David Ervine: “It was anti the manipulation and false fellowship that he believed religion brought”

We’ll come back to the book Voices from the Grave quite a bit in the next few weeks I suspect, since several of our bloggers are devouring it as we ‘speak’… Just flicking past the Brendan Hughes segment, David Ervine talks about his upbringing and in particular looks his relationship to the ‘other’ in the ‘pre Troubles’ world of the 1960s…

I don’t know that you were ever frightened of the Catholic you knew; you were frightened of the Catholic you didn’t know. My da’s argument was that ‘We are just all people’, you know, and as far as religion was concerned, he used to go to the debates in Clonard monastery, which was hardly the done thing.* I don’t think he was anti-Christian, or anti-deity per se; I think it was anti the manipulation and the sense of a false fellowship that he believed religion brought. But I did sense, and at the same time didn’t, that Catholics were always different; you knew they were different but I didn’t know why they were different . . .

If that condition of distrust pre-existed the Troubles, is there much evidence that it has in the least dissipated since they ended?

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  • sdelaneys

    The section on Ervine seems disappointing at first glance with plenty of history but little or nothing new. I suppose the fact that he was still supportive of his group and party gives his part a different focus then the section on The dark.

  • J Kelly

    Mick I would imagine that we will come back to this book in the next few weeks and I would imagine that this facination with one part of this book will end at about 10pm on the 6th of May.

    I have read over quite a few of the blogs and posts on this and related topics in the last few days and the general feeling is that Gerry Adams is finished on planet slugger. The interesting thing is that the vast majority with this opinion would have liked to see the end of Gerry Adams many years ago, very few of them will have a vote in West Belfast where he will get a resounding vote and I am sure that less of them will have a vote at next years Ard Fheis. So all in all if those like rusty nail,old school, mark mcg come out of the bubble they will see that the world doesn’t revolve around the latest campaign mounted by macloney and mackers.

    Wishful thinking isn’ reality folks,

  • jtwo

    The Ervine bit is tame in that he makes it clear early on he will not give any specifics about what he did in the UVF.

  • J Kelly

    I think you make an excellent point which needed to be said, the same is true of the Robinson’s, although Slugger takes a totally different attitude to them than it does to Adams, why is that I wonder?

    Having said this, it does not make some of the allegations made about Mr Adams any less true or unworthy of debate. He is after all a major political figure in Ireland and the UK and has been for decades. He has gone out of his way to court publicity and manipulate the media, as is the way of politics today, so he can hardly complain when the rest of us take advantage of the media tools at our disposal.

  • J Kelly

    Mick many people who have or are major political figures in Ireland and Britain have many questions to answer about their role in the conflict but people like Maloney seek to go after Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams in particular.

  • union mack

    maybe because Adams stands alone in being a massive, repeated liar? martin mcguinness, for all his faults (from my perspective), at least has admitted his past. perhaps journalists are like the rest of us, sick of Adams’ patronising tone, his PR speak, his avoidance of questions and his blatant lies. now i understand that there are others from all sides who need to answer questions, but as this case is the most obvious one of blatant bullshittery, perhaps thats why? add to that the fact that the book will sell like hotcakes…

  • “major political figures in Ireland and Britain”

    J Kelly, that’s a grossly unfair dismissal of the Che Guevara of Ballymurphy.

  • J Kelly

    I am not saying for one minute that people shouldn’t use these tools to express opinions or engage in debate but lets get a sense of reality. What is said or not said on this forum or others will not really have that big of an influence particularily when it is easy to see through the political bias of the contributors.

    Many republicans know full well the full and active role Gerry Adams played in the struggle and understand what he is saying when he says he never distanced himself from the IRA. The republicans who have issue with this are those who have moved away from Sinn Fein and the IRA. The IRA is a secret organisation and by its nature has to stay that way. Why doesn’t Mackers give us a full account of every action he was involved in during his time in the IRA.

    Republicans see through the what is at play here, Mackers and Maloney manipulated the Dark for their own political and financial ends.

  • union mack

    or maybe he just felt he should be honest before his death? some people are blind to the movement’s lies and hypocrisy. at least unionists have seen through the DUP

  • Halfer

    I agree with J Kelly to the extent that Adams will survive this latest wave of accusation. Not because he has no questions to answer, but because those who need to ask them (Sinn Fein members and voters) won’t ask them.

    Political discourse amongst his constituency has become ankylosed in support of the Dear Leader.

    You can see that sycophancy in posts from amadans like michaelhenry.

    However, I seriously question the authors premise that communal distrust between the nationalist and protestant community was largely a product of the recent conflict.

    Sectarianism predates 69 by a large stretch and was exacerbated by partition and the Good Friday Agreement.

  • union mack

    distrust probably always existed subconsciously, but it turned into dislike and in many cases hatred, as a result of 1969. particularly in rural areas, where people had to live amongst each other and share services, there was less of a division than the urban areas

  • Seosamh913

    J Kelly

    In fairness, Mackers isn’t a player in political terms and as far as I am aware he has never been accused of anything which would necessitate or render vcaluable fuller disclosure. I do not believe that he can be held to public positions he has taken on his role that are not credible which is plainly the case with Adams.

    That said, I am sure that Anthony strikes an honourable balance between his obligations to former comrades with a genuine desire to serve the intersts of history, perhaps his own memoirs will reveal more than what we’ve seen of Hughes and Ervine’s, at least so far. Mackers remains alive too so an approprioate date of publication should be borne in mind here too.

  • sdelaneys

    This thread was supposed to be about David Ervine’s part of the book but J Kelly complaining about others attacking Adams has immediately brought the thread back to Adams. Weird or what?
    I see in today’s Irish News that members of Brendan Hughes’ family are condemning Adams for his implication that the dark was mentally unstable when he gave his interviews.

  • RepublicanStones

    Is there anything revealing at all in Ervine’s section? You could simply juxtapose that paragraph with any number of catholic upbringings. I expect if we haven’t heard anything at this stage, that answers itself.

  • Framer

    Ervine is careful to blame the furcoaters for his descent into paramilitarism; those unionist politicians who sought votes and patronised the working class.

  • slappymcgroundout

    “blatant bullshittery”

    Interesting way of putting it. Now might I offer another suggestion as a relative outsider? Why take the dark side approach here? Maybe instead:

    Memory says, I did that.
    Pride replies, I could not have done that.
    Eventually, memory yields.

    Lastly, for Mick, re the prior distrust, as Tim Pat reports:

    “One of his (Michael Collins’) principal agents in the Castle, Thomas Markham, a senior civil servant, prepared a report for him which gave an insider’s account of ‘how it really worked’:
    Belfast staff is very carefully selected as to loyalty. Numerical strength makes it a Staff-in-Waiting prepared to work for the whole Irish service if and when the opportunity arises.”

    Almost forgot, but in that same memo, what some need consider when the critique comes from the one same side:

    “The road to the Castle is paved with anonymous letters, deriving from the besetting Irish sin, jealousy. The depth and widespread nature of this treachery would make a good Irishman despair.”

    On that note, any jealousy in, “Armani brigade”?

  • Seosamh913

    Sadly there is not anything that was particularly new or revelatory to me in the Ervine section of the book, a lot of it felt as if it was verbatim from interviews he’s done in the past with Peter Taylor and others. He is much too opaque on his own role vis-a-vis the militarists and where he stood with/on them, either during his period within the UVF and more importantly when he was ‘Mister PUP’, particularly when the GFA negotiations were underway. There is something about his account of a knock on the door by Gerry kelly in the run up to the GFA closure and his response to it (regarding prisoner release, Kelly estimating that 1 year was do-able) which somewhere in my mind contradicts a memory I have of a previously provided account by Ervine (where I seem to remember him telling Kelly fairly curtly to “f*%# off”) but it’s inconsequential and I could be wrong about that, perhaps they were separate conversations – happy to be corrected. Some of his faux wordiness is good sport though… rather puts one in mind of Charlie Nicholas’s punditry on a good day.

    Ervine comes across as sadly untypical of his peers and I’m still none the wiser having read this book as to why he esteemed Gusty Spence quite so much for so long, something that has always escaped me about him (and others). He provides no perspective on where his nationality/identity issue ends and his class identification begins – which could potentially have been interesting if explored – and one senses he could have said a great deal more about the King Rat expulsion episode.

  • Kevsterino

    Slappy, I think you may be onto something regarding the jealousy trap.

    When you look at the wide range of personal outcomes of former comrades it seems obvious that some folks are incensed about nice clothes and second homes etc.

    It informs the sell-out argument as well as feeds the greedy tout thing, in my opinion.

  • ardmaj55

    jtwo [3] Do you get the impression from the book that Moloney is trying to create balance where, from the evidence available to him, balance isn’t credibly possible. Most of the dynamic comes from the ‘darkie revelations, it seems.

  • ardmaj55

    ‘at least unionists have seen through the DUP’

    Union Mack [9] Unionist voters may well have seen through Robbo and Co. but thanks to Reg Empty’s grasping of defeat from the jaws of victory, those voters may have nowhere else to go, so the DUP, alas have little to fear at this election. The TUV and Sunny Jim are now parodies of themselves. Depressing.

  • Michaelhenry

    was there no x u.v.f members who told stories about david ervines life,a few of them have died in the last few years,is ed baloney being selective again.

  • joeCanuck

    Well, MH, at least you’re not selective about shooting any messenger who says something that doesn’t conform to your extremely narrow worldview.

  • granni trixie

    This is illogical. Today the papers said that GA says that he is “proud” of the IRA. Yet he didnt join it. Other did the dirty work of the Ra.
    How can they and he be “proud” of abducting the like of Mrs McConville?. Or of exiling 2 lads to Birmingham to eventually be victims of a miscarriage of justice. What’s to be proud of?

    re David Ervine. Its a mystery to me why he is spoken of in hushed tones in many quarters. He like Dawn Purvis was/are ambivalent re punishment beatings and the like and the depiction of Ervine in the play by Gary McMichael certainly shows him up in a less favourable light.

  • Rory Carr

    I do not believe, Granni Trixie that anyone was ever exiled to Birmingham in order “to… be victims of a miscarriage of justice.”.

    I think that the British police and judiciary provided that particular miscarriage all on their own without any need of assistance from outside sources. And why would they not? If there is anything in which they are well practised it is in ensuring the success of miscarriages of justice. In this they have a record they can rightfully be proud of, they are world beaters, second to none.

    Furthermore they are an equal opportunities practitioner in the field of justice miscarriage – it is not only the Irish who were victims, though that certainly helped – they were perfectly content to plant evidence and obtain false confessions under duress in order to convict perfectly innocent people who were Scots, Welsh and English. They were even so altruistic about promoting miscarriages of justice that when the Australian police found themselves having difficulties in framing Lindy Chamberlain for the murder of her daughter who had been taken by wild dingoes the British were eager and willing to lend the assistance of their chief forensics examiner, Prof. James cameron who had already proven himself to be adept in securing miscarriages of justice and who was able to provide the Australian courts with just the kind of hogwash evidence they needed to convince a gullible and biased jury of a perfectly innocent mother’s guilt.

  • Michaelhenry

    making an excuse in this book about the brits helping loyalists kill catholics,david ervine says that the s.a.s did not do getaway driver on every job,could be true,maybe david meant every other job.

  • granni trixie

    Rory Carr: incasae I was not clear, the Birmingham 6 miscarriages of justice and others are ofcourse down to wrong on the part of the police,courts,judges and that Irish/N.Irish people were subject to racism.

    I referred to the case of the Birminghamn 6 because I would say that most people would not know that 2 of them (incl. Paul Hill) were in England because they were ‘exiled’ for anti social behaviour in the Lower Falls (according to Maloney’s book). Now although there were some cases of mistaken identity, largely the profile of those who were exiled from NI were teenage males,vulnerable to getting into trouble. Research shows that they often then went on to get into trouble in England. Research also shows that these young people are those who are most in need of family/community support and who were least able to cope away from home.

    So although we cannot blame the Ra because these unfortunate ones were subject to a miscarriage of justice by the Brits, we can say that if the Ra had not put them out of NI this would not have happened. Geddit?

  • british citizen

    “was there no x u.v.f members who told stories about david ervines life,a few of them have died in the last few years,is ed baloney being selective again.”

    Posted by Michaelhenry on Apr 01, 2010 @ 06:14 PM

    From my knowledge the operation which led to David Ervine’s arrest was one of, if not the, first bombings he was ever involved in.

    He wasn’t exactly a Stevie McKeag or Robert Seymour.

  • british citizen

    “making an excuse in this book about the brits helping loyalists kill catholics,david ervine says that the s.a.s did not do getaway driver on every job,could be true,maybe david meant every other job.”

    Posted by Michaelhenry on Apr 01, 2010 @ 09:23 PM

    Care to explain why many Loyalists were killed (Willie Miller/Brian Robinson) or injured by British special forces when on ‘operations’ if the were as tight as you like to think???

  • Stephen Blacker


    #25 is quite misleading, the Late David Ervine never said those words in the book. Mr. Ervine was talking about security force colluding with Loyalists;
    “There comes a point when the concept insults me, insomuch as that a Provo could lie in bed and with a crystal ball…could pick their targets but a Prod could only do the same if there was an SAS man driving the car.” Quote from the News Letter.
    A lot different from what you suggest.

    granni trixie

    Please give me an example of “Dawn Purvis was/are ambivalent re punishment beatings”

  • granni trixie

    Stephen: it is my impression from listening to her being asked about them in the media – along the lines of ‘only working class people understand why this is happening’ ie outsiders, middle class people do not understand,almnost a class defence.

    I believe myself that everyone should stand shoulder to shoulder to define these as barbaric acts.

  • Michaelhenry

    david ervine was not arrested on his first bomb run british citizen,read the book,david ervine was arrested on the first job when the brits where not with him.

  • PaddyReilly


    Paul Hill was not one of the Birmingham 6. I think you mean Patrick Hill.

  • Stephen Blacker

    granni trixie,

    Thank you for your honest and prompt reply. Dawn Purvis would never say, ‘only working class people understand why this is happening’ Ms. Purvis is on record saying thet anyone with any information on any crime to tell the PSNI.

    I have listened to many interviews from lots of politicians, some give black and white answers and others analyse problems because of their knowledge of the communities they deal and live with.

    I live a million miles away from interface areas in Belfast where black and white answers are easy to except. Life on an interface or in polarised getto’s is a whole different world. Dawn Purvis and others eat, sleep and breath the worst things our society has to offer, her answers might not suit stereotypical thinking but they are honest!

  • Seosamh913


    How many times did the Brits tie a rope around intercepted republican bombers and instruct them to enable the diffusion of the bomb personally before sending them up the river ?

  • Michaelhenry

    david ervine voluntteerd to defuse that bomb seosamh913 and to have a rope tied arond him by choice,read the book.

  • Seosamh913

    I have read it. They had a gun trained on him the whole he was doing it.

  • Michaelhenry

    like i said he volunteerd to help the brits.

  • granni trixie

    Stephen:with respect (and I mean that) your answer almost exemplifies the spin I was referring to. To me its as if a middle class kid does wrong and has to go through due process whereas a much lesser standard of ‘justice’ seems to be tolerated for working class kids. “The Community” may want to deal with wrongdoers with rough justice but that does not make it right.
    We shall agree to differ no doubt.

    I do agree with you about black and white solutions are fine from afar but you would be wrong to assume that someone with my moral view of pun. beatings etc is not speaking from on the ground knowledge.

  • Stephen Blacker

    grannie trixie,

    Your idea of me is slightly wrong because i believe that wrongdoers should be dealt with equally and deserve to go through the proper channels of justice, not down a back alley. The two sets of kids you mention can be put down to the “middle class” kid is just bored or bad and the “working class” kid is just copying what they have grown up with or they too are just bad.

    There is a different attitude to different areas because of opportunities and stereotyping. Of course i am simplifying the whole arguement with my glib remarks and i know not every person can be painted in the same way, but precentage wise the majority of under-achieving will be from deprived areas.

    Dawn Purvis tries to square the circle and bring people along the proper path but it is difficult to convince people when they have very few prospects going for them. To just ignore them or leave them to their own devices is not an option for Dawn Purvis thinking PUP people.

    The whole idea of beatings has been something that the PUP have been trying to end for years and it helped to set up the group “Alternatives” which the PSNI and Courts recognise and work with.

  • Rory Carr

    Oh, I “Geddit” alright, Granni Trixie.

    I also “geddit” that if they had not been such anti-social little thieves then they might have stayed in Belfast and become useful members of society such as IRA volunteers, which is something that Conlon and Hill had the good grace to admit themselves and I also “geddit” that if my aunt had balls etc… but I can do without such fatuousness as yours, thank you very much.

  • granni trixie

    Stephen: Even without the extra dimension of the Troubles,there will always be young people getting into trouble and I know that the intervention of Shankill Alternatives has bridged the gap between community and police to get them on track. But I still think that everyone including public leaders ought to make it clear that pun beatings are not to be tolerated.

    Rory: you may regard me as fatuous all you like. We all have to live with ourselves so I try to live by the rule of “they came for the jews” etc, meaning that I am under an obligation to stand up people who suffer from the rough justice meeted out by paramilitaries to young people who are entitled to due process.

  • Rory Carr

    Due process howareye, Granni. Conlon and Hill and the others exiled from Belfast by Republican due process for anti-social criminality in their areas, where it was not safe to allow British “justice” to operate had a hell of a sight better and fairer treatment than they received from the British courts which firstly beat them senseless, then terrorised them by threatening to shoot them, threatening to have members of their families murdered, actually having innocent family members fitted up for horrendous killings and then themselves sentenced to life imprisonment on the basis of corrupt and perjured evidence by a judge tasked to ensure their conviction.

    You know what you can do with your due process and I strongly suspect that both Conlon and Hill and Judith Ward and each of the Birmingham 6 would echo my sentiments.

  • granni trixie

    You are pushing at an open door with me when you talk about the wrong done to Irish people in England. But 2 wrongs do not make a right.

    What a load of crap you are spouting to justify bullying young people in NI. You should be ashamed of yourself.