A Despairing Derryman

K. Doherty, a citizen of Derry, writes of his dismay at the complete inversion of everything republican about Sinn Fein and offers a challenge to the establishment narrative on dissident republicans.

When Sinn Fein got involved in government I began to hope. I hoped that all the violence was behind us, a bright future was ahead, the men of violence had gone away and our identity as proud Irishmen and Irishwomen would be respected, our position in society based on equality.

Then I heard the phrase “Dissident Republicans” and I thought, “typical there's always someone who's never satisfied, someone who wants violence because that's all they know”. The dissidents, that group of dark evil men that want to drag us back into the bad old days, the malcontents who want nothing of peace and will never be happy with any settlement, they are to be shunned these demons, these monsters.

I think everyone experiences an epiphany at some point in their life, a point where the scales fall from their eyes and suddenly they understand. If they're lucky they will have several. I've had a few and the Bogside bonfire fiasco was the latest. For some it was the Kelvin project being taken from Derry to Coleraine. For others it was Adams shaking the hand of Charlie before any Paras were brought before a court, capitulating and giving welfare back to London, taking successful courses from Magee and giving them to Coleraine and Belfast, the desperate lack of infrastructure, secret talks, welcoming Zionist defenders.

The list is long and getting longer every week and with each disappointment and perceived betrayal, another few join the ranks of the dissidents. You see the dissidents aren't the monsters we are being led to believe they are. They aren't a group of ne'er do wells out to cause trouble for the sake of it. Back in the sixties and seventies the ranks of the IRA swelled as a response to atrocities carried out by the British state. These weren't hardened killers. This was Paddy and John down off Westland and, you know, Mickey and Joe from just off Broadway. These were ordinary guys who stepped up to the plate when they saw no-one coming to help. The Irish army stayed safely across the border, the UN looked the other way: someone had to defend us. And while I never agreed with their methods I at least acknowledge and honour what they tried to do. They supported the struggle for thirty years, many of them died, and now Paddy and John and Mickey and Joe feel betrayed, their struggle and sacrifice was for naught because the people they followed have compromised once too often, fairness and justice denied them by honeyed words on silver tongues in Armani suits. They're angry and some of them do resort to the violence of the past.

But take a dander through Galliagh in the evening. You will see these men walking the streets to help bring calm and guidance to the young, stopping the anti-social behaviour from escalating, tackling a growing drug problem while the Shinners demonise them, doing everything they can to keep the funding going into their coffers while the PSNI plan large operations to take wood off the kids in the Bog. The Dissidents are walking the streets, making the community safer. These self appointed wardens aren't getting paid £30k, £40k or £50k a year to do it. They do it because no-one else will.  The political elite don't have the will and the PSNI don't have the resources - both are steadily losing the trust of the people. The P.S.N.I. was established, in part, to reassure the Irish people in the state of Northern Ireland that the days of using the Police as a paramilitary organisation to enforce the will of the political elite, were over. The RUC was a paramilitary force. It was a protestant police force for a protestant people. We've heard it so often and many of us have felt the baton and the hobnailed boot. The PSNI was to change all that, it was to be independent, accountable and reflect both communities.

Recently the PSNI accompanied “a local business man” to remove wood that was collected in anticipation of a bonfire. You can look at all the paperwork and the legality of what happened, you can listen to the spin, shake your head and tut at all those young'uns causing bother again, them bad'uns holding the community to ransom, but there is a growing unease that even the dogs in the street can sense...

The people who organised that bonfire and the wains that collected the wood sensed the injustice even when many of them couldn't articulate it, they felt it. A right that was granted to every prod in Northern Ireland was being denied them and the PSNI was the instrument used to deny them that right. That makes the PSNI no different to the RUC in the eyes of many. The prods don't want the Taigs in the bog to celebrate their culture and are looking for any excuse to withdraw the funding from the Shinners Gas Yard extravaganza. The political elite did not want the bonfire in the Bog, and they used the PSNI as a paramilitary force to override the wishes of a substantial minority. Do not be mistaken - the use of the PSNI was a political act and everyone knows it even if they don't want to admit it.

As Sinn Fein are among the political elite, their support of the actions of the PSNI demonstrate clearly that they have become a tool of the British state. They have shown how expertly the DUP have managed the new intake of Taigs, turning them into instruments of British oppression.  Sinn Fein are complicit in the perversion of an independent Police Service into a paramilitary force. Why? In all of Northern Ireland was the only bonfire to be removed by the PSNI in the Bog? The answer is simple. It was to put those upstart Taigs in their place, with the support of Sinn Fein.

A growing number of Irish people in Derry are sensing how poorly they are being represented by Sinn Fein and SDLP. The last election shows that they are looking elsewhere. Is it really that surprising? After 20 years we Irish in Derry do not seem to have benefited to any great extent from the so called peace dividend. New schools I hear Martin cry: great, yeah, we've got the best educated dole queues in Europe. Indeed after 47 years the Irish in Derry are still facing the same problems that drove us onto the streets in 1969 - discrimination, housing, jobs, infrastructure.

No-one should suffer or die because of their religious or political beliefs, I have always believed this and can never support men of violence. Without condoning the dissidents, I at least understand why their ranks have been growing. Now I understand why the young people in Derry have apparently been going crazy over the last few years. After 47 years it looks like we're heading for another Battle of the Bogside. Which side of the barricades will the new Sinn Fein be on?

When the IRA was waging it's war, a top down command structure for it's army was essential. When the fight moved from the gun to the ballot box, the top down structure helped make Sinn Fein a powerful political force but it has left them woefully ill prepared for work in a democracy. While Gregory curries their yoghurts the new Sinn Fein are not listening to their people. By not listening how can they hope to meet their needs?

Their arrogance is astounding. It is not their job to tell the people of Derry how they should live or how they should celebrate their culture. It is their job to facilitate what the people want, it's their job to educate the prods, make them understand that we have rights, that we are a proud people and we will not be treated as second class citizens.

The Battle of the Bogside was fought by the Civil Rights Movement in protest at the discrimination of the Irish People by the British establishment. Martina Anderson needs to understand that she is no longer of the people, she is the political elite. She is the establishment and more and more she is seen as the British establishment, The Bonfire on the Lecky road was a shout at the British establishment, and particularly at Sinn Fein:

we will not toe the line so that you can keep funding your pet projects, you do not get to decide what is good for Derry, you do not get to define what it means to be Irish, you do not get to decide what it means to be a Derryman or a Derrywoman, you are our servants we are not your serfs.

When your supporters have nothing to lose, you lose them... We are Irish, we are proud we will not be dictated to. We want justice, we want fairness, we want equality. By failing to listen to their cry you are sealing the fate of another generation of Derry men to hopelessness and despair.

I only hope that as the people of Derry awaken yet again to the injustices that surrounds them and oppresses them that they follow a route of non-violence and civil disobedience. I hope they take their inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement. To do otherwise is to condemn our beautiful city to another half century of needless death and destruction.

“yous shouldn't have taken our wood”   ~ sign on the bonfire

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

18 comments to ''A Despairing Derryman "

  1. In full agreement Animal Farm comes full circle

  2. Some good points in the article. Definitely the move into career politics and expenses has left SF singing wrap the green fleg round me bhoys to the unemployed while standing in Armani suits and Italian leather shoes. Not sure an issue such as a bonfire will ignite (excuse the pun) decades of death and misery. People are fed up with politics globally. Those same elected scoundrels robbing the tax payer and public purse of every nation and taxing ordinary struggling people MORE for less services. That is why Trump is doing so well in the USA and Duterte is President in the Philippines. People are preferring a warts and all straight talker than the endless mealy mouthed smooth shysters and self servers. SF are well wedded to the career political gangsterism now. It is worth contemplating THAT before falling in behind the next wave of republican 'radicalism'. There is a historical trajectory there where republicanism is concerned in Ireland. When we see the entire political elite and media attacking Corbyn in the UK it is frightening and depressing that ordinary people are so despised. SF are part of that elite now.

  3. A powerful and poignant commentary on the state of things in Doire, I think in many instances it can be replicated in most nationalist areas of the 6 counties. Those who once opposed the Brit establishment are now themselves the bulwork in support of the establishment. I commend the writer for this contribution which should be disseminated to all media outlets(if they would have the courage to publish), I would disagree with him however on the "PSNI", they are not a new force they are the Continuity RUC and furthermore with respect to the writer i dont believe that this statelet will ever be reformable, it is as Charles Haughey no friend of republicans, said in 1985, "it is a failed political entity". The writer clearly is more in touch with the people on the ground than Marty, Colm or any of the other establishment figures in the city, time for people to rise up again and rid themselves of these charletons.

  4. Surprisingly I find myself in agreement with Larry for a change. I was enjoying that article until you conflated the current Bogsiders problems with those faced in the 60s. Utter tosh! Your problems are nowhere near as bad and your unionist neighbours are facing similar problems. It is time for some perspective.

  5. Overall excellent, I would question the PSNI, they like all police forces are instruments of the establishment. Now we have Sinn Fein joining this very imperialist establishment. Not only joining but for all intents and purposes spearheading Tory and British rule in Ireland.

    Instead of propping up what is an artificial state, organised and propagated through shady deals, political intrigues and intimidation, any organisation purporting republican, socialist beliefs should be standing with the people against injustice. They would not be taking the thirty pieces of silver, they would be helping communities help themselves.

  6. Peter, it doesn't matter if the problems are as bad as the 60s. In an already divided community the feeling of discrimination is fuel to the fire. We wouldn't know if Unionist have it as bad, anytime they have a political platform they choose to talk about flags or an erosion of culture etc. I've yet to hear a Unionist talk about problems in society without blaming republicans in the process.

  7. Peter

    I think with the removal of the security based jobs and the impact upon the supporting service industries the unionist community has taken a massive hit in recent times. As I am sure you know much more about in detail than we do. But the no surrender mentality is still strong. There will be no gay cakes baked at Ashers Bakery regardless of the economic climate. lol

    Kids from the unionist community including those graduating from university are apparently emigrating in larger numbers than kids from the RC communities. That is a huge change. So, I agree, both communities are getting it tough in the new, more level economic playing field. Peter the punt has swanned off with a big chunk of NAMA dosh and neither the SF MLAs or Dail TDs had a 'baldy' what was going on. No change there then. Must be a great thrill to be running the country lol.

    Maybe if the wee 6 vote to stay in the EU and receive funding from both London and Brussels Eire Nua will be a reality. A little federal Ireland getting dosh from all and sundry. Seems to me twaz all about the cash in the final analysis. Oh wait!! Is that not already happening?

    As for the bonfire, I find it depressing that a bonfire is so important to the youth of both communities in 2016. Have the kids today got no play-stations or Pokemon Go in the wee 6 for God sake!?

  8. There is phenomenal interest in this piece.

  9. Is there really that much injustice and oppression? currently I dont see anything major. Of course, there are outstanding injustices of those families who had loved ones murdered during the troubles. But currently, I don't think we can complain about any serious level of oppression. Haughey was right, NI is a failed political entity, but its what we are left with at the moment. The Shinners have taken the precarious step from claiming to be the party of the people to administrating British rule. And in many cases, people rightly criticize them. But seriously, there's way too much focus on SF and their so called betrayal of the cause. For all those complaining about them, take some action, vote for another party or form your one, we have the freedom of action and choice so use it, dont just complain about the current stalemate.

    I live in one of the more 'deprived' areas of Derry, and to be honest I dont think its that deprived. Definitely we need more jobs, but i fear there's a mentality that has set in that is a victim mentality. Of course it would be great to have better politicians to attract more jobs like Belfast gets, but people need to focus on themselves and not on others. There's nothing worse than a crier as we all know, and Derry men have traditionally been men of action not complainers crying foul.

  10. Why would the Prods give a monkeys about a bonnie in the Bog? Far more likely that the Shinners were cracking the whip.

    Jonathan Crockett raises a valid point, the area may suffer from a lack of jobs but the victim mentality is probably making it seem worse. It was the same 20 years ago.

    But don't for a moment think the Prods are any better off, f*ck sake the DUP look after themselves and to hell with anything West of the Bann.

    Where there is a vacuum it will be filled, I just hope that whatever new political representation arises crosses the divide and betters the situation of the working class of whatever hue.

  11. 'Is there really that much injustice and oppression? currently I dont see anything major.'

    I would suggest that the incarceration of Tony Taylor, without trial, is a fairly serious form of oppression, would you not?

    And the fact that the people of the north have a disposable income way below the rest of the UK, is that not oppression?

  12. I think that the fact that there were SF posters on the bonfire itself speaks volumes that the young people view them to be part of the system and that thousands attended the bonfire.
    They no longer represent the people but their own political agenda and further alienate the local youth by claiming that dissidents used the young people to burn Dove house when in fact many young people put the fire out.
    What does SF do, they defend the actions of the police for removing the original bonfire materials instead of condemning the heavy hand used to do so, while a couple of hundred yards up the hill the bonfire materials in the protestant Fountain estate are untouched. What reaction did they expect?
    The writer is correct Derry is being ignored, project Kelvin going to Coleraine, Magee University not getting expansion and classes getting moved. No good paying jobs coming west of the Bann one of the biggest unemployment black spots in the country. The fact is the young people don’t believe anything that SF says anymore? They have heard all the empty lies and promises and nothing was ever delivered. Does Martina Anderson standing up for Derry ring a bell?
    Unemployment is just as high, there is a drug epidemic, joy riding and anti social behavior. Where are the dividends from this peace process? Hold on we got a new bridge out of the deal, even though we already have two of them, but where is our detox center?
    The current police force is just a rebadged version of the last force just as the b specials were rebadged. Like their predecessors they are not seen as an impartial force. Stop and searches and house searches in the Derry area are increasing yearly., does SF condemn those, no they call for people to call and provide information to this same force. The police are not accepted in nationalist Derry.
    Derrymen like Tony Taylor are interned without trial, reports from the jails of strip searches and beatings yet SF continues to sit on policing boards and work with the justice minister instead of taking a stand to stop these things from happening. Try refusing to cooperate until Tony was released and the treatment of republicans in jail improved. All the while they hold parades to remember the H block protests and hunger strikers.
    They are no longer the party of the people they are just another part of the system in a failed state. While those who oppose them are dissidents, anti-peace process and enemies of the island of Ireland.
    Just for the record I prefer to be a called a traditional republican but if they want to label me a dissident that’s OK, no one believes them anyway.

  13. Very passionate piece, right from the heart and a clear warning of what could happen.

  14. Marto you're right about Tony Taylor and the lack of jobs...i was saying that there isn't a systematic oppression anymore. Its absolutely true that Ireland unfree shall never be at peace, and whilst we are still officially part of the UK, there will always a niggling frustration to break free from it. The question is how? The Shinners have turned away from the bold ideals of republicanism and are taking a more patient path, which of course is frustrating for the majority of the population who were towed along by righteousness of the cause and the swiftness of action. Thats gone now and people are in a bit of a chassis or lull. But whats the alternative? I dont think its to constantly criticise the Shinners, or complain about oppression.

    I suppose what gets me is the crying mentality and the blame game, this dependance on the government, we need to motivate ourselves, thats what real freedom and independance is about, that's what the leaders of 1916 were all about, not crying about what we weren't getting, autonomy starts with the individual...To be honest in Derry, I have seen a massive change, lots more tourists around and more places opening, there is still massive unemployment of course, but really we need to make our own jobs.

    Of course, deep in the physche is always that feeling that we are bound to the Brits, but the only way to get over that is to ignore them, make your own wealth, and in time our day will come. I certainly dont think it will come through another violent campaign or sitting on the fence crying.

  15. Johnathon Crockett, there's plenty of things worse than a crier - and terms like 'victim mentality' is the language of an establishment that exploits workers and neglects the poor while enriching itself. Crying foul where there's a foul is being honest, you can't silence people by labeling them as negative for airing grievances.

  16. "Victim mentality" is the language of an establishment that has, and always will, exploit workers, neglect the poor and fuel divisions. Airing legitimate grievances is not the same as putting a negative spin on the facts, and calling people names for speaking out will not silence them. There are a lot worse things than criers.

  17. Marto you are right about tony Taylor and the disposable income. What I meant is that there isn't systematic oppression like before. T Mellon is right about the grievances towards Derry. My point is that although we can criticise SF, it is a negative solution to a dead end problem. by criticising SF constantly and complaining about state neglect, we actually disable ourselves and become fatigued.

    There have been very positive changes in derry, without a doubt. There's more visitors this year than ever before. There's no reason why derry can't be a buzzing city like Galway with a proud identity. True the course SF has taken is long and full of compromise, but until republicans come up with another course to follow it would be foolish to criticise but offer nothing else. That's the key point for me.

  18. Paul D

    there's something in what you say about crying foul. It is indeed right and proper to call out an injustice where one exists or even when one is perceived. However I feel the challenge that Jonathan C points to is also valid and one where non SF republicans continuously fall short. If we legitimately criticise but at the same time fail to offer viable alternatives it will be perceived as nothing much more than a moan or a whinge. When such behaviours are over-played without offering alternative strategies it can become tiresome and sometimes does smack of victim-hood or even suggest some form of dysfunction or maybe even insanity.

    Given the interregnum that exists in the North and the widespread tacit support for this arrangement throughout the island its difficult to see a way forward for republicans that has much or any potential.


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