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 .

Unionist tactics to date have worked well enough as a simple demonstration of implacable resentment , but there is no ‘coherent , well-thought out strategy’ directed at the achievement of an agreed aim : because there is no post-agreement policy , either inside the respective parties , or in the joint working-party , there can be no clarity now .

On the one hand , the Unionists have talked of wholesale withdrawal , on the other they hold back – urging the councillors to forge ahead , stopping short of total withdrawal at Westminster . Some express relief that the British government’s ‘goof’ of prematurely declaring their power to bring in commissioners to run the councils , not only whipped up a flagging protest , but also may take the councillors off the hook of responsibility for running down local services .

An ‘Ulster’ Clubs member stated ” And we’ve got a whole host of other opportunities for causing disruption ; obstructing the commissioners , that kind of thing . ” In the wings , the Clubs are looking on , a bit grimly ” This is the politicians’ last chance . If the councillors break ….the people won’t stand for that , ” says one rather bleak young man , over-estimating his own somewhat makeshift organisation . A more detached observer reckons no councillor will have to go the distance and go to jail , thus ending a local government career ! ” The government will strike a rate – then what’s the point of the courts penalising councillors for failing to ? ”

Meanwhile , the ‘working party’ surveyed the scene in the wake of that damp and cold by-election , weighing the handsome Unionist total vote against Seamus Mallon’s Westminster seat , and eventually decided they needed another gimmick . Perhaps a one-day strike … ?


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 .

Gregory Campbell , DUP , states ” Obviously I thought about their ( the Catholics in the Six Counties) deprivation and I thought about what kind of political structures there might be to bring about a better society , but there continued to be an attitude on their part that they were the only ones being discriminated against , and that I was part of the group that was discriminating against them . There seemed to be a continual diatribe against me , against people like me .

We were the first-class citizens and these people were separated , were downtrodden and different . And it never seemed to get across to them that the people they were agitating against were in exactly the same position as them . Maybe in the early days there was a socialist ideology in the Civil Rights Movement , but it was always couched in terms of republicanism which obviously distanced me and people like me from it . I joined the ‘Young Unionist Movement’ and I found myself campaigning for people that I was still socially opposed to . I found myself campaigning for people like Robin Chichester-Clarke , brother of the former Prime Minister , and to me that person was on a different social scale , a different planet , to me . The guy was a highbrow Tory who cared very little if at all for working-class Protestant people , who were the people who were electing him .

And gradually I moved over to the Protestant Unionist Party which , at that time , 1970-1971 , was just changing over to the DUP . ”

Sammy Wilson , the DUP Chairperson of the Planning Committee of Belfast City Council , is also from a working-class background : ” I’ve lived most of my life in East Belfast , which is perhaps in Belfast now the stomping ground for the DUP . It’s a strongly traditional Loyalist area where there was a fair amount of social deprivation , far worse housing conditions even at present , and longer waiting lists for houses , than you have in West Belfast . I was attracted by the new dimension which the DUP introduced into Ulster (sic) politics and that was the radicalism which characterises Evangelical Protestantism , and which can be seen for instance in the kind of people who left here and went to form the backbone of the American revolution , their dislike of the old establishment and the system .

In the longer term it’s the potential radicalism of the party which attracted me , representing as I do an area where there is terrible housing and other social problems . ” He does not , however , like to be called a socialist – ” I think it’s one of the problems with those kind of labels in Northern Ireland (sic) that the constitutional question has really over-ridden other considerations . Socialism is , mainly because of the actions of the Labour Party , identified with republicanism …….” …….


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 .

At 2.15 pm on Sunday 25 September 1983 , Brendan McFarlane and two others moved into the ‘sensitive’ area , the ‘Circle’ , of H-Block 7 . They were armed . The warders were overpowered in Wings A , B , C and D . One of the warders made a move to an alarm button and was shot . Warders were stripped and some of the prisoners put on their clothes . McFarlane walked towards the gate with the ‘warders’ and was let through ; the plan was to take over each gate , one at a time , and leave Provos behind dressed as warders . They commandeered a food lorry and they intended to replace any warders that challenged them with men from inside the lorry .

However , at what was known as ‘the Tally Lodge ‘ , there were too many warders coming and going ; one of them started to blow his whistle – two cars pulled-up in front of the lorry and scuffles broke out . Some warders were stabbed . The Provos then apparently surrendered , and things calmed down . Then they made a rush across the fence ; the British Army was unable to fire on the fleeing men due to the confusion – there were prisoners dressed as warders , and warders in civilian clothing , all running across the fields . Cars were hijacked as soon as the road was reached . Nineteen men were recaptured almost immediately . Brendan McFarlane , by now dressed as a warder , led seven men to the road , took over three vehicles and drove off in the direction of Moira . They took over a secluded house belonging to a Protestant couple , the McFarlanes (no

They were a few miles from the jail and still within roadblocks . McFarlane changed his clothes , took a torch , a map , a compass and food from the house . All eight men headed off to cross the border at 11 pm that night ; at 5 am the following morning , they decided to ‘dig in’ for the day . They watched as a helicopter flew over and back and listened as Garret FitzGerald ( Free State [Fine Gael] ‘Taoiseach’ ) said on the radio that if any of the escapees were caught , they would be handed back across the border …….

(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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