66 Days: fear, anger and a lost grip on control

I was invited to and duly attended the premiere of Bobby Sands: 66 Days last Saturday night. Alex Kane was also in attendance and he produced this well considered piece in Monday’s Newsletter.

After the film’s showing, a question and answer session took place with former republican prisoner, Seanna Walsh, The Impartial Reporter’s Denzil McDaniel and Brendan Byrne, the film’s producer.

McDaniel had also written a piece on the film which can be read here.

Byrne has produced a very good film that has already been well received, and I would not be surprised if it finds itself in line for further accolades in the time ahead.

The subject matter is clearly a sensitive one in a society as divided as ours, and Sands’ stature and international recognition is such that it is easy to understand why a film producer would seek to use his story as the basis for a production.

Alan has provided a detailed review of the film in an earlier piece on Slugger. My take on the film would be somewhat more positive than Alan’s.

I enjoyed the use of footage throughout which allowed the viewer to get a sense of the context in which events unfolded.

Sands’ background growing up in Rathcoole has never really been explored, and it was fascinating to listen to a man cast into the public spotlight on account of his son’s death at the hands of fellow loyalists, Raymond McCord Snr, describe how he used to play football alongside Sands in the area.

The manner of Sands’ death has ensured that he is destined to remain a figure casting a long shadow over this period of Irish history, and Byrne uses Sands’ own words through his poems and correspondences to articulate how he would have perceived events unfolding at the time and his attitude to them, including his own hunger strike.

Unionist ‘outrage’ has already been proclaimed, including objections to the involvement of the BBC in the production of the film.

I don’t believe most unionists are ‘outraged’ about this film. Whilst many would be wary of a film production which looks at the life of the leading republican icon of the modern era through a singularly republican prism, that most certainly is not this film.

The dominant narrative throughout is provided by an ardent opponent of republicans, Fintan O’Toole, and reference to IRA killings including of prison officers, politicians and civilians throughout leaves no one in any doubt but that republicans created victims throughout a dark and brutal conflict (there are no other kinds of conflict.) The film includes a significant reference to the dreadful killing of Joanne Mathers, which was referred to in an important manner by the film maker in the post-screening discussion.

To me, Byrne’s core theme is that Sands’ death after his by-election triumph sparked republican interest in electoral politics and, once that decision was taken, the path to ceasefire and compromise was inevitable. Indeed, he correctly refers to how the IRA’s killing of Mathers on polling day for the Fermanagh South Tyrone by-election highlighted the contradictions and frictions that would develop and be exposed as they sought to broaden popular support for republicanism via electoral politics whilst slowly reaching the conclusion that armed struggle was not only failing to deliver the hoped-for advances but ultimately also standing in the way of making further progress through Sinn Fein.

The thoughts and perspectives of republicans involved in the conflict are also explored and articulated, with contributions from fellow prisoners of Sands and other leading republicans providing an insight into how they had approached the hunger strikes (there were two at the prison), the preceding dirty protest and subsequent move into electoralism.

Any reasonable observer would conclude that Byrne is his own man and was not of a mind to be unduly influenced by any political figures in terms of shaping the narrative of his production. Indeed, several prominent republicans made a point of highlighting elements they disagreed with during the post-screening discussion, including Seanna Walsh, Tom Hartley and Alex Maskey, all significant contemporaries of Sands within republicanism from that era. Byrne’s own transparently critical comments regarding ‘Sinn Fein speak’ in a recent Irish Times interview further confirms that his integrity is beyond reproach.

And yet the ‘outrage’ continues.

This morning’s Newsletter featured a claim by prominent Ulster Unionist and Victims campaigner, Kenny Donaldson, that the film was ‘terrorism idolatry.’

I featured alongside Kenny on The Nolan Show this morning to discuss his accusations. Within the first exchange between Kenny and Stephen Nolan, it was confirmed that Kenny had not yet even watched the film.

In itself, that is revealing.

What lies behind the ridiculous reaction of a number of Unionist politicians and commentators to the production of this film is an inability to accept that there are differing interpretations of our past, and present, and indeed opposing visions of our future in this society. This failure to appreciate and come to terms with the essentially contested nature of our past leads to these ultimately vain efforts to close down what they do not like.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone Ulster Unionist MP, Tom Elliott, has also been quick out of the blocks to condemn the production of the film. Naturally, he hadn’t seen the film before commenting either.

In 2011, the same Tom Elliott wrote a letter to the editor of the Impartial Reporter demanding that Mary Lynch, a columnist from a republican background, be axed from the paper on account of her views (the Fermanagh Orange Order made the same demand.) The editor, Denzil McDaniel, wisely dismissed the calls.

This time, anger is employed to pursue that agenda. On other occasions, it’s fear.

Yet neither anger nor fear are what this is really about.

Rather, it is about control, or to be more accurate, a struggle to come to terms with a loss of control.

During our discussion this morning, I pointed out that public funding- from the EU as well as the British and Irish governments- contributed towards the construction of museums for the Orange Order in recent years.

I have visited the museum at Schomberg House, and wrote this article about that visit.

There is no effort at objectivity, nor was there any expectation from the funders that anything other than a subjective narrative of our past and present would define a trip to this museum.

Yet I would contend that such funding through public monies was appropriate as it provides for a means to articulate an Orange narrative. There are plenty of opportunities to contest the Orange perspective, but allowing it a voice is important.

This week, as part of Feile an Phobail (the West Belfast Festival), the Duncairn Cultural and Arts Centre hosted a staging of “The Man who swallowed a dictionary,” a play produced by a loyalist about the former loyalist prisoner and PUP leader, David Ervine. A presentation on behalf of the UVF-linked ‘ACT- Action for Community Transformation’ followed. ACT is a loyalist grouping which, according to its own website:

“….is a transformation initiative which supports former combatants province-wide, in the post ceasefire climate. Through tailored training and support, ACT builds the capacity of its members, supporting them to engage in the social, economic and political structures of Northern Ireland. ACT also encourages its members to embrace new, positive leadership roles within their local communities.”

As you can see from the Mid Ulster ACT twitter account, it is quite openly supportive of the role played by members of the UVF during the conflict.

The evening passed without any comment nor condemnatory statement from political leaders within nationalism. Given the historical links and roots of the Belfast festivals within republican communities, it is highly likely that political representatives from the mainstream nationalist parties were supportive of the decisions to include these events in the festival programmes.

A willingness to allow for expressions of the Other, and recognizing the legitimacy of alternative perspectives, does not equate with agreeing with those perspectives. From the standpoint of political leaders, it is important because it helps prepare the grassroots for what a shared society in the post-Good Friday Agreement political landscape must look like.

Continuing to push against this has not helped with the process of developing a stable and outward looking unionist community. Indeed, the instability within unionism that has manifested itself through flag protests and parade protests and camps is rooted in the failure of political leaders to prepare the grassroots for the reality of a shared society and state developing in which the once all-dominant unionist narrative would lose its pre-eminent place.

In spite of repeated efforts to raise fear and anger, there will not be any other way.

 

 

  • Skibo

    Like I said previously, it is not up to me to defend or attack Republicanism. There are enough doing that.
    Could I suggest you look at it from the Republican side and then see how Republicans can look scornfully at anyone condemning their actions when the British Army can be held at such high esteem when they have killed so many more over the world than ever died in the north. Indeed still do with indiscriminate bombing.

  • PeterBrown

    That’s funny because thorughout your comments on this thread you are “defending” their right to SCS when in fact under the law as I have explained so far without contradiction they were not PoWs and therefore ordinary prisoners.

    The British Army (as distinct from the RAF) does not engage in indiscriminate bombing and we all know how the republicans alphabet soup does not like to be tarred with the same brush….

    Can you point out to me on what legal as opposed to moral basis they were entitled oto SCS bearing in mind as I have stated elsewhere to be treated like a soldier you have to behave like a soldier and your army has to behave like and army and collectively you have to in general abide by the relevant interntional laws? If not then the whole Hunger Strike “project” was entirely misconceived which is why only Irish republicans venerate them….

  • Skibo

    Those rose coloured glasses of the allied supporters.
    The French Resistance also targeted what they called collaborators. Guess what nationality they were?
    Were you aware that the Vichy French Government passed anti-terrorist laws to outlaw the actions of the French Resistance. They set up the Milice to counter the “terrorists”.
    Remember the French Resistance were allies of the British.
    https://frenchhistoryonline.com/vichy-france-and-the-second-word-war/vichy-france-collaboration-and-resistance-a-lecture-by-chris-millington/
    Sounds so much like the north and south in Ireland.
    I leads me to wonder had Hitler invaded England, how many would have accepted German rule and how many would have continued the fight?

  • PeterBrown

    Not sure that answers the question about support of the community against a recent invading force or furniture shops – are your spectacles tinted green?

  • Jollyraj

    When you say ‘you’, do you mean me personally?

  • Skibo

    Where did I defend their “right to SCS”?
    I defend the right of Republicans to commemorate the sacrifice that the Hunger Strikers gave.
    Britain stood by and allowed one of their own MPs to die on hunger strike, something unknown in democratic society.
    Oddly enough SCS was the gift of British politicians.
    Previously to the construction of the H Blocks, the prisoners were kept in Long Kesh in conditions similar to Prison camps during WW2. Prisoners were in their own clothes and generally ran their own huts.
    In 1976 SCS was replaced by a criminalisation policy similar to Nazi treatment of the Free French.
    I would suggest you look outside your narrow minded Unionist views to the wider world. You will find that through France there are many cities with a Bobby Sands street.
    Try putting “British massacre in” into Google and see what countries come up, outside Ireland!

  • Katyusha

    That is completely irrelevant to the point I was contesting, that people who sacrifice their life in a political protest have very different motivations to the vast majority of suicide cases.

  • Skibo

    Sorry, no personal criticism meant.

  • Skibo

    Would you call the blowing up of trains or trail lines as an attack on the locomotive industry or an attack on the ability of Germany to control the occupied area of France. If you care to read the attachment you will see that the support of the Free French was not as vast as has been made. The British were able to support this terrorist organisation in their battle against the Germans.
    This was not a one off and the British supported many “terrorist” organisations when it suited them.
    One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. Depends which side of the gun you are on.

  • PeterBrown

    “Here were men serving sentences for actions during the troubles and whether you like it or not such actions were linked to a political struggle.
    Previously the Government had permitted such political prisoners to be treated differently from the rest of the prison inmates. This refusal of political status was to show the Government was treating these men as ordinary prison inmates and demean their political struggle to common violence and law breaking.”

    There is where you defend it in black and white and as I have said if you want to be treated like a soldier you have to behave like one and your organisation ahs to behave like an army (even in general if not without exception) – republican terrorists didn’t even pretend they were an army but demanded the rights that came with that without the quid pro quo responsibilities that were attached to those rights and the criminalisation policy was the application of the relevant international law not something illegal unlike the entire IRA campaign.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    and it’s the latter that deserve our empathy, not the political extremists who do it out of a proud fanaticism. Lauding that behaviour, what message does that send out? Is that kind of zealotry not doing the world enough damage?

  • Skibo

    “your organisation” My organisation! Where have I claimed ownership of the IRA?
    “republican terrorists didn’t even pretend they were an army” Do they not call themselves the Irish Republican Army?
    The British Government set the principle of SCS, not me. They accepted that what went on in NI was not normal. The change in government led to different policy and criminalisation of the IRA.
    As for the British Government knowledge of justice, it was not till 1992 that they made the UDA a proscribed organisation!

  • Katyusha

    So we’re agreed, then, that HS has no relevance to our current issues with suicide. That’s good, because some commentators here are determined to link the two, which is both ridiculous and insulting to people who struggle with mental illness.

    I don’t believe standing up for your beliefs is zealotry, and I don’t believe anyone would resort to a hunger strike if there was any other option open to them. It would be great if every dispute could be settled by a polite discussion over tea and biscuits, but the world doesn’t work that way.

  • PeterBrown

    The organisation of the prisoner not you personally of course (just the organisation whose actions you “understand”), they were an army in name only and never pretended they were bound by the rules / laws applicable to armies any more than the Salvation Army and Sinn Fein has never been proscribed bu the UFF were – all very skillful ways of deflecting from the question I actually asked which remains unanswered (still) – the entitlement to SCS (which you implicitly accept was none)

  • PeterBrown

    Were the trains full of civilians / non combatants? Lets compare apples and apples not apples and oranges from half a century ago when the rules / laws of war were completely different – can you provide any legal basis for the retention of SCS?

  • Skibo

    Can you provide a legal basis to the removal of SCS other than a whim of Margaret Thatcher?
    No the French Resistance didn’t kill civilians. They had special explosives and bullets that didn’t have any effect on French citizens other than the collaborators of course.
    What a silly comment. Ask a stupid question and you will get a stupid answer!
    There are no apples or oranges in war of any kind and in the end the majority of casualties will be innocent civilians.

  • Skibo

    Entitlement of the SCS is simple. The British Government deemed it an entitlement and then on a whim by Margaret Thatcher it was removed. The Hunger Strikers were demanding its reintroduction. Yes, No, it is personal perception and I hold the right to have a different perception to you.

  • Katyusha

    What was a massive overreaction was the response of the police in meeting peaceful civil rights marchers with batons, and doing the same to innocent and unrelated civilians in the Bogside.
    I do not blame people for rejecting police incursions into the area after the behaviour shown by the police in the past. They were afraid of the police, and with good reason.

    Whether unionists “trusted” NICRA has nothing to do with the fact their demands were perfectly reasonable and indeed would have been part of any civil democracy. There shouldn’t even have been a case for NICRA to protest. Republicanism is part and parcel of our society and you aren’t going to get anywhere if you discount every movement because “there are rebuplicans involved in it”. That wish to sideline and ignore people wholesale because of their politics is a good illustration of the sickness afflicting the NI establishment at the time.
    But there is a debate to be had over whether unionist politicians genuinely believed NICRA was a trojan horse for the IRA (a ridiculous notion, all told), or whether they were using the name of the IRA to slander and degrade a legitimate organisation. It wouldn’t be the only time they’ve done so.

    But at least we’ve moved on from pretending the Troubles started from an attack on a police station in Belfast. Good to clear that up.

  • Oggins

    It’s point that you use suicide as an option? Can you not see it’s insensitive to those who have suffered the affects? By the fact you saying it’s more attractive. Definitely makes it YOUR credo.

    The reason for flogging the dead horse, us that I ant believe you can’t admit it’s insensitive. Says more about you.

    Personally, I would of preferred no deaths. Would of preferred leadership and politicians to actually address the issues, in the 70’s.

  • Skibo

    “German figures from France, in 1943 recorded 281 attempts on the lives of Germans, and another 244 combined attempts on French policemen and collaborators” Figures from occupied France
    “there were some armed groups who carried out a recorded 7,000 individual attacks – 1,000 of which targeted a German, and the remaining 6,000 targeted Frenchmen”
    Figures from Vichy France for the six weeks around the Normandy operations.
    http://digitalcommons.providence.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=history_students
    As I have said before in all wars the sacrifice is mainly laid at the door of innocent civilians.
    Very interesting reading on the actions of the French Resistance.

  • PeterBrown

    Which is of course completely irrelevant to the discussion about the IRA 40 years later but an interesting if ultimately unsuccessful diversion…

  • PeterBrown

    No the issue of entitlement to SCS is an objective legal one with no perception issue and the clear and unequivocal answer is no

  • PeterBrown

    You were right about one thing it was a stupid answer because it didn’t answer my question about the trains – the maquis did not deliberately target French non combatant civilians but their actions are irrelevant to the issue of SCS to which non PoWs are not entitled and the republicans prisoners were not PoWs. We now have at least 4 separate sub threads all with the same inevitable conclusion that the H Blocks were prisons not PoW camps because the inmates were prisoners not PoWs and they were responsible for that status by their own actions and no amount of deflection distraction and smoke and mirrors can change that fact…

  • Hugh Davison

    Have you seen the film yet?

  • eireanne3

    so you’re all beyond reasoning with?What’s needed – psychiatrie de masse?

  • Hugh Davison

    Have you seen the 66 Days film yet?

  • eireanne3

    “if you want to be treated like a soldier you have to behave like one and your organisation ahs to behave like an army”

    Get real – In few, if any, liberation struggles all over the world did set piece armies face each other. the last time was probably dublin 1916 and look how the leaders ended up. the Uk certainly didn’t treat them as POW – which according to your criteria – they were – They volunteers wore uniforms, defended positions, had canteens and medical services, etc

  • PeterBrown

    Its not as easy as that – international law not reenactment society facilities define soldiers and in 1916 they were not soldiers. Those who fail to do so are entitled to be treated as criminals with no special status hence why the Hunger Strikes were misconceived, wanting the rights of soldiers without obeying the rules which gave entitlement to those rights (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this elsewhere on this thread…)

  • Granni Trixie

    I have read many thoroughly researched books by Henry Patterson And I doubt he would claim that his analysis (on discrimination and Unionist misrule for example) as compatible to Gudgins especially as the later is in denial of claims of a discriminatory regime.

  • Granni Trixie

    Without wishing to insult you you are living in a bubble. You do a crime you go to jail. Why should you be entitled to extra privileges?
    Can you at least understand the perspective of law abiding citizens?

  • Granni Trixie

    You have his image in your china cabinet AND your wallet?,, get a grip man.

  • Granni Trixie

    I do not agree that it trivialises suicide to define HS actions as a form of suicide – death occurs because of a lack of perspective and an unbalanced mind.

  • Katyusha

    I’m not saying what I would expect, Granni. I’m pointing out what they expected, which is vital in understanding the whole episode.

    And I’d also like to point out I’m a 100% law-abiding citizen, so I should have no problems understanding this no-doubt homogeneous perspective on how the prison and justice system should be run.

    It’s also worth pointing out the “special privileges” would still be below the cushy standards of prison for ODC’s in some European countries – take Norway for example. Do you think all criminals are treated the same way, even within the same country?

    What made people entitled to Special Category status? It wasn’t out of compassion, it was a negotiated settlement. Sometimes you have to be pragmatic with the agreements you make. Do you think whatever Thatcher gained by removing SC status was worth the amount of hassle that it caused?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m sure they disagree on a lot of stuff, I don’t know. But they both find there was no overall disadvantage in housing, for example. Gudgin, in the article I was reading the other day, was not in denial there was discrimination in some aspects of the government, but also like Patterson and a lot of other historians, finds most of the worst practice was at a local council level in the west of the province. Nationalist councils were also discriminating in very similar ways to unionist ones – the problem was the ‘looking after your own’ mentality, which has certainly not confined to unionists in Ireland.

    The main problem with the Stormont government wasn’t that it was a regime that was actively going out to practise large scale discrimination, though it did a bit of that. The problem with it was that it was not interested in actively tackling nationalist disadvantage in some areas, particularly in employment. Direct action on a big scale was needed to make a difference to the disparities between the communities and the UUP was a conservative party and it didn’t care enough about equality of outcomes. That for me is the main area where the government let people down. It was also deeply mistrustful of nationalists, to an extent that interfered with good governance. But it didn’t create an unequal society – that was there before 1921. If it made it worse, it was marginally. Its main failure was to do anything about it.

    It wasn’t great, but nor was it wholly biased or wholly corrupt as the Republican narrative has it. Much of what the government did was uncontroversial stuff, done in an uninspired, plodding kind of way. The main problem was, is and probably always will be a structural one. We are a divided society. Power-sharing is the only way – and any ideas of one community running the place and the other not should be consigned to the dustbin. This, of course, is the great danger now inherent in the united Ireland idea – that power-sharing would be a casualty of it. Anyway, rambling off topic as ever …

  • Oggins

    That is not my point. I implore you to read it again, instead of trying to get me into a war of words over B.S. my point is over over jolly used suicide as an option,with out actually looking on how suicide has affected people.subject and those who suffered from it deserve more respect.

  • Granni Trixie

    I think they should never have had SCS – it was a mistake which needed rectifying. That said (a) I think Thatcher never understood here generally and mishandled the whole jail situation (.B) I would support campaigns to have a humane regime for prisoners. I recognise the disempowerment in their situation and how families generally pay the price too.

  • Skibo

    Stupid was the question because and I will try and make this as plain as I can. Explosives are not selective and normally do not ask a nationality before they kill someone. Normally the train drivers in France were all driven by the French. French people were targeted to a greater proportion than the Germans by the French Resistance.
    Now to deal with the SCS, would you like to confirm who first granted SCS to political prisoners in NI in the first place? What changed about their actions before and after the removal of SCS? Answer the political decision by Margaret Thatcher to criminalise the actions of the IRA.
    The H Blocks were prisons but they were not normal prisons. The prisoners held inside were not normal prisoners. Their actions were in the name of a political cause.
    You can have all the sub threads you want.What determines the conclusion for I do not agree with yours.

  • Skibo

    It was an entitlement put in place by the British Government. What changed from that time?

  • Skibo

    Peter,
    How can it be completely irrelevant? You were quite happy to discuss the French Resistance when you thought that they were as seen on Allo Allo. Well they were not and now that you see that you want to ignore something that you thought was in your favour.
    Now as an Allie of the French Resistance, would you agree with their treatment by the German occupation force?

  • PeterBrown

    You brought up the French Resistance not me and I have pointed on numerous times that they operated under a different legal system 40 years before the Hunger Strikers

  • PeterBrown

    Eevn you have conceded it was not an entitlement so lets not redraft the question just to suit you – it was a discretion which they could and did withdraw as they were perfectly entitled to do

  • PeterBrown

    They were normal prisoners in normal prisons – that is the point. To be PoWs they had to be soldiers from an army who individually and colllectively obeyed the relevant laws to entitle them to that status and they did not. No rights without responsibilites…

  • Skibo

    Not normal prisons and not normal prisoners. What you are claiming is you view. When SCS was issued by the British Government the precedent was set.
    NI was not a normal place and definitely not a normal democracy.

  • Skibo

    Where did I say it was not an entitlement? Thou doth protest too much.
    As previously stated and maybe at some stage you will be able to grasp it, The British Government introduced the SCS, not the prisoners and definitely not me. They set the precedent.

  • Skibo

    I bring up the French Resistance on numerous occasions when the legality of the actions of terrorist organisations are brought into question. I could also raise the actions of the ANC and others. The USA was brought into being based on terrorist actions as was many another country.

  • PeterBrown

    What you are stating is your opinion and what I am stating is (so far uncontracdicted) legal fact – in your opinion they were special prisoners whose actions you understand (subjective opinion) whereas in fact legally due to their individual and collective failure to apply the relevant standards to their own actions they were not entitled to be treated as PoWs (objective legal fact) and the temporary revocable grant of additioonal privileges by any government was exectly that and could as it was be revoiked at any time. If you have any legal basis for your position please feel free to set it out here and I will try to “understand” it in the same way that you “understand” the firebombing of a clothes shop with the young mother of two who supported her family inside…..

  • PeterBrown

    They are not the same as PIRA though – unless you can point out where the British government had its death camps and when immediately prior to IRA campaign starting they invaded Northern Ireland on a blitzkrieg campaign….

  • Skibo

    I think you need an education on the actions of freedom fighters and how they try to free their land from a occupying force. Go look it up. I do not have the time or the inclination to educate you.
    Just for your own interest, the British Government are more than happy to assist such organisations in foreign lands when it suits them. That involves the use of units such as the SAS who operate out of uniform and of high level bombing by the RAF. They are more than happy to provide weapons to such organisations.

  • PeterBrown

    And when were these organisation’s prisoners treated as PoWs?

  • PeterBrown

    “SCS was the gift of British politicians” a gift being the exact oppsite of an entitlement…and something being in the gift as you put it they were equally entitled to remove

  • Skibo

    Not the same until revolution is achieved.
    At what stage does occupation of another country become legal? The majority of France had accepted the terms of the Vichy treaty and at one stage, the Vichy government requested a change to the treaty to allow them to fight the British. Remember Britain sank a number of French warships. Were you aware that the French supplied men to fight with the Germans in Russia. After all of this Britain were prepared to assist the French Resistance. War doth make strange bedfellows.
    By the way, it was not that long ago that they assisted a certain Bin laden. How did that work out?
    I believe they are supporting terrorist organisations in Syria at the moment.
    One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. Depends which end of the gun you are on.

  • PeterBrown

    But irrespective of whether they are a freedom fighter (whose actions you “understand”) or a terrorist (which is presumably a freedom figher whose actions you subjectively don’t understand) they are not soldiers and therefore not PoWs so this is a complete red herring – the merits of the uprising are irrelevant it is the methods which determine PoW status and entitlement to SCS. But keep digging down in that hole…

  • Skibo

    What you state is your position also. There are a number of positions that can be debated. ( By the way, this is a debate and nothing more).
    What we should be able to agree on, as it fact and not conjecture,
    1) Special Category Status was legislated by the British Government for Political category prisoners during discussions on an IRA ceasefire.
    2) It was repealed, not sure of the date.
    3) A number of prisoners jailed after that date went on a “dirty protest” to show that in their eyes, they were not criminals and demanded reinstatement of SCS.
    4) Following two hunger strikes the special category status principles were reinstated.
    All are facts.

  • Skibo

    Biggest hole in your argument is the fact that the British Government put in place Special Category Status. So they saw them as different.
    It was repealed but the prisoners have the terms of SCS in all but name.
    Wheres me shovel?

  • PeterBrown

    What I state are facts which interestingly you have not chosen to contradict as you cannot
    As for your “facts”
    1) It was not legislated it was granted at the discretion of the Secretary of State as part of negotiations for a ceasefire
    2) It was later repealed after the IRA broke that ceasefire and it was recognised its introduction was a mistake
    3) Agreed
    4) Disputed
    Only one of those was a fact but nearly half true is an unusually high percentage for a republican sympathiser

  • PeterBrown

    While they were offering a ceasefire perhaps but not after they broke it…I note even you now accept you have shovel!

  • Skibo

    The conditions that lead to that break in the ceasefire are disputed and some would say that they were created by the UDA and the RUC.
    I was looking for my shovel so you could fill your hole in.

  • PeterBrown

    I’m not sure there is a significant dispute about the breakdown but in any event the quid pro quo was the loss of the concession (not entitlement) of SCS – is not unwise to fill in a hole you are in even if I dug it for you?

  • Skibo

    Peter,
    1) legislation was required for SCS to come into operation
    2) It was not repealed after the ceasefire broke down. It was repealed on advice of the Gardiner Committee, a British Government body.
    2a) the actual facts of the actions that broke that ceasefire make interesting reading. There were those within society who wanted the ceasefire to stop, not from the Republican side.
    3) Agreed
    4) What do you dispute? Were the prisoners held in the same conditions as other criminal prisoners?
    We are getting closer.
    Just one thing Peter, our personal character is built on periods of our personal history and our education. I am a product of the treatment of the Nationalist community and the education I went through. The majority of my Nationalistic thoughts were borne out of working in England where I realised that I was not actually British but considered an Irish Mick.
    We will always disagree on the history of the island as a whole. You have your ideas on how the facts can be interpenetrated and I have mine.
    From what I can surmise between your lines, your history has been severely affected by the fire bombing of the shop and I offer my sincere condolences if this has touched you or your family personally.
    Many many lives have been lost and those losses leave wounds in the hearts and minds that do not heal the way that ordinary wounds do.
    Nothing I will ever say will change the way you feel your pain but I too have my own pain.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “They were always available to anyone who wasn’t using violence.”

    While I’m never going to support any recourse to violent solutions, I must state that any suggestion that any constitutional pathway to reform was on offer in the Northern Ireland of the 1950/60s is either historically uninformed or disingenuous. Unionism was determined to hold on to power on its terms and the one attempt to build a party of consensus, by the old NI Labour Party, was systematically aborted by Captain O’Neill himself in the early 1960s. The built in Unionist majority he copper bottomed with his campaign of “vote Labour for a United Ireland” ensured that not only those of differing moderate nationalist opinions were ensured little or no voice, but even progressive Unionists who could envisage Catholic participation within Unionism itself, such as Brian Maginess and Clarence Graham, were rendered voiceless. But perhaps, rather than looking at these things on the page, you needed to have been there with an inside track on Unionist intransigence even within O’Neill’s administration to see just how absurd any suggestion that there were constitutional “pathways” open to even the most honest dissent at that time!!!!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Anglo-Irish, the need of Unionism to retain final say here at all costs was not simply evident in their treatment of NICRA and the PD. See my comment above, especially they marginalising of the old NILP and the UUP progressive Brian Maginnis!

    Try this, if you have jstor access:

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/29735964?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yes chris, you are perfectly correct that part 2 of Article 1 of the UN Charter states as its purpose:

    “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.”

    I wonder if you might extend the “self determination of peoples” to those people living here who have determined that they are Irish rather than British. The Belfast Agreement suggests this to my mind. Both British and Irish governments state that they:
    “recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland.”

    The removal of the sovereignty claim to NI in the Irish Constitution is not a recognition or authorisation of NI’s “Britishness” so much as a recognition of the liminal status of our polity, with any “sovereignty” an entirely contingent thing that is fully dependant on the developing wishes of its people. The safeguard for identity in the Agreement states that both governments:
    “recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland.”
    This is quite a different thing to your suggestion that NI is now simply recognised as “British”.

    Note, please, that each of us have the “right to hold both British and Irish citizenship.” “Citizenship”, note!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed!!! Thomas Bruce, Earl of Ailesbury wrote about this in his “Memoir”:

    “For two hundred years backwards, all the Kings and Queens that reigned had not, all put together, near those sums that were granted in King William’s reign, and yet at his death the exchequer debt was sixteen millions and a half sterling, and at Queen Anne’s death the debt was thirty-three millions.”

    From ‘Ailesbury, “Memoirs of Thomas, Earl of Ailesbury, written by himself.” Roxburghe Club. Westminster. Nichols and Sons, 1890, p. 238.

    Ailesbury was an insider, a gentleman of the bedchamber to Charles II, and a friend of Monmouth, who in 1688 remained loyal to James VII & II despite the king’s own habitual coldness towards him.

    The big shift between James’s reign and William’s usurpation was the creation of a National Debt with a banking system and stock exchange based on the Dutch model to manage it.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, you will have an interesting denouement (with not a little significance for your point) if the miniseries plot ends like that of the book!!!

    There is a divination interlude with the I Ching in the final pages, where the reading suggests the “Inner Truth” that Japan and Germany really lost World War II. Read “The Man in the High Castle” myself back in the mid 1960s just after it came out. Later on in my career I met a number of California Gnostics who were friendly with Philip K. Dick, although he died before I actually met him. It’s a delightfully elliptic text with very few straight black and whites evident about anything, but I’ve not seen the adaptation yet, just the Graphic! From what I’ve read it misses much of the suability of the book, suggesting Dick’s evocative paradox of a victorious Germany and Japan’s “failure” through alternate realities rather than as an “inner truth of things”. Pity my old “associate” Ridley Scott did not write and direct, rather than simply have a role as executive producer.

  • PeterBrown

    1) I don’t think that it was but am happy to be proved wrong with a citation (I can’t find one but I suspect it was the whim of the Home Secretary not an act of parliament)

    2) My statement is factually coreect though it was on the recommendation of the Gardiner Committee

    4) There was prison work until the destruction of the workshops in 1983 and other aspects of PoW status were not included in SCS either before or after the Hunger Strikes

    As someone who is about to travel to London for work we are all (still) considered micks / paddys but it doesn’t turn me into a republican never mind a terrorist and the shop is just a story I was brought up with (it happened before my family even moved to the Ballymena area – La Mon actually probably had a greater personal impact) but it is my role as a lawyer which tells me that the H Blocks which I have the opportunity to visit (professionally) whilst still in use in the late 1990s were a prison not a PoW camp

  • Anglo-Irish

    Brian Maginnis sounds as though he was a reasonable man attempting to persuade unreasonable people to be reasonable.

    A gallant effort but with little to no chance of success.

    I notice that he was Church of Ireland rather than one of the more fundamental protestant faiths.

    Would I be wrong to assume that that may have played a part in his approach?

    I have met a number of C of I people down in Clare and all seemed decent and valued members of the community.

    In fact a few of them were known to me for quite some time before I realised that they had a different religion to most of the locals.

    What God you believe in – or indeed whether or not you believe in any – doesn’t tend to take up much interest in East Clare.

    Which parish hurling team you support on the other hand can create a certain amount of – normally good natured – tension!

  • Skibo

    1) If you have a look under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973, you may find the reference you require. I am not a lawyer but found that reference.
    2) SCS began in 1972 to try and cement talks between the government and the IRA but in truth it probably had more to do with ending a hunger strike where Billy McKee nearly died.
    4) Political Prisoners were held in different conditions to the general prisoners after the 1982 hunger strike. If you had visited the H Blocks you would have noticed this. I have not and bow to the reports where prison officer were not happy with prisoners being in control of wings of the H Blocks, not normal conditions.
    You really shouldn’t jump to conclusions. The fact that English people did not look at me as British did not cause me to turn into a terrorist. It did however make me realise that we are not a British as Finchley and made me appreciate our shared Irish roots.
    We are all brought up with stories. That is a major part of the education I was trying to elaborate on. Some have first hand experience.
    I do not profess or glorify the act of war. I would be of a similar hymn sheet as Jeremy Corbyn. War should be avoided and should only be as a last resort.

  • PeterBrown

    1 SCS in not in the EPA (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1973/53/pdfs/ukpga_19730053_en.pdf) it is not a statutory animal

    2 Possibly but it was a gift not an entitlement

    4 They were held in a different prison altogether in different conditions because as self professed subjective PoWs they reserved the right to escape and effectively did not recognise the prison authorities. To have held them with other prisoners content to seek 50% remission for good behaviour would have been counter productive but it does not make them PoWs any more than parking a lawnmower in a garage makes it a car

  • Skibo

    1) Are you sure you are a lawyer? How on earth could the SOS introduce SCS without legislation. Under what rules and regulations were the penalties decided.
    4) Special prisons, special prisoners special conditions. Not the same as normal prisoners.

  • PeterBrown

    1) How did you get a JCB into that hole? Not everything any government does require primary (Act of Parliament) or secondary (statutory instrument) legislation – most of what they do is the result of decisions by the relevant minister

    2) Not the same as normal prisoners but not PoWs and therefore not entitled to SCS – perhaps can be granted it but at the discretion of the relevant minister and also able to be withdrawn by them

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hello AI, the 1950s and1960s were interesting times in NI when it was possible to believe that some measure of genuine local politics developing outside of the old politics of sectarian ghetto thinking could be forged, especially by Labour and the not often remembered liberal end of Unionism itself. It’s not often noted that there were Young Unionists in the NICRA, or that the PD was formed by members of the old NILP Young Socialists with a lot of Marcuse in their heads, not the Marxist/Trotskyist YS, as so many modern historians appear to think, having taken a lead from some misleading contemporary “smear” reports from RUC and Unionist sources.

    Religion up here in the north is always a case of the Chinese Balls effect (one reality inside another, inside another, etc) and certainly the simplistic equation of Presbyterian/liberal politics inherited from 1798 has been contradicted so many times over the last two hundred years I’m surprised it still gets trotted out so often as some sort of absolute truth. While the old Ascendency Association with the C of I has some truth in it, there are also very strong liberal traditions within C of I families, as I know all too well, as the current product of such a tradition reaching back as far as the Irish Volunteers of the 1770s at least.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    like a lot of sci-fi, the characters were a little 2 dimensional. It was an interesting idea, only semi-explored. You feel there’s a better film in there somewhere, perhaps Ridley Scott will make it one day. I did enjoy the denouement …

    I wanted to see a lot more of everyday life in Nazi America and actually a lot more about what actually happened – the alternative history of the war. I got that it was playing around with ideas of truth and fiction but the fake war footage stuff was great, I just wanted more of that and less of the half-developed rebel characters having not vert interesting conversations. Rufus Sewell was great though and I thought the Japanese trade minister guy was mesmerising.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Just caught this, AG, but I was buried in the British Library when the exchange was taking place (six days ago, as I write).

    But yes, an interesting exchange where I’m in full agreement with you on pretty much all you’re saying about the narrow seas and the cultural linkage!!! Just for interests sake, these highlanders coming into Antrim in the sixteenth century were even called (at the time of the plantation) “Erse” by the lowlanders both here and in Scotland itself!!!! It’s all far too complex to simplify into modern national identities, and even the suggestion that “The O’Neills were originally from England and had changed their name from Chichester, and so were indeed Saxon incomers(!)” it itself subject to criticism. The present Lord O’Neill, while certainly having inherited Chichester blood from the Rev William Chichester who inherited the title when the 3rd Viscount (direct male line) died without issue, is still himself also a person directly descended (through the female line) from the sixteenth century Brian McPhelim O’Neill, Lord of Clandeboye!!! That the O’Neill, Lisbon fully recognises our current Lord O’Neill as a fellow O’Neill (at least that’s what he’s told me) says it all.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you MU, for the warning, but having “been to the production meeting” for other similar projects I can see just howteh more complex themes were rapidly lost!! I’ll probably enjoy the bits you enjoyed myself, sounds like it. If I run into Ridley when he’s in London I’ll rib him about what an opportunity was lost.

    I cannot highly recommend the book too highly. It implies a most interesting “mirror image” suggestion that both Japan and Germany actually were obliquely successful in some very important aspects of their style, such as influencing (to our general detriment) the post war style of governance of those Democracies who defeated them. This theme is not baldly stated, but is implied structurally all through Dick’s book. You can imagine from many of my other posts why I’d find such an idea so very interesting………

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the “pathways” I was referring to though were pathways for the Republican Movement into non-violent politics from their “armed struggle” – a point about the 70s, 80s and 90s. You’re talking about something quite different, which is the hole nationalist parties found themselves in when trying to get reform of the UUP governments. In that I can empathise with them considerably, as someone who would have supported the NILP myself, had I been around. But what nationalist politics of that era missed was that Irish nationalism was a big part of the reason reform was so slow. Had nationalism adopted then the approach to making NI work that it does now (at least on the surface), much more pressure could have been put on the UUP and its vote may well not have held up so well.

    The irony nationalism has never got a grip on is that the more strident and unreasonable nationalism is, the more the hand of hardliners on the unionist side is strengthened. And nationalism for much of that 50s and 60s era was as much in the political dark ages as unionism was, with some completely ridiculous views on the constitutional question. It was still banging on about the border as if it were some great wrong done to the Irish people, it was still blaming all Ireland’s ills on the Brits.

    So it was in a really difficult position yes, but one it had politically put itself in through insisting a united Ireland was “the solution”. When you live in a place where most people strongly reject that idea, it is electoral suicide to cling onto that. You can’t then blame your electoral defeat on the perfidiousness of other parts or the damned voters. If you know they aren’t warming to your political vision and are never likely to, don’t blame them, try to come up with a vision that is more relevant to them.

    So yes there was a creaking, ineffectual UUP government presiding over a province in need of modernisation and not providing the leadership required – and it needed to be opposed – but Irish nationalist politics played its part in keeping that one-party hegemony in place, by tying a whole section of the population to utterly non-vote-winning policies. Now there was a lack of leadership.

  • Skibo

    Pete are you telling me that the Government can issue SCS without legislation? Is there anything else they can do without legislation? Baffling.
    Not the same as ordinary prisoners, I will take that, thanks.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Thankyou Seaan for greying the lines in our black and white universe. 🙂

  • Anglo-Irish

    The C of I families that I know in Clare are simply regarded as part of the community.

    Back in the 90s the local C of I church in the village where a number of my cousins live was taken over by the council at the request of the church.

    It’s upkeep had become a problem and there is another C of I church in Mountshannon a few miles away.

    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjb8L_06bnOAhXGxxQKHSxAC2sQFggoMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.megalithicireland.com%2FSt%2520Cronans%2520Church%2C%2520Tuamgraney.html&usg=AFQjCNH41Ub_VpeAQ48QZOtI-VDQHidQ8w

    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjb8L_06bnOAhXGxxQKHSxAC2sQFgguMAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.saintsandstones.net%2Fsaints-stcronans-journey.htm&usg=AFQjCNEBOr2QVKeM36lBnub4CGxBzpDSuw

    The council agreed and turned it into a heritage centre on condition that the C of I held one service there every month.

    It is claimed that it is the oldest church in Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales which has held continuous services.

    It is also claimed that Brian Boru himself worshiped there.

    That is the type of cooperation and friendly association that I naively expect from fellow christian religions.

    Unfortunately, that is the exception rather than the rule in many cases.

    Politics can become complicated and emotions come to the fore, but when religion is introduced and one or the other side believes God is on their side then things tend to get out of hand to a ridiculous degree.

  • Hugh Davison

    When Captain Terence arrived, my mother’s generation (catholic, nationalist, law-abiding) thought that change was coming, they were at last going to get a fair deal in NI. He said all the right things. But it was an illusion. The old machine quickly got rid of that aberration – the taig-loving Unionist. Was that another spur to support of the Civil Rights movement.
    I won’t even start about the Rev. Ian Paisley and his Ulster Protestant scaresheet.

  • Hugh Davison

    ‘The Catholic people’? Is this your inner sectarian coming out?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    In common with a number of others involved in the Peoples Democracy, while recognising O’Neill as a Conservative moderniser we seriously questioned the media chacterisation of Terry O’Neill as a liberal, all too aware of his committment to a continuing Unionist monopoly of power after his personal involvement in the 1960s campaign to demonise the old NILP after their dramatic gains at the expense of Unionism in the 1962 NI general election.

    Had proportional representation not been abolished here in 1929, these cross comunity votes would have led to the creation of a clearly non-sectarian opposition which would have finally seriously challenged Unionism’s monopoly of power, and the threat was sufficent to engage O’Neill in excessive counter measures. Chapter three of Aaron Edwards’ “History of the Northern Ireland labour party” describes this and ties in well with my own experiences at the time. As Alan Carr said later in an interview “in the 1965 election the main thrust of the election campaign seemed to be directed towards destroying the NILP”, which ironically was the one party really needed to have made it possible for Stormont to have begun to work as a modernised democratic institution, such as O’Neill claimed he wished. His marginalisation of Labour effectivly opened the way for Paisley and Bunting Senior’s extremism to absorb the Protestant working class “protest” support.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you MU for a long and carefully constricted reply. I can see where you are coming from, but I still feel taht you are arguing from the supposition of a more even political playing field than has ever existed here. “Had nationalism adopted then the approach to making NI work that it does now (at least on the surface), much more pressure could have been put on the UUP and its vote may well not have held up so well.”

    I’m wondering just how, in the face of the solid intransegence within a Unionism which, as a socialist uncle of mine once put it, had developed a “one party state” in the province, such an approach to co-operating with a system actually constructed to marginalise them and “making NI work” might have actually been framed?

    Have you read Aaron Edwards’ “A History of the Northern Ireland Labour Party”, which describes the problems even a non-nationalist party which supported the union could have within the constitutional framework of NI in honestly popposing Unionism? The intentional suppression of the non-sectarian parties with Craig’s abolition of Proportional Representation in NI elections in the late 1920s served to copper fasten the Unionist/Nationalist monopoly split of the vote, and to structurally exclude parties non-alligned with such politics. The efforts of the old IPP residue to honestly engage politically with NI during the 1920/30s are well described in A.C. Hepburn’s “Catholic Belfast and Nationalist Ireland, in the Era of Joe Devlin 1871-1934”, where, incidently, the utter intransegence of northern Unionism to the sensibleand moderate IPP protective measures for their concerns (“Home Rule within Home Rule”) in the pre-Great War period is also very well documented. The continuing rigid intransegence by those controlling the new statelet ensured the centrality of the sectarian divide for local politics in a way which was very far from one sided, for it more or less told those constitutionalists who represented a third of the population that their constituents were unwelcome baggage in a state led by “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People”, certainly not the most accomodating of descriptions of their governing institution for what is, while a minority, still a very significant portion of the community!

    Marianne Elliot’s excellent “The Catholics of Ulster”, chapters 10 and 11, offers a broad but still quite accurate picture of steady and purposeful Catholic exclusion from the Civil service and other higher areas of state employment despite the efforts of liberal and honest men within the service such as Sir Wilfred Spender. Sir Basil Brooke’s call for the boycotting of Catholic owned businesses in 1934 even took such policies out into the private sector.

    Its one thing to suggest that all might have been well if one third of the population had opted for co-operation with the statelet, but it is quite another thing to see how this might have been possible in the real life situation they were faced with daily. As Richard Rose pointed out in 1971, the community had been polarised through this period by experience, with 74% of protestants utterly convinced that no discrimination existed, while 74% of Catholics were clear that, in their experience, it did. The rule is usually to trust the person actually experiencing something to describe it………..

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Interesting post Seaan – we’re not as far apart on this as it might appear.

    I suppose my overall point is still really that the political exclusion of Catholics was not wholly – or even mainly – down to Protestant bloody-mindedness but a product of the structures in place, in particularly FPTP Westminster-style majority government. They were not outlandish or appallingly undemocratic structures really; but they threw up this problem in the N Ireland context because of our ethnically divided demography. It needed active managing to make it work in our context and that didn’t happen.

    What was needed was something like we have now – a recognition of ethnic division and power-sharing with guaranteed places for both communities in proportion to numbers. It’s not that things were badly undemocratic – they really weren’t – the problem was how democracy played out in our context, given the much bigger size at that time of the unionist community vs the nationalist one. It benefitted a party like the UUP,and unionists in general, and so there was little incentive to change. They should have – but really how was that going to happen?

    That’s why you need special democratic arrangements in divided societies. What should have happened earlier was Westminster stepping in and saying this is problematic, we’re going to impose a new structure on you. But that went against the idea of devolution. But I don’t think nationalism was onto that either, it was still arguing there was no divide, we are all Irishmen together and all would be OK in a united Ireland state – which was to be fair a worse solution than the actual status quo and a complete non-starter. So I don’t think the situation then was ideal, but nor was it that massively outrageous either, nor was it some appalling glaring wrong. It just wasn’t the right structure for inclusion, but it was a normal enough political model for the day.

    Nationalists wanted more political power, fine – I’m Labour and I want Labour to have more political power. I’d like PR and more coalition governments. But the current system isn’t undemocratic or a big moral wrong, it’s just one version of democracy. At the end of the day, if you want political power you need to win votes and seats. Changing the system is difficult and a long slog. It should be seen that way.

    The idea that change was too slow because the UUP wasn’t interested in moving to power-sharing in the 60s is a bit absurd. A patient campaign of talking to Westminster and flagging up the democratic deficit, rather than using emotionally charged, divisive and misleading civil rights language which sought to exaggerate unionist bad faith for effect, would have been a better approach to winning the unionist and Westminster hearts and minds they needed around to some form of more inclusive form of local administration.

    That it all got tangled up with the poisonous tradition and ideology of violent irredentist Irish nationalism was indeed a huge tragedy and one that could have been foreseen and avoided. I’m not sure you can really blame unionists for nationalist ideological belief in violence and opposition to a UK presence on the island, which it seems to me is something they very much came up with and clung to themselves. That decent protests in 1968 turned eventually into ultra-nationalist anti-British rioting in 1969 is not unconnected to quite mainstream Irish nationalist politics, narratives and core beliefs. Irish nationalism should be as much in the dock for the lead up to the Troubles as anything unionism did.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As you say. MU, we’re not all that far apart on quite a bit of this, something I have already gleaned from earlier discussions, but on those points over which we differ, we still really differ.

    You speak of the problem being the “structures in place”, rather than “Unionist bloody-mindedness”, but these strictures were the actual creation of the new Unionist administration, with FPTP instigated locally in a revision of the STV system that the 1920 Government of Ireland Act had put in place specifically to encourage a number of parties that would erode Unionist control. Westminster had already ‘stepped in” in 1920 and “imposed” STV to ensure more equable representation, but Craig’s administration removed STR for the 1929 election, and while the old Nationalist Party even gained a seat alongside the Unionist gain of five, the Independent Unionists, NILP (despite quite a rise in their vote) and the Ulster Liberal party all were marginalised, and with this the early shoots of a shift to genuine constitutional politics was aborted. Joe Devlin complained about the iniquity of this, and the manner in which it would simplify local politics into the two camps we know today, as you can clearly see in the book about him I’d recommend above. By the way, I’d really recommend that you examine his record, alongside that of his successors Tom (“T.J”)Campbell and James McSparron, before simply dismissing the constitutional nationalist position between the wars as sterile. The old Nationalist members strained to make the system work here, but the system was only as good as the men controlling it and such men ensured that even if the structures “were not outlandish or appallingly undemocratic structures really” (which I’d question, certainly in regard to the open gerrymandering in the west) their effect was in practice “appallingly undemocratic”. Once Unionism had built in majorities in seats, these seats simply remained uncontested in election after election. In this situation, where Unionism had structured the institutions to its own survival the suggestion “if you want political power you need to win votes and seats” rings very hollow. It was tried in 1962 and Unionism simply pulled their voters back with a serious effort of “Project Fear” engineered by O’Neill in person.

    I’m certainly not at all willing as you appear to be to see all Nationalism as such a homogenous unit, nor to buckle it up with inevitable violent solutions. The problems of our history locally really needs to be located in the inceptive espousal of violent solutions by Unionism in 1912 in the support of local interests, and the way this inevitably influenced their thinking and actions thereafter. The Irish Convention of 1917/8 really requires examination here also, where any possible continuity of strong constitutionalism for the next half century was compromised by partitionist Unionism just as successfully as by the violence of the War of Independence. In this light the attempts of local members the old nationalist party to keep the flame of constitutionalism alive between the wars is nothing short of heroic. It was the marginalising of their efforts alongside that of non-nationalist opposition parties such as Labour which ensured that while Unionism survived, it was only at the expense of compelling their opponents to work outside of the structures. You suggest “a patient campaign of talking to Westminster and flagging up the democratic deficit” and this was the steady policy of the NILP from the late 1950s, appearing as the main topic at every party conference, but Westminister was simply not listening, having put there faith in the highly marginalised O’Neill whose record on pluralism was highly suspect in practice after his “Project Fear” dissing of the NILP in the 1965 election. I’d recommend Chapter Four of Aaron Edwards’ book again for an unpacking of the efforts made and their woeful result. Our radicalism within the PD was entirely conditioned by the failure of those people we knew within the NILP to even begin to make any headway through the attempts of a few elected politicians to spearhead change in any meaningful way.

    I entirely agree that the violence achieved nothing whatsoever that non-violent protest could not have ensured anyway, but those of us looking backwards at the constantly aborted constitutional efforts of good men such as Jack Beattie and T.J. Campbell between the wars could see that with the opposition O’Neill faced on even slight issues, and the indifference of Westminster in the mid 1960s, simply getting elected and “talking to a brick wall” over the water would change nothing. Which is why we went on the streets. And if you have any residual doubts about the will of Unionism to avert any erosion of their dominance as late as the 1960s, what immediately transpired then clearly shows just how wrong “the idea that change was too slow because the UUP wasn’t interested in moving to power-sharing in the 60s is a bit absurd” looks to anyone who was actually there at the time.

  • Kenny Donaldson

    Mr Donnelly,

    Yet another selective piece of spin from you.

    1. I am not a prominent Ulster Unionist, I am a victims campaigner and I don’t distinguish on the basis of denominational or political background.

    2. I have not and will not go to watch a Documentary which manipulates the truth, I will not give it credence.

    Does the documentary register the fact that several hunger strikers wanted off the strike but were forced to stay on it by the Republican Movement?

    Does the documentary advise the serious terrorist crimes which Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers committed against our Society and their neighbours?

    Does the Documentary reflect the fact that 57 people were murdered/killed outside of the Prison walls over the 217 day period of the strike?

    Does the Documentary reflect the fact that four children aged 11-15 years were amongst the 57? That they died because they were brought out into the streets by The Republican Movement.

    Does the Documentary reflect the fact that PIRA sought to murder three brothers in south Fermanagh in the year of the hunger strike (1981) – the Graham’s succeeding in murdering two with a third surviving two assassination attempts but then being murdered four years later?

    3. Stephen Nolan ended the debate when I requested that you as a commentator would state your opposition to terrorism and criminal violence whether perpetrated by Republican or Loyalist terrorists or individual members of the security forces who have been proven to have dishonoured the code and to have engaged in a criminal act … Maybe you’d wish to deal with that on here.

    Don’t ever attempt to pigeonhole me Mr Donnelly, deal with facts.

    Kenny Donaldson
    SEFF & IVU

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