Somewhere over the rainbow!

Are you sitting comfortably? Nice & relaxed? Good. Then I’ll begin. You see, once upon a time there were a group of naughty little elves who called themselves ‘Irish republicans’. These mischievous imps kept trying to lure the niave & the innocent away from their homes & into a marvellous world of magic & unicorns known as ’32 County Irish Socialist Republic-land“. A wonderful place in which time stood still. Everyone was “cherished equally” & the coins had lovely representations of chickens & fishes on them.

Except that it wasn’t like that at all. Once ensnared by these gaelic ghouls their poor, unfortunate victims found that 32 County Irish Republic-land was really a harsh & violent place, full of hatred, vitriol & malice. Indeed, far from being a wondrous realm of rainbows & sugar-plums, it is, in fact, a dark & nightmarish place.

Yet still the Irish republican elves did their thing, weaving their magical tales of 32 County Irish Republic-land, or as they sometimes called it- “the kingdom of love & buttercups”. Do not be fooled dear reader! Don’t be taken in by their tales of treasure & easy living; love, magic & free golden harps for all. Your old Uncle Thursday has magic of his own. I have captured their fairy stories & rendered them into visual form!

Behold gentle reader- the honeyed words of these seductive succubuses. Their siren songs of peace, love & togetherness. Surely there have never been sweeter, more inviting words of love & tenderness-

And finally…..

Such sweet words of tenderness, carefully designed to lure the unwary. Do not fall for their tempting promises of utopia. Uncle Thursday will return next week with more carefully selected examples of their dark arts, till then dear reader……….. have a good night & please- don’t have nightmares.

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Who Armed the Provos? Dublin, Monaghan & the ‘Civil Rights’ Connection

Ulster- 1969

On the 16th of August, while parts of Belfast burned, Paddy Kennedy, then a protégé of Gerry Fitt, travelled to Dublin accompanied by fellow Stormont MP’s Paddy Devlin and Paddy O’Hanlon. They crossed the border looking for guns: making an impassioned appeal at a public meeting outside the GPO on O’Connell Street, and in private to officials in the Department of External Affairs. The crowd outside the GPO was sympathetic but largely unable to help. Later, the three were roundly rebuffed at Iveagh House. If these official channels proved uncooperative, however, other ‘official channels’ were more forthcoming.

It was through conversations with Paddy Kennedy that a certain John Devine first became aware of the importation and distribution of arms and ammunition to Irish nationalists and the role being played by certain Irish government minsters in facilitating this. Using information gleaned from Kennedy and others, including Paddy Devlin, Gerry Fitt and sources in the press, Devine began to piece together a remarkably detailed picture of covert operations that were ongoing across Ulster. Clearly a great deal of work went into compiling the document and checking the veracity of its claims. Devine stated:

Much of the information which follows has been checked out by me, and found to be fairly accurate. What is contained, unchecked, is passed on because it comes from what are described as “usually reliable” sources.”

The information that emerged subsequently- through the so-called “arms trials”, the investigation by the public accounts committee, Peter Berry’s diaries (published in ‘Magill’ magazine in 1980) and the numerous other exposés on the subject- have clearly demonstrated that the information contained in the memorandum were indeed remarkably accurate in every respect.

An early PIRA recruitment poster; Note how well armed the Provo gang in the above image is, just months after the formation of that organisation. How many of the Provo’s guns were gifted to them by the Irish state?

John Devine’s Investigation

Devine began by noting that since the publication of the Cameron report on the 12th of September, 1969, a great deal of media attention had been given to- “The influence of Left-Wing elements in the Civil Rights agitation in the North. While our attention has been diverted in that direction, certain other forces have been at work, and are working

He continued- “Since the recent major outbreaks of trouble an “agent” of Messrs. Haughey, Blaney and Boland, has been conducting military intelligence gathering on trips behind the barricades. Contacts are being built up and ammunition, arms and money have already been distributed…..the contacts are among the republican element in the North, who have more or less broken with the Dublin HQ of the IRA [those who would soon become known as the Provisional IRA], principally because this “agent” can deliver what the IRA cannot. The IRA is highly worried and indignant at the influence which these Fianna Fáil people are having among Northern republicans, the possibility of retaliation is likely from the Dublin end. Fianna Fáil have now established a chain of links from Belfast to Derry, including places like Dungannon, Newry, Armagh, Coalisland, Omagh and in other places where their sphere of contacts up to now has been negligible. Their aid is being accepted

The ‘Civil Rights’ Connection

Devine’s report went on to note that an office had been set up in Monaghan town, with the approval of the named ministers, from which the ‘Monaghan Civil Rights office‘ of NICRA (the so-called ‘Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association’) operated. Among those activities was the production of Irish republican propaganda, including the pamphlet ‘Terror in Northern Ireland‘ (written by the journalist and arch-republican Séamus Brady, who was close to Blaney), which Paddy Devlin had distributed in London. The ‘Monaghan Office‘ also organised public demonstrations such as the meeting outside the GPO in Dublin on the 27th of September, 1969.

Paddy Kennedy MP, Republican-Labour

At that meeting, speakers called for donations to be made to the ‘Monaghan Civil Rights Group‘, and Paddy Kennedy (‘Republican Labour’ MP for Belfast Central) had told the crowd that “I think you will know what I mean if I say that never again do we want an August 14th in my city“. Other speakers were much more explicit- one called for guns and explosives, with all donations to go to the ‘Civil Rights Group‘ in Monaghan, while another appealed for actual recruits, unequivocally stating that the “machine-guns and revolvers” bought with public donations would require able bodied men to fire them. John Devine’s report continued-

The activities directly attributable to the ‘Monaghan Office’ continue to expand. It is now clear that a large number of meetings have been organised, especially in the western counties [of Northern Ireland)], and are aimed purely at rising the spirit of republicanism”. On Friday next the first of a series of weekly propaganda newspapers [‘Voice of the North’] will be circulated and distributed in the North. The paper will be bitterly anti-Unionist. The committee of management involves some of those named on the ‘Monaghan Committee’; Blaney, Boland and Haughey’s agent, and others, also known to me. The paper will be printed in the ‘Anglo-Celt’, Cavan. Five or six vans, necessary for transporting the newspaper, have already been acquired. As well, plans are in hand for the setting up of a powerful mobile pirate radio . . . This also has cabinet backing“.

A Strange Conclusion

Having gathered and verified his information, which clearly implicated government ministers and agents of the state in the illegal importation of arms and the founding, organising and funding of a vicious terrorist grouping (the Provisional IRA) Devine was left in a terrible predicament. The Gardaí were aware of what was happening but there was no visible evidence that anything was being done to interfere, nor was it likely that anything would be done.

Knowing that the information was good but not legally publishable, Devine decided to pass the information to the one person he believed had the sophistication to deal with it in the appropriate manner: The Irish Labour Party’s Northern Ireland spokesman- Conor Cruise O’Brien. O’Brien held the appropriate portfolio, he was also sharp enough to appreciate what exactly was in the document and how to deal with it, introducing it into Dáil Éireann through supplementary questions or by other means. It would appear however that somebody had ‘gotten at’ O’Brien. A couple of weeks before he had been given the Devine’s report O’Brien’s play ‘King Herod‘ had opened at the Dublin Theatre Festival.
Later that month, O’Brien travelled to New York to meet a Broadway producer for discussions on the possibility of staging his latest theatrical effort. Before boarding his flight, he rang John Devine from a payphone in Dublin airport to tell him he was “going away“, and promptly boarded his flight and left. Devine believed that O’Brien would take action arising from his dossier when he returned, but strangely nothing ever happened.

Conor Cruise O’Brien
It is very difficult to comprehend how or why he failed to act on the intelligence provided to him, especially when it concerned his nemesis, Charles Haughey. We cannot know what, or who, stopped O’Brien from using the information given to him, neither can we be certain what would have happened had he used Devine’s information appropriately. What seems likely, however, is that, in the face of the accusations becoming public, Lynch would have been compelled to act sooner rather than later, and at the very least the “Arms Crisis” of the following year would have been averted. Perhaps some of the substantial aid given to the Provo murder gangs by the Irish government in 1970-71 would not have been given. How many deaths are directly attributable to the Irish government of that period who, in the final analysis, were responsible for organising, financing, arming and training the nascent Provisional IRA? Would the Ulster conflict have escalated to the nightmarish internecine war it became in 1972, ’73, ’74 and later?

Collusion is not an Illusion

Devine’s dossier is further evidence of the extent of collusion between the nascent Provisional IRA and the Irish government during the formative early years of the Provo’s existence. Without the money, banking facilities, arms, ammunition, safe houses and organisation provided to the PIRA murder gangs (and their immediate predecessors) by the Irish state in the years 1969-1972 (and almost certainly later), it is highly unlikely that the Provos could have sustained an effective campaign for more than 7 or 8 years. Of course, the unjustifiable slaughter of ‘Bloody Sunday’ gave the Provos not only an influx of new recruits but also an increase in support, both passive and active, within the community from which they first emerged. However, had the government of Éire not sponsored republican terrorism in Northern Ireland, ‘Bloody Sunday’ might never have happened. The outbreak of inter-ethnic violence which had erupted in the Summer of 1969 might well have petered out by the following Spring. Especially since most, if not all, of NICRA’s demands had been met by the NI government by early 1970.

Belfast, September 1969

At the time, and for many years since, a section of Loyalism and Unionism has maintained that, at least from 1968 onwards, the ‘Civil Rights’ movement had become a front for violent Irish nationalism. At one time I would have dismissed such claims, as most people did. Now however I am reasonably convinced that NICRA did indeed become a vehicle for Irish republican terrorists, acting in collusion with the Irish state. From early 1969, at the latest, NICRA, or a significant element thereof, had been thoroughly infiltrated by people who would go on to involve themselves in some of the most heinous, reprehensible, inhuman acts of violence ever committed.

Whilst researching this article I was put in touch with two gentlemen, now elderly, from the South L’derry area. Both are from a Unionist background and both had been involved in the ‘Civil Rights’movement, albeit briefly, in 1969. Their take on the events of that era was quite illuminating, as was the fact that both had turned their backs on Leftist protest politics by the beginning of 1970, so much so in fact that when I asked how they would describe themselves now, one man said- “I suppose I’d maybe call myself a TUV man now“. The other man declared unequivocally that since 1998 he would describe himself as a “Dissident Loyalist”. That is quite a turn around, even in 49 years, but it is perhaps unsurprising given the events, and the horrors, witnessed by the two men since 1969.

I will end this piece now with the words of one of those men (both of whom wish to remain anonymous) when I asked about his involvement in the ‘Civil Rights’ movement-

I saw injustice, not only among the Roman Catholic people but among Protestants too. Catholics in Derry lived in slum housing and there was gerrymandering as they called it as well. Protestants in Derry didn’t have it much better but there were things the government could have done and should have done. ‘One man one vote’ should have been brought in here [NI] when it was in England after the [Second World] War. Stormont did not listen, never did, and didn’t seem to care. Many more Protestants and Unionists would have come to support the Civil Rights Association but they [Irish republicans] couldn’t keep the gun out of it. They didn’t really want decent houses and a fair vote, they wanted to overthrow the very state and a lot of them just wanted to kill Protestants. They couldn’t keep the gun out of it. I soon saw what was happening, even though they [republicans] were wary of talking freely in ‘mixed company’, so to speak, it was blatantly obvious what was going to happen. I walked away from it. Four or five months was more than enough to see what way the wind was blowing.

Sinn Féin, Publicity and ‘Agent Temple’

https://www.elizabethbingham.net/single-post/2018/07/24/Sinn-Fein-Publicity-and-Agent-Temple-Sean-Mag-Uidhir

An eye opening piece by Elizabeth Bingham exposing some of the sordid, underhanded dealings of PIRA/Sinn Fein, the level of state infiltration of that organisation & the devious tactics employed by MI5, GCHQ, RUC-SB etc.

An interesting read to say the very least. It illustrates all too clearly the almost comical level of state infiltration within the ranks of the Provisional IRA & Sinn Fein.

Irish Nationalism is Eating it’s Own; The “Left/Right” Split Tearing Nationalism Apart

Twenty years ago or so it was common to hear Loyalists talking about the “pan-nationalist front”. The term was coined in the early 90’s & referred to the united front of PIRA/SF, the SDLP, GAA etc. The term is not much used today but many Loyalists & Unionists would still argue that Irish nationalism presents a united front on most issues. I would argue however that there is no longer any such united front.

Provisional IRA/Sinn Féin have shifted in a very odd direction in the last few years. Always keen to present themselves as “progressive”, modern, permissive & “on trend”, Sinn Féin have moved so far (culturally & socially) to the Left that they are now creating very serious divisions within Irish nationalism.

There are many (those whom I would describe as “traditional Catholic nationalists”) who now see Provisional Sinn Féin as being actually anti-nationalist. PSF assumed that they could take Irish nationalism in whatever direction they wished, even if that direction was contrary to the sensibilities & traditional outlook of most of their constituency. Apparently they were very wrong.

For a long time, those “traditional nationalists” seemed to keep their reservations to themselves, however, the recent referendum on abortion in the Irish Republic seems to have been the final straw for many. More & more nationalists, both in Éire & in N.I., seem to be verbalising their opposition to the super-progressive “SJW” rhetoric of Provisional SF.

This schism will only deepen. Sinn Féin, under it’s new female leadership, is moving further & further (culturally & socially at least) to the extreme Left, leaving more & more traditional nationalists & religious Roman Catholics (those who are not amongst the large & growing number of Catholic Unionists) without a party that speaks for them.

The uber “progressive” face of the “new Sinn Féin”

The SDLP might undergo something of a resurgence, depending on which direction they choose to take their party, but I would think that it is highly unlikely. The SDLP has lost a lot of credibility with Irish nationalist/republican voters in the last 20-25 years, I doubt they can get that credibility back anytime soon, especially if that party continues it’s own seemingly inexorable drift towards politically correct “grievance politics”.

Besides which, the SDLP, if senior members of that party do not address certain pertinent issues, may well end up irrevocably divided. Instead of this being an opportunity for the SDLP to re-establish itself, it could well end up being the final nail in the party’s coffin.

One might very well see some new nationalist political party, or at least a political pressure group, emerge in the next 12 months or so as traditional religious nationalists become ever more dissatisfied, irritated & alienated by the nationalist/republican “mainstream”.

The bickering, sniping & back-biting between the “progressive” & the “traditional” factions will continue, we may very well see some very interesting (& public) spats between quite senior people within nationalism over the next few weeks & months.

The issue of abortion seems to have divided Irish nationalism more than any other single issue

The only logically consequence of this split is that either A) Sinn Féin, & to a lesser extent the SDLP will have to move, culturally at least, back towards the centre, or B) The split will become permanent & the divisions will become ever more entrenched. Either way the next 12-18 months should prove to be very interesting indeed.

Sinn Féin reach levels of pettiness that shouldn’t even be possible

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/dup-councillor-wears-band-uniform-at-belfast-city-hall-meeting-sinn-fein-want-answers-37079971.html

Oh my aching sides! Provisional Sinn Féin, formerly the political wing of a sophisticated and ruthless terrorist organisation, have been reduced to a bunch of simpering, hyper-sensitive clowns, offended by everything and ashamed of nothing. This is a new low, even for the Provos.

To stamp their feet and throw their toys out of the pram over a DUP Cllr. wearing what is essentially a shirt and tie, at a Belfast City Council meeting, is beyond pathetic. What next for PIRA/SF? Do they have any strategy or any ideas for progressing towards their objectives? What will they take offence to next? Will they refuse to eat carrots at official council dinners because carrots are orange? Will they ask for an inquiry into why the sky is (sometimes) blue but never green? Will they demand that Unionists and Loyalists start wearing full burqas so that we don’t offend their sensitive little eyes?

You couldn’t redden their necks with a blowtorch!

Btw, since when was abortion on demand “medical care”?

PIRA/SINN FEIN: A MOVEMENT WITHOUT MORALS (PART 10)

PART TEN
By 1993 the Provo leadership was slowly coming to the realisation that the so-called “Armed Struggle” would never bring Ulster to its knees. Years of bombing and murder had not forced any real concessions from the British government nor had it broken the will of the people. Loyalist resistance groups- namely the UVF and Ulster Freedom Fighters- were carrying out more and more audacious and brazen attacks. The previous two years had been particularly successful ones for the Loyalist paramilitaries. PIRA/SF had lost a number of high profile activists and many more had been wounded or left psychologically scarred. Sinn Fein ‘Advice Centres’ had become frequent targets of UVF bombers and the UFF’s ‘Rocket Team’, a specially selected group of volunteers armed with RPG-7s.

UVF volunteers pose with an assortment of weapons, including an RPG.

With much of their terrorist activity curtailed by the actions of the UFF and UVF, and with more and more of their NI based members devoting more and more of their time and energy to try to retaliate against- and keep themselves safe from- the Loyalist groups, PIRA/Sinn Fein took the decision to concentrate their efforts on the British Mainland. Some within the senior ranks of the Provos had been advocating a renewed bombing campaign in England for some time. Believing that such a campaign would finally bring some sort of victory. Even though behind the scenes, the SDLP and senior figures within the Roman Catholic Church had been tentatively discussing the prospect of a ceasefire with PIRA/Sinn Fein, and even though there were those within Provo ranks who appeared to genuinely desire peace, there was still a strong element which argued that a Mainland bombing campaign could, and would, rejuvenate the so-called “Armed Struggle” and bring the fevered desires of rabid Irish nationalists a step closer to realisation.

Indiscriminate Violence

On Friday, the 26th of February, 1993, a PIRA bomb gang exploded three devices at a gasworks near the town of Warrington, Cheshire. The bombs caused extensive damage but no injuries. Whilst fleeing the scene, the bombers shot and injured a police officer and two of them were then caught after a high-speed pursuit. Less than a month later the Provo bombers were back, though this time they were out for blood. On Saturday, the 20th of March, as the people of Warrington went about their daily business, PIRA/Sinn Fein plotted mass murder. Two bombs, hidden in litter bins, exploded on Bridge Street, a busy shopping area. The two devices had been placed less than 100yds apart, one outside McDonalds, the other outside Argos. The blasts happened within a minute of each other. Eye-witnesses reported how “the first explosion drove panicking shoppers into the path of the next blast just seconds later“. A brutal and cynical tactic used many times by the bloodthirsty Provos. It was later found that the bombs had been deliberately placed inside cast-iron litter bins, causing huge amounts of shrapnel to fly out in all directions, causing maximum death and serious injury. Buses were organized to ferry people away from the scene and 20 paramedics and crews from 17 ambulances were sent to deal with the terrible aftermath.

Three-year-old Johnathan Ball died at the scene. He had been in town with his babysitter. The second victim was 12-year-old Tim Parry, who received the full force of the blast and suffered terrible injuries. He died on the 25th of March, 1993, when doctors switched his life support machine off, having asked permission to do so from his family, after tests had found minimal brain activity. Fifty-four other people were injured, including a dozen children and two pregnant women. A piece on BBC North West’s ‘Inside Out’ programme in September, 2013, speculated that the bombing may have been the work of a “rogue” PIRA gang, which was supported by the Provos but operated independently and was driven by a warped, extreme Left-Wing ideology. This murder gang reportedly used operatives who were from England to avoid suspicion. The programme suggested, but provided no evidence, that those who planted the bombs were members of the Marxist-Leninist group ‘Red Action’.

Tim Parry, age 12, and Jonathan Ball, age 3. Innocent victims of psychotic Irish republican gangsters

More Bombs- More Tragedy
Despite the international outrage at the deaths of two children in Warrington, PIRA/SF continued to attack civilian targets in England. On the 23rd of April they bombed a fuel storage depot in North Shields, near Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. On Saturday, the 24th of April the Provos detonated a massive bomb, containing more than a ton of home-made explosives, at Bishopgsate, London. Photographer Ed Henty was killed and 44 others wounded. The bomb caused extensive damage and extended as far north as Liverpool Street station. On the 12th of May, the city of Oxford became the Provos next target. They detonated a device in an area popular with students but the device only partially exploded and no-one was injured.

The Provos then decided, for reasons unknown, to target England’s seaside towns. In August they targeted Bournemouth, detonating a number of crude fire-bombs in shops in the town and also targeting the pier. Brighton was next, though fortunately the 4 devices left by the incompetent PIRA gang all failed to explode. On the 4th of October PIRA/SF once again turned their attention back to London. Five bombs, all placed in crowded civilian areas, exploded injuring five people, the youngest of whom was just 8 years old. More innocent people would have died but for the fact that, for some reason, timer units being used by the terror gangs seemed to be defective and devices were only partially exploding.

The Shankill Bombing: Sectarian Slaughter
The Shankill Road in west Belfast has long been regarded as one of the spiritual homes of Ulster Loyalism. Alongside Dan Winter’s cottage and the walled city of Londonderry, the Shankill Road has become something of an iconic location for Loyalists and Unionists. The ‘Road’, with its close-knit community and spirit of defiance had become a powerful symbol of Ulster Loyalist resilience. On Saturday, the 23rd of October, 1993, PIRA/Sinn Fein visited carnage on the people of the Shankill. Coldly, calculatedly and deliberately. The Irish republican gangsters unleashed terror onto the entire Unionist/Loyalist people and, as a direct result of their murderous actions, onto their own community as well.

Two PIRA members, Sean Kelly and Thomas ‘Bootsy’ Begley were dispatched on a mission of mass-murder. Unbeknownst to Kelly and Begley, the Provo godfathers had intended it to be a suicide mission. Kelly was 21 years-old, Begley was slightly older but had been described at secondary school as being “educationally sub-normal” and was functionally illiterate. The two hapless goons were bundled into a stolen Ford Escort car, handed a five pound bomb with a 7 second fuse and told to place the bomb on the counter of Frizzell’s Fish Shop on the Lower Shankill and “run like Hell”.

The alleged target was a supposed meeting of the UDA’s ‘Inner Council’ (the collective leadership of that organisation) which was taking place in an upstairs room. Irish nationalists/republicans claim the bomb was designed to kill Johnny Adair and the entire leadership of the Ulster Freedom Fighters. That myth, presented as truth by, among others, Wikipedia and the CAIN Index of Deaths, is a deliberate and cruel lie! It is also stretching credulity to breaking point. How can anyone expect there not to be civilian casualties when a bomb with a seven second fuse (or an 11 second fuse, or even a 30 second fuse) is placed in a busy shop, in the middle of a street packed with innocent people? What kind of hate-filled imbecile really believes that everybody in that fish shop, in adjacent shops and walking past outside, could put a safe distance between themselves and the bomb blast in just a few seconds? What kind of terrorist masterminds send two gluesniffers, one of them (Kelly) a petty thief and joyrider, the other (Begley) an illiterate man-child with learning difficulties, on a hugely important (if the Irish republican narrative is to be believed) mission to destroy the HQ of your most bitter enemy and obliterate their leadership in the process? Surely such an allegedly vital mission would have been undertaken by much more experienced and senior members of the Provisional IRA? How can a device with a 7 second fuse “explode prematurely“? But that’s just it, nobody does seriously believe it. Those who trot out that despicable, callous, filthy lie do so in the full knowledge that it is absolute garbage. It is designed to divert blame and absolve the perpetrators of their guilt. The Provo godfathers knew full well that they were unleashing sectarian slaughter on the Shankill, that was their objective, and that is why, rather than sending hardened and competent terrorists they sent two utterly expendable, completely ignorant young thugs. If Adair or other senior members of the UDA/UFF were killed alongside the civilian dead, then in their eyes- “so much the better“- for the deaths of any Loyalist activist would, no doubt, be used as pathetic justification for a cowardly and sickening attack.

“They Were Bringing Out Limbs in Plastic Bags”

The Shankill Road was devastated by the PIRA bomb. The whole road was covered by a thick layer of dust. Acrid smoke rose into the air. Local men formed a human chain to remove debris from the wrecked and partially demolished fish shop. The first thing many of the desperate rescuers saw was a mangled pram, sticking out from under the rubble. Tiles, bricks and pieces of wood were falling from what remained of the shattered building but nobody was deterred. They disregarded their own safety to search for survivors. There were a number of girls trapped in a hair salon above one of the adjoining shops and rescuers were faced with the dilemma of whether to try and get them out first, or to try to help people on the ground until the emergency services arrived.

Seven year old Michelle Baird, youngest victim of the Shankill bomb outrage.

As the rescue operation continued, a huge crack appeared in the wall of a nearby building, sparking fears that more buildings would collapse, killing and maiming even more people. One local man later spoke of how severed human limbs were carried away from the scene “in plastic bags“. In total 9 people were murdered on the Shankill that day. Provo killer Thomas Begley was also killed. More than 50 people were wounded, many of them women and children. Some of them suffered horrific injuries that still limit their lives to this day.

A Heavy Price

In the wake of the sectarian carnage on the Shankill, the UFF issued a chilling statement warning that “Gerry Adams, John Hume and the entire nationalist electorate will pay a heavy price” for the attack and also stating that “all units” had been placed in a state of readiness. Ulster held it’s breath, waiting for the inevitable retribution. Two days later the UVF shot and killed two men- Sean Fox, an elderly man killed at his home in Glengormley and Martin Moran (22), an alleged republican activist shot dead as he delivered take-aways in the Donegall Pass area of Belfast. The following day, the 26th of October, an ASU from the UFF’s 2nd battalion, C’ company, opened fire at a Belfast City Council depot in Andersonstown, killing two council workers. Meanwhile, the Mid-Ulster Brigade of the UVF shot and killed the Cairns brothers at their home near Lurgan. As bad as these ‘tit-for-tat’ killings had been, worse was yet to come. On the night of the 30th October, two UFF volunteers entered the ‘Rising Sun‘ bar in Greysteel, an exclusively Irish nationalist village a few miles from the city of Londonderry. The two gunmen opened fire, killing 8 people.

Northern Ireland was on the edge of an abyss. PIRA/SF had unleashed unbridaled carnage on the Loyalist/Unionist community, the UFF and UVF responded in kind.

The Downing Street Declaration

On Wednesday, the 15th of December, 1993, the Prime Minister, John Major and the Irish Taioseach, Albert Reynolds, delivered the Downing Street Declaration, affirming both the right of the people of Ulster to self-determination, and the concept of consent, i.e.- that there could be no change to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland unless a clear majority of the population advocated such a change and thereafter voted to that effect in a referendum. It also included, as part of the prospective of the so-called “Irish dimension“, the principle that the people of the “island of Ireland”, had the exclusive right to solve the issues between Ulster and Éire. It is the latter statement that provided PIRA/SF with a “way out”. The joint declaration had pledged the British and Irish governments to seek a peaceful constitutional settlement, and promised that parties linked to armed groups, such as Sinn Féin, could take part in the talks, provided that they abandoned violence.

Contrary to recent historical revisionism, the 1993 Downing Street Declaration was not universally well received by Irish nationalists and republicans.
Irish nationalism now had an opportunity to completely abandon their rapidly failing military campaign, without losing control of their core constituency, and without the humiliation of having to quietly slink away back into the shadows without a single concession to show for 25 years of murder, destruction and atrocity. Messrs Major and Reynolds had just provided PIRA/SF with an opportunity for “peace with honour“. The Provos were neither foolish enough, nor suicidal enough, to reject the “exit strategy” that had just been handed to them on a silver plater. Any ethically minded organisation, any group sincerely interested in the well being of their community, would’ve begun the transition from war to peace immediately, but Provisional IRA/Sinn Féin are neither. Better, at least for them if not for their community, to carry on killing and maiming, whilst at the same time negotiating. It would seem that for the Provo godfathers “war/jaw” was preferable to either “war/warorjaw/jaw“.

1994: New year, same old nightmare

As 1994 dawned a few in Northern Ireland dared to hope for peace, but for many that peace seemed as far away as ever. In December of the previous year the Provisional IRA and the Ulster Freedom Fighters had continued the killing, and the UFF continued to plan for a renewed bombing campaign against Irish republican targets in the Irish Republic. In the first three months of ’94 ten people were killed, half by Loyalist groups, half by republicans. Amongst the dead was former INLA warlord Dominic McGlinchey, shot dead as he stood in a telephone box in Drogheda, Co. Louth.

Very few people, anywhere in the British Isles, were aware of the intricate politicking that was inching PIRA/SF, painfully slowly, towards peace. As Winter turned once more to Spring, the violence that had blighted Ulster since 1969 continued. Inside the “republican movement” however, the uncomfortable truth that the Provos were a razor’s edge from military defeat, not by the “Crown Forces” but by the Combined Loyalist Military Command, had become an accepted fact. The so-called “armed struggle” could not be maintained in the face of constant and brutal pressure from the UVF and the Ulster Freedom Fighters. In the wake of the Downing Street Declaration and the United States’ allowing Gerry Adams to enter the country, apparently to seek the counsel of some of the terrorists more senior financial backers, the Provo leadership seems to have come to the obvious conclusion that “the war” was lost. Their only realistic option was the abandonment of their much vaunted “armed struggle“, and with it a significant portion of traditional republican precepts, negotiating a settlement with their sworn enemies and accepting the existence of the Northern Ireland state. Such a defeat had been unthinkable just a few years previously and their were many PIRA activists who would never acquiesce to a “partitionist settlement” or a “return to Stormont“, but Adams and McGuinness felt confident that they could secure enough support to at least claim that they spoke for the majority of their mafia like organisation. Peace was on the horizon, but the murder gangs of the Provisional IRA had not completely satisfied their bloodlust, not yet. They had a few more innocents to slaughter first!

Bonfires

Does Size Matter?

As we fast approach the 12th of July, bonfires are being built in Loyalist communities across Northern Ireland. For many people bonfires are an enjoyable part of the annual July festivities, for others they are a scar on the landscape. Whatever your opinion though, bonfires are here to stay.  I have nothing against a good ‘bonny’, but, I will say that in my humble opinion, bonfires should be scaled back in size. Some of the bonfires that are built each year are truly gigantic, do they have to be so large?

I contend that they do not. After all, isn’t the point of them to replicate the signal fires lit across the high hills of Ulster to communicate the news that King William III had landed at Carrick? Those original fires were not massive edifices. I fully understand that in some areas, especially in the Greater Belfast area, having the biggest bonfire is a sort of badge of honour. There is obviously a lot of fierce competition. However, there are other factors which need to be urgently considered.

Some Eleventh Night bonfires are on a truly epic scale

Some Eleventh Night bonfires are on a truly epic scale

Safety First

Last “11th Night” I attended a bonfire in County Antrim. Whilst not by any means a record breaker the bonfire was still very large. Consisting almost entirely of wooden pallets, the fire was not very wide at the base but was quite tall. After it was lit it began to burn on only one side. A few minutes later and the inevitable happened- the bonfire collapsed and fell over. Fortunately nobody was hurt but I am convinced that it is only a matter of time before one of these really large bonfires costs someone their life. Shouldn’t the safety of the community, and especially the youth of the community, be paramount? Bonfires don’t have to be gargantuan.

Some Loyalist communities have switched from large, and quite frankly ugly, bonfires to the much smaller and neater beacons. These beacons are metal, usually wrought iron, cage like structures into which combustible bonfire type material is placed. They have a number of benefits: they are safer, easier to clean up afterwards, easier to light etc. I know that in some places pressure has been applied to community groups/representatives to make the switch from bonfire to beacon but that is a counterproductive tactic. Often communities simply dig their heels in and refuse to even consider a beacon. To bribe communities with the promise of funding for other things (children’s playparks etc) is downright reprehensible, though I know full well of several examples of such shady practice.

Flag Burning

I don’t condone the burning of flags on bonfires. On the field of battle, an enemies colours, once captured, are rarely desecrated let alone destroyed, the Irish tricolour is though, being routinely burned on 11th of July bonfires, just as Loyalist flags are burned on Irish nationalist/republican bonfires. I can understand the reasoning of the flag burners, even though I don’t agree with their views. For many Loyalists and Unionists the Irish tricolour is a flag that will forever be tainted by it’s association with many and various terrorist gangs. PIRA/SF, RIRA, IPLO, CIRA, OIRA, INLA/IRSP, have all used (or continue to use) the tricolour as their emblem. If you ask the young bonfire builders what the Irish tricolour represents, many of them will tell you that it is the flag of “the IRA”, arguably they would not be incorrect in such an assertion.

It's not just Loyalists that burn flags on bonfires as vividly demonstrated by this republican "anti-internment" bonfire

It’s not just Loyalists that burn flags on bonfires as vividly demonstrated by this republican “anti-internment” bonfire

Nationalist/republican flags will also continue to go up in flames every summer whilst the Union flag and Ulster banner continue to be burned on republican bonfires. This is a sad indictment of Ulster society but unfortunately that is where we are at in terms of community relations. We live in a “zero sum” society. If one side of our divided community does something, the other side will do the same. “Yous burn our flag and we’ll burn yours”.

An Appeal to Common Sense

Whether or not you agree with me on the issue of bonfires, if you attend the Eleventh Night festivities please use your common sense and keep yourself and those around you safe. Too much alcohol is never a good idea at anytime, and especially not in the vicinity of a large open fire! Orange men and bandsmen should know not to indulge too much, after all, the 12th is a long day for those involved in the actual parade.

Keep dogs away from the bonfire. Never throw glass bottles etc into the fire. Keep a close eye on the youngsters and try to avoid getting your eyebrows singed off! What will I be doing? I’ll be tucked up in bed. Like I said, the 12th is a long day. I might not take an active part anymore but still, a good nights sleep is essential the night before Europe’s largest outdoor cultural festival.