DUP presence in talks , which has begun to seem possible since the recent warm exchange between Ian Paisley and Mo Mowlam , would nonetheless further un-nerve the clearly jittery UUP. The occasional proposition by a few London editorial writers that David Trimble is biding his time , edging his ‘troops’ forward , meets with derision among talks’ participants and a unanimous shaking of heads – however , few predict a Trimble walkout : one delegate put it , gloomily , – ” If the Paisley menace revives though , and he stops the thing in its tracks further down the line by starting on again about decommissioning , that would be no surprise . ”
Whatever Gerry Adams and the (P) Sinn Fein leadership face in the future , it is the Unionist dilemma which grabs attention now – unionist posturing , mirrored perfectly for one watcher in David Trimble’s jerky body language , invites mockery but offers the slightest of hopes – ” He can’t sit down and the others seem nearly as restless . Perhaps that represents the mood in their community at the moment . Who knows where it might lead ? On good days I think there might be a speeded-up versioin of the shift that brought republicans this far . ”
Inside the talks some sympathise with David Trimble’s predicament : only a remarkable leader could present the likely outcome of negotiations for unionists as anything other than defeat . Trimble could in theory of course say , as a scornful former colleague puts it – “…this is a process I neither like nor trust , the Shinners are a devious bunch , but I’m staying because my people will go unrepresented if I don’t , and I’ll argue as hard as I can for a settlement that underwrites the British dimension of Northern Ireland (sic) , no matter what happens to unionist numerical superiority . ” That David Trimble who owes his election as leader to his performance at Drumcree 1995 , however , is on past form not the man to make such a pitch…….
At around 9.35PM on the night of Thursday , November 11th last year (1982) , 31-year-old Gervase McKerr left his home in Lurgan’s Teghnaven estate accompanied by Eugene Toman and Sean Burns , both aged 21 . All three were IRA Volunteers in the North Armagh Brigade , all three were unarmed .
Less than ten minutes later they lay dead or dying on a darkened road less than half-a-mile away , Gervase’s Ford Escort car riddled with more than 50 bullets in an RUC ambush . Less than two weeks later , on November 24th 1982 , not far away from the scene of the earlier killings , at a farmhouse between Lurgan and Craigavon , 17-year-old Michael Tighe was shot dead and his 20-year-old friend critically wounded in a second RUC stake-out operation . Neither were members of a republican organisation , yet the RUC claimed that a routine patrol had opened fire when the youths had pointed weapons at them . The ‘weapons’ the RUC produced were three 60-year-old rifles of German and Italian origin , believed to have belonged to the late husband of the elderly woman who lived at the farmhouse – he was a republican veteran of the Black and Tan war .
There was no ammunition with the rifles and considerable evidence that an RUC unit had staked out the farm for some time before the shooting : Martin McAuley , wounded in the attack , was subsequently charged in his hospital bed with ‘conspiracy to murder’ , in a transparent attempt to cover up the RUC’s cold-blooded killing …….
<img src="THE RIGHT TO SILENCE…….
Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act has just been renewed for another year by State Communications Minister Jim Mitchell , despite increasing protests and lobbying by the NUJ .
HELEN O’CONNOR examines the results of a recent NIHE survey of the attitudes of Dublin people on the issue and GERRY LAVERY looks back to the roots of Section 31 .
From ‘IN DUBLIN’ magazine , February 1987 .
In a 1977 directive to RTE , Conor Cruise O’ Brien spelled out exactly what organisations were to be banned from the airwaves :
‘ RTE is hereby directed to refrain from broadcasting any matter which is : an interview or report of an interview with a spokesman for any one or more of the following organisations , namely –
a) the organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army .
b) the organisation styling itself Sinn Fein .
c) the organisation styling itself the Ulster Defence Association .
d) the organisation styling itself the Irish National Liberation Army . ‘
To that list has now been added Republican Sinn Fein .
The question of electoral broadcasts was contested during the 1982 elections by Sinn Fein candidate Sean Lynch : he won his case in the State High Court , but the State appealed to the Supreme Court , where Judge O’ Higgins ruled that the Minister was not acting ‘ultra vires’ (‘ outside of his jurisdiction’) , by restricting Sinn Fein from taking part in electoral broadcasts , no matter how many candidates they put up .
[END of ‘The Right To Silence’]
(NEXT : ‘Eoghan Harris – Pillars Of Society’ , from 1985)