“It is past time to make the words real for republicans as well as unionists. Over should mean over.”

Good sense from Fionnuala O’Connor, when she pretty much asks how far does anyone think that lionising our past at the expense of lengthening the shadow of the future will take any of us…

As for O’Neill, thirty years after Loughgall and with ‘the war’ over now for at least twenty years according to republicans, it is past time to make the words real for republicans as well as unionists. Over should mean over.

The SAS opened up as the Loughgall eight crashed through the gates of the barracks with a bomb in a digger, which now makes them the patriot dead to O’Neill. The best republican rewrite-teams can do with that is not mention the bomb.

No matter how many martyrs’ memorials she addresses Michelle won’t look any more like Martin, the human bridge between wartime IRA and peacetime Sinn Féin. Or is the plan to be still memorialising the republican version of the Troubles 300 years down the line – as Orangemen remember Aughrim, Enniskillen and the Boyne and the humiliation of the Catholic Irish that followed King Billy’s triumph?

Now there would be a fine act of simultaneous reciprocation, and reconciliation. Republicans proclaim an end to commemorations, and the Orange Order declares itself redundant for the good of society.

  • billypilgrim1

    “Republicans proclaim an end to commemorations, and the Orange Order declares itself redundant for the good of society.”

    Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

    Quick question to unionists: do you guys have an issue with Fianna’s Fáil’s commemoration at Arbour Hill, or Fine Gael’s at Béal na Bláth?

    (Also, I wonder does Fionnuala? Hope the answer is no in both cases, but genuinely interested.)

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I must admit I don’t even know what they are.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Try Google.

  • Mach1965

    Couldn’t have put it better no.

  • Mark Petticrew

    Arbour Hill’s in Dublin, the burial place of 14 of the 16 executed for the Easter Rising. Fianna Fáil holds its annual 1916 commemoration there. Béal na Bláth is a village in Cork, it being where Michael Collins was ambushed and killed in 1922. An annual commemoration for Collins is held here in August, with a mostly Fine Gael crowd attending.

  • Katyusha

    Who are the “Republican rewrite teams?” Did someone try and rewrite a history where these men did not die as they went to attack a police station?
    The graphic used to represent the loughgall martyrs has a pair of crossed rifles on it. I don’t see anyone trying to airbrush their background.

    Fionnuala has the wrong end of the stick in suggesting that Michelle is trying to emulate Martin. Quite the opposite in fact. Martin moved towards very moderate, conciliatory ground, far away from the attitude you would expect of a militant republican, and yet could not leave his past behind him.
    Michelle is not the bridge into a future generation. She is the future generation. Her commemoration of men of a former generation who died in conflict is no different from commemorations of the Easter Rising. Are we to forget about the War of Independence because the IRA attacked police stations during that conflict? Are Fine Gael wrong to commemorate Collins, or Fianna Fail wrong to commemorate Pearse? It is galling that unionists who quite unashamedly commemorate and remember the fallen of the British Army and UDR, at the hands of whom many innocent nationalists lost their lives, then turn around and show mock outrage or genuine outrage at republicans doing the same.

    A few points. The first is that Michelle’s words quite clearly set the actions of those at Loughgall firmly into the past. It is a commemoration of something that happened in the generation before hers, and now she has been passed the baton. As such, it is not an issue that should affect current politics any more than events in 1912 or 1922 should. Secondly, I had suspected that one of the reasons for MON’s appointment was her background in East Tyrone, as an attempt to win support there for SF and stave off the dissidents. This shows that, more than just providing a figurehead from the area, SF are actively bringing along the more traditional republican constituency. Maybe SF were worried about losing influence here, maybe Michelle needs to actively display her credentials in a way MMG did not, maybe they are refocusing attention in the north away from urban quasi-socialism to focus on the border and Brexit. Either way, we are in for interesting times.

    Time was, Adams could speak at somewhere like Galbally or Cappagh and no-one would pass any remarks. There seems to be some surprise that the new leader of Sinn Féin in the north is, well, a republican.

  • Nevin

    “No matter how many martyrs’ memorials she addresses Michelle won’t look any more like Martin, the human bridge between wartime IRA and peacetime Sinn Féin.” .. Fionnula

    Does she really believe what she writes? Martin and his generation, Michelle and her generation, and the next generation were on parade in Dungiven in 2012:

  • billypilgrim1

    I’ll give you five minutes to Google it, and you can come back in full “unionist fury at…” mode!

  • NotNowJohnny

    This is not aimed at you personally but I am often astounded by how little many unionists know of the events of modern Irish history. I mentioned the name of Charles Stewart Parnell to a unionist recently and he said he’d never heard of him. I had always assumed that having an interest in politics on this island would at the very least have inspired some level of curiosity as to how we arrived here politically. Given that Collins was one of the most important political figures of 20th century Ireland and his death at Béal na Bláth one of the most notable events, it seems strange not to have heard of it. But there you go.

  • NotNowJohnny

    You’re not seriously attempting to equate the men of Loughgall with Michael Collins?

  • Fear Éireannach

    They even made a movie about it!

  • Pang

    The problem with Béal na Bláth and Arbour Hill etc is that they were used for generations by Fine Gael & Fianna Fáil to rerun the civil war again and again. NI doesn’t need to rerun the troubles. There are different examples of memorial services that bring reconciliation – think of French & German attempts, or Mary MacAlesse and the Queen on several occasions.

  • Enda

    I read that he was equating the men of Loughgall, with the men who served under Collins.

  • Katyusha

    I’m not, but what I am doing is highlighting the actions of the IRA during the War of Independence, to dismiss the suggestion that it it should be taboo to remember them. It’s not my commemoration or something I would be involved in, but I don’t begrudge the Provisional movement the chance to remember their dead, especially when the other factions on this island can do the same without controversy.

    (If you were looking for a figure within that movement of comparable stature to Collins, MMG may have been the closest. Although it is difficult to compare anyone to MC.)

  • aquifer

    If sham fights win votes, why throw away all those majestic militaristic costumes and well thumbed scripts?

  • Mike the First

    Well as far as rewriting goes, there have been attempts on this very site to claim that the terrorists killed at Loughgall weren’t actually trying to murder police officers.

  • ted hagan

    From my memory of the Troubles many of the actions of the Provos – the bombings, the slaughter, the murder of innocents, the wanton destruction – appalled the majority of nationalists. This was borne out by the fierce and brave condemnation from the likes of Hume, Mallon,Brid Rodgers, Currie, Fitt, Paddy Devlin etc. Politicians who in those years represented the SDLP and the vast majority of nationalists.
    To my mind these were the true heroes of nationalism, not those deluded Provo foot soldiers who waged war, no, not just on their British army adversaries, but, lest we forget also on the civilian population.
    Michelle O’Neill was right to attend the service. She was wrong to speak at it.
    What are the Sinn Fein tactics at the moment? I really do wonder.

  • ted hagan

    Various governments in the South have, over the years, carefully learned to deal with the sensitivities involved in these commemorations and to try to embrace all communities. Some couldn’t be arsed with any of it.
    The North hasn’t evolved to anywhere near that maturity and both unionists and nationalists flaunt their displays in each other’s faces.

  • mickfealty

    What about the bomb?

  • mickfealty

    If you are just back for the wind up forget it Billy.

  • Barneyt

    Surely asking about the bomb in that particular scenario is equivalent to questioning a cracker on the Christmas table?

  • Barneyt

    I do like the way she equates IRA commemorations with the current orange celebrations and reenactment and poses the question, should we leave both where they belong, consigned to history. It’s perhaps not the most noble of SF acts to have MON speak at this event, particularly when unionism is riled merely by the reasonable ( Irish language act) these days. But this debate will not go away. Who can decide what is commemorated by either side. Do we accept the Poppy Day and remembrance events or do we take the view that with a broad stroke they effectively celebrate British soldier deeds of the more recent past too. Not all were glorious. We will never strike a balance here as there are different perspectives and political emotions attached. You’ll never convince unionism that the UDR served in part as terrorists. You’ll never convince a SF supporter that the volunteers were not freedom fighters defending a cause. The way forward is not to abolish or jettison orange/green/British/Irish commemorations, but to conduct them gracefully and to think as your “opponent” does about these events and show cordial respect. However, there is little graceful about orange fest and equally MON failed to take a more sedate role. This only serves to provoke in the current climate when Arlene is on the Gaeltacht road to Damascus and as with the DUP, it demonstrates that they have limited potential to represent all of the community by their specific engagement in this event. Attend by all means but as a potential first minister, stand back and let others take the stage.

  • Granni Trixie

    Not just ‘unionists’.

  • Korhomme

    My problem, Katy, with such commemorations/celebrations is this; that they reinforce a narrative which is incomplete. They build up a myth which over the years becomes a ‘truth’, something that is widely ‘believed’. There remain questions which aren’t posed let alone answered.

    The bomb did explode at Loughgall; but what was then supposed to happen? How did the SAS know to be there? And what of the ninth fatality, what of him?

    Lest you think I’m being one-sided: we all ‘know’ it was originally a celebration/commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne (it wasn’t) and that battle was fought on 12 July (it wasn’t). We don’t ask about the Nine Years’ War, or the Sun King, or even on whose side the Pope was on: and where exactly is ‘Orange’? No, we ‘know’ the ‘truth’.

  • Jim M

    In fairness, MU didn’t express ignorance of MC, just the location of his death.

  • Nevin

    “Good sense from Fionnuala O’Connor”

    More of a rasp-tongued rant, Mick. ‘The war is over’ is the sort of nonsense we heard from Martin McGuinness when, as acknowledged by Gerry Adams at Athboy in 1997, ‘armalite and ballot box’ had morphed to ‘attrition and ballot-box’.

    ‘Reaching out’ by the DUP and SF IMO is targeted at UUP and SDLP voters as the duo tussle for the position of top dog in Northern Ireland politics. Fionnula mocks Arlene’s ‘Case for the Union’ address in Glasgow but I very much doubt if a member of the nationalist family would get the same abuse if he/she made a case for a United Ireland. I see no mention of the DUP proposal for a Culture Act, not an Irish Language Act, but that’s to be expected in a partisan diatribe.

  • billypilgrim1

    Just a joke, Mick.

  • grumpy oul man

    And,off the blocks in the dead cat Darby is Nevin, taking a early lead with the famous Athboy conspricy,
    Never has managed a 20 year timeleap but there is always a possibility that 1690 will be played as a trump
    Note that FO’C has not expressed a opinion but instead had a “rasp tounged rant” this popular tactic of Nevin to reduce any statement by nationlists to a anti Unionist rant and ignore the context is a favourite o unionists.
    One would almost think that they didn’t want to discuss anything later than twenty years ago.

  • grumpy oul man

    And again the dead cat sticks it smelly head up.

  • billypilgrim1

    Can’t disagree with anything there.

  • Katyusha

    I don’t get what you mean, Mick. What about the bomb?

  • Katyusha

    I very much agree Korhomme, and I don’t think we’ll ever know what really went on in the shadows behind Loughgall – with the various clandestine power struggles, and the wish of the East Tyrone brigade to pull the conflict in a new direction that was stamped out with the failure of that attack. But I don’t think we’ll ever get the unvarnished truth on the matter.

  • Korhomme

    What happened at Loughgall is particularly complex and controversial. But there are so many other incidents which aren’t properly explained. It might be that in a century something approaching the ‘truth’ will emerge; in the meantime, those victims and relatives will so often be left without real answers. And I would fear this this lack of answers will only inculcate a persisting sense of injustice and bitterness.