MONDAY , 11th JULY 2005.

Fionnuala O’Connor on the struggle for the Loyalist leadership as the politicians and their paramilitary allies gear up for a strike .
From ‘MAGILL’ magazine , March 1986 .

The Unionist political parties and the ‘Ulster’ Clubs have worked together on plans for a one-day strike ; the push came from the DUP , through their representatives on the joint Official Unionist /DUP anti-agreement working party .

Peter Robinson and Harold McCusker duly went off to meet the Clubs’ Steering Committee – the UDA’s John McMichael among them . ” Well , they needed us , did’nt they ? ” says a cynical Clubs man . ” They need someone to do the blockades , cut the power , stop the milk … ” He would’nt be drawn on the details , nor on whether he – and the politicians – had in mind a re-run of the unsavoury scenes in the 1974 strike’s first uncertain week , when the presence of large numbers of paramilitaries at barricades on the streets over successive days convinced the workers to stay at home .

What is becoming clearer is that the DUP people on the joint political working party want a full-scale strike after their rehearsal , and they want it soon . Frank Millar’s statement on the ‘Panorama’ programme constituted the first public comment from within the joint Unionist working party on the risks and difficulties of the present campaign , especially for Official Unionists ; he wound-up ringingly …. ” I am re-echoing the oft-repeated declaration of Mr. Molyneaux and Dr. Paisley that violence has no part to play in the Anglo-Irish Agreement – that we as politicians are resolved , as we can only be resolved , to defeat that Agreement by way of political action .

The 420,000 who voted for us want us to do whatever is necessary to defeat the Anglo-Irish Agreement and we have undertaken to do that . We are confident we can do that . I think they equally expect us to give them the assurance that we know where we are intending to go , that we have a coherent , well-thought-out strategy and that our intention at all times is to steer a steady course through danger to safety . ”

Frank Millar is highly articulate , perhaps the Unionist most aware of British perceptions of Unionist behaviour and the most capable of tailoring a campaign to suit . He is also a much-resented thirty-one year-old with no following …….


The Democratic Unionist Party would prefer a Civil War to acquiescence in a role for the Dublin Government in the affairs of the North of Ireland after the Anglo-Irish summit .
FINTAN O’TOOLE spoke to DUP activists about the depth of their opposition to the Anglo-Irish deal and their willingness to resort to violence .
From ‘MAGILL’ magazine , November 1985 .

Jim Allister , the DUP’s Chief Whip and former ‘Personal Assistant’ to Ian Paisley , says that his own parents “…had to move north out of the Irish republic (sic) where they were born . ”

” I live in Fermanagh , ” says Ivan Foster , ” I have always lived in Fermanagh . That’s only a hop and a skip across the border . I know the Protestants across the border , and I know what they endured . Nothing visible , but what they had to put up with when they went to the mart , when they went to the shop , when they were looking for financial assistance . Whenever anyone else had a problem , they had ten problems . It was civilised behaviour , it may have forbade the use of the scythe and the billhook , but it did’nt stop the manifestation of that animosity towards them .

And I think it has been subdued so much over the last forty , fifty years because there was still a section of Ireland that had to be re-taken , as it were , and it was no good pretending to be the best of friends while at the same time you were openly hammering the life out of Protestants . So the very existence of the Protestant majority in the north (sic) was the greatest guarantee that the Protestants in the south were at least given some degree of freedom .

Even if that were not the case , you can’t tell me that the people who are prepared to back murderers will not do me any harm if they get the chance ……. ”


Last month , BRENDAN McFARLANE was ordered by a Dutch court to be extradited back to the North to serve out a sentence of 25 years . He is appealing the decision . His companion GERARD KELLY had his plea accepted that his offences were political . BRENDAN McFARLANE has been on the run since he led thirty-seven men in an escape out of the MAZE PRISON in September 1983 . In an exclusive interview with MAGILL at Bylmerbages Prison in Amsterdam , McFARLANE talks about his life , his youth and upbringing , and his involvement with the ARMED STRUGGLE in the North .
First published in ‘MAGILL’ magazine , April 1986 .

The 3 Republican prisoners – Brendan McFarlane , Pat McKeon and Larry Marley – had escaped from Long Kesh , but were re-captured almost immediately . They were deemed to have left Cage 11 , Long Kesh , voluntarily , lost their political status and were transferred to the H-Blocks ; Brendan McFarlane had his clothes taken from him and was told to do prison work – he refused and joined others ‘on the blanket ‘ : the men were locked in their cells , with no association . Their new environment was very restricted .

The prisoners shouted to each other from cell to cell , passing information , learning Irish , and so on . They sang and played quizzes to keep their spirits up ; they had reckoned that it was going to be a short protest . Towards the end of 1978 , forced washes and hair cuts were being introduced . Brendan McFarlane resisted and got a busted eye . As the men in H-Blocks began to be moved from cell to cell , they were learning from the writing on the wall . For example , the past tense of an Irish verb might be on one wall , the future tense on another and the present tense on another – “Jailic” , they called it ! In the beginning , they were scratched out . Later on , they were written in shit . Gradually , they came to accept that it was going to be a long-term struggle and resigned themselves to it .

Thirty-two men were put in isolation in an attempt to break the protests – it had the opposite effect and even more men went ‘on the blanket.’ Outside the prison , the Republican leadership was less than enthusiastic about taking on the political status issue in a major way for fear that it would hijack the entire Movement , and everything else would take second place . By the end of 1979 , the prisoners decided to take matters into their own hands : a hunger strike was decided and Brendan McFarlane volunteered – he was’nt chosen . The hunger strike went on for seven weeks and was called off coming up to Christmas in 1980 . The men believed that their five demands had been acceded to ; these included association , their own clothes , visits , parcels and remission . However , the deal did’nt stand up .

With the failure of the hunger strike , the men on the inside formulated another strategy , which both Brendan McFarlane and Bobby Sands were instrumental in shaping . McFarlane took over as ‘Officer in Command’ of the H-Blocks , representing over 400 men , on 1st March 1981 , when Bobby Sands went on hunger strike . Sands had passed the leadership to him , and it had also been ratified by the men .

Brendan McFarlane did’nt get to see Bobby Sands until almost the end , when he was very weak . All he said to him was ” I’m dying … ” …….

(Please Note – the ‘1169…’ crew will be ‘shutting up shop’ on Friday 15th July next for at least/about/hopefully (!) one week [maybe two – if the cash stretches… !] we are off to the ‘Sometimes Sunny Southeast’ ; Waterford , for a bit of a break . Leave your e-mail address (on the back of a €50 note !) in the ‘Guestbook’ and we might send you a postcard . And you might also get spammed … – Sharon 🙂

About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
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