decided to come back of his own free will. Unlike those hundreds of thousands of Irish slaves taken from Ireland who were worked to death in countries invaded by Britain to build the Empire for the bankers who financed the Dutch dwarf including the Vatican.

    You tried for hundreds of years to eradicate the Catholic faith from Ireland and you still couldn’t do it but dont worry your going to become a minority in Britain too its just a matter of time before Britain becomes an Islamic state.

  • ted hagan

    I can understand your annoyance Ian. These continuity guys are sick. But as someone brought up in the unionist traditio, give me a republic than a
    monarchy any day of the week. You should throw your lot in. Ian. Good luck.

  • Cosmo

    Well, the Ryan Report etc has done a fair job on eradication of Catholic faith. So, a national shame is who gave the mandate to the Church, to enslave and exploit women in the Magdalen Laundries, or to make church profits, out of impoverished children by running those abusive Industrial schools ?

  • Thomas Barber

    “So, a national shame is who gave the mandate to the Church, to enslave and exploit women in the Magdalen Laundries, or to make church profits, out of impoverished children by running those abusive Industrial schools”

    Probably the man that brought Christianity to Ireland, your very own Patrick

  • Cosmo

    That’s grand, so !

  • Thomas Barber
  • SeaanUiNeill

    Interestingly, the London Parliament were acting illegally as only acts of parliament given assent by the king and the authorisation of this by the Great Seal of the Realm were legally binding. With the Great Seal at the bottom of the Thames and the King in France and later Dublin Castle, everything enacted by the Convention Parliament was “de jure” as illegal as what was done during the interregnum, even if such an illegal assembly could “de facto” enforce their will at the point of foreign bayonets.


  • SeaanUiNeill
  • Reader

    Cosmo: So, a national shame is who gave the mandate to the Church, to enslave and exploit women in the Magdalen Laundries, or to make church profits, out of impoverished children by running those abusive Industrial schools ?
    Mandated in Article 44 of the 1937 constitution. By the voters of the 26 counties.
    Prior to that date, the abuse was managed on an ad-hoc basis.

  • Gingray

    That man, and those with him, wore uniforms, no masks, and assumed defensive positions in full glare of the public and british military. Couldnt see this lot doing that, could you?
    The dissidents are on the wrong side of history, as was the PIRA from the early 70s. The world has moved on from 1916.

  • murdockp

    It is interesting the changes to their lives that they think Irish Unification with bring in the same ways Unionists fear the changes to their lives they will face if they leave the union.
    The answer to republicans is they will still be ruled by an upper class elite, even more so in the Irish Republic where political seats are passed down the generations like a family heirloom.
    They will still face the law when they do wrong and still be dictated to by Europe and US policy on many issues.
    They will still pay taxes and treated by indifference by the state.
    The ultimate question I have is if Ireland was unified, would the start another revolution when they find out nothing has changed?

  • Cosmo

    Do you honestly believe legal power should only cascade down a higherarchy from God, through the King and aristocracy ….. surely the whole ‘point’, indeed achievement, of the Glorious Revolution, was in transferring power (relatively peacefully, and legalistically) from James Stuart….. making it possible for Britain to have a Limited Protestant Monarchy – particularly in light of the oppressive behaviour of Catholic Absolute Monarchs of the time, like Louis 14th.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Whether or not it may be my opinion, Cosmo, it was the constitutional position in 1688, and one that was supported by a sizeable portion of the community for the succeeding hundred years:


    As I’ve pointed out a few times already on Slugger, if you read Scott Sowerby’s “Making Toleration”, some very exhaustive research on Scott’s part shows that the entire balance of enlightened liberalism on issues of religious, social and political toleration was entirely with one “Catholic Absolute Monarch”, James II & VII who used his dispensing power to suspend penal legislation against both Catholic and dissenter. Interestingly, he held the support of the radical Society of Friends well after his having been sent into elide. Counter-intuitively for a modern mind, it was the Representative body, Parliament and the puppet “king” who were the illiberal, oppressive architects of penal legislation in the three kingdoms.

    One of the most interesting things at the end of the eighteenth century is just how much of the radical Jacobite critique of self-interested Whiggery actually went into radical “Jacobitism” in Scotland and Ireland, Burns is one startling example, but there are many others.

    The toll road of canonical history is sometimes far too much of a “history for” as Butterfield has shown in “The Whig Interpretation of History”, and it sometimes requires the path less trodden to actually uncover some of the historical realities that political expediency has whitewashed over. Excellent challenge, though!

  • Croiteir

    Why should they?

  • Gingray

    Well in 1916 they did, and when the Irish people had the opportunity to have their say, they voted in favor of militant republicanism.
    The dissidents lack that support, hence why they need to hide.

  • Cosmo

    Hello Mr Barber
    Don’t think the burden of proof level in your attachment matches up to the Ryan Report…. Do you?
    But, If you steel yourself to look at the spread of 20thc (religious-Irish) abuse of children in Nth America, you can take your pick in

    Returning to the subject above, of ‘Dissident’ violence. Are your references (Cromwell, short William etc), your justification for Dissident activities nowadays ? ;

  • Cosmo

    Thanks for your reply. It is an interesting challenge – and your reference looks like a good read. But wasn’t James Stuart, just a teensy-weensy bit likely to get ahead of himself, when he saw what Louis could get up to!

  • Thomas Barber

    Burden of proof – Why would those victims lie ?

    Im a pacifist Cosmo so I wouldn’t support anyone who would use violence. Anyhows did you actually read all the posts in this thread, if you did could you point out to me where I justified any dissident violence ?

    Im not religious either so perverts are perverts, murderers are murderers no matter the religion and I dont think there is a person on this earth who would deny the extent of abuse carried out by men of the cloth be that bible in one hand sword in the other bringing their brand of Christianity to newly invaded lands or sexual abuise carried out by people in supposedly respectable positions, like these people –


  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’ve spent about ten years with his personal letters and diaries for the period, Cosmo, and believe James to be a man about whom most of what is “known” is simply pure calumny. One of the reasons he had so easy a succession after all the caffufle over the his Catholicism from the Whigs is that he was almost “notorious” for his unimpeachable personal honesty. This comes over in the letters, where, if he is “acting” as the canonic history usually claims, he’d obviously convinced even himself that he was instinctively liberal. He was intending to stay aloof from the developing European war and had no sympathy for Louis or his brand of absolutism, until he was compelled to ask for Louis’ aid against William, and thrown on his cousin’s charity.

    The Anglican monopoly of power had been cemented in his brothers reign by Charles’s employment of the Church faction against the tatters of the “Good Old Cause”, but James believed he had to govern all his subjects with even handedness. His attempt to open public office to Catholic and dissenter and tear up the Anglican monopoly of power was what lost him the crown, and the Presbyterians who had welcomed his policies of Toleration:


    were simply concerned under the Prince of Orange to ensure that Catholics had even more stringent penal restrictions than themselves applied. It would be a century before dissenters would enjoy the same civil and religious liberties as they had in 1687, and in Ireland the redress of this political debility was what would inspire the United Irishmen.

    I honestly believe that had James succeeded in his revolution, that all three kingdoms would almost certainly have benefited far more, and that the kind of representative bodies that would have in time developed would have been far less wastefully polarised. Certainly, Ireland would have had a trajectory more like that of Scotland politically, with a probable absorption of the seventeenth century plantations into a far, far less polarised polity. Perhaps the most important thing is to see James not as an isolated King attempting something on his own, but as a man offering leadership and the dispensing power in the context of many other good men striving towards a fairer and more open society. Scott’s work is a most useful body of research in the context:


    This is an ongoing debate in current historiography, involving quite a few first rate historians. But sadly we are where we are politically, with all the dead momentum of a history that people consider could have “never been any different” to stop us from learning valuable lessons from our past.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh, Cosmo, forgot to say, good and important challenge!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Hereditary politics exists everywhere, I mean look how many Ghandis are there in India’s Congress party.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I heard a rumour the sabotage of a rail link actually caused a delay in the RSF marching parade as the band could not get down in time. The possibly of one set of dissident republicans annoying another set cannot be ruled out.

  • Cosmo

    AGREE, Important, in a rush, too much to say on this right now.

  • John Collins

    Ian Paisley Jnr, Willie Mcrea Og, Rhanda Paisley. Mr & Mrs Robinson and Mr & Mrs Dodds, not bad for a Party that does not pass ‘political seats.. down the generations like family heirlooms’.

  • murdockp

    exactly my point, its al about the power, getting your hands on it in the first place and not letting go by whatever means.

  • Spike

    Disrupting the train lines and transport links to the south must be one of the most ridiculous strategies to force a united ireland ever invented.

  • Croiteir

    Nothing to do with the forces of occupation and their lackeys then

  • Gingray

    Only if you define yourself through your enemies – this was not the case in 1916.

    The simple fact is that in 2016, dissident republicans are more likely to be engaged in basic criminal activities for personal gain than in taking any action that will further the goal of an independent, United Ireland.

  • Croiteir

    I do not know about that. I would assume that if the cops could get them on criminal charges they would.

    Many things have changed since 1916. Not least a southern politic which centres on kept keeping the north out of the south and I’d hostile.

  • Gingray

    Not sure you are living in the real world here – did you miss the shootings in Dublin and Belfast recently? The dissidents are mostly about the auld drugs these days, controlling who gets to deal and who does not.

    Your last line did not make any sense, but anyhoo.