Slugger was with Liam Kennedy the other night when one of his team asked if he was going to the count for the verification process of the votes in West Belfast that looking for his votes would be like ‘looking for a needle in a haystack’. In the end he improved his 1997 performance slightly, but it was miniscule in terms of the numbers in West Belfast. He has sent us his acceptance speech from City Hall today.From Liam Kennedy:
“They never said what he had done wrong. They just dragged Eamon from the bed, threw him all the way down the stairs, lay him on his back and beat him with sticks embedded with huge nails while my parents pleaded with them to leave him alone because of his age. He only turned 14 in July.”
This is the voice of Eamon’s sister who dared to speak about the ordeal of her younger brother. Unusually she dared to breach the wall of silence that surrounds paramilitary repression in working class areas. For the republican and loyalist terror groups this was just another day in Northern Ireland just another “punishment” beating.
There is both joy and sorrow at City Hall today. I share in some of the celebration, in view of the wonderful consciousness-raising campaign run by the human rights activists. And I’m all for a bit of ‘crack’, to use that Ulster Scots phrase. But I’m also acutely aware of the terrible suffering that has been imposed on communities, individuals and families in this society.
I think of the victims of the Omagh bomb atrocity, many of whom are here today. Michael Gallagher, Victor Barker and others have been wonderfully supportive of our human rights campaign. I take this occasion to appeal directly to MrAdams to go to the Gardai and the PSNI to help bring justice to the Omagh families. I say this in the full knowledge that the provisional IRA trained the key terrorists involved in the Omagh massacre. The republican movement holds within itself vital information about the identities, networks and movements of the killers. So far, it has withheld that knowledge. It has failed the families.
I think also of the McCartney sisters, of the relatives of Andrew Kearney, of the McGinleys and Robinsons in Derry, of Thomas Boswell from the New Lodge, of the families of the disappeared – all of whom have suffered at the hands of the republican movement.
Equally, loyalist paramilitaries have visited great pain on the families of Raymond McCord, John Allen, Pat Finucane, and countless others. In recent years loyalists have been responsible for more intense repression within their own communities, outdoing the IRA in terms of punishment beatings and shootings.
I also have concerns about the Election itself. These strike at the very foundations of democracy itself. One movement in this election – Sinn Fein and the IRA – is awash with money, so much so it could afford to burn bank notes in recent times. No democratic party, no matter how large, can compete with a politico-criminal conspiracy that has virtually unlimited access to resources, through legal and illegal means. The word to people in the Irish Republic must be: this show will be appearing soon in a neighbourhood near you, if it hasn’t done so already.
Standing in these historic surroundings, I feel like Banquo’s ghost at the feast of the bearded warlord. Mr Adams was re-elected M.P. for Belfast West in 1997. Since then “punishment” attacks by republicans have actually worsened. You would have to have a heart of stone, and a glib tongue, to remain unmoved by the sufferings of your own constituents. Or perhaps, as Sean O’Casey once caustically remarked, no one can suffer enough for the republican project, least of all the innocent.
I worry also about a movement whose ultimate allegiance is not to the broad Irish democracy but to a secret army council, composed of seven men – it wd be men of course, though there may be the odd tree-hugging Druid in there among them. I only wish that the Sinn Fein leadership wd respect its own mandate: the mandate from the people, not the conspiratorial councils run by ethnic warriors from the North.
I wonder also about a movement which sees itself as the “defender” of the Catholic and nationalist people. One has only to pose the question – how many Catholics were murdered by loyalists before 1970 and how many have been murdered since 1970? – to appreciate how empty this claim is. Let me refresh your memories:
Ten Catholics died as a result of political violence in the 1960s. Since then more than 1200 Catholics have been slain, a third at the hands of republicans.
The same pattern is broadly true of Ulster’s self-styled loyal “defenders”.
What the paramilitaries have been successful in doing, however, is in exacting vengeance from the other side, in promoting deeper ethnic divisions, and in rendering meaningless the true republican ideal of the unity of “catholic, protestant, and dissenter”. These malign consequences of paramilitarism were well illustrated during the election itself: Sinn Fein was unable to canvass in loyalist areas and loyalists wouldn’t dream of canvassing in republican areas.* With our few resources, we made our presence felt in both communities.**
We have had the long war. Here begins the long march of the democrats.
Let me conclude by congratulating Mr Adams, a representative of the IRA army council on his re-election as the MP for Belfast West.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty