December 10, 2013

Myth, misrepresentation and misinformation in Northern Ireland

The amount of myth, misrepresentation and misinformation, and plain misuse and abuse of language and emotion in the debate in Northern Ireland is shocking. The idea that young Catholics had no option other than to join the IRA is kicked around with absolute abandon - it's reckless, absurd, outrageous and preposterous.

Fintan O'Toole said in 1998 in The New York Review of Books:
"Most of the current leadership of Sinn Fein is made up of men who were, in the 1960s, angry young Catholics."
Angry young catholics are doing the same in 2013. I wrote about this generational cycle of extremism here. Young men with over-sized adrenalin glands. Anyway Here's Tom Kelly setting Gerry Kelly's IRA narrative straight in the August 19 edition of The Irish News:
"Gerry kelly recently said young people like him in the early 1970s had no choice but to join the IRA but that is simply not true. Back then as now they had choices. The Sunningdale Agreement in 1973 was actually stronger in nationalist terms than either the Good Friday or Saint Andrews Agreement. The vast majority of young nationalists did not join the ranks of the IRA. Had they, the Maze would have been five times the size it is."
Newton Emerson said in Slugger:
"I didn’t say the IRA started the Troubles. I said Sinn Fein is advancing an anti-discrimination ‘fight for equality’ narrative as a consistent explanation for why the Troubles began and ended." 
He continued: 
"During the Troubles the vast majority of the nationalist electorate pointedly rejected IRA violence but since the ceasefires a reassessment of that violence was necessary and warranted by ‘unionist misrule’ has crept into the nationalist mainstream.  
By extension, as Mr Kavanagh seemed to imply, a ‘discriminatory’ special advisers bill threatens to take us back to where we started. In fact, there is no risk to peace from this minor inconvenience to Sinn Fein’s party machine. 
A far greater threat is pretending the entire 30-year span of the IRA campaign was justified, its violence was successful and victims like Mary Travers were an accidental aberration. A clumsy law may be a small price to pay to remind ourselves that this was not the case."
On the IRA delivering rights for Catholics, it was said:
"I don’t know what equality measures were achieved as a result of violence. Five of the six demands of the Civil Rights Movement were achieved very early on before violence got going, the Housing Executive was a Hume idea, fair employment legislation was put in place in the teeth of Provo violent opposition and the Provos opposed every aspect of the 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement."
"The main reforms took place in 1968, nearly 2 years before the formation of the SDLP, directly as a result of the actions of NICRA. Of course, some members of NICRA went on to prominence in the SDLP.  
Not only did the Provos not achieve reforms, they didn’t actually want reforms – having a single entirely different objective in mind: a united Ireland. Judged against their sole aim, their achievements were nearly 2000 deaths and no actual progress."
Eamon McCann said:

"So for the time being a fractious alliance held together. And it seemed to be getting some results. The civil rights demonstrations which took place throughout Northern Ireland, but most frequently and dramatically in Derry, in the weeks after 5 October forced concessions from the Unionists. On 8 November a specially requisitioned meeting of the Corporation accepted a Nationalist motion setting up a three-man committee to allocate houses. Alderman Hegarty and two Unionists were elected to the committee. Shortly afterwards O’Neill announced a five-point package of reforms. These involved a plan to abolish Derry Corporation, universal franchise, and a promise that sections of the Special Powers Act would be ‘put into cold storage’ (but not so cold as to prevent rapid re-heating when the occasion arose)."

The reality is that the civil rights marches achieved 80% of their aims a full two years before the PIRA started its campaign of violence.

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