(Unrelated Comment : Once again, we have ‘got our foot in the door’ : thanks to whoever it was ‘out there’ who put us forward for nomination – much appreciated ! Now we have to find a ‘Blog Awards Judge’ to bribe . Or a couple of them….!)

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.

After years of Bishop William Philbin’s obtuse conservatism , Bishop Cahal Daly, it was expected , would be welcomed as a breath of fresh air . Fr Des Wilson was re-installed in his priestly faculties , while some of the most prominent ‘Bishop Philbin’s men’ were removed , including Fr Toner , who had played an infamous role in trying to demoralise the hunger-strikers.

Four days after the succession of Bishop Daly to the diocese of Down and Connor , the election results – especially in West Belfast and Fermanagh/South Tyrone where Sinn Fein topped the poll – came as a reminder to the Catholic hierarchy of the extent of support for those they called ‘the men of violence’ . The Church attempted desperately to rationalise the result in two ways : firstly , they implied that Sinn Fein had conned some voters by playing down its support for the armed struggle (‘1169…’ Comment – ….which the Provisionals now deem as ‘ unnecessary ‘ , as is to be expected : the armed campaign seeks to change the state structures of the Six County area , a structure which the Provisionals are now salaried to maintain !) , ignoring the reality that the media had focussed exclusively throughout the campaign on the theme of ‘the armalite and the ballot box’ .

Secondly , the Church tried to explain the 64,000 people who voted for Sinn Fein in the same way as the SDLP, saying that economic deprivation pushes idle and frustrated young people ‘into the hands of the paramilitaries’. The Church was struggling to make up lost ground : while Cardinal Thomas O Fiaich and Dr Edward Daly, Bishop of Derry , issued token statements protesting against strip searches of prisoners and ‘security forces excesses’ , and Bishop Cahal Daly gave no less than eight major political addresses or interviews in his first seven months of office . His inaugural address had provided the code words – ‘turn away from the men of violence’ (the IRA) and ‘support the men of vision’ (the SDLP) . (‘1169…’ Comment : today that ‘code’ would read (the RSF organisation) and (Provisional Sinn Fein) respectively…)


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.

In key areas such as employment , discrimination against nationalists remains at least as bad as was ever the case under the pre-1969 unionist administrations . The six-county statelet is in economic ruin . British troops are still being killed . The murderous use of plastic bullets has again raised international revulsion at Britain’s repressive role in Ireland .

And the current British ‘Direct Ruler’, James Prior, faces an uphill task as he strives to foist another doomed political ‘initiative’ on the North of Ireland.

(Next – ‘Ballymurphy Interview’ : from 1982)

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 February 11th , 1987 , Free State Foreign Minister Peter Barry was claiming , yet again , that the Hillsborough Treaty had “….radically altered the position of Northern nationalists …” and claimed to have detected “…real progress…” in relations between the British crown forces and Northern nationalists . (‘1169…’ Comment – these same claims are being made – again , falsely – by the same ‘establishment’ parties today re the 1998 Stormont Treaty , with one difference : former republicans, now in the service of Westminster , are singing from that same hymn sheet. For shame.)

His remarks could hardly have been directed at those thousands of Northern nationalists who had been to or witnessed any republican funeral in the previous three years !

On Friday , March 13th , 1987 , the (P)IRA’s Belfast Brigade exploded a bomb outside the gates of Roselawn Cemetery in East Belfast , explaining that it was “…a warning to the British Government and the RUC to cease their brutality at nationalist (sic) funerals .” That bomb exploded over one hour before the funeral of an RUC man killed in a (P)IRA ambush – a 50-minute warning had been given . The (P)IRA’s Roselawn bomb resulted in the tying-up of substantial enemy resources at subsequent funerals of British crown forces executed by the (P)IRA , but its most immediate effect was to expose the hypocrisy of the British : the then ‘law and order’ British minister , Nicholas Scott, blustered – ” Even in war people are allowed to bury their dead in peace and dignity.” !

About 11sixtynine

A mother of three and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
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