The Dreary Steeples

The Real IRA or Continuity IRA seem to have claimed responsibility for the landmine which injured two police officers near Rosslea on Saturday.

A local UUP councillor Harold Andrews has denounced the attack and said
?.this is extremely regrettable as no one wants to go back to the way things were 15 to 20 years ago. I thought these types of actions were a thing of the past and I’m sure a vast majority of people on both sides of the community will be disgusted and upset at this type of behaviour.”

As I have suggested before, however, I suspect those who feel that violence has been banished for ever from politics here have failed to learn the lessons of our history.
That these rumblings carry on should be of no surprise and indeed I still maintain that the campaign by the assorted dissident terrorist groups can be politically likened in some ways to the IRA Border campaign in that it had little public support but presaged the horrors to come. That campaign also largely centered on what Churchill famously, if unfairly, called the “Dreary Steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone” and I honestly suspect there are people who think that “The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that has been unaltered” and still merits violence. I keep hoping to be proven wrong but I note that this latest campaign is, rather depressingly, becoming more dangerous and sophisticated with shootings, car bombs and now landmines.

  • picador

    That these rumblings carry on should be of no surprise and indeed I still maintain that the campaign by the assorted dissident terrorist groups can be politically likened in some ways to the IRA Border campaign in that it had little public support but presaged the horrors to come.

    Wishful thinking Turgon.

    152,310 – the number of votes received by Sinn Fein at the 1956 Westminister general election.

    Thomas Mitchell & Philip Clarke – the two IRA prisoners elected for the dreary steeples constituencies in the same election.

    A wake up call which Westminister chose to ignore.

    How many votes did Gerry McGeogh get at the last Stormont election? Not very many.

  • Garibaldy

    I do think Picador is on to something. The circumstances have drastically changed since 1962, with the removal of the sources of grievance that sparked the violence that kicked things off. A more apt comparison might be with the UVF killings of 1966. Done by a lunatic fringe that would have stayed there without the explosion that followed.

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    “A local UUP councillor Harold Andrews has denounced the attack and said….”this is extremely regrettable as no one wants to go back to the way things were 15 to 20 years ago. I thought these types of actions were a thing of the past and I’m sure a vast majority of people on both sides of the community will be disgusted and upset at this type of behaviour.””

    I agree, and very true too. FFS, It’s is inconceivable why these malacious morons are out to cause sheer murder and mayhem. This carry on was regular by the ‘dissadents’ each Saturday years ago until the great loss of life at Omagh when the bomb exploded and sent the murderers running like rats in a sewer.
    Horrible people!

  • Greenflag

    Turgon,

    ‘I suspect those who feel that violence has been banished for ever from politics here have failed to learn the lessons of our history.’

    Common sense should tell anyone that violence is never banished anywhere for ever . Look around at the world 100 years – look at it today. There is always a ‘violence’ potential in a society when a large section of such a society be it a political , religious , ethnic or cultural group feel excluded from the political decision making process .

    That was the situation in Northern Ireland 1920 until recently . If the TUV and their ilk were successful in returning NI to the ‘politics’ of the 1950’s they should not be surprised that ‘violence’ would be reborn . Perhaps that’s the only way they (TUV) can achieve their ‘political ‘ objective.

    2008 is not 1956 . Whoever planted these bombs will not be representing the ‘dreary steeple’ county in any future election. Had the perpetrators been shot dead by the PSNI while planting their ‘bomb’ there would not have been 100,000 at their funeral and apart from the grief of the families concerned they would be forgotten within a week.

    Picador is on the ball on this one as is Red Shirt.

  • Turgon

    Greenflag,
    I actually always respect your views (though I confess to getting a little tired of your repetition of repartition as the solution).

    I understand your argument and indeed I have said on this site before that truly if I believed a united Ireland would have prevented the troubles I would have accepted it.

    I do not believe, however, that such a thing would have prevented nor would it prevent violence and I do not accept that the current pervertion of democracy is what keeps the peace. Even if it were, I suspect any such peace would be temporary. Also if I advocate a democratic policy how is it my fault if people then start killing people? Finally I have never advocated returning to the 1950s.

    I also feel that giving criminals a significant proportion of what they want in order to stop them being criminal is a very very flawed strategy: it may seem to solve the problem but in the long term tends to make the situation worse.

    You as a man who has lived in several countries will know that these sorts of problems go back many, many years and can resurface after periods of seeming peace.

    I am afraid that I believe that sooner or later when memories of the atrocities of the past have dulled a little violence will recur. It would only take one of these people to have a “martyr’s” death and then some

    “children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
    Pro patria mori.”

    Or equally poetically and specifically about Fermanagh:
    “They have gone to join that gallant band
    Of Plunkett, Pearse, and Tone.
    Another martyr for old Ireland,
    Sean South from Garryowen.”

    I really hope I am wrong and would gain no pleasure from saying I told you so but that is what I fear.

  • joeCanuck

    Turgon,

    I really hope I am wrong

    I really think you are. There will be no going back.
    I don’t know your thinking, but there are quite a few contributors here who equate the 25% or so vote for SF with 25% support for the IRA. Nothing could be further from the truth. SF’s previous “natural” electoral support always hovered around 6% (and not all of those were IRA supporters). Their electoral rise was only concurrent with their eschewing of violence and paralleled the rise in support for the DUP. I believe that fear drove both “camps” to the extremes.

  • earnan

    Another martyr for OULD Ireland

  • Greenflag

    Turgon..

    ‘I confess to getting a little tired of your repetition of repartition as the solution’

    So do I- believe it or not. But if politically diametrically opposed parties with distinctly separate constitutional objectives cannot work together in the NI Assembly as you seem to suggest they can’t /should’nt/ought not to ,then given the demographic in NI and regardless of the ideologues both republican and unionist -if people cannot agree to work within the political dispensation presently agreed on, then what other alternative is there ? DR of course is the default ‘position’ for Unionists but next time around that may not be satisfactory for many nationalists .

    You can of course continue to refer to SF as criminals but then the UK could have continued to refer to George Washington as a criminal or De Valera or Golda Meir etc etc in their time . They eventually made ‘peace’ with the new order .

    I’m no fan of SF – I don’t have to be in this jurisdiction . Northern Ireland’s political history has been such, that many feel they have little choice except to vote SF particularly if they want to see ‘results’ -ditto for the DUP on the other side .

    If I were in your ‘boots’ the only fear I would have would be of the ultras on the Loyalist side gaining political weight and destroying the present acomodation -distasteful as that accomodation may be to many . NI doesn’t really have much choice in terms of ‘practically possible other solutions ‘ going forward given it’s present deep political and demographic division .

    Time will tell whether the present SF/DUP coalition will hold up – and in and under what circumstances it might collapse . But I would hope it lasts it’s term. The longer the peace the less likely a return to past conflict . It’s not guaranteed of course -nothing in life is -but it’s about the best bet that NI has for now – imo.

    You have nothing to fear except fear itself 🙂

  • picador

    Greenflag,

    I’m loathe to even comment on this but here goes: I’ve read your comments on many thread and most of the time they are astute and cogently expressed.
    Your crazy re-partition (sorry ‘fair repartition’ – an oxymoron if ever there was) scheme is of course the main exception. Therefore I’m glad to hear that your tiring of it. In ten years time it will be TUV party policy.

  • Dewi

    I share your fears Turgon – but not your fatalism. It’s the detail of activities and actions that caused the last lot of trouble. – Like burning people out of Ardoyne, inticing people to throw people out of mixed communities – a refusal to countenance mandatory power sharing, preferring people of one community in housing allocations. And then some specific BRitish Army actions (in their words) prolonmged the troubles for a decade or so.

    So what to do:

    1) Somehow dampen down the Summer spite.
    2) Get the nationalist community to trust the Police.

    1) I’ve suggested a restriction on parading. Why not hold a week long celebration of Unionist Culture at a central location, with band competions and parades. You could move it around the whole of Ulster from year to year. Perhaps even to Drogheda from time to time.

    2) Devolve P&J;. I honestly think that the DUP are against this for the sole reason that Sinn Féin are in favour.

    Really think Churchill’s “integrity of the quarrel” is a clever and apt phrase btw.

  • picador

    Turgon

    It would only take one of these people to have a “martyr’s” death and then some

    Some of these people have been ‘martyred’ and forgotten already.

    One I can recall was taken out by the Provos and the other died the hands of the Gardaí (during a robbery). Not martyrdom in the classical republican sense – i.e. at the hands of the Brits – but a kind of martyrdom nonetheless.

    I am glad that you seem to be admitting that in the past creating republican martyrs was counter-productive. I wonder is Jim Allister in favour of the traditional unionist demand for the death penalty to be applied to ‘terrorist murderers’. I suspect that he is. What do you think?

  • Greenflag

    picador ,

    ‘Therefore I’m glad to hear that your tiring of it.’

    Not much point until such time as the Assembly reverts back to it’s more normal ‘suspension’ mode and a political vacuum once more beckons.

    ‘In ten years time it will be TUV party policy.’

    Probably is already but the last thing the TUV need is to be called ‘sell outs’ by the Unionist community west of the Bann . First they have to win their support then they’ll sell them out as has been traditional procedure in NI .

    Anyway in 10 years it will probably be too late . As always from the Union side either too little or too late .

    Dewi ,

    ‘Really think Churchill’s “integrity of the quarrel” is a clever and apt phrase ‘

    Did’nt Churchill get a head smack from a bible thrown at him in Belfast by an irate Unionist ?

  • Turgon

    picador,
    I cannot comment on Allister’s views but I am opposed to the Death Penalty both on the practical grounds of martyrs and the possibility of executing the wrong person but also on religious grounds.

    I personally regard Jesus’s position on the woman taken in adultery “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) as illustrating our Lord’s position on execution in general. I know that is a position not held by all (or many) fundamentalists but that is my position (and indeed my wife’s arrived at seperately). I could not countance prematurely ending a person’s life if that person might then not have the opportunity to come to Christ.

    Of course there is an contradiction in my argument on this as I am not a pacifist and would be willing to fight in a war under certain circumstances.

    Finally I could not personally kill someone in front of me who was at that point unable to stop me and presented no immediate threat to me. As such to support someone else doing that on my behalf would in my view be hypocritical.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    These so-called “dissident republicans” are yesterday’s men. I am at a loss to what they are trying to achieve. Surely even these parasites are not so brain-dead as to believe they can bomb “the Brits” out of Ulster? Surely these retarded individuals don’t believe they can entice Loyalists such as the UDA into getting the UFF up-and-running again to hit back, in some delusional attempt at gaining sympathy and support within the Roman Catholic community?

    The PSNI need to hit these mongrels hard. Early morning raids need to be carried out on the homes of these scumbags to nip the problem in the bud. The Divisional Command Units need to work together to co-ordinate a proactive approach to lock these animals up. Those that get away will then need to “lie low” for a while and will think twice about trying to blow up or shoot policemen who are just out trying to earn a living…

  • picador

    For once I am in agreement with you CL.

    The police should kick down Jackie McDonald’s front door and ask him where the drugs and the guns are?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    They’re a necessary evil Concerned Loyalist.

    They tranverse the ‘PIRA war’ from the provos onto the dissidents.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    For once I am in agreement with you CL.

    The police should kick down Jackie McDonald’s front door and ask him where the drugs and the guns are?

    Posted by picador on Jun 17, 2008 @ 06:06 PM……………………………………………………………………………………..

    The UDA’s guns are silent, why would the PSNI want to waken a sleeping giant? Republicans’ guns are still smoking on the other hand, so the PSNI need to take a proactive approach to stop this cancer on our society spreading.

    You know that anyway “picador”, you just can’t help but indulge in a spot of sectarian whataboutery…

  • picador

    F*** me, it’s Barney Rubble.

    Tranverse – that’s nine letters – whats it mean?

    And how are Ulster’s finest going to make it to Rosslea? Do they have SatNav?

    Oh, wait a minute, I just realised – you are calling for retaliation, aren’t you?

    Crawl back to your sewer.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    Two questions if you please Ulsters my homeland.

    1) Who are a necessary evil?, and;

    2) What do you mean by tranverse?

    The RIRA or CIRA seem hopelessly incompetent at the moment, let’s hope it remains that way.

  • picador

    CL

    The UDA’s guns are silent, why would the PSNI want to waken a sleeping giant?

    Oh, let me see … if they needed some easily expendable goons to intimidate Catholics.

    Anyway, I’m out of here. Steroids, tattoos and a latent undercurrent of violence – very homoerotic.

  • “the removal of the sources of grievance that sparked the violence that kicked things off”

    Garibaldy, the ‘sources of grievance’ stuff was a smokescreen developed mainly by those who sought a Cuban-style 32 county socialist republic. The Irish establishment saw through the smokescreen and did a bunk.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    >>smokescreen< < Fuck me Nev! They done a helluva job convincing everyone of this smokescreen, the people themselves, the Brits, the meedja, world opinion. Fair play to them for that, kinda puts the subterfuge over the D-Day landings in the shade eh? Yah Gadgie! >>Anyway, I’m out of here. Steroids, tattoos and a latent undercurrent of violence – very homoerotic.<< Where is this Iris Robinson anyhow?

  • Garibaldy

    Nevin,

    The point I was making was tht there was a very real sense of grievance that sustained the violence from 1969 forward that was absent in the border campaign. The key difference perhaps being the breakout of communal violence, and the actions of the security forces in the summer of 1969 and after. The whole of the Provos’ self-image, especially in the first decade or so, was built on exactly that. That sense of grievance is gone now, and the structural factors for it are gone too. It would take a massacre of civilians like Bloody Sunday or something as heavy handed as the Falls Curfew or Internment to restore it. And I just can’t see it happening.

  • Mayoman

    Turgon: “Of course there is an contradiction in my argument on this as I am not a pacifist and would be willing to fight in a war under certain circumstances.”

    I’m very interested in this as it suggests a line, which if crossed, would mean you were open to killing people. Can you give any indication of where that line is, and what moral compass you use to find it? And would you agree that the line is movable and different according according to people’s experiences, background, motivations and beliefs? What might set a line for you would be different for other people?

    It suggests a lack of ‘absolute’ morality very similar to that used to justify the violence used by all paramilitaries and nation states that some would classify as ‘terrorist’ (US/UK in Iraq, for example). Are you in fact, not that different?

  • picador

    Garibaldy,

    As evidence by the huge SF vote in 56 there was a lot of grieviance around.

    The Border Campaign was a military adventure conceived in Dublin with little regard to local conditions. It largely bypassed people on the ground.

    By the time the Provos went on the offensive in early 71 the nationalist population had been radicalised by the street politics of the civil rights movement. The hopes of ordinary people had been built up only to be cruelly dashed by the repressive antics of the unionist government and the British army. The Provos offered nationalist youth a radical but simplistic alternative to the sullen apathy of their parents’ generation. And the rest as they say, is history.

  • Garibaldy

    Picador,

    I’m not sure we’re disagreeing. The grievance was there, but not felt to the same extent. And the difference being I think not as keenly focused on the unionist community as a whole.

  • Greenflag

    Most wars are bad . A small number have done some good or at least eliminated a great evil .But there are some wars and conflicts which should never have happened . Northern Ireland’s ‘troubles’ being in the latter category . Trees and organisations rot from the top down. Starting a stupid war begins at the top too. Once a ‘war’ starts usually through the action or by the inaction or wrongly judged or misperceived reaction to an initial action , things rapidly slide downhill. Very soon both sides find themselves saddled with unrealistic goals. e.g a ‘UI or bust’ or ‘Not an inch’.

    Wars which are started to achieve unrealistic goals are difficult to end . Neither side will give up and on and on it goes ad infinitum. Nobody wants to admit to the stupid reasons that started the war in the first instance . So the conflict continues and eventually the ‘goal’ becomes simply to keep the war going or the possibility of more or another war by any means.

    Thus in NI today we have the ‘continuity IRA ‘ as in continue the stupidity . We also have the UDA still holding on to their guns -because ? well because ? well because they ‘won’ the war did’nt they ?. Winners don’t hand in their weapons instead they get to write the ‘history’ of their victories . For the UDA this last obligation of ‘winners’ may be a bridge too far .

    Telling them they did’nt win won’t work. They’ll eventually come to that conclusion themselves in a decade or so. The brighter ones may come to that conclusion a lot earlier .

    Again we should all remember that we are dealing with the ending of a ‘stupid’ war .

    Turgon’s fears that it could all happen again are not without merit. If the politicians can make NI work if not as a proper democracy then as one approaching democracy that’s the best people can hope for . For those parties for whom it’s not enough then it’s up to them to convince the electorate that they have the ‘Key’ to a future of peace and prosperity for NI and not the ‘key’ to reopening another 40 year ‘stupid ‘ war !

  • Mayoman

    Greenflag: sorry to piss on a very well written post, but its just too simplistic to bear credibility. The NI ‘war’ wasn’t stupid to those caught up in it, on either side. And from a nationalist perspective, was based on certain, very concrete, and well accepted grievances. Both you and Turgon have come from a similar place on this thread, a few wars good, most bad. But thats not an absolute position. One person’s ‘stupid’ war is another’s principled fight. I have often done the ‘but for the grace of God’ test for myself on NI. I truly think I would not have taken a violent route. But I can’t be certain. If I watched my brother die on bloody sunday, or buried my father after La Mon, who knows? Where and what is your moral line? And do you think it is, or should be, the same for everybody?

  • Greenflag

    mayoman ,

    ‘The NI ‘war’ wasn’t stupid to those caught up in it, on either side.’

    I never said that . I understand that nationalists had grievances and that unionists had fears but what I said or at least thought I said was that the sum of all those grievances and fears did not merit 4,000 dead and 40 years approx of a political vacuum. With a bit of common sense , political judgement and give and take the deaths could have been avoided or much reduced .

    The problem being that once the dogs of war are unleashed it’s a bloody difficult job to leash them again – particularly in a ‘civil’ war where neither side can expect to win ‘outright ‘ .

    ‘.Both you and Turgon have come from a similar place on this thread, a few wars good, most bad. But thats not an absolute position.’

    I don’t have an absolutist position on war other than it should be avoided wherever possible.

    ‘I have often done the ‘but for the grace of God’ test for myself on NI. I truly think I would not have taken a violent route. ‘

    I wish I could say the same but I can’t . Had I been brought up in the Bogside or the Shankill chances are I’d have ‘enlisted’ with whichever paramiltary group was offering to defend me from the ‘others ‘. Probably less likely if I were on the Shankill for they had Crown forces -army, police , etc on THEIR side . Had I lost a close family member or friend ?

    ‘Where and what is your moral line? ‘

    Indivuls go to war without ‘moral lines’. They go as soldiers -conscripted -press ganged or as volunteers for all sorts of reasons -good -bad -idealistic and very often in the clear post war light of day – what are seen as stupid or non existent reasons .

    ‘And do you think it is, or should be, the same for everybody? ‘

    I would not impose my ‘morality’ on others . But I can agree with Turgon that there could be occasions when I too would go to war . If for instance an extremist political minority or foreign invader tried to usurp or take over our State then I suspect I would not be ‘alone’ in volunteering for the Irish Army .

    Sorry if it read as if I was demeaning those who fought on either side -not my intention but I would hazard a guess that most of those who did take part on one side or the other and who lost relatives and friends over the past 35 years would wish that those who led Northern Ireland from the top down had the political nous to have been able to transition to power sharing without the bloodshed.