Anthony McIntyre Address At Duleek Hungerstrike Monument Anniversary

Via The Transcripts former IRA Volunteer and blanketman now historian, author and political commentator, Anthony McIntyre, addresses the gathering which marked the 10th anniversary of the official unveiling of the Duleek Hungerstrike Monument on Saturday 16 June 2018. The memorial is dedicated to all Republican hunger strikers of the past century and was constructed by and is maintained by Duleek Independent Republicans.

16 June 2018
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Anthony McIntyre
Photo: BBC


Good Evening. I’ve been at this monument a couple of times now. It’s always  an emotional experience to think of the life lost that lies behind it. The life lost in the course of working towards setting it up and securing its construction and bringing it to the absolutely beautiful state which it is in today: a proud and fitting tribute to those brave IRA, INLA Volunteers who died over the past century on hunger strikes in British and Irish prisons. 

I don’t intend to speak too long tonight – I think you might find the next speaker more interesting – but I do feel and I’m deeply honoured to be here and I’d like to thank the Monument Committee for the sterling work that it has done and often does it in very difficult circumstances. The gathering here is fine, everybody sees everybody else, we’re soup of the day and the time that’s in it but throughout the year there’s a lot of cold soup drank by those people who trudge the streets, go to meetings, give up their free time to make these events possible and they expend the energy which goes into the construction of these most endearing monuments.
Duleek Hungerstrike Monument

When I came over here tonight I was brought over by a woman who, Shirley Matthews, a close friend of mine, who stood on the bridge in Drogheda for the hunger strikers during that traumatic time. When I got here I met a former blanketman, the brother of Patsy O’Hara who died on hunger strike in May 1981 in the H-Blocks – one of the ten Volunteers who died. 

When I think back to the blanket protest I never see it as a life lost but as a life lived differently. I met a lot of good people and it's no shame to say that I still go out on the booze with them every year – they come down once a year from Belfast, some of them who I was on the blanket with, and we discuss old times, ‘talk shop’ – a lot of it nonsense but we’re very close. There were great bonds formed during that time which were not formed with other prisoners who were not on the blanket protest. 

The blanket protest was a very violent time. There was beatings on a daily basis. We didn’t get beat, individually, every day but somebody got beat every day. There’s was always a problem. There was deep conflict. There was deep hatred. Prison staff were being shot dead on the outside by the IRA and the INLA because of the brutality that they were meting out. And in the Blocks they were coming back at us very, very hard.
Easter 2018
Duleek Hungerstrike Monument

Every day for years, we remained naked, locked up, twenty four seven, three-six-five – it just went on. And we learned all manner of ways of overcoming the tedium. And I suppose that was the greatest soul destroying thing: the tedium. The inability to, it wasn’t the violence as such – it was the tedium, the boredom. And that gave many of us a great intellectual thirst to understand more about the struggle and the opposition and the people we were up against. And it’s almost – I would have loved to come here and say: Victory to the Blanketmen!

But when I look at what’s happening today and I look at people, former Republicans, lining up to be patted on the hand or head by Prince Charles and British royalty I just feel it’s not Victory to the Blanketmen! but Victory to the Banquetmen! – the men and women who can go to banquets and sit and suck quails’ eggs and drink pink gin – and to me it seems absolutely shameful that Republicans are reduced to this.

There’s no sadder sight in the world than to watch a slave kneel down and kiss his chains or to kiss her chains. What I would say is the greatest crime against the Republican hunger strikers, Republican prisoners who protested for political status: It’s not actually what Thatcher did to them because Thatcher couldn’t win over them – couldn’t secure a victory – even though it was pretended that she did but we know from Richard O’Rawe and others that the Republican hunger strikers actually broke the back of Thatcher – the agreement that was reached was actually sabotaged by the leadership of the Provisional Movement.

But the point that I want to make is that what actually undermines and is a slap in the face of every hunger striker and every blanket protester is when you lose your politics. It’s that when you loose the ability to think politically. The 1981 hunger strikes and the previous hunger strikes were always political. And now when we no longer have political activists – but we have a crowd of sheep – who follow blindly and abandon positions daily. Those people – when you lose your politics and stop thinking politically and stop acting politically and stop acting like a political, intelligent human being and behave like a mindless sheep prepared to follow wherever you’re taken – even over the edge of the cliff – that to me has been the greatest insult to Republicanism. And when people leave here today with whatever views they leave I’d only make one appeal whatever path you take is to: Think politically and never, ever follow blindly. Thank you very much.

The Transcripts, Of Interest to the Irish Republican Community.
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Anthony McIntyre

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

35 comments to ''Anthony McIntyre Address At Duleek Hungerstrike Monument Anniversary"

  1. Succinctly put...enjoyed reading that.

  2. A.M

    " The failed political entity is Republicanism",your post of 25th July and" When you lose your ability to think politically", from this article, both sum up perfectly where Sinn Fein stand today.
    The Wise Owl Of Minerva lets us see all the wrong turnings taken by the Adams' coterie but it would be insufferable to believe that the long,long years that Republicans languished in British and Irish jails and the deaths from Tone to Connolly to Bobby Sands were all in vain. Republicanism has been cyclical and a new generation will at some time take up the cause.
    Tommy McKearney said that he'd met many Republicans but not many Socialists and the next generation must remember that Republicanism seeks a 32 county democratic SOCIALIST Republic and their beliefs and actions must incorporate every word of that aim.
    I hope that comment from yourself and others of a like mind will contribute to that destination.

  3. JBC

    The reality is that the Irish people North and South just do not want a 32 county socialist republic not least because of the failure of actually existing "socialism" in the 20th century and Venuezuela in the 21st century.

    So sorry but the struggle you mention was a failure and is doomed to perpetual failure. Please do not risk the lives of more people in pursuit of an impossible dream.

  4. Barry,
    Truly a man for the inappropriate comparisons.In the "modern secular liberal democracy"(Your post 23rd July) do you envisage that" Northern Ireland remains part of the U.K"(Your post 21st July) whilst being run by"erstwhile moderate SDLP voters"Your post 23rd June) in coalition with the TUV party?
    It surprises me that you" hold no brief for Adams &Co"(Your post 21st July)as they are now wearing the clothes of the SDLP as Ireland's newest Constitutional Nationalists.
    I would suggest that (Your post 14th July)" I supported England as a team as I have always done" reflects your political allegiance as much as your football allegiance.
    " Sorry" normally indicates a sense of regret but in your case it comes across as another supercilious insult to all those Nationalists and Republicans who gave their lives willingly to declare their right of self-determination for Ireland
    Grouch was right you're an amadan.

  5. Barry,
    Socialism is incompatible with human nature, the selfish streak in Capitalism is more attune to the elemental survivalist instinct within humanity, hence why it's more popular. You could argue that true Socialism hasn't been tried but then the counter to that is the empirical evidence proves it leads to authoritarianism, to counter humanity's natural aversion to it. Using examples like Venuezuela is a lazy argument, you could name numerous Capitalist countries that treat their people appalingly a lot of them in the same continent as Venuezuela. The truth is all countries in western Europe and North America are hybrid economies, even the most Capitalistic, the U.S.A have socialistic policies in healthcare and education etc. The much derided bail out policy that kept Capitalism afloat was socialistic. It's too easy to mention failed states they're everywhere. would you have liked to live in Western Europe before the benefits of Socialistic policy in the workplace so on so forth. It's easy to criticise Socialism but it's important to remember what Capitalism was like before it.

  6. JBC

    As someone who has always opposed physical force nationalism, I have no brief for Adams and co because they have never accepted how fundamentally wrong their armed struggle was and continue to maintain a private army despite their "slightly constitutional" pretensions (and their shielding of sex offenders from justice) They have never given a satisfactory explanation as to why what was wrong with Sunningdale in 1973-74 became right a generation later.

    You accuse me of making a "supercilious insult to all those Nationalists and Republicans who gave their lives willingly to declare their right of self-determination for Ireland". I prefer to remember the 2,000 + who lost their lives unwillingly for something that was not worth a broken leg; as well as the many victims of loyalist and state forces.

    The truth is physical force "Republicanism" was always doomed to fail in terms of its teleology : an indivisible 32-county Republic whether the people on the island of Ireland. The futility of armed struggle in pursuit of this impossibilist goal was recognised by Fianna Fail in the 1920s; Clann na Poblachta in the 1940s, the Official IRA/Workers Party in the 1980s; Adams and co in 1990s and 2000s and future idiotic campaign will come to the same crushing recognition of reality.

    Another truth of Irish (and West European) history is that social and political change delivering the rights that actually mattered to people was achieved by a mix of constitutional and mass direct campaigning. Examples: Catholic Emancipation and tenant farmer reform in the 19th century; the anti-Conscription campaign of 1918 and the Civil Rights Campaign in the 1960s and 1970s in NI and women's rights in the Republic in the late 20th century and, most gloriously, the repeal of Article 40.3.3 this year without a shot being fired. None of these movements required the assistance of secretive, unaccountable armed groups.

    On my football allegiance; I support both NI and the Republic as a native of the island of Ireland and I cheer on England, Scotland and Wales in competitions as I am from the British Isles. Like many people from Ireland, including militant nationalists, I have a British club allegiance - Leeds United if you care to know and it is my No 1 allegiance.

    Finally a few words on etiquette. I cannot help notice when I (rarely) receive personal abuse on TPQ; it is from what I guess are saddoes who skulk behind monikers. It is because I am not ashamed of who I am and of the beliefs that I hold that I post under my own name ALWAYS.

    Good night JBC.

  7. Barry

    pass no heed to the ad hominem ... for although it is rarely a conscious choice, comforting lies and distortions are always easier swallowed than hard truths.

  8. u wudnt know etiquette if it bit u on the arse.

  9. Barry,"
    Do you envisage ,and is it your wish,that "Northern Ireland remains part of the U.K" ?

  10. sorry henry joy, but barry dusnt listen to saddoes skulking behind monikers.

  11. Henry Joy,

    ad hominem is usually a filler for the gaps in an argument. I always think of Elbert Hubbard's quip "If you can't answer a man's arguments, all is not lost; you can still call him vile names." Barry so often wins the day with so little effort because of the insults. The above discussion has been mild by comparison.

    TPQ will probably move to protect named writers from anonymous critique unless the critique deals with the argument.

  12. AM,

    moderation by flagging vacuous insults, without actually censoring them, might encourage more focused and useful exchanges.

    (I enjoyed reading your address at Duleek; a vignette of life in the Blocks during the harshest days of protest conveying the intense tedium endured and the depth and longevity of connections forged between comrades).

  13. Thanks Henry Joy.

    I think we will make more use of the Bates & Wilkes slot

  14. anthony, i win my arguments quoting myself, not irrelevant dead nerds. also - barry never won an argument in his life. personally, ive more time for the lads in wilkes and bates than the pseuds of the media/academia axis who piss all over this site with their outrageously condescending pompous prose and neurotic psycho-babble. and id wager that 99 out of 100 readers of this site would rather be stuck on a desert island with me and larry hughes than henry joyless and bazzer. and u want to send me to wilkes and bates - im glad im wearing my corset tonight or else my sides would split with laughter.

  15. grouch,

    as endearing and witty as your ripostes sometimes are, you still seem devoid of the co-operative underpinnings required for life in civil society. As the world becomes more global then the social contract becomes even more complex. Alas, and for whatever reason, much of that is currently beyond your capacity.

    A desert island or a nunnery for you then so.

  16. A.M
    i have been following TPQ for several years since reading your book "Good Friday-The Death Of Irish Republicanism"This is the first time I've posted and I did so for 2 reasons.
    Firstly, I think your current assessment of Sinn Fein is one hundred percent accurate and secondly in appreciation of your article describing the comradeship and courage shown by Republicans which I believe will be inspirational for future generations.

    What is the Bates & Wilkes reference?

    Henry Joy

    Hope your "ad hominem" comment was reassuring for Barry. He still hasn't answered my question?

  17. JBC,

    uplifting as always when we find that people get something from TPQ. is a slot we use for those who abuse the site - it gets used as a matter of course for the witchdoctor types but also for people who abuse. TPQ appreciates ideas no matter how obnoxious and acknowledges the courage it can sometimes take to put out an unpopular view and stand over it. There is an onus on the blog to protect people who stand over ideas from the abuse (not the criticism) of those who hide behind pseudonyms to make such attacks.

    I doubt Henry Joy was referring to anything you said when he referred to ad hominin - expressing a view that somebody is a fool is pretty mild.

    The discussion has to flow and if people continually police themselves to the point of being politely correct it stifles energy.

  18. JBC,

    senior moment on my behalf ... as AM suggests the comment wasn't directed at you.
    I had been following "Vichy Essence" thread also when I posted that comment and somehow conflated both. The comment was directed at 'grouch'.

    I'll leave Barry G. to respond to your question should he choose to but from his commentary on these matters to date it does seem pretty clear that his preference is to accept the status quo as imperfect as that is ... somewhat as John Maynard Keynes advised ... good politics is choosing unpalatable policies over those that are potentially disastrous.

  19. and right on cue along comes henry with his outrageously condescending pompous prose. thanks henry for another good laugh this morning. sadly, this site is becoming an echo-chamber of west brit liberal pseudo intellectualism with a good dose of toxic anti-religious bigotry thrown in. as for desert islands and nunnerys- - id thrive in both whereas u and gilhooly would eat each other.

  20. A.M &HENRY JOY

  21. JBC

    The answer to your question is that there can only be a United Ireland with the consent of a super-majority of the people of Northern Ireland. A failed quarter-century of armed struggle trying to coerce a million people who did not desire such an outcome surely taught you that lesson.

  22. Barry,

    that is not correct. Under the terms of the GFA a majority is required @ 50% + 1, not a super majority. The same as is required to stay within the union. Anything else creates minority rule. Some might find that aspect of the international treaty frightening and potentially destabilising as alluded to by MLM but that is what it is. Beyond the Border: The Good Friday Agreement and Irish Unity after Brexit by Richard Humphries is a most insightful piece of dispassionate writing on the GFA and the type of matter you raised.

  23. AM

    I agree with you on the factuality of the GFA. It is just that a majority of 50% + 1 on any matter of constitutional change (think of Brexit for example) is a recipe for future inter-communal conflict.

  24. Barry,

    that might well be true but the GFA allows for nothing else.

  25. Does there not need to be a poll in the 26 first?

  26. Barry,
    I'll take hat as a yes then.
    Henry Joy,
    I think" the disastrous ...and unpalatable" quote is from J.K.Galbraith and I would imagine the Keynesian quote "the difference lies not so much in developing new ideas as escaping from old ones" is more to your liking.

  27. Peter, there does need to be a poll in the South which also requires 50% + 1. That outcome can only be effective if a majority in the North agree: otherwise the referendum in the South has no binding effect.

  28. JBC

    yeah, that quote nails my current position.


  29. AM
    Though I am not against a UI like I used to be I still think it won't be easy to reach 50%+1 in the south due to cost and security issues. I think a lot of folk would baulk at the thought of paying for and policing the north and FG are predictably luke warm. It would interesting to hear other southern commentators thoughts.

  30. I've been Bush for awhile and trying to catch up, has any progress been made on a border solution post Brexit? Nobody from either side wanted a hard border last time I checked?

  31. Pater,

    Fintan O'Toole thinks that as well.

    I think they will reach it, not that there is a lot of interest in it down here.

  32. Peter,

    I believe you'd do well to heed Peter Robinson's advice and keep your insurance premium up to date. Though I've often referenced Southern chattering classes' antipathy to anything Northern I can't envisage the electorate down here rejecting unification. Though privately there may be a modicum of aversion to unity among them, I believe, they will find themselves somewhat hoisted on their own petard. There's been too much green flag waving down the years and plenty of it recently in connection to Brexit, to ever afford those who privately may have concerns the opportunity to slither of the hook of unification.

    FF and Labour like SF are ideologically bound to urge for a 'yes' vote. They will actively campaign for it. The old 'blueshirt' and 'west brit' cohorts who held sway within FG for many years in the past have lost influence. There are many ubber-nationalists in FG as well (the late John Joe McGirl ran a network of safe-houses of families to whom he referred to as 'Collin's People'. They were FG voters but still strongly nationalistic. Their homes never came under notice of the Branch). I wouldn't for a moment suggest Enda Kenny was in that cohort but I do know that the first Christmas bash he held shortly after his election as party leader he had the Wolfe Tones in to provide the entertainment for the TD's and supporters on the guest list!
    Factor in too Varadka's family connections to the Indian independence movement and you begin to get a sense of where things are likely to be directed. I know from various contacts with elected representatives, on behalf of Republican prisoners, that you don't have to scratch many of them too hard to awaken their nationalistic conditioning and bias.

    That said though Peter, I believe that both to avoid the possibility of conflict and in the generous spirit of Tone Southern nationalism will want to provide a warm welcome for those who perceive themselves Unionist. Even Mary Lou is discussing Commonwealth membership. Every reasonable concession will be made. Maybe unification will have to be federated? I remember some comments you once made about the unlikelihood of the Garda Siochana ever policing East Belfast and I believe you are right on that ... accommodations will be reached in such events. Cool heads are required all round. Only then can reason prevail.

  33. Henry Joy,

    the GFA is codified in such a way that it will exist after unity and the British will still have an involvement. It will be much like the federalism of O'Bradaigh but with a large measure of British input.

    The GFA is not the antithesis of unionism or constitutionalism but of coercive republicanism.

  34. HJ
    Yes let's hope reason prevails. My comments before were pre Brexit when a UI was unlikely, now the reality is that it's a distinct possibility. As reality bites for unionists so it does for southerners. I was in Kerry last month on holiday and one FG supporter said they didn't want us because they can't afford us. Taxes will have to go up and British money will be required to help pay for the transition. Varadkar seems to be rowing back saying 50%+1 is not enough. I don't get the impression that the south are enthusiastic about all this.

  35. Peter,

    as AM says there's not an awful lot of interest down here as such but he's also correct about 50% + 1. As a 'no deal Brexit' becomes more likely support for unification will grow. It will also garner support in large measure from Europe.

    When circumstance arise where the NI Secretary of State moves a new referendum and should it be passed up there, there's not a snowball's chance in hell that it'd be rejected down here. Sure, there'll be reservations expressed and generally half-heartened debate but I can't envisage even 25% voting against unification. In any case, who do you imagine would front a campaign to reject? The real and only choice point Peter lies in the North.

    Arlene and crew are going to have swallow harder than her standing for the 'Soldier's Song' in Clones.


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