Remember, Remember The 5th Of November

Getting up this morning it dawned on me that this day 40 years ago I was released from my first spell of imprisonment. I commented on the anniversary to my wife who made some witty remark before heading off to Dublin for the day. She likes my jail memories but not that much that she would miss her bus just to hear them. I told my daughter about it this evening. She was even less interested.

It was a momentous occasion for me. The thoughts of all the beer and sex that awaited me. The balance I never quite got right. There was more boozing than banging, to be followed by more jail house bragging about banging than boozing. The equilibrium was re-established, if only in my mind.

Walking out of Magilligan, having with a felt tip pen scrawled sectarian graffiti all over the walls of the holding cubicle I was locked in while awaiting my pick up to arrive, I made my way back to a feud riven Belfast where anti-Stormont supporters killed Stormont supporters, just to show that in the heel of the hunt they could claim to be better Stormont supporters than the Stormont supporters they were killing. Confusing for sure, but just repeat after me "peace process, peace process," and you will understand it. If not you can at least stupefy yourself into thinking you understand it.

Within days I would be visiting in hospital a close friend who had been shot in the legs by the Official IRA as she worked in a local off licence. Her attacker, I would later spend part of Christmas Eve rolling around Essex Street with in a prolonged street brawl, which only ended as far as I recall when a British Army patrol arrived. He had been having a drink with his mate, also a victim of a gunshot wound to the leg after being attacked by my own friends on the first night of the feud. Myself and my injured friend had called into Charlie’s for a quick Xmas jar. It was a train wreck. One crutch deliberately hit another. Who started it is no longer remembered. Insults were exchanged, threats traded, followed by a flurry of fists and boots. 

Christmas Day was a sore one, made even more so by the fact that I was set upon by two Sticks in Cromac Street on Christmas morning. Fortunately for me the more senior of the two quickly brought a halt to the attack. Angry then, I can laugh at it now. 

Twinbrook, where my family lived, was regarded by the Magilligan IRA leadership as much too dangerous for a released prisoner to venture into in the midst of a feud. They made alternative arrangements. It would be a week before I made it home, in the interim living the life of a wandering soul. First stop - Lenadoon.

One of the people I met early into my release was Joe McDonnell who would go on to die on hunger strike. I hadn’t previously known Joe but arrived at his house, the morning after the inebriated night before, courtesy of being in the company of another republican who had some reason to visit, business to talk. Then to the Strand from where I wound my way to Ardoyne, in which I stayed the best part of a week sampling as many of the area’s famed pubs and clubs as I could.

For much of the time in Ardoyne, one of my drinking companions was Maurice Gilvary, whom I had known from years earlier through Ardoyne school friends. Isaac, as he was known, was later killed by the IRA who accused him of being an informer. But like all volunteers executed by the IRA’s internal security department, the case for a posthumous pardon, might be in order. The security department that provided security of tenure for well-placed long haul informers is hardly the most credible of authorities in these matters.

The journey from the Strand to the New Lodge before heading to Ardoyne was in a taxi in the company of a female volunteer. At a checkpoint at Cromac Square we were waved through. Upon arrival in the New Lodge Road Truce Incident Centre, she pulled a number of items from beneath her clothing and planted them on the table in front of my nose. It was one of those FFS moments as I cast my mind back to a few minutes earlier and the checkpoint. The thought that I could have been back in jail within 24 hours of getting released from it was a sobering one. Not that it lasted long. Within hours I was again blocked after a night in the Star Club. When we later dated I don’t think our close encounter came up. We parted company after I was arrested and held for three days in Castlereagh, got out, went on the beer with the boys, leaving her none the wiser. Sure, it was the only way for an eighteen year old to live.

In the end, what freedom I experienced didn’t last very long. By February the following year I was back in the Crum, having had about four or five arrests in between which shortened the freedom spell even more. Less than four months without one boring moment, the dubious joys of prison life once more beckoned: the stultifying tedium, the debilitating ennui, the mind-numbing boredom of the blanket protest. And for much longer than the first time around.

My life wasted? No, just lived differently. The wasted lives were those that were lost.


  1. Funny and poignant. Many lessons in such a short piece of writing.

  2. Always like when you reflect on the past with pieces like this. Ever consider writing a book about your life or about living through the conflict. Id buy it for sure :)

  3. Thanks Simon

    Never crosses my mind Emmett

  4. Great post - as Simon said (no pun intended) powerful and amusing - and multi-layered in its sadness. This is one of the best posts I have read lately anywhere.

  5. As an old buddy is wont to say 'Every sinner has got a future and every saint's got a past'.

    Tragically, as in all conflict situations, innocent lives were needlessly lost. The degree that they may be judged entirely wasted or in vain is relative to the outcomes of the long historical conflict. Whatever relative meaning that can be attributed to those deaths will be evaluated by sustainability of outcomes.

    Significant systemic changes have been effected as compared to 1968. Systemic changes to include greater oversight and involvement of the London and Dublin parliaments and administrations in the affairs of Northern Ireland, a recognition in legislation for parity of esteem for both traditions, a power-sharing attempt at self-governance and the recognition and acknowledgement of possibility for agreed constitutional change in the future.
    Viewed in the round, only the devious or the deluded could dismiss the significance of the changes effected.

    None of that is to justify the horror and grief of our collective experience. Its merely an attempt to give context and meaning to a painful past and the price paid for getting to an agreed settlement of sorts (compromise).

    If this possibility for peaceful co-existence were to be squandered then those lives indeed could be deemed a total waste.

  6. Thanks Jgr33n,

    good that somebody gets something from them.

    Henry Joy,

    too much gravitas in your comment for this sort of post. But, yeah, there is quite a lot there to be mulled over in terms of what you say. One way of looking at it is that it might plausibly be argued that the lives of all of those who died in conscious defence of the consent principle were not wasted or at least not as wasted as the lives of those who tried and failed to overthrow it.

  7. Anthony,

    Once an admirer of your work, I have become a critic...but only on the basis that you're not amongst McGovern's bastards writing more!

  8. Robert,

    McGuffin! Good to see you still read us.

  9. Anthony,

    Reading it seems without ever getting the names quite right! As ever, you confer the orthopedic shoe and duly...I stand corrected. I take back my mayoral role of 'Wrongsville',having temporarily invested you with the office a while back.
    Yes Anthony I still read you, marveling silently amongst the audience at the skill and
    deft of touch that has always struck me as being informed by years of introspection on a life lived differently but wholly wasted on the Provos.

  10. Apologies for the perceived gravitas AM.

    Though you did bring us on an enjoyable and youthful jolly I felt the core message of the piece was in the anti-climatic closing line.
    At least that's the part that spoke most to me and hence the part I commented on.

    Nobody, that I know of, died for the consent principle ... at least not before the enactment of the GFA. Previous to GFA the union was cast in stone .... cast in stone regardless of the assent or dissent of citizens.
    Its only since the agreement that the potential for consent on the constitutional position of the six counties arises.

    Men and women killed. Men and women served the hardest of hard time. They died in their attempts both to overthrow or defend the status quo. Add to that the many innocent children, women and men who died too as a consequences of those actors.
    Thankfully that phase has virtually come to an end. The time is surely now right to allow for new imaginings and new possibilities to emerge. Decent people ought be encouraged to do the decent thing and do everything within their influence to prevent any attempted descent again into hate-mongering and the perverse values of the pitiful past.
    Even if we didn't win, we'd best learn from the past: if we don't learn from the jail-time served and the lives lost ... lost lives metaphorical and physical ... then perhaps, regardless of individual achievement, we will all rightfully be deemed wasters.

  11. Henry Joy,

    nothing to apologise for. You can only respond to what you see. The post itself doesn't really work as an analytical piece which it was not structured for.

    The GFA did not introduce the consent principle but enshrined it. Without doing a fact check, I believe that prior to Stormont collapsing in 72 the ability to determine whether the North could leave the UK state was a matter for the Stormont parliament. With it no longer in existence legislation was brought in to substitute the people of the North for the parliament of the North. The first border poll in 73 (day of the London bombings) was predicated on the consent principle: if the North wished to secede it could.

    Unity by consent was described in his 1986 book by Adams, as I recall, as a partitionist fudge. It was always at the heart of political discourse in the North and took on huge emphasis when the British Labour Party adopted it as its own policy (promoting and preferring unity as a policy option rather than favouring the union or adopting a neutral stance on the issue).

    One of the core criticisms of the GFA from republicans was that it did nothing substantial to alter the terms of the consent principle.

  12. Robert,

    you are too generous about my writing ability, not even referring to its decline!!

    I think Henry Joy is right in terms of how waste is measured being more complicated - which the piece does not try to address in any analytical way.

    I am a product of the Provos and without them I would not be what I am, whatever that is, for better or worse. I had to push out against them because of the need to think freely rather than become another "peace process" chanting automaton churned out by the leadership culture of obey and be obeyed. Some of the best and the worst people I have ever come across in my life were Provos. And I never regard my life as wholly wasted on the Provos.

    Always good to get your take on things.

  13. AM

    I cede the point.
    The '73 poll had of course to have been predicated on the consent principle.

    Its interesting to note that CRN's boycotted that poll.

    De-constructing the All-Ireland republican fantasy and the shaping of a collective mindset, which would give legitimacy to partitionist states, would take more time ... more deaths ... more pain and more suffering.

    Before re-formatting the website you used to have a Carl Jung tagline. Here's that quote somewhat extended:

    " “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

    Republicans would have to pursue an absurd and perverted path before facing the deficits of their dogma. The word would have to be made flesh, made flesh and dwell among us, before it got nailed to a cross too.

  14. Henry Joy,

    it is always easier to cede the point when it is made not scored, and making the point is hopefully the spirit of our blog. We all learn from each other that way.

    I did not even know Jung had gone! I can blame Carrie for that and have just suggested it be put back up. Well spotted.

    I got asked the other day after I spoke at a Dublin university if I was still a republican. My answer is an old one I have used on other occasions when asked. A very affirmative yes ... just as a German would continue to be a German were Germany to sink beneath the eaves to the bottom of the sea. Germany having no future would not negate the concept of being German. How long it would last post Germany is another matter. There is much that republicans can still do but republicanism as we knew it is not one of them. There is not going to be a united Ireland without consent. The IRA's attempt to coerce failed absolutely. There is much to be learned for those who did not already realise it, from what was presented on Prime Time on Wednesday evening.

  15. On the 19th of August 1969 the British and Irish governments' joint "Downing Street Declaration" stated that 'Northern Ireland should not cease to be part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland".

    The consent principle hasn't changed much.

    Support for it has but there is nothing wrong with wanting and working for a United Ireland or keeping to the tenets of 1916 or Republicanism in general. Violence is only counterproductive though due to the polarised nature of the North. Republicanism has many laudable ideals so although violence doesn't work there is an argument against jettisoning it altogether.

  16. The RTE/BBC programme made for interesting watching. It validates most of what we've been saying over the last while. I thought Ferriter's comment, near the end, as to Republicans' tendency to be oblivious to differences succinctly gave guidance as to where those republicans ought redirect their efforts if they want to be relevant and effective.
    Its seems their preference tends to be for point scoring rather than for relevancy and effectiveness though. (And yes such tendencies do limit our potential to learn).


    I don't know if you watched the Prime Time/Nolan Show special or accessed the data of their survey but if it is a true reflection of the peoples aspirations then it seems that when push comes to shove and the price of unification is brought into the conversation most don't want to know. The laudable ideals are quickly jettisoned once the costings are presented. Alas, its the half-crown that rules!

  17. Henry Joy,

    the surprise for me about the programme was just how reluctant those sampled were to express a preference for a United Ireland. I anticipated a considerably higher expression in favour to be recalibrated and whittled down by a series of questions about taxes and suchlike. It seems Peter who comments here is closer to the mark in terms of what people think than he was initially credited for.

    The OIOV people will have to think seriously about the type of challenge this poses and how best to strategise in the face of it. It has long looked to me that partition has boxed republicanism in and there is no republican way out.

  18. Henry JoY "Alas, its the half-crown that rules!" To too many people the money in their wallet for the present outweighs the long term economic benefits of a United Ireland.

    Certainly if unification happened in the short term it would be costly. There is no denying that. It couldn't happen without support from the European Union and I would argue the UK government has a responsibility to ensure a smooth transition. The UK government could afford a lower grant after unification which would end in a short number of years. It is in their interests as Ireland is a trading partner they rely on even if you discount a moral responsibility. It would also demand higher taxes for us in Ireland.

    However, with economies of scale in the medium to long term we would see a stronger economy on the island as a whole. Britain would pay less and eventually nothing in a block grant so they'd be better off economically also. I don't see why the people in the rest of the UK don't have a say in the matter as they have a financial burden that can be eased.

    Economies of scale would work even better if it was a United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland but the population differences would lead to an inevitable democratic deficit for those living in Ireland.

    AM, "It has long looked to me that partition has boxed republicanism in and there is no republican way out."

    You are right in that it has boxed Republicanism in and there is no Republican way out. No violent Republican way out at any rate. But does that mean that we jettison Republican principles and support the Union with Britain? Or does it mean we work harder to change hearts and minds?

    Surely Republicanism is based on principles and not just a position? If it's a principled stance surely people should stick to their principles and try to argue their merits rather than act and live a false existence. Joining in on and supporting, or being passive with their anathema of a monarch, hereditary entitlement, a war-mongering spook-controlled government and a border would certainly be of little benefit to them.

  19. "The OIOV people will have to think seriously ..."

    I really wonder about their capacities in that domain ... OIOV people thinking seriously?
    These guys are so bound by passion that it essentially precludes them from accessing their rational capacities.
    (speaking of them, have they've decided to boycott the Quill?)

    You're right republicanism, as we used practice it, is truly bollixed.

    With regards to the stats, I on the other hand was mildly surprised that so many voiced support as did even in the aspirational sense but then of course when the costs were brought in we got a more realistic appraisal and one that was closer to what I observed and intuitively sensed.

  20. Henry Joy,

    it remains to be seen what degree of seriousness they bring to deliberations. The onus is certainly on them to do so. I don't think carrying on in the vein of stating OIOV will prove productive. They will need to show how it can be actualised. At the minute is seems to be limited to a slogan but not a strategy. No, they have not boycotted TPQ. We feature their material and periodically Sean comments.


    what causes partition is the consent principle which in itself is the expression of a Northern will. Those who support that principle cannot claim to be opposed to British rule given that they support the partition principle which ensures British rule.

    Working hard to change hearts and minds is a British, unionist and constitutional nationalist position, not a republican one. They all told us for years that persuasion was the way to go and we dismissed them. My view is that neither persuasion nor coercion will win the day so republicans might as well do something useful with their energy rather than walking treadmills. And there is much to be done. We just need to drop the pretence that it is a republican meta strategy that is doing it.

  21. "My view is that neither persuasion nor coercion will win the day so republicans might as well do something useful with their energy rather than walking treadmills." That is partly my point. For Republicans to do something useful they should approach politics from a principled position based on traditional Republican principles. Rather than accept the status quo they should campaign on political matters from a Republican perspective. The position of a United Ireland is just that a position but there is a good argument in favour of working on all the issues of the day from basic principles.

    If we don't do any persuading the Unionists will do it and not only will partition become even more entrenched (which is possible- even more people could be in favour if it and accept it) but people's principles will become more Unionist focused also.

    We mightn't persuade on the position of a United Ireland but we could persuade on Republican principles. Which in turn can lead to a greater aspiration for a Republic.

    We have seen in Scotland and Worldwide how a population's aspiration can change in the short term. In the long term who knows what is possible. Better than rolling over and playing dead.

    It is long term but it is worth working on principles even if the end position is never reached. There are many people who don't want a monarch, don't want laissez-faire capitalism, are in favour of equality, human and social rights from both sides of the community.

    The immigrant population will have a greater say also than was traditionally the case.

    Republicans since the beginning have tried to win hearts and minds as well as fight wars. You can see that from the writings and campaigns of the United Irishmen through to James Connolly. They have tried to persuade their own community as well as others on the merits of their arguments.

    Support for a Republic was reasonably low before 1916 with most being in favour of home rule. A rebellion and it's consequences changed minds. However, non-violent action can change minds just as efficaciously. Particularly in the polarised North where violence is a lost cause.

  22. Simon,

    as a rhetorical flourish what you say is ok but as a strategy, doesn't really cut the mustard. The GFA entrenched partition and saw off republicanism. Republicanism is defined by its stance on partition not the other issues. Republican principles asserted in the abstract will persuade few of anything.

  23. AM, What do you suggest Republicans should do in the future?

    Should they give up all hope of a United Ireland even in the long term and if so should they work then to support the Union with Britain, make things work within that Kingdom?

    What about the other principles which I agree are secondary and are not necessary for someone to hold to be a Republican but which have greatly influenced that viewpoint since the very beginning. Should they be jettisoned also since they're unlikely to be secured in today's world? That's seems to be the logic in your argument- if you can't beat them join them.

    If Republicanism is dead then what's the alternative?

    Should we all become Unionists, capitalists and further to that, support the unregulated free market as it's the only show in town? Work against community and society and work for individualism? Sink or swim? Should we join the British Army and fight for the Empire, (sorry I mean for freedom) overseas?

    I remember in the 1980s and 1990s there was a vocal and fervent campaign amongst British republicans with a small 'r' in favour of abolishing the monarchy. They made up a sizeable proportion of the population according to opinion polls. Now, such people may still have those views but they became less bullish and now the debate isn't even there anymore.

    I don't believe in giving up your principles if it will inevitably lead to the opposite of what you firmly desire. Otherwise we're all simply automatrons. Going nowhere with posterity facing the same problems.

    If a United Ireland was to be fascist I'd prefer to be in today's UK. That's why Republican principles are intrical to the project. It's more than just the border.

  24. Simon,

    all republicans can really do in the future is work on the principle of do no harm. They can hope for a united Ireland just as they can hope to get into Heaven by praying. They might even try to prove themselves wrong by demonstrating that unionism can be persuaded, having waged a war on the philosophical basis that unionism could not be persuaded, and that constitutional nationalism was right all along when it argued for persuasion rather than coercion. But there is no republican content in that; just a constitutional nationalist one.

    If they work to improve the lot of people within the Kingdom, that in itself is no bad thing. That is all that SF can genuinely claim to be doing at the minute and even then it is debatable as to how much they have succeeded in the area of improvement and reform.

    Second rank principles or objectives should not be jettisoned but as you seem to accept there is nothing republican about them, just republicans doing them.

    The republicans who did not accept or vote for the GFA are the people who did not embrace the "if you can't beat them join them" lobby. That was the whole strategic objective of the GFA from the Brit point of view: moving republicans to the Brit/unionist/constitutional nationalist position of unity only by consent and have republicans endorse everything they previously opposed.

    As republicanism is dead the alternative is constitutional nationalism, as SF have bought into with its jettisoning of republicanism. Republicans as individuals might do a lot of things like tackling poverty, campaigning on behalf of Palestinians or whatever. But on the issue of what defines them as republicans, opposition to partition is a bogus option if they support the consent principle which is nothing other than the partition principle.

    Republicans do not have to give up their principles but they should stop pretending they have any means of enacting those principles. The balance of forces does not allow it. And there is so much else that republicans can do without chasing rainbows.

  25. AM, "They can hope for a united Ireland just as they can hope to get into Heaven by praying."

    I looked at the poll in a different light.

    When questioned if they would like to see a united Ireland in their lifetime, 66% of respondents in the Republic answered Yes compared to 30% in the North.

    30% is a pretty strong showing particularly when compared to previous polls.

    Scotland would have had less than 30% support for an independent Scotland maybe even ten years ago and they came within a hair's whisker.

    I understand that it's a different situation but it demonstrates how people can change their position.

    I would also argue that the consent principle isn't something that necessarily has to be accepted. It may be entrenched but it was an arbitrary decision and the passing of time doesn't negate that.

    We don't have to physically fight over it but we also don't have to passively accept it.

    "Second rank principles or objectives should not be jettisoned but as you seem to accept there is nothing republican about them, just republicans doing them."

    I don't accept there is nothing Republican about principles other than the border. The other principles are dominant in Republican thinking and have been since 1798. You don't have to be a Republican to hold those views or on the other hand hold them to be a Republican but they are an integral part.

    Most prominent Republican thinkers held similar views on internationalism, equality, universal suffrage, etc. Of course self government was foremost but it wasn't the sole reason d'etre.

  26. Simon
    I understand how hard it must be to face reality, you hope to see a way for republicanism to stay relevant but it can't. History and circumstance have put it firmly behind the cue ball. Your product is totally soiled. You may think of republicanism and the traditions of the united Irishmen and Connolly but the rest us remember only Enniskillen and the Shankill. Still today the dissos (with MI5 prodding no doubt) keep on sullying the brand. Trying to sell republicanism is much like trying to sell Stalinism, no-one's gonna buy. No-one expects you to give up your principles but you need to find a new vehicle. Even if history and circumstance combine to unite Ireland in the near future it won't be a 32 county Ireland as some form of autonomy will remain for the North, and it won't be a republic, as there is no way unionists will be asked to give up our monarch. Some fudge around a joint head of state will be implemented. Constitutional nationalism won the battle for catholic hearts and minds long ago, don't waste your time fretting about it.

  27. Peter, I could accept a fudge. The status quo has failed to unite people perhaps a fudge would.

  28. 66% + 30% = 96%. good stuff.

    maybe the english will give up the monarch someday peter. you know those guys, the english like.

  29. Simon,

    I am a 'Unionist' and a lot of work needs to be done to mend the suspicion from that community with anything to do with Republicanism. I am not denigrating Republican ideology, just pointing out a major obstacle.

    I also recognize that is a two-way street between our communities.


    The 'what-aboutry' helps no-one, there are plenty of horrendous crimes committed by people from 'our' community against innocent civilians, and by State actions.

    Does that make you any less 'Loyalist' or 'Unionist'?

    Physical force republicanism could never work as it made a fundamental error regarding the resolve of the British, in thinking that they would eventually be 'sickened' out of the province when in actual fact (and according to John Major) all it did was harden their attitudes towards them.

    Maybe that's what Adams and MMG worked out in the 80's and slowly formulated a plan to bring the movement in out of the cold?

  30. Steve, Peter, You are both right about the lack of trust being an obstacle. Perhaps in the future when there is less suspicion we can work on a principle-based solution.

    We'll get nowhere approaching things from our entrenched positions but principles are often shared and it is through those principles that a solution will be found.

    Peter's fudge example is perhaps one where principles can be met rather than positions.

  31. Grouch
    Don't hold your breath waiting for the English to get rid of the Windsors.

    Read my post again. I don't do what-aboutery.

    PSF rushed off to join the constitutional nationalists and accept partition to get a slice of power. Those that are left within traditional republicanism are split into rival factions. The game is up, a 32 county socialist republic is an impossibility. I heard Tommy McKearney last year arguing in Queen's for socialist republicans to agitate on single issues as a way to gain momentum and relevance in modern Ireland. That may be the only option at this time but are you willing to reach out to working class loyalists? Or is stopping a band from walking by some shops more important?

  32. Simon,

    30% is a disaster for republicanism. Only 30% of people in the area that Britain controls want a UI in their lifetime. Pretty poor I would say. The much heralded change that the demographic shift was meant to act as a catalyst for is a myth. Of course that was premised on a Gerry Kelly view of politics – which basically meant Wolfe Tone would have come down from the Cave Hill on polling day to cast his ballot for Nigel Dodds rather than Gerry Kelly. Tone being a Prod, and Prods will only vote DUP and all that sort of thing.

    It is also pretty bad from a republican perspective that 40% of people in the 26 express no enthusiasm for a UI in their lifetime.

    Scotland is hardly comparing like with like. You present it as if the roadmap was a one way system. I think the trend shows an attenuation of the desire for a UI. When in SF I tried pointing out that once the GFA is in place Nationalist in the North will settle down in a UK more readily than the unionists will embrace a UI. Might has well have talked to the wall because that was never going to happen. Nor was decommissioning blah blah blah.

    People might change their positions but not necessarily in the way you desire. They might also all go back to the Latin mass but realistically and for the purposes of political strategy what are the chances? Strategy is better based on likelihood and probability rather than maybe and perhaps.

    I would also argue that the consent principle isn't something that necessarily has to be accepted.

    I agree but the problem is the main opposition party to the principle collapsed in the face of it and now embrace it. That has done irreparable harm to the republican project as well as making a mockery of the IRA war. Almost 1500 British security people die, at one level, defending the consent principle and now the organisation that killed them defends the same consent principle and wants everybody who doesn’t jailed, labelled criminal or something of equal pejorative status.

    it was an arbitrary decision and the passing of time doesn't negate that.

    The passing of time changes quite a lot. It is usually some the religious who fail to see it and think there was nothing called evolution, just magical acts of special creation. John V. Kelleher as far back as 1954 was arguing that that a political problem is rarely solved by those who ‘tend to see it as it first existed and not as time and society continually refashion it … the history of the problem is nearly irrelevant to its solution.…’

    There is quite a bit to be learned from that.

    I don't accept there is nothing Republican about principles other than the border.

    Without an anti-partitionist position on the border plus the cause of the border plus what keeps it in place i.e. the consent principle, republicanism is like a religion without a god. The rest can fit in easily enough to non-republican perspectives. Practice them all, for sure, but don’t push the idea that it is part of a republican project. Just as helping the poor, visiting the prisoners, inter alia is all part of a religious behaviour, take god out of the mix and ....

    1798 republican thought had very little impact on the brand of republicanism we practiced. At the core of our republicanism was anti-partition. Partition did not exist in 1798.

    You emit the sound of anguish rather than reason. I have heard it so often from republicans who refuse to accept that republicanism was killed off and refuse to let go. I have a lot of sympathy with that position. Used to feel the anguish myself but there comes a point ...

    My anguish like your own never took the form of wanting to kick back violently at something. Unfortunately, for too many it does and there is always somebody with the talent to spot that and use it for their own ends.

  33. Steve

    "Maybe that's what Adams and MMG worked out in the 80's and slowly formulated a plan to bring the movement in out of the cold?"

    Indeed Republicans did underestimate the resolve of the British, especially so that of those in Northern Ireland who doggedly deem themselves British. (I have argued here before that this failure existed in 1916 too.)

    However to confer authorship of a plan to bring the movement in out of the cold in the 80's to Adams and McGuinness is in my opinion way off the mark. They may be implementers and initiators but they're not innovators. I'd hold that the role of prime mover rests with John Hume rather than with those pair of reactionary opportunists.
    Hume persuaded Garret Fitzgerald to set up the New Ireland Forum which allowed the SDLP position to become the defacto Northern Ireland policy of the Irish government. Immediately subsequent to that came secret inter-governmental negotiations which led to recognition by the UK of the Irish government's right to make proposals concerning Northern Ireland. The Irish government in turn recognised that a united Ireland was a long term objective and that it could only be achieved through majority consent. All this was to become formalised through the Anglo-Irish agreement of Nov 1985.

    Over the following eight years Hume's hand is at the tiller navigating deftly until drawing Adams into secret talks in 1991 and culminating in Nov 93. Just over three weeks later we had the Downing Street Declaration and in less than a year ceasefire announcements by the PIRA and The Combined Loyalist Military Command.

    Adams and McGuinness's 1980's revolutionary republican agenda was supremely and sublimely supplanted by Hume's democratic nationalist one.

  34. Steve,

    I don't think physical force republicanism erred primarily on the resolve of the British state. It erred on a misunderstanding of unionism, thinking it was in Ireland because of Britain, rather than Britain being in Ireland because of unionism. PFR calculated on Britain being willing to shaft unionism. It did not calculate on unionism's ability to constrain the British state. The unionists were always aware that the British would shaft them and took steps to ensure the likelihood of that would be minimised.

    Henry Joy,

    I don't think it is that straightforward. Again, a stab at analysis here from my memory rather than doing the digging required to be certain: The outcome was certainly constitutional nationalism's baby. But Julian Critchley of the Tories argued for an Irish Dimension as far back as 1972 but could only see it in terms of bringing about greater security cooperation. We did however have the Sunningdale Agreement which some think was much stronger in terms of the Dublin government having an input to the North via the Council of Ireland.

    Fitzgerald independent of Hume exaggerated the potential of SF to destabilise the South post 1981 and its electoral rise. For that reason he sought to check their rise. Hume's arguments made sense in that context.

    The later talks between Adams and Hume came not as a result of Hume persuading Adams or opening doors but because Haughey had already made it clear he could not risk doing business with Adams after Adams sent Alex Reid off to CJH with proposals. He subsequently got Hume to do it.

    Ultimately, the Hume Logic came to prevail but there were a lot of intermediary steps and even Hume probably was amazed at how far Adams would ditch the lot of it in exchange for a political career.

    Hume's most insightful contribution,for me, came when he argued that the Irish people had the right to self determination but crucially also had the right how to exercise national self determination. The nuance of that showed how clearly he saw the landscape in front of him. That is the intellectual imprimatur on the GFA.

    Adams and McGuinness's 1980's revolutionary republican agenda was supremely and sublimely supplanted by Hume's democratic nationalist one.

    Aptly summed up in Glenn Patterson's words to describe the outcome of the IRA campaign: "the war of devolution with a north-south dimension."

  35. AM

    no doubt it was not that straightforward.
    Its seems we are in agreement though that the designs of Hume won the day. In the bigger scheme of things his consistency and intellect will come to be seen as having made far greater imprints on our history than all the bombs and bullets.

    Sure, Adams and McGuinness may occasionally claim paternity to the peace process but the world and his wife know deep-down it's Johnny Hume's baby. Hume will be remembered and celebrated when memories of all the bombers and gunmen are long forgotten.

  36. AM, again much to think about.

    Peter "That may be the only option at this time but are you willing to reach out to working class loyalists? Or is stopping a band from walking by some shops more important?"

    I think Tommy McKearney made the same point I was trying to make. That campaigning would apply to society as a whole.

    As for Orange marches, I used to let the supporters use our bathroom on the twelth. Even after the disgraceful scenes at Ormeau Road with the dancing and jeering outside the bookmakers. I knew and still know you can't tar everyone with the same brush.

    There have been centuries old protests against Orange Marches. It isn't a recent idea or even purely a Sinn Fein idea. Personally I don't have a problem, however others do and there needs to be a solution to that which accommodates everybody. Mutual respect and agreement is required.

  37. Simon
    I carry no torch for orangeism, not my thing really. It's just that a lot of what republicans want is echoed by the PUP, yet they can't/won't talk to each other because of trivial or irrelevant things. The insistance on destroying a state that they can't destroy seems counter-productive to their own community.

  38. Peter,

    Gusty Spence was on a left wing path before blatant sectarianism poisoned his thinking, and indeed he was seen driving in a car with Stickies back in the early 70's though I do not recall what this was about. The PUP still retains some left wing leanings, though is still marred by the bigots too.

    Their current leader, Billy Hutchinson, is a self described Atheist and I would love to know how he rationalises that with 'loyalty' to a 'crown', given that all Royals invoke the divine right of Kings to rule-along with absurdly claiming lineage from the Bibles King David.

    This is also why I am not a loyalist, but am a Unionist, and have nothing but contempt for the DUP, whom I always have the impression they would be rather clutching Bibles than a Bill of Rights.


    "The unionists were always aware that the British would shaft them and took steps to ensure the likelihood of that would be minimised."

    The unionists class themselves as 'british', do you mean the British Government? If so, yes I agree. The 'British' in that context have been trying to withdraw from Ireland since the 1920's, partition was/is a pain in the arse for them.

    But they could never be seen to abandon people who claim kinship.

  39. Peter,

    I think you are right that there are many issues that shouldn't be. There are a lot of trivial political stories that go nowhere. Like Macdonalds burgers being "partitionist". It's like a bad practical joke.

  40. Steve,

    yes, the British government/state/establishment.

  41. Anthony,

    'you are too generous about my writing ability, not even referring to its decline!!'

    Here's to it's further producing reading as good on the way down as it did on the way up!

    'I am a product of the Provos and without them I would not be what I am..'

    What a depressing thought! Similar to your opinion on the writing, an evaluation I feel that is arrived at subjectively than anything that can be observed. You resemble nothing else that passed through the provisional factory gate. Perhaps when they made you it was Geppetto's day off and you were not cast in his image? Maybe it was his day on and he was simply distracted writing the lyrics of 'Alway's Look On The Bright Side Of Life' to notice that you possessed something in your innateness that would one day challange his perceived greatness.