In the excellent TV3 documentary Sinn Fein: Who are they? (Monday, December 2), Professor Conor Gearty suggested ‘the residual feeling on the part of people’ following the bloody campaign in Northern Ireland is simply ‘you did not have to kill all those people’.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter have apologised to the families of the two policemen. Sinn Fein’s response was to tell us the IRA had ‘a duty’ to kill the RUC men.
Gerry Adams thinks they had it coming, breaking into French to say the men had a ‘laissez-faire’ attitude towards their own security. A ‘contemptible’ attitude, as the editor of the Irish Times put it.
At the heart of southern politicians’ protests, and across all parties in the Dail, I suggest is a serious distortion of historical reality. This expresses itself in self-righteous hypocritical indignation.
Denis Bradley got this message across unambiguously in the TV3 programme:
Let’s not do this southern naivety bit that our violence was OK and we will make heroes out of our violence but these evil black people in the north, their violence is not OK…1916 was good but activity up here was bad. Not true. It is as complicated up here in our age as it was in Dublin in that age.
Such a distortion of historical reality was shown by Minister of Education, Ruairi Quinn, in the same programme.
When asked by Ursula Halligan whether there was ‘any difference between the violence of the old IRA of Michael Collins and the Provisional IRA?’, Quinn said he believes the difference is ‘complete and fundamental’. Why? Because the old IRA ‘got a mandate from the 1918 general election’. But professional historians are agreed no mandate for a campaign of violence was given in the 1918 election.
The IRA started this guerrilla war with the murder of two RIC Catholic constables in 1919 at Soloheadbeg.
The historian Thomas Bartlett tells us ‘The ambush was not in any sense authorised by the Dail in Dublin’ (Ireland A History, page 401).
After these murders, from 1919 to 1921, 513 policemen were killed by the IRA, some 70 per cent being Irish Catholics.
I recently met a relative who told me he was clear that the teaching of history in the south encourages anglophobia.
I suggested this approach had changed recently but he said his son is learning the ‘same old stuff’ such as Ireland was a colony, whereas it was part of the Union with Scotland, Wales and England with over 80 Irish MPs in Westminster. Nor are students told Ireland played a major role in building the British Empire.
I would draw this to the attention of Ruairi Quinn, Minister for Education, especially with the commemoration of 1916 looming.
He might then consider the words of Professor Gearty but in a 1916 context: ‘You didn’t have to kill all those people’ including 240 civilians and 23 children.
Chairman Reform Group, Ireland
Published on the 09 December 2013 11:29