Seamus Grew & Roddy Carroll - Wreath Laying Ceremony


  1. "... you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori."

    Dulce et Decorum Est
    BY WILFRED OWEN (1893-1918).

  2. Henry Joy

    Although I have no brief for the cause and the organisation that they fought for, it needs to be pointed out that Grew and Carroll were murdered by the forces of the State in an illegal covert operation rather than dying for their country.

  3. Barry,

    that is a very germane point. Henry Joy at times lets his abhorrence towards obligatory nationalism, manifest itself in ways that obscure the point.

  4. Barry,

    I'd forgotten the circumstances of their death, nonetheless their 'sacrifice', I'd bet at this upcoming commemoration, will be well wrapped in 'the old lie'.


    if that's your point of view fair play to you for expressing it. I also claim my right to express my views. To minimise offence I borrowed the words of another casualty of another unnecessary war who died too young also. But for recent articles on commemoration I may have let it pass. Remember, neither the world nor life, affords rights not to be offended. People are free to take umbrage as often as they like and to the degree they choose to. Those who find themselves frequently or excessively emotionally reacting on a particular topic have most likely been subjected to 'brain-washing' of some description.


    as I see it the circumstance of their death is not as germane as you propose it to be. They were volunteers of the Irish National Liberation Army. Regardless of the circumstances that led to their involvement they were most obviously seduced too by 'the old lie'.
    (My position on obligatory nationalism is not so much abhorrence. Abhorrence to me suggests a visceral response. My position is more one of questioning and challenge to its merit or validity in particular domains).

  5. Henry Joy - I have no problem with your - as I see it - abhorrence of obligatory nationalism. I find obligatory anything abhorrent, or near enough.

    Their deaths were extra judicial state execution in contravention of the state's own laws. The circumstances of their death are very relevant.

    We don't know what their relationship to the old lie was - quite possibly like a lot of others they were motivated by the moment, products of a momentum that carried many along, what may have started it long since forgotten or relegated in importance once it had spluttered or exploded into life and acquired an existence of its own.

  6. AM,

    what motivated at an individual level is certainly up for debate. However the IRA and the INLA to a lesser extent had a presence throughout the island; training camps, networks of safe houses, munitions factories in the midlands, support units all over the place engaged in fundraising, keeping supply lines open and whatever else was required to keep a war going in the North, sometimes in the UK and even the occasional jaunt into Europe. It was a widespread effort and nationalistic fervour was the glue that held it all together. No one I ever met told me they were fighting for parity of esteem! No, it was Brits Out and onward to a Socialist Republic. Inherent in all that clap-trap and threaded throughout was a good old fashioned, albeit often only implicit, patriotic narrative "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."

    The facts are: a social movement for equality of opportunity was hijacked by uber nationalists and eventually after 20 plus years of turmoil the leadership of that movement had to surrender to more pragmatic players who were repulsed by nationalistic blood sacrifice.

    The extra-judicial nature of Grew and Carrolls' killings is another debate and not relevant to my position on this thread. My reasoning is, but for the culture of militant nationalism, similar outcomes to those which people eventually accepted could have been achieved with a hell of a lot less blood letting. The corrosive nature of militant nationalism seen off any potential for an alternative, more stoic, less reactionary and non-violent path forward.

  7. " a lot of others they were motivated by the moment, products of a momentum that carried many along, what may have started it long since forgotten or relegated in importance once it had spluttered or exploded into life and acquired an existence of its own."

    A very apt analysis Anthony.

  8. Thanks Steve.

    Henry Joy - It was a widespread effort and nationalistic fervour was the glue that held it all together.

    I think you risk buying into the nationalist foundation myth, what Henry Patterson once described as the monochrome remembrance of itself. It is also a unionist shared perspective, which while not wrong for being unionist is wrong for being skewed. There were very few uber nationalists even though nationalism formed part of the discourse.

    Since the late 1980s I have thought about what conditions gave rise to the armed campaigns and rapidly disabused myself of the notion that it was nationalistic fervour. And once that was done it became relatively easy to predict the outcome. In my view the insurrectionary energy behind the armed campaigns was a response not to the British in Ireland but to the way the British behaved while in Ireland. The British did not have to withdraw in order to sap the energy but to change which is what they ultimately did. Nationalist fervour was not the breeding ground for the IRA that British state strategy was. The hijacking of civil rights was less to the fore than you think certainly in any conscious strategic sense. The conditions for insurrection existed within the North not in the fact of partition.

    Nationalist fervour would never have settled with such compliance for the outcome that emerged more pragmatic players who were repulsed by nationalistic blood sacrifice.

    And who might they have been?

    The solution to the conflict was in its origins, the death of the Provisional IRA in the condition of its birth.

    So in not wanting to deal with the circumstances of the men's deaths you miss out on a crucial factor in the conflict.

  9. AM,

    your points are well made. Yes, British behaviour rather than merely a British presence was central; central to the genesis and indeed the longevity of the conflict. I think that's a useful distinction to bear in mind when reviewing the past (and also when anticipating a future). A long history of militant nationalism also contributed to the ferocity and longevity. Though it will be rightly argued too that British behaviour gave militant nationalism the oxygen needed to survive.

    The more pragmatic players who were repulsed by nationalistic blood sacrifice, were the various representatives of constitutional nationalism who attempted to mediate. In particular I think of Hume who was there all the way from the start and continued through, doggedly offering a counter narrative. Though reviled at times by many, including myself his strategy, his vision rather than those of the militants have eventually won out, becoming those most broadly accepted. And broadly accepted by many who were once themselves militant republicans!

  10. Henry Joy - I am not sure about the long history. I take the view that rather than see post 1969 Provisional Republicanism as a linear progression from what went before, I think the discontinuties are more pronounced. There were very few uber nationalists - those that were, like Tony Madra Rua in the jail - were looked upon as eccentric. Very few even spoke Irish. The term used to describe some was culture vulture. I think even northern nationalism has to be looked at in its own time and how it was not loved for its own sake per se but was weaponised (to use the current jargon) for use in the anti-British campaign. That campaign was fuelled less by nationalism than it was by British generated grievances. There is no outstanding nationalist event in the formative years of the Provisional IRA that explains the mushrooming of the body: all four key moments were responses to acts of repression by the British state or their unionist allies. The later President of the Army Council and effective founder of the Provisional IRA said had the British introduced direct rule in August 69 there would have been no Provisional IRA.

    Hume called what was possible. My pointed query was more to unpick any suggestion that the Provisional leadership had grown repulsed by blood sacrifice. That is very much not a perspective I subscribe to. They would still sacrifice people if their political careers stood to benefit from it. Their absolute ruthlessness in helping to spill the blood of six of the ten hunger strikers still appals after all these years.

  11. AM,

    any idea you might have or had that I could be so naive to have countenanced the Provisional leadership becoming repulsed by their deeds should be, to use one of your words, disabused immediately. The lines of the 'Bird' O'Donnell character played by John Hurt in the movie 'The Field' comes to mind "Bull, I'd rather cut it off with a rusty razor" he says as his eyes drop to his groin area: sure my political position may have vacillated greatly over recent years but I'd be more likely to dismember myself with a rusty razor blade than consider affording redemption of any measure to Adams & his lackeys.
    I trust that clarifies my position with regards to that cunt.

    Back to nationalistic influences, just as I was perhaps trying too hard to make a case for nationalist fervour I think your position tends to minimise it too much. The genesis of the conflict certainly lay in the social conditions but pre-existing militant republican networks and the defiance culture inherent to it cannot be written out of the narrative. Without that and of course British over-reaction to it its unlikely the campaign could have sustained the way it did. It could never have achieved the broad geographical reach I've outlined earlier. The grand-narrative was also important in garnering exposure and support internationally. Without a larger narrative the conflict, though these areas would bear the weight of it anyway, would possibly have been localised to Belfast and Derry.

  12. Henry Joy,

    I was beginning to think you had started Xmas drinking a day or two early!

    The pre-existence of the IRA has to be factored in but the weight to be assigned to it is another matter.

    The tradition was used more for the purpose of battering the Brits and out legitimising the Sticks than it was internalised as an effective belief system.

    The structure that formed the Provisional IRA was street defence committees that were absorbed into the Provos en bloc and not on an individual basis. The one crucial element above all else in the split was defence.

    The following should provide you with an insight into how I saw things two decades ago and it hasn't much changed.

    "From the latter half of 1973 traditional republicanism would come to reassert itself. Guelke would observe of the Provisionals in the 1980s that:

    the grounding of the legitimacy of the Provisional IRA’s campaign in a traditional republican interpretation of Irish history is now much less emphasised than it was at the start of the campaign.

    However, one seasoned commentator who by nature of his reporting profession had reason to follow the discourse of the Provisionals as it was evolving and being manufactured over time gave a quite different reading:

    Six months ago the IRA’s modus vivendi would have been represented as a reaction to the riots of 1969. The Provisionals we would have been told, had been the only army prepared to defend the Roman Catholic community, prepared if necessary to squat in the tower of that Catholic church in Ballymacarret to protect it from the Protestants... (now) asked to justify a campaign in which over 800 people had been killed, O’Connell fell back on the precedence of 1916 and at one point Twomey, literally shaking with anger at the attitude of an Irish reporter, retorted that “the authority of the second Dail” had been passed onto them by Thomas Maguire, its last republican member.

    Despite ‘literally shaking with anger’ it was only one year earlier that the same Twomey, in outlining his own views on the reasons for the violence of the IRA, did not seek refuge in republican tradition:

    Here our people have suffered unemployment, job discrimination, housing discrimination, and so on. They have had to emigrate or generally take a second place in this country for years and years ... the opposition here at Stormont have been consistently laughed at over the years. None of their suggestions were ever take up by the unionists. I know the violence of our campaign makes it sound contradictory, but this was the only way we had of bringing pressure on the British Government to realise just what was happening here. We had to do something to keep on hitting the headlines day after day.

    And when he did resort to tradition it was not to legitimise political violence but to refute the allegation that the Provisionals were merely physical force republicans ‘no republican worth the name is not steeped in the writings of Lalor, Davitt and Connolly.’

  13. AM,

    you're right about one thing I haven't had a dry day in weeks!

    That said, I'm minded of a story about a man from my part of the country who did 3/4 years in the Kesh in the early seventies ... every time an operation was pulled off in our area the Belfast men in his Cage would taunt him with "Our lads had a long run down the motorway last night".

    With the way you're going on I'm beginning to think that maybe some of these Belfast-centric clowns actually believed their jibes.

  14. Henry Joy - as long as you don't quit today. That would spoil things.

  15. I was actually astonished to read recently that the Rising in 1916 in Dublin was unpopular with quite a number of locals. Funny how things change over time.

  16. Two very brave young men , soldiers of Ireland regardless of which group the belonged to , Roddys brother would be murdered by the U.D.R a year later , he was deaf and couldn't even hear the gunman coming up behind him as he shot him in the back of the head , they then staged a fake arrest in front of the public and every one of the U.D.R 4 were culpable in his under.