Silence Now Pervades

TPQ is pleased to introduce guest writer Kevin Doyle, a short story writer from Cork. He has been involved with the anarchist organisation, Workers Solidarity Movement for a good number of years and has participated in many campaigns. A number of his short stories are available online and Do You Like Oranges? (ebook), a collection of three stories set in the Heavy Gang era, is his most recent publication. See also - TPQ will run an extract from  Do You Like Oranges? tomrrow.

When I first got involved in politics – when I was about seventeen or so – I heard about an incident in the Cork area involving the Special Branch. According to the account the Branch had performed a mock execution on a young republican. In those times - the late 70s/ early 80s - there was nothing particularly incredulous about this. This was around the period of the Heavy Gang and the Guards continued to use an iron fist with impunity.

Not so long after however, following an encounter of my own with the Special Branch, I was warned that if I was ever to become tarred with the brush of ‘republicanism’, there was little that could be done by way of protecting my civil rights. The liberal watchdogs in Irish society – the media and human right agencies – were content to look the other way because certain views and those who held those view were ‘legitimate’ targets of the State. This is how it was back then.

In the excerpt from my short story, Do You Like Oranges? to be kindly printed tomorrow by The Pensive Quill, the main character, Michael McCarthy – a lowly activist helping to distribute anti-H-Block leaflets in Cork - is mocked by a Special Branchman during his interrogation. Derogatory comments are made about how thin he is and this is linked to the condition of Bobby Sands, who is then on hunger strike and close to death. The Branchman ridicules the notion that anyone would ‘die for Ireland’ and pokes fun at the youth’s commitment.

The dichotomy here is not unfamiliar and we have all experienced aspects of it in the South. What the ‘Republic’ stands for and what it actually does in practice are in deep conflict with each other. So what about what went on in the Republic? What about the Heavy Gang and the Republic’s use of torture? Considerable and persistent abuses took place but even now these remain a ‘non-topic’.

Just recently our esteemed President Higgins honestly addressed this matter in detail. Of course he was talking about El Salvador! It was the occasion of his recent visit there. But it struck me that much of what he had to say, about what was appropriate for El Salvador, was just as relevant for here. President Higgins pointed out that it is vital ‘not to forget’. He added further that it was amoral and ultimately self-defeating for a society to suggest that a certain past didn’t happen and that long-term peace could not be built on such a basis.

Yet in terms of the Republic’s violent past, silence now pervades. This is convenient for the Establishment and no doubt there is hope, in some quarters that we will forget entirely about what went on. But we shouldn’t forget and it is vital for the future that we don’t.

The stories that make up this short collection then are about that time. There is little enough literature about this past of ours and that in itself says something. These stories have the hope of changing that and making a beginning: this past of ours will not go away and it is time to speak of what went.


  1. Kevin,

    welcome to the blog. It brings back memories to many of what it was like. They have never to this day stood outside chapels hounding priests no matter how many children the Church raped

  2. From Tony O'Hara

    Interesting article Kevin.

    Give my Regards to Jim and Fintan Lane in Cork.

  3. Thanks to The Pensive Quill for having me on the blog and running the excerpt from Oranges. It's an honour ang much appreciated.

    Tony, will do. Just recently Jim was busy around Cork gathering people foe a night celebrating James Connolly's ballads! Not bad going at all.