November 27, 2014

100 years of trying to explain the difference between good and bad IRA men

By Martyn Turner (here)
Mike Burke, a lecturer in Politics in Canada, wrote on Anthony McIntyre's blog, the Pensive Quill:
"How could the Irish state… both celebrate its insurrectionary origins and conduct a counter-insurgency campaign against the Provisional IRA, which claimed to be the direct lineal descendant of the insurrectionary impulse that had given birth to the state?"
This is the southern state’s current and constant dilemma.
"So take it down from the mast, Irish traitors,
/It’s the flag we Republicans claim.
It can never belong to Free Staters,
For you’ve brought on it nothing but shame. Then leave it to those who are willing/
To uphold it in war and in peace,
/To those men who intend to do killing
 Until England’s tyranny cease."
This song, 'Take it Down from the Mast' (written in 1923 by James Ryan) typifies the universal and eternal conflict and tension in post-1916 Ireland.  As Newton Emerson said, "Dublin, Sinn Fein and the dissidents are like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, where one faith is mainly divided over who was the last true prophet." As encapsulated by Maryn Turner above, people differentiate and discriminate people as either good or bad gunmen. Kevin Myers said:
"The failure to realise the connection between a celebration of ‘good’ violence in the past and ‘bad’ violence today has long been a chronic condition in Irish life."
And it's a subtle, layered matter. Conor Cruise O'Brien wrote that "Retrospective approval of past nationalist violence, and disapproval of any violence in the present, are among the mores of the [Irish] Republic." Newton Emerson said that "When Sinn Fein’s support rose after the 1994 IRA ceasefire, it was seen as a reward for peace," and asked: "How much of its support now is a retrospective endorsement of war?"

He caught the glaring dissonance: "Republican commentators sneered at a “Dublin establishment” that stands in tribute at the GPO but recoils in horror from Gerry Adams." Ruth Dudley Edwards wrote:
"The establishment position is, 1916 good. Everybody agrees on that apart from a few disenters, as it were. War of Independence, good. There’s another big question mark in my book. But then Fine Gael, which is the old law and order party says, all violence after the War of Independence, wrong; Civil War, wrong. Fianna Fail who fought a democratic decision to go with the Treaty say, Civil War fine. Violence OK up to the Civil War. After that, all violence wrong. Because they were in government some years after and started hanging people who were still engaged in violence. The Provisional IRA, Sinn Fein, are fighting very hard to have it accepted that all violence up to and including 1998, good, perfectly justified. Absolutely in line with what happened in 1916. Just as justified. The dissidents say, all violence fine to now and the future because we haven't got our freedom. If you accept 1916, the dissidents are right. They are the true heirs of 1916. The true heirs of a small cabal that thinks it has the right to decide what happens to its own country."
She also said:
"If 98 years ago it was legitimate in a democracy for a tiny cabal to kill people in the name of Irish freedom, it's difficult to argue that the Provos, who lost and went into Stormont, have the right to prevent another generation following in their bloody footsteps."
She wrote in the Belfast Telegraph:
"Fianna Fail, who opposed the treaty and were on the losing side in the civil war, went into government and imprisoned and hanged recalcitrant IRA die-hards who are honoured by Sinn Fein, who view as true patriots everyone involved in republican violence until the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. 
[Sinn Fein] denounce the so-called dissidents, who regard themselves as the true heirs of the men of 1916 and have a point. If 98 years ago it was legitimate in a democracy for a tiny cabal to kill people in the name of Irish freedom, it’s difficult to argue that the Provos, who lost and went into Stormont, have the right to prevent another generation following in their bloody footsteps. 
[Fine Gael] and Fianna Fail are fearful that Sinn Fein will hijack the commemoration – which, of course, they are bent on doing – but in turn, Sinn Fein fret that the dissidents will secure a propaganda victory through the liberal use of uncompromising quotes from the 1916 leaders and, possibly, violence."
Let me finish with Newton Emerson:
"Official Ireland’s response to Sinn Fein is... that violence was so successful in the past there was no need for any more. The fact Sinn Fein makes the same argument to the dissidents does not stop all sides pointing it back at each other."
Next I will look at Gerry Adams' discrepant piece on his blog, 'The Good Old IRA.'






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