Caoimhin O’Muraile ✒ seeks to separate the man from the myth in one of Ireland's most prominent historical figures. 

Eamon de Valera was the Commandant of the Irish Volunteers at Bowland’s Mills during the Easter Rising of 1916. The Bowland’s Mills Garrison was one of the last outposts to surrender after the week -long rebellion, about the same time as Michael Mallin, Commandant of the Irish Citizen Army at the St. Stephens Green outpost reluctantly accepting surrender, but only when countersigned by ICA Commandant General James Connolly. 

A question many have asked is why de Valera was not executed along with the other leaders after the rising? One myth floating around, and has done for many years, is the story claiming de Valera was an “American citizen” and this saved his life, a myth and that is all it is. Had de Valera been a US citizen, which he was not, then the same rule would have applied to Thomas Clarke who most certainly was a citizen of the USA and it did not save him! There was not and is not any evidence of the mythical American citizenship and a more rational explanation maybe he was just not considered high enough up the ranks to warrant execution, not “important” enough. Perhaps Dev had Chief Crown Prosecutor William Wyllie to thank for his life, as General John Maxwell asked Wyllie about de Valera saying ‘would he be likely to give us any further problems’ to which Wyllie suggested not. 

Michael Mallin held the same rank, in a different though allied army, as did de Valera but Mallin was also a socialist, trade unionist and comrade of James Connolly, which, as far as the socialist and trade unionism went de Valera was not. So, de Valera escaping, if that is the correct term, with his life was nothing to do with being anything to do with the USA but, it would appear, due to the fact Wyllie did not consider him “important” enough when asked by General Maxwell.

De Valera was cunning as well as lucky as the treaty talks of December 1921 were to prove. He was the president of the First Dail and, by de facto, the Irish Republic yet, as President, he did not attend the peace talks in London with British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. Surely as the leader of the fledgling Irish Republic, he would, should, have wanted to meet his opposite number face to face, wouldn’t he? Apparently not, de Valera sent Michael Collins to do his dirty work along with Arthur Griffiths, who was not even a republican, George Gavan Duffy, Eamon Duggan, Robert Barton and Erskine Childers, who was the secretary to the Irish delegation. 

Why did the president not go? Perhaps the answer was he had already been to London once in July of the same year and knew exactly what was on the table which was well short of the republic the IRA had fought for. De Valera did not want his finger prints on such a document so he sent Collins instead, giving him and the delegation full plenipotentiary powers - unless they came up short which he knew they would then the question would be demanded why the delegation did not refer back to the Irish Government and him in particular before signing - getting himself well off the hook when things went wrong! A shrewd man this Dev character, a man who knew exactly the document Collins and the delegation were to try and negotiate round which, and he knew it, was an impossibility. Look at the British team, Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Lord Birkenhead, Austen Chamberlain, Sir Laming Worthington Evans, Sir Hamar Greenwood (Chief Secretary for Ireland) and Sir Gordon Hewart (Attorney General) a powerful team to say the least. Eamon de Valera, the master of escapes!!

Now let us take a look at his record during the emergency (Second World War) and it cannot be denied he did pull off some wise and clever moves in maintaining the twenty-six counties neutrality, often termed a “benevolent neutrality” benevolent that was towards the allies. Even de Valera realised as bad as the British occupation of the North was/is and the oath to the monarch was a loathing, the possibility of a Nazi victory and invasion and conquest of Ireland was a far worse prospect. Prior to the outbreak of the war, and just in time, he had negotiated an end to the “Economic War” [1932-38] with Britain which gave back to Ireland the treaty ports. These were Irish ports used by the British Royal Navy and had this remained the case there was no way the twenty-six-county free state could in any shape or form have claimed neutrality. Whether Dev could see war coming and for this reason insisted on the ports being returned to Ireland or whether it was pure good fortune who knows, but the clouds of war were gathering for anybody who cared to look. Personally, I would give de Valera the benefit on this one. 

Secondly, he had the Free State Army change their uniform from field grey, which looked remarkably like the German Army uniform, to dark green. This denied the British, and Churchill in particular, the excuse to claim German troops had been spotted in Southern Ireland giving the British a reason to invade. Perhaps a more benevolent feature of de Valera’s policy during that period was supplying the allies weather forecasts, and any German shipping movements in the Atlantic from the Irish weather station in County Mayo. This gave the allies, and principally the British, an advantage on incoming weather and any strange shipping movements in the Atlantic sphere of the Irish station. Once again it was perhaps a case of which is the better of the two evils, and it was certainly not Nazi Germany.

Another aspect of de Valera’s war policy was to return any crashed pilots from the allied side, US or British - unlikely any Soviet pilots would have crashed over Ireland - back over the border to re-join the war, which, of course, was unofficial. This did not, by the same token, apply to any Luftwaffe pilot who may crash over “neutral” Ireland. They were sent to the Curragh for the duration, a strategically clever move by the de Valera Government.

Then came a situation in May 1941 when the “neutral” de Valera Government sent fire tenders to Belfast helping to extinguish fires caused through German bombings. This could have been deemed a breach of neutrality by the Nazi regime in Berlin and, in late May 1941 the Luftwaffe bombed the North Strand on Dublin’s north side. The Irish media still to this day would have us believe this was an error by the Luftwaffe. This is not true. It cannot be because firstly the German pilots, despite their political misgivings in many cases, were among the best in the world. They may have mistaken Dundalk for Newry, but Dublin for Belfast? Never in a month of Sundays! Could a more rational explanation for the “error” be that the Nazi leadership considered sending fire tenders to the North a breach of neutrality? On this assumption could de Valera have got on the phone to Berlin, his right as a “neutral” head of government and inform the German authorities that under the 1937 constitution Belfast was part of Irish territory and he was acting in the interests of the Irish people, could this have been the case? Hitler would have found this argument difficult to argue against, particularly as under “Operation Green” he intended invading the Free State anyway, why create a problem unnecessarily? Could this be a more rational argument than the rubbish still put out by the Irish media about the bombings of North Strand being a mistake?

Hitler demanded from “neutral” Ireland the handing over of 6,000 Jewish people, a demand de Valera refused. The head of the Third Reich reportedly told de Valera if these were not handed over his forces would come and get them. Still de Valera held his nerve and refused to hand over “Irish citizens” to Germany. Was de Valera banking on an allied victory, which in 1941, before the USSR and USA became involved looked unlikely, or was it a genuine principled stance against anti-Semitism? Again, on this one I am leaning towards giving de Valera the benefit.

After the war Winston Churchill remarked, ‘let de Valera frolic’ with Britain’s enemies which de Valera certainly did not do. The twenty-six counties, without breaking neutrality [at least officially] did all possible to aid the allies. Perhaps Churchill was pissed off because he had offered de Valera the six counties back if “Eire” entered the war on the side of the allies. De Valera was walking a tightrope and refused Churchill’s request, which in fact was almost a demand. Critics of de Valera, and I am one, as I would be of any capitalist administration, should look at certain aspects which strategically were as good as his earlier cunningness and sell outs were bad. Eamon de Valera lucky, cunning, devious and to be fair in a time of crisis held firm.

Caoimhin O’Muraile is a Dublin 
based Marxist and author. 

Eamon de Valera ➖ Facts And Myths


A Morning Thought @ 1144

Oliver Harris 🔖 answers thirteen questions in Booker's Dozen.

TPQ: What are you currently reading?

OH: I seem to be reading ten books at the same time, as usual. Top of the pile is Joshua Cohen’s The Netanyahus and, as of yesterday, Rachel Cusk’s Second Place – one of the few contemporary authors who can get me to fork out for a new hardback.

TPQ: Best and worst books you have ever read?

OH: Joyce’s Ulysses is something remarkable. A theoretical Chekhov’s Complete Stories would rival it, but in a very different way. Can’t even begin to think what the worst would be, but I’m tempted to namecheck Ayn Rand for combing banality with a genuine, widespread negative impact on the world.

TPQ: Book most cherished as a child?

OH: Usborne’s Supernatural Guides provided a spine-tingling introduction to the uncanny. Three volumes: Haunted HousesGhosts and Spectres 🕮 Vampires, Werewolves and Demons 🕮Mysterious Powers and Strange Forces. Character-forming; I learned a lot there.

TPQ: Favourite Childhood author?

OH: I can’t think of one off-hand. I consumed books quite complacently as a child. There were no superstars like Rowling or Pullman in my day. I don’t think I was that blown way by Roald Dahl, and Enid Blyton hardly set my world on fire.

TPQ: First book to really own you?

OH: I remember two seminal reading experiences in late adolescence: Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Bret Easton Ellis’s Less than Zero. Both felt as thrilling for their style as much as anything – it seemed to confront the contemporary world and find a literary voice to match. Brash, sometimes superficial and mindless, sometimes soulless, nihilistic, cluttered with the authentic detritus of 1980s/90s life. Both delivered a frisson of transgressive realism.

TPQ: Favourite male and female author?

OH: I’d go for JM Coetzee and the aforementioned Rachel Cusk.

TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?

OH: Fiction. It’s where the truth lies.

TPQ: Biography, autobiography or memoir that most impressed you?

OH: James Ellroy’s My Dark Places is a book I return to often when teaching crime writing or talking about what made me want to write crime. An investigation into his own mother’s murder, as well as into his self-creation as an author, and a vivid, thorough dissection of 1950s LA, it made me see crime writing as a legitimate vehicle for sociological and psychological analysis. It's also unafraid of the trawl involved in investigation, with its testament to obsession.

TPQ: Any author or book you point blank refuse to read?

OH: No. Can’t think why I would. Know your enemies, and all.

TPQ: A book to share with somebody so that they would more fully understand you?

OH: Interesting question. If I gave them Catcher in the Rye and explained that I relate to it even more now than I did when I was in my teens, they might get some sense of my arrested development.

TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?

OH: Period Power by Maisie Hill.

TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?

OH: I rail slightly against the assumption that a good book needs to be adapted. But (for obscurity’s sake) I’d love to make a film of Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey.

TPQ: The just must - select one book you simply have to read before you close the final page on life.

OH: Difficult one. Rather than listing the predictable classics, I’ll say Sally Rooney’s new novel, Beautiful World, Where Ere You. I thought Normal People was exceptional.

Oliver Harris was born in North London but now lives in Manchester, where he teaches at Manchester Metropolitan University. He is the author of the Nick Belsey series of crime novels and, more recently, the Elliot Kane spy series. Ascension, the second Kane novel, has just been published by Little, Brown. Ascension by Oliver Harris | Hachette UK

Booker's Dozen @ Oliver Harris

Lesley Stock ✒ questions the usefulness of libel action being employed by high profile commentators. 

Within the past few weeks broadcaster Stephen Nolan sued the elusive Pastor Jimberoo for trolling after employing his ‘private security Team’ (whatever that means) to track down the IP and address of said Twitter user. Not, it would seem being content to sue one troll, I've read that he has a ‘few’ ongoing cases against others.

But what’s stopping me, or indeed any other ‘joe public’ taking someone who has said something I disagree with. Well, that one’s easy – Money, yes, cold hard cash. To initiate civil proceedings in respect of libel or defamation, it would seem is a costly enterprise…. Anything up to £5,000 – £10,000. And lets face it how many of us have that sort of cash lying under the mattress. And moreover, what’s the point in suing someone who hasn’t a pot to piss in either?

So what, is a troll? No, not those little monsters we so excitedly read about in the 3 Billy Goats Gruff who waited under the bridge only to spring up when the goats were passing over the bridge. I can see how the terminology started, but the word ‘troll’ is, in my opinion, far more widely used by ‘victims’, than is necessary: with many claiming victimhood for people merely challenging their posts, not being abusive, name calling nor being sweary!

So, is it right that people in the public eye - who have a say in the mainstream media on which we see and interact with - should then, sue, when someone disagrees with their viewpoint? Quite often, the reason why these normally sane and rational people tweet and retweet is to actually get some recognition and answer from the person? It in my book is called ‘discussion’. I have been attacked at times mercilessly by folk on Twitter, and for me, I merely block, report (on Twitter) and either ignore, or fight back by challenging the remarks. Sometimes, much to my amusement, they then claim to be victims of My trolling!! In my world, it’s a case of ‘don’t start what you can’t finish’!

Now, personally, I think Nolan has most definitely worked hard to get where he is, I can’t take that away from him, and there was a show he did on television a while back where he was so compassionate and empathetic that it almost made me cry. The problem however, is that these compassionate programs are not what Mr Nolan is known for! A friend also commented that he did a podcast on End of Life and the complexities of euthanasia and said that it was a well put together piece of journalism. However, he is more widely known for his daily morning show on BBC Radio Ulster whereby the more aggressive the ‘guest’ and divisive the conversation, the better. 

I have to admit, I dislike his show, never listen to it, unless I am somewhere where someone has it on, and I’m not rude enough to squeal ‘Get that off’. Unless I’m in my parents house as mum is addicted to it, until I land and then she apologises and says ‘Ok, Ok, I’m turning it off before you throw it out the window’. For me, its just too divisive and argumentative (yes believe it or not, I like a quiet life and only open my big gob to challenge rubbish, lies or hypocrisy).

So, the announcement came that Nolan had tracked down the Pastor and had extracted over £120,000 out of him to keep his anonymity. This I have to say, doesn’t sit well with me. Some people may think that in fact going by the definition of trolling, then that would describe Mr Nolan’s guests or show. I however, put it down to securing ‘ratings’. Yes, again, it would seem that divisive shows whether on television, radio, or indeed press commentary sells and that in turn, brings in the money. So who is to blame for oftentimes less than scrupulous media productions which focus on the more divisive aspect of life here in Northern Ireland? Is it the producers or editors of shows and newspapers, or the commentators and broadcasters themselves? Perhaps, the public themselves can be blamed for listening in or buying the papers?

If Mr Nolan was so worried about the trolling, why did he not just go to the PSNI, why go straight for the money? It’s not as if he is on the breadline? Also, why Only go for the ‘Pastor’? I have to honestly say, the Pastor was merely saying what 25,000 + of the petition signers (of which I wasn’t one) were thinking. And in fact, I have seen some posts tagging Nolan which even I was mortified to read, and I don’t shock easily!! Why not go for them as well? Answer, they’re nobodies, no money and nothing can be gained. To me, it was a tad hypocritical of Nolan to single out one man when his shows are formed around antagonistic questioning and guests who are, quite frankly as far as I can see, only there to get people riled.

So, what’s the difference between Nolan - conducting a radio program every day whereby there is division, heated discussions and quite often arguably libelous and ridiculous comments made by guests - and a man who detests having to pay his TV licence to fund this divisive diatribe and sets up a petition to get the show cancelled? There was the same outpouring of disgust at the Jeremy Kyle program and in fact, one judge likened it to’ a human form of bear baiting’ Quite frankly – I’m not so sure Nolan is entirely much different, apart from the subject matter. To my knowledge, Jeremy Kyle hasn’t sued the author of that petition…. And the money? Did we hear that Mr Nolan was wanting to merely teach the Pastor a lesson? Then give the money to charity. Again, to my knowledge – he’s keeping it! I guess that’s the rates on Mahee Island paid for the year then. Again, I have to say, I, to some extent, admire his rise to the dizzy heights of notoriety in the scheme of things, but one must wonder, at what cost? Well, those he’s suing are all too well of that.

It has now been reported that the Justice Minister Naomi Long has now started proceedings in respect of trolls – I don’t know who they are, but as one who has engaged with her in the past, I suspect and hope it could be some of the more aggressive loyalist accounts. Sometimes, they basically badgered that woman, and before anyone says ‘Liberal latte drinking Alliance supporter’ I’m not!

The real parody however, has come within the past couple of days with Jamie Bryson claiming to ‘sue’ for libel, Pastor J as well! Its beyond comprehension that Jamie Bryson can claim anything, given the fact that he sails dangerously close to the wind of of libel and slander while stirring up tensions in what is an already precarious time in our post-conflict era. I suspect, he won’t get very far in that action, and am awaiting with bated breath for the court case! I have however offered my services and statement to anyone who he does issue proceedings to because I can confirm and prove that the same person libeled me, trolled me and then cried when I responded merely challenging his falsehoods.

As a parting gift, to those who want to claim victimhood, please, don’t be hypocrites, don’t get above your station…. Look in the mirror before you constantly cry about someone doing the exact thing you are guilty of!

⏩ Lesley Stock is a former PSNI and RUC Officer currently involved in community work. 

Libel Is Only For The Privileged


A Morning Thought @ 1143

Gavin CaseyI used to drive the Battleford Road out of Armagh regularly on a Sunday morning but today was the first time in years. 

I was unsurprised to encounter a group of road bowling enthusiasts where you would normally find them. There was a car in front of me so I took advantage of the space cleared for it and could pass through without much loss of momentum. I’d have been doing about 40 where you’d normally be doing 60. From the driver’s side of the road came slow down gestures and comments. 

This type of thing tends to have a triggering effect, almost as bad as the auld boys and young goddermen strolling down the middle of the road, backs to oncoming traffic, engrossed in conversation. They put up wee signs for drivers, ‘Caution Road Bowling’ and many appear to believe this absolves them from any caution regards moving vehicles. 

“It’s a traditional pastime done here for generations” the enthusiasts might say. So was triumphalist Orange marching through Nationalist areas but that irresponsible and dangerous activity has largely been curtailed despite the enthusiasts’ sense of entitlement. 

I personally believe road bowling on busy major roads is an irresponsible activity which endangers the lives of enthusiasts and road users alike. I don’t understand why it’s tolerated without any type of reasonable health and safety measures. There was road bowling in Boston among Armagh and Cork people; but it was done safely, in controlled environments, off the public roads. I think that should be the way here too. Busy roads are not the place for groups of pedestrians milling about with little concern for road safety and expecting others, operating machinery, to assume the responsibility on their behalf.

⏩ Gavin Casey is a scundered motorist from Tyrone.

Road Bowling ➖ Sporting Heritage Or Dangerous Jaywalking?

Frankie Quinn with a poem from his book Open Gates.

She Said 

One day when my face is long forgotten

You’ll remember it was I who loved you more

That day you’ll stop and wonder.

A photograph where the dust has blown away,

Revealing the smoothness that

Once belonged to you.

Then, I’ll remember

Perhaps it was you

Who loved me the more?

⏩ Frankie Quinn is a former republican prisoner who is now a community activist. He is the author of Open Gates, a book of poetry.  

She Said

Peter Anderson 🏅 With the Euros finished I spent a quiet weekend on the sporting front. 

After spending the morning out in the sun, I retired indoors to catch up on some Olympics. I had recorded the cycling road race which was won by Richard Carapaz, following on from his third place at the Tour de France. I then watched some archery. The excellent South Koreans took gold in the mixed team event, dispatching the Dutch in the thrilling final. 

This is one of the joys of watching the Olympics, watching sports that you normally don't watch.

Following the archery, I watched the highlights of the hockey as the Irish women beat South Africa in their first group game, and Team GB men beat the same country in theirs. Just like the archery, the only time I watch hockey is at the Olympics. Unfortunately, with the time zone difference this Olympics will mostly be watched via the highlights. For me the best of the Olympics is always the athletics, and with no Usain Bolt this time I will be following the exploits of up-and-coming superstar Sydney McLaughlin in the women's 400m hurdles. At the tender age of twenty-one she is already the world record holder and the only woman in history to run the distance in under 52 seconds. The athletics kicks off on Friday, look out for young Sydney.

Following on from my afternoon of Olympics came the rugby and the first test between South Africa and the British and Irish Lions on Saturday evening. Unlike in recent tours there aren't many Irishmen to cheer on this time. Given the lack of Irishmen and the complete lack of spectators in the stadium due to covid restrictions, it was hard to get excited about this Lion's tour. The last tour in 2017 to New Zealand was a classic and the "Neil Jenkins" tour in South Africa in 1997 was one of the greatest ever, yet somehow this one, in the middle of a pandemic, seems a bit of an anti-climax. 

Nonetheless, I watched the game and was not disappointed. After a typically bruising first 15 mins the hosts settled better and dominated the first period, but the Lions came out pumped for the second half and forced multiple penalties from the South Africans. Both sides also scored a try each but the Lions came out on top, winning the game 17-22. Two South African tries were controversially chalked off on VAR review to the disgust of the home side, which sets up the next test nicely this Saturday. The Springboks will be desperate to win the test and avoid losing the series in the second match and the dreaded "dead" last game. 

So, plenty of sport to keep us going until the new footy season kicks off in a couple of weeks' time.

Peter Anderson is a Unionist with a keen interest in sports.

Olympics & Rugby


A Morning Thought @ 1142

Writing in the wake of the judicial statement about the Omagh bomb Alex McCrory ✒ asserts that  the bombing was preventable.

So said a British judge today. The implications of his finding are tremendous and far reaching. One of the Omagh campaigners who lost his young son said today that it is something he does not even want to think about.

I remember the day well. My future wife and I were driving to Bundoran for a weekend break. She enjoys music and was listening to the car radio when the news began to break.

What I recall clearly was the serious tone of the reporter warning of a substantial explosion in Omagh, a predominantly nationalist town, and of multiple casualties. While driving, I asked my partner to flick through the stations as I was gripped by a horrible feeling of an unfolding disaster. This news story would not finish well.

When we arrived at our destination, I stopped at a well known republican bar in the main street. Already a crowd had gathered and there was a buzz about the place. People were engaging in quiet albeit intense conversation about what had happened in Omagh.

We sat for a few hours as more details came in pointing to the prospect of countless fatalities. As time passed the number of deaths accumulated at an alarming rate. I felt we were looking at unprecedented event in our violent history.

I could not fathom how something like this could happen in Omagh of all places. It did not make sense on any level. As to who was responsible, I had no idea. Sinn Fein could definitely be ruled out, which left so-called dissident groups as the prime suspects. I remember thinking this was a very bad day for Republicanism whoever was responsible.

In the coming days, weeks and months a witch-hunt began for "the monsters" in our midst. The media began to knock on doors, and sources were trawled for leads as to the identities of the bombers.

As the media was shaking the apple tree, the security services on both sides of the border were leaking names and pointing the finger in certain directions. This was undoubtedly the first stages in a massive cover up by both sides. Felon setting became the order of the day.

The official narrative was that Republicans had scored a massive own goal from which they would never recover. Omagh would put paid to any hopes some Republicans held for a resumption of the armed struggle.

Such logic was utterly convincing at the time, but as the years passed, and questions started to be asked how this could this have happened at all, doubts took hold in some people’s minds about what exactly was being done by the security services at the time of the bombing.

What did the security services know about the operation, and about those who carried it out? Surely now, with the Provisional IRA out of the equation, the security services in both jurisdictions were in a position to concentrate their combined resources on dissident groups, namely the CIRA and RIRA.

What was known about them? And how were they able to bomb Omagh under the security radar?

Question were asked but no answers were forthcoming from the agencies tasked with protecting the public. Something smelt fishy, and it was not Raffo’s.

Eventually, a number of Republicans were arrested and attempts made to bring them before the courts. This story is well known from the extensive public record on these cases. The upshot of it all was that no one was ever prosecuted in a criminal court for the Omagh bombing. Although four men were found to be liable for the attack in a landmark Civil case taken the the victim’s families.

And still, questions about the security services stubbornly refused to go away. Would there ever be a day of reckoning?

Today, we got a part of the answer. 

Alec McCrory 
is a former blanketman.

Omagh Was Preventable

Ten links to a diverse range of opinion that might be of interest to TPQ readers. They are selected not to invite agreement but curiosity. Readers can submit links to pieces they find thought provoking.

Lynx By Ten To The Power Of Forty Five

Irish conflict victims’ groups and families may have more bitter medicine to swallow in the coming months - accept Westminster’s legacy ‘line in the sand’ in exchange for Boris Johnston scrapping the Northern Ireland Protocol as a means of protecting the island’s entire economy. Political commentator Dr John Coulter explores this contentious option.

It’s not often Northern Ireland’s political parties become united on an issue, but the Tory Westminster Government’s proposals to ‘draw a line in the sand’ under the legacy of the Irish Troubles has Unionists, republicans and centrists all singing from the same political hymn sheet.

Even the historic 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which heralded the current Irish peace process, could not achieve the same degree of political unity among parties north and south of the Irish border.

But that unity could come at a price as victims’ campaigners, politicians and families of loved ones lost in the Troubles over more than 30 years have a harsh decision to make in the coming months - overturn the British Government’s decision to have a statute of limitations on legacy and continue the campaigns for truth and justice, or overturn the European Union’s determination to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Can it be a case that Irish political parties want ‘to have their cake and eat it’? Namely, keep the legacy investigations on going, and get the Protocol scrapped, or at the very least, drastically amend the Protocol so that the so-called border in the Irish Sea vanishes.

The British Government may have to adopt a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to both legacy and the Protocol. Opinion over the Protocol, for example, is radically divided across the island of Ireland.

The Southern administration in Dublin needs it to protect the Irish Republic’s economy as the Republic is still an integral member of the European Union.

The vast majority of Unionists want the Protocol axed as they are convinced it severely dilutes Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom and places the six counties on a slippery slope to eventual Irish Unity.

The ‘Leave the EU’ lobby of current Brexiteers view the Protocol as not merely a device to protect the Irish Republic, which as an EU member, is now both geographically and economically isolated from the rest of the EU, but also to financially punish the UK for daring to leave the EU in the first place.

The Northern Ireland Protocol might also serve as a clear warning to other EU member states, especially Poland and Hungary, about what could happen if they dare to consider their own form of Brexit.

Mix this crisis with the implications for national security of details being made public about the intelligence war against terrorism in Ireland during the conflict.

Security forces veterans and serving personnel will be happy there will be no more potential prosecutions or investigations, and terrorists will not have to face legal justice for unsolved killings - but this will not placate the families of loved ones lost, ranging from those who simply want to know why their loved ones died, to those who want full-blown legal justice in the courts.

The real problem facing the British Government is the impact of the so-called ‘dirty war’, namely how the intelligence community infiltrated the terror gangs.

Put bluntly, how many agents, spies and informers did the various arms of the intelligence community have planted, not just in terrorist groups, but in political parties? If the legacy issue is allowed to continue, could investigations deteriorate into a ‘spook hunt’, or could we see more Westminster MPs using Parliamentary privilege to name alleged informers or agents?

The more damaging question would be - how many people did the intelligence community allegedly allow to be murdered or maimed simply to protect the identity of their agents?

How many terrorist attacks could have been prevented if information gained from agents had been acted upon rather than simply filed to protect identities of those agents?

Likewise, the political ‘trade-off’ if the British Government can get the Northern Ireland parties to let legacy remain in the past in terms of investigations, is to confine the Protocol to the dustbin of history.

That would certainly placate Unionism in Northern Ireland and would allow the Johnston Government to give a further ‘two-fingered salute’ to the EU.

As for the Dublin government, Westminster could remind it that if the Southern Irish so-called Celtic Tiger economy collapsed again under the pressure of the pandemic, there is no British bailout billions to help the Republic when the UK was in the EU. Suddenly, the impossible becomes the possible politically - Irexit! 

Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online

Take Legacy Deal, Dump Protocol ➖ And Save Irish Economy!


A Morning Thought @ 1141