Prisoners of Conscience

I had intended that this piece would be an examination of how the political centre, namely the UUP and the SDLP, seem to understand, or at least seek to understand, physical force Loyalism far more, and far better, than the extreme Liberal fringe, epitomised by the Alliance Party and the Green Party.

I had intended to clearly demonstrate that the DUP does not, and has never at any time, clearly understood or sought to understand the driving forces which motivate militant Loyalism. However, as I began to think about this piece, I began to realise that it was always going to go in a very different direction.

For in the process of considering those themes, I was (reluctantly) forced to re-examine the War which was wasn’t a War, the role of Loyalists within that conflict and, on a more personal level, my own role in it and the pseudo war which has been fought since.

A re-examination of my own conscience which has neither been easy nor comfortable but which, on reflection, has been a long time coming. Not that I shall be making public much, if any, of that ‘soul searching’, but I will examine the outlines of the thought processes which were involved in my own introspection.

I sincerely hope that this piece will serve some purpose and that, at least, some of those who were most deeply impacted by the ‘Troubles’, both victims and participants alike, will derive something from it, however small.

Crossing the Rubicon

I will begin by stating something which I feel should be obvious to anyone seeking to understand the Ulster conflict; i.e. that within the working class communities of Northern Ireland, on both sides of the divide, violence is not, and was not, viewed as intrinsically evil or immoral. Both communities had men made notorious for being “street toughs”, both communities believed firmly in corporal punishment, and both ‘sides’ very firmly believed in the biblical concept of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, even before the advent of the 2nd ‘Troubles’ in 1969.

The idea must seem utterly foreign to the contemporary middle classes. Indeed, it may seem somewhat odd even to the younger members of some working class communities, but it is the fundamental starting point of this analysis. Violence, in one form or another, was part of our lives from a very early age. It is unsurprising then that when NICRA provoked the crises of the late 1960’s, that violent interaction between the two opposing factions would soon follow. The only real surprise was the level of violence which was to follow.

It is a truism that violence begets violence but it is worth bearing in mind. Once one rubicon had been crossed, it became easier to cross another and another. No tactic became ‘off limits’, nothing became unjustifiable. The two communities became ever more polarised and ever more entrenched in their respective positions. Good men did bad things and bad men did even worse.

Loyalist barricade, Belfast circa 1972

Ordinary killers

It is my personal opinion that some men are indeed “natural born killers”. As far back as Socrates and Plato it was postulated that some men felt driven to kill; that some men subconsciously saw in the act of killing, a sort of natural counterpart to the act of giving birth, which of course men cannot do under any circumstances. This theory of “birthing envy” is an intriguing one and one which is deserving of far more attention.

For every born killer however there are many, many more who are driven to kill. Driven to kill by rage, by circumstances, by a need for revenge, or, as incredible as it may seem, by fear. It is these men, those driven to kill, that constitute the vast majority of the killers, the gunmen and the bombers, of the Ulster conflict, and it is these men (and women) who would go on to perpetuate the violence, not for their own gain, not for their own twisted pleasure or some sense of divine purpose, but for reasons which will seem utterly alien and incomprehensible to those detached from the War, by distance, by time or by virtue of social class.

I recognise, as I have always recognised, that there were those on both sides who were not motivated by soaring rhetoric, or by idealism, but were driven instead by their own psychosis. By a deep seated, guttural and irrational hatred which moved such people to commit the most heinous and barbaric atrocities. Things indefensible and unconscionable.

What, in the process of my own individual reflection, I am forced to acknowledge now, perhaps for the first time, is that there were men and women “amongst the ranks of the enemy” who were people of integrity and of undoubted courage. Such people, whom in my opinion were motivated by an acutely skewed reading of history and who had scant regard for democracy, were nevertheless, decent people with real concerns, real grievances and genuine aspirations, however far those aspirations were from my own.

Prisoners of history

It is an undeniable truth of history that a war between two nations, separated by great distance, or even between two neighbouring states, is invariably less bitter, less savage and less brutal than a war between two peoples who share the same piece of territory. When one also factors in the long and complex history of Ulster, then it is unsurprising that the ‘Troubles’ turned out to be one of the most dirty wars ever fought in Europe.

It is also unsurprising that we have become prisoners of history. Prisoners of our own times. We will never be set free. For us, every generation born into the conflict, it is already too late. Our lives have been irrevocably altered by the war we were born into. The ‘Troubles’ are a millstone around our necks from which we will never be unfettered. We deserve sympathy that we will never receive. We deserve a respite which will never come. However, we can, and must, tell our story. We have a burden of responsibility to the younger generations to ensure that we never again slide headlong into a situation in which ordinary people are forced to become killers, ‘intelligence officers’, bomb makers, gun runners and ‘spotters’.

I genuinely fear that we will not be up to the task. There is too much malice, too much distrust and animosity on both sides. If the generation that fought the Second World War are remembered as “the greatest generation”, then perhaps those 3 generations or so who fought the ‘Dirty War’, might well be remembered as the worst generations. One generation who began a war they could not possibly win (and that applies to both sides), one generation who continued that war because they had no idea how to stop it, and one generation who continued it because they could not imagine life any other way.

Looking inward

We should nevertheless tell our stories. Although it would be infinitely more helpful if we, ‘the worst generations’, were to explain to our young people that we were motivated far more by what we thought was going on, rather than perhaps what was really happening. Suspending, as it were, the historical narrative as we understand it and instead relaying the personal narrative.

In the immediate aftermath of the 1994 CLMC ceasefire, militant Loyalism underwent a period of deep introspection. Such a period of introspection is once again required, and this time Irish republicans must include themselves, if indeed there is any real desire from that quarter for real reconciliation (which I, personally, very much doubt). Those who participated in the Conflict must also free themselves from the constraints of moral recrimination; that is, we must abandon objective moralism and, taking into account the circumstances of the times, must not be afraid to see ourselves as sometimes having been the villians, those who were clearly in the wrong, if only on certain occasions or in certain situations.

We must share the responsibility of maintaining good government” – John McMichael

Unlike Irish republicanism, Loyalism does not need to portray itself as whiter than white. True patriotism is not tarnished by the occasional uncomfortable truth. We are, along with every other Briton, the inheritors of the legacy of the British Empire. We recognise the moral ambivalence of that situation. That is perhaps why Loyalists have no fear of a critical analysis of the past and of their role therein.

Where to now?

What Northern Ireland needs now is for republicans to engage in the same kind of soul searching. To admit the immorality of at least some of their actions and, furthermore, to admit freely that the motivation for many of their actions was, at the very, very least questionable. What we also need is for the ‘3rd party’, the extreme Liberal fringe, to end their illegitimate occupation of the moral high ground and recognise, if they are capable of doing so, that there are those in Ulster who do not share their pacifistic and utopian ideals.

In particular I would appeal to the members and supporters of the Alliance Party, Green Party etc to stop the politics of wishful thinking and to acknowledge the very real and very deep divisions within NI society. To stop the utterly ineffectual lecturing of the working class Loyalist community, especially in Belfast. As I, and others within Loyalism, have stated repeatedly since 1998, peace and reconciliation cannot be imposed from the top down but must instead be built from the ground up. Indeed, my own opposition to the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ stemmed primarily from my view that the Belfast Agreement was the very epitome of a ‘top down’ peace. Something that we, all the people of Northern Ireland, have a chance, however slim, to change.

Such change is however very unlikely unless or until all parties to the Conflict have the courage to admit our own past failings, recognise our common humanity (which applies even to those who have committed violent acts), fully recognise the intolerable hurt of innocent victims and resolve to never again allow our communities to be held to ransom by our inescapable past. In short, any real and just peace can only be achieved once we, the very people who, one way or another, created the Conflict, have all admitted that we are prisoners of conscience and that that is what we will always be.

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Do Not Become That Which You Despise

We have written much, mainly on social media, about the dehumanising rhetoric of Irish republicanism. About how republicans have carefully crafted a malignant stereotype of the Loyalist and wider Unionist community in Northern Ireland, reducing an entire people down to a grotesque caricature. That pernicious and nakedly sectarian narrative has now become so deeply entrenched within the republican and so-called ‘nationalist’ community that it is now almost ubiquitous. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find any Irish republicans, at least any under the age of 50, who are not firmly convinced that the ‘PUL’ community are a shambling, Ill-educated, ignorant and backwards people, obsessed with flags and marching.

“Dehumanisation is a first step towards genocide

The stereotype was carefully constructed and like all stereotypes it has, at it’s core, some kernel of validity. Irish republicans have, however, taken every negative aspect, every questionable facet, of the Loyalist/Unionist community and exaggerated them, twisted them beyond all recognition, creating a kind of Frankenstein’s monster from the rotten pieces of a cadaver that has never really existed.

The Twilight of the ‘Superprods’

Loyalism could stoop to the same odious, contemptible depths as republicanism, that however, would be both morally and politically wrong. In the 1980’s and 90’s Loyalist leaders, especially within the Ulster Democratic Party (and its predecessor, the NUPRG), worked tirelessly to eradicate the kind of narrow sectarian attitude which had existed within certain elements of Loyalism in the 1970’s, the sort of retrograde attitude typified by Paisley and the various ‘movements’ and ‘forces’ he and his fellow travellers headed from the mid 60’s onwards.

The ‘superprod’ segment of Loyalism, which was already very much a fringe element, was well and truly marginalised. Policy documents such as Beyond the Religious Divide (1979) and Common Sense (1987), made it abundantly clear that there was no room, at least within the Ulster Defence Association and its satellite groups, for the sort of lazy sectarianism purveyed by the ‘superprods’.

Common Sense; the brainchild of John McMichael

That is not a denial of the, sometimes overtly, sectarian actions of the UDA/UFF. It must be remembered however that “two eyes for an eye” was a military tactic. A brutal and callous tactic but one that nevertheless proved effective in the long term. The dual strategy of targeting republican activists and those who afforded them logistical, financial and moral support ultimately forced PIRA/Sinn Fein to the negotiating table, no longer able to ignore the pressure being exerted upon their movement and the community which provided the support and backup necessary to sustain their terrorist campaign.

Comparison of Ideology

Loyalism cannot be allowed to go backward. We cannot, and will not, stoop to the level of our opponents. We must recognise the humanity of our enemies. We must not allow ourselves to cultivate ignorant and dehumanising stereotypes about the Irish republican community, even though that is precisely what republicans have done in regards to our community. Loyalism is not a corrosive ideology, it is not seditious or insurgent. Loyalism does not have to dehumanise others.

At its core Ulster Loyalism is about reforming and maintaining the state and it’s institutions, Irish republicanism is about subversion, insurrection and the overthrow of the state. Rather than alienating and ‘othering’ people, Loyalism will profit infinitely more through inclusion and respect. At the very least we must remember that our opponents, even those who were formerly engaged in terrorism and those who act as apologists for that violence, are still human beings with genuine aspirations and fears and concerns. We are not Nazis, Communists or Irish republicans. We must retain the dignity, the core values and the integrity of our ideology. To do otherwise would be to betray the legacy of McMichael, Barr, Smallwoods et al.

Fight the Stereotype

The toxic narrative of Irish republicanism will never be challenged from within. The cult of violent failure allows for little in the way of dissent. Therefore it is incumbent upon Loyalists to undermine and destroy the malignant, repulsive myths spun by Irish republicans about our community and to challenge the stereotypes so carefully constructed about us.

Irish republicanism; the politics of violent failure

Challenge those who purvey these pernicious lies. Dispel their hateful mythos but do not lower yourself to their level. Conduct yourself with self respect and dignity. Never forget that you, as a Loyalist, seek to maintain and to protect, whereas those who oppose us seek to destroy, subvert, undermine and usurp. Remind yourself that Irish republicanism has been trying, and miserably failing, to attain its nefarious objectives for over 100 years and that for 98 years they have tried to destroy the state of Northern Ireland. Without success.

Perhaps such abject and abysmal failure is a motivating factor in the republican movements efforts to dehumanise and degrade the Loyalist and wider Unionist community. Perhaps it is a side effect of the cognitive dissonance caused by constantly being told that they are, at the same time, both a race of “gaelic supermen” and the world’s most victimised, oppressed and downtrodden people. Whatever is behind it, their wretched narrative will be demolished. It is a weapon which Loyalists can, and should, use against them.

Abortion; an open letter to the critics of Northern Ireland

Dear critics of NI, abortionists and other “useful idiots”

I understand that you have many questions in the wake of the Irish Republic’s referendum on abortion. Please allow me to answer those questions in a thoughtful, concise and polite manner.

NO. No we do not “need” to legalise abortion on demand because any other nation, or any other constituent country of the UK has legal abortion on demand. In case you hadn’t noticed (you probably hadn’t), the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a (supposedly) democratic, decentralised state within which each constituent country has considerable devolved powers, and within which are three separate legal jurisdictions, Northern Ireland being one of those jurisdictions (look up that word, you’ll find it useful later on).

NO. We will not justify our position within the United Kingdom to the historically illiterate and politically ignorant. We are not part of the UK due to the benevolence of England, but because our forebears successfully fought for our right to remain part of the UK. Our membership of the Union is not up for debate. It is not dependant on us “acting like a part of the UK”. The United Kingdom is not a centralised, unitary state. It is a devolved, decentralised Union. The Ulster people have an inalienable right to self-determination, a right we have fought to uphold. We will not forgo that right in order to placate a section of the English population which wishes us to amend our laws on abortion because it is the “current year”, or because some vapid, moronic “TV personality” has issue with our laws.

NO. We will not succumb to bullying, pressure tactics or your pathetic attempts to scorn us. Quite frankly, the people of NI couldn’t care less about the opinions of virtue signalling, social acceptance seeking, has-been “celebrities” desperately trying to seem relevant and fishing for Facebook likes and positive reinforcement. We take our politics seriously. We don’t like bullies and we tend to laugh at people who try to threaten us! You want to take us on? Really? Lol. Take a good long look in the mirror, then ask yourself if this is a fight you can win. It isn’t.

NO. We won’t be doing anything simply because the Irish Republic does it. The Czech Republic significantly relaxed their gun laws a while ago, we won’t be following them either. Northern Ireland isn’t Hertfordshire or Northumberland. We are a separate legal jurisdiction (remember that word?) with considerable devolved powers. Many, probably the majority, of NI citizens believe that abortion on demand is morally reprehensible and will oppose it, vehemently. Others, such as myself, are ambivalent or undecided on the issue but we will not allow ourselves to be browbeaten, lectured, badgered or vilified by ignorant, conceited, self-obsessed, botox filled, drug addled, ridiculous, pompous and morally bankrupt media rejects. That I can promise you!

The Forgotten Minority; Catholic Unionists in Northern Ireland

Thin on the ground?

According to a 2014 opinion poll, 22.8% of Northern Ireland Catholics described themselves as “British”. The poll also revealed that 20.6% of Roman Catholic’s wanted Northern Ireland to remain an integral part of the UK. That is almost over one fifth of NI’s Catholic population. A surprising and extraordinary statistic, or at least it will be to some people. There have however, always been Catholic Unionists, some of them very prominent, although in recent years the number of Catholic Unionists, and Catholic Loyalists, seems to have increased.

In October, 2017, Stephen McCarthy was co-opted unto Antrim and Newtownabbey Council, as an Ulster Unionist Party councillor. Nothing unusual? Well, actually Cllr. Stephen McCarthy is a little unusual. A former altar boy, he grew up a Catholic in the republican stronghold of West Belfast, growing up in the St James area before moving to the Short Strand. His grandfather was shot dead in 1991 by the UVF while working as a taxi driver.

He joined the UUP aged 19 despite coming from what he is on record as describing as an “SDLP family”. In an interview with the Irish News Cllr. McCarthy stated- “There are many Unionists in the Catholic community.” Adding that he is a Unionist principally for “economic reasons” but also that he feels “both British and Irish”.

Cllr. McCarthy is not unique and in the coming years and decades there will be many more like him. Unionism and Loyalism, despite the vitriol of the usual suspects, has never been about religion. As time moves on and religion becomes less and less important in people’s lives, an increasing number people will base their political opinions, not on the traditional outlook of their parents or grandparents, but on their own thoughts, feelings and aspirations.

Sir John Gorman, Ulster Unionist MLA for North Down (1998-2003) and “Catholic Unionist”

The real bigots

Those 20.6% of Catholic’s who said they wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK are, very obviously, Unionists, even if many would be reluctant to describe themselves as such. It is interesting that the 2014 poll also revealed that there were more than twice as many Catholic Unionists as there were “Protestant Irish nationalists”. Again, for some that will no doubt be surprising, and troubling. For a significant proportion of Irish nationalists and republicans, that 20%+ of Catholics who are also pro-Union, are traitors. Many Catholic Unionists hide their real political leanings, sometimes even from their own families, for fear of becoming pariahs. Like it or not, believe it or not, the “CNR” community is much more tribalistic and insular than the “PUL” community.

Sir Denis Henry. Catholic, Unionist and the first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland

That is an uncomfortable truth, but it is one that nationalists and republicans are going to have to come to terms with. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” as the saying goes. We will see then, which political camp really is the most tribal and sectarian over the course of the coming years and decades. I am confident that as the number of Unionists and Loyalists from outwith the Protestant community continues to grow, that it will be Irish nationalism which will be exposed as the sectarian, intolerant and parochial doctrine Loyalists have always known it is.

Fan Art

We here at It’s Still Only Thursday were very pleased (and surprised) when we received a very nice message, praising our humble wee blog and accompanied by a fantastic bit of what we can only describe as “fan art”. Even better, the budding artist hails from Denmark, further demonstrating the reach of I.S.O.T

Thanks very much S.A.

Fire Up The Time Machine

The blog is back

Ok folks, I’m back. Almost three years since I took an enforced sabbatical from the heady world of blogging. On a personal level, things have changed. I have changed. At least in some ways. Sadly though the same cannot be said for Ulster politics. Twenty years after the signing of the Belfast Agreement, the political landscape in Northern Ireland still resembles a battlefield. The DUP and Sinn Féin still thrive on confrontation and contention, much of it wholly manufactured, whilst the majority of the population grit their collective teeth and try to get on with their lives.

The Loyalist community is supposed to be absolutely outraged at the prospect of a Gaelic language act (legislation to protect a minority language? Arrgggghhh, the horror, the horror!), whilst Sinn Féin voters are supposedly weeping and gnashing their teeth because of how oppressed and downtrodden they are. Well, that’s Northern Ireland according to Arlene and Michelle anyway. Personally I couldn’t give a monkeys if the toy-town parliament up at Stormont is ever restored or not. Don’t get me wrong, in principle I believe in devolution, indeed, I believe in the radical decentralisation of power, far beyond what the N.I. assembly delivers, or rather doesn’t deliver. In Ulster though, devolution has become a soap opera. A repetitive, stale and formulaic soap opera, rehashing the same old storylines again and again. Direct rule is hardly an attractive proposition, but at this point no alternative to the present self-perpetuating stalemate should be off the table. I’m sure I speak for many Ulster folk when I say that I have simply become bored with the whole DUP/Sinn Féin charade, which is why I’m now going to move on to the important bit—

An unenthusiastic return

In all honesty, I wasn’t entirely sure whether It’s Still Only Thursday would ever return. As I said, since 2015 I have changed personally.
I am still, as I have been since my mid teens, a militant Ulster Loyalist. I maintain the position that Ulster, in it’s modern six county form, constitutes an ethnic nation with an inalienable right to self-determination, and furthermore, that the Ulster-Scots people, like every other national community, have an inalienable right to defend themselves in the face of violence, aggression and attempted genocide. I make no apology for my political persuasion. I am not, nor have I ever been, a “loyal to the crown” Loyalist. My loyalty lies with my people, my ethnic cohort, I offer no loyalty whatsoever to the institution of the monarchy (an institution I am at best ambiguous about) and no loyalty to the UK state, or any organ thereof. To quote the old Ulster folk song, ‘the Armagh Brigade’, “Ulster is my heritage and Ulster is my cause”. The overwhelming majority of people here wish to maintain the Union, therefore, although I am personally agnostic about the benefits of continuing that Union (Loyalist not Unionist) I am obliged to accept that most Loyalists, and many others besides, see the continuation of the Union as being beneficial for this country (whatever non-Loyalists wish to call it). My politics remain unaffected by the passage of time, although it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that I, as a human being, have remained untouched by the relentless march of years.

I would now describe myself as being very much in “post conflict” mode. I have, to wax lyrical, been overtaken by normalcy. The world I once knew; a world of conflict, violence and intercommunal tension, has long disappeared. So-called “legacy” issues notwithstanding, the Northern Ireland of 2018 has settled so firmly into relative normality as to be almost boring. That can only be a good thing. For me at least, politics has faded into the background. Whilst continuing to engage in community activity (or is that “activism”?), I have firmly relegated politics to the backburner, which is why I was unsure whether or not to resurrect this blog.

Had it not been for the surprising popularity of this blog, and no one was more surprised by it’s popularity than me, I honestly don’t think I would have returned to it. However, because it was/is far more popular than I could ever have imagined, and because of the almost universally positive feedback I received, I decided that I couldn’t just let it die, or rather, allow it to become a sort of cyber ghost, forever floating in the internet ether, untended, ignored and more or less forgotten. For some reason, some people (and in some very unusual places) found this blog informative, entertaining, or otherwise enlightening. I therefore felt I had something of an obligation to return to blogging, although to be frank it is an unenthusiastic return. A blog, like a small child, requires a lot of attention, although fortunately it requires only a modest investment of energy. I could put that energy into some other endeavour, but I’m here now so I might as well get on with it!

It’s Still Only Thursday might not be exactly as it once was. I will be covering issues beyond the usual fray of Ulster politics; futurism, the environment, economics etc., although I will still return to the politics and history of Northern Ireland regularly. I have written a fair bit about such things already but, as is so often the case in this troubled little corner of Europe, there is always much more to say. Unfortunately, the historical revisionism of the Irish republican propaganda machine shows no sign of abating, therefore I will no doubt feel obliged to address some of their more outrageous fabrications, however I intend, as always, to focus on being pro-Loyalist as opposed to being merely anti-republican. Hopefully my old readership will continue to read and enjoy It’s Still Only Thursday, and hopefully we will pick up a few new readers too. I can’t say that I’m enjoying writing again, yet, but we’ll see. I have a sneaking suspicion that I might. Soon.

PIRA/Sinn Fein: A Movement Without Morals (Part Two)

The Forgotten Atrocity

On Tuesday, the 12th of June, 1973, the Provisional IRA detonated two bombs in Coleraine, Co.Londonderry. The first device, 150 lb of explosives packed into a stolen Ford Cortina, went off at 3.00 p.m on Railway Rd, outside an off-license, killing six and injuring 33; several people lost limbs and several more were left crippled for life. Many of the wounded were children. A second bomb exploded five minutes later at Hanover Place. The Provos had sent a warning for the second bomb but said it had “mistakenly given the wrong location“. One would have thought that when dealing with deadly explosive devices the greatest care should be taken to avoid any error, PIRA/Sinn Fein though, did not give a damn about the deaths of civilians. Indeed I would contend that multiple civilian deaths was the very objective of such bombings.

The six innocent civilians killed by the Railway Road bomb were all Protestants, all over the age of 60. The victims were- Elizabeth Craigmile (76), Robert Scott (72), Dinah Campbell (72), Francis Campbell (70), Nan Davis (60), and Elizabeth Palmer (60). Elizabeth Craigmile, the Campbells and their daughter Hilary had been on a day outing and were beside the car-bomb at the moment of detonation. Hilary Campbell, whose parents had both been killed, lost a leg in the explosion. The bomb had left a deep crater in the road and the off-license was engulfed in flames; it also caused considerable damage to vehicles and other buildings in the vicinity. Railway Road was a scene of carnage and devastation, the mangled wreckage of the Cortina resting in the middle of the street, the bodies of the dead and injured lying in pools of blood amongst the fallen masonry and roof slates, shards of glass from blown-out windows blanketing the ground. Ambulance crews and firemen who arrived at the scene spoke of “utter confusion” with many people “wandering around in a state of severe shock“. Five minutes later, the second bomb exploded on the forecourt of Stuart’s Garage in Hanover Place. Although this explosion caused no injuries, it added to the panic and confusion caused by the first bomb. It also hindered the Emergency Services in their attempts to save the lives of the many seriously injured people on Railway Road. Undoubtedly this was the PIRA murder gang’s intention. Not content with causing horrific injuries, the unscrupulous killers seemed determined to hamper any effort to aid the wounded.

Only cowards murder pensioners, but what sort of people vote for such cowardly, murdering bastards?

Only cowards murder pensioners, but what sort of people vote for such cowardly, murdering bastards?

It has been alleged that no warning at all was given for the first bomb. This has led to speculation that the bombers intention was to draw people towards the bomb in Railway Road and inflict as many civilian casualties as possible. This would not be surprising given PIRA/Sinn Fein’s complete and total disregard for human life. Indeed, it would fit their modus operandi. The death toll would have been much, much higher had the bomb gone off just a few minutes later, when girls from a nearby school would have been leaving for home and walking along the street. In January 1974, a woman was acquitted of charges linked to the bombings. Her boyfriend however received an eight-year prison sentence for his part in the attacks, and the leader of the bomb team, 18-year-old Sean McGlinchey, was convicted of planting the Railway Road bomb. He was sentenced to just 18 years imprisonment in Long Kesh/The Maze. McGlinchey, the younger brother of former INLA ‘Chief of Staff‘ Dominic ‘Mad-Dog’ McGlinchey, later became a Sinn Fein councillor and, unbelievably, was elected mayor of Limavady in 2011. What sort of people go out and vote for a man that murdered six senior citizens? Throughout the conflict, the leadership of the Irish nationalist community (at that time mainly the SDLP) repeatedly gave assurances to their Protestant neighbours that the majority of Catholics and nationalists did not support the Provo death squads. Really? So then who’s voting for men like Sean McGlinchey? Ordinary, decent people in that community need to know, need to see, that every vote for Provisional Sinn Fein is a vote for those who murdered and maimed innocent women and children (or supported, aided and gave voice to those who did).

Birmingham Pub Bombings: Evil Beyond Belief 

Mention the Birmingham Pub Bombings to most people and the first thing many will say is “oh, the Birmingham Six“, to which the correct response should be, “no, the Birmingham Twenty-One”, for the focus should be on the twenty-one innocents slaughtered by Irish republican fanatics, not on the men wrongfully convicted of the crime! The Birmingham Six suffered an awful miscarriage of justice but it should never be forgotten that 21 people were murdered in cold blood, the majority of them under the age of 25.

On the 21st of November, 1974, a Provo bomb exploded inside the ‘Mulberry Bush’ pub. The bomb, containing 6lb of Gelignite and hidden inside a duffel-bag, went off at just after 8p.m. Ten people were killed and dozens wounded, many of them seriously. Police were attempting to clear the nearby ‘Tavern in the Town’ pub, on New Street, below King Edward House, when at 20:27 a second bomb exploded there, killing another eleven people and leaving many with appalling injuries. The bodies of the dead and injured were strewn about the ruined pub like ragdolls. The explosion was so powerful that several victims were blown through a brick wall into an area just below the main front entrance to King Edward House. Their bodies were wedged between the rubble and underground electric cables; it took hours for firemen to remove them. The scene was like something straight out of a horror film. The two devastated pubs were just 50yds apart. A third bomb had been left on nearby Hagley Road, but thankfully failed to explode.

A scene of devastation, Birmingham after the Provo's deadly bomb attacks.

A scene of devastation, Birmingham after the Provo’s deadly bomb attacks.

That PIRA/SF had set out that night to massacre innocent civilians is beyond question. However, I would also suggest a secondary, albeit subconscious, motivation. The Irish nationalist community, overlapping as it does with the Roman Catholic community, has always been deeply conservative in it’s attitudes. Despite the politically correct sound-bites of the nationalist/republican politicos, attitudes towards women, particularly young women, in that community have always been rather backwards and repressive. It is my contention that the real perpetrators of the Birmingham Pub Bombings, rather than being appalled by the deaths of so many young women, many of them just teenagers, would have , at least subconsciously, felt that those young English girls deserved their fate, for being out drinking and flirting with men, rather than being at home under the watchful eye of their fathers or brothers, as young women within the Irish nationalist community ‘back home‘ were expected to be, at least in those days. Like their friends in the Taliban or Hamas, the men of the Provisional IRA expected their women to do as they were told, be ‘seen and not heard’. I would argue that, deep down, the murderous scumbags that bombed those pubs were quietly pleased so many ‘English slags’ had been killed by their bomb. Perhaps I am completely wrong, it doesn’t really make much of a difference. The fact remains that PIRA/SF set out to murder as many civilians as they could. A final word about the Birmingham Six. PIRA/SF could have undermined those men’s convictions at any time. They could have ensured their convictions were overturned. Had the real bombers stepped forward, had they been big enough to take their punishment, those six innocent men would have walked free. To the Provos though, the Birmingham Six were expendable. They cared about their fate only marginally more than they cared about the fate of those they murdered and maimed.

The Second ‘Bloody Friday’

On Tuesday, 21st of January, 1975, the Provos set out to repeat the carnage and slaughter of ‘Bloody Friday’, that infamous day in July, 1972, when they had set off 26 bombs, killing eleven people and wounding 130 more. Now just two and a half years later, PIRA/Sinn Fein set out to do something similar. As the people of Belfast went about their daily routine, the Provo godfathers planned mass murder. Earlier that day they had sent out several young, misguided men to plant nine bombs across the city in crowded civilian areas. The intention was clear; to murder and maim as many innocent people as possible. Fortunately though, the Irish nationalist lunatic’s plans went awry. Two of the bombs were discovered and made safe by Army technical officers, the rest did explode but by some miracle no-one was injured. Details are sketchy but it seems that the RUC were vigilant and spotted some of the suspect vehicles containing the bombs, evacuating the areas in question before the bombs went off. Whatever the reason, vigilance or blind good fortune, the Provos were thwarted and many, many innocent lives were spared.

The people of Ulster had another slice of good luck that day. That morning two young republican thugs, John ‘Bap’ Kelly (26) and John Stone (23), had been dispatched towards Belfast city centre in a stolen car packed with explosives. No doubt instructed by their cowardly leaders to go out and ‘kill women and kids for Ireland’. The two would-be mass murderers set off, unaware that they were both about to pay for their actions with their lives. Just two more Irish republican gangsters who would die for nothing.

As the cowardly pair drove along Victoria Street, on the way to their intended target, the bomb they were transporting exploded prematurely, killing them both instantly. As their mortal remains were being scraped off the public highway, the leaders of the Provo’s ‘D Company, 2nd Battalion‘ met to discuss the failure of their attempt at mass murder. They undoubtedly knew that people would die that day, killed at the hands of PIRA/Sinn Fein, just not their people. Their intention was to murder people out shopping, eating in restaurants and cafes, mothers pushing prams down the street. It had not been their intention to kill two of their own members. I only regret that the doomed vehicle in which Kelly and Stone died had not been a mini-bus load of Provos. Maybe the violent death of 20 of their own men would have focussed the minds of the Provisional leadership, just as the killing of entire PIRA ‘Active Service Units‘, in Loughgall at the hands of the S.A.S and in Cappagh at the hands of the Ulster Volunteer Force, had focussed the minds of the republican leadership in Mid-Ulster in the late 80s and early 90s.

Next Week: Part Three, The Murder of Ross McWhirter the ‘Dolphin Restaurant’ shootings and the Balcombe Street Gang