“We got on famously until..”

The Labour Party’s Roy Hattersley, who was Minister of Defence in 1969, has written in The Times about signing the order to deploy the army in Northern Ireland. And here’s his recollection of when our local politicians behaved more like the capos they were. From the Times article

It was almost 20 years later [from 1974] that I first met Gerry Adams. At his insistence, I was taken by a driver of his nomination to the top floor of a deserted factory. A huge white cat, which darted across the dusty floor, added to the tension before Adams and several minders appeared from the gloom at the far end of the building.

We got on famously until he expressed his regret at the animosity that he was shown by Northern Ireland Protestants. Even when I asked him how he expected them to react to photographs of him carrying the coffin of an IRA bomber who (in a mixture of evil and incompetence) had killed two children, he calmly replied that it was his duty to pay respects to a “dead volunteer”. Only after I said that too many Irishmen were obsessed by death did I fear that he was going to have me shot.

Of course, things are different now..

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  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Further confirmation of the lack of understanding of British politicians of Norn Iron – which probably applies to most of their failed foreign adventures.

  • Driftwood

    A wee miner from Barnsley understood us better than most.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3604965/A-happy-80th-birthday-to-the-IRAs-most-deadly-foe.html

    His years in Ulster saw more terrible atrocities, among them the IRA’s special achievement in burning to death 12 party-goers at La Mon House Hotel. And yet terrorist violence was contained and diminished. In 1976 there were 297 deaths in the province; in the next three years the figures were 112, 81, 113 and it was an IRA man who acknowledged that “we were almost beaten by Mason”.
    Not surprisingly he was admired by many Unionists (although he had no time for Ian Paisley and loathed the loyalist extremists). But the greatest compliments to Mason have come from the other side. Even now Sinn Fein and the large penumbra of republican fellow-travellers in Ulster and Dublin spit at the mention of Mason’s name. And for why? Quite simply because, as Martin McGuinness said, “Mason beat the shit out of us”.

  • Galtestee

    Exactly Driftwood, Roy Mason was the best NI SoS. He had both the measure of the situation and the personal background and ability to ensure civil servants and the Army got on with their jobs.

    Sadly when he was moved on his replacements changed tack from ‘doing’ to ‘understanding’.

  • danielmoran

    driftwood. about the death toll for 1976. i was sure that was 397 killed. the second worst year after the nightmare that was 1972.

  • cynic

    “Only after I said that too many Irishmen were obsessed by death did I fear that he was going to have me shot.”

    What a rediculous suggestion. After all, he was never in the IRA so how could he

  • “A huge white cat, which darted across the dusty floor, added to the tension”

    Reads like something from a James Bond script ….

  • Driftwood

    Nevin
    I was intrigued by the ‘huge white cat’ reference, wonder what happened to it?

    Galtestee
    In fairness,at that time, we also had an excellent GOC in David House, who had a thankless task keeping the warring tribes apart and maintaining the peace as best he could.

    House, David (Lieutenant-General) (Sir) (b. 8 August 1922)
    British Army Soldier; General Officer Commanding (GOC) Northern Ireland 1975-77

    David House’s appointment as Army General Officer Commanding (GOC) Northern Ireland in 1975 (1975-77) came when an Irish Republican Army (IRA) truce (February 1975 – January 1976) was coming to an end. As a result House was faced with an upsurge of violence from Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries which led the British government to introduce undercover units of the Special Air Service (SAS) in 1976.

  • “I was intrigued by the ‘huge white cat’ reference, wonder what happened to it?”

    It was shot dead as a tout and given a state funeral. Although these days, if Afghanistan is anything to go by, kitty would not only be wearing a wire but would also have a bomb up its arse.

    In case any of you gungho hit-men failed to notice it, the ridiculous behavior of Mason, [God save us from the little man syndrome] ensured the war lasted way beyond its sell by date.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Mickhall: “In case any of you gungho hit-men failed to notice it, the ridiculous behavior of Mason, [God save us from the little man syndrome] ensured the war lasted way beyond its sell by date.”

    It takes at least *TWO* idiots to fight.

    An’ if Gerry couldn’t understand Protestant hostility, he isn’t nearly as bright as some give him credit for being.

  • cynic

    The Cat was probably working for MI5

    By the way…have you noticed all the dewey eyed 40th Anniversary memory pieces in the papers this week. Must be some of that old tear gas still floating about.

  • Driftwood

    By the way…have you noticed all the dewey eyed 40th Anniversary memory pieces in the papers this week.

    Yes, and now we are going to have to suffer the ’40th anniversary’ of every troubles event since as the BBC struggles to fill airtime. christ knows they’ve gone for overkill with ‘The Tall Ships’

    I wonder if Gerry Adams remembers the ‘huge white cat’? His memory seems a bit astray in recent months, but maybe Danny Morrison can enlighten us.

  • A. Bastard

    Baker, I’d like to know why my comment was taken down

  • borderline

    Ah yes Mason I remember him well.

    I’m sure I’m not the only young Irish lad who thought – This guy is a tough yorkshire miner. We’re gonna have to give up the ghost on this quest for national freedom for a generation, he’s so tough, so he is.