Sorry Initiatives and Prime Time Apologies
From beyond the grave, Thatcher’s just released papers leave no doubt about the magnitude of the Hunger Strikers’ victory over her efforts to use them to criminalise the struggle against British rule. We always knew that the Hunger Strikers had won where it mattered most in hearts and minds. Now we have the Iron Lady’s own hand written notes giving up sweeping concessions in July of 1981 that she wanted hidden until her death.
No beatings, deprivation or naked brutality could make these brave Republican prisoners dress up in convict costumes, so that the British might brand them as another chapter in “800 years of crime.”
Sadly, the British never gave up on criminalisation, but merely shifted tactics to get it. If as Thatcher learned, they could not bully or break Republicans why not try to blandish and bribe them with important sounding titles and comfortably paid jobs so long as they were tightly reined-in by a British colonial secretary?
Fifteen years on the British must think they succeeded complete with ‘Sorry initiatives’ and ‘Prime Time apologies’. Today the British need not answer for their own misdeeds. They can mete out injustice, and then pass the buck to the justice minister or constabulary chief, who the British will happily add were picked with Sinn Fein’s blessing. Party members on constabulary boards are touted by the British as a cosmetic stamp of approval on British policies. No one believes Republicans entered Stormont or constabulary boards to become cheerleaders for the crown. No one should be surprised that the crown would scheme to use and housetrain those they took inside.
At its recent Ard Fheis, the party challenged Labour to walk away from its hard-won privileges and perks in government. It is wrong, Sinn Fein said for the party of Connolly and Larkin to remain complicit junior partners propping up Fine Gael’s policies.
Are Republicans not entitled to stand by the principles of our patriots and ask Sinn Fein to do what Sinn Fein asked of Labour? Has the party been so hobbled by a few Stormont titles and jobs that it cannot free itself from being junior partners in British injustice? If the British want to mistreat Republicans, let them do it without the reluctant complicity of other Republicans!