Derry – A Strategy Of Neglect.
” I need hardly point out to you that in Derry , unless something is done now , it is only a matter of time until Derry passes into the hands of the Nationalist and Sinn Fein parties for all time . On the other hand , if proper steps are taken now , I believe Derry can be saved for years to come… ” – [British] ‘Sir’ Dawson Bates to [British] ‘Lord’ Craigavon , 1934 .
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , July 1983.

Those members of the ‘Londonderry branch of the SDLP’ whose abstention on the issue last April led to the defeat of a motion to change the city’s ‘official’ name back to ‘Derry’ , can justly be said to have done their level best to preserve the remnants of ‘Sir’Dawson Bates’ loyalist preserve for his equally bigoted unionist successors .

Hailed as the ‘Maiden City’, the undefiled sanctuary of loyalist supremacy , Derry has exercised a strong symbolic influence in the Orange psyche over the centuries and , after partition , the swift steps taken by unionists – the abolition of proportional representation , the restriction of the franchise , the gerrymandering of electoral boundaries , discrimination in jobs and housing , and of course as always the armed presence of the RUC and ‘B’Specials did indeed serve to ‘secure’ Derry for ‘years to come’ .

But the consequences of a history of poverty and neglect imposed on the city in the interests of minority ‘rule’ are still being felt . In order to secure and maintain not only Derry but the entire Stormont state , systematically pursued policies of economic neglect and discrimination in employment were followed in areas where the nationalist population constituted a majority …….

From ‘The Phoenix’ magazine , May 1983.

Lechate containing toxins had flowed from the dump and settled in surrounding ponds in the huge quarry , resulting in dangerous concentrations of rain-water and pollutants . One well on the site , formerly used by Patrick Gavin’s parents , was dangerously polluted , so his parents moved out . Boulder-clay beneath the site has prevented any substantial seepage of toxic substances into the ground water and the principle water table .

Instead , the waste has moved on top of this impermeable lair of boulder-clay and settled in the ponds , which have grown in size and have gradually ‘moved’ to the edges of the site . That , at least , is how the experts from An Foras saw it after surveying the site for two years since 1980 . The Council engineer has his people out testing the water in the nearby wells and rivers for evidence of the pollution spreading . The judge , on hearing this pretty frightening account , took the proper course and closed the pit , remarking in passing that Mr Gavin had neither a permit nor planning permission for this dirty and dangerous business .

Costs to the princely tune of £500 were awarded against Patrick Gavin and there the matter lies . But what was not disclosed was the nature of the dangerous waste dumped over the years because it was only in 1980 that investigations began into the site . The County Council and An Foras acknowledge that there could be many more highly toxic materials in the dump and that they could have been deposited there at any time since 1964 . It could be years before this material shows itself , if it has not already seeped into the ground or surface waters…….

Between December 1983 and May 1987 , over 25 republican or nationalist funerals were systematically attacked by the RUC as a matter of deliberate British policy . The objective was to drive mourners off the streets so that later Britain could claim dwindling support for republicanism as ‘evidenced’ by the small numbers attending IRA funerals . As Jane Plunkett reports , the opposite happened . More and more people came out to defend the remains of republican dead , the RUC were exposed as being as brutal and sectarian as ever , and these two factors , combined with damaging international news coverage , eventually forced the British government to reverse its policy of attacking republican funerals .
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , October 1987.

On December 6 , 1983 , the Tricolour-draped coffin of PIRA Volunteer Colm McGirr was carried past Coalisland RUC Barracks without interference . Ten uniformed PIRA Volunteers flanked the hearse for part of the route and they fired a final salute at the graves of Colm McGirr and his comrade Volunteer Brian Campbell. So much for recent suggestions by Jack Hermon and British Direct-Ruler Tom King that the RUC are under some absolute obligation to prevent any formal PIRA presence .

The RUC moved cautiously to implement the new strategy : just two days after the funerals of Colm McGirr and Brian Campbell , they tried out the new policy on a funeral that they knew was likely to be small – that of INLA Volunteer Joseph Craven, which took place from the isolated and tiny nationalist ghetto of Bawnmore. During a pre-planned incursion by scores of RUC men , including members of the infamous Divisional Mobile Support Units, and British soldiers from three different regiments , an RUC inspector snatched the Volunteer’s black beret and gloves from his tricolour-draped coffin and several mourners were injured attempting to defend the coffin . Two other mourners were arrested and the Volunteer’s mother collapsed .

There was no condemnation from the Free State establishment , either of the attack itself or of the presence of armed RUC men within the grounds of the local St Mary’s Chapel during Requiem Mass…….

About 11sixtynine

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