The complex issue of how we remember ALL those who died in conflict…

The issue of remembering those who died as a result of war or conflict is a very complex one.  John Hewitt, one of our local poets even cautions using the word “remember.”

“For the people of my province and the rest of Ireland

Bear in mind these dead:

I can find no plainer words.

I dare not risk using that loaded word, Remember,

for your memory is a cruel web

threaded from thorn to thorn across

a hedge of dead bramble, heavy

with pathetic atomies”.  (Neither An Elegy Nor A Manifesto)

Throughout the month of November, there will be many occasions, some private and some public when those who died in war or conflict will be remembered.  Here in Northern Ireland, there will be numerous Remembrance Sunday services in various Protestant churches as well as state organised Remembrance events.   Some Loyalists on Armistice Day (11th November) will visit graveyards to remember those killed during the world wars and in the conflict here.

Catholics, however, whilst observing the second day of November as All Souls’ Day and indeed the month of November with special emphasis on remembering and praying for the dead, seldom publicly remember those killed in war or conflict. Republicans whilst remembering and honouring their “patriot dead” keep Easter Sunday as a special day to remember, as well as holding different local events throughout the year to remember their dead.

In short, the issue of remembering those killed during the world wars and in various conflicts including our so called “Troubles” is a divisive one.   Each year, the symbol of the red poppy at some point in November generates an acrimonious debate.  In this article, published on the day after All Souls’ Day, I want to raise the issue of remembering ALL who died as a result of conflict.  In Catholic liturgy, Requiem Mass acknowledges “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:25), and therefore we all depend on the mercy of God and we leave judgement to God alone.

When we describe those who have died as a result of war, different adjectives are used such as the “war dead”, “glorious dead”, “patriot dead” or “military dead” to mention some.   It seems that even in death we are divided.  When this is explored further I would suggest we are implying at least implicitly that some of our dead are worthy and some not, or in simpler terms some are good and some bad.  In terms of our conflict, for some of us a police officer or soldier killed in the line of duty was a hero or heroine and deserves to be remembered at Remembrance events, whereas a paramilitary volunteer killed in the process of planting a bomb or carrying a weapon, was a terrorist deserving condemnation.   Yet as it happens, there will be people from different sections of our community who will talk about a soldier, police officer or paramilitary volunteer as making “the supreme sacrifice”.   It becomes very contentious whenever paramilitary volunteers are remembered publicly.

A few months ago, I followed some of the reaction to a post in social media by Helen Smith from the PUP “remembering with pride” Harris Boyle and Wesley Sommerville, who were members of a UVF gang killed when a bomb they were planting in the minibus in which the Miami Showband was traveling detonated prematurely.  Three members of the band were then shot dead by other members of the gang.    The post caused a considerable Twitter storm with some comments being personally abusive to Ms Smith.  There was also a strong reaction at the time of the 20th anniversary of the Shankill bombing which killed 10 people including Thomas Begley who was carrying the bomb.  Various events were organised to remember the 9 people killed in the bombing; the issue became contentious whenever some Republicans unveiled a plaque in memory of Thomas Begley which was seen by some people as glorifying his actions.  These two events remind us of how difficult it is to remember all of our dead.

So how do the families and friends of people like Thomas Begley, Harris Boyle, Wesley Sommerville and the many others “killed in action” remember them?    Here I come to the central point of this article, no matter what anyone did in his or her final hours or minutes, we cannot change the fact that he or she was some mother and father’s son or daughter, a brother or sister, a father or mother – he or she was a family member and painful as this will be to say for any victim reading this, that person was most likely a loved member of the family.

Painful as this may be for victims, those killed in action because of their choice to join an organisation are still missed and mourned by their own families and friends.   But it is not quite as simple as that; whilst some members of the family of those killed in action will remember them with pride and as “making the ultimate sacrifice for the cause”, other family members remember a son or daughter killed as a “terrorist” with enormous shame.  This article wants to point out the complexity of some family responses as well as the ongoing suffering of all the families of those killed in action.

Our society continues to argue over the so called “hierarchy of victims”, a debate I suspect which will continue for some time to come.  I do not plan to enter this debate here, instead I want to focus on the suffering of the families bereaved through the deaths of their loved ones.   When we stop to reflect on their suffering, it is not thinkable to talk about a hierarchy of suffering.    How can we put on different levels the pain and sense of loss for example of the widow of an RUC officer or the mother of a paramilitary volunteer?  The suffering of each family member whose loved one or loved ones was/were killed during the Troubles cannot be put in a hierarchy.   There is no hierarchy of suffering.   None of us surely can deny the right to suffer, grieve or mourn to anyone else.

In short, all of us need to be able to grieve, to mourn and to remember the people we love.    Whilst it is highly unlikely that families of victims will reach a point where they recognise everyone who has died during the conflict was a victim of the Troubles, I would hope that there could be agreement in acknowledging that all the families of ALL the dead suffered and continue to suffer irrespective of how their loved one or in some cases loved ones died.

Fr. Martin Magill is the Parish Priest at Sacred Heart Parish, Belfast.


  • barnshee

    ” The suffering of each family member whose loved one or loved ones was/were killed during the Troubles cannot be put in a hierarchy. There is no hierarchy of suffering. None of us surely can deny the right to suffer, grieve or mourn to anyone else.”

    Whilst there may be “no hierarchy” of suffering— there is a clear division between victims and perpetrators.

    Those “grieving and mourning” should be clear as to who the respective perpetrators and victims are – and where the responsibility for their state of grief originates

  • John Loughran

    Enjoyed the article Fr Martin. It is indeed though provoking and importantly raises questions on the human dimension of conflict.

    Some thoughts. Agreeing the universal principle that all have a right to remember would be a step in right direction.

    Of course at times this is challenging where lives are lost. it is equally emotive when it is is an ‘official’ or public Remembrance event that excludes. May be thats just a part of our painful and conflicted past that we will just have to live with?

    While there may never be a welcome when ‘the other’ hosts Remembrance maybe we should consider how we value our own acts of remembrance – and uphold the same rights to others who have a different conflict experience?

    For me irrespective of the combatant status of the deceased their families have a right to remember them in a manner that is sensitive to the feelings of others.

    Wouldn’t that be progress?

    Just finally your article while focusing on victimhood also raises questions, which I appreciate is beyond the scope of your contribution, about who was a combatant. I have linked some thoughts that I had developed previously on the question of who was a combatant:

  • Zeno

    I’m all for remembering people who have lost their lives. But let’s remember them in the right way. Lenny Murphy, combatant or deranged sadistic serial killer? The IRA who used poor Patsy Gillispie as a human bomb, combatants or deranged serial killers?

  • Pa

    implying implicitly?

  • whatif1984true

    The problem is how the death is commemorated. When the commemoration is public it becomes more than the remembering of a lost relative and is often seen as a political act. If the dead person was involved in killings/injuries it will appear to that person’s victims and their relatives as a celebration of those killings/injuries.
    Paying money to those who initiated violence is seen as much more than crime paying (by the victims’ relatives and indeed the wider public).

    Denying there is no hierarchy is a political argument not a moral one unless you can hand on heart say that ALL the victims (both dead and injured) chose their fate.

    The argument that no-one is helped until all are helped is a restating of the thought that deaths and injuries were part of a ‘process’ or the instruction to ‘move on’ or lets forget about it because we can’t explain away the necessity of those deaths and injuries but we demand that you ignore this and regard all the deaths as equivalent to each other.

    Refocusing the discussion on the families’ suffering and not the suffering of the dead and injured is like talking to the person pushing a wheelchair instead of the person in the wheelchair, it is patronising.
    Remember the first step in forgiveness is recognising the wrongful action seeking to be forgiven. Therein lies the problem can there be forgiveness when the wrong is celebrated (maybe publicly) on an ongoing basis. Whilst it would be very helpful to those who killed and maimed if they were forgiven by everyone I doubt if we are all potential Gordon Wilson. Is it possible to not bear a grudge even if the wrong is commemorated for ever (I am assuming the current sentiments of some may continue for as long as those related to the Battle of the Boyne etc.)

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It’s the difference between the private and the public, isn’t it.

    You’re right, even Jeffrey Dahmer was someone’s son; there is private grief among family, rightly, when any human being dies, whatever horrific things they may have done. But public marking of deaths is a different thing.

    Not all deaths can be publicly marked; but most publics want to mark some – those it considers have a wider public significance. And therein lies a value judgment. But we do as a society need to make those judgments and shouldn’t shy away from them.

    In the public square, all deaths are certainly not of equal value, nor should they be. We would be rightly appalled if the leaders of the political parties, for example, laid wreaths at some solemn memorial every year to commemorate the lost lives of Fred and Rose West (they are both dead aren’t they?!). Doing that would project a bizarre and obscene moral worldview. But marking, say, the death of Gandhi, would be fine (imperfect though he was). In the public sphere, there is a hierarchy in death – of course there must be – as there is in life.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree. The insistence on this odd idea of an equality of victimhood is a part of the propaganda war waged by Republicans which has kept going, zombie-like, long after the death of the IRA campaign itself. The focus now is on airbrushing over the history of its atrocities and presenting IRA violence as somehow unavoidable and ultimately productive of societal good. It does this by:
    – presenting the “armed struggle” as the only possible response to issues in society, rather than a result of deliberate choices made by Republicans which were not shared by most nationalists
    – selective focus on those corners of the Troubles that play to the Republican narrative
    – moral relativism (what does murder really mean anyway, etc? One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter)
    – the cart-before-horse recasting of responses to Republican terror as being responsible for Republican terrorism
    – asserting the right of a terrorist to go about terrorism is of no lower value than the right of the forces of law and order to stop him. It’s a situation Republicans don’t accept now that the terrorists are mainly Republican dissidents, but expect to be applied to themselves when they were the main terrorists.

    Republicans seem to have had some success among nationalist voters in eliding the idea of equality of people generally – we’re all of equal value and one community is not better than the other, which is fine – with the idea of responsibility for the Troubles. That is, they want people to think, “We are all equal, so our side can’t be any more responsible for the Troubles than their side.” It’s a non-sequitur of course, but closely identifying Republicans with a supposed equality agenda has helped them get away with it. To be fair, the public they seek to persuade has a vested interest in buying this story, because it lets them too off the hook for their part of the moral blame for the Troubles. It’s a cosy, self-reinforcing conversation.

    So ‘equality of victimhood’ is right at the centre of Republicans’ Troubles air-brushing programme. It goes right to the heart of what they’re all about: creating myths and embedding them in people’s hearts so they don’t just believe them, they feel them with a passion. The truth is up against it in Northern Ireland, that’s for sure.

  • whatif1984true

    Equality is a mealy mouthed concept when applied to someone who has been killed or injuried especially when their equality is said to be measured against the person who killed or injured them.

    So far as Equality goes I include all sections of our society, who killed or injured, in my above comment and if I could I would also include those who promoted or organised the above horrors of the troubles both past and present.

  • Mary Anna Quigley

    It was the troubles, not conflict, not war . The troubles. War justify – conflict is acceptable between themselves. No it was the troubles. And it was an injustice – Civil rights the right to provide for families.

  • Turgon

    I agree entirely there is no hierarchy of grief. Lenny Murphy’s family probably mourn him just as much as his victims families mourn them. It may even be worse because there is the guilt of what their son did as well and maybe the lingering anxiety could they have done something to turn him from such an evil path. To suggest such would be utterly wrong but in a relative’s own heart rationality can often be lost.

    In terms of victims, however, there is assuredly a hierarchy of responsibility.

    Coming back to the relatives, however, I have other concerns. The death of any relative is traumatic. It being by terrorist violence does not change things for the family that much. Think on the relatives of those murdered by non terrorist criminals. Jennifer Cardy’s parents as well as giving a wonderful Christian example at Robert Black’s trial also showed that their grief will go on till they are reunited with her when all tears are wiped away in glory.

    Is their grief or any other murder victims’s grief lesser because they were victims of “ordinary” crime.

    Indeed many still grieve over the loss of loved ones in accidents, or to natural causes.

    By basing this discussion solely round those who died because of the Troubles Fr. Magill shows a surprising lack of sensitivity actually towards us all.

  • Greenflag 2

    Fr Magill’s post above makes sense even for an atheist like myself .

    ‘There is no hierarchy of suffering.’

    ‘None of us surely can deny the right to suffer, grieve or mourn to anyone else.’

    ‘In short, all of us need to be able to grieve, to mourn and to remember the people we love’

    All of the above sound like common sense to me .

    The dead are gone and not coming back . So mourn and remember and try to create a society where the idiocies of the past in NI will never be repeated .

  • Zeno

    “when all is considered who was right and who was wrong?”

    The murderers are wrong. It’s pretty simple stuff. The innocent victims are obviously innocent.

  • Greenflag 2

    Not that simple Zeno -If it were NI Troubles would never have happened . They did . Just like wars everywhere .

  • Zeno

    “Looking at it from an outside objective view it looks a bit as though the PIRA were a bit more considerate when it came to dealing with innocents.”

    They murdered 650 non combatants. They kidnapped, tortured. murdered and “disappeared” people. They set off 26 bombs on Bloody Friday in Belfast. A clear attack on random civilians. (20 bombs in 80 minutes) They used people as human bombs. Most the 107,000 people injured, some of them horrifically were in IRA bomb attacks against civilian targets.
    By your logic Peter Sutcliffe was a lot more “considerate” than Harold Shipman.

  • Greenflag 2

    Better to remember Fr Alec Reid and Gordon Wilson and look forward than constantly regurgitate some of the worst atrocities of NI’s past .

  • Greenflag 2

    Not Anglo Irish’s logic but as AI says the University of Ulster’s statistics.

  • Zeno

    It’s simple enough for most people. The IRA were not victims, the Shankill Butchers were not victims. They were murderers. The ordinary people snatched from the streets and mutilated or caught up in a bomb targeting say a crowded restaurant and killed or mutilated were innocent victims.

  • barnshee

    “Not really an argument you would want to get into is it?”

    Try the mckown database for a more ahem exact breakdown of who killed whom

    In what way are policeman/soldier not innocent?

    According to Cain/ McKeown the RUC are responsible for 53 deaths

    28 during direct attacks on the police by murder gangs

    25 during general riots and attacks on the police

    Acording to mcKeown

    PIRA killed 1678 of whom 740 were police/ army (44%) that would appear to suggest 56% were civilians

    Of the NI “natives” murdered by PIRA some 74% were Protestant

    “The statistics may be uncomfortable, but they were compiled by the University of Ulster and if you can’t accept them then please take it up with the university”

  • Greenflag 2

    Most people in NI were not victims or murderers . Unfortunately too many were . Should never have happened . We know all this . Whats next . If it were simple why has it taken 40 plus years to even get to a political solution that can only be called a half way house solution .

  • Zeno

    I didn’t see the any part of UU’s figures that led them to state that the IRA were more considerate.

  • Zeno

    Are we in agreement that all paramilitaries are murderers and not victims like the people they murdered?

  • Zeno

    I think you have misunderstood me. I didn’t say a solution was simple.

  • Greenflag 2

    After a while the Mulberry Bush is just a Mulberry Bush and goes nowhere .. I don’t like it either but that’s life and death too . Justice is never perfect and politics is often a carousel.
    Be grateful that it was’nt a whole lot worse . I understand some people within NI and the victims of violence won’t see it like that -but there it is .

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Both sides thought they were right” – sure, but we as a society can’t be simply silent on whether they were actually right. The Nazis thought they were right too, it’s not enough. We need as a society to make value judgments about what is right and what is not right.

    It’s perfectly possible to acknowledge that the forces of law and order committed wrongs too without pretending they were all no better than terrorists. If we think terrorism is wrong and being peaceful and lawful is right, we need to reflect that in how we treat the terrorists. We can’t treat them as if they were just victims of violence no one wanted. They wanted the violence and they did the vast majority of it. The terrorists can’t be equated with the people tasked with trying to get them to stop, even if the latter weren’t angels.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    mainly because a lot of people defend the terrorists and want them let off the hook. Otherwise we could have all come together against them as a society. Ought to be easy. That it hasn’t been is largely down to the big SF vote.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “the PIRA were a bit more considerate when it came to dealing with innocents”
    You can’t mean that?

  • Sharpie

    The most important people to articulate what remembrance means to them is the nearest and dearest of those who died.

    After that there is indeed a community response to certain deaths, but not to others. This is arbitrary and it seems that often examples of deaths are not used for illustrative purposes as much as for point scoring. There seems to be an unconscious agglomeration around some examples that take on a significance beyond explanation or rationale.

    When the immediate relatives have spoken, and only then, should the death become a public issue.

    We must not generalise – but to hear and acknowledge every death for its own story – no matter how uncomfortable for those who perpetrated or those who see their community as victims. The Shankill bomber has a back story that is probably worth hearing – for both sides, as do each of the innocent civilians who died that day. After that we as wider observers, who have this as part of our collective experience of Northern Ireland can explain our own recollections and reactions. I hear people take the air space away from the real voices and speaking on their behalf.

    Everyone who died was human with a mum and a dad. Lets start there.

  • Zeno

    “Be grateful that it wasn’t a whole lot worse .”

    For a lot of people it was. It was as bad as it could possibly be. I object to the contrived romanticism and the airy fairy notion that the murderers were victims to. The people who lived through it didn’t see any brave freedom fighters or armed combatants fighting a war on their behalf.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes I saw that. Hmmm.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    so you’re saying all the thousands of police men and women were guilty just by being in the police – rather than just the few involved in the abuse of agent-running? Why?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You’re characterising an anti-British murder campaign as less sectarian than an anti-Irish one? I really don’t see why you’re trying to defend these people: all terrorism, surely, is equally wrong. There is no ‘considerate’ terrorism.

    You’ll also find, if you look at the stats, most victims of the Troubles were either Ulster Protestants, people from mainland Britain or members of the security forces. We don’t have a monopoly on victimhood, of course not, but to make out British people somehow suffered less or were in some way lucky to be terrorised by the IRA rather than Loyalists, is a pretty odd and insensitive position to take up.

  • Greenflag 2

    I believe since 1900 or thereabouts and certainly from 1939 most of the dead in all wars were innocent bystanders or civilians . Why would the Northern Ireland conflict be any different ?

    People don’t take up the gun and revolt against Government or authority unless they have reason . Now its over . There has been a half assed temporary political compromise by no means ideal . If the band aid comes off that then its deja vu again for another half century .

    Thats the best you can hope for in a State that probably should never have existed in the first instance . But it does -so deal with the political realities in 2015 .

    ‘It was as bad as it could possibly be. ‘

    Iraq or Syria or Rwanda Burundi or the Balkans or Chad or South Sudan or Liberia or Palestine or Gaza it was not .

    But it could be if the politicians don’t get their act together .

  • Alan N/Ards

    The vast majority ( of unionists) wish loyalists had left it to the police and not shown such barbarity to our nationalist neighbours. I’m also sure the vast majority of nationalists wish the provo’s had not started on a 25+ year campaign of barbarity in their name.

    I bumped into to a guy (who I was friendly with back in the 70’s) last week. We were talking about his mother (who died about 6 years ago). He really misses her. He didn’t know his father as he was killed by IRA in the late 50’s. He was a catholic police officer and he was in the womb when it happened. His mother told me the story in the late 70’s. She never remarried and lit a candle by his photo every night. She never really got over his murder. As far as I’m aware, eight police officers were murdered during the IRA campaign. This was a few years before Spence and the UVF carrying out violent attacks. Did this IRA campaign have any part in loyalist violence starting up? Genuine question.

  • Zeno

    ‘It was as bad as it could possibly be. …”

    Some people lost everything, it couldn’t have been worse for those that lost their lives or their Families. My point is if we keep excusing the murderers more will be created. They will reason that they are victims and people die in wars.

  • Zeno

    Are you aware that the loyalist paramilitaries issued several statements saying they would kill Catholics if the IRA carried out attacks on the Security Services?

  • submariner

    MU if you look at the stats you will see that more Catholics were killed than any other group . A total of 1552 Catholics,1288 Protestants and 722 Non from NI were killed according to CAIN. If you look at purely civilian deaths then the figures are even more stark. But don’t let that get in the way of your victim hood rant.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “The IRA weren’t sectarian, they were an equal opportunity bunch of murderers.”

    Then was it a sheer coincidence that the only one released from the Kingsmills massacre was a Catholic?

    I think the Provos were just smarter and better disciplined, they knew if they could produce ANY link, no matter how tenuous between the victim and the security forces then Joe Idiot Public would swallow it and their apologists (and American financiers) could peddle the non-sectarian myth e.g. a my local bakery was blown up for ‘providing buns to occupying forces’.

    A ravenous alligator wouldn’t even swallow that horse-sh*t…

  • Zeno

    Loyalist terrorists and Republican terrorists have little to differentiate them. The both carried out indiscriminate murders against their neighbours. David Irvine joined the UVF after Bloody Friday. Several others joined after the sectarian bomb attacks on the Shankill Road. Catholics flooded to join the IRA after Bloody Sunday.

  • Zeno

    “The IRA did not kill people because they were a particular religion, ethnicity or nationality.”

    That’s the romantic freedom fighter version. They bombed the Protestant Shankill Road 5 times. The bombed Protestant Pubs and Restaurants. Then you have Kingsmill. You know a Senior IRA Man called for more sectarian attacks?

  • Zeno

    “Instead of which in NI the army was originally brought in to protect the Catholic/nationalist population from ‘loyalist’ violence …………”

    You do understand why the IRA couldn’t allow that?

  • Zeno

    A lot of them did. David Irvine was turned down for the RUC.

    You would be surprised at the links between various bombings and murders. This book if I remember correctly documents a lot of retaliation by both sides.

  • barnshee

    See Mckeown as above

  • Zeno

    “This would suggest that maybe the IRA wasn’t in any position to mount a ‘campaign’ and only became prepared as a response to what was happening to their community.”

    True they weren’t ready but what was happening in their community was that British Soldiers were protecting Catholics. They were socialising and marrying Catholic Girls but well before that the IRA released this threat.

    They in their deluded state saw themselves as the protectors of the Catholic Community and couldn’t stomach the Brits doing it. Young Volunteers used riots to draw in the Army as the leaders knew they would react with a heavy hand and alienate the Catholics. It certainly worked in some areas.

  • Zeno

    I’ve said plenty of time that the only danger to the Union comes from loyalists. Equal voting rights was introduced in 1968 and everything else wasn’t far behind that btw. So the IRA can’t claim responsibility for any of that.

  • Alan N/Ards

    They have dishonoured the ideals Tone and McCracken etc.

  • Zeno

    “Didn’t the Kingsmill massacre take place in revenge for six Catholics murdered a day or so before?”

    I see we are back to unionist bad republicans good.

  • Alan N/Ards

    But you are taking up a position. To say that the IRA did not kill people because of their religion is a pretty stupid thing to say. You obviously have no idea of what happened here. Does walking into the Bayardo bar, Shankill Rd. and spraying it with bullets not count as sectarian, in your eyes? Five protestant dead, including one woman. You have really hit rock bottom this time.
    The only other person who I would believe could write such nonsense is a TD in Co Louth. Nah, I’m wrong, as he has said that the provo’s did things which he didn’t support. You should really catch yourself on.

  • barnshee

    Your figures are fiction McKeown gives the detail of every death check your figures

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Didn’t the Kingsmill massacre take place in revenge for six Catholics murdered a day or so before?”


    Which caused their non-sectarian mask to slip.
    Had they been the righteous freedom fighters that they claimed to be then they would have waited for ‘legitimate targets’

    e.g. old men who once worked for the judiciary, people in the wrong place at the wrong time, relatives of security force personnel…

    “Did the IRA have Protestant members?”

    Possibly they might have had ‘the right kind of Protestant’.

    Psychopathic or criminalistic fraternising at the upper echelons of paramilitaries and criminal gangs is not unheard of, the criminal gangs of the former Yugoslavia that sees Croats, Serbs and Bosnians intermingling freely are classic examples of this, they are somehow ‘above’ the tribalistic blood letting of the ground-fodder.

    “Did they care one way or the other what religion any security force member belonged to?”

    Probably not.
    But going by their alleged ‘rules’ a security force member was a ‘legitimate target’, off the top of my head I’m not aware of relatives of Catholic security force members being targeted with equal enthusiasm.

    Or whichever Protestants passed for collateral damage in the eyes of the Provos.
    Something that seems to slip the minds of those who see the Provos as freedom fighters (fighting for the freedom of Ballymoney, Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Belfast, Craigavon, Limavady, Bangor, Ballynahinch, Antrim, Lisburn, Newtownards, Larne, Newtownabbey, Ballyclare, Coleraine…)

    “Do they honour Wolf Tone, Sam Maguire, Henry Joy McCracken, Erskin Childers etc etc?”

    Imo, no, they don’t, they’ve hijacked their memory and bear little resemblance to those men.

    It’s the political equivalent of “I can’t be racist, I have black friends”.

    “The IRA are opposed to British rule in Ireland, they really don’t care what religion someone follows they would kill Catholics just as readily as any other religion if they thought it would help the ’cause’.

    Not THE CAUSE but their version of the cause.

    Their version of the cause would kill as many Protestants as possible and just because they would kill Catholics who were/are happy with the status quo doesn’t make them any less sectarian, as I said, they were smart and had to write the odd duff cheque now and again which is seemingly accepted without question by some folks.

    “What they didn’t do however is make virtually the sole purpose of their activities the deliberate targeting of Protestant civilians, they killed more security force members than civilians.”


    I don’t believe they were all sectarian brutes, no doubt some were just swept along with the tide such as things were back then.

    But there’s no doubt that more than a fair share were happy to see Protestants push up daises and if they could take a few out in the course of a ‘legitimate target’ then so much the better as far as they were concerned.

    If you think that nationalist murderous hatred can’t mirror loyalist murderous hatred then you are out of your depth here, in NI both sides can hate equally, don’t ever forget it.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Well they don’t have much choice as Presbyterians pretty much invented republicanism!

    You say they have no problem with it but that’s not to say they either don’t secretly resent it or see it as a wonderful PR opportunity.

    How could they sell ‘their struggle’ without putting a few token prods on the pedestal?

    It is a wonderful PR tool and I’d be advising them to do the same.

    Likewise the Apprentice boys should make a song and dance about all the Catholic clergy that used to attend their marches back in the day..

    You’ve just bought the Provo stance hook, line and sinker and have justified their methodology.

  • Greenflag 2

    How could they sell ‘their struggle’ without putting a few token prods on the pedestal?

    Nonsense AG . Tone , Mitchell among others were republican and nationalist icons a century before Northern Ireland was artificially carved out of Ulster to form a State which has never really established itself as a democracy and is even now still in training . You don’t have to be a Provo to see that . Just take off the blinkers .

  • Greenflag 2

    They won’t recognise the truth even when it bites their rear end 🙁

  • Greenflag 2

    They would have but they thought the army and RUC were too soft on the Taigs i.e not killing enough innocent ones if they could’nt find the guilty .

  • Greenflag 2

    So that gives an IRA figure of 7.1% sectarian killing rate of Protestants and the Loyalists a 69.4% sectarian killing rate of Catholics . So the Loyalist killers were almost 10 times greater sectarian killers than the IRA . I guess thats the main reason they don’t have political representation . Even unionist voters are scared of voting them into office . This would also explain why SF still get the votes .

  • Greenflag 2

    The numbers don’t lie . They were quite a bit more considerate about 10 times as considerate as per the numbers .

  • Greenflag 2

    The point I’m trying to get across is that NI has a new political dispensation as of 1998 and 2007 and to make the new dispensation work thats where the focus should be -not in regurgitating the horrific past . As Anglo Irish has written neither side comes out of the 1969-1998 period entirely innocent.

    It seems to me that Anglo Irish is setting a few unpalateable facts right for those who prefer the themuns were worse than usuns stale rationale – for their failure to understand why NI is continuing to fail politically .

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘Instead of which in NI the army was originally brought in to protect the Catholic/nationalist population from ‘loyalist’ violence and the whole thing went to hell in a handcart.’

    Thousands of Catholics had to flee their homes . The British Army were actually welcomed by nationalists as a relief from the quasi fascist B Specials and overwhelmingly unionist RUC at the time .

    Some facts they’d rather forget 🙁

  • Greenflag 2

    Russian roulette -six chambers -one bullet.
    Japanese roulette -six chambers -six bullets
    Loyalist /Unionist/UVF roulette – six chambers -six bullets and you point it at yourself 🙁

    Would be funny if it were’nt true 🙁

  • Greenflag 2

    Equal voting rights was introduced in 1968

    About 48 years too late . As always . And while the IRA can’t claim responsibility there are many nationalists and republicans who believe that there would have been no power sharing without violence . I wish I could prove that there would have been, but then you only have to look at the collapse of Sunningdale in 1974 to see how naive such a wish would have been . It took a further 25 years while Molyneux and the UUP fiddled, before power sharing could become a realistic prospect. Were it not for the efforts of the American, British and Irish governments in the several years prior to the GFA – there would have been no GFA and quite possibly several more thousand would have lost their lives since then .

    As I said -It could have been much worse -much much worse . There are still idiots out there at both extremes who long for the whiff of cordite and ‘final solutions ‘

  • Augustiner hell

    “What happened wasn’t just a few, it was institutionalised behaviour which was known to most of those who served.”

    How can you possibly justify this statement….or did you serve?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I get that Greenflag but they do wheel out the prods whenever people want to argue how non-sectarian they were.
    A much better way of showing how non-sectarian they were would have been to not kill them or blow up their towns and villages.

  • Zeno

    “It seems to me that Anglo Irish is setting a few unpalateable facts right for those who prefer the themuns were worse than usuns stale rationale ”

    I don’t know what you have been reading, but it appears to me that his whole point is that themus were better than thosuns.

  • Zeno

    “You appear to be having difficulty accepting that one side, who you appear to have some sympathy”

    I have no sympathy for either. I’m not defending either or producing figures that say one side is less sectarian because they murdered less people. If you murder one person because of their religion you are sectarian in my book. There are no degrees of sectarianism.

  • Greenflag 2

    A much better way of showing how non-sectarian they were would have been to not kill them or blow up their towns and villages

    Full marks for the obvious and if I’m reading Anglo Irish right even fuller marks for the loyalist vice versa as per the University of Ulster’s numbers .

    .’but they do wheel out the prods ‘

    Theres an element of marketing in that I’ll grant you and you can add in their abuse of the Irish language for good measure . . Perhaps the reason unionists and loyalists are always on the losing side in these public exhibitions of usuns are better than themuns and vice versa is that in their lexicon they have no taigs they can wheel out . If there is more than one or two I’d be surprised .

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “even fuller marks for the loyalist vice versa as per the University of Ulster’s numbers ”

    That wasn’t me, I don’t go for the numbers angle, I don’t see what it proves as I hold the loyalist terrorists with the utmost contempt.

    “Perhaps unionists and loyalists are always on the losing side in these public exhibitions of usuns are better than themuns and vice versa is that in their lexicon they have no taigs they can wheel out . If there is more than one or two I’d be surprised

    The future of Northern Ireland depends on the Northern Irish Catholics but they’d rather go down with the ship than embrace such life rafts.

  • Greenflag 2

    He’s providing the numbers the actual horrific data which support his position from a reliable source i.e the University of Ulster. From what I’m reading here it seems that there are many who would rather not believe the numbers .

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘couldn’t stomach the Brits doing it. ‘

    So why did the Brits have to do it ? Was it because Loyalists and the RUC supported by many leading Unionist politicians of the time were NOT burning out the taigs wherever they could ?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    No it is not, and unfortunately many of us are.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Of course you don’t AG, numbers refer to facts and those facts are inconvenient to your point of view, aren’t they?”
    No, not at all.
    Loyalists killed more innocents. So what? It does not take away from my points or assertions in the slightest, it could only wound those who see loyalist violence on a superior moral footing. I am not one of those people.

  • Greenflag 2

    I’m not sure if they (Unionist political parties ) learned anything from Sunningdale -which is of course why they now have the GFA It seems now as if the GFA is also beyond their political capabilities . Slow learners is what Seamus Mallon said . He may have exaggerated their learning speed 🙁

    The analogy was just an analogy even if apt . For those of Russian , Japanese or Loyalist inclinations I don’t recommend its use as a problem solver .

  • Greenflag 2

    As of now is it a life raft or a sink raft /concrete block . ?

    As for the NICs – I don’t think they want to go down with any ship either NI the UK or ROI . To paraphrase St Augustine of Hippo

    O Lord, help me into a United Ireland but not just yet and I don’t want to lose any blood or money or have to make any sacrifices or anything else in getting there and protect me if and when I get there from those too clever and sly by half southerners and their wily ways . Amen

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘They’re a one trick pony, once the trick works where do they go then?’

    They were would be more accurate as of now in the run up to the Republic’s election they can’t rely on the one trick approach . ROI voters the majority don’t buy it .

  • Alan N/Ards

    Why did loyalists not leave it to the police and army to deal with the provo’s etc. I can only hazard a guess, as I’m not a loyalist.

    Revenge for attacks on their areas is one reason that I’ve heard before. They were wrong as an eye for eye makes everyone blind.

    The police and army had their hands tied behind their back. Still wrong.

    If they killed enough catholics the provo’s would stop their campaign, Once again, they got it wrong as the provo’s didn’t care about the ordinary catholic’s being killed.

    Yes, I do have a mirror in my house and what I see every day when I use one, is an imperfect human being looking back at me. But I have never denied that loyalists committed sectarian murder. You claimed that the IRA never committed sectarian murder. There is not a person on this island who believes that. Thankfully, you have seen sense and admitted that they have. Thank you.

    I have met a number of former “combatants” ( from both sides) who have have deeply regretted getting involved with certain paramilitary groupings. If they could turn the clock back they would, but they can’t and they have to live with their past.

  • Mike the First

    “The IRA did not kill people because they were a particular religion, ethnicity or nationality.”


    Go and read about:

    Balmoral furniture showroom
    Four Step Inn
    Bayardo Bar
    Scott’s restaurant, Mayfair

  • Zeno

    “You constantly reference IRA crimes whilst mentioning ‘loyalist crimes in passing before returning to your obsession with ‘themuns'”

    I can’t remember anyone on here EVER making excuses for the Shankill Butchers or other loyalist murder gangs. I do see a lot of people trying to rewrite the narrative of the IRA. They were not actually brave freedom fighters protecting the Catholic Community. They were not more considerate in their sectarian attacks. They were not fighting to make things better for Catholics. Everywhere that suffered poverty and unemployment under Unionists are still in the same boat with SF in government.

  • Zeno

    “Well you could have fooled the rest of us Zeno, because if you read back over your posts there is a blatant biased pattern.”

    I was posting long before you about the UVF in the 60’s and how they were practically created by Paisley and the bile he was preaching.

  • Mike the First

    Does a sectarian atrocity stop being sectarian if you can claim it as “retaliatory”?? (Greysteel? That would be utterly offensive).

    Interesting, and revelaing, that you view the Provos and loyalists trading vicious sectarian atrocities (like the pub/shop bombings in Belfast in the early 1970s, or the gun masscares in Co. Armagh in the mid-70s, referenced here) as not tit-for-tat sectarian savagery (which is what they were) rather than the Provos “retaliating”.

  • Zeno

    “Many of those were in response to ‘loyalist’ murders of Catholic civilians, which is no excuse whatsoever, and as you said in your previous post they have dishonoured the ideals of far better men.”

    What do you mean “which is no excuse whatsoever” when you just made that exact excuse???

  • Mike the First

    “About 48 years too late ”
    23 years, at any rate. The ratepayer franchise for local government elections was only done away with in Great Britain in 1945.

  • Zeno

    You question is a bit confusing but everyone knows the Army were deployed here to protect the Catholic Community from the loyalist mobs.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    If you are going to condense my entire post into those two words then you’re clearly not interested in what I have to say.
    The facts and figures in no way negate my overall point about the Provos.
    That loyalist murderers killed more innocents than republican murderers does not change this. At all.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    One doesn’t need to be a mind reader to recognise cynical political ploys.

    I’m sure you have the capacity to do the same with English politicians.

    “Please point out where I have justified PIRA methodology

    Everything that you’ve said that shows that you’ve swallowed their ‘fighting for freedom’ and ‘legitimate targets’ bullshit is a clear vindication for their strategy of “look, we only kill the bad guys, seeeee?”.

    Anyone from a Provo background reading this would be well entitled to think “huh, well what d’ya know, it worked…”

    “If posting facts compiled by academic researchers appears to you to be justifying PIRA perhaps you need to sit down and have a rethink?”

    It’s not the posting of the stats, it’s that you’ve swallowed the Provos line so no rethink is in order whatsoever.

    Showing that there was an even worse group of murderers does remove the taint from the Provos and their misguided ‘fight for freedom’ and their cynical strategy of ‘legitimate targets’.

    Now, given that you accept the work of these academics here’s a list for you:

    Now, cross reference its names with the names in this article:

    There’s a bit of bias in the blog so using the CAIN list will keep you right (e.g. the first bomb was premature, not deliberate as he alludes to).
    Even so, if you haven’t vomited by the time you get down to poor Miss Mathers then please go through the names, the circumstances and come back and tell me that these ‘freedom fighters’ weren’t sectarian.

  • Alan N/Ards

    As I said, I’m not a loyalist so I have no insight to the minds of loyalists killers. These reasons have been around for decades.

    You seem to be saying that republicans only committed sectarian killings in response to loyalist sectarian killing. Is that right? Do you have proof of this?

    I’m sure that you remember the provo slaughter in a fish shop on the Shankill Rd in 93. This in turn led to the slaughter of many catholics in revenge. Did the provo’s allow the sectarian killer at the fish shop into their ranks in the Maze Prison. Yes they did. The same happened with the Bayardo and other sectarian killers. Why didn’t they reject these people if they were such a non sectarian bunch?

  • Zeno

    No I’m spending some time educating foreigners who haven’t a clue about Northern Ireland.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    And to use your own parlance “tell me where I said the facts were wrong”?

    I didn’t say they were wrong cos I don’t disagree with them.
    It is clear to see that one set of murdering scum was more willing to kill civillians than the other.

    But YOU said that

    “The IRA weren’t sectarian, they were an equal opportunity bunch of murderers.”

    To which I retorted

    “Then was it a sheer coincidence that the only one released from the Kingsmills massacre was a Catholic?”

    You failed to address this point and instead moved the goalposts by citing a previous massacre by loyalist scumbags.

    You did not say this was excusable but you did not condemn it either. In fact, you just threw out a loyalist killing and ‘moved swiftly on’.

    Ergo, I do not need the facts and figures that you are citing (which I am not disputing at all, so stop making out that I am, thankyou) to reinforce my point, they are for a different argument that you are NOT having with me, hence I can afford to be flippant and say “so what?” as it is very clear that in this context the “so what” is pertaining to the irrelevant nature of the statistics, not a ghastly dismissal of the awful murders of Catholics (which you are seemingly hell bent on interpreting as such, it’s a cheap tactic that doesn’t work for Turgon but you might as well have a bash).

    Anyway, keep plugging away at the out of context “so what?” remark, it will only serve to reflect your nature as anyone reading my comments could tell that I was referring to the unimportance of the data in relation to matter at hand whereas you want to scream;

    “hey! Look, AG said ‘so what?’ He doesn’t care about dead Catholics!!!” in a very FOX news manner.

    But it’s your prerogative.

    I don’t know why you keep mentioning loyalist murders to me, they’ve nothing to do with me and I’d happily see the lot strung up, you might as well mention Stalin for all the relevance it has.

    I await your next set of moveable goalposts.

    PS Just to point out you said the following: ”

    “The IRA weren’t sectarian, they were an equal opportunity bunch of murderers.”


    “… I did not claim that the IRA never committed a sectarian murder…”
    Please explain how committing sectarian murders are not indicting evidence of a sectarian organisation?
    What IS stronger evidence of a sectarian streak than committing sectarian murder?!
    For the love of Pete can you not just admit that you might be out of your depth on this one?

  • Augustiner hell

    You know my opinion? Interesting as I didn’t give it.
    Yes, I was aware of you writing you know a “few people” who served when I commented, but that, even allowing for the added weightiness of one of those being a fellow director of yours, hardly gives you the required knowledge to confidently make the claim “was known to most of those who served” never mind your bold statement that “it was institutionalised behaviour”.
    I knew a lot of people who served, I would suggest you are wrong.
    The fact that your posts are invariably peppered with these loose claims to back up your tangled arguments doesn’t make it any easier to take your valid points seriously.
    You are unermüdlich, I’ll give you that.
    Now you do know my opinion on this one thing.