At a press briefing on May 3rd, 1983, Bishop Cathal Daly declared that a vote for Sinn Fein was ‘a wasted vote’ , and that people should think seriously before risking being seen as ‘supporting violence’ . As polling day approached , the rising crescendo of calls from Bishop Daly and other members of the Catholic hierarchy became increasingly explicit in their support for the SDLP. Against the background of this intervention into the arena of nationalist party politics , Patricia Collins sketches the role played by the leadership of the Catholic Church over the past fourteen years against nationalist resistance .
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , July 1983.

The Catholic hierarchy sought to use the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland in 1979 : what was promoted of his Drogheda address , rumoured to have been written for the Pope by Bishop Cahal Daly, is the plea to the IRA to lay down its arms . A muted call to ‘responsible leaders’ to enforce civil rights was quietly ignored by those same ‘responsible leaders’ and played down by the media . Video recordings of the Drogheda address were played again and again to Northern Catholic schoolchildren that year , in religious education classes .

Meanwhile , in the Autumn of 1979 , the Catholic hierarchy took part in an RUC-organised seminar on ‘community relations’ – in essence , how to get the RUC back into nationalist areas. The ‘leaked’ report of this secret seminar highlighted the hierarchy’s continuing preoccupation : ” A clergyman called for greater support of the RUC by ordinary people , and in particular for the ostracising of terrorists – this would include the denial of opportunities to achieve propaganda aims through funerals.” Significantly , a few months later , all the churches on the Falls Road refused to accept the body of IRA Volunteer Kevin ‘Dee’ Delaney. Two weeks previously , Catholic clergymen had officiated at the military funeral of a UDR soldier shot by the IRA .

As for the Catholic schools located in ‘difficult’ areas (ie ‘nationalist’) , ‘unobtrusive steps’ would be taken to extend the use of the RUC’s ‘ Youth Liaison Scheme’ . It was said , in the course of the seminar , that “…teachers and other professional people could , by expressing tactfully their support of the RUC , facilitate the return to normal ‘policing’ . “ Any youngster will testify to the fact that this was implemented , and that numerous mentions were made during school assemblies of the deaths of UDR and RUC personnel , while plastic bullet victims rarely if ever got an explicit mention…….


Repression is not just bullets and the kick on the door at dawn. Repression is an integrated imperialist policy to deal with a risen people which encompasses all facets of social and political life.
From ‘IRIS’ magazine , July/August 1982.

British Colonel Robin Evelegh speaks of ‘terrorists’ but the gist of his argument is that the IRA is the military expression of the resistance of a whole community . Pure repression is seen as counter-productive and the battle should be waged at every level of society . This turn in British strategy materialised around 1975 when the IRA was engaged in an extended truce, which was time used by the British forces to collect vital intelligence on the IRA which was to prove the basis for a subsequent ‘criminalisation’ drive – jailing of freedom fighters on trumped-up charges but doing so in what they presented as ‘due process of law’ in order to impress international opinion .

This ‘due process’ involved the full use of the ‘conveyor belt’ between the brutal interrogation centres where ‘confessions’ were extracted or concocted , the Diplock Courts which sat without juries and convicted on the most transparent of ‘evidence’ , and the H-Blocks and Armagh Prison where ‘special category’ (ie ‘political’) status had been withdrawn as the final element in the ‘criminalisation’ of nationalist resistance – a decision which was to lead to the prisons becoming a vital battleground in the resistance struggle .

Hand in hand with this , the British government was trying to weaken and confuse republican resistance by winding down internment and by vague promises of an eventual declaration of intent to withdraw from the Six Counties : this was the beginning of a sophisticated new policy aimed at ‘normalisation’ of the occupied territories * , with the British portraying themselves as ‘honest brokers between two warring religious factions’ (‘1169…’* Comment : Westminster now has the new SDLP/Workers Party – Provisional Sinn Fein – to assist them in that portrayal . Lord Adams and Lord McGuinness , amongst others in that vile outfit , will no doubt be further rewarded by the British for helping to ‘normalise’ the occupation in the Six Counties . The ‘flip side’ , of course , is that ‘The Adams Family’ have prolonged the Struggle by their traitorous efforts .)…….

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.

At the funerals of Strabane Volunteers Charlie Breslin and brothers Michael and David Devine in February 1985 , mourners followed the coffin in an atmosphere of almost unbearable tension . RUC stormtroopers caused numerous delays , breaking assurances to the family . After the cortege was already underway , the RUC halted it and insisted that Charlie Breslin’s beret and gloves be removed and , during the ensuing stressful 45-minute delay , his bereaved father , Joe Breslin , collapsed and had to be carried into a nearby house .

The RUC’s show of strength in this case was organised by James Crutchley, the same RUC officer who personally ordered the firing of the plastic bullet which killed Belfast mother-of-three Nora McCabe as she went to buy cigarettes one morning during the 1981 hunger-strike. Since then , RUC officer James Crutchley has been promoted to the position of RUC Assistant Chief Constable .

The determination of mourners was again tested on August 9th 1985 at the funeral of Volunteer Charles English in Derry : more than 4,000 people linked arms and thwarted attempts by the RUC to split the cortege . Under their courageous protection , a four-person uniformed IRA Guard of Honour accompanied Charles English’s coffin from his Cable Street home to the city cemetery . The Leinster House administration remained , at all times , silent in relation to the ghoulish activities of the British forces and it was this silence which encouraged Westminster to continue with the vile practice of disrupting Republican funerals…….
(PLEASE NOTE : we will be taking a short break from normal posting over the Christmas period – Friday 21st December will be the last day this year that we will do one of our ‘usual’ posts , although we will post details of how the CABHAIR swim went and possibly a few other similar-type posts. We will return to ‘normal’ early in the New Year. Go raibh maith agat! Sharon.)

About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
This entry was posted in History/Politics.. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Christ says:

    Unbelievable Catholic Hierarchy I never thought that the Catholic inheritance will be like this, thanks for this.

  2. Hi !
    Unfortunately for Irish republicanism , the Catholic hierarchy has – for the most part – sided with the State and with Westminster against this on-going Struggle . There have been some brave exceptions along the way , but they were quickly sidelined by their own ‘bosses’ . It’s something we are having to live with .
    Thanks for your comment – much appreciated !
    Slán go fóill anois ,

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