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.

In his infamous 1983 ‘St Anne’s Speech’ , Bishop Cahal Daly stated – ” Just as unionists are fully justified in maintaining their political convictions , they are also justified in believing in the right and the duty under law to defend these political institutions against the threat of overthrow by armed uprising . There are some who choose to do so by service in security forces or in the police force . There are also people , and not all of them are unionists , who believe that in any civilised society there must be normal policing ; and who therefore choose policing as a career of service to the whole Northern Ireland community .

The republican paramilitary campaign of assassination of members of the UDR and of the RUC is equivalent to a campaign of shooting fellow Irishmen simply because they have different political convictions from nationalists . “ (‘1169…’ Comment : the UDR and the RUC [and , indeed , the PSNI] were/are British-sponsored , salaried and armed wings of Westminster , whose function was/is to see to it that the British writ in Occupied Ireland runs smoothly . They were/are prepared to use force to enforce that writ) .

What real effects can all of this rhetoric have on the nationalist community ? Militarily oppressed , at the bottom of the economic and political heap , half a million nationalists cannot take kindly to Bishop Daly’s remarks on the ‘achievements’ of the Stormont regime and the right of unionists under law to ‘defend their political institutions……. ‘

From ‘IRIS’ magazine , July/August 1982.

On the early days of getting things organised in the then new Ballymurphy estate , Anne Stone said – ” We settled in , grateful to get a house . We had our ups and downs . When we came to the ‘Murph I never thought you could have bought a full stone of coal , and many’s the stone of coal we have bought since . We enjoyed life , our social life then was working , work and more work , to bring up the family . Our annual holiday was the weekend bus run to the All-Ireland final .”

Asked about the situation in Ballymurphy during August 1969 (British-provoked rioting broke out) , Anne Stone replied : ” We arrived back in Ballymurphy on the morning of August 15th . We’d been across in England for our eldest daughter’s wedding . The whole place here was ablaze . The people didn’t know what was happening then . When we moved into this terrace , of the five houses in it three were non-Catholic . No-one at first knew where they stood or what they believed in , only those who knew what Irish history was all about . “

On their imprisoned son , Liam , she said : ” Liam was imprisoned in 1976 on a 15-year sentence , the only man from Ballymurphy still in the Cages, and the longest-serving prisoner from Ballymurphy itself . What’s he going to come out to ? All his mates now are in the hell-holes of the H-Blocks. In 1972 he was working three nights a week in Kelly’s Bar for pocket money . He was unlucky enough to be there on May 13th , 1972 , when the bar was bombed in a sectarian attack , and he himself was shot . He was in the hospital for three months and came out on crutches . He had been going to St. Mary’s grammar school , but when he came out of hospital he just started going to St. Thomas’ secondary school . From when he went into Long Kesh our life has been cut in two……. “

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 Sunday , April 5th , 1987 , members of the (P)IRA’s Belfast Brigade fired a volley of shots in final salute to their comrade Larry Marley, who had been shot dead in his home by the UVF on April 2nd . On Monday , the planned day of the funeral , the RUC saturated the Ardoyne area and repeatedly refused to move back from the family home to allow a 20-foot space on either side of the hearse .

On two consecutive days , the family decided to postpone Larry Marley’s funeral , because they feared that someone would be killed by the RUC and in order to ensure , in the words of Lawrence Marley Jr , ” that my father is buried with honour and dignity .” The RUC pretext for their aggression , once again , was the possibility of a (P)IRA firing party – in fact , photographs of Sunday’s firing party were already in circulation . The RUC’s real aim still was to humiliate mourners .

Local priests and the Marley family made frantic attempts to contact the Catholic Hierarchy , but got no help . On the second day of the siege , the RUC force was doubled and , by the third day , a sense of crisis permeated nationalist Belfast . Large crowds had attended evening protest meetings in West and North Belfast . On the Wednesday , thousands of people suspended their usual activities , came out of work and journeyed from distant towns , to ensure a dead republican his right to a dignified burial . The British crown forces increased their own numbers in anticipation . Scenes of hand-to-hand fighting were to follow…….

About 11sixtynine

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