Meath Peace Group Talks
No. 60 – “The Legacy of War – Experiences of UDR Families”
Monday, 10th April, 2006
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
(Conflict Trauma Resource Centre, Belfast)
(Former UDR members)
Roy Garland (Irish News columnist,
member of UUC, Co-chair, Guild of Uriel)
Welcome: John Clancy
Opening words: Roy Garland: ‘Drawing a Line under the Past’
Martin Snoddon: ‘Experiences of UDR families’
Questions and comments: panel:
Martin Snoddon, Rosemary McCullough
and Teena Patrick
Appendix: The Unionist Group – ‘Drawing a Line under the Past’ (March 2006)
Welcome and introduction: John Clancy: “You are all very welcome here tonight. This is the 60th public talk held by the Meath Peace Group and it also happens to be the 8th anniversary to the day of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. If you were at our last meeting, a fortnight ago (MPG talk 59, 27th March), and also seeing what happened recently in Donegal [murder of Denis Donaldson], there is so much more work to be done, there really is. Chairing our talk tonight is a man who has been working at this coalface with his good wife Marion for many years. Roy and Marion Garland are two amazing people. Together they are great enablers. An enabler is somebody who allows people to be empowered to do things and doesn’t seek recognition for what they do. Roy has been working away quietly for many years, never seeking recognition or reward, and he has earned great respect among all who have come to know him. If we hadn’t had people like Roy and Marion over the last number of years, I don’t know where we would be ….So I will now hand you over to Roy, we are very honoured that he has taken the time to be with this. ”
Opening words –
Chair: Roy Garland: “Thank you very much, John. It’s lovely to be here. Those fine words are nice as well but they are not true. But that is beside the point, it is really nice to be here, I always enjoy being down here. In fact, it was probably about sixteen or so years ago, that I set out on a journey. The journey was part of a bigger journey, but this particular part was about sixteen years ago, when I discovered that my family came originally from Co. Meath and Co. Louth but had more recently come from Co. Monaghan and in Monaghan they were a leading Orange family and in Co. Meath they were a leading Catholic family. So I discovered the Monaghan connection. I actually went down and the family is still there, believe it or not, and my family left about 200 years ago. It was a wonderful experience coming from the Shankill Road in Belfast, some people say the heart of loyalism….But I came down and found…in fact I have got part of Monaghan up in Co. Down believe it or not! You can go up and see it. It is set there. It is a building. You can go into it, look around it and it is the Hand & Pen Orange Hall from Co. Monaghan, the whole lot, all the bricks, the whole lot. It’s up in Co. Down in Cultra in the Ulster Folk Museum. ..
Guild of Uriel: “In the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, I heard about a place called Killincoole. And there is an old ruin of a castle, or a Norman tower houses, and it was reputedly built by the Garland (or Gernon) family. And I went down there and met a man called Alphie Reilly, who is now in a nursing home in Castlebellingham, and Alphie took me all around Co. Louth, Co. Meath, all around the place, and it was a really wonderful experience. And out of that we came to know the Meath Peace Group and we also started a group called the Guild of Uriel in which over the last ten years or so, we have been having meetings with people from all backgrounds, a very, very positive, really positive experience. The meetings are dynamic and there is something live about it. They tend to be all private, just people sharing their stories. And I found that I never ever have got tired of hearing those stories and participating and working together. And people come from all backgrounds: working class, loyalist backgrounds, nationalist backgrounds, republicans, unionists, you name it.
Unionists: “Anyhow that is how I got here and there is something about here, I think, for unionists. I am a unionist, I am a member of the Ulster Unionist party. There is something about the rest of Ireland that I think is part of my heritage as well. Some unionists don’t like me to say that but that is the truth, and I don’t think in a sense you are fulfilled unless that is there. It doesn’t say anything about whether your allegiance is to Britain or Ireland or whatever but it is part of what I am.
“Most of the work we have been doing has been very private and quiet within the Ulster Unionist Party as well. One of the things I did do which was not so quiet, was to come down here to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in Dublin in 1995. I got into a lot of trouble up home because it was against party policy, and I remember I actually shook hands with Pat Doherty [Sinn Fein] who welcomed me down here as a fellow Ulsterman from Co. Donegal. The photograph was brought out at my branch meeting and I was in big trouble, but I survived all that.
Drawing a Line under the Past: “Now Julitta asked me to say something … about a document that we issued recently – ‘Drawing a Line under the Past’.A number of us recently decided to put together a document based on some of the work that we have been doing. Julitta and I in particular have been working at this, I’d say for the last ten years, with these groups coming together and sharing our stories. We [in the unionist group] have taken that idea up and put it together and come up with a document on what we saw as the way forward in terms of drawing a line under the past. In actual fact, we were asked to do it by the Northern Secretary of State. What we did was we talked to republicans, loyalists, Alliance Party, SDLP, and then we talked to Dermot Ahern [Minister for Foreign Affairs] and then I thought: ‘Why is it we can talk to everybody but the ministers that are supposed to represent us?’ So we asked for a meeting and lo and behold the door opened and we had a meeting and he said ‘do a paper for us’. It was just something to say on drawing a line under the past. So we came up with this and it is basically some of the work that Julitta and I have been doing, this sort of private consultation where people tell their stories and relate to each other and respond to each other and we have suggested that this is the way forward. I needn’t go into the detail. The thing that annoyed some people was that at the start of it I said – and this is absolutely true – this group came together after meeting with a [republican ex-prisoners] group called Coiste na …
Martin Snoddon: “Coiste na n-Iarchimi.”
Roy Garland: “Coiste na n-Iarchimi, there you are. Talk to another loyalist and you’ll find out how to speak Irish! We talked to them and we also talked down here to all the other groups, but it was the fact that we put Coiste na n-Iarchimi in there, that we got into some trouble with some unionists. But apart from that it is the idea, that if you want healing, you have got to share. And in our view, a truth commission – that was looking at facts, it is not dealing with relationships. We are not saying there is not a place for looking at facts, but if you want healing, you talk to each other and you share with each other and you get to know each other. And I was nearly going to say you get to love each other and in a sense that is right, in the truest sense of love, that is respecting and honouring each other and that is where we come from. I have only got two copies. If anybody particularly wants them I have two here, you are welcome to have them. But that is the basic idea and there are one or two other ideas in there about I mean maybe getting some academics from a nationalist community and a unionist community to actually look at the main features of the conflict that come up with an attempt to understand just the main features, because I believe if you get into too much further than that, you just get into argument, because there is no agreement. So Julitta asked me to say that, so I have said that. [editor’s note: the text of Drawing a Line under the Past is included as an appendix at the end of this report]
Tonight’s talk: “Some time ago, I met Martin Snoddon. I have actually known the name for a very, very long time. Martin comes from Donegall Pass. I come from the Shankill, but the name was floating around among loyalists in the area. He was always highly regarded. I am a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, I never met Martin until one day I was invited to a conference held by the Progressive Unionist Party, and funny enough, I am just thinking now the topic was “Truth and Reconciliation’ wasn’t it? The PUP, the Progressive Unionist Party, was issuing a document on how to draw a line under the past, how to deal with the victims, how to deal with the hurts. They were basically saying there are great problems in our community. The hurts are so great, it is very, very difficult to move on that. So I was standing at the back I don’t think I’d ever met him before, I was talking to Martin and I was telling him some of the work that I was doing and Martin was telling me of some of the work that he was doing.
Conflict Trauma Resource Centre: “Now Martin is involved in the Conflict Trauma Resource Centre which is based in the centre of Belfast and the work that they do is healing work so in a sense it is the same sort of work that we are trying to do. But it is for people with particular trauma. It is not just unionists, it is not just loyalists, it is not just nationalists, it is not just republicans, it is not just security force people. It is everybody – those who are suffering trauma. And it is a place where healing is sought and which is also trying to facilitate and help those who are in need.
Ulster Defence Regiment: “There are lots of victims’ groups who need help to present their case and so on. The particular group that I was interested in was ex-members of the security forces, and particularly the Ulster Defence Regiment. Now the Ulster Defence Regiment, I think in many people’s minds, it was what replaced the B-Specials and some of the probably unfair criticism of the B-Specials was transferred to the Ulster Defence Regiment. But the Ulster Defence Regiment started off with about 25% Catholics and it was an attempt to actually produce a security force at that level, that was cross-community. Many people suffered and suffered greviously out of that, particularly Catholic members of the UDR because it started in the very early ‘70s and communities were in turmoil and people were being shot and UDR men were having to move from one place to another and take their families with them and went through some horrific experiences. There were around 200-300 UDR members killed. But one of the most startling statistics that I heard, I think it was from Martin first, was that where almost 300 UDR men were killed, only 8 people were killed by the UDR. We know there were problems with some people doing things that they shouldn’t have been doing within the UDR, but that says an awful lot. …300 of them were killed and they were sort of like in a sense our scapegoats out there defending their community and doing their bit for the community and suffering at everybody’s hands. And at the end the powers-that-be in a sense tended to wash their hands of it whereas the police, the RUC, were getting some compensation, pension rights and all that sort of thing. My understanding was the UDR got next-to-nothing or very little. The facilities weren’t provided. I have read some stuff by psychiatrists who work with people suffering post-traumatic stress ….in the British Army. You were supposed to go up and get on with it and forget it. You’re knocked down, you get up again and go on, and nothing was provided …. But I don’t want to get into it too much. I’m doing the talk for you Martin.
Martin Snoddon: “I am enjoying listening to it!”
Roy Garland: “I feel that it is very important that we are here today and we have people representing that particular aspect of community …. Actually for a time I worked on the Falls Road and one of the fellows that I work with – he was in another part of the building, he was a UDR man – and I was coming up one day and there was a commotion. He was shot dead, just like that. He was a porter in the hospital and where I lived on the Shankill a few streets away a republican came up Lanark Way so easy. I mean it is just literally around the corner. We lived cheek by jowl and it was easy for a loyalist to kill a republican or a Catholic or vice versa and terrible things happened and I think to some extent the UDR represents the victims. I am going to hand you over now to Martin. I know there are a couple of Greenfinches here also, if you know what Greenfinches are – they are not birds. But they are female members of the UDR who went out on patrol with the men on the streets and did car checks and protected buildings and that sort of thing. So I am going to hand over to Martin. Thank you very much Martin.”
1. Martin Snoddon (Director, Conflict Trauma Resource Centre, Belfast): “Thank you Roy. Can I say first of all that the two Greenfinches are going to join me at the end of this presentation, so they will be available for some questions. …
“The Legacy of War – experiences of UDR families’(CTRC Report, 2006) [illustrated talk]
Background to research: “Now, we are talking this week about it being an anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the Belfast Agreement. This research actually started five years after that agreement had been signed, after thousands of man-hours had been put in to many community groups around Belfast, around Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland and so on. Yet with all that, there was little heard of any research that had been done with former members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, with respect to their needs as a legacy of the conflict. CTRC (Conflict Trauma Resource Centre) had some dialogue with regards to that over a number of years, and Teena Patrick is a colleague of mine at the Conflict Trauma Resource Centre. She sits as a member of the Board of Trustees and we decided that we needed to rectify this. We needed to bring people in, so that their voice can be heard, because we were very conscious that they were suffering in silence. So we decided to engage in this area of work. We started off thinking in terms of ‘lets get a bit of a group together of people who had that experience during the years of violent conflict as an advisory group in order to be able to move this on’, and to do it in an empowering way, so that people were left at the end of the research with much more than a document that was detailing a lot of their traumatic experience as a result of violence. But to build a capacity, or to start the building of a capacity, which was going to allow people to operate in that concept of self-help to address their needs.
“Because the reality was everybody else was ignoring those needs: from the British Government who employed, encouraged and sanctioned the operations of the Ulster Defence Regiment – not one of the people that I engaged with in that research had a kind word to say or even in fact had anything to say with regards to support received from the government after service.
UDR statistics: “So that is a little bit about the background, just adding on to what Roy had said earlier. So service in the UDR, the Ulster Defence Regiment, that is a photograph that dates back to the early ‘70s whenever the regiment was first coming into existence [slide]. Let’s have a look at some of the statistics with regard to the existence of the regiment, with reference to the legacy of the conflict itself [slide]. It became operational in 1970, with a strength of 2,440 men. 946 of these men were actually Catholic. The strength of the regiment rose to 10,000 in 1972. Some would say that was at the height of the violence in Northern Ireland. Women became part of the service in August of 1973, and we are fortunate tonight to have two of those women with us, two former members of the Greenfinches. The reality is that approximately 58,000 men and women served in the regiment between 1970 and 1992, 58,000 men and women.
Casualties: “197 UDR soldiers were killed between 1970 and 1992. A further 61 ex-soldiers were killed after they had left the regiment. We have got to bear in mind that the majority of those killed were killed off duty, not in uniform, but perhaps going shopping with their loved ones who witnessed that destruction. 5 others who had transferred to the Royal Irish Regiment after the merger were killed. There have been thousands of visible and invisible wounds linked to service in the UDR.
Families: “Let’s not forget the family members that stand beside those servant soldiers. It is estimated that immediate family members of UDR soldiers over the years would number 250,000. Very few of them have received any form of support – 250,000 a very significant figure with regard to the statistics of Northern Ireland!
Summary of themes emerging from research:“As the research progressed, a number of themes started to emerge with regards to what people’s experiences had been [slide]. These ranged from security, employment, welfare, financial and psychological support, family impact, social interaction, memories, and of course acknowledgement and recognition for sacrifice and service.
Security concerns: “Security is the first theme. Personal protection weapons were called in at the end of service. These people were reporting that that left them more vulnerable to attack. People had to go about hiding their identity, for example, when they were visiting the Royal Victoria Hospital, there were experiences there of people being attacked in the hospital grounds. …..
Present day: “In the present day 2006, people are still operating with a heightened sense of alertness and consciousness. For them the war isn’t over. They are still hyper-vigilant with regards to everything that is going on around them. Children had been conditioned, grandchildren are currently conditioned. Things that had been practised in the home at the time of the violence, for example switching the light on before pulling the curtains or opening the door before asking who was there. Things changed in those families, where people had to force their children to stand behind the door and ask who was there, to make sure the curtains were pulled and even some people were recounting that their children helped them search underneath their car before they got in to drive it away. Children were being conditioned with regard to the legacy of the service.
“The peace process, thoughts around the peace process included the impact of former terrorists serving in government, the impact that that had on those people who served the state. The demonisation that was taking place with regards to the UDR. The threats that were still in existence, sorry that are still in existence, the threats themselves haven’t gone away, and dealing with the past.
Employment, education and training: “Thoughts around the employment theme included that no training programmes existed in the past ….. Basically they came out, they had their uniform taken off them, they had their personal protection weapon removed and they were told to get up the street. Children were being denied training opportunities due to safety issues around government training centres. People in the South Down area were fearful of their children going to Newry for employment training. They thought that it might compromise their safety or indeed endanger the lives of the children. Education and training for those who suffered PTSD or STSD – Post-traumatic Stress disorder or Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder – there had been no training for people to actually address those wounds. ‘No-go areas’ still existed, indeed they still exist today. People are fearful of going through certain areas, because of their past experience in the UDR.
Welfare support: “With regards to the financial side of welfare support, there is an absence of a safe and neutral place for advice on benefits, so people are denied state benefits, because they can’t go somewhere and be honest about their involvement in the UDR, those years that they serve. The UDR Benevolent Fund: there were issues around assessments being made by them with regards to past members. Pensions for part-time service members were a big issue: we are talking about some people who had served 25 years as a part-time soldier and were denied any form of financial assistance after that period. There was limited knowledge on what is available and how to actually access support.
Small business concerns: “Addressing the impact on small business concerns was also an issue for some people. Those people who had been entrepreneurial and started up their own businesses, some experienced boycotts because they were members of the UDR. Their businesses suffered, their families suffered, they had no support with regard to that.
Hearing loss: “There were also questions of hearing loss compensation which has also been a big thing in the south for regular army soldiers.
Absence of emotional and psychological support: “With regard to emotional and psychological support, none actually existed, no emotional, psychological, spiritual support offered at times of great stress, none whatsoever. Example: experiencing violent incidents and a loss of a comrade, there wasn’t even anger management then or now for all of those horrific experiences that were encountered while in service or indeed after service, no support of that description. There was no emotional, psychological or spiritual support offered to ex-service members and some of them were still wakening up with intrusive thoughts, bad memories, nightmares, still being experienced, for some people many years after service. The concerns were that these buried thoughts may one day erupt.
“Cultural barriers to seeking support need to be overcome. The stiff upper lip men don’t cry, macho nature means it is difficult to communicate with the spouse and they can’t talk to outsiders. They are expected to still be those soldiers that aren’t human. They are denied human emotion, human experience because they were in uniform.
Impact on the family: “Children couldn’t sleep at night until the parent was safely home, unknown to the parent. But their children – 6,7,8 years old – were lying awake, fearful until they heard the door closing in the early hours of the morning. They were conditioned to protect the parent. They were told to tell lies about where mommy or daddy was, were they worked etc. They were encouraged in that vigilance, that safety about the home. I already mentioned about the blinds and answering the door. The house became that mini-fort, that unnatural home environment. Children and family members also witnessed the violent attacks on their loved ones and they have had to bear that loss over the years without much support. Again there has been an absence of any long-term support. None, really none, has emanated from the British Government, not a penny.
Social interaction: “In relation to social interaction, there’s been no communication, information to ex-personnel from a central unit. As soon as they did take the uniform off, that was it. They haven’t had any contact or any information from anyone still within the forces or within the government or within the statutory sector or the voluntary sector in Northern Ireland. No one has reached out to see where they are. They have restricted places to socialise, it’s not everywhere you can go, even within their own community. No safe place to talk about experiences. Limited contact with other ex-service members so, as the days went past after leaving the regiment, they became increasingly isolated.
Marginalisation and demonisation: The community perception, local and wider demonisation, that is what believe. They have been marginalised and demonised, not simply in the times of violent conflict, but largely during the peace process itself.
Memories: “Concerns exist about how the UDR will be portrayed in history, the memories of their murdered comrades, memories of witnessing violent attacks or violent incidents, memories of experiencing abusive behaviour, memories of comradeship and pride at times of service. And also lost memories: stories that have never been told and are still yet to be told.
Acknowledgment and recognition: “In relation to acknowledgement and recognition, there is an absence of a societal appreciation of the sacrifice made by members of the UDR as they went about trying to keep the peace. An absence of recognition by the regiment of former members, so people are challenging the Royal Irish Regiment with regard to the service that they had in the Ulster Defence Regiment. It is not being recognised anywhere within or without the government services.
“A failure of those responsible for long-service medals to deliver these awards earned by former members. The medals are sitting in some box somewhere. People haven’t even had them delivered to them after many years of service and potentially sacrificing their lives or some of their family member’s lives during the course of that service.
Commemoration services: “Commemoration/remembrance services by the regiment need to be more sensitive to the needs of surviving family and former comrades and friends.
Inventing the future: “People have been very, very honest during the course of this research. They haven’t missed anyone and hit the wall. They have had a hard, sometimes bitter, experience resulting from the legacy of violent conflict. The research itself wasn’t simply about recording the experiences. It was about looking at those experiences and looking at ways in which they can be addressed in some way to increase the quality of people’s lives, so we explored inventing the future for former members. People thought that they needed a supported self-help solution to the legacy. A structure of a self-help group might look like that, a management committee, a service coordinator, a welfare officer, a counsellor, two support workers for outreach work and a research assistant, not a huge amount of money to cover the needs of something like a quarter of a million people.
Mental illness among ex-servicemen: “An article in the Sunday Telegraph magazine on 10 December 2005 reported that there had been 256 British troops killed during the Falklands War. 500 veterans committed suicide since the Falklands War. The 24 killed during the first Gulf War; 119 veterans committed suicide since. … The army’s head of psychiatry says that the number of mentally ill will rise in the months and years after war due partly to the unique pressures of peace-keeping. There is no record. No one has even thought about keeping a record on how many members of the UDR committed suicide or died in some way since service. Lee Skelton, the medical director for Combat Stress, says: ‘it can take on average 14 years for an ex-soldier to be diagnosed. … They sit on symptoms, resorting to negative coping strategies such as drinking, denial, isolation and drug dependency.’
“We have that in Northern Ireland. The Professor of War Psychiatry at King’s College London who works for the MOD, says: ‘research shows that the National Health Service does not provide adequate care for former soldiers.’
Conclusion: “The Legacy of War records former UDR soldiers who echoed this experience. They couldn’t get the service that they needed through the National Health Service. In February 18 2006, none of the ex-UDR participants protested while serving in the army. As former soldiers, they still carry a sense of pride though they do object to being ignored when they are seeking support or when they are not seeking support.
Self-help service: “The question arises: will you help or hinder a progressive self-help service designed to alleviate the needs of men, women and families associated with service in the UDR and bearing in mind we are talking about a quarter of a million people? The possibility of those needs being addressed is minimal at this time. Small groups together working towards addressing the needs, they need all the help that they can get. Thank you very much.”
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS [summary]
[Editor’s note: For this part of the discussion, Martin and Roy were joined at the top table by Rosemary McCullough and Teena Patrick, former members of the UDR. Note: female members of the UDR are known as ‘Greenfinches’]
Roy Garland: “We are going to open the meeting for questions to Teena and Rosemary. Both Tina and Rosemary have had experience on the ground and you might want to know what it is like on the ground and so on. But we are throwing the meeting up to questions either to Martin orto Tina or to Rosemary, so feel free.
Q.1. Canon John Clarke, Navan (member of Meath Peace Group committee): “Thank you. Generally, within most groups or organisations where something is lacking you get people providing for themselves, I don’t mean that in a cold sense but something develops and grows out of it, support groups and so on. So was it not possible within the structure amongst yourselves – you know your needs best of all – to set up your own support mechanisms.
Teena Patrick (former Greenfinch): “Well that is why we have set up this group because there was no support mechanism for us. In the early days we would have had the army camps as a safe place to meet. But the army camps have been closed so there is no safe place to meet for ex-service personnel to meet. Unless you join an association – and when you join an association there is drink involved with that and you’ve seen the statistics there, that people are either in denial or they turn to drink to solve their problem and we don’t want that.”
Martin Snoddon: “The reality was that…what I gathered during the research was that after service, when people became civilians, they kept themselves to themselves. There was nowhere other than those social clubs to go to and they were much more about that familiar side of socialising that happens in the north and the south over a few beers etc, etc. But there wasn’t the opportunity to really be honest about their experiences. So there was an absence, a complete absence of a group within this particular constituency to address their own needs. There were some other victims’ groups around that were doing very, very good work, but they were wider in relation to the conflict. They weren’t focused simply on the UDR experience.
Combat Stress: “If I could just give you an example. For instance, while doing the research a few members of the group needed psychological help and weren’t aware that Combat Stress could help them. Now whenever you leave the Ulster Defence Regiment, you are not given any information whatsoever if you need the assistance of certain departments. You’re not given that information – of where to go to seek help. Now unfortunately, Combat Stress have only three employees that cover the whole of Ireland, North and South. So they are very underfunded and they deal with all regiments, nor just the UDR. Their services, for instance if you need specialised services, you have got to seek those services in Scotland, England or Wales, they don’t have the centre here in Ireland to deliver those services.
Q.2. Nuala McGuinness (member of Guild of Uriel): “…. I have a few questions for Martin. I’m from Co. Down originally and in 1970 I was working as a psychiatric social worker …. I just want to ask were there many admissions to mental hospitals among the soldiers?
Martin Snoddon: “Well the reality was there was no record being kept, there was no interest being shown with regards to the experiences, so there was nowhere that we could go to, to source that type of information… There were some people that did have experience with regards to those institutions. There is no question about that. But they weren’t going in saying ‘I am a UDR man’ or ‘I am a UDR woman’. They were going in very much concealing that identity, which made it much more troublesome to actually appreciate the life experience that someone had to address those invisible wounds or visible at that particular point in time.
Nuala: “Following on from that, now at the present time, is there much evidence of behaviour and school problems with children of these families?”
Martin Snoddon: “It depends how you are going to classify being disturbed. There is evidence that young people are not going to go into areas. There is evidence that young people from those families have a huge seething resentment with regard to the British forces and how they have been treated. So there is a danger there, where that can actually lead young people. I spoke to young people along the border corridor whose parents were members of the security forces and they swore that if things erupted again, that they would never join the state forces. They would join the paramilitary groups, because that is where they felt that they would get support after.”
Nuala: “But I suppose in their ordinary, everyday lives they wouldn’t perform great at school?
Martin Snoddon: “There is a young man that participated in this research as a 15- year old boy, he cradled his dad, his father, in his arms when his father had been shot dead in their front hall. He never went back to school afterwards. No one from the school ever called to his house to find out why. He was left just completely out of the education loop. He has a huge burden to bear with regards to all of that experience. His mother went to the UDR very shortly afterwards and asked for some support. She was completely embarrassed by what little was offered and she never, ever went back.”
Nuala: “Were therea lot of marriage break-ups?
Martin Snoddon: “There have been a lot of family difficulties resulting from the time of the UDR experience and also in relation to the legacy of the UDR experience. There are a number of people who are currently receiving treatment in the group therapy mode up around Antrim and it is amazing that more of those marriages didn’t break up. A lot of them have survived, but there have also been families that have been casualties of the experience.”
Nuala: “Just two more points ever so quickly. Your community would identify with the British identity and I can understand this ….. But is there a crisis of identity among your folk in that the British government let you down and didn’t look after you and still as a community or as a people you don’t identify with the 26 counties. You know there is a chasm there. Has this affected people?”
Martin Snoddon: “What I would say is that people’s identity remains intact, who they are remains intact. …In relation to the Protestant people of the North and the reality that that identity remains intact is very real. They have been hugely disappointed by the British government’s actions but they still believe that they are British and they will remain British. They have been hugely disappointed by the Irish Government’s actions over the years, but some would still say they are Irish and there is not a difficulty in relation to a tension between being Irish and being British for people in the North.”
Teena Patrick: “I think it really is down to the person themselves and certainly the Catholics that I served with would see themselves as serving as a British soldier as part of the Ulster Defence Regiment. And I can only speak for myself: when I joined the UDR, I joined to serve all of my community both Protestant and Catholic…. [tape break]
Nuala: “900 Catholics joined the UDR. If I was in the UDR I would feel that was a very respectable number to get at that time. It was very positive and encouraging at the time ….”
Teena: “…. Unfortunately the first UDR man shot was a Catholic on Springfield Road, and from my own experience I can only say that the talk within the company that I served with, from the Catholics that I served with, was that there was a lot of intimidation of Catholic members of the Ulster Defence Regiment.
Roy Garland: “Martin referred to ‘seething resentment’. I assume that was in the loyalist community against the government or whatever, was it? Or was that in general?”
Martin Snoddon: “ …people on the border wouldn’t necessarily classify themselves as being loyalist. They would classify themselves as being more unionist, so I would say within that unionist community, they had normally been very much married to law and order, but if the same type of problem was to arise today, the dangers are that they would gravitate towards forces other than the state forces.”
Roy Garland: “Martin referred to a young boy of 15. I have heard the story. His father was in the house and they came to the door and of course he didn’t know immediately who it was. The kids were upstairs, it was a long hall and if the father went to the hall, he was worried about the kids coming down the stairs and being shot. So he couldn’t stay because the kids might come down the stairs. So he decided to go out though he knew he was putting himself in danger. And he was shot dead and the 15- year old son took him in his arms and he says after it, I think this says something:
‘After the murder I didn’t go out much. My first day back at school, people seemed to be talking about me, behaving differently towards me. I didn’t go back. I am not aware of anyone from the school calling or writing to see why I wasn’t there. I sat no examinations and received no qualifications’.
“Then he goes on out of that to talk about how he meets these three fellas, hats on, coats up high, this sort of thing, and they asked him to join the paramilitary group. Now his father had warned him … and he never joined, but it is quite graphic the story and I think some of it is in here [Legacy of War report] – the young fella and how it affected him when he goes back to school. He feels that he is being observed, that he is being treated differently, he doesn’t do anything. Nobody seems to care and he just has to make out for himself. John you had a question?”
Q. 3. John Clancy (Meath Peace Group): “Good evening everyone, and thank you indeed. What we have heard, it makes me reflect on the issue of the one UDR man and the five on average that are supporting him behind. Could you just take us through because I am trying to get a feel of this? …You left your family, that kind of thing. Did you patrol every night and what was done for the family? Was the family put in the barracks? I just get the feeling, and I think I got it before that … if you as a UDR officer went out on patrol you were safe, because you were with guys or girls and you were armed?”
Teena Patrick: “The women weren’t armed.”
John Clancy: “The UDR men were, but the family weren’t?
John Clancy: “Was that always an issue that you had to deal with every time you went out?”
Rosemary McCullough: “For a start off, there was no barracks to go home to. That would have been the British Army who went back to barracks. After we had completed our night’s duty we had to go back to our own homes. So for the Greenfinches especially, we didn’t have any personal protection weapons, so after you completed your duty say from 8 o’clock at night to 5 in the morning, you then went home. You had to take a different route home every night. You had to always be constantly aware of any cars that were following you, or cars that were sitting with people in it. Then when you got to your home, you had to be very, very conscious of anybody who would be hanging around. So you eventually got into your house. Then it was a case of checking that everything was alright at the back of the house. But maybe you would be sitting for an hour watching out your window, to make sure that nobody else came before you would even go to bed. So there wasn’t a safe barracks to go home to. Then you had to get up the next day and go and do your normal job, so you were driving through areas that maybe the night before you had actually patrolled. You were scared of running into maybe someone you had stopped the night before, to sort of ask for their identification. So you didn’t have the safety of having the barracks around you like the regular army did. …Or the men who had their own personal weapons to protect them. You lived and you breathed that war 24 hours a day 7 days a week.”
Martin Snoddon: “A lot of people did actually report that the safest time was when they were in uniform.”
Rosemary: “Yes when we were out on duty.”
Martin Snoddon: “They were fearful of their family members, that they felt that they were at their safest place in uniform, on duty.”
Rosemary: “I actually had set up with my family, who were quite young at the time and my mother would have came up and stayed the night with my children when I was out in duty. And I said: ‘look, always always leave the bathroom light on and if the bathroom light is turned off I know something has happened.’ So you always had pre-arranged something. Even if the children were staying in my mother’s house, I would say ‘well look make sure that you leave a light on and if there is a light on I know that everything is alright’, but if the house is in darkness, which would basically what the terrorists would want, they would want the house in darkness, then I know that if I drive up, the house is in darkness, something is wrong. I will not go near the house. I would then phone for some sort of back up.’
Q.4. Judith Hamill (Meath Peace Group): “How many days a week were you out or was it every two weeks or what?”
Rosemary: “Well I actually worked in the Company office 5 days a week and I went out on duty 3 nights a week. So you worked in the Company office from 9 to 4.30. You went home, got the children fed, got your little bit of housework done, maybe were back down again at the barracks for about 7 or 7.30. Some nights you would have got home at 2 in the morning, some nights 3am, some mornings 5, depending on what the operational duties were.”
Q.5: “Did people know before joining what they were going into?”
Teena: “I didn’t. We were only supposed to be a peacekeeping force. We were supposed to be on the edges, but we were drawn into it. …We were supposed to be guarding installations like electricity, water supplies, but unfortunately the conflict became greater and we were drawn into the centre of it. My main duties would have been at Grand Central Hotel in the city centre, cordons around the city centre in the early days. Where Rosemary was in the Company office, I would have been out on the streets searching at those locations, then coming home, going out on an evening shift. They were all classed as one duty. My first wage for one day was £3.49, not an hour, one day.
Rosemary: “….So if you actually started work at say 8 in the morning and you worked to 4 and then you came back on again at 7o’clock and you worked to 12, that was regarded as one duty. You got one day’s pay for that. The army owned you 23 hours and 59 minutes, so you are only allowed a minute of your own time. If they needed you for that time, you had to stay and you got one day’s pay which was like £3.”
Teena: “So anybody who joined in the early days, I mean they weren’t joining it for the money. They were joining it … to secure their communities.”
Q.6: “… I am almost totally ignorant of what the UDR stand for, because our understanding where I came from, although I came from both sides, well my father would have been British and my mother very nationalist, so I was very confused growing up and probably more confused now. But I would say that our understanding growing up was that you were a subversive organisation. It was my understanding anyway and I think it was the general sort of thing, so we would have very little knowledge you know, and it is very interesting to hear you and that you in actual fact suffered as well ….. It is interesting in that way.
“I’ll finish by saying: I just wonder is there a danger in you compounding the sense of grievance that the UDR might have, in that, by not sort of accepting that what has happened is not unique to the UDR but that is all a consequence of war generally and that you wouldn’t sort of make people feel more grieved than they need to be? I don’t think that is going to be helpful really. I am sure that is not your intention. I wonder is that a danger?”
Teena: “I’d just like to reply to that. It’s not my intention. What I want to do is get the story out there because I feel it has been unheard and we haven’t had recognition for the job that we have done. And there are no statistics of how many lives we have saved, how many businesses are still going, because we were out there on the streets and you know if I can be prepared to sit in a room and listen to the stories of ex-paramilitaries on both sides, I feel that I should have my voice heard.”
Roy Garland: “It is important to clarify the difference between the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Ulster Defence Association. The Ulster Defence Association is an illegal organisation and there is a wee bit of confusion between those two. The Ulster Defence Regiment was a regiment of the British Army. It was actually started that way in order to overcome some of the allegations over the B-specials who were seen as under unionist control. So the UDR was put under the British control and it was reckoned that would make it more neutral. Now there are some people would say that doesn’t make it more neutral. But the way the whole thing worked and the attacks on the UDR made it seem less neutral.
“But if you bear in mind the number of UDR men who died and the number of people who they killed. I mean nobody wants to see anybody dead. But it does say something that so many UDR men died and others didn’t. There is a man over here who would like to speak. …”
Q.7. Fr Pat Raleigh (Dalgan Park): “I’m from the community here. Just listening to you there, a couple of things. Are your lives in danger now? Can you move freely around bearing in mind what you have said? Do you feel a sense of bitterness within yourselves towards the lack of acceptance of what you were trying to do and how would the Catholics who would have joined the UDR, would they have been ostracized by their own community as well?”
Rosemary: “Well, the first part of the question: I don’t feel any way bitter. Ok, I do feel a bit grieved the way we have been treated by the British Government and the Northern Ireland Office, but I don’t feel bitter because I took a great sense of pride in the time that I served and that pride overshadows any bitterness I feel.”
Teena: “I would feel the same and I have recently spoken to a Catholic member that I served with, he would say that, yes, he was intimidated and ostracized from his community but he doesn’t have any bitterness with regard to that. Rosemary, maybe you’d like to speak a bit further on that because you were speaking recently with him?”
Rosemary: “Yes he was a member that we both served with for quite some time. It was actually him, his brother and his sister and they all joined the UDR away in the very, very early seventies when Roman Catholics were actually joining the regiment then. Within about a year of him joining, the whole family, mother, father, the lot all had to move house out of the area they lived, because they were being intimidated by some of their nationalist neighbours. They continued to serve within the UDR and were a very respected part of the UDR. As far as the Protestant members of the UDR were concerned, they were just another soldier, the same as ourselves. We didn’t try to make any difference between Catholics and Protestants. We were all out on the streets doing the same job. We were all putting our lives at risk and it didn’t matter whether they were Chinese, Black, Roman Catholic or whatever. We just seen them as a comrade and they were treated as that. I have since spoken to that gentleman. He actually moved out of the UDR and went to what was the old RUC, which is now PSNI. He is still, believe it or not, having to move house. He has just recently moved and I think that is about the 5th move, because he says as soon as some nationalists find out where he has moved to, the intimidation starts again.”
Roy Garland: “It was pretty horrific for a Catholic.”
Rosemary: “It was.”
Roy Garland: “I mean I know Catholic members and there was also some distrust among some loyalists, or unionists, or whatever you would like to call them, of some Catholics. You were in no-man’s land if you were a Catholic and you were joining because it was a new beginning. Here was the UDR, it represented the whole community and you are trying to do it in a fair way and under the control of the British Government and you were given all the menial tasks to do as well. There wasn’t great status in it. People who wanted to make something of it joined the RUC. Would that be right? The RUC Reserve. So it would seem pretty horrific and then to be left like that does seem to be very sad. ”
Q.8. Sean Collins (Drogheda): “I just wanted to ask now that you have carried out the research, what the political response has been? I have a little story and I won’t detain you. Growing up in the south, the UDR wouldn’t have been something I experienced except when I travel up north. We always saw on television how the British state would celebrate its soldiers and its past servicemen and all the things with parades and 40 years from D-Day and all those wonderful parties they had, and yet I was over in Scotland and I met a man who was a [chinlet???] They were the guys who …..were dropped seventy miles behind enemy lines and dropped in on gliders and then they had to fight their way back out and they were very brave men for doing that but I was amazed when he told me that he sent his service medals back because of the way his comrades and their widows were treated in the aftermath by the British Government. And really what you are saying tonight reflects a little of what he told me of his experience of 40 or 50 years ago or more and I am just wondering, what has been the response from your political representatives to your research? ”
Martin Snoddon: “Well first of all I’d like to say that that is very real in relation to today as well and a Remembrance Day Service people will go out and they will march past politicians of all descriptions and for that hour or two hours, they are in people’s consciousness. But that is one or two hours a year and the reality is that most of those people actually go back home with their memories and go back home with the support. This research has brought this more to the fore – those needs – and it is embarrassing for the British Government. It is embarrassing for other agencies that were actually meant to address those needs. So there is a resistance with regards to the promotion of this research. But also very much there are many, many people coming forward now and saying ‘that is what happened to me. I am that person. That has been my experience as well.’ So it has created a liberty to actually bring out those internal feelings to release that, to at least start talking about it in the hope of getting something done. “
Q.8: “Is this not an example of something that could be 32-county – for security forces north and south, another way of moving it forward?”
Martin Snoddon: “I think it is something that could be not only 32-county but something that could be global with regards to experience. I spoke to people.in Nicaragua. I spoke to Mozambiquans who had fought in the wars there, I spoke to South Africans, I spoke to Vietnam veterans who have been over lately actually engaging and creating a support structure and they have all said exactly the same. So this in the island of Ireland needs to include all ex-service personnel. I spoke to a former member of the Irish Regiment who was blown up 12 feet inside the North, 12 feet! He was denied compensation by the southern government because the incident took place in Northern Ireland. While he was in service, he had to quote the Irish Constitution to try to get some compensation for him as a former member of the Irish Army. So yes those types of relationships need to be developed on a global basis.”
Sean Collins: “Can I just say Roy, and I have to smile there, because last night there was a documentary on TV about Padraig Pearse….. It said that his mother and his two sisters went in to visit De Valera when he became Taoiseach in 1932 to seek help to continue on the work of Padraig Pearse. Halfway through the meeting somebody came out and said, ‘Taoiseach, there is a telephone call for you’ and he never came back.”
Q. 9. Michael Dowdall (member of Guild of Uriel): “My first question – if you were getting 3 or 4 pounds a day on a 23-hour day why would you stay? That is the first question. The second question is: why did they discriminate between the male and the female soldiers where the male soldiers could take the guns home with them and the females couldn’t take them? Thank you. The third thing I’d like to ask is when it comes to reflecting and when you think about it on the quiet night shift, I’d love to know what lessons did you draw from it and if it was going again would you join again?”
Teena and Rosemary: “Yes.”
Michael: “Well that’s the last question answered. Why did you stay for £3 a day?
Teena: “Well initially I was going to join the British Army because my father and all my family came from that line. Then when the Ulster Defence Regiment said they were taking women I thought “No, I’ll stay at home”. I thought I’d have it easier staying at home. So I joined the UDR. I didn’t realise the money was going to be so low…”
Michael: “Why didn’t you join the RUC then?”
Rosemary: “Actually, I was going to join the RUC but I was too small!
Teena: “Because of my family’s military background, I had a pride in what I was doing. The money was irrelevant. When Thatcher came into government, the wages went up. Why was there inequality? It was thought that if they didn’t arm the women, they would be less of a target when they were out on duty. Now the women were trained in SLRs, but only in the event of a male being ambushed and the male was shot. We could then take up the weapon, to make it safe. But only in that event.”
Rosemary: “That is why in the early years of the UDR when the women first came in, they didn’t wear trousers, they always wore skirts. And we swore the only reason for us in skirts, was so the young bucks who wanted to throw the bricks knew exactly where to hit you in the legs. That is truth, because they always aimed for between the knee and the ankle because that was the part of your leg that was showing.”
Teena: “But it was so you could distinguish between male and female.”
Michael: “And were there female members of the regiment killed?”
Michael Dowdall: “….was there not a trade union among the regiment?”
Rosemary: “No. There is no trade union in the army.
Michael Dowdall: The female members were obviously …With regard to PPWs – Personal Protection Weapons – for females, they thought well, if a female went home with a gun, she would be more likely to give it over than a man would, when in actual fact, everybody knows that women are more protective towards their offsprings. Like even in the animal kingdom they are more protective.”
Michaell: “So, Rosemary, answer me this question: when you reflect back, tell me some of the lessons you learned.
Rosemary: “I learned to appreciate good friends, really good friends. I learned to trust people because you are like depending on trusting who you are out with. I learned that it was probably one of the most enjoyable times of my life and that leads onto the 4th question. Yes, if I was 20 years younger and it was still going, I would be back in tomorrow.”
Teena: “We became good communicators, first aiders, trained in radios, orienteering.”
Rosemary: “And we passed on quite a lot to our families.”
Roy Garland: “Remember Michael, even in a paramilitary group or any army the sense of comradeship and fellowship is tremendous because, as you say, you are depending on each other. So you can understand because that is what people want: fellowship and friendship. That is what churches are supposed to be about. ”
Q.10: Fr. Iggy O’Donovan (Drogheda): “A term you used a lot in your talk was demonisation, and I can understand why An Phoblacht Republican News might have demonised. But even when you went into say the larger, say the loyalist/Protestant community, was there a sense of isolation there? I was interested, it came up many times, that word.”
Martin Snoddon: “Absolutely and it was that global demonisation. But let me ask my colleagues to talk about some of their experiences as they did to me during the research and just to highlight that.”
Teena: “On one occasion my sister and I, who were both in the UDR, were walking down the street to my mother’s home and there were two paramilitaries – one of them was a leading paramilitary who lived in the community – and they heckled and spat at our feet and called us ‘blankets’. That was the term that they used for women within the British forces. And that happened on regular occasions.”
Martin Snoddon: “There are another couple of incidents I could relate to. It was the UDR who actually saved Gerry Adam’s life that time in Belfast and that didn’t go down too well in the Loyalist community as you can imagine. Also the UDR were positioned to actually confront the loyalist community on occasions, for example during the Anglo-Irish Agreement and so on. They were put to the fore. So they weren’t loved as much as they had been in earlier years. They were put in that confrontational position and of course the loyalist paramilitaries were trying to operate outside the law. The UDR was trying to maintain the law. So there was confrontation there.”
Teena: “Martin talks about confrontation, Roy had spoken before about his living cheek and jowl, and whenever you are put on the front line in some of these areas, where you are living in the area and you are living in the front line of that area, that is where the confrontation comes and then you have got to go back into that area and live in that area.”
Q.11: Vincent McDevitt (An Tobar, Navan, and Meath Peace Group member): “Some of my questions have been answered already. I thought it extremely helpful sharing and knowing where you are coming from. I think it is very important for us to know and very important for you to have space to share that. The man on my left, I am disagreeing with that…if somebody has pain well, it is very important that that pain be shared. Whether the other has pain or not that is another question. But were there any obvious shortcomings on the part of the UDR? I know that is not the purpose of the meeting, it is secondary, but at the same time I am curious there, seeing as it is closed down. I wonder how many women died? That is another question I had, and then lastly I gather the ex-UDR, especially those people who suffered, are getting very little help I would like to know if your centre is getting good financial help at the moment?
“I understood your general question but I just wondered how your Centre, not just the ex-UDR in general…just in the Centre are you getting plenty of support?”
Rosemary: “Actually three Greenfinches have been murdered during the time they were serving within the UDR. One was a mother of a very young child who lived in a caravan and that was down near the border areas and she was shot in the caravan. The other two were as a result of bombings, when they were out on patrol. There have been numerous Greenfinches who have been injured, Teena and I included. We have both been injured within our service numerous times within the UDR. But that would be sort of unspoken injuries. You hear nothing more about those. What was the second part of your question?”
Roy Garland: “By the way the girl that was killed….she was killed near the border and her uncle I think it was, was also killed, because he was taken with a friend of mine Jimmy … and Jimmy had only one arm so they let him out and … Jimmy spoke openly in the press and so on and they killed the other man. It was on the other side of the border. They had been going to a meeting, I know the other fella lived in Monaghan, so it was a cross-border thing anyway and the two friends going along, two of the one family. It is just that when you say that it reminds me …… It was families who went through all this you know. Sorry I interrupted you.”
Martin Snoddon: “With regards to CTRC, the Conflict Trauma Resource Centre, and its support, CTRC is a cross-community organisation and it has it’s origins in nationalist/republican West Belfast and unionist/loyalist Northwest Belfast and it was very fortunate that coming together in relation to exploring a vision for a centre to address the needs of all who had been impacted upon by the violent conflict. We received some private money from an American Philanthropist, Chuck Feeney, Atlantic Philanthrophies, to allow us to commence the work that we have been doing for the past five years and we have worked with everyone in Northern Ireland and southern Ireland who we can contact with regards to the legacy of conflict from all persuasions, all different backgrounds, all the factions, and yet we are still to this day fighting to try to secure financial resources to allow the organisation to carry on with the services that are in increasing demand today than what they were five years ago. So there is little active financial support coming from the British Government directly. In fact we have more direct funding that has come from the Department of Foreign Affairs in the south for a specific project around Healing the Memories, a compassionate storytelling process, than what we have actually had from the British Government!
Roy Garland: “Just one other point, the shortcoming thing?”
Vincent: “That is not the main thing, the main thing is sharing where you are coming from. But at the same time, even with hindsight, were there any obvious shortcomings on the part of the UDR?”
Rosemary: “Most of the shortcomings were actually after we left the UDR.”
Vincent: “I don’t mean you personally.”
Roy Garland: “I think Vincent is thinking of the fact that the UDR was removed, was there a reason for that? They were replaced by the Royal Irish Regiment.”
Rosemary: “Well I think that was purely political.”
Q.11: Arthur O’Connor (Trim): “……..And at the beginning of the Troubles, the RUC action….that got very bad press, because that was flashed all over the world …..and reporters and everything and the more they took it was flooded with reporters from all over the world then….If the head of police at that time nipped that in the bud and was more open and apologised, I don’t know what but that is where the trouble began. The RUC haven’t many friends in the south I’ll admit but at the same time they were doing their normal work everyday, but then they were switched on to saving the country as it were and they were playing a different role and then without the army after that, it developed after that. But… Patten and the quota of Protestants and Catholics, I felt that is bizarre. A policeman’s role is a policeman, not a religious one surely and he must be anonymous. …A policeman’s role is a policeman and to police the ground …… That is my opinion and until we get back to proper policing and admit there is a lot of things that happened …I blame a lot of the police for Bloody Sunday, someone gave the order to take out a few of the terrorists and I’d say the blueprint came from the RUC……..”
Sean: “Could you clarify Roy that the UDR was not the police?”
Roy Garland: “The UDR are part of the British Army, a locally recruited regiment which …well there was overseas service as well. This was a home service….”
Q.12: “The crux of what you seem to be saying is the need for services to listen to the experiences and to try and overcome the hyperalertness, the post-traumatic stress that is going on there and you listed what is a very small facility to care for that. It strikes me that that would have to be replicated a 100, 200 times to be able to service the amount of people that it needs to deal with. Is there any sense of those facilities being put in place at all?”
Martin Snoddon: “The reality in relation to the needs are that they are almost overwhelming because of the extent of the numbers of people that were involved. However for all those people that were involved in the UDR, other family members, they don’t all need the full breadth of the services that we are suggesting need to be in place. So for some people it might just be the opportunity to come along and tell their story, there is a need with regards to more clinical type of support and supervision with regards to their past experience and for others it is just maybe the possibility of being able to retrained to be integrated back into society in a normal civilian type job but to have a safe environment to allow that retraining to take place has been an issue. The reality for me is that previously there hasn’t been any service that has been there to address it. This suggestion from this research would be the beginning of something rather than the end to be addressing all the needs.”
Teena: “And if I can just add for some it is just a phone call, to say ‘hello, how are you? I am just checking in on you’.
Rosemary: “If I could also add there would be a lot of ex-members – both male and female -who maybe joined in the ‘70s when they were 20. They are now coming up to 50, 60. They are coming to a point in their life when their old bones are starting to hurt and they are going to need help with things like wheelchairs and aids about the house which a lot of them cannot go to their own GP because their own GP is not aware of the fact that they were ever in the UDR.”
Roy Garland: “I think we have actually about five more questions, well we have got another one. Can we keep them fairly short because we are running out of time?”
Q.13: “All I wanted to say really was to congratulate you Teena. I’m delighted you got out your research at last and I know you two, I would never have known that was your background from being with you or anything else, what you have gone through and congratulations. I’m delighted for you.”
Teena: “Thank you.”
Q.14. Linda Clare (Batterstown): “Just to congratulate Martin and the girls, and Martin in particular for his excellent presentation and again to second what that lady said, for revealing to us what was unknown to us. And one question I would like to ask and if I have missed the point please tell me. As you are a branch of the army, essentially, how is the main body of the army treated when they return from the war zones …. regarding medical treatment and back-up facilities and services? …
Rosemary: “Just to go back to the beginning, I’ll just say a little bit and then I’ll pass on. At the very beginning of the Troubles, when the UDR were first formed, if we were injured we were taken to any hospital. If a regular soldier from the British Army was injured they were taken to Musgrave Military Hospital….We were never offered that protection. We were then referred to, maybe to go back to that hospital as an outpatient where everybody knew that you were a member because it was all on your records.”
Linda: “When the normal soldier from the ordinary British Army retires, does he or she get back-up help?”
Martin Snoddon: “There is an organisation that has grown recently in Great Britain called the Northen Ireland Veteran’s Association and they have a website and they are advertising a coming together with regards to a service similar to what we are talking about…[tape ends] .. …A number of those people who had suffered as a result of the conflict here, ended up in prison in Great Britain as a result of their PTSD and the absence of any treatment or facilities for that. Combat Stress does exist in Great Britain but it is a very, very minute resource with regards to the number of people that requires that service. Regular army, British regular army soldiers have also been to the Balkans, they have been to Iraq now. They have had the Falklands conflict and yet still with all that the British Government hasn’t created an institution which is what would be required to address all of those needs. Neither has the Irish Government. Neither did the American Government until the Vietnam veterans took it on themselves to create it for themselves.”
Q.15. Gareth Porter (H.U.R.T. group, Lurgan): “I really enjoyed the talk and it is obviously a traumatised body of people you’re working with and you know I am working with the same constituency. The question I’d like to ask though is, in the light of the weekend events in Donegal, what do you think the impact will be on the people you are working with …the murder of Denis Donaldson, and I don’t believe it was the leprechauns and fairies. I’m pretty specific on where I think it came from. What will be the impact on your constituency that you are working with?”
Martin Snoddon: “The first thing that would come to mind would say it reinforces their original thoughts of fear and threats. That armed wing still exists out there somewhere, so each time something like that happens it makes people shudder, because it is bringing home the reality of that threat still being in existence. They haven’t gone away and those times are very evident.”
Q.16: “Just one thing. Again, thank you very much for the presentation, it was quite thought-provoking, but I think it is also important to be said for southern people down here. I know from personal experience my own of travelling through Northern Ireland, you come around the corner, you see a checkpoint. You pray it was the British Army and not the UDR. The reality was the British Army would treat you with respect, it wasn’t the case unfortunately with the UDR. Southern car, southern people, you know so we have got that barrier to break down as well.”
Martin Snoddon: “Absolutely.”
Rosemary: “Can I just add something to that? You said that southern registration, so you were treated with disrespect. Coming from Belfast, we always treated people with respect up in Belfast. Like I mean, you had the Falls Road, you had the Shankill Road, you had Crumlin Road, you had Antrim Road, so you had Catholic, Protestant, Catholic, Protestant and the registration of the car didn’t indicate who the people were. Know what I mean? You didn’t know what area they come from. You stopped and you treated them with respect and it is just unfortunate that yes, I had heard that a couple of times, mostly in the border areas that people weren’t treated with the respect they should have been treated with. But then again, can I also add that a lot of people from the north saw the south as a breeding ground for the IRA and they assumed that everybody who came over that border had been over sort of training and it took a long time for people to realise that that is very far from the truth. A lot of people in the south didn’t know the half of what was going on in the north. But all I can do is apologise for anybody who has been treated with any sort of disrespect by the UDR because it certainly wouldn’t have happened in our battalion.”
Roy Garland: “It is certainly true what Rosemary says. I mean in the early days, the IRA was believed to be trained in the south, now some were trained in the south, but you know today we know that most of the IRA in Belfast come from Belfast. …. In those days, the border was seen as a border between two civilisations….. I have friends who are Orangemen on the other side of the border, but they tend to see it in very stereotypical terms, so some people did go along.
Questioner: “… for people who were following a football team, playing in Newcastle, you would be stopped a few miles before that, going to Derry and travelling through Donegal and this was happening regular, the mid ‘80s, early ‘90s.”
Rosemary: “I can sympathise with people. The same happened to me, coming over the border from Dublin airport.”
Martin Snoddon: “I’ve just got a wee thing with regards to that too. There was a man that I interviewed from Castlederg along the Tyrone border and he had two brothers that had been shot dead. They were members of the UDR. He was a long-term service member of the UDR and he had lots of friends and colleagues. He was talking one after the other, it was just an ongoing story of death and at one point I said “I must ask this man a question … your brothers were shot dead, you are telling me that people cheered as you took the coffin through the streets at Strabane. You were armed to the teeth. Why didn’t you go out with that gun and shoot these people that you knew, you were telling me that you knew who killed them?” And he said to me: ‘but we believed in law and order’. So maybe being a bit abusive to somebody in a car and a bit of harassment was a light thing in comparison to what could have happened as a result of what they had been experiencing on duty the day before or the week before, I don’t know.”
Julitta Clancy (Meath Peace Group): “Just a short question, and thank you again for coming up and sharing with us. One of the things that has come up a lot with victims’ groups particularly in the security forces, is this threat, and the feeling they are still under threat, so I have two questions. One is how can the government and politicians help to educate people about that and help to remove that threat? Secondly do you feel that your needs would be better addressed by a devolved government? The last talk we had, it seemed that prospect was totally out of the question by the end of the night, but is there a more realistic chance of your needs being properly debated and addressed and the needs of many victims’ groups – what Roy was talking about earlier on – under a devolved government or under what is likely to be continual direct rule, with more involvement by the Irish Government?”
Martin Snoddon: “I’ll try to attempt an answer at some of that. I’m thinking that what often helps people is when things are visible, when things are transparent. The difficulty in relation to the governments is that they seem to be operating through a vale of secrecy and who they are talking to and what their agendas are. So if there was a much more transparent process, it would be useful for people with regards to fears, those fears around nationality and so on. By and large a lot of those fears emanate from within the republican movement and thus it is only the republican movement that can actually help take away those fears. And some people within that particular community are working hard to do that, and some people are actually working hard to instil more fears, so there is a lot of work that needs to be done by various people to help evaporate the fears that exist.”
Rosemary: “I feel that the government needs to listen, truly listen in order for us to address our needs. With regard to the research and the launch of the research, they got an invitation to the research and didn’t respond. I actually handed an invitation to an NIO secretary when I was going up to meet a minister and they couldn’t attend and at the last minute, they put someone into their place, just to appease us. If that is a response from the government, what use are they to us? And until they actually do truly want to listen to our needs, I don’t think they are willing at the moment to listen to us. With regard to a devolved government, I don’t think at the minute that it is the right time.”
Roy Garland: “We have just one more, and this man was talking to me in Sandy Row on Saturday morning for I think about an hour. He is a former RUC man, he is also a Catholic. He also spoke at the West Belfast Community Festival and… the West Belfast Community Festival is organised by republicans. They do a good job. Jeffrey Donaldson spoke there, but this man who is here stands up in the middle of the upper Falls Road and starts off by saying ‘as a former RUC man…’ and then goes on and says what he has to say. I thought that was really something and nobody blinked an eyelid. And I can’t remember what he said, it was so dramatic that he said that. Go ahead Gerry.
Gerry Carolan (Belfast), who had attended several of the Meath Peace Group public talks, said that he didn’t have a question but wished instead to express his appreciation of all the work the group had made in building peace and understanding. He presented a painting to the group which was gratefully accepted by Julitta Clancy. The evening’s discussion then concluded.
Meath Peace Group Report. 2006.
Taped by Judith Hamill (audio); Jim Kealy (video). Transcribed by Judith Hamill and Julitta Clancy. Edited by Julitta Clancy
©Meath Peace Group
Appendix: ‘DRAWING A LINE UNDER THE PAST’
The Unionist Group, 16 March 2006
The Unionist Group represents an informal coming together of members of the Ulster Unionist Party since 2003. Initially a few of us met with members of Coiste na n-Iarchimí, a republican ex-prisoners group at Clonard Monastery. We also met with loyalists on the Shankill Road, with members of the SDLP and Alliance as well as with the Official Republican Group, the IRSP and with Ministers of both Governments. Many of us have worked in other contexts with people from diverse traditions and parties north and south.
While we have never formally defined our aims and objectives we are committed to healing and growth in this society and to better understanding within and between all parts of these islands. We want to see societies at peace with themselves and with their neighbours and would like to see the many constructive activities that took place across the Northern Ireland border before 1969, resumed and increased.
When considering mechanisms to help draw a line under the past, we gave prior consideration to the idea of a truth commission. The core of such an endeavour, as in the South African model, is laudable and has clearly brought benefits to that country. However in order to attain success and healing in Northern Ireland – surely the goal of seeking to draw a line under the past – the model needs to be adapted to our particular circumstances. What must be avoided at all costs in this divided society is the presentation of opportunities that could be exploited to rake over the coals of past grievances.
Many people who lost close relatives and friends wish to talk about their experiences. They want to be frank, open and confident with people around them but this is only possible when the setting and context are carefully and sensitively established. Truth is subjective, as we all know, and there is a serious risk that enquiries seeking forensic or objective truth would prove partial, inconclusive and unlikely to seriously address the hurts in society.
A semi-judicial commission, if not established in the right way, could even stimulate rivalry and discord based on conflicting perceptions. It might cause wounds to fester and extend hurt into future generations. We understand why the Presbyterian Church, the largest Protestant church in Northern Ireland, was unable to endorse such a Truth Commission at this point in time. There are well founded fears that this could, like the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, gather a mass of information at tremendous cost but shed limited light on the matter under investigation and bring little healing capacity. The Agencies of the State would be expected to tell the whole truth but neither the British or Irish Governments nor the IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries or others are likely to do this. Yet if the perception was to be created that ‘truth’ was being fabricated or distorted for whatever purpose, more harm than good might result.
But this is not to say there should be no quest for truth or for greater knowledge and insight. Facilities and support should be provided to encourage people’s ongoing search for truth and schools could play a greater role in facilitating understanding. But any search for a singular agreed historical narrative will, we believe, prove illusory. Present understandings are limited, influenced by very significant cultural differences and sometimes in flux and people tend to interpret limited facts in terms of their own predispositions. Any attempt to come up with final answers could leave some people feeling their story had been misrepresented or neglected. It is in any case impossible to draw a single line under the past for all time whereas healing can take place when people relate to each other and reflect together on their narratives in private, in small inclusive groups and before respectful, responsive and challenging audiences drawn from both major traditions and their subcultures.
The aim is to acknowledge, empathise and increase mutual understanding among participants, but not necessarily to agree with people’s narratives. While the presence of counsellors is desirable, most participants should be drawn from ordinary walks of life. Such an exercise, to be successful, must reflect a bottom up approach and take place in free and safe spaces.
Less dramatic accounts of ordinary people would be a vital ingredient. The sensitivity required if the exercise is to bear fruit means meetings should be conducted in private and without cameras. As confidence grows some may wish to face the cameras and this has its own value, but media encounters are on the whole likely to prove counter-productive and intrusive. Their presence changes the dynamics of the interaction in perhaps subtle but significant ways, however, audio recording, provided storytellers are in agreement might be a helpful means of retaining stories for future generations.
The exercise needs to be in the hands of communities all over Northern Ireland and led by local people, although the Secretary of State could quietly facilitate. At some stage a common act led by the Sovereign and President might also be appropriate. We gave some consideration to Days of Reflection, Memorials and Oral History Projects. Such exercises should coincide with extensive and widespread opportunities for personal narrative telling. It was also suggested that a shared space be created in every town and village. There a small copse of trees could be planted by local communities in order to reinforce a sense of hope and to bring communities together. Such projects could be co-ordinated to finish on a set date when samples of recorded personal histories would be symbolically buried in a time capsule underneath the trees symbolising new life and hope springing from the earth.
As a separate exercise it might be helpful if a representative group of academic researchers drawn from both major traditions could develop, as far as is possible, a common understanding of the main features of our historical conflict drawing upon the experiences of ordinary people on the ground.
Finally we would draw attention to Sir Kenneth Bloomfield’s report, “We Will Remember Them” issued in April 1998 and accessible at:
Note: The following Ulster Unionists are drawn from various constituency associations across Northern Ireland and are a sample of those who contributed to the above document or assented to it. The help and support of Presbyterian Minister Rev Brian Kennaway, who is not a member of the UUP, is also acknowledged.
James McKerrow Trevor Ringland Deirdre Vincent Bill White
Billy Tate David Thompson James Smyth Winnie McColl
Steven Pointon Marion Garland Peter Bowles Tony Staney
Jack Storey David Christopher Brian Dunn Joice McKinley
Ian Vincent Steven McColl Roy Garland Philip McNeill
Stuart McKinley George Fleming Rebecca Black Gavin Howell
Unionist Group: Drawing a Line under the Past, March 2006
Reproduced here by kind permission as an appendix to MPG report no. 60
Meath Peace Group Talks
No. 58 – “Who Can We Trust?”
Monday 14th November 2005
St Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
Dr Hazlett Lynch
(Members of West Tyrone Voice Victims’ Group)
Chaired by Roy Garland (Irish News columnist, and Co-chair, Guild of Uriel)
Welcome and introductions: John Clancy
Opening words: Roy Garland
Questions and comments
Closing words: Roy Garland and Julitta Clancy
Appendix: West Tyrone Voice – information
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
John Clancy (Meath Peace Group): “Good evening and thank you all for coming. Just to introduce our guest chair tonight: Roy Garland has never spared himself in working for understanding between the diverse political cultures in Northern Ireland, but also our own diverse political culture down here, working to foster understanding and to reach across over the last number of years. I was saying to Roy tonight, that all he needs to do is to tell the car to go south and it will know exactly where to go! The amount of times Marion and Roy have come south – for meetings, discussions, seminars – is just incredible. Roy is one of those people whose efforts have largely been unrecognised to date, particularly in this State. But the great thing about Roy, that lack of recognition actually does not in any way make him downhearted, because he is a man with a mission and a vision and he has been a pleasure and an inspiration over the years to know, a very special person in terms of helping to shape new directions on this island….
1916 commemorations: “A couple of weekends ago, we were with Roy and the Guild of Uriel and others in Enniskillen and Rossnowlagh [Co. Donegal] and in the course of our discussions we got to talking about 1916 (in the light of the Government’s decision to re-introduce the Easter military parade in Dublin)…. It was an amazing year in terms of the island of Ireland – apart from the Easter Rising, over 10,000 Irishmen lost their lives in the Great War in that year alone. …. And the question arose – will we be celebrating or commemorating? This is something we need to think about… The Meath Peace Group hopes to host a discussion in the Spring of 2006 on this theme – if any of you have ideas or suggestions on this, please get in touch with one of the committee.
“Now, I will hand over to Roy to chair this evening’s discussion….”
Chair: Roy Garland
“Thank you very much, John…. I feel in a sense very humbled to be chairing this meeting tonight, because I know there is a wealth of experience here and a wealth – maybe wealth is the wrong word – of hurt and pain, and some of the people I am sitting with have been through some horrific experiences which even we in Belfast don’t know much about, coming from West Tyrone and facing daily threats, worrying about your own security, your family. Sometimes the worst thing is what’s happening to your family when you are out there looking after your community …. But the family is left at home and the wife is there and they have to fend in a way that the men out there don’t have to.
“I know some of the people out there have gone through some horrific experiences. I actually met Hazlett [Lynch] and Leslie – the brother of one of tonight’s speakers – about 12, 15 years ago down the country, and Leslie was very good about problems with your knee and that sort of thing. We got to know each other and eventually Hazlett came down and it has been a really terrific experience getting to know some of these men and hearing some of their stories and they are all going to say a bit about their experiences. …
“Hazlett is going to introduce the topic of victimhood – he is the leader of the West Tyrone Voice which he will tell you about himself. ”
1. Dr. Hazlett Lynch (West Tyrone Voice)
“…. I would like to thank Julitta and the Meath Peace Group for their very kind and warm invitation to address the meeting tonight and also for the opportunity to bring some of my very close friends with me to this particular meeting.
West Tyrone Voice: “We are all members of the West Tyrone Voice Victims’ group. The West Tyrone Victims’ group is the largest victims’ group, not only in Northern Ireland, not only in the British Isles, but probably in Western Europe. We have a beneficiary base of somewhere like 2,300 as direct and indirect beneficiaries of the services that we offer and our work is located not far from the border with the Irish Republic. There have been about 231 people murdered from our group area, which covers something like 1500 square miles. So it is a fairly big area, probably most of the west of the Bann – the River Bann divides Northern Ireland diagonally. We have about 600 members in the group. We are currently down to four members of staff. We had seven at one time, but, like other organisations that are dependent totally on funding, when the powers-that-be decide that funding is no longer to be allocated then sadly people have to go and it doesn’t seem to matter too much whether the work we are trying to do is of benefit, contributing to a better Northern Ireland for people or anything like that. They just decide there is no funding, hard cheese, on your bike, that’s basically it.
Personal background: “My own brother was murdered back in 1977 by the Provisional IRA, 22 years of age. He was 9 months in the police, he was a police officer, the youngest of my brothers. I have one other younger brother and a younger sister.
Good Friday/Belfast Agreement has ‘elevated the guilty’: “West Tyrone Voice was founded in 1999, just after the Belfast Agreement – or the Good Friday Agreement, whatever name you give to it. Maybe the Good Friday Agreement is a good name for it, because if you remember back to the very first Good Friday it was the guilty who was released, and it was the innocent who died. …. That is exactly what the Agreement has done in Northern Ireland. It has elevated the guilty and it has sought to demonise, to ostracize, to marginalise and to alienate the people who suffered horrendously at the hands of the people who were promoted and who now prance around the world stage masquerading as peacemakers, and that doesn’t bring any joy to any of our hearts up here at the table.
Trust a ‘vitally important’ issue: “The whole area of trust is something that is problematic. Trust is a problematic issue in any case and certainly within the context of Northern Ireland. And we could think of Israel, we could think of South Africa, we could think of the Balkans where trust is a vitally important issue and yet not something that can be resolved. During the past 80+ years of Northern Ireland’s very colourful history, while there have been wrongs on both sides of the community, for any one section of that community to resort to a vociferous, bloody, diabolical campaign of terrorism, to right what was essentially a political wrong, beggars belief. Yet that is what we have been putting up with for the last 36 years.
IRA campaign ‘not over’: “It is not over yet and I think people would be very, very foolish if they believed that the IRA’s campaign was over. It isn’t over … Adams said on a chat show – was it this week or towards the end of last week? – that “the war is over.” The problem I have with that is I don’t believe the guy …. …and I think of a group of dog owners who are having a dinner, conference, in a hotel in Belfast when …. PIRA torched the place. Yet, what does he tell the world? He was never in the IRA. Do you believe that? We certainly don’t believe that!” [Editor’s note: Hazlett Lynch referred us to Richard English’s book Armed Struggle (Pan: London, 2004), pp.105 and 110]
“Yet he is the president [of Sinn Féin], mirroring the President of this country. It is not without significance that they use the same terminology to describe the leader of that terrorist organisation.
“They still claim that Sinn Féin is the legitimate government of Ireland and the IRA is the legitimate army of Ireland. They have never rescinded that, at least not to my knowledge, and that army has been governed, controlled, given its orders, by the army council which includes the same Mr. Adams. Michael McDowell [Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform] told us the last time we were down here that the information they had was that those guys are still in the IRA’s army council [Editor’s note: for text of Minister’s speech see report of Meath Peace Group public talk No. 57, 20 June 2005, available on the website].
“McGuinness … he is a ‘peacemaker’ as well, by the way, if you missed that bit. He is a ‘man of peace.’ He was the Minister of Education in Northern Ireland who didn’t know what the word “decommissioning” meant, which I thought was quite interesting. These guys have denied that they were involved in the IRA and yet they think that we are stupid enough to believe their lies. We don’t believe their lies. So when they say ‘the war is over’ or when they say they have decommissioned all of their armaments, all their weapons, I certainly don’t believe them. These other men with me can speak for themselves. I don’t believe them. Their campaign has taken a turn, it has changed. It has moved from barefacedly murdering people to poisoning them with drugs. But they are still killing people. They are still destroying lives. They are still exiling people. They are still holding their own communities under their control. That is still happening. The poor decent Catholic/nationalist people of Northern Ireland are still under the clutches of these guys, these terrorists who masquerade as politicians. I think that is probably the best way of putting it.”
Personal experiences: “In our group at the moment, forty people are still under death threats by the paramilitaries. These two men here live within one mile of the border, this other man lives within five miles of the border. I was brought up within, as the crow flies, five miles of the border. My primary education was close to where I lived. My secondary and technical education for five years was right on the border, Strabane/Castlederg. My further technical education was in Londonderry, right on the border, and then I escaped to Leeds for a few years and that was a relief in those days. But even there I always had to tune in to what was happening back home, because my father and mother were at home, my two brothers and sister were at home, my grandparents were at home. So you couldn’t get away from it, even when you were over in England.
Building trust and confidence: “Within our particular sector – the victims’ sector – we have been given funding by the UK Government and by the European Union with the express purpose of trying to build trust and confidence within our people. Given the fact that where we live and work, people from our community are less than 32% of the population, we are a minority group, a minority population within a majority Catholic/nationalist community.
Catholic/nationalist community and votes for Sinn Féin
“The really sad thing about the Catholic/nationalist community amongst whom we live and work is – and I know this will be challenged, I think there is somebody here who will challenge this point – that the vast majority of people from the Catholic and nationalist community have voted for Sinn Féin which, in my book, is a vote for violence, terrorism, oppressive campaigning and other forms of violence. They vote for Sinn Féin knowing right well what they are, they vote for them knowing right well what they have done over the last 80 years, 85 years. They know the horrendous pain and suffering that that terrorist party has inflicted upon my community in West Tyrone and, knowing all that, they still say ‘these are good guys, these are the people who have got the best chance of getting us a united Ireland, because we will shoot the Prods and we will bomb the Prods, and we will intimidate the Prods. We will break them so that they will have to give in to a United Ireland’.”
“And the Catholic/nationalist community in West Tyrone is saying ‘these are good guys, they are going the way we want to go’. So they put their X on the ballot paper for these murderous thugs.
Confidence-building difficulties: “In our work, we are supposed to build confidence in people. How can you build confidence in people when 40 of their fellow members of our organisation, at least 40 are still under death threat from Gerry’s boys? You tell me how I am supposed to do that. You tell me how I am supposed to get our people in a very real sense to be able to come out of their house, get into their car without checking under their car, without checking under the wheel arches, without checking under the floor of the car?
“If you can tell me how I can increase confidence in our people in that area, in that situation, then I want to know because it has beaten me for the last 6 or 7 years that I have been working at this. I don’t know how to do it and I suppose as the leader of the group in some ways, I have taken considerable risks with our people to try to build bridges, to try to promote peace, to try to promote reconciliation North and South and cross-community. I have been doing that since just after we started. And a good number of our people will now come with me to things like this and meet with people like you and we are delighted to have links with the Meath Peace Group and with the Guild of Uriel, Roy’s group – delighted to have relationships with the folks here.
Funding difficulties: “And even though we have worked hard and tried hard, at times it has cost us in the work we have been trying to do. Because our work and the thrust of our work does not fit into the neat little pigeon holes that government and the European Programme has arbitrarily decided upon ……I received a letter in the office today, saying we have been turned down for funding from the Community Relations Council. So I ask myself: is there any point in me or my group even being involved in this type of work? Because unless you fit the criteria of ‘faceless men in grey suits’ who have decided upon this somewhere, we are not going to be able to get the where-withall to do that work. Over the last number of years, we felt we couldn’t trust the system, certainly within the funding end of things, because up to then we had been fairly successful in securing funding for the work that we are doing, even though most of it would have had a training emphasis. I am now starting to think: is my trust in the funding organisations misplaced?
“What is the point of putting myself through all the turmoil of application after application and interview after interview if at the end of the day, the only work that will be funded by the funding bodies is the work that dovetails exactly into their predetermined agenda? That is a challenge we have to face, but certainly it has challenged our trust in the whole funding system.”
Disparities in funding: “Maybe I shouldn’t have been so trusting of the funding system. I’ll tell you why I say that. Our office is in Newtownstewart – about 10 miles south of Strabane, 10 miles north of Omagh, just bang in the middle of those two principal towns. We reckon there are somewhere around 18-20 republican ex-prisoners in and around the Strabane area. They have secured almost half a million pounds to run their programmes with those 18-20 prisoners or ex-prisoners, and let’s use a multiplier of 4 for the sake of fairness – they are working with about 80 people to secure half a million pound plus about another £250,000 that came after that for 80 people. We are working with 2, 300 people and we get nowhere near that. And I ask you the question, ‘why is that being done?”
“I think the Government knows that we are no threat. I suppose it is only fair that I should disclose at this point that we came here tonight with arms with us – there they are: we have got 8 arms with us [points to his arm]. So we are no threat to the Government. We are no threat to their plans and their schemes and their regimes. But do you see the fellows in Strabane – well I wish the only arms they had were like these, because they are still armed to the teeth. The main terrorist organisation operating in Strabane is not the IRA who told us that they have decommissioned all their weapons. It is the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). They are not on ceasefire. They have never been involved in any kind of ‘peace process’ so called. They have never been involved in any kind of negotiations to try and bring about some kind of settlement within Northern Ireland, nothing like that. But they are a threat to the government and if you want to be able to pursue your policies, what you have to do is to keep the greatest threat on side with you, so you give them half a million and we get a fraction of that.”
Terminology – ‘survivors’/’victims’: “Even talking like this I suppose I am in the danger of depressing not only my own friends here but you folks as well. We are a victims’ group. The four of us are victims, we are working with victims. One of the very clever things – and it is clever, I take my hat off to the people who have thought this up – is: ‘Victim’ – ‘you don’t want to use that word because the word ‘victim’ is very disempowering. It takes the fight out of people. You are far better to call yourself a ‘survivor’ because then you could fight them and you will take on things and you will do things. You will achieve things, you will conquer, you’ll overcome.’ I don’t agree with that.
“When we were formed we didn’t have a lot of confidence but we had enough confidence and common sense to see that there is a need out there and a group of us banded together in order to form this organisation. We had very little support, nobody knew about us. Nobody knew what we were doing, what we wanted to do, so in a very real sense we were disempowered people. But I have come to this conclusion that the groups in Northern Ireland who prefer to call themselves ‘survivors’ groups are really to be pitied and I feel sorry for them because they are the groups – despite their name ‘survivors’, despite the description that they use to tell people who they are ‘well we’re survivors, we don’t like the term victim’ – they are the very people who are not prepared to stand up and tell the powers-that-be what it’s like. They just accept all the rubbish that the Government throws at them. They are groups that are really funding-driven. So they have been disempowered. They are to be pitied and they call themselves ‘survivors.’
“We call ourselves ‘victims’ and one thing that will never be able to be said about our group is that we are disempowered, because we have taken our people to the highest levels.
“We have met with Government and Cabinet ministers. We have told them what our experience has been. We have told them our needs. We have asked for their help, not gone ‘cap in hand’. We have presented them with the situation. ‘This situation in Northern Ireland has ultimately your fingerprints on it. You are responsible for looking after the people who have suffered and whose loved ones have paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, for decency, for law and order, for democracy in our country.’
“We have gone to them and we have told them that, we have gone to London and we have told them that. We have spoken to ministers from Dublin, we have told them that. We have taken our people to Brussels and we have told them the same things.
Are we disempowered? We call ourselves ‘victims’. We are ‘victims’ but there is more ‘true grit’ within the views of the people I work with than the people who call themselves the politically correct term ‘survivors.’
“There haven’t been too many people who have come and have said to us: ‘Look, what can we do for you?’ Oh yes, you get the Government ministers saying: ‘What are your needs? We want to know what your needs are. Tell us what you want us to do for you.’ Our experience has been, the Government has already made up its mind what it is going to do and – ‘stuff you, but we will put on this nice show’.
Cosmetic exercise: “There has got to be this cosmetic exercise gone through. Tony [Blair] is into these focus groups. He has invented focus groups and we are consultation-weary in our organisation! Consultation files are hardly opened. That is not a good policy because sometimes you get a chance to say things that have to be said to people who maybe want to hear and because you filed them in file 13, they don’t get the chance to hear it. He has asked through his ministers time and time again, “what are your needs?” We have told them what our needs are and they haven’t paid one blind bit of notice to what we have said to them. Then we ask ourselves the question: ‘how do we trust a lying prime minister? How do you do that?’
Hypocrisy: “Some of the most notorious scoundrels in Western Europe were ministers in our Executive. You should be glad that poor aul’ Bertie has more sense than that. He says: ‘Oh we don’t want these boys near us. There is no way I am having those boys in my government. I would rather be in opposition than have those gangsters in government here in the Republic.’ Fair play to the man, but he needs to ‘wake up and smell the coffee,’ because he is speaking with a ‘forked tongue.’ He is hypocritical to an unbelievable degree, because it is good enough for us. Anything will do the people up in the ‘black north’. I am sure you have heard that phrase. We’re the people from the ‘black north’. We’re not fully human beings, no we’re just people from the ‘black north’, Prods from the ‘black north’. We don’t count for anything. Anything will do them and that’s the message Bertie is putting out to us. And we wonder sometimes, how do we come to trust the Prime Minister of our nearest international neighbour?”
Northern Ireland a ‘foreign’ country: “And I am glad to be speaking at this conference, I suppose as an ‘international speaker,’ because I am in a different country. I take off my hat to your Government, that the guy from your Government who looks after Northern Ireland is known as the ‘Foreign Minister’. So at least the Government knows that Northern Ireland is a ‘foreign’ country and sends the Foreign Minister to deal with us. Long may that continue!
Building trust in context of ‘nazi’ remarks: “Just one or two other things, then I am going to ask my friends here to say a word or two. How are we to trust the second largest ethnic cultural religious group in Northern Ireland? When I say this I am not anti-Catholic, because we have a growing number of people from the Catholic community who are active members of our group and they are gems. They are really, really fine people. They have been to England with us, they have gone to other places with us. We have done things together. Good people. But I am left wondering: if a senior nationalist figure thinks of me as a ‘nazi’ – I’m speaking about your President – and if a senior churchman, Mr. Alec Reid, thinks of me, my people. as ‘nazi’, and if the main – you’ll shoot me Roy when I say this – if the main nationalist newspaper in Northern Ireland, for which Roy writes an article every Monday, describes me and my people as ‘nazis’ – that is offensive. I was speaking to a Jewish friend of mine just last Thursday in Belfast and she was appalled at that language from Reid. If these representatives of Catholic nationalism view the Protestant people as nazis, how are we ever to come to the point where we can trust them?
“If that is said once, you could say ‘right, it is a Freudian slip or something like that. Give it a fancy name’. If it happens twice, you could say ‘well it is coincidence’. When it happens three times, then you start to wonder if that is how my Catholic neighbours and friends view me, that makes it difficult for me to trust and if you good people – probably most of you are from the Catholic community – if you can give me help, and I am asking for your help, if you can give me help to be able to trust your community, I want it. I want it, because it almost seems that, contrary to what Mary McAleese alleged against our people, it almost seems that people from her community have been taught that the Prods are nazis and they have drunk that in with their mother’s milk. It seems that way. If that isn’t the case, I’d be delighted to hear that. Please assure me that it isn’t, but that is how the people from my community actually see it. … Thank you.”
Roy Garland: “Well, thank you, Hazlett. I am sure you have a lot of questions to ask, if you hold them all till the end and now I will ask Raymond to speak…”
2. Raymond Finlay (Chair of West Tyrone Voice)
“I am not used to speaking. Although I am retired now, in my job I controlled a pile of men, but that was different. In that respect, I would be talking electrical work and there was no problem there. But this is more heart talk and I do find it very hard to talk at times.
Revenge the easy option: “…. I have lost five relatives: a brother, a nephew and three cousins and many, many a friend. How did I cope with that? I am a Christian and that possibly, I do assure you, stopped me taking the easy option. The easy option would be to look for revenge. That was offered to many a victim. People don’t realise that at times. That would have been the easy option, just to go out and kill some of their Roman Catholic friends. It did happen in places, and I am sorry for that, it shouldn’t have happened. As Christians we should have waited for the Lord to take his revenge and each one of us will have to answer to the Lord on our last day.
West Tyrone Voice: “I am very, very happy to be a member of West Tyrone Voice. We formed the organisation, as Hazlett has told you, in 1998/9. We had been talking about this for some time. We all had the same idea. The first thing we thought of: there were many old people there, that weren’t being looked after. Outreach workers seemed to be the natural thing to look for as well as all the other expertise that we could give them and pay for.
Funding: “Grants, as Hazlett was telling you there, were very awkward to come by. That is one thing. We started off the first year and a half I think with about 175 members. At that stage, we had 2 field/outreach/friendship workers, call them what you will, but somebody to go and knock at the doors. We’d go and knock at the doors of homes even now and we wouldn’t be allowed in the first time till people would check us out and then maybe we would be invited back. That is the way we were working. But instead of going forward and having five or six friendship workers at this stage, we are down to one. A lot of people don’t realise it, the restraints we are working under. And the problem there, even the one person we have we can’t afford him full time, so we do get private donations from members and different people and that has helped to employ him as much as possible. Scary, but all these things over the last year is the peace. The peace seems to be only in one group’s thinking. The mentality of Sinn Fein and it certainly has been backed by the SDLP. The SDLP lost out I think because of that. They were just the ‘yes men’ to Sinn Fein over the last few years and now they have lost nationalist people.
Roman Catholics in the forces: “Hazlett mentioned the voting. Our Roman Catholic friends – I worked with Roman Catholics, a good portion of Roman Catholics all the time. The area I come from would be something like 95% nationalist area, some great friends. Whenever I became a member of the UDR [Ulster Defence Regiment], we talked it over at work and we decided this is a good thing to go for, we will all get into it and this will be peace. But then the Roman Catholic person, he was intimidated out of the forces so he couldn’t do anything, because he’d be leaving his family open to attack.
Victims/survivors: “To call us survivors, it’s very hard, I was talking to a person there earlier and it is very hard to know what to call it. We are just victims, innocent victims I would like to think, not a perpetrator that has caused his own death, whether by suicide or taking other lives and lost his life because the security forces happen to come on site. I’ll leave it for now….”
Chair (Roy Garland): “If we could move over to Gamble, if you could say a few words Gamble.
3. Gamble Moore
“I’ll speak at a lower level than my two friends here and at a personal level.
Who can I trust? “Who can I trust? I worked as a maintenance fitter in factories. I also was a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Now as you go through life, you see about dates, what date does this conjure up or what date did that conjure up, such as President Kennedy being assassinated and what have you? But to me a date stands out in my mind is the 22 November 1973. Why? Because on that day I was sentenced to die. Who did it? Who brought the charges against me? Who was the jury? Who was the judge and who appointed the executioner? The IRA.”
“Coming from my work, there was an assassination attempt made on me. I was shot 3 times. My wife was in the car and 3 other workmates….. I was shot in the neck, the chest and the shoulder. Now who set me up? My workmates. I had socialised with them, went out for a drink with them and what have you. They set me up, and who tried to shoot me? One of my workmates. He never was caught, he cleared to Canada after it. Therefore who can I trust?”
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you very much Gamble. I suppose that’s one of the hardest things to take – when your own friends set you up and that sort of thing. I am going to pass you over now to Billy who has had a long and difficult experience.
4. Billy Harpur
“Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen. I take a more radical view as we are democratic in the West Tyrone Voice. We say what we like. Nobody writes what we have to say when we meet in these groups.
Personal experience: “I have 30 years experience in the security forces
I have lost two brothers and I lost my son who was twelve years in the RIR [Royal Irish Regiment]. I myself was a victim of attempted murder four times. I was shot in the thigh and they attempted to blow me up by semtex. I was travelling in a car with a driver and when I looked around he had no head and I wondered what hit me on this part of the jaw and it was his teeth and there were just a couple of strings coming out of his neck and I will never forget him sitting at the steering wheel and looking at his wedding ring and he never moved. It was outside a public house and they came out of the public house and threw beer on top of him and spat on him. There was a third person in the car and he was out on the road and he had lost part of his leg and an eye and his face was just like the back of a fireplace, so he was crawling out onto the middle of the road and I got him up into the side of the road….
“We’ll get into this a bit more. I have lost my religion over these Troubles
I think I have lost my religion, we’ll put it that way. I no longer go to church. My son goes to church, the other son I have. I have ten grandchildren. I have a daughter who was 15 before she’d lift a telephone, because of what she heard on the other end of it.
I got Christmas cards with black coffins on them and I am one of the people that is still on the death list.
Who can we trust? “And who can we trust? I have no fear. I have no fear of anybody now. I have come through that much. I listened to Hazlett speaking tonight and I thought he spoke very well. Something I always think, I mean there is no difference in anybody’s grief. There is no difference in Protestant grief, Roman Catholic grief, it is all the same. But with my experience of the police, the superior officers don’t want to know me anymore because of this so-called decommissioning and peace. Now I am an embarrassment to them because I am one of those people who fought their battles when they needed it. When that fellow had lost his head in the explosion, they were putting me back into an ambulance and there came an inspector and he says “I have no men on, I need that man to do another eight hours.” So I was taken back out of the ambulance and made do another eight hours of duty and I didn’t know where I was in doing duty or not, I am not worried about telling you. I am still on 325 mg of an anti-depressant plus other medication. At 49 I had two heart attacks and I had heart bypass done at 50. Two months later I got cancer and I survived that.
“So I am a survivor. I am looking for a better place for my 10 grandchildren and I don’t want a place where terrorists are running it. Where we live, a mile from the border, there is Real IRA, which planted ….a bomb three days before we came here. There is Continuity IRA and there is INLA [Irish National Liberation Army]. But let me explain something about those three organisations. Those 3 organisations are the people who were discontented and … they are all SF/Provisional IRA, they just go under another name, they are disillusioned. …”
Double standards: “... Bertie Ahern made the statement today that Sinn Féin would never be in government in the Republic of Ireland. So is it all right for them to be in government in Northern Ireland? Is that ok? Does it really matter? We don’t trust Tony Blair by no means. We don’t trust.Patten, we don’t trust any of the police at the minute, who were my bosses for years.
We will survive: “And we have survived and we will be survivors. We will survive. I definitely will survive anyway, because I am not lying down to anybody or I am not letting anybody put me out of my home. And I was asked by the police, as these men know here, to leave my home ten times, to move ten times, and one of the superintendents come to my wife, as the last time I wouldn’t move. He says: ‘I am only here to tell you this time, so that you don’t come back when your husband is shot and tell me that you weren’t warned, I never warned you”.
Protestant grief no different from Roman Catholic grief: “So you know I am a happy go lucky man and have survived a lot of attempted murders…. .We can trust no one, but at the same time with my radical views I would like to have friendship, which we have with everybody. Three out of every five Roman Catholics in our area voted for Sinn Féin in the last election, so I mean they have the support in our area. …. But lost ones, loved ones are just the same on both sides. [quote from a booklet] This was said in a wee book that a clergyman wrote there at the weekend. “When Fr. Reid passed his comment about the unionist community, there were words which were quite offensive to many different people and communities.” Generalisation – tar everyone in the same community in the same way. …There has been a lot of pain and grief and many people lost on both sides of the religious divide. Protestant grief is no different from Roman Catholic grief. Everybody wants to move on. But we are not prepared to move on, on Tony Blair’s or Gerry Adams or anybody else’s [agenda]. We want a fair society for what we’ve come through for 30 odd years and I thank you very much for your time.”
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you very much and thanks to all of you. In listening to some of the pretty horrific stories, something comes from the Quakers. I often attend a Quaker meeting and I remember one Quaker saying: ‘sometimes in response to the world and the downside of the world the only proper response is silence’ and sometimes I feel like that when you hear these terrible stories and we haven’t heard half of it. Man’s inhumanity to man, in a sense it does silence you, because what can you say? We have done such terrible things to each other. There is nothing more to say in a sense and … it’s taken a lot of courage on the part of the men who are sitting here with me. I feel very privileged to be with them. It takes a lot of courage to come out and actually express these things and it’s not easy. I am very grateful to them for what they have shared with us and I know there is a lot more. Now I want to open the meeting to questions and I think we are all friends here and I am sure the people, in a sense do feel very much with them……..
Death threats: “Maybe I should start the questions. The thing about the INLA and the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA and the IRA – are you still suffering threats to this day?
Roy: “And are those coming from the INLA?
Billy: “No I say they are coming from Provisional IRA, rebels who have left Provisional IRA and go under a different name. I mean it’s just known, it’s fact.”
Roy: “How do you live with this to this day?”
Billy: “I live with it with my attitude to life. My attitude to life has always been I’ve been under threat for so long now I always think I’ve got to guard, but you still have to come out your front door.
“And just if I could put a thing in here which I forgot. Two years after the Good Friday Agreement, they tried to murder my wife and I in the front garden. They took over a house across the street. This is two years after, this is why I am on about this IRA. Two years after the Good Friday Agreement, but how do I live with it? Maybe I’ll tell you more about it. I always think that, alright I’m living, but you always think about your wife and children. They are in a worse situation than you and you’re trying to protect them and when you’ve lost so much. Friends that I have lost I just don’t know Roy. I get strength out of somewhere to go on. Although I’ve had my…I mean I got strength. The strength that I got. I was down to the lowest I was down, till Hazlett Lynch met me and brought me around through the West Tyrone Voice. I was down to the ground with drugs. I was taking seventeen drugs a day and that is the first man that brought me back. West Tyrone Voice brought me back….”
Q.1. Fintan Mullaly (Dublin): “…. I’m not a member of this group. I’m from Pax Christi in Dublin, but basically I feel an awful lot of pain on that side of the table there and I get the same feeling from Mr. Gallagher whom I go up and meet in Omagh.
Roots of the Troubles: “We’re all sort of in the same situation. I am the descendant of two Northerners, one from Derry and one from Fermanagh…. They in their time had to come south because there were no jobs if you wanted to get over a certain level. There was a certain barrier for a Catholic … in your force, the head constable or somewhere, he couldn’t get above that. You couldn’t get to inspector. Now you had the same situation, right up to the time that John Hume started conscientious, ideal peace by peaceful means and they walked and they marched and they met in opposition. At that stage there was no real big numbers in the IRA, to the best of our knowledge, dare I say. ….But the thing was that that was like as if it was an insurrection coming for no apparent reason, but it had been like cinders, all you needed was to get a blow at it. Once fifteen people were murdered …… including a distant relation of mine. They had done nothing, they had no weapons, no nothing and yet the forces of the Crown whose names have never been given as to who they are, they’ve never stood culpable for what they did, because they had made the problem that you now have.
Gerrymandering: “But all those years back, I had one of my cousins who came home, the first civil servant to get a job in the Guild Hall in Derry.
“Up until then no Catholic was allowed see the books. It was dangerous to let Catholics inside. The same with the RUC. If at a certain level you had violence, they were in an area that they wouldn’t get their hands on it. But I think your whole basic problem started with the gerrymandering thing, which most people here know about, that the man who owned a house got a vote. If you were a tenant of the council in a house, you didn’t have a vote, but the man down the street who employed you had maybe 2 or 3 votes.
“So therefore in Derry County Council where you had 70% Catholic out of the entire council there was only one or two councillors Catholic and the rest were all Protestant, which was a complete gerrymandering system.”
Voting for Sinn Féin: “Continue right up to this day. You’re saying that people vote for Sinn Féin. Why would they vote for the weaker of the two as they saw it in order to get someone elected? They had to vote for Sinn Féin, because you don’t have a transferable vote.
Billy Harpur: “You’re talking about them voting for Sinn Féin, well it was John Hume of the SDLP party who got the biggest vote in Derry at that time. Thirty years ago, when I joined the police my two inspectors were Roman Catholics, thirty years ago and you got up about the gerrymandering. I do believe that years and years, the hierarchy from England, maybe the old unionist party did discriminate, but not just against Catholics. It was also against Protestants, ordinary working Protestants and Catholics. They were no different and the biggest vote ever got in Londonderry was by John Hume who was an SDLP man. Well once John Hume left a space, you can see where the votes are going now. They are going back to Sinn Féin.
Bloody Sunday : “I assume you referred to Bloody Sunday, the shootings, well that has never been proved yet. The outcome of that is come yet. There were two policemen shot two days before Bloody Sunday and Martin McGuinness does admit that he was commander-in-chief in the Bogside two days before Bloody Sunday. Therefore he should have been charged with the murder of those two men, if they were shot two days before Bloody Sunday, if he admits he was commander-in-chief at that time, so it is the truth that the IRA was in the Bogside on Bloody Sunday.
Fintan: “I never said they weren’t in the Bogside, I said they were targeted”
Billy: “There were arms in the Bogside.”
Roy Garland: “Can you clarify just one point on the voting thing? I think it is important to clarify. It was voting in local government, it wasn’t Stormont or Westminster and it was whoever was in the household and it was the same in unionist areas and nationalist areas?”
Billy: “There was no difference.”
Roy: “That’s right. There was no difference. In working class areas, there were fewer votes and the same system applied in England but it was abolished in 1944. But I mean it was strong and in the Catholic community most….”
Hazlett: Re gerrymandering: “…. Gerrymandering is fundamentally wrong, it cannot be justified. It cannot be rationalised. But I think we have got to place the whole gerrymandering regime in the context of the times. When Northern Ireland came into being in the early 1920s, you had a situation where approximately one third of the population didn’t want to be in Northern Ireland. You had a third of the population that was intent upon the destruction of Northern Ireland as a political entity. John Hume used this mantra for years and years and years: ‘50 years of unionist misrule in Northern Ireland’ or, as he would probably say, “in the north”. John was a teacher but he didn’t seem to realise that Donegal was the North but it is not in Northern Ireland….
Nationalist ‘non-cooperation’: John Hume’s mantra was ‘50years of unionist misrule’. What he didn’t also say was that from his own community there were 50 years of non-cooperation with the State, deliberate, planned, orchestrated, and that the Roman Catholic Church was leading that orchestration of non-cooperation with the State in Northern Ireland, and even to this day, there will be a fair section of people, probably all those who voted for Sinn Féin, who still will refuse to give any kind of meaningful cooperation to the working of Northern Ireland. The only exception to that is when they draw their giros on the government and their hundreds, multiple hundreds of pounds per week, to keep them living at a standard that I couldn’t afford. That is the only time they cooperate with the State. Outside of that there is still this entrenched attitude of non-cooperation with the State, no matter how they try to call it or to name it otherwise.”
Fintan: “… [Edward] Carson said: this is ‘a Protestant State for a Protestant people’.”
Hazlett: “Do you know the context of that? It was in response to a statement made in Dublin. They wanted a ‘a Catholic parliament for a Catholic people’.”
Fintan: “So it’s tit for tat all the time?”
Hazlett: “It was responsive.”
Fintan: “… You mentioned the point about people calling you certain names. I have heard the Reverend Ian using a certain term against the leader of our church and I wouldn’t like to repeat it. But the thing is, as long as there is that tit for tat, the hostility will always be under the surface. I used to enjoy going down to the Guildhall for the 12th July and sitting up looking at all the bands and all the rest of it, the same as your people possibly from down south here for our Easter parade, but I don’t agree with our Bertie doing what he is doing – resurrecting something for this Easter. But thanks for coming down. In case you think I am against you, I am very sympathetic.”
Hazlett: “Thank you”.
Roy: “An important point in relation to that is: if there was discrimination, does discrimination justify murder? And it is important because it was a democratic society, it wasn’t a fascist society and there were means of protesting. The civil rights movement did protest, in fact most of the demands were conceded through the civil rights movement and the agitation.
Fintan: “One point, you mentioned about Bertie [Ahern] making a decision about never taking Sinn Féin into Government. You are right in so far as they are the words. He would not dare say that he would consider it, because tomorrow morning Mary Harney would be out, right? That’s the first point.
“The thing is he also knows that if he was to say within his own party, that he was going to coalesce with Sinn Féin, his own party would lose half their votes, because they have what they call the ‘floating vote’. He only has 21% of standard votes, he has another 12 or 13% of floaters. …”
Q.2. Rev John Clarke (Navan): “I’d just like to thank the panel, thank each of you for sharing with us this evening and naturally, my heart goes out to you. .. It is very much with you indeed and to all victims of the Troubles. It strikes me as a very natural outcome of the Troubles, naturally where there is hurt, where there is a great need for healing and reconciliation afterwards.
“But do you feel that there is a lack of this sort of initiative taking place? Are there other victims’ groups, or survivors’ groups – I know you don’t like that term but you know what I mean – are there other victims groups doing what you do? How are they being funded?”
Hazlett: “…. Decisions will be made over the next number of months about the new round of funding and I know that a sister group in our sector was turned down about 3 or 4 weeks ago, by the same funder for doing similar work that we are doing. But what is happening within our broad sector is that in the wake of the allegations that have been made by senior nationalists in both church and state and in the press, that we are really nazis, there has been, I suppose, an attitude or a responsive recoiling from anybody who would be perceived to hold that view.
“And I would see some of the victims sector, the part at least that we are in, that contact across the community is going to be eased up considerably if not totally stopped. I can see that, because people from my community are fed up being insulted by clergymen, by politicians and by the press, all coming from the same part of the community. And the view seems to be if that is really what they think about us, is there any mileage to be gained in having any kind of contact with them?”
Rev. John Clarke: “I’ve got the point perfectly clearly on that. The whole thrust of your presentation was actually on that particular point. At the end of any conflict, let’s believe there is an end ….. But with relative peace and as part of the process of bringing that forward, there needs to be a healing and reconciliation and a need for whatever fancy terms you like, could you tell me is there sufficient initiative in that department? It is part of the process, this healing and reconciliation, surely to God there are other bodies, be it on the other side of the divide from you or otherwise, who require reconciliation and healing and soothing of the wounds. Surely it is part of any government, north, south, east or west as part of the process? Is anything happening in that department? Are you a lone voice, this West Tyrone Voice? ……. Are we coming at it too soon? I mean are there too many wounds to be revealed at this point in time?”
Hazlett: “I think the Government has really put us into a hothouse situation and they are trying to force reconciliation, trying to manufacture reconciliation within the community and between the communities.
Churches and reconciliation: “But I think probably the most disappointing thing that we have found – and please don’t take this personally John – the most disappointing thing that we have found in our work is that – if we accept a definition of the church as being the ‘community of reconciliation’ – there hasn’t been one clergyman or minister who came into our office to find out ‘who are you, what do you do, what can I do to help?’
“There hasn’t been one. The people [ministers] who have been in our office have been invited by us, but nobody came in from any of the churches, not one single one has ever come and said ‘Look, can we help you, can we support you? Can we do anything for your members who are also our members?’ Not one single person. That is disappointing and the church is supposed to be… one of the definitions within the literature, would describe the church as ‘the community of reconciliation.’ It has failed. One of your colleagues …. a Church of Ireland minister was the reconciliation officer for …..Down and Connor, or Down and something….. And I remember asking him at a conference that we were at, back in April I think it was: ‘do you know of any church that not only preaches about forgiveness but practises it?’
Reconciliation an ‘elitist enterprise’: “And he drew back and he thought and I said… ‘the fact that you have to think about this has given me the answer. I mean this is the church, the Christian church. And then he did say ‘there is only one church that I know that practises what it preaches and that is the Mennonite church in America.’ That was the only example that he could give! Now we are supposed to be looking up to the church and to the church leaders on the local level as well as on the macro level. We haven’t been given anything that would make us want to contact the churches to see can they even work in partnership with us, because the whole reconciliation thing certainly in Northern Ireland is very much an elitist enterprise. It is ministers and clergy from different churches, going off on their wee retreats and having their tea and their coffee and their buns and having nice wee chats coming back again. It is an elitist enterprise. The people in the grass roots are never asked or encouraged to get involved in that kind of thing, but maybe, more to the point, they are not interested in getting involved in that kind of thing, because the people that they would be going to drink their tea and coffee with and eat their buns and their biscuits are probably the very people who have been working with someone, who have been eyeing them up and saying ‘I wonder what I could get you’ and these would be the people who are now involved in the ‘reconciliation industry’ that has been created in Northern Ireland.”
John Clarke: “…: I would not take things personally…. Even remarks like ‘nazis’ washes off me. It has no bearing on me whatsoever. So I don’t get hung up on it. But in fairness you make a statement on the church and we are ….all members of the church I think even in terms of hierarchy, whether it is clergy who go off and have cups of tea and coffee with one another or whoever.
“I mean the church is a great mass and body of people and from a fairness point of view, their responsibility is to preach reconciliation, love and peace and I think …to that aspect of the church they are doing that, I mean we have had our church leaders dominating this in some way, but what is happening is that the great mass of people is not following. And then some groups we meet like your group and clergy cannot be expected to keep knocking on your door …It’s up to them to co-ordinate groups to go in and help you out….
Gamble: “…. a girl came to me at work one day and her mother just had her tenth baby and she said to me: ‘you Protestants, you get everything. You have everything made. You get all the benefits …”. I said ‘hold on a minute.” She lived quite near. I said ‘you live in the same type of house as I am living in and your father works in the same place as I work, the same housing, the same wages. There are five of us and there are ten of you so who is going to spend more money – to spend on a family of five or ten?’. But she couldn’t see that. She maintained that we had everything made. We were getting the same wages as her. We were living in the same housing as her. Everything else was the same. … I said ‘the only thing you can do is to have a word with your father about that, it has nothing to with me’.
Q.3. Arthur O’Connor (Trim): “I have sympathy for the gentlemen here, they call themselves victims – they were victims, they are now victims in Northern Ireland. But with respect there are victims on both sides. But there is no good in raking over the past, what’s done is done. It’s water under the bridge now, it’s history …I don’t like to pre-empt, call it what you will. But in the current situation now there seems to be, there are not as many shots going off. We’ll see what comes out of it. It’s been 35 years …. I think it’s time to bury the hatchet. That’s all I’d like to say.”
Raymond: “How can we trust the system? The system from the Good Friday Agreement hasn’t been fair. I think that is a big problem. It is not being worked fair.
“They’re trying to buy off the government in the Republic and in Britain. They’re trying to buy off the bully boys. It will never work. They have to show that they are sorry for what has happened. Then, we will move forward. But the intimidation of Protestant people against the Roman Catholic people in the North through discrimination of jobs took place in the South here as well. My people are all from the South. So we are going back on it again. So we keep hearing this thing. I will say that if the majority of Roman Catholic people or Hindu or whatever, and there was a minority of people any other place over the world, the majority always rule, whether it was fairly or not. We would think not, but that is the way things are. We didn’t take to arms. That would have been the easy thing. A lot of people don’t realise that. I find it very hard for us to keep our young people and for my father to keep our family. …….I come from a family of 12. None of us got a State handout in our life. My father came north and he was a farm labourer and reared us and put some of us through university…. We worked hard night and day. I went to night school for 5 years to get where I was. I wasn’t asking somebody else to do it for me. That’s what we’re up against. But there again I did cycle to Strabane with two Roman Catholics and three Protestants. Three Protestants and two Roman Catholics. That’s where we come from so talk about trust. We have to have it for each other. It is not one side.
“We are being dictated to, living in the North here, the unionist side, that we have to agree. The Irish government and the British government, they’re trying to push us into a situation. They won’t wait to see things happen in a fair way and they are not being fair.”
Arthur: “What do you think of the current police? Are they an improvement on the RUC or are they doing any good?”
Roy: “Can you hold on a minute? There are three other people wanting in. Julitta?”
Q. 4. Julitta Clancy: “First of all thank you for coming down and sharing. I know that when we were up with you a month ago, we spent a lot of time talking and listening and learning more and it was very, very important for us. Again we came away not knowing what to do. What’s the answer?
“First question – somebody mentioned the word ‘embarrassment’ – is it the case that former members of the security forces and the defence forces in Northern Ireland are more an embarrassment to government, to the unionist people as well? Do you think you are being left behind not just as victims, but in that it is kind of assumed that so much wrong was on your side and that is the perception among the Catholic community.
“Second question: do you think you could ever have a meeting like this or even in private, with a mainly Catholic, Roman Catholic group in your area? Do you see that day coming? Or that it can happen, that your stories can be heard by them and that they would be willing to listen or is that a long, long way off?”
Billy: “I’ll take the one about the security forces, the one that affects me. The security forces don’t want to know me. I am an embarrassment, as you say, to them, because they want to hide me out of the road. I am just a sore now. They want to let on that we never happened, that there wasn’t people who suffered all of this and hide it so that they can go ahead with their peace initiative … the police authority, the hierarchy in the police and the government are destroying this and trying to keep people from getting pensions for injury and duty pensions.
“They are sent to England to be assessed. They are not looking after the members at all. As long as you don’t get annoyed, you’re quite all right. Keep out of the road, say nothing…. This new police force now: I never was on the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland]. I was an RUC man …. what has happened to the police force at the minute; it is just like a car. If you take the engine out of the car, it doesn’t go. When Patten came in, all the senior policemen and all the policemen’s experience, all grabbed their money and left. And now they have an inexperienced police force in there and they can’t cope. And all you have to look at is the criminality with drugs. Now the Special Branch comes in for a lot of stick, a lot a lot of stick through the years, but they would have been aware…..without any bother. People who knew who was around the corner and didn’t do it. So the police force at the present time has a lot of growing up to do in our country and drugs will be rife, criminality will be rife and the most important thing that I think.….was the disbandment of the RIR, the throwing of about 9,000 men …. on the street. …. Some will get into criminality and drug running. … I think there should have been a better way of handling this.”
Roy: “Hazlett, just briefly, because we have a few people waiting with questions, could we have a meeting like this in West Tyrone?”
Hazlett: “I had hoped over the last number of months that that could have been organised. But with statements coming from senior nationalists, I can’t see it. ….and I don’t think the membership would want to go down that road. That is sad, that is very disappointing, but again that wasn’t the situation of our meeting. We were hoping to go in a slightly different direction to that, but because of the turn of events and then with the letter today, that we will not be funded for reconciliation work by the Community Relations Council, that even throws it into greater jeopardy and without resources I can’t see how that will be possible at least over the next few years.
Roy: “Thank you. We are running short of time, Marion next”.
Q. 5. Marion Garland (Belfast): “I just wanted to say I too felt totally shocked by those statements from Fr Reid and I just couldn’t believe I was hearing right. I understand that. I just feel it would be an awful shame to let that put you off meeting with people of kindred spirits and people from the nationalist community. I would also say I have the concept that problems are to do with the church and I have to say that ministers and all the rest have a difficult job and they are human like the rest of us and so some do the job better than others. But I would like to mention the story of the Good Samaritan. I have been surprised many times in my life who the Good Samaritan has been to me and I think that is just great to feel that God can surprise us and I think too to just to try and keep our minds open. You might be surprised you know.
Victims Commissioner: “But the other thing, what I am really getting at is you know the way there has been a new Victims Commissioner appointed. I am just wondering would you find that of any help? What sort of help would she be?”
Telling the stories:” Also, just before I sit down, I just feel you must tell your stories, I think that’s part of your healing. You’re never going to be rid of these demons, let’s face it, but it has got to help others and it has got to be helpful to meet other groups and please, please do that. Thank you. …”
Hazlett: “The name of the new Victims Commissioner who was appointed I think at the end of September is Mrs Bertha MacDougal. We don’t know who she is. Now within the victims sector, I phoned all the groups. Nobody knows her…. A Victims commissioner I think is a good idea because we have needed somebody who would champion our cause and bring our concerns at the highest level of government in the hope that somebody up there will listen. I think the disappointing thing about it – and there has been a bit of controversy over this – has been the fact that that appointment has been done as – to quote from Mark Durkan – ‘a secret deal or a side deal, or a sub deal.’ There was no openness about it, there was no transparency about it, there was no consultation about it. It was the Northern Ireland Office, as it has been doing for the last six or seven years, telling the victims ‘we know best, we’re government and we will tell you who you are going to have and what they are going to do’.
“Now that’s the negative side of it. But we are prepared. I’m on public record through the BBC. We welcome the appointment of the commissioner. We are prepared to give her a fair wind. We want to see what she knows about the sectors. We don’t know anything except that she is a police widow. I think that is one thing that was said. She’s involved with a couple of groups we’ve never heard of, never saw them in any government literature….. But even with that we are still prepared to give her a fair wind. She is coming to meet with us in December. She asked to come to meet with us. The letter of invitation that I have for her, was written and signed by me, the envelope was addressed and stamped asking for the lady. It was sitting on the desk. Then her secretary rang and asked could she come to see us, so we thought now that’s good, that’s good. That was very, very interesting. We will have to see.
Definition of victim: “One of the down things of it was, in her first BBC interview she was asked what she understood a victim to be and she said that there are documents published by the government available to us and that is what she will be working to. Now that has been massively disappointing, because the definition of Bloomfield’s ‘victim’ is a catch-all definition. That means everything, that means nothing and the OFMDFM , that is the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister, their attempt at a definition is also a catch-all… And within our sector, that is the pro-British victim sector, we will not and do not accept that IRA men are victims the same way as we are. We will never accept that.”
Roy: “Time has gone very quickly, and what I am going to do is take four more questions one at a time. ….”
Q.6. Fr Pat McManus (Columban missionary). Re healing: “I belong to this establishment, the Columban Fathers. I have been a priest for 40 years and one of the most saddest things in my ministry was listening to the individual person in the privacy of a room talking about their wounds and their hurt and I in response trying to say something to make them feel better. And according to their testimony over the years, I have succeeded in doing that if only by listening sympathetically. I would feel terribly sorry for the people wounded in Northern Ireland as you have been if you look to Tony Blair or Bertie Ahern or any organisation to heal your wounds, because there is a healing that you need and you will only get it from God and from Christ and from prayer and God does not hand over to Tony Blair or Bertie Ahern or any organisation what he himself can do. So I would ask you to consider that we are all individuals and when it comes to pain and wounds, we need the healing that comes through prayer and Christ. Look there for that healing and don’t look for the healing that only God can give, from Bertie Ahern or Tony Blair. … My grandfather came from Northern Ireland and I have a deep interest there. I feel sad and frustrated when I hear everyone from every side exposing their wounds and looking for justification … because I can see there is no solution to that. Christ’s solution was forgiveness. We don’t get it by sorting out this is for you and that is for you. We have to rise above it by forgiveness and we need God for that. Now as regards the things which Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair can do, we must demand those and get them but don’t dispense with what Jesus Christ has told us we need from Him.”
Roy: “Thank you.”
Pat: “Can I say one further thing? I deeply regret the use of the word ‘nazi’ by Mary McAleese and Fr. Reid. If they were only aware of the numbers of people from Northern Ireland who gave their lives fighting nazism, and the sacrifice their families back home made, they would be more sensitive. But do remember the number of people from down South who fought nazism. … It was an unfortunate use of the word. Reverend Clarke is right, you can make too much of it. Fr Reid never said unionists were nazis. He said if you do such a thing, you are putting yourself in the same category but he didn’t believe that himself and he didn’t actually say that or believe that you are nazis. Mary McAleese has hurt you but she has also hurt other people. She gave a talk on child abuse by Roman Catholic priests – which was her right – but she went on in her talk to coin a new phrase and she said these priests are ‘social terrorists’. Coining that, it hurt us all. When we think of the pain and sacrifice, well I have endured in becoming a priest and in my ministry, I found that very hurtful and inexcusable from a person in her position and her education. … ”
Q. 7. “I’ll put it to you very clearly what I want to say. I sympathise with you, with the terrible atrocities that have affected your families. I honestly do. What I want to say is this: that partition – and going back to 1916, 1916 to me was a failure in many, many respects. It was a complete disaster for the whole island of Ireland and I can honestly say that. Looking over my history over the last years and years I have taken an interest. Now, the partitioning of this island and it was done really and truly we would say along sectarian grounds. Splitting Ulster … you’ll have the Catholics there and the Protestants there. To me that was horrendous, partitioning this island. Growing up in Ireland from 1955 onwards ….. the fact is Protestants left this State and went North. And partition disenfranchised thousands and thousands of Catholics the other side. We really had two states operating in a horrible fashion. To me that is the greatest tragedy for my generation.
“I feel the unionists in Northern Ireland are every bit as much Irish citizens as I am. And I would like them to feel like that. I cannot understand why they don’t feel as close to my side of the argument as they would to Britain or to Scotland or wherever. So why don’t they feel this closeness to us? I have always felt I was inferior in some ways ….even today when I hear unionist politicians speak they forget about us people down here. We do feel very much part of their pain. Sorry about this, I’m going on about this but I wish you would make the Good Friday Agreement work. I pray you do. I honestly do. That thing about the foreign minister and the border, distrust. You distrust the English Governments. I mean they have sold you out left, right and centre over the years. The IRA have done some terrible things and they cannot be justified. Of course they can’t. …”
Q. 8. Sean Collins (Drogheda): “Firstly may I say I admire you all for having the courage to come down, to feel comfortable enough about coming down here, telling your story. My experience in Northern Ireland is more centred around Belfast and the people I meet up there, particularly in the unionist community, who are living under the same threat. They are living under it from unionists. They are not living under it from the IRA. I sat at a table three weeks ago with three gentlemen having dinner and none of them were paramilitaries but I discovered the only person sitting at the table that wasn’t carrying a gun was me. They all had protective firearms because of their past, of the work they had done, and until we get all the guns out of Northern Ireland, as far as I’m concerned, for whatever reason people are carrying them for, we are not going to have any peace at all.
Dialogue with Catholics: “But what I would appeal to you is, I would appeal to you – to go back to Julitta’s question in relation to addressing Catholics in your own area, if you can do that at all, I really feel that is what you have to do. It is when you get talking to the ordinary people, you find the real fear that is out there. I often tell a story about when I was working with ….some people from both sides of the divide about three years ago…. I said to them ‘you’ve lived through the Troubles. Why should I try to tell you what troubles are all about? You should be able to tell me far more than I’ll ever know or experience’. But at the end of that day, which proved a productive day, some women from Ballymurphy in Belfast said: ‘if you are up in Belfast, would you drop up and have a cup of tea? Do you ever come up there and see us?’ And I said ‘I do and I’ll do that’. And then two women from the Village area of Donegal Road said to me, ‘we’d love to meet you in Belfast some day for a cup of coffee’. And I said ‘Yeah, that’d be great, wouldn’t it?’. Now I couldn’t possibly come to the house – they weren’t afraid of me going to the house because the IRA would see me. They were afraid that the loyalists would see me and they are people from your community who are living in fear, the same threats that you are living with, and I always feel until such time as you go out and talk to people…..
Politics: “Forget about the politicians. I heard someone say ‘Bertie Ahern is not going into government with Sinn Féin’. Someone over here said that is because Mary Harney would run him. Mary Harney’s party was set up 20 years ago to demolish Bertie Ahern’s party and they have been in government with them for the last 11 or so years! So Bertie Ahern will be in government with Sinn Fein in two or three years time. Mark my words, that is the way it goes. That is the way to play politics down here and it is the way politics is played all over the world and ordinary people in the street that just don’t even count. But … I am not asking a question. I am just making an appeal to you, if you can at all, talk to those people.”
Q. 9. John Marren (Scurlogstown): “The lady behind just said what I was going to say. I thought there was a wee bit too much negativity coming. I know that area that you are from, Hazlett. I know that there are elderly active groups working between Castlederg and Ballybofeigh. That is across the border, across the divide, and I feel that you talking tonight, you were sort of isolating yourselves and maybe that is why you are not getting the money and I feel you just should be open a bit more and a wee bit less negative about it. That would be better. And … about Fr Reid. You can harp on a wee bit too much about individual things like that. He was actually pushed very strong that night when I saw the whole thing on the television. Now what he said was totally wrong. But you must remember what Fr. Reid has done. He has played a big part in silencing the guns and all the people you hear of everyday on the radio, being shot by the IRA or the UDA or any of these. He took a big part in silencing that and he has done a lot for this island and for the peace I think. And I think it is a better place in the North at the moment for bringing up kids, than it was ten or fifteen years ago, thanks to Fr. Reid.”
Hazlett: “The man down here who raised the whole issue about partition. I tend to agree with you. I don’t want to fight with you. I want to agree with you. What I cannot understand is why did the people in the South of Ireland at that time want to break off from the rest of the British Isles? Northern Ireland wanted to stay part of the United Kingdom. People in the Republic wanted to move away from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Billy: “My grandparents were from Donegal. And during 1916 they were taken round the house by the IRA at the time and there were attempts to ethnically cleanse them from the Donegal border but they stayed. But there is a funny thing too at the end of the day. They used to come at night with hoods with them and walk them round the house and threaten them with guns and all. But they always recognised the voice, it was the butcher that come to them the next day to sell them their meat! And my grandfather told that story several times. He … used to come in the next day to sell them beef. But they stayed in the Republic … they lived there till they were over eighty and wouldn’t move out. They lived a good life there. Only my mother moved north…. It might seem…. that we are always against the Roman Catholics. Hazlett said earlier in the night that we have a good lot of Roman Catholics in our group. I told you at the start I have very little religion and I belong to the group.”
Q. 10. “When you look at the history of Ireland, Presbyterians have always been the radicals that were going to lead from the front. …”
Billy: “We only have to go down to the Boyne, haven’t we, to see that”.
Questioner: “I’m sorry about the sectarianism and the people that brought this about. It breaks my heart.”
Roy Garland: “…. It just remains for me to thank everyone who is here and particularly to
thank all of our guests here – Billy and Raymond and Hazlett and Gamble – for coming here
and sharing so much with us. I think we’d like to show our appreciation.”
APPENDIX: West Tyrone Voice (WTV) – information
Extracts from the group’s information leaflet:
“West Tyrone Voice (WTV) was established in 1999 to meet the profound needs of the victims of terrorist violence in the West Tyrone region of Northern Ireland. These largely ‘forgotten’ people had no one to help them, voice their concerns, or support them in their darkest hours. The region where these victims live is bounded on the western side by the border with the Irish Republic, from where many of the terrorist attacks were launched and to where the terrorists returned after their task was completed. The region is mainly rural and agricultural, and covers an area of approximately 1800 square miles. In this area, people still live in fear. The group was formed after the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement was signed, and found its motivation in the outworking of the terms of that agreement.
Membership: “The main purpose of this grassroots group is to deal with the genuine concerns that many victims have, and to voice those concerns at the highest levels in society. WTV now has 530 members, with an additional 180 non-members with whom we work; this bulks up to some 2150 people with whom we have meaningful contact. Numerically, Co. Tyrone is the third worst affected area of N. Ireland – Belfast is the worst, and South Armagh is next. Per head of population, West Tyrone lost 26 people out of every 10000, South Armagh lost 37, and Belfast lost 48. WTV is non-party political, nor is it linked to any religious grouping. Members are drawn from both sides of the community. The group comprises families of security force personnel, where the breadwinners are no longer with them because they were murdered by terrorists, or are no longer capable of supporting the family because of injury sustained either on or off duty. This grouping would account for about 70% of our membership. On top of this are the many families who, as civilians, were caught up in terrorist attacks as a means of ethnic cleansing, the most notable of which was the bombing in Omagh town centre in August 1998, where 29 people lost their lives, and 270 sustained varying degrees of injury. Of the more severely injured, many of them will not be able to work again. In our area alone, terrorists murdered 128 people. Add to this a further 100 who were from the area but were murdered elsewhere in N. Ireland. The number of people injured physically amounts to 384, while those injured psychologically, emotionally and mentally would come to some 13000, based on the figures used by Sir Kenneth Bloomfield in his victims’ report. These atrocities have created more than 100 widows, 300 orphans, 236 parents who have had a child murdered, and many extended families who have been affected by the campaign of terror in our area. As our work continues, we are becoming aware of more and more people who have been diagnosed as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as a direct result of terrorist violence against them and/or their colleagues and friends. “
Meath Peace Group report, February 2006 Taped by Judith Hamill (audio) and Jim Kealy (video). Transcribed by Judith Hamill. Edited by Julitta Clancy
©Meath Peace Group
Acknowledgments: Meath Peace Group would like to thank the speakers and guest chair for coming to address this public talk and for giving so generously of their time. A special thanks to all who came to the talk (some from long distances), those who took part in the discussion afterwards and all those who have given their continued support, encouragement and participation through the years. Thanks also to those who assisted in the planning, organisation, publicity and recording of the talk, to the Columban Fathers at Dalgan Park for facilitating the majority of our public talks and to the Dept. of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund for financial assistance towards the running costs of the talks and school programmes, and to the staff and students of secondary schools who have taken part in our peace studies programmes
The Meath Peace Group is a voluntary group founded in 1993 with the aims of promoting peace and the fostering of understanding and mutual respect through dialogue.
MEATH PEACE GROUP TALKS
No. 42 – “North Belfast – Communities in Crisis: Challenges for the Belfast Agreement?”
Wednesday, 27th February 2002
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath
Rev. Norman Hamilton (Ballysillan Presbyterian Church, North Belfast)
Cllr. Martin Morgan (SDLP, North Belfast)
Roy Garland (Irish News columnist, Co-chair, Guild of Uriel)
Fr. Aidan Troy, C.P. (P.P., Holy Cross, Ardoyne, North Belfast)
Chaired by Brendan O’Brien
(Senior Reporter, RTE)
Introduction (Brendan O’Brien)
Questions and comments (summaries only)
Appendix: “The Makings of a Young Militant” (Rev. Robert Beckett – letter to editor, Nov. 2001)
Biographical notes on speakers
Maps: North Belfast ; Ardoyne area [not reproduced here]
©Meath Peace Group
Introduction – Brendan O’Brien:
“Good evening …I would just like to make one simple observation – as you know I work with RTE, current affairs programme, and at the moment I am in the middle of a major documentary on the Middle East – the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians – and people out there continually ask me how it is in Ireland, and they continually think the Irish situation is worse than theirs, despite the fact that theirs is really at a crux time… I remember being at a seminar something like this in the Glencree reconciliation centre … and the South African Ambassador to Ireland was chairing the meeting, and somebody asked him a question – “what is the difference between the apartheid problem you saw in South Africa and the conflict in Ireland?” and he said, much to everybody’s surprise, that the Irish situation was worse. He saw more hatred in the Irish situation than he did there, which I found very hard to understand…
“The topic of tonight’s discussion is “ North Belfast – Communities in Crisis: Challenges for the Belfast Agreement”. It doesn’t have to be said that North Belfast has come into the forefront of our living rooms in recent times for a variety of reasons, some of them negative reasons. It comes with a legacy of a part of Northern Ireland which has had more people dead than any other area – something like a third of all deaths in the conflict were from North Belfast. So there is a really deep and bitter legacy.
“The first speaker is Rev. Norman Hamilton…. Essentially he comes as a committed Christian, taking to the ministry later in life, and for the last 13 years has worked his mission in the Ardoyne…
1. Rev. Norman Hamilton (Presbyterian Minister, Ballysillan):
“… This is my first sortie into a group like this in the Republic. Thank you so much for the invitation. I genuinely regard it as a real privilege to be able to come and try to articulate some of the acute dilemmas that the Unionist and Protestant people feel in North Belfast.
Background: “Maybe I should say where I am coming from, because it has been desperately important to me over the past six months to try and position myself properly in all of this. If you wanted to know what sort of Presbyterian Minister I am, I am not in the mould of Ian Paisley, I am much more in the mould of Dr. Trevor Morrow from Lucan which will mean something to quite a number of you, so if you know Trevor and you know where he is, I am sort of in that same camp I was educated at Trinity. I am an economist by background. I then became a career civil servant, and, crucially for my involvement in the Ardoyne, I was involved for some time on the political side of the Stormont Government. So I have kept an interest in the political developments over the years, I have kept my contacts and my friends in the civil service, many of whom are now senior civil servants. I have kept those contacts and friendships alive and I hope that has been of some use in the last wee while. After being a career civil servant, I did sense a real vocation to leave that, though I was having a ball, I loved it, and worked for a while in Christian work in universities and colleges in England, then came back and did my training for the Presbyterian ministry in Belfast, was posted to a very affluent church in the south side of the city and then went up the scale and was posted to the Ardoyne area of North Belfast, and have been there for the last thirteen years…
“Can I say at the outset that I do not come as a politician under any guise. This is really important. I have tried over the last six months to honour the political leaders, and I would be happy to take questions on this. I think there is rather too much community activity which undermines political leadership, but that’s a bit of a mantra of mine. I come as a Christian minister, I hope one that is politically aware, both currently and from my background. I have lots of contact with all of the political parties, and I mean all of them, over the last number of years. I speak as someone who voted “yes” for the Belfast Agreement, and so what I see my role tonight is as to try to interpret as best I can what has been happening, particularly in the Ardoyne/Glenbryn area of North Belfast, to interpret, but. I want you to understand that some of the views I will be expresssing I personally do not hold. My task is to help you folks understand why the Protestant and loyalist folks in North Belfast think and behave the way they do. So I hope that you will not necessarily tar me with the stick that you may want to tar some of them with. I want to make that really clear. Equally I do not want to distance myself from the community in which I work and serve. So there is a tension here, and I hope that over the last number of months – and perhaps Fr. Aidan would be the right person to ask – I have tried to position myself in such a way so as to identify with the community but not identify with the protest, and to work quite hard at being accepted and trusted in both communities. That is what I have aimed to do and that is where I come from tonight
Holy Cross dispute: “As far as the Holy Cross dispute is concerned, I think I’ll leave that to the question and answer session, because I do not want to try to answer questions you are not asking. So I don’t want to comment on that directly. But I do want to say that I am quite happy to do my best to address any question about the Protestant, Unionist, Loyalist involvement in the Holy Cross dispute, to address that directly in the question and answer session…..
Geography and demography: “Perhaps the simplest place to start with my comments would be with a little diagrammatic map of Belfast, showing North, South East and West Forgive me if some of this is familiar to you, but I think it would be helpful if we all had a common understanding. The east is largely Orange, Protestant and Unionist, largely. The west, which is Gerry Adams’ constituency, is largely Green and Catholic. (It also includes the Shankill Road, but forget about that for the moment). The south of the city is the university and hospital area, very mixed, thousands and thousands of transient folk in terms of students, and relatively little civil unrest. The north of the city is where the majority of the trouble happens. Essentially it is Green, but with islands of Orange communities in it, roundabout a dozen to fifteen. Smallish threatened Protestant communities who see themselves in a sea of Green. So in that sense, North Belfast, in demographic terms, is the only part of the city which has lots and lots of interfaces, where the Orange dots and the larger Green community interact. To put that in another format, a diagrammatic map [Map 1, reproduced on page 2] that was published in the local newspaper last year in the middle of August, in what was actually a very important feature. You will see that these solid areas are largely Catholic, Nationalist or Republican, depending on the political voting patterns. The few mixed areas are striped [on the map], and the plain areas are largely Protestant, Loyalist or Unionist. One of the concerns of loyalism is that with these main arterial routes going into the centre of the city, it is almost impossible for loyalist people – I use that as a shorthand, people from the Orange community – to access the centre of the city without going through a Green community.
“Now that has a number of important implications for the marching season which is coming up soon. One of the reasons why there is so much potential for conflict in North Belfast … is that if Loyalists wish to march to the city centre almost certainly they will have to go through a Green community, or along a road that is on the edge of a Green community. Then the Ardoyne itself is this area here [map 1], and the particular area in question – Holy Cross – is here, the school is about here [map], and that distance is about 400 metres. The disputed area is about 400 metres. I live in this dot here [map] and that distance is 150 metres. So, rather like Fr. Aidan, the Holy Cross dispute was on my doorstep. So what we have here is a small Protestant community surrounded by, on the south-eastern side, this large expanding and vibrant Green Ardoyne community, the Deerpark area divided and becoming increasingly greener, and this area here comprises about 1500 people. I think this area of Ardoyne is around 6, 000….
General disenchantment with the Belfast Agreement: “So over the last couple of years, since the signing of the Belfast Agreement, I think it is fair to say that the smaller Protestant communities have been a microcosm of the general disenchantment with the Belfast Agreement that is right throughout much of the province. The pressure on these small communities, whether they be here, or some of the others down towards the Lough shore, the pressure that these communities have felt under has eventually erupted into the violence that you have seen rather too much of on your TV screens.
One-sided implementation of Agreement: “Why has that violence erupted? Depending on where you are coming from, let me offer a number of factors that have led to that. The first one is – and I think the underlying one that I want to articulate tonight – that the Orange community feels that in the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement … I quote “we have lost everything so what the hell? “ That was said to me by one of the leaders of the Holy Cross protest. So what have we lost, you might ask. The underlying disquiet that erupts in these small areas, but is actually, I think, reflected across the loyalist people in Northern Ireland, is the lack of a consistent moral basis for the implementation of the Belfast Agreement – that, having started down a route of trying to get to an end goal which is set out in the Belfast Agreement, there has been a complete breakdown of a moral framework, or an ethical framework, for doing so. Now, I am well aware of the difficulties that talking about morality poses, particularly for those from the Nationalist or Republican community. I have had this debate before, so I am not coming into this unaware of the difficulties that bringing a moral dimension poses. But fundamentally the Orange community feels that the implementation of the Agreement has been so one-sided as to make them the losers in a big way and the Green side the winners in a big way.
Let me give you someexamples – Tony Blair’s handwritten pledges before the referendum. The handwriting of the Prime Minister saying “there will be no terrorists in government”. This then is overturned and we have senior members of Sinn Fein in the Northern Ireland Executive.
Prisoner releases: “When we came to the Agreement itself, the early release of prisoners – over which there was much angst. Depending on where you stood, you were saying “why is it necessary to let thugs out on the street who have terrorised the community for thirty years, why is this a good thing?”
“On balance the majority of Unionist and Protestant/Loyalist people said “we can live with that, provided the peace and the win/win situation is delivered, but we are profoundly unhappy about this happening at all”.
Policing: “To move on since then – and Martin will no doubt have a very clear view on this – the Patton Report and the move from the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the Police Service of Northern Ireland was largely seen as rubbishing the sacrifice made by ordinary men and women in Northern Ireland over the years to defend them against terrorists. They were marginalized, set aside. And then a comparison is drawn between the 150 million that the Bloody Sunday Inquiry is expected to cost versus the lack of any significant ongoing public interest in, for example, the widows of the security forces. So you have this group of 13 who were massacred in Derry and they have a 150 million inquiry to ascertain the facts, while hundreds of police officers were murdered and nobody seems to care. “We’ve lost everything – we’ve lost our police service, we’ve lost the respect for their sacrifice, the whole thing is imbalanced”.
Political manipulation: “Then more recently, the granting of offices in London to Sinn Fein, and the charade over the re-election of David Trimble and Mark Durkan to head up the Northern Ireland Executive when the Alliance Party were encouraged and indeed played ball with the Secretary of State’s wish that they redesignate themselves for one day in order to provide a Unionist majority. In the loyalist community in Ardoyne that was greeted with complete derision, and an example of the way the political situation is used to achieve an end, simply manipulating the power manipulation of the system to get to a goal. And one civil servant I know said to the Minister that they were reporting to. “Minister, sometimes you would be better to let democracy take its own route.” Interesting comment, even at that sort of level.
Amnesty: “But finally the Weston Park Agreement, and the amnesty that is apparently being offered to terrorists on the run,is seen as the absolute pits of morality. Let me read a couple of comments from the Weston Park Agreement, and a comment from a Christian group on it and I will leave it at that. The Weston Park Agreement says: “Both governments also recognise that there is an issue to be addressed, with the completion of the early release scheme, about supporters of organisations now on ceasefire against whom there are outstanding prosecutions, and in some cases extradition proceedings, for offences committed before 10th April1998. Such people would, if convicted, stand to benefit from the early release scheme. The governments accept that it would be a natural development of the scheme for such prosecutions not to be pursued and will as soon as possible, and in any event before the end of the year  take such steps as are necessary to resolve this difficulty so that those concerned are no longer pursued”.
The moral problem for many people on the Unionist side is: that instead of those on the run being convicted and then released, that process is now being set aside. There is not even to be a conviction. Let me quote you from a Christian group commenting on this, which says it better than I could: “While the Weston Park document does not use the word “amnesty” what is on offer is clearly amnesty by any other name… The early release provisions of the Agreement were not offering prisoners an amnesty or a pardon. Central to the early release scheme was that they were getting neither an amnesty nor a pardon; they were being released on licence subsequent to conviction. It was on that basis, and on that basis alone, that we concluded that the early release of prisoners on licence was compatible with the biblical understanding of government and justice. We argued that the early release scheme was compatible with the Christian view of justice because those released were released from prison, but not from the judicial consequences of their actions. However it appears to us that the provisions of paragraph 20 of the Weston Park document have precisely the opposite effect. The only release is release from the judicial consequences of their actions and the just demand that they be called to account for their crimes against the community”. So, in other words, this is seen as rubbing salt in to the wounds by giving an amnesty to republican prisoners in particular.
North Belfast: “How does this play out in North Belfast? It plays out in the fact that you have small communities who feel that the Green community is getting all the goodies, the Green community apparently want to take over these smaller Protestant areas because the housing demand in the Green communities is so big, and that there is a conspiracy, a plot, a scheme to drive the Protestants out so that their areas can be used for Catholic housing. Very close to Glenbryn – Torrents, that little area here [map] – a quarter of a mile away, that area has virtually disappeared as a small Protestant group, virtually disappeared, and the Glenbryn community said “if things go on the way they are, we will go the way of Torrance, our community will reach the point where it is no longer viable. We have been saying this for the last four or five years. Nobody is listening, we have had enough and we are going to take action. We have lost everything so what the hell?” And the action that they took, you saw on your television screens. If you were to ask them was that action justified? I would think they would say yes it was, because the security people have now installed security cameras, there have been a series of measures designed to help the security of both communities, from being attacked by each other.
Hopes for the future: “Where do we go from this? I have really only one suggestion, one about which I feel passionately. Fr. Aidan may wish to comment on this, but the current state of community relations in North Belfast is the lowest I have ever known. It is complete stalemate. Nobody wants to talk to anybody else. There is singularly little political leadership to steer the communities towards sensible dialogue, and it does seem to me that we need to have a politically led programme of developing community relations. If we leave it to communities it simply won’t happen. And my hope is that in the not too distant future, the political representatives across the communities will actually decide that for the welfare of the whole community, they will lead us into a civilised engaged community relations programme. I think I’ll leave it at that, and no doubt I better put on my flak jacket for the questions later on!”
Chair: Brendan O’Brien: “Thank you very much indeed. That was very stimulating, very precise … it would concentrate the mind, because the very title of this discussion “Challenges for the Belfast Agreement” here in a Southern context, is in some ways a bit distant from the realities in the North for obvious reasons. There have been very few challenges in the South from the Belfast Agreement, because it has been more or less in tune with where people were at that time. It went through with a 95% clear “yes” vote, and the challenges really evaporated, there wasn’t even a challenge on Articles 2 and 3 in effect. And yet what we are hearing here is entirely the opposite in a place like North Belfast.
“And while there is an awful lot you can say about that on both sides… I would just make one observation which is this: I have been covering the Northern conflict for nearly 25 years, and the closer it got to a political agreement the more I wondered when there was going to be a reconciliation process – as distinct from a political agreement. The centre of the Belfast Agreement is that a line is drawn over the past, people move on. But the problem is that the past needs to be reconciled. What Rev. Hamilton is describing, it seems to me, comes from very deep roots of the past – death, policemen, people killed, conflict of all kinds. And in a way that is a major challenge for people in the Nationalist community to try to create some class of a comfort zone, because Nationalists are perceived as having done well out of the Belfast Agreement, partly because the republican movement was very adroit at moving in tune with the times, so that when the Agreement came about they could more or less fit in with it, and nearly claim it as their own, whereas they had abandoned very significant elements of their objectives in their armed campaign. And in a way the Loyalist community didn’t understand that – they didn’t see the concessions that the outer reaches of nationalism had made, for what it entailed, and you have some of the consequences in North Belfast.
“The second speaker comes from North Belfast, Martin Morgan of the SDLP, he was vice-chairman of the SDLP during the Good Friday Agreement negotiations, he has been a councillor for North Belfast for quite a number of years, he is also a child social worker, and he comes also from what we like to call the “coal face”…
2. Cllr. Martin Morgan (SDLP)
“Thank you. Just to echo what Rev. Hamilton said, I certainly appreciate the opportunity, as an SDLP councillor, but also as someone who was born and reared and still lives in North Belfast, to be here tonight to address you. I am here as a politician in North Belfast, but one of the biggest crises for everyone living in the North of the city – and Norman was quite right in pointing to the little pockets we have, probably 12 or 13 interfaces in North Belfast – one of the biggest crises that faced that part of the city was the Holy Cross dispute. I am not going to get into it.
“But if I can bring in a breath of fresh air – I was there in a political capacity, as were Sinn Fein politicians, as were Unionist and Loyalist politicians – but I think this group here, and me as well, has to pay tribute. Two central figures in giving hope to the communities, to helping those children and their families and to resolve that dispute, are sitting at either end of this table – Rev. Hamilton and Fr. Troy. [applause] Because certainly as politicians we couldn’t do what the religious leaders of those communities were able to do, even in simple terms, just listening to people, being with them, working with them and working through the problems. There is still residue but our religious leaders certainly showed great leadership – to us as politicians as well as to the people in that part of North Belfast.
Legacy of suffering in North Belfast. “It is a pity in some ways Billy Hutchinson wasn’t able to make it tonight because I was wanting to get into him in terms of talking about the Loyalist community…. It’s very easy to stand here and talk about the history. And what is the history of North Belfast? Norman has talked about it briefly. Twenty plus percentof all people murdered in what we call the “Troubles” died in that constituency. It’s not a very large area, but 20% plus, hundreds, about 800 plus people.
“We have 13 interfaces between what are described as Nationalist and Loyalist communities, more than any other area of the city put together. Sectarian violence – I am here tonight as other people from North Belfast are. We don’t know what is happening. There’s probably riots taking place as we speak here tonight, it’s a nightly event, that’s what you hear that’s what you see. And for outsiders it is certainly seen as a way of life… The conflict has broadened, as they would call it in traditional terms, because one of the things certainly I, as a politician, had hoped for was that the new generation, the children who even followed behind me, that they are the new beginning, because in the SDLP we believe we have the opportunity for a new beginning.
“But even the very children in our city are affected by this, and it is our duty, politically, at community level and at a religious level to show a leadership that can ensure that that new beginning starts today, tomorrow and on.
Fragmentation within loyalism: “If you look briefly at loyalism – and I’m no expert on it – but from a nationalist perspective, it is a fragmented community. If we look briefly at Ardoyne, there are two political parties who represent the Ardoyne area – Sinn Fein and the SDLP. But you can list five political groupings in the Glenbryn area on the Loyalist-Unionist side. When there are issues to be addressed in the Nationalist districts, I have no difficulty putting my signature to a piece of paper with a Sinn Fein councillor or politician. Because if an issue needs to be addressed, if needs have to be identified, Sinn Fein and the SDLP – whilst we are separate politically – but for the common purpose of our own distinct areas, we will work together. That has seen a confidence, it has seen a development within Nationalism and Nationalist districts that – and others can argue here – I would put ten to fifteen years ahead of development initiatives in Loyalist and Unionist districts. That is a sad fact, but it is an accurate fact, and I think that is part of the problem.
Moving forward: “Where do we move forward? Tonight it would be very very easy to say “this is what has happened to my community” and for somebody from a Unionist or Loyalist background to say, “well, this is what has happened to my community and this is why I act in a certain way”. But sure haven’t we been doing it for thirty years, and where really has it got us? We do have the Good Friday Agreement. It is the best thing yet that has happened to North Belfast and to the North of Ireland. But we still have sectarian conflict. Because in the past the conflict was defined in terms of paramilitary violence, and – from an SDLP perspective – State violence as well. Four years ago I and a number of other people were assaulted by the RUC in a peaceful demonstration, where I had a black eye, welts on the back, and welts on the legs, for standing with my hands in my pockets. But there is an important difference for some of us compared to others. And that difference is – I don’t bear hatred or anger towards those individuals, I wanted justice, but I wanted justice achieved through courts and through the due process of law.
Leadership challenge: “But the challenge today is for political, community and religious leaders – because leadership is lacking, and politicians, me included, are to blame for that. Community leaders have their own selfish interests, they’re to blame for it. And in many occasions – with due respect – religious leaders, have had what I would call the “ostrich syndrome” and ignored the issues.
“So we need a partnership, we need a partnership between the politicians, the community representatives and our church people, and together that leadership can have a great influence on our communities. Because it is very easy for me to talk for the next ten or twenty minutes about the past. We can’t be prisoners of the past – we have to move on.
“So how do we do that? I was talking to a Church of Ireland minister this morning in Belfast. He was giving me a Loyalist perspective, a Unionist perspective, of grievances, many of which Norman has outlined, where they’d look at the Good Friday Agreement, they’d look at issues such as policing and the release of prisoners – now I would argue that is a more Unionist perspective than a Loyalist perspective because Loyalists too are caught up in the policing and the prisoners issue. But what we talked about this morning was: maybe we should have the equivalent of a Good Friday Agreement for our communities in Belfast? But I have made one mistake in saying that. Because tonight is the first time in my notes I’ve stopped talking about communities and refer to community, because we are one community. I came from a family that didn’t earn much money, blocked-up houses, an area of high unemployment, low educational attainment, no training opportunities. I went to a secondary school where everybody ended up if they didn’t pass the 11 plus, and where two of us in my upper sixth class, two out of sixty, got to university. So life wasn’t going to be planned in colourful ribbons for you. But the same was in Loyalist areas – it wasn’t’ exclusive to Nationalist areas, it was exclusive to everybody. We need to redefine the situation, redefine how we can pull our community out of a state of crisis.
Common agenda: “And what I said to the minister this morning was – we need a common agenda. I don’t need an agenda from where I am a politician, if Billy Hutchinson were here, he doesn’t need an agenda for his area, because in our opinion there is far more that unites us than divides us. But people have ignored that – we look at division and not what unifies us, and that is what is needed – a common agenda with a common purpose. It can be the basics. What are the basics that people want? What I hear from the Loyalist community is: community development – non-existent or just beginning. High unemployment – we acknowledge that. Low educational attainment – we acknowledge that, poor housing – we acknowledge that. It’s the same in areas I represent. The unique difference is it is not a case of me, it is a case of us and we, and how we move that forward.
It’s a very important statement and I would have liked Billy to have been here to say “let’s be brave about it”, because the SDLP, Sinn Fein, Ulster Unionists, DUP, PUP, have operated in many ways on a narrow selfish political agenda. In the last month there were serious riots again in Ardoyne, beginning with the Holy Cross issue again. Traditionally I would have gone on the television and said: “I condemn the police, I condemn the loyalist rioters, oh my, my community is suffering”. But from where I was standing, there were Loyalists throwing petrol bombs, and when I looked over my shoulder, there were Nationalists throwing petrol bombs. And I thought “no, we can’t keep up this age-old tradition, I’ll condemn Unionism, I’ll condemn the police”. So I condemned everybody – whoever is throwing a petrol bomb here, “you’re wrong, you should be arrested, go home or be arrested”. In some ways that caused ripples in the community – how dare I criticize Nationalist rioters, how dare I?
“And that I think is part of the basis of our problem – we have to be able to share in our own common issues, create a common agenda, create a common purpose. About 3 years ago I had a conversation with someone in Dublin, and we were talking about the Tour of the North – a parade that passes every year but on alternative routes, an Orange parade and it’s controversial. So I was quite worried that it was going to lead to trouble, and the comment that was thrown back at me was “but sure it’s North Belfast, you might riot for a few days, but sure it will be over”. That disgusted me. I think Government has to take its responsibility in helping us as politicians, there’s church representatives and there’s community, and to work with us in partnership as well, because the issues are not unique, they cross the divide, and the grievances I hear as a Nationalist politician coming out of those Loyalist areas are the same issues I have. Where I represent used to be a strong Labour area. Labour doesn’t exist – we might be called the Social Democratic and Labour Party, but Labour doesn’t exist in its traditional form. But when it did exist, Catholics and Protestants voted for it, Catholics and Protestants were members, were representatives, and I think that’s the way forward.
“Today I had a request that the Loyalist Commission wants to meet the SDLP. My initial reaction was “no” – and this is the human side – because there are individuals in that who have attacked SDLP homes, have attacked SDLP politicians, have attacked Catholic homes. But isn’t that the age-old problem? Say “no”, bury your head in the sand. So we left the door open, we said we will arrange to meet you. Because what I am hearing from Loyalism is that my tradition doesn’t listen to them, I don’t listen to their grievances, I don’t listen to the issues, and the same could be said about Unionist politicians.
“So we must move away from our traditional political stance. The fragmentation in unionism may not be able to be resolved by unionism, but it may be able to be resolved by us all. The word “reconciliation” has been used by yourselves, it’s been used by us all, dialogue, trust-building, reconciliation. We will do that through a common purpose, through a common agenda, through what unites us and not what divides us.
Honesty: “And we begin by being honest. Not just standing in front of a television camera and giving a sound-bite for what will keep my voters happy, because that’s not good enough. I have lived in North Belfast all my life, and it’s no different, but I want it to be different . And I put that offer out to the politicians in other parties, to the community leaders and to the religious leaders.
Challenge to government: “Let’s move it forward, let’s identify the issues that unite us, let’s remove that fragmentation and put a challenge to government – to the Irish Government, to the British Government and to all the governments who are quite easily and happily commenting on North Belfast, a city in crisis, and the challenge is if we speak with one voice, if we start to address those issues as one body, then we should be given the respect that we deserve. Because life in North Belfast is good, people on the interfaces suffer, but they still have to in many ways get on with their lives. But what my voters want is what Billy Hutchinson’s voters want, is what Nigel Dodds’ voters want and that’s where we must move forward.
Evil of violence: “There is a great evil that exists in our society. I only got married last year. The night before I got married I was still on the Limestone Road at half-past four in the morning, my colleague Alex Attwood, who has spoken to this group, had the windows of his car smashed. We will give our commitment, we will give our time, and we expect the same of others. But there is an evil that does exist there. I may not get the source right for this, but I will leave you with a quote – “evil men prevail when good men do nothing”. The challenge is for the good people of North Belfast to begin in a new way to do something and ensure that the evil of violence no longer prevails. Thank you”.
Chair – Brendan O’Brien: “Thank you, Martin … I would just make one comment. Martin Morgan made a very strong appeal for common purpose, on the basis that there is one community. He followed Rev. Hamilton who told us his people felt they were living in a sea of Green, and their fear presumably would be that if there were one community it would be Green. So in effect there isn’t one community, there are two. And the fragmentation on the Loyalist side used to be a form of strength, because Protestantism, particularly fundamental Protestantism, believes in freedom of conscience and thought, and pragmatism inevitably grows from that, and that is a very healthy thing. Sometimes it becomes a divisive thing, because the other side is more united than you are, and you can’t get your unity together. But for many Protestants, from my observation, they like fragmentation, they don’t like unity, they see that as a Catholic thing, as a Nationalist thing, a triumphalist thing, and on their side it is free-thinking…
“Our next speaker is Roy Garland [replacing Billy Hutchinson who was unable to travel]. Roy Garland says modestly that he is a constituency worker for Michael McGimpsey. It is a very modest statement because actually Roy has lived through the Northern conflict almost from the beginning, if the beginning is around 1966, on the Loyalist side, close to the activist side on the Loyalist side. He has moved from being a very trenchant young unionist right-winger to a left-winger, progressive, in very simple terms. He has written a very fine book on Gusty Spence who within the Loyalist community was a very prime mover, a very prime mover, in moving that Loyalist paramilitary community to a position of political engagement with the other side, so to speak So Roy comes with very fine credentials and has an awful lot to say, and he is not going to have time to say it….
3. Roy Garland, member of UUP (replacing Billy Hutchinson)
“Thanks very much for having me here. Actually I didn’t know I was speaking here until I came down… Having said that, I feel very much at home here. I have worked very closely with Julitta and John and a number of people here, and enjoy that very much.
Background: “You might wonder how I got from being a hard-line right-wing young Unionist, which I was… I was born and reared in North Belfast, though I don’t live in North Belfast now. That part of North Belfast was on the Shankill (part of the Shankill is in West Belfast, and part in North Belfast). I also had very close contacts with the experience of North Belfast in that I had three uncles and a granny who lived in the Oldpark Road. The Oldpark Road was divided then, the left hand side going up was Catholic, the right-hand side was Protestant, and I remember saying once to my granny “isn’t that where the “fenians” live over there?” And my granny said “don’t say that, they just think they’re right and we think we’re right”.
“There’s a lot of wisdom in that, and my granny was less educated than I was. That was a profound thought, perhaps that is part of the thing that changed me…
Radical working-class unionism: “Strangely enough, my uncles – one claimed to be a socialist, one claimed to be a communist and was a shop steward in Shortts, and the other one claimed to be a Connolly socialist. These were people from the Unionist community! Outside of their small circle they probably didn’t talk too much about that in those days. But there was a sprinkling of radical thinking within the working-class Unionist community. Because of the trouble in the streets they moved to Ballynure Street. And in 1974 during the UWC strike, I remember them saying to me, “do you know who delivered the milk? – it was the Official IRA”. Trouble broke out again and my uncles moved again to Manor Street. They were not involved in the violence. They had more in common with their Nationalist neighbours, than with their Unionist neighbours, and they drank in Nationalist areas, including the Falls area. But underneath their socialism and communism there was a unionist streak which came out on at least two occasions. My uncle James, the socialist, a very intelligent man, very aware of Irish history, on one occasion he was in a Falls Road pub drinking, and a political discussion came up and the Ulster Covenant was mentioned in a degrading way, and my uncle said “my father signed the Covenant and I won’t hear a bad word about it”. He came out shaking from head to foot. But he was a socialist all his life. The communist ended up working in Oxford sharing the same flat with a Republican, and the Republican made some comment about this place and the Republican got a hiding because he got into a fight, and my uncle got a hiding, he was a communist who underneath had a sort of unionism… There is a Unionism there that is represented to some extent by Loyalists. David Ervine’s father was very left-wing in his views. There is a lot of that influence there.
“Cold house”: “We’re really talking about a “cold house” for some people. In my experience, for me personally, and for some Loyalists, it’s not so cold. In my early days, I remember going to the Falls baths, because they had better baths than we had in the Shankill. And when you went you were conscious from when you left to when you came back that you were in “enemy territory”, that’s the way you felt. Gusty Spence did the same thing. He had a Union Jack tattooed on his arm and when he went to the Falls baths he had it covered up with a plaster, and he had a friend from the Falls Road who had a Tricolour and he went to Petershill baths some times and he had it covered with a plaster…That’s the world that I grew up in. I can remember going into Ardoyne … and fearing for my life. In fact a friend of mine was attacked, because he lived in the Ardoyne. A lot of the Ardoyne was Unionist then. Areas shouldn’t be like this, but that is the reality… I remember as a young child being asked was I a Protestant or a Catholic – that’s the worst thing you could be asked in those days, because if you gave the wrong answer you were given a kicking. In fact these stories were passed on from generation to generation. My uncle Jamesy, the socialist, told of in the twenties being stopped by a crowd of Catholics and they asked him was he a Protestant or a Catholic, and he said he was a Catholic, which he wasn’t of course. And they asked him to repeat the “Hail Mary”, and he started to make a stab at it, and as he was talking he saw a tram going by and he just took to his heels and jumped on the tram and got away. That gives some idea of the feel of the situation in Belfast.
Change: “There’s always been these ghettoes, and I feel, for me personally, and for some Loyalists, and for some Unionists, I can go almost everywhere now. I was up with friends in the Falls Road recently. I drive up with no fear. In 1995 I was invited by Republicans – and they were shocked when I said “yes” – to speak in Conway Mill. Albert Reynolds was there, and Martin McGuinness was there, and I decided to go, and some Orangemen came with you. It was a room like this, bigger than this, every space was filled, and the welcome we received from the Republicans was absolutely electrifying. And I felt something dramatic happened in there, certainly for me personally. I felt, why have Unionists never done this before? In my view Unionists are not just here to look after Unionist people, but they’re here to look after all people. That’s the unionism I’ve developed. I didn’t always appreciate that view. But it was that sort of thing that broke that.
The South: “Coming down here, when I first came down here as a right-wing unionist – in fact I was a member of a paramilitary organisation. I remember taking part in a parade in Rockcurry in Co. Monaghan. When we came across the border, it was like going into the Falls Road, I felt I was in enemy territory, and felt around every corner we were going to get caught, the IRA was going to get us. That was the reality of how I felt. The big thing that changed it … one of the things that really opened things up for me was actually meeting people on a human level. I met Republicans, I met Nationalists, I met ordinary people down here, and seeing the humanity right across the board, and the welcome we received, changed things. ….
“My family actually comes from Co. Monaghan, almost two hundred years ago, and we have kept contact with the family who still live there….. It is my feeling that there are many Unionists down here, some of them Unionists, some with a British identity, down here, and my perception is – and certainly some of them would have told me this – that they feel that their position is not recognised down here. I think this has a play-off in the North. What can people do down here to help the situation up here in which people think it is a “cold house”? I don’t actually share that view, in fact I think Unionists need to be more confident in themselves, or it is like digging themselves into a hole. But the South has something to do to show that Britishness is acceptable, not just Protestantism, and I’ve met friends down here who seem almost frightened to stand up and be what they are. What can be done? I am in contact with a group called “Reform” in Dublin, and they want some sort of public acceptance of the British identity of a minority in the South. They want that reflected in changes in the Constitution, and even in the national anthem, and that sort of thing. The South has done a lot, you’ve done a lot to make Protestants and Unionists look to the South, and things are opening up. I’m involved in groups down here, we’re bringing Unionists, Nationalists and Republicans down here. It’s opening up a new world, and I think we have got to reach out to each other and do what you’re doing tonight, and what has been done for many years now. Once people cross that border – there was a man came down last week, he had spent years in the security forces, as a policeman, and he had gone through some absolutely horrendous experiences and is living to this day under threat from Republicans in West Tyrone. He came down here, and among the places he walked was the Battle of the Boyne site… and he told a friend of mine he felt he was walking on air. This is a man who hadn’t been down here since he was a child, many decades ago….Meeting you people here, and sharing things, it has begun to open up things for him He’s going back into a situation in which the sense of “cold house” and even threat, is still there. I think we’ve got to dispel that, and the only way I find of doing that is actually meeting people on the human level.
Hopes for the future: “There are massive problems, and, as Martin said, many of them are common to both communities. But there is this sense of alienation. Someone said that in the Good Friday Agreement, Unionists were successful, they were victorious but they turned victory into defeat, and the Republicans did the opposite – after the ceasefire, they had a parade up the Falls Road, waving Tricolours. They turned defeat into victory because they had given up their campaign and in a sense they had accepted consent and so on. Unionists need to be authenticated and accepted, and to move along that line, but I think it is a slow process, an individual process, step by step by step. I would hold out hope for the future. I am not lacking in confidence despite those grave issues and grave concerns. Thank you…”
Chair – Brendan O’Brien: “Thank you, Roy…. Roy talked about the baths. I remember as a journalist being in West Belfast in a strong Catholic Nationalist area, there were women there telling me how oppressed they were, and I said, sure, but around the corner you have one of the best leisure centres which we can’t match in the South. There was a pause and one of the women said, “ah, but it doesn’t have a sauna!”.. There are victims on both sides and some people have thrived on victim hood. Roy has said there are a lot of good things happening, a lot of positive things, and of course he’s right. The topic tonight is “Challenges for the Belfast Agreement”. The question is, is what’s happening in North Belfast… is the Belfast Agreement capable of dealing with that? Is it a challenge for the Belfast Agreement? Because everybody else has moved on, thinking everything is fine, and working the Belfast Agreement. And on the political level, on the Loyalist side, the Democratic Unionist Party are almost entirely inside the house at this point. They’re not outside trying to wreck it, they’re in the Assembly and they’re almost in the Executive and they’re grappling with whether they will go into North-South bodies. And that is on the Loyalist side, the Democratic Unionist side. They have found, I believe, during the referendum and the elections, that there were very few votes in portraying yourself as a wrecker even if you were saying you didn’t like the Belfast Agreement. So Ian Paisley and company had to say, “we are going to represent you inside, and look after your interests, and we will certainly take our two ministries because we are entitled to them. So that was a very positive thing. And on the other side we have people who were members of the IRA, senior members of the IRA, members of the army council of the IRA, and the brigade staffs of the IRA at all levels, who are now wearing suits and getting elected and they are in the election process. Out of the Belfast Agreement those things are extremely positive. And yet we are here tonight, and you’ve all turned up which I think is terrific, to deal with one unfinished legacy of the past, and the question is, “can the Belfast Agreement deal with that?” Fr. Aidan Troy is our final speaker….
4. Fr. Aidan Troy (Holy Cross Parish, Ardoyne):
“Thanks to everyone for the invitation. This very dynamic group in Meath invited me on a number of occasions, and unfortunately because of events I wasn’t able to come along, and I thought they would have got sense and given up asking me but they didn’t, and they kept phoning me and they kept asking me, so I ended up here tonight. Or I almost ended up here tonight… I missed the turn, ended up in Dunshaughlin….. I could find the Ardoyne Road all right, and now I can’t even find Dalgan Park! So thanks very much for your patience….
Background: “At this stage of the night we have heard three very very thorough and very full presentations, it would be rather stupid of me to try and add too much more… What I would like to try and do is just to give a little perspective from a southerner, from Bray, Co. Wicklow, who came into this scene in a rather unusual way. Without giving you my whole history it might be no harm to say a word or two about it. When I was ordained a priest in 1971, I was assigned to Crossgar in Co. Down. This was September, and in that August, internment had been introduced. I remember saying to the priest who assigned me, “could you not send me anywhere else?” because that was one place I certainly didn’t want to go. I can truthfully say I spent three of the happiest years of my life there in the North of Ireland at that time, which involved quite an amount of contact with Long Kesh, various places and particularly Derry when that whole Bogside and Creggan area was a “no go” area. I just say that as a very very potted and brief history,
Holy Cross dispute: “But to bring it up to date, and to show God does have a sense of humour – I spent seven years, from 1994 until 2001 living in Rome, and when I was in my last year again I got a phone call …. They rang me up and said “will you go to Belfast?” My first remark was “you must be joking”. But I have an old principle and that is that I’ve never asked to go anywhere and I’ve never refused to go anywhere. I was still in Rome at that time, that was November 2000, and I remember on the 19th June reading in the Internet how there was trouble on the Ardoyne Road to do with Holy Cross Girls’ School, and of course very foolishly I said to myself, “thank God, that will long be over and done with before I get there”. I arrived on the 27th July, 2001, and in case you think I was some sort of a special person, I am not. People say “were you sent there for that reason?” I wasn’t sent there for that reason at all. I think that’s important to say, some people think there was a connection when there wasn’t. I was going there anyway. But when I arrived on the 27th of July, that night I saw some very serious rioting. Three nights later, the back door of the monastery was broken in and it was set on fire. I realised I had arrived in a very serious, a very critical time. And I think it is good to remember, that this is post Belfast Agreement. I had, like everybody else, thanked God and applauded this. I was so delighted with the outcome of the referenda on this, and that so many people were taking such a strong stand on this situation. Then I became chairperson of the Board of Governors of Holy Cross Girls’ School on the 6th August. And one of the things that amazed me, because there is sometimes a perception that somehow the Nationalist side is so wholly organised – in fact we weren’t that well organised at all, not because things weren’t going my way, but because there was a very serious situation facing us. And it became clear to me within a few weeks that this situation was at least going to go down to the wire for resolution. And that was when I met Norman for the first time, and Martin very kindly mentioned the two of us. I think it is very important to say, that whatever might separate us theologically in other ways, I think it has been a tremendous experience for me – and I need to say this publicly – working with Norman.
“I would go so far as to say, not that we solved anything, but I think we may have prevented death. I do believe there was the potential for children to be killed. I think this needs to be said, not because anyone in Glenbryn set out to kill a child, but because the potential for violence, and for that violence to get totally out of hand, was there. And I am not going to portray all that happened, and again, with all due respects to Roy here, I think the role of Billy Hutchinson is also very interesting, the role of Martin is interesting, the role of Alban McGuinness, Gerry Kelly. I think the political role at that level is an absolutely fascinating study. Now that is not what I am going to develop in the next few minutes. I just wanted to paint a very brief background to where I come from.
Truth and Reconciliation: “I also want to try and be as truthful as I can and yet always speak the truth in love. I do believe it is important that we tell the truth as we see it, and I accept what has been said tonight because it has been said by people of integrity and of sincerity. The one thing I think that I must add – and maybe this is not so palatable – but I must add that I can never understand how children were caught in that protest.
“If I didn’t say that I would be cowardly, and in that I am not upping the ante on anyone to pick that up. But I do think this is terribly important. I was at a lecture last night in the Waterfront, one of the Lord Reith lectures, and there was a poll taken for Radio 4 among the audience, “how many people would want something similar to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, such as they had in South Africa?”….I had a little time in South Africa. I would have thought, and this has been raised already, that there is a tremendous need – without this “whataboutery” as John Reid says, like I say something and Norman will say the other and then we would spar off each other.
But I do think there is a need for us to be able to surface the truth with a view to reconciliation, yet at that gathering last night there was less than a third in favour of it. Now I am in favour of it, by the way. … I am not going to put that forward as a solution. But when I talk about any situation, and I do admit that I have the huge advantage of fresh eyes and all the disadvantages of not having a background just as you’ve heard. I am enormously excited about the prospect and I am enormously fearful at the same time. I truthfully believe that in many ways – and I regret saying this – North Belfast, if it is not dealt with in some of the ways we have heard, is almost like an x-ray of what can happen still, even with the Good Friday Agreement. What I would think is this, I think there is an illusion – and I would be one of the ones who suffered from this illusion – there can be an illusion that if you make the Good Friday Agreement, as it were, work in general where it is easy to work. For instance, if I live in an area of very high economic resources, if I have a push button on the end of my drive where you have to speak before I let you in, it doesn’t really matter who lives next door to you, it doesn’t really matter where your children go to school, it doesn’t really matter what uniform they wear. But you take where Norman and myself and Martin live, and what Roy was talking about, and when you take that at times we’re talking as near as I am to this loudspeaker, people of vastly different cultural, religious and every other view are living that close together, or should I say not together, and that’s the problem, but that’s another story. If we don’t take this enormously serious, and let me be truthful again, there is a great desire, I believe, in the North of Ireland at the moment, or Northern Ireland, to as it were push the Good Friday Agreement as a cloak in some way over the issues that remain, and let me say I believe in it totally.
“Can I say truthfully – the number of times I have been asked to keep quiet. Now you may be among the crowd that says you can’t turn on the blessed television without that guy being on saying something .I believe that the truth must be told. I have been asked at the highest level of the church not to speak, I have been asked by politicians not to speak – not Martin, not the SDLP, I am not going to name any further. There are people, I believe, who find the pain, and I believe this to be very fundamental, the pain of looking at our truth too much to take, …. and yet I believe it is terribly important that we have something – maybe it’s not the right model, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.. I believe we have to bring something up into the surface where – and again I would have to pay tribute to Norman in this – we are not united as Catholic and Presbyterian, but we are united at the level of humanity, we are united at the level of common interest which has already been spoken about, and we are united in a burning desire for peace and for reconciliation. Now, if we can’t get the politicians at that higher level to stand out in the street and say “sorry, this is not acceptable behaviour” – be that Nationalist or be that Loyalist – then I think Norman and myself can whistle till the cows come home and it will make very little difference. And there were times, and this is not, because I know the role that the Dublin Government played, I know the role that the President of Ireland played, I know the role that politicians at the level of councillors and Assembly played, there was a desperate silence at the level of the Member of Parliament in that area, but let’s say I think we are going to have to press much more vocally, much more strongly for a political action, and I think we also need to be very clear – and I know we have to be sensitive where the churches are concerned. – I think we have to be very clear that the churches, and particularly the leadership – I am enormously complimented when Norman and myself are called church leaders as you are and everybody here is in their own way,. but believe me there is a level of leadership above us that also needs to stand up and take its responsibility. Now I am not loved when I say that, but then I didn’t become a priest to be loved. We have to be very clear on that.
Conclusion: “Just to finish on a sad note but I believe a rather topical note…. I think it is very sad in the last few days that the enrolment at Holy Cross girls’ school has dropped from 34 last year to 17 this year. And I would have a feeling that the people of Glenbryn – and we haven’t touched on what makes up that community because there are some people who have come into Glenbryn who wouldn’t represent Glenbryn – I think we have to be very clear on that. Because I have been fortunate – you wouldn’t believe the number of people in Glenbryn that I now know, now they don’t agree with one word I say, well there’s few words they agree with, but the women there particularly are convinced that I am a constitutional liar, and they tell me that, but at least we’re saying it. But what I am convinced of is that if Holy Cross girls’ school comes into crisis and closes, we have all lost. And we have no intention of closing it, because that is not the issue. I think the issue is, whether we take it in terms of one community finding a way of living together, and let’s hope that the house will be warm for us all, or whether it’s two communities finding the way, I do believe that if something like Holy Cross which unfortunately has become a symbol of all that can go wrong —if it closes, then we have all lost. What I am saying tonight is this: let’s take the Good Friday Agreement out of Stormont and bring it up to the Ardoyne Road and make it work.”
Chair – Brendan O’Brien: “Courageous as always, willing to put it out there. Without naming names, I think he has named quite a few names of people who haven’t come forward and given the type of leadership that he is saying must be given….I am now going to ask for questions….
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS
(summaries of main points only):
Q.1: Re speech given by Prince Charles in Glencree. Did it make any difference? “I have non-Catholic relations and friends, but I believe that the loyalist “loyalism” has never been loyal to the Crown, rather it has been loyal to the half-crown.”
Rev. Norman Hamilton: “It didn’t make the slightest difference whatsoever. He was obviously a born optimist to think that his speech would have any noticeable effect.”
Roy Garland: “Having said that, I know a unionist who was there and met him, and he was very impressed by Charles’ concern for Northern Ireland, and he said to him “bring more of your people down here to meet Nationalists”, and this fellow was influenced by it. But I am not terribly sure what Prince Charles actually said. I’m not sure it’s loyalty to the half-crown, there is a sense of loyalty to the Queen for many, but for many it is loyalty to their community and to the welfare of their community, not in any sense that we’re going to get anything out of it. If Britain were to withdraw from the North tomorrow, it wouldn’t make any difference to the sense of loyalty, and the refusal to be, as they would see it, coerced into something they do not want. That is a big motivating factor. They will not go and they feel they are being pushed. Whether they are or not is another question…”
Q.2 . “Throughout our country, North, South, East and West, we’ve absolutely loads of churches. We’re a great church-going society. Maybe instead of being so diligent about attending church, maybe we should think about the future. .. I believe that Irish society is not a great thinking society … wouldn’t it be lovely if we could introduce into our country real patriotism and real Christianity?”
Rev. Hamilton: “I am much more fearful of patriotism than I am of citizenship”.
Fr. Troy: “…I take the point you’re making, but could I also say, without making special pleading, I didn’t realise how sensitive the territory of each church is until this dispute broke out on Ardoyne Road. As an example… there was another Christian minister who is not now speaking to me. I regret this, and I pray every night that this will end. Through a very tense situation he wasn’t present at an event that got a lot of attention, and he felt that I excluded him. The fact that I did or didn’t is not what I am talking about… I think your point is well made, it is the lack of us all living the fullness of Christianity, that is the problem. I could say to you now, I’d love to say that is easily done, but it is sad to say this, it is an absolute minefield. That doesn’t mean you run for cover into the bunker … but it is so so difficult, and yet it must be done and I agree with you.”
Roy Garland: “The church I was brought up in doesn’t exist any longer. I was brought up in the Church of God on the Shankill, it was a Holiness Church of God, it doesn’t actually exist. I wonder sometimes, is the insecurity, certainly among religious Protestants, a factor of the fact that they live in such vulnerable little churches. They’re little organisations… The other point I would make is: there is an awful lot of real Christianity in Northern Ireland despite the situation in which we live. If you lived in that situation in which the people across the street were seen as your enemies, and had actually shot your people, and some of your people had shot them, you’d find it very difficult, and yet people have reached out across that divide and an amazing amount of work has been done right across the board…”
Cllr. Martin Morgan: “I don’t want to comment on Christianity, but on the other point you made – patriotism. Certainly in the part of Belfast that I live in and represent, I don’t like seeing a Tricolour painted on a footpath, I don’t like seeing a half-torn Tricolour up a lamp-post, and the same goes for Union Jacks. There has been too much flag-waving and bunting waving, and that is part of our problem. I take Norman’s point, and I share it – I prefer to look at citizenship. And citizenship whether it is North Belfast or Belfast, but I can sit in City Hall with the likes of Billy Hutchinson, or members from other Unionist political parties, and we talk about how we have a common citizenship also, in being people of Belfast and being Ulster men and women.
Questioner: “I understand patriotism as being a love of your country…”
Q. 3: To Fr. Troy – “…You said that if the Holy Cross school were to close, you feel you would have lost something. What do you mean by lost? Do you not think it would be more appropriate for the community of North Belfast if they were to have a project school like we have created here in the South of Ireland, the “Educate Together” projects… where children – Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Moslem, can all go to school together, and they could start from scratch…. I just take exception with the word “loss” after all that has happened in the last thirty years…”
Q. 4: “I am a retired Columban priest. Over fifty years ago I was in the Philippines, I was stationed in the southern part, the island of Mindanao. A large part of the diocese was Muslim, the rest was Catholic. In one parish, the priest was shot by Moslems, in 1970… . Last September another priest was shot in the same parish… It was mentioned that people up above should be doing more. I would ask, what about those below? In that parish where the priest was shot, we have a high school, 60-70% Moslem, 30% Catholic, and it’s tremendous what is happening because of that. The parents come to meetings, sit down and talk with each other, the missionaries play no part in that, could that have happened in North Belfast?”
Q. 5: “I am a Northerner, of dual identity. I am British and also Irish…. First of all, to Fr. Troy, I found it as a Protestant, deplorable, the way in which the little children were treated. The next thing I want to say is that truth itself is not the danger, it is the ignorance. I find that after working thirty one years in Drumcree in another tradition I find that my Protestant people were left behind, they were not brought along. I am a grass-roots working-class woman.. What I noticed from the Catholics, when they got educated they came back into the community and brought their people along. My Protestant people were left floundering, they didn’t know how to express themselves, to express the anger and frustration….We have as working-class people more to unite us than to divide us. … We need to build up their self-esteem, their confidence, to know who they are. I found that being safe and secure in who I was allowed me to cross the divide, even though I was frowned on … considered a traitor for crossing the divide.. I found that the only way to find out what my neighbour was like.. to live, work, pray with them. I was sent to Coventry many years ago, by my own community, for doing that. All I wanted to do was to find out what it was that was dividing us. Our only way out of this is: we need reconciliation politically and religiously. Our political leaders have let us down by not listening to my people on the ground… as long as they were voted in, with the Orange card to keep the Green out, they excluded my people and my people now have resulted in this awful anger and if these are not addressed, take heed, we will have another civil war on our hands. The only way I see out of this is by educating my people in how to dialogue with people, talking to people to understand ….. Again I bring in the spiritual element, because without that nothing will work…”
Replies to Questions 3-5:
Brendan O’Brien: “… We have had questions about what would be lost if the Holy Cross school had to close, about people at a lower level doing more, and about alienated Protestant people feeling that they have been left behind…”
Fr. Troy: “Very briefly, I am sorry you take exception, but I have to stand where I stand in a truthful way. What I meant by “lost” was this – I felt that the Glenbryn people and the Ardoyne people would have driven a wedge between themselves that would create a legacy of bitterness if the school closed on the basis of the dispute. …If you are going a step further into the whole level of integrated education, a different way of seeing it, I couldn’t agree more that a sectarian type of education has no future, but I would still say … I have to be very careful that I don’t set up a system where I ask the children to integrate the society. I think integrated education will only become a reality when the society is more integrated. If we could have true Catholic schools, true Protestant schools, in the sense that they are open to the best in education, the best in citizenship, the best in culture, then I hope the day will come when people from Glenbryn would want to go to Holy Cross, just as I hope the day will come when Catholics from Ardoyne would want to go to Wheatfield which is as near as that door … I do take the point you are making. Certainly I am not saying that in one sense Holy Cross Girls’ School must stand almost like in a Drumcree situation “we’ll stand here, we will no other”. What I am saying is this: there’s too many good people in Glenbryn who would be very hurt if Holy Cross Girls’ School closed for that reason. Now if demographically in five years’ time or less, there are not the pupils, so be it, life moves on, that’s the only point I was trying to make…. I will just finish with one sentence – I remember one night at a meeting with Billy Hutchinson. Norman Hamilton was also there …I remember saying to Norman and Billy… “I would love to think the day would come when I would exercise a pastoral ministry in Glenbryn as much as I could exercise it in Holy Cross” – that’s the future.”
Roy Garland: “In one sense the Glenbryn people are scapegoats, because the society in which we live in in Northern Ireland is deeply divided and ghettoised. They are a remnant of a large community who feel they are being pushed out, and actually have been pushed further and further out. They’re a small enclave and there is a school within it which is a Catholic school, in this Protestant area. Now that’s regrettable, the school should be integrated, the area should be integrated, everybody should live together. But we are expecting a marginalized, scapegoated [community], feeling oppressed, feeling they are living in a “cold house” to accept this. They accepted it for years, but they feel that the school process was being used. You probably know all about that – the feeling that people are coming in with their children to spy out the community, and I think that because of the nature of the community with peace walls everywhere, to keep people out, and they do make a parallel with Drumcree and feel their people can’t walk down Garvaghy Road, but there’s a large number of people coming up into their school. And. they don’t trust the British, they don’t trust the Irish, they don’t trust their own politicians. They’re isolated, they’re uneducated, and they don’t have much of this world’s goods. And I think they need love and I don’t know how you can give it to them. I’ve condemned them for doing the terrible things they have said and done – I think it was unacceptable and deplorable and hurtful, to hear the words and the actions they took… At the same time there are two communities victimising each other and being victimised. I don’t know how you show them that love, but that’s what they need.”
Cllr. Martin Morgan: “In relation to the question on the Holy Cross school, I share the sentiments of Fr. Troy. On a personal level I am always very wary of the phrase “integrated education”. The SDLP supports integrated education where it is required and asked for, and the funding of it. My own view is, to move that on a stage further, we’re victims in some senses within the Catholic education system, the CCMS – there’s no equivalent within the Protestant school system, a very powerful body. My view is we need a national system of schools, not Catholic, not Protestant – integrated has a jaundiced view in sections of Northern Ireland society – but where we move to a process where all schools are not defined by religion, but anybody from whatever particular religion – not just Catholic or Protestant because there are other ethnic minorities in Belfast and further afield – that they can attend a non-identified school but still have access to culture, to citizenship and religion
“In terms of what this lady was saying, that’s part of what I was touching on earlier, about the community you came from. Brendan picked me up on the point I made about the fracture of political life within loyalist communities. I can only talk about the people I talk to, and they don’t see that as a healthy thing. They do look at the Catholic community. You were nodding when I was talking about community development initiatives, the Good Friday Agreement was only signed in 1998, community development initiatives in Catholic areas began in the late 1980s, years beforehand. But I think that if you are in a party which is either Nationalist or Republican, the best thing you can do.. Nigel Dodds was referred to by Fr. Troy, I think it is a disgrace, he shows no political leadership as the most senior politician, as M.P. The SDLP and other parties have gone to the senior man like Dodds, and have asked for meetings, asked ..”what can we do to help you if its in terms of using our experience, our knowledge, our education …[tape unclear] what can we do?” We’ve never had a meeting, we’ve asked five times for meetings with Loyalist and Unionist politicians. We might have nothing to offer, but if you’re not there, and you don’t meet face to face…
“But I have to make one point, on public record, whatever the fears, grievances – and they’re legitimate – and aspirations are within Loyalism, violence can never be the excuse for expressing those, and that is what is happening in North Belfast. The violence being manifested on our streets … whoever was the spin-doctor on this has used the very legitimate grievances that exist within Loyalism to justify violence.”
Rev. Norman Hamilton: Re Holy Cross school dispute: “Lest there be any ambiguity on this, I agree entirely about the total awfulness of what has gone on …
Re education: “On the issue of the educational system, I am a bit of an agnostic on this, because I have real fears about any society that says a State-based secular humanistic education is better than one based on Judaeo-Christian values. So I’m not buying the idea of a State system as apparently better than a religious one….”
Re identity: “On the question of identity, let me part company with many folks on this. This is part of my whole being as a Christian minister. I do believe that man does not live by politics or sociology or education alone. My own identity, my own security – and I hope you’ll not mind me saying this – lies in the fact of my relationship with Christ. I am first and foremost a Christian. Everything else flows from my citizenship, being human, and so forth But I do not want to assume that the State can provide the identity, or culture can provide the identity which satisfies people and helps them….. or, sorry, that they are the only contributors or even the major contributors to them becoming reconciled, there seems to me to be a huge spiritual dimension that has to be addressed. I do not expect the State to do that….”
Q. 6: Integrated education: “…I am not quite happy with the answers of any of the panellists. The Father at the back indicated a Muslim community and a Christian community could do wonderful things together in their own school. Fr. Troy expressed scepticism about the children having to solve the problem… I think the children would be the best instruments… If they got together they will dissipate a lot of the bitterness, a lot of the prejudices that operate… Most people’s experience, through even things like social clubs and youth clubs is that they are very wonderful instruments for bringing parents together… Martin expressed the philosophy of it being one community, well here is an opportunity: Fr. Troy said the school is down at the wire, it’s almost ready to close, and Norman says that the Loyalist community feels threatened…. So surely some kind of bullet should be bitten in relation to integrated education, even on some kind of experimental basis? …. The integrated system was, I understand, tried in the seventies and Bishop Philbin and some others threw cold water on it… I understand it fizzled out, but it should be tried. Here we have two Christian communities, very very close, and, as all the speakers expressed, when it comes down to the human level they are at idem together, so here is one wonderful opportunity… to put it back into the hands of the next generation starting off, put them together and see what happens…”
Q.7: “Congratulations on an excellent debate…. Rev. Norman outlined the grievances of the Unionists, but sadly in this country, and I think it’s on both sides, for every grievance he outlined for the Unionists, there would be similar grievances for the Nationalists… That’s something we have to put behind us if we want to move on. The young SDLP councillor said that he wanted to talk. I think that is the most important thing of all – until we all sit down at the table and talk, we’ll never have any resolution. Sadly, two or three weeks ago we heard Gerry Kelly say that Nigel Dodds wouldn’t talk to him – the two most senior politicians in your constituency and they’re not talking to each other. I was very disillusioned with that. Last Thursday, I went on a spin through the Ardoyne in the company of two Loyalist friends. They said, Norman, that you were a “decent man” and they said, Fr. Troy, that you were a “grand wee man”!. … But there are two things I still haven’t discovered ….two small questions:
The children have been going to that school for a long time now. … I saw the building and I hope it never closes … But what triggered that dispute? ….
We’ve had the sorrowful sights on TV of what happened to the children and everyone’s heart went out to them … The Taoiseach brought the children to Dublin, and I heard that two men were organising a weekend away for them – very honourable and Christian. But what I am wondering is – is there is a group of Loyalist children out there wondering what they did wrong? Is nobody addressing them? I would like to say to them come down …”
Q. 8: Ten years ago, five years ago this discussion wouldn’t have occurred. It’s much easier for us to accommodate the reasons of the people at the table, because, looking around here, it is mainly middle class. .. It seems to me that what is happening here is sadly a reflection on the lack of political ambition and will to recognise the plight of the most deprived people on this island – and there are some in the South as well… It seemed to me that every speaker at the table tonight shared one ambition, and that was to encourage the political representatives who have stepped outside and are comfortable, and like us, anaesthetised, because of the material gain that is afforded to many people in this nation, but those people, sadly, when they go into their cold homes, and enter the coldness of their hearts, and don’t have the lubrication that Roy and yourself were afforded, with an intellectual rationale that comes through debate and discussion to transcend the feelings of hurt and injustice. They don’t have it and it has to be given to them because they are, like all of us here, human beings who have the capacity to transcend, but the political representatives have to come behind you and stop paying lip-service or in some cases encouraging fear and hatred that perpetuates the hurt these people have….”
Replies to Questions 6-8:
Brendan O’Brien: “Thank you very much. The quality of the questions – as a journalist much of this seems to have gone off the agenda, and yet people is really engaged in it. Are there any on the panel who want to take up any of those points?
Rev. Norman Hamilton: Re what triggered the Holy Cross dispute: “Fundamentally, some people feeling that their territory was being taken over – a serious attempt to take over territory which resulted in a fight which resulted in a riot. Now it’s much more complicated than that, but the trigger point was a single incident about territory. Is that fair Fr. Aidan?”
Fr. Aidan Troy: “Yes, you could argue this all day and all night but I couldn’t disagree with that as a summary…”
Rev. Hamilton: Re issue of political representatives: “… It is a cliché that you get the political representatives you deserve, and I am nervous, I have to say, about putting all the responsibility onto political representatives. It does seem to me that, and we’ve already touched on this, that we do need to work together. I think it was Martin who used the phrase – a partnership between politicians, community leaders and church people. Those of us who do have some capacity to lead are charged under God with leading. And certainly it’s part of my daily routine, I have to say, to beaver away at this one. Only yesterday I was up in Stormont making this very point…”
Cllr. Martin Morgan: Re grievances: “The area I grew up in had until very recently 76% unemployed – just one statistic. It is a Nationalist/Republican area. I think the difficulty, when you were talking about the Unionist grievances, is that they haven’t really been aired before. So it’s not a case of competing.. It’s very easy for me to say “yes you may have your problems but I have mine”. That’s what I was trying to say, there’s a commonality there. Unemployment is high in Loyalist and Republican areas, educational attainment is low in both areas. I think that’s how we have to move it forward. It’s not trying to camouflage For the first time ever people are beginning to say “this is a problem in my area”.
Talking to each other: “In terms of the talking, what I left out when I was going to speak first of all – “why have we not had genuine trust-building and reconciliation?” … Firstly, the two sections of our divided community have suffered greatly. It may be a necessary starting point that Catholics and Protestants acknowledge the hurt caused to each other by each other, and this is a possible first step towards healing. It’s nearly along the lines of what Fr. Troy was saying about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa… But we have never done that …. I’m there as an SDLP councillor, maybe some day I will be up in the big white building as well, but it is very easy for me to ask somebody to engage with me. I’ve never had an army behind me, I’ve never had paramilitaries behind me. But if you look at the backgrounds of those two politicians you mentioned, I think until you can get into that process, and don’t forget the propaganda on the streets of Belfast and further afield has been a game. Parades are another issue. “Oh we’ll let that parade come down when they talk to us”. It is very easy to say that when you know fine rightly that they are never going to talk to you. It’s easy to call for talking – I’m not saying they are not genuine about it, but we’re putting the cart maybe before the horse, we’re not creating the conditions to make the likes of Gerry Kelly and Nigel Dodds talk to each other. The thing about lip-service, I agree with that man down there.. It is easy for certain people, I’m sitting here as a political representative, but, yes… people have to be brought up off their knees. And that’s where the people are in North Belfast and further afield. ..One of the things that is very lacking is that there is no proper movement to recognise the aspirations of those communities – or community – there is no proper acknowledgment about how to empower those people.”
Fr. Troy: Re integrated education: “I take the point about integrated education… In the terms of the group that is so vibrant here, it could be a very good topic, because I wouldn’t do it justice if I gave a quick comment.”
Re Loyalist children: “I just want to say to that man there, who made a fabulous observation about the children on the Loyalist side at school feeling “what did we do wrong?” I don’t think that can ever be justified, and in fact Basil Keogh, the owner of Peacock’s Hotel at Maam Cross phoned me up two or three weeks before the children went down from Holy Cross and asked what would the situation be. … It is not as easy doing that, but that is certainly the idea. There is no way that I would want to see the children of Holy Cross being rewarded in a way that made the others feel guilty, but it goes back… that there is no use in us artificially integrating until we are able to do it properly. The parents of Holy Cross would have had to pull their children out if they were going. It’s that raw at the moment. I believe it’s sad, it’s tragic, and that’s why we’re talking tonight…”
Roy Garland: Re integrated education: “There is an integrated education movement and it’s growing. And also further education, which I have taught in for over twenty years, is integrated. I taught religion to classes of all sides.”
Brendan O’Brien: “People who have been engaged in the multi-denominational drive in the South will tell you how much resistance they met by Catholic churches and other churches, and by the establishment and everything else in a time of peace and relative calm…”
Q. 9:Re SDLP voter transfers: “Just two questions: the first is for Cllr. Morgan: seeing he has the facility of the STV system occasionally, why does he and his party transfer their second preference to a fascist bigot, instead of to a man living next door who shares his own cultural and social and political and economic points of view?”
The future: “Secondly, down the road ten years from now, it is very probable that the majority of people in Northern Ireland will be Roman Catholic. I do not necessarily assume that because they are Roman Catholic they will vote themselves out of the UK, but they very well might and if they do, it will mean there’s a hard core, maybe 48%, in the North-East, around the Belfast area, who will not want to go, just as they didn’t want to in 1912. And they will resist, and they will fight, and even if they were pushed by the British Government or by any other medium, you’ll have a tiger by the tail. It’s just not possible. How are you going to resolve that? And that’ll mean the Belfast Agreement will mean nothing any more.”
Q. 10: Re integrated education: “I’m glad, Mr. Chairman, that you mentioned that in the South there has been quite a lot of resistance to integrated education…It would be true to say that in the North there is substantial resistance in the churches to integrated education? I see it as a way forward to get children together, and to put religion, not at the very centre, but having it as a subject in school…I was at Glencree recently and we were talking about this subject, and interestingly, Unionists felt threatened by integrated education and they said it would take away from their culture. I just wanted a comment from the panel on that. They felt that integrated education in the North at the moment is predominantly one culture, which was, if you like, Nationalist/Gaelic culture. I don’t know if that is true…”
Q. 11: “I saw the little girls going to school, and other girls blowing whistles at them, and what concerned me was, these are the future mothers of our country, those little girls from the two communities.”
Canadian evangelical initiative: “The main question I want to ask is directed to the two gentlemen of the cloth who are here tonight. I am referring to this evangelical movement which is coming from Canada, it is cross-border.. There was to be a media blitz in February or March concerning it but due to the silly season that we are having in the South – namely the referendum and the elections – this was postponed until September. I’d like to ask the two clerical gentlemen, can the churches or the clergy feel they can use this movement?… Several people have talked about humanity and Christianity and so on. …It worked terribly well in Canada, I’m wondering what your views would be on it working in Ireland?”
Brendan O’Brien: “We are over time and all those contributions have been very valuable. I can’t take any more, I’m going to wrap it up quickly..”
Rev. Hamilton: Re the future: “What will the world be in ten years’ time? I’m afraid I have no views on what might happen in ten years. “A week in politics is a very long time”, to quote Harold Wilson. Ten years is worse than eternity.”
Re Canadian evangelical initiative: “… The major challenge is for the local church to engage properly with the local community. And it does seem to me that many outside initiatives … distract attention and energy and resources away from the really hard task of community engagement and community leadership to an agenda that has been set, for the best of reasons, outside. ….”
Re Holy Cross and Wheatfield schools: [Referring to map of North Belfast] “This is the Ardoyne Road… this is Holy Cross Church here, this is the State school to which the Protestant children of this area go… The current situation is that there is almost no contact between the teachers, twenty years of cross-community work has gone down the tubes, and there is a crisis as to how even sensible contact is going to be restored… This distance between Holy Cross and Wheatfield Primary is the width of this room.. A good thing from Canada is not going to address this issue. Fr. Aidan has to address it, I have to address it, the principals have to address it….. We need to find ways of leading this community back into constructive productive sensible community relations. And that just breaks my heart that those two schools are further apart now than they were many years ago.”
Cllr. Martin Morgan: Re voting transfers: “…. You are quite correct in saying, in one sense, that a number of SDLP voters under STV do transfer to Sinn Fein immediately after voting for the SDLP – some of us would share the view as to how they operate. But the truth of the matter is, that in the lead up to the Assembly elections in 1998 – I was one of the two vice-chairpersons of the SDLP – Sinn Fein made overtures to the SDLP to enter into an electoral pact. It took a five minute discussion for us to tell them to clear off The SDLP is engaged in an electoral war with Sinn Fein. We have our policies, we believe they are the right policies, and we do not instruct our voters to transfer to Sinn Fein. The only time the SDLP gave an instruction, or a direction, as to who to vote for after you vote for an SDLP politician, was for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections in 1998 when Seamus Mallon, who was then deputy leader, said: “after you vote for the SDLP candidates, vote for pro-Agreement candidates”. That was the SDLP line and we haven’t moved from that. We will encourage people to transfer their votes under STV to those who support the Good Friday Agreement, we won’t specify a particular party.”
The future: “On the other point you were talking about – the future, whether it’s a united Ireland or what… The SDLP has adapted its Constitution to meet that need. In the original SDLP Constitution we talked about that we believe in a united Ireland by consent…. I’m an Irishman, I believe in a united Ireland. It’s an aspiration of mine, but here’s the essential difference: it’s not a thirty-two county all-Ireland socialist republic we believe in. We believe in a new agreed Ireland, and that’s so important. If there is ever going to be a closer relationship that’s developing between the northern and the southern parts of this island, we’ll do it by agreement, not through coercion. Because you’re quite right – all we’ll have is the reverse of the penny…So it’s through agreement, and a new Ireland in non-coercive ways.”
Roy Garland: Re the future: “… There are Unionists, quite a number of them, and Republicans, who believe a united Ireland is inevitable. Demographic change has been going on for a long time. It instigates a lot of insecurity among Unionists as well. In fact, in the very early days of the Troubles, the idea that Protestants were in decline, and Unionists were in decline and on the way out, was used to stimulate paramilitary activity and all the rest of it, because they felt they were being manipulated out. And I don’t think it is actually very helpful to talk about a united Ireland, that is a united territorial Ireland. I think it is more helpful for us to talk about a united people and try to understand each other and try to reach out to each other, and develop good relations North-South, East and West as well Of course that’s positive down here as well, with England, the more the whole islands are integrated the better for everyone.”
Re integrated education: “On the question – are Unionists threatened by integrated education? – Many of them are, and that is why Ian Paisley has set up his own church education system. But it is also true, I think, that the Catholic Church also feels threatened by integrated education. In the early days of the State it is my understanding that the Unionist Government was going to introduce a secular system. Now I actually would support a secular system in which religious education was taught, and people were educated in their religion. They wanted to introduce that sort of educational system but the Catholic Church and, I understand, the Orange Order and some elements within Unionism, opposed an integrated secular system of education. It’s not the sole answer to the problem, because the problem is multi-faceted, there are so many problems. If people can’t live together, it’s hard to see how they can go to school together, but at the same time you have to start somewhere. And bringing children together obviously would help to break down a lot of myths about the other community. The more we know about each other the better, and some people are knowing less and less while others are reaching out.”
Fr. Troy: “I’m only getting into my stride now, but we have a good chairman and he won’t let me go on too long. It’s most stimulating …Very briefly, I won’t say anything about a united Ireland, I think the comments expressed cover a very good point of view.
Integrated education: “I would love to be able to deal with integrated education a little bit better than I have, I still would hold out that it is not the answer. It has a place. I did a programme on BBC Radio Scotland at Queen’s University recently … Not that I know much about it, but I did have to read about it. I have gone into the study of the philosophy and the values of Catholic education. I am still convinced, but I’m not opposed to integrated education…. I want that to be very very clear. I would go to the wall for Catholic education. I believe it is essential to the solution, it’s not part of the problem, but I do believe there is a place for integrated education. Yesterday there was Confirmation in the parish I serve in – some of the children were from an integrated school. Thanks be to God they can now come to the Confirmation. I am not going to defend the time when they had to be confirmed on their own. I am not going to defend the sins of the past, but I am saying that we need a much bigger discussion.
“For instance, within the Catholic family there is this whole question of should we still be subsidising grammar schools with an iniquitous eleven-plus system? I say “no”. It is equal opportunity and we must revolutionise education. But I think it is a soft option. One very small example I saw the other day which was tragic. I think Martin mentioned the Limestone Road… I saw children coming home from an integrated school – and this is not a hit at integrated schools, it is a fact that I am very sad about – one group went off to one end of the road, and the other group went off to the other end of the road, and they joined in riots on opposite sides, in the same school uniform! Now please don’t say that I am having a cheap shot – I do believe you’re onto something crucial, and I do believe that the best of integrated education, the best of Catholic education, have all got a part to play in a new system.
Re Canadian evangelical initiative: “I don’t know an awful lot about the Canadian situation, but there is one thing I’ve learned because I belong to an international order and I have had a few experiences around the world – and that is if we don’t inculturate, never import. It has to become an Irish version of the Canadian experience.”
Brendan O’Brien: “Thank you very much for coming. I only want to say that your contributions here were terrific, your presence here was very valuable, the speakers from the table here were very stimulating because they all came from the reality, the coalface so to speak. The only last thought that I want to leave you with before you go is that I hope everybody listened – and I’m not being patronising – to what was being said on the Loyalist side of things, as well as obviously from the Nationalist/Catholic side of things. But we are in the South and some people have come the journey here, and it’s important to acknowledge that they did come the journey. And I heard words like “crisis”, “there will be a civil war”, people wondering if their Britishness is really accepted, all about territory, “sea of Green”. …I would just make a simple point that I hope that is heard. But I do think also – and I started with a reference to the Middle East – that people who feel as strongly as that also have to acknowledge that on the other side there is very deep hurt, and people come to a sense of confidence having travelled a very long road to get there with reasonable good will I think that does exist on the Nationalist side, sometimes accompanied by blindness, I think, about how the other side feels. And I would make a very small point – talk about “cold houses”, if you walk into the Dail, and you were a Loyalist or a Unionist, what you see in the opening foyer are two big pictures – Michael Collins and Cathal Brugha – both in uniforms of the Civil War. Now I’m not denigrating the War of Independence or the Civil War, but I often wonder, has anybody even thought of that small point, in modern Ireland, to make the Ireland of the Good Friday Agreement more inclusive in all its symbols, especially here. So thank you very much for coming, thank you very much indeed to the Meath Peace Group who make these kind of meetings possible, and organise them and they are very valuable. Sorry for keeping you later than I said, and thank you to the four speakers…”
Closing words: Julitta Clancy (Meath Peace Group): “I would like to reiterate what Brendan has just said. There is a big challenge for us in meeting the commitment to reconciliation that was in the Agreement but which seems to have often been left behind. Somebody said at the beginning that we weren’t challenged down here. We took the easy route – we aren’t actually challenging ourselves, we’re not actually looking and we’re not listening enough. In private and public meetings over the last few years we have heard the pain and the hurt of many in the Unionist community, and we have worried about it and made representations about it. … Also we need to face up to the hurts of the past, and I wonder often if we had done that at the very beginning of the Agreement, if we had looked more deeply at the hurts of the past and not tried to brush them aside, would things have gone better? I think that the Republican community particularly has to start facing up to that. But we all have to do it. Roy mentioned the group of victims – retired members of the security forces – that we brought around Meath and Louth last week. It was harrowing to hear their stories – as it was in listening to all victims. But they had the added problem of intimidation which they were suffering from Republicans still. And they have fears that – though they had voted “yes” for the Agreement – maybe the Agreement had left them behind. We need to face up to this and maybe now is the time, before we go on any further.
Meath Peace Group talk, April 2002. Compiled and edited by Julitta Clancy, from tapes recorded by Anne Nolan and Oliver Ward and notes compiled by John Keaveney. The Meath Peace Group is a totally voluntary group founded in April 1993 to promote peace and understanding and foster dialogue, trust and co-operation between people North and South.
APPENDIX: “The Makings of a Young Militant” by Rev. Dr. Robert Beckett, Newtownabbey [extract from letter to newspapers, 14 Nov. 2001, and part of address to Guild of Uriel meeting, Drogheda, 24 November 2001]
“Glen Branagh grew up in the Mountcollyer district of North Belfast, bordering Tiger’s Bay and I have known him from childhood. He was a highly intelligent lad, full of fun and energy and not aggressive by nature. He attended Sunday School and several different church-based youth clubs where he was regularly warned of the evils of violence and the need to live at peace with his neighbour. Yet he died last Sunday afternoon as the result of a blast bomb explosion as he engaged in the defence of his neighbourhood against an attack by several hundred nationalists.
“What were the factors which led to his death? I believe they are likely to be these:
“He heard the older members of his district tell how they had once lived peacefully with their Catholic neighbours in the New Lodge area but had been intimidated out of their homes by IRA threats in the 1970s. He remembered how the shops on the loyalist side of Duncairn Gardens had been forced to close and the streets behind them, after years of vicious attack, had been bulldozed down to provide an industrial buffer zone which had seemed to promise a peaceful future. He had watched the mobs of nationalists youths, orchestrated by older men, streaming out from Newington Street onto the Limestone Road to attack the homes of his friends on the other side of Tiger’s Bay and establish a new flashpoint. He knew they were being taxied in from other parts of Belfast and heard their taunts that they would soon take over his district.
“He had seen many times the security forces watch from the safety of their armoured landrovers as mobs of nationalists attacked the homes of his friends, only emerging as reinforcements arrived simultaneously with the men of the district. They then proceeded to engage in battle with the residents and the nationalists retreated unhindered. He noted that the same assailants appeared regularly and very little effort had been made to arrest them.
“He watched a friend being seriously wounded in his own area with three bullets from a pistol fired by what must have been a highly trained marksman. He listened with disbelief as the Divisional Police Commander stated that this and at least 5 other recent shootings in the area with automatic weapons could not be attributed to the IRA. He waited for several weeks for the result of a police investigation into the shootings to be made known – none was forthcoming.
“On the day his friend was almost killed, he was appalled by the failure of the media to give it adequate coverage, preferring to focus on the discomfort of two little girls shocked by a “supposedly loyalist” pipe bomb. He knew loyalists had not thrown this bomb and that police on the ground had confirmed this to be true. He was incensed by public statements on the same day by both the police sub-divisional commander and the Secretary of State castigating as “scum” the loyalists of Tiger’s Bay who dared to defend their homes from attack.
“He was aware that press reports of the disturbances in his area were failing repeatedly to give an accurate picture of the “turf-war” nature of events and suspected that censorship was being exercised by someone other than the reporters who covered the stories.
“He believed the police were being used in a cynical way by Westminster and Dublin politicians to pulverise loyalist paramilitaries who were opposed to a united Ireland. Sinn Fein/IRA was creating the operational conditions for this to take place.
“He was convinced, young as he was, that he could and must make a contribution to the defence of his neighbourhood, his home and his friends. His innate sense of justice told him he was justified in doing so and he became involved in the conflict.
“I do not agree with all of the assessments and decisions that Glen took but I can understand the forces which moulded him and contributed to his untimely death. The result is that we in the churches lost the battle to keep him out of trouble and his family and community lost a very talented young man. Relationships between the loyalist community, police and the nationalist community have reached an “all-time low”. Sinn Fein is one step closer to its goal of defeating the loyalist community and driving them out of their homes. Even more importantly, the cause of peace, justice and open and accountable government and policing is trampled deeper in the mud of duplicitous politics. Sadly, we can expect more young men to follow in Glen’s footsteps.”
“Where should we go from here to work for peace?
“Both the Secretary of State and the sub-divisional police commander should apologise for the unwarranted derogatory remarks made about people who were defending their homes against attack.
“The Chief Constable has had several weeks to investigate the history of the different automatic weapons used in at least six attacks from nationalists upon both the loyalist community and his own officers. The results of these investigations should immediately be made known, as well as the sources from which the gunmen emanated.
“Greater efforts should be made by the security forces to confront and arrest the instigators and perpetrators of the attacks upon both Catholic and Protestant homes.
“The junction of Newington Street with the Limestone Road should be sealed with an impassable barrier to safeguard the welfare of decent peace-loving citizens on both sides.
“Sinn Fein/IRA must stop organising attacks upon the loyalist community. Their own people have also been suffering the consequences and there is a distinct likelihood that the next young person to die will be one of the youths they are cynically exploiting.
“People on both sides of the community must marginalize the troublemakers, pray and redouble their efforts to bring the two communities together again in peace.”
[Rev. Dr. Robert C. Beckett, Newtownabbey]
MPG talk 42: Biographical Notes on speakers:
Roy Garland: Belfast teacher, Irish News columnist, and member of the Ulster Unionist Party, Roy is currently working as a researcher for Michael McGimpsey, MLA, Minister for Culture in the N.I. Executive. He is a founder member and co-chair (with Julitta Clancy) of the Louth-based reconciliation group, “The Guild of Ancient Uriel” whose members come from North and South. Since 1995 the Guild has been involved in dialogue with a wide variety of groups and individuals from all sides of the traditional divide in Northern Ireland, and from the Republic.
Rev. Norman Hamilton(Presbyterian Minister, Ballysillan). A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Norman Hamilton became a career civil servant in Northern Ireland, and spent some time on the political side. Feeling a sense of vocation to the Christian Ministry, he worked for several years in England in Christian ministry in universities and colleges, before becoming a Presbyterian minister in 1980. He has served in several ministries in Belfast and has been ministering in the Ardoyne area for 13 years. Contact address: 564 Crumlin Road, Belfast BT14 7GL.
Cllr. Martin Morgan(SDLP) is a childcare social worker andhas been a member of the SDLP for fifteen years. A graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, he was a member of the Executive of the SDLP for 6 years and was Vice-Chairperson of the party during the Good Friday negotiations 1997-98. He was the SDLP youth representative to ECOSY (Party of European Socialists) 1992-93, and has been a member of Belfast City Council, representing the Oldpark area from 1993 to the present. He was Leader and Deputy Leader of the SDLP in the Council, and was John Hume’s appointee to the Academy of Leadership, Washington DC, in 1997. Contact address: SDLP offices, 228 Antrim Road, Belfast 15. Telephone (from south): (048) 90 220520
Brendan O’Brien: A senior reporter with RTE current affairs, Brendan worked on Seven Days, Today Tonight and Prime Time. He won a Jacob’s Award for investigative journalism, notably for his work in the areas of drugs and serious crime. He has reported on all aspects of the Northern Ireland conflict since 1974 and is the author of two books on the IRA: The Long War and A Pocket History of the IRA. He has recently completed a major documentary on the Middle East conflict.
Fr. Aidan Troy: Born in 1945 in Bray, Co. Wicklow, Fr. Troy is a graduate of University College Dublin and Clonliffe College, Dublin. He was ordained a Passionist priest in 1970 and has ministered in Europe, Africa and America. He recently completed a Degree in Theology in Rome and was appointed parish priest of Holy Cross, Ardoyne, Belfast, in August 2001. Contact address: Holy Cross Retreat, 432 Crumlin Road, Belfast BT14 7GE.
© Meath Peace Group April 2002
No. 39 – “Cementing the Peace – The Role of the Republic’s Government and People”
Tuesday, November 28th, 2000
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
Brian Hayes, TD (Fine Gael, Spokesperson on N.I.)
Cllr. Brian Fitzgerald (Ind. Member of Meath Co. Council)
Micheal MacDonncha (Sinn Féin; Dail Secretary to Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin, TD)
Dr. Martin Mansergh (Fianna Fâil; Special Adviser to the Taoiseach)
Dr. Gerard Hogan, S.C. (Lecturer in Law, Trinity College Dublin)
Chaired by Roy Garland (Member of UUP; Irish News Columnist; Co-Chair, Guild of Uriel, Louth)
Introduction: Roy Garland
Addresses of speakers
Questions and comments
Appendix A: Biographical notes on speakers
Appendix B: Principles Underlying the Good Friday Agreement and the Commitments made by the Irish Government – A Summary
Roy Garland (Guest chair): “Good evening and thank you very much for having me here. The subject tonight is to me a very important topic. The whole image of the Republic and the contribution of the Republic is of vital importance. I must say, personally, understanding something of the difficulties and the realities on the ground, it’s sometimes difficult to see what can be changed, but I know that on the ground in the North there are great difficulties in coming to terms with the Republic. I came from a family who originated in Co. Monaghan, and before that Co. Louth, but despite that, my father seemed to have vowed from about 1930 that he would never cross that border. I grew up with that. Actually he did cross the border about 1930, and I have a picture to prove it – I came across it about a year or two ago, of my mother and father in Monaghan. But his impression of what happened was such that he determined never to cross that border, and certainly I was brought up with that. And the feeling then of coming across the border – I mean it’s quite a miracle I suppose that I’m here tonight! – was that I was coming into an alien environment which was foreign to all that I understood. When I first came across in the 1960s, till I went home, I was uneasy and there was a great sense of relief when I got back across that border. That may seem strange to you. Today I feel at home down here – there’s no sense of that at all. You might wonder how that happened but part of the reason was finding friends here, and also relatives as well .. and beginning to feel at home here. There’s something like that has to happen before we really find a new way forward. We really have to make friends with each other and respect our differences. … Now we have a lot of speakers tonight, each one with something to say of great importance. Our first speaker is Brian Hayes, TD, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Northern Ireland ..
1. Brian Hayes, TD (Fine Gael)
“Thank you Roy. I never thought I’d live to see the day when I’d be calling Roy Garland “Chairman Roy”!. I’m delighted to be here in Co. Meath this evening….. I’m delighted to have the invitation from the Meath Peace Group to speak at one of your meetings. I have to say when I was appointed party spokesperson in June, the very first group to come to see me and to give their position on the whole issue of Northern Ireland and the emerging peace process was the Meath Peace Group, and I really appreciate the contact I’ve had with the Group since then. I very much appreciate the fact that all of your meetings are recorded, and we know exactly what we have said, and we know the views of other colleagues at meetings like this. When I came into the position of party spokesperson … it provided me with a marvellous facility of reference for various different political views on the situation in Northern Ireland, and I just want to thank the Meath Peace Group for that…”
Changing people’s perspectives and breaking down years of prejudice
“..Tonight’s theme for discussion goes to the heart of what the peace process is all about, in my view. While the Good Friday Agreement maps out a new political architecture between Britain and Ireland, between North and South and crucially within Northern Ireland, the objective of the peace process is ultimately about changing people’s perspectives on one another and breaking down years of prejudice.
“The peace process is crucially a process that must involve, by its very definition, a change in attitude here in the Republic to Northern Ireland and to Britain. Too often people in this country forget their role and responsibility in cementing the peace which has been established over the past decade or so.
Guarantors of the Agreement: “I think the first responsibility for Southern society, at this difficult time in the peace process, is to demand of both governments and all political parties that the Good Friday Agreement be implemented to the letter. The joint referendum which took place in May 1998 has changed the direction of Irish history for ever. That referendum, which was so unanimously supported here in the Republic, albeit with a woefully bad electoral turnout on the day, has given a clear expression of support for the inherent compromise and agreement which was arrived at during the multi-party talks. It is the responsibility therefore of all politicians, be they in Government or in Opposition to act as constitutional guarantors for the Agreement that has been delivered.
Defence of the Agreement: “I believe the Agreement is not a stepping stone as some would see it, nor an expression of the status quo. It is in my mind, the fundamental position of this generation of Irish people in their efforts to find lasting peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland, and between the islands of Britain and Ireland. The defence of the Agreement and the demand that it be fully implemented must become our primary responsibility as politicians and as the wider public here in the Republic.
Current impasse: “The current vacuum that has been created since the last Ulster Unionist Council meeting cannot be allowed to continue. I believe that it is imperative that a solution to the current impasse be resolved as soon as possible. Those of us who are pro-Agreement political parties either here in the Republic or in Northern Ireland have a specific responsibility to find common ground between each other and crucially to understand the inherent dilemmas that exist for each other’s party. The Good Friday Agreement is not an a la carte menu. Political parties cannot pick and choose certain parts of the Agreement to the exclusion of others. If demilitarisation is an important part of the Agreement from a Republican viewpoint so is decommissioning from a Unionist or Constitutional Nationalist perspective.
Historic shift: “Too often in recent Irish, and for that matter British, political history, policy on Northern Ireland is governed from the viewpoint of articulating the demands of one community over those of the other community. In this scenario it becomes the responsibility of the British Government to speak on behalf of Unionists and the Irish Government to speak on behalf of the Nationalists. I believe that the Good Friday Agreement has changed that orthodoxy forever. And in changing that, I believe the Good Friday Agreement now requires each government to underwrite and guarantee the demands of each community in Northern Ireland as reflected in the Agreement. That is the historic shift that has taken place, in my view.
Reconciliation: “Outside of making the Agreement work and delivering its real benefits to the people of Ireland as a whole, I believe that there are many things in the Republic that we can do to promote the twin objectives of peace and reconciliation. There are aspects of reconciliation which are difficult to deal with. There is even great difficulty in establishing an agreed version of events – and we’re seeing that at the moment in respect of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry in Derry, and there are other examples of where we cannot come to a definitive agreement as to the awful events that have occurred in Northern Ireland and here in Ireland for so long.
Victims of violence: “There is the question of how the victims of violence may be remembered. What would be a fitting memorial? Could cross-community support be reached in terms of a sharing of remembrance? I think both governments, together with the Northern Ireland Executive, should establish a representative committee in order to bring forward proposals in this specific area of remembrance. I am strongly of the opinion that the dead must be remembered so that the living may have some peace”
Exchange of State visits: “At the wider level of reconciliation between Ireland and Britain, I think the time is now right for a formal exchange of State visits between Ireland and Britain. Such an exchange of visits, properly prepared, could be very significant at the symbolic level.
Role of people: “Reconciliation of course is not just a matter for governments and for politicians. It is a matter for each and every one of us as citizens. At the most basic level of all we should all at least encourage our fellow-citizens to visit Northern Ireland on a regular basis. On my first speech in Northern Ireland, in Ballymena, to an economic conference there some months ago, I was astonished at the fact that so few people in the business community had actually made that journey to Belfast or to Ballymena or wherever. And the same is true in Northern Ireland. I think there is still a considerable amount of disconnection between Northern Ireland and the Republic which must be overcome if reconciliation can be brought about.
Trade: “I was astonished to discover …. that we have less trade from the Republic to Northern Ireland than we have, for instance, between the Republic and a country like Switzerland, which is outside the European Union and is geographically a considerable distance from Northern Ireland. Those are the kind of barriers that have to be broken down.
Cross-border links. “ We should encourage every organisation of which we are members – be they sporting, cultural, educational, professional, to make contact with equivalent groups in Northern Ireland. I think it would also be useful if national organisations and representative bodies set an example by designating one official with responsibility for developing cross-border links. Each local authority in the Republic should also be encouraged to designate an official with similar responsibilities.
Education links: “I also believe the Department of Education and Science should be encouraging a major exchange programme at second and third level. Funding should be provided for a specific post of responsibility in this area in each second-level school and a special annual allocation of funds could be provided for schools to encourage cross-border links. I recently called on the Department of Education & Science and the Department of Higher Education in N. Ireland to develop an Erasmus programme, allowing college students to spend a year or a term being educated in either jurisdiction. This happens on a regular basis with most EU countries, but it has not happened between the Republic and Northern Ireland. It should happen…
Sectarianism and the role of churches: “Sectarianism is a major factor influencing politics in Northern Ireland. The Christian churches have a deep responsiblity to eradicate sectarianism. All the Christian churches need to examine their respective positions and church practices in order to eliminate all traces of sectarianism. I think it would be useful if all the Christian churches abandoned theological language which questions the integrity and belief systems of other churches. They should witness to their own beliefs rather than defining themselves by negatively categorising others.
Changing mindsets “Advancing reconciliation on the island of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain will require a significant change in our thinking and in our approach here in the Republic. Over the years we have allowed ourselves to become alienated from the people of Northern Ireland – Unionist and Nationalist alike. We have become comfortable with ourselves, with our own way of thinking, with our own state. This has got to change if the Agreement is to be successful. If we are to advance the cause of reconciliation we need to leave our comfort zone and we need to change our mindset. If we are to help heal the divisions on this island we need to reach out to both communities in a spirit of openness and of generosity.
Diversity of Irish history: “At a deeper level, I also think we need to open up our minds to the many different stories that form part of our own history here in the Republic. Irish history is not just a single story of Catholic Nationalist oppression and a struggle for emancipation, justice and freedom. That story is certainly a major part of our history. But there are many many other stories. The Protestant churches, for example, have made a major contribution to the Irish state and to the development of this Republic. We are inclined to ignore, for example, the fact that Republicanism is a child of the radical Protestant thinking over three centuries ago.
Diversity of Irish nation: “Another major element of our history is the intermingling of the populations of Ireland and Britain and the specific links between Ulster and Scotland. Many people of Ulster, from Donegal to Belfast, feel a closer affinity with Scotland and with Glasgow and Edinburgh than they do with Dublin or with Munster.
“To illustrate this point I would just like to name some leading politicians – past and present – and ask you to reflect on the origins: John Hume, Gerry Adams, Dick Spring, Erskine Childers, Eamonn de Valera, Douglas Hyde, Ian Paisley, John Bruton, Garret Fitzgerald, David Trimble, Mary Robinson – a fine mixture of Norman, English, Scottish and even some Spanish blood. My point here is that it is the variety and difference which make up modern Irish history and the modern Irish nation. We have to celebrate that difference and that variety.
Irish in Britain: “At a different level we can contrast the great emphasis we place on Irish-America and the little attention we give to the Irish in Britain. We go to great effort to trace and celebrate the Irish origins of various American presidents. We made no such effort when James Callaghan – the Labour Prime Minister – became Prime Minister of Britain in the 1970s. When it was established that John Major had an Irish grandmother there was no response. Tony Blair’s mother was born in Ireland and he spent his childhood holidays with his mother’s people in Co. Cavan. We don’t hear the Taoiseach and Tony Blair on a Roots expedition to Ballyshannon or indulging in beery bonding sessions in pubs in Donegal!
“In particular we in the Republic of Ireland have airbrushed out of history the enthusiastic participation in British Empire culture of Protestant and Catholic alike at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. That participation can be seen in the thousands of men who fought in both World Wars.
“Let’s embrace our history in all its diversity while at the same time never being prisoners of our past. By embracing the diversity of our past we will be much better placed to welcome the diversity, ethnic and otherwise, which will certainly be the future of this island in the next hundred years. Thank you”
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you very much, Brian. Embracing diversity can be enjoyable as well as painful. The other night we had a meeting not too far from here, with representatives of the Independent Orange Order. It was quite painful at times – even for people like me … because they’re coming from such a diverse background – very hardline unionists, evangelical and fundamentalist. We would really have to have an open ear to hear. But in the exchange I’m convinced that people begin to hear an echo and people begin to change. So there is room for greater opening and for new developments when we listen and when we contribute. Our next speaker is Cllr. Brian Fitzgerald of the Meath Co. Council…
2. Cllr. Brian Fitzgerald (Meath Co. Council):
“Good evening everybody. I would like to welcome our guests to Co. Meath, in particular I would like to welcome Roy. When we were having difficulties some years ago in trying to get somebody from the unionist tradition to speak at the Forum [Forum for Peace and Reconciliation], it became extremely difficult, but we were put in touch with a man named Roy Garland who courageously came at the time, but many more came thereafter…
Good Friday Agreement: “I suppose I was no different to very very many in this country who for many years had aspired to having a united Ireland where we would have all of the people North and South, irrespective of what religion or none, that they would come together and work together for one on the island. Unfortunately over the years, that did not materialise. But, following the Good Friday Agreement when we all went out in our thousands and thousands to vote for it, maybe it was somewhat less than a united Ireland. But I think, in the words of Senator Maurice Hayes speaking in another context, I suppose 100% of nothing means nothing but 90% of something means a lot. I believe that that Agreement gave us some hope for the future of bringing all of the people on this island together, even if there was, and would continue to be, a territorial problem.
Complacency in the South: “However, I think we would have to ask ourselves in the South what has been our interest, and .. I would be speaking here to people here who have continuously tried to build bridges between all traditions on this island, that is the Meath Peace Group and the very many people who are here tonight that have continuously come and have involved themselves in many many projects in trying to build the peace..Unfortunately the vast majority of people in the South of Ireland don’t give a damn about the North of Ireland – and that’s the reality we have to face, and it’s a sad one. I think I’ve contested 8 elections of one sort or another since 1982. I don’t believe in all of that time that it has been mentioned 5 times on the doorsteps – the issue of Northern Ireland. If there is a certain level of violence, which goes beyond a certain level of maybe acceptable, unfortunately, violence, yes there is an initial outpouring of grief… but by and large people have become very comfortable and very complacent about the whole issue of Northern Ireland and the implications. But, if a bomb goes off in Dublin, or the threat of a bomb in Dublin, everybody gets very interested. And I think that’s something that we have to ask ourselves – why? … Because quite frankly people just don’t care in the South at the present time. Now that might be a bit provocative to say here at this meeting, but it’s a reality that we have to face and it’s something we should give great consideration to.
“I think it’s unfortunate, but there is a certain amount of complacency on many many issues. There is a certain level of violence which is continuosly accepted, and it’s being accepted here as well. I don’t believe that anybody has the right to become judge and jury – and executioner in many cases – without recourse to the law of the land. .. It’s becoming acceptable – it’s been acceptable in the North of Ireland for many years and it’s also being accepted here. I think that’s unfortunate. People are saying to themselves “I’m all right – I don’t want to know about somebody else’s problems.”
“And I think there is this element of greed about, that we only care for ourselves and not for everybody.
Contribution of Irish Government: “Notwithstanding all that, the government of today, and the governments of the last number of years, have put tremendous effort into building peace on this island. They probably have devoted far more time than has been good for themselves as a government, from a government point of view, insofar as they may have neglected other issues. But they have made enormous contributions as indeed have many of the political parties, including, and in particular, Sinn Fein, who have been extremely courageous over the last number of years in trying to bring people with them to end the continuous violence which we had become accustomed to – and long may that remain.
Decommissioning impasse: “Unfortunately we appear to be running into crisis after crisis, and this is something that we have to address. I believe that we here in the South should perhaps start setting a tone, condition thinking as to what way we should address those issues, to make it easier for people to accept. Obviously the famous “D” word – decommissioning – is going to continue to give us problems and there will be a continual crisis in the North if the Unionists are threatening to pull out unless the IRA decommission.
“I think we have to ask ourselves “will they every decommission?” Personally I don’t believe they will – that is not to say that they will ever use their arms, their guns or bomb-making material again. I sincerely hope that they don’t and I believe they won’t. But if we are continually to wait for them to decommission, and creating a crisis, everything else is being neglected. I believe it is time for a certain amount of honesty to come into the debate, and say, “sorry we are not in a position to decomission, we won’t use the arms”. So let’s manage that problem, let’s deal with that problem, and see how we can deal with it in the best interests of the whole Agreement and all of the people on the island. I think that’s something we should ask ourselves and ask the people who are involved, and ask the unionist community will they accept that, and on what conditions will they accept that, rather than continue to harp on and harp on and stumble from one crisis to another.”
If the Agreement collapses “…I have a lot of time for Trimble. I was one of the first to meet him when he was first elected leader, and I wouldn’t say I was his number one friend at that stage. I haven’t met the man since, but I have a lot of admiration for the courage shown ever since he was elected. But if the Agreement collapsed as a result of Trimble walking out of it, or being forced to walk out, where do we go from there? I’m old enough to remember what happened when Sunningdale collapsed. We had 26 or 24 years of the most horrible violence ever witnessed on this island. That’s what we had – do we want to go back to that?. And there’s not much point in us running to the Brits and asking them to sort it out at that stage, there’s not much point in us running to America, and asking Bill Clinton, who will no longer be there, to help us with our problems.
“The problems will be ours, and the only people who can resolve those problems are ourselves, and I think this is something we have got to start planning for, and I’m not so sure that we are preparing people for that…
Need for patience: “Notwithstanding all that – and maybe I have been speaking on some of the negative areas – there are a lot of good things happening. A lot of people are becoming impatient because they are not happening fast enough. But I believe they have to happen on a much slower basis, and the reason that things have to happen on a slower basis is that there is considerable hurt on all sides. Even in here, I’m sure that all of you have had some experience of where somebody has done something horrible to a friend or another person and it could be generations before the hurt leaves that family. Don’t forget we were still fighting the Civil War up to the last 20 years – the hurt that it caused. Can we honestly expect the hurt of the last 30 years – on all sides – just to disappear and for people to say it never happened.
North-South co-operation: “So we must take things a little slower, but we have plenty of opportunities, and I believe they are being availed of. I know from one area I’m involved in this county – the health area – there is tremendous cooperation going on between the North and South health authorities, in a nice quiet way, because if they were publicised too much they wouldn’t happen, but they are happening in a quiet way and people are becoming accustomed to working with one another. The same thing can happen in tourism and will, when the new tourism company forms – it will give people an opportunity. It’s happening in many areas of commerce, it’s certainly happening in the environment – we had the Minister for the Environment from Northern Ireland in our own county only a month ago – he addressed Meath County Council.
Schools: “There’s tremendous effort being made in the schools – we had a group here from Belfast only last year with the Dunboyne children. We met the Dunboyne children the other day and they told me they had been back up in Belfast. This is happening. Our colleague here from Kilbride [John Keaveney] – he has been working on that for years. That’s the type of building that must happen – but it’s slow, it cannot happen as fast as people would like.
Sporting organisations: “In the areas of sport we have to try and work with the young people on all sides. Perhaps we should start asking ourselves a few critical questions in relation to sport. What are we doing here? I think the sporting body which I have spent all my life in – the GAA – has a serious question to ask themselves over the coming months – they’ve asked themselves several times but they’ve never answered it. I don’t see why any person should be deprived from playing Gaelic games, just because they do a certain job. I could never subscribe to that – they’ve hedged on it but it’s an area that has to be dealt with.
All-Ireland teams: “We have got to look at areas where there are all-Ireland teams – where you may have people coming from both traditions playing on them. Is it right that people have a difficulty with the emblem that they have to wear – is it right that they have difficulty with the anthem they have to stand to, is it right that they have a difficulty with the flag?
“We have to look at those areas – there was an attempt to look at them. We talk about them in a Northern Ireland context, but we have to try, if we are to bring people together, we have got to look at it from a sporting point of view – and I believe it is one of the best healers we can have.
So I think there are many areas, but I believe we have got to shake ourselves out of the complacency which we have – or appear to have in this part of the island.
Conclusion: “So I would hope over the coming months that the Good Friday Agreement will get stronger, but people will have to be more patient, and we in the South will have to become more active, and try and set a tone, condition people, and try and work with people, and not be pushing too hard. I would again like to compliment the Government, and Martin Mansergh here, who has done a tremendous amount of work over the years, with different Taoisigh and different governments, in trying to build a relationship on this island, and to try and get the British Government to understand the difficulties that we have on this island, and long may he remain! … Thank you.”
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you very much Cllr. Fitzgerald. I suppose one of the things that strikes me is the emphasis in part of your speech that there’ll be no decommissioning – at least that’s what I took out of it. I suppose it depends on what you mean by decommissioning, because it is my understanding that Sinn Fein accepts decommissioning – that is putting out of commission – and certainly in that sense decommissioning, I understand, is acceptable. Whether it is acceptable to the Unionists or not is a different matter. But maybe our next speaker will enlighten us on that issue. Micheal MacDonncha of Sinn Fein will now speak in place of Caoimhghin O Caolain…
3. Micheál MacDonncha (Sinn Féin)
“Thank you. If I could start by thanking the Meath Peace Group for the invitation to speak here tonight. I want first to apologise on behalf of Caoimhghin Ó Caolain, T.D., who was the invited Sinn Fein speaker but he is recovering from an injury at the moment …..
Dedication: “In the spirit of what earlier speakers have been saying In relation to the diverse traditions on this island, I would just like to dedicate my remarks this evening to a friend of mine who died yesterday – Jack Bennett, formerly assistant editor of the Evening Press in Dublin. He came from Belfast, from a unionist background. In the 1940s he joined the Young Communists in Belfast. He became an Irish republican as well as a socialist and moved to Dublin. He was a founder member of the Wolfe Tone Societies in the 1960s and a founder-member of the civil rights movement. He played a major part in intellectual and political debate in the 1970s …
“For me he was someone who was formative in my political thinking. He wrote a very influential book called “Freedom the Wolfe Tone Way”…. I think it is fitting that I would remember him when I speak this evening.
Republican perspective: “The theme tonight is the role of the Republic’s Government and people in cementing the peace process. Brian referred to how perhaps people in this State had become “comfortable” with our own state here. From the republican perspective that I come from, we were never fully comfortable with this State, less so of course with the six-county State, but this State for us certainly was not the state that in our view the men and women of 1916 sought to achieve, and subsequently the War of Independence. Our independence had been limited, and the hopes of those who took part in the revolution in the early part of the century had been dashed by the Treaty and the tragic Civil War. I think it’s important that that republican perspective, which is also one of the political traditions on this island, is also taken into account.
Need for more active engagement: “I think the theme of the role of the people in this State is extremely important and I don’t think it has been sufficiently addressed right throughout the peace process. I must say since I started to work in the Dail in 1997, I was somewhat depressed by the infrequency and the quality of debate on the peace process that I found there. Apart from the few members in each party – and I include every party in that – and some of the Independents in the Dail and Seanad, with those few exceptions there seems to me to be a general lack of active engagement. Now that’s distinct from interest, of course there’s an interest, and there is a limited engagement. But I think what public representatives in this State need is a very very active engagement in the process, and unfortunately I don’t see that across the board. There is still a sense among many that the peace process is something “up there” which does not directly affect the lives of people in the 26 counties, and by extension the lives of the people who vote for elected representatives. Of course this is grossly mistaken because the success of the peace process is inextricably bound up with the future of every individual on this island.
Legacy of closed doors in the South: “I think the situation has improved vastly since the start of the peace process, but I have no doubt that the lack of full engagement with the peace process among many parliamentarians… is a legacy of what happened in this State during the conflict. Going back on some of the remarks that Brian Fitzgerald made – I don’t think it’s enough to say that people simply switched off – we need to look at the reasons for that. The role of successive governments and their attitude to Northern Ireland had a major bearing on the public mindset. I think that the political establishment in this State in effect closed its doors on the North. Successive governments here made their priority the consolidation of their own position and they avoided too great an engagement with the problem, and indeed, in extremes, they resorted to a repressive response in their own jurisdiction.
“We only have to look at the censorship laws which we had in this State for a very long period indeed. TV and radio broadcasting was directly politically censored in this State for a longer period than than it was in the North of Ireland, and in Britain. This obviously had a huge impact also, not only in not allowing people to hear the views of Sinn Fein and broader republican opinion, but in also closing the entire issue down to real debate which included all strands of opinion.
Dublin and Monaghan bombings: “I think the doors were also closed to people in this State who suffered from violence inflicted either by the British forces or loyalists. I recently read Don Mullan’s book on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The book shows clearly how the families of the 33 victims and the injured were abandoned in an appalling fashion by successive governments in this State. In the wake of the bombing the then coalition Government of Fine Gael and Labour blamed republicans, not for the actual bombing, but they blamed them for creating the situation which led to them. They chose to close their eyes at that time to the involvement of agents of the British armed forces in this atrocity which was the biggest single atrocity in the conflict, the next being of course the dreadful Omagh bombing of a couple of years ago.
Implications for Southern State: “When you examine the evidence in the Dublin and Monaghan bombing case, it’s quite clear that the case was closed down. Reading Don Mullan’s book, which I would recommend people to do, I think the reason it was closed down by the establishment here was not because there was seen to be collusion between British forces and loyalism, because I think that is now widely accepted. I think it was closed down because of the implications within this State, because, if you read the evidence – and there is a lot of evidence which will come out, especially if there is an inquiry into this – there were within the Garda Siochana people who were working directly for British Intelligence at that time. Now we don’t know the full extent of that, and we don’t know the extent of the knowledge of governments here about what was going on at the time. But the implications were and are clearly huge. Indeed as Don Mullan himself has said, the implications for Anglo-Irish relations of the Dublin and Monaghan case are even more profound than those of Bloody Sunday. I thought it was interesting that Brian Fitzgerald said that maybe people turn off when they hear of violence in the 6 counties or in Britain but they turn on when it’s on their own doorstep in this State. But here was an example where we had a dreadful atrocity in this State and the reaction of the State itself was far from one of real concern for its own people.
Need for full inquiry: “I believe then, that one of the essential things that has to be done arising out of the peace process… is for a full cross-jurisdictional inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and also into a number of other fatal events in this State where evidence points to the hand of British agents. That case is to go before the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Women’s Rights. But I believe whatever the outcome of those deliberations there needs to be an inquiry.
Offences Against the State ActsReview Group: “I was the author with others of Sinn Fein’s submission to the review of the Offences Against the State Acts. In the Good Friday Agreement – the wording is there in the handout for tonight’s meeting – the Government here gave a commitment to review and, where appropriate, to set aside this legislation. In my view, action on this aspect of the Agreement has been far too slow, there has been a lack of real public debate and public engagement on this. In fact in 1998 the Government actually strengthened the Offences Against the State Act. It has intitiated no real debate on the legal and political effects of this body of legislation which has been in force continuously in this State, with major implications for civil liberties, since 1939. Now I have no doubt that the Committee is doing pretty good work, hard work I am sure. But I think we need to see more evidence of its deliberations.
“And one thing I would like to see, for example, would be hearings on this issue around the country. Because there are a lot of people with stories to tell. And again, to add in another strand of opinion, one which doesn’t often get heard, at the time when we were putting together the Sinn Fein submission on the Offences Against the State Acts a number of people came to me, people in their sixties and seventies. They had been interned without trial in this State in the 1950s and, under the Offences Against the State Acts, were excluded from employment by the State. They were people who couldn’t get jobs in the civil service afterwards, some of them lost teaching jobs. There are a body of people such as that, people whose story again has not often been told and which needs to be factored in as part of the resolution of the outstanding issues.
British legislation: “I think the failure so far to deal with this issue of contentious legislation in this State has also hampered the ability of the Government here to deal with the failure of the British Government to repeal its own repressive legislation. I think the Government here has placed itself in the position where it cannot credibly address the issue of British legislation when it has very similar legislation on its own statute books.
Current impasse: “Now that brings me directly to the current issues that are causing huge difficulties in the peace process.
Policing: “Firstly, of course the issue of policing. In the context of the body of legislation that has been there right since the foundation of the Northern State in 1922, one of the things that we in Sinn Fein said when the Patten Report was published and when we had considered it, was that we would give this report a fair wind, that it was clearly a compromise, it was clearly not all that we in Sinn Fein wanted to see. We wanted a more comprehensive approach but it was a compromise which we were prepared to assess and prepared to work with the outcome if it was implemented in full and if, crucially, the legislation which had built up since 1922 in the North and variously amended and so on, was addressed. That hasn’t been sufficiently addressed either, and that is also part of the problem in terms of the policing issue.
North-South Ministerial Council: “We have a situation now where in effect the North-South Ministerial Council is suspended because David Trimble has refused to nominate duly elected Sinn Fein Ministers. There is, I have to say – and I would represent a body of opinion in Sinn Fein – a deep unease and a deep disappointment and scepticism about the role now of David Trimble. The question is raised: is the difference between David Trimble and Jeffrey Donaldson now merely a tactical difference in terms of ridding the situation of those parts of the Agreement which they do not wish to be associated with? I think it is unfortunate that David Trimble has allowed himself to be led, in effect, by the “No” camp in his own party. It would be my view that he hasn’t mobilised the large body of opinion that is out there within civic unionism which backed the Good Friday Agreement. In all this delaying which we have seen over the past few months in particular, the position of the unionists has been bolstered all along by the British Government, and I think in particular the role of Peter Mandelson has been very negative.
Opinion-formers: “In the context of what we’re addressing tonight, these are all points and issues which the Irish Government needs to give a lead on, because, whether we like it or not, the reality is that from the very beginning, the initiative and the drive in the peace process has come from the nationalist parties in the North, initially Sinn Fein and the SDLP. In the context of the start of the peace process – if you look back at the very start, in 1992/1993 – in terms of opinion in this State and so-called opinion-formers in this State, if you look at the villification which John Hume suffered at that time because he engaged with Sinn Fein. And the so-called opinion formers who were doing this villification – these were people who had had a huge influence on public opinion in this State in terms of the North for a long number of years. And again it points to the type of opinion-forming that had been going on, the type of stuff that people had been subjected to through a censored media for nearly two and a half decades. But as I said, the driving force throughout this has been nationalist Ireland, for want of a better term – the Irish Government, Sinn Fein and the SDLP.
“We have an Agreement now, and the Agreement contains within it many elements, and the core of the Agreement is about equality, and the difficulties, when you boil them down, are the reluctance of large sections of unionism to come to terms with the need for equality.
Decommissioning: “I think the issue of decommissioning is just a symbol of that. I would agree with Roy’s definition of decommissioning – to me it’s taking arms out of commission, it’s putting them beyond use, and ensuring that they are not used. And if you look at the past few years in terms of the ceasefires, and the fact that they have been maintained, if you look at the engagement that the IRA has had with the De Chastelain Commission and with the arms inspectors. If you put that in its historical context, I think in effect we have decommissioning, we have arms put beyond use, and I think we do have a serious intent by Republicans to continue that process and to engage in that process, and the raising of this issue continuously is not really, in my opinion, about the issue itself, it’s about reluctance to see change.
Increasing and enriching contacts: “.. I would totally agree with all the previous speakers in terms of the need to increase and enrich contacts between people in all parts of this island. I was just reading the Senate debate which was held last week on the peace process and one senator had met a loyalist leader and his partner, and she had never heard of Co. Clare! We hear examples of that all the time – the same happens in the other direction. Many people in this State are unaware of the realities in the North, they’re unaware even of the geography of their own country. I think we need to be doing as much as we can to increase contacts and to increase interchange between people in every part of this island.
“And I think the Agreement itself – the institutions established under the Agreement – have huge potential to actually achieve that if they’re worked and if they’re fully implemented. I know people involved in the Intertrade Ireland – the all-Ireland trade body – which has done a huge amount of work and which has had a roadshow going around the country in the past few months. And again that has built up and increased contacts. So I think we have huge obstacles, we have huge difficulties, but there is on the part of the vast majority a goodwill, and a willingness to engage if they’re given the opportunity. That’s why I commend the Meath Peace Group for your work over the years and for your continual work, for building on what we have achieved and helping us to continue to achieve much more. Go raibh maith agaibh.”
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you. I think Micheal is saying that there are many hurts to be addressed, and of course there’s hurts on both sides of the community. And unfortunately when one side express their hurts, the other side feels even more hurt. But it is important that people get together and express their hurts together. In that context, over a period of time – it’s a long long process, and maybe we’ve tried too much too soon – but certainly those of us in the unionist community who have listened to the republicans, I think have heard the hurt. I feel sometimes we are too much caught in the hurt to move on. It’s very very difficult. We need to find partners right across the board, and I think that’s what we are doing in the Meath Peace Group tonight. We’re moving on now to Dr. Martin Mansergh who has played a major role in the peace process, and I think he is increasingly appreciated for the role he has played…
4. Dr. Martin Mansergh (Special Adviser to An Taoiseach)
“I would like to thank the Meath Peace Group for this invitation. I recall a very constructive and informative debate about this time last year on the Patten Report on policing. .
Public’s interest: “The public’s interest in and expectation of progress remains an important spur to continued effort to overcome difficulties that continue to face the peace process, even though we are, all told, significantly further forward than this time last year. I do feel that a lot of the public do care and are interested, and I must say I don’t feel discouraged by indifference or apathy, I think enough people do care.
Problem-solving: “It is tempting to express frustration and impatience at this or that party or government for delays or foot-dragging, but evenings like this are an opportunity to appreciate the reasons for the difficulties, and some of them have already been spelled out. Not only are there few glib answers, but many of the plausible ways forward are on closer examination, for one reason or another, not feasible. While we must never lose sight of the moral inspiration of peace and accommodation, it has never been the case that one more political sermon would solve the problem, however good it might make the speaker and some of the listeners feel. The emphasis must be on understanding, problem-solving, and the patient defusing of potentially dangerous situations. Parties should also resist the temptation of being too self-righteous, eager to point out the defaults of others without acknowledging their own.
“Democratic Governments can, generally speaking, do what people will allow them to, and will respond to. The clarity of public opinion in the Republic on the subject of peace, and the willingness to sacrifice cherished positions in order to move forward, has been crucially important and amply demonstrated. Those who want to frustrate peace and drive us all back to war have negligible support and absolutely no mandate in this jurisdiction. But it is important not to make unrealistic demands that would drive one or other party back into the trenches.
Absolutism as a cause of conflict: “We should never lose sight of what is visible throughout history – that moral or political absolutism can be a cause of conflict. There is a Manichean strand of opinion that hates any form of constructive ambiguity, and that in many ways is more comfortable with eternal conflict that demonstrates clearly who is good and who is bad. In relation to Northern Ireland, there are few blameless parties on this island, even if people differ as to how the blame is apportioned. When the conflict of the last 30 years is finally and safely far behind us, we will have leisure to identify more of the shining knights. There is also an unfortunate style of negotiation that tends to believe that hardballing works best all of the time. If one looks at other areas, say European negotiations or social partnership ones, where a more flexible style is the norm, it can achieve better results and avoid unnecessary crises. From time to time, we have to stand back and take a strategic view of what is the best way forward, and where people’s best interests lie.
Role and contribution of Irish Government: “As a representative of the Irish Government, I want to focus mainly on its role and contribution, which I would see under three headings.
1) First of all, we are, and have been for some time, a partner of the British Government in seeking a settlement of the Northern Ireland problem within a broader framework and in upholding that settlement now that we have one.
2) A second and related role, which is sometimes disputed, is to act in the manner that was formalised in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of putting forward views and proposals on issues as they affect the interests of the minority or Nationalist community.
3) Thirdly, the Government acts on behalf of the people of this State, reflecting both their ideals and their interests, which include peace, stability and reconciliation on this island; good relations based on a mutual respect between the two islands; a closer and more structured form of North-South co-operation; and a rapprochement between the two main traditions on this island.
Recognition of role of Irish Government: “If one asks how conflict broke out in the first place, it was adherence in a divided community to a strongly majoritarian form of devolution, with no alternative or cross-community coalition and scant regard for minority rights. It was not democracy in any real sense of the term. The civil rights campaigners took to the streets, because there was no effective constitutional channel for a redress of grievances. In 1969, the UK Government did not accept that the Republic’s Government had any right to make representations, which it considered unhelpful interference in their internal affairs. Repression and revolt became mutually reinforcing, and the constitutional opposition of the SDLP, while correct, was a stony path. Only gradually did the British Government come to realise that the role of the Irish Government was essential, that unilateral initiatives did not work, and that the only way forward was partnership, without prejudice to sovereignty
“The peace process originated within Nationalist Ireland, but to come to fruition it needed to be adopted by both Governments. Persuading the Major Government to accept the approach of the Downing Street Declaration or the Framework Document was no easy task. While in theory it might have been better if the partners in the North could have agreed amongst themselves on a way forward out of major difficulties, this has rarely been a realistic expectation. The Unionists tend in the first instance to look to the British Government. The SDLP and Sinn Fein look to the Irish Government.
“But that is not the whole story. The Good Friday Agreement and subsequent developments would not have been possible unless the British Government had been able to listen to Nationalists, or, conversely, unless the Irish Government had been able to come to some important understandings with Unionists.
“Of course, the US President, Bill Clinton, and Congress, and the President’s envoy, Senator George Mitchell, have played a hugely important role as guarantors of fair play, and I am delighted that President Clinton will be paying a final visit as President to Ireland next month.
Aim of Irish Government: “Since the first meetings with Sinn Fein in 1988, the Irish Government’s aim has been to establish a democratic consensus among Nationalists and beyond, as opposed to a Pan-Nationalist Front where Nationalists would fall in line with the militant wing of the Republican Movement to force the issue, and where in the last analysis the requirement for majority consent could be overriden.
“To the extent that it was mostly members of the Unionist community who were at the receiving end of the IRA campaign, and understanding that this was deeply damaging to hopes of seeing the country gradually grow closer together, the Government and the SDLP between them helped Sinn Fein to persuade the Republican Movement to try out the political alternative and to lift a counterproductive and misconceived physical and political siege.
“Maintaining the peace, getting parties to the negotiating table, negotiating an Agreement and then implementing it have all proved arduous tasks.
“The areas in which the Irish Government have been most directly involved have generally turned out the least contentious. The constitutional accommodation, which I would argue was more symbolic than legalistic in character, was accepted and endorsed by the people. The North-South bodies have been established and are functioning well. If a problem has arisen in relation to the nomination of Northern Ministers to Council meetings, it is for reasons extraneous to their functions. The Agreement does state that participation in the Council is “one of the essential responsibilities attaching to relevant posts in the two Administrations”, and that the functioning of the different institutions is “interdependent and interlocking”. I think that all speaks for itself.
Policing: “The Irish Government is deeply committed to the new beginning in policing. We were fully supportive of the Patten Commission and its Report. We understand the strategic significance of the Patten reforms, not just for policing and the replacement of paramilitarism as a crude substitute for law and order in certain areas, but also for the stable functioning of the institutions under the Agreement. While we were not happy at certain stages of the process at what seemed to be important departures from the spirit of Patten, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen, has maintained a spirit of constructive engagement throughout in pursuit of the best possible outcome, which is, as Chris Patten put it in a statement to the Belfast Telegraph this afternoon – “the new beginning for depoliticised policing” with “the most rigorous system of independent civilian oversight of the police in the world”. But in the last analysis it is not the Irish Government but Northern Nationalists who will decide whether to join and support the police or not.
“The Secretary of State Peter Mandelson accepted last week that until the implementation plan is known it would not be reasonable to expect the SDLP or Sinn Fein to finalise their position. Support for the police will mean a dramatic break with the habits of the past, in a situation where, politically and otherwise, people’s instinct has been to watch their back. Failure to have a positive overall outcome on Patten would be a very serious development indeed, so it is very important to keep options open.
Decommissioning: “Progress is also needed on putting arms beyond use. The two arms inspections were a very important step forward, which should not be belittled. Meaningful engagement with de Chastelain is also required. The Irish Government, going back to 1993, always saw decommissioning as part of a wider process of demilitarisation. Both processes have been complicated by the activities of dissidents, and by the investment of too much emotional significance in the process of disarmament, on all sides. They are contributors to democracy and normalisation. They are not about a military victory or defeat, neither of which occurred. The legitimacy or otherwise of taking up arms is not affected either. People’s views and convictions about the violent campaign of the last 30 years are not likely to be altered one way or the other, either by decommissioning or the absence of it.
Determination of the two Governments: “The shadow of an approaching British General Election makes it more difficult for parties to take a strategic long-term view. To do any good, it is first necessary to survive politically, and, as 1996-7 showed, a pre-election period is not one where parties are naturally inclined to take big political risks. Yet the Agreement puts Unionists more in charge of their own destiny than any alternative. Nationalists need the Agreement to start building the closer relationships and the trust that they desire, which are the indispensable foundations of going further in due course. The danger is that brinkmanship, induced by internal tensions and pressures, may temporarily derail the functioning of the institutions. But no one should underestimate the strong determination of the two Governments to stick to the Agreement and see it implemented.
Attitudes to Unionism: “Before concluding, I would like to deal with criticisms that surface from time to time of attitudes in this State to Unionism. I would want to begin by stressing the positive. The rapport between the Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, and David Trimble, has no precedent in the history of this State or this island. They may not always agree, but they try to understand each other, and co-operate for the wider good. The same goes for loyalists. Bertie Ahern was the first and only Taoiseach to receive the Rev. Ian Paisley, albeit as a Church leader, in Government Buildings. When Bertie Ahern and David Trimble meet, they represent the two main traditions in Ireland.
Cultural initiatives: A number of cultural initiatives have been undertaken on this side of the border – work on the Boyne site, also the furbishment of First World War memorials in Inchicore and at Messines in Belgium.
But it is unrealistic to expect either Government to be entirely neutral on the Union. Successive British Prime Ministers have made it clear that they value the Union. The Taoiseach is head of Government of a State that was formed as a result of the democratic desire of the Irish people over 80 years ago to govern themselves and to leave the Union. A political leader who wants to unite the people of Ireland in peace needs to know where he is coming from. The Nationalists of Northern Ireland were deprived of the opportunity to participate in the Irish State, or in an Irish State. Our state may have had many shortcomings, particularly from a Unionist point of view, but perhaps also from a Nationalist one. But today there is a new dispensation, an historic compromise, a new constitutional order or balance, which satisfies many of the basic needs of both Unionists and Nationalists. We must hold on to these gains and build on them at all costs. Thank you.”
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you Dr. Mansergh, you’ve given us a lot to think about, and we’ve a long way still to go. Our next speaker is Dr. Gerard Hogan….
5. Dr. Gerard Hogan, S.C.
“Thank you very much. May I say immediately it is a great pleasure to be invited once again to speak at the Meath Peace Group. .. I propose to focus on the legal and constitutional dimension of the Republic vis-a-vis the entire peace process, and to that extent, I hope Mr. Chairman you’ll forgive me if following pedantically perhaps the theme of the evening I focus pretty well on what is happening in the Republic.
“When in the 1970s we first began in this State seriously to confront the reasons for division in Ireland and our own role therein, the conventional wisdom in many quarters was that progress towards some form of unity might be possible if two conditions were established. First if there was constitutional change, and secondly, if there was significant socio-economic change in this State, and in particular if living standards in the Republic were to approach those in Northern Ireland. Now, as far as the latter is concerned, I suppose some people, perhaps many people, would say that there has been very significant socio-economic change, perhaps not as much as many people would like, but nonetheless living standards in this State are at least approaching those prevailing in Northern Ireland, and perhaps some people might argue that living standards now in the Republic are higher than those in the North. But at least there is not I think now the significant gulf between living standards, social services, tax rates and so forth, such as prevailed at the onset of conflict in Northern Ireland.
Constitutional change: “As far as the other issue, the Constitution, is concerned … the particular criticism focussed on a number of significant provisions, provisions that were thought to grate on Unionist and Protestant sensibilities, that were thought to be too unbalanced and reflective of irredentist views in this State.
“There were three provisions in particular to which many people objected. The first, lumping them together, is Articles 2 and 3. Now as we know following the Good Friday Agreement, Articles 2 and 3 were recast, and I don’t think any fair-minded Unionist could take objection to the new provisions of Articles 2 and 3.
“Secondly, there was the special position of the Catholic Church in Article 44. That was deleted as long ago as 1972, overwhelmingly – I think the percentage in favour of deletion was in or about 85%. Now, as it happens the provision in Article 44 which simply recognised the special position of the Catholic Church also acknowledged the position of other minority churches which were named – the Church of Ireland, the Jewish community and so forth. We now know, from Government records, that it was the minority churches who were far more satisfied with that particular compromise in 1937 than the Catholic Church was. It’s ironic in a way that afterwards, that that particular provision of Article 44 – which in a way was no more than constitutional window-dressing – that there were so many people who objected to it by the 1970s. But in any event because it was considered to grate on Unionist sensibilities, as a gesture I suppose, it was dropped following the referendum in 1972.
“The third provision to which I think unionists could fairly and legitimately object was the ban on divorce, and, as we know, that was changed in 1995 and came into effect, following a challenge, in 1997.
Objections Unionists might have: “If one looks beyond that, and looks at the rest of the Constitution, it’s very difficult to see what any fair-minded Unionist could reasonably object to. True it is, they might say that it is drawn up from a republican standpoint – republican in the true sense of the term – that it doesn’t have any recognition of the monarchy, it reflects the traditional Nationalist values. Well I can’t gainsay that, no more than the Constitution of the United Kingdom reflects traditional largely English-orientated values with the Crown as the symbolic Head of State. But in terms of substantive provisions, it’s hard enough to find anything in the Constitution to which fair-minded Unionists could reasonably object.
“I myself can only think of two to which perhaps some objection might be taken. The provisions of the Preamble may be said perhaps not to give sufficient credit to traditions which are other than Nationalist and Republican. It is a pity – and I’ve said this to Dr. Mansergh before – I think it is a pity that in the constitutional changes in 1998 that the opportunity was not taken, not simply to reform Articles 2 and 3, but to make a significant gesture in respect of the Preamble.
“The other provision is in relation to Article 8, dealing with the status of the two languages, Irish and English. I was a member of the Constitution Review Group in 1996 and we recommended that the two languages should have equal status, and in fact I think with hindsight there is one further change we ought to have suggested in respect of Article 8 and that is to give some recognition to the position of Ulster-Scots. I for one would gladly do that. But beyond that it’s very difficult to see what specific objection can be taken to the Constitution
Record on human rights protection: “In particular I can’t accept for a moment, and it’s a matter of some annoyance to me – as somebody who’s never voted for Fianna Fail in my life, I think I can say this – I can’t understand the frequent objections that are made from the Unionist community on the one hand, and from what I may call civil libertarians on the other in this State, to the provisions in the Constitution, and the suggestion that the provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights are superior to those in the Constitution. This is a matter that one could argue about for a long time… but I do think in this State we can take justifiable pride that, outside of the United States, we are the country with the longest tradition of judicial review of legislation. In addition, we were the first country to sign up to the European Convention on Human Rights to allow individual petitions by our own citizens in this State to the European Court. We did that in 1953, and since 1953 we have lost only 6 times! I know the United Kingdom is a much bigger State than us, and we have to make due allowance for that, but it’s interesting, I checked on the European Court website before I came out, and I saw that the United Kingdom had lost 6 cases in September of this year, and the UK, along with Italy is by far the worst offender before the European Court of Human Rights.
Valuable constitutional tradition: “I don’t say that to pat us on the back and to denigrate the United Kingdom, but I do say that one has to be fair-minded about our constitutional tradition. It’s a very very valuable tradition, and I would defy anybody to point to instances where they can say that the provisions of the European Convention on Human rights are in any real respect superior to any individual provision in the Constitution. One could perhaps argue about individual clauses, but one can equally riposte by pointing to the [provision?] in the Constitution and our own constitutional tradition which are significantly superior to the provisions of the European Convention, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights.
“So I can’t for a moment accept the contention which I am beginning to see over the last few weeks that suddenly because the UK has incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law – and this came into effect in Britain from the 2nd of October last – that somehow in this State because we haven’t got around to doing that yet, that there is some major gap or lacuna in our law. Quite the reverse, I think that our tradition in that regard is equal to any member state of the Council of Europe, and our record before the European Court of Human Rights is proof positive of that.
International comparisons: “A small point, perhaps, but it’s nonetheless illustrative: most people here, I would imagine, would say that a country such as Sweden is regarded as a beacon of liberality, of fair-mindedness, of humanitarianism and social reform. But it’s interesting that the Swedes were the second country after us to sign up to the European Convention, by allowing these individual petitions, a few months after us in 1953. Admittedly they have a population of maybe twice ours, but they have lost 34 times before the European Court, and, as I say, we have lost on only 6 occasions. Now I don’t say that with a wish to pat us on the back or to be complacent but I do think, in any assessment of the constitutional protection and the protection of fundamental rights in this State, there has to be a fair-minded evaluation of the merits of the Constitution on the one hand and the European Convention on Human Rights on the other.
Foresight of 1937: “Unfortunately this debate has become politicised, and, wearing my lawyer’s hat, as someone with no particular reason to defend Mr. de Valera back in 1937, but I have to give him great credit for his enormous foresight and his enormously skilled legal team. They were way ahead of the posse in 1937 in what they drafter. And the funny thing is is that it was so sophisticated, it was so avant-garde that the Opposition who were looking for things to try and attack it, their major concern in 1937 was that somehow the President would be a Fuhrer or duce type leader, and when the referendum went to the plebiscite in July 1937, the great charge of Fine Gael was “beware of the President”, and I think we’ve learned to live with the President ever since!
“If I could move on just to two other topics. The first is a number of other commitments that this State has undertaken vis-a-vis the Good Friday Agreement.
Human Rights Commission: “One is in relation to the Human Rights Commission. Now it’s true that Northern Ireland is ahead of the game, as far as that is concerned. They have a very distinguished Human Rights Commission – it’s been up and running since early 1999 and it’s fully functional. At the moment the Government has appointed a President of our Human Rights Commission, and we’ve a Human Rignts Act, but the Commissioners have to be appointed. But again may I say, without wanting to pat the Republic on the back with a view to casting aspersions on what has been done in Northern Ireland, that in my respectful opinion the provisions in our Act are superior to that in Northern Ireland for one particular reason, in that the Human Rights Commission down here will be empowered of its own bat to take cases in court on behalf of persons where it feels their rights are being infringed in some way. That is a critical power to give to a body such as a human rights commission. We have given it, in Northern Ireland they don’t have it. I don’t want to claim brownie points for that, but, while we are a little behind what is being done in Northern Ireland, the legislation is, in my respectful opinion, somewhat superior.
Offences Against the State Act: “The third point is in relation to the review of the Offences Against the State Acts. I’m slightly compromised in that I am a member of that review group. We had expected to have our report out before Christmas, but unfortunately our Chairman, Judge Hederman, suffered an accident about a month ago and that delayed our work, but I can assure you our report is imminent, and I imagine it’s going to be published in the new year.
“Again, I’m somewhat compromised in what I can say, but there will be a thoroughgoing review of the Offences Against the State Act, in all its dimensions from first to last. While there are certainly provisions of that Act that would not survive challenge in a modern era, I think it’s also proper to point out that some of the criticisms of the Offences Against the State Act are somewhat misplaced. For example, before 1998, the Omagh bombing, the maximum power of detention under s. 30 was 48 hours. It can now be extended for another 24 hours by a District judge. In European terms, surprising as it may seem, that is not a particularly long period with which to detain somebody following an arrest. Again, for example, it might surprise you to learn that in Sweden you can be detained for 8 days for an ordinary crime. In the Netherlands, another bastion of liberal democracy, one can be detained for 10 days. So I think one has to put some of those provisions in the Offences Against the State Act in perspective. I’m not saying that significant change isn’t called for, and the report will recommend significant change, but, as I say, we are going to have a report fairly quickly.
“In conclusion, I can say that I believe that whereas the Republic still has a lot to do, on the human rights front its tradition has been very very good. There had been some aggredious failures. The ban on divorce, in my view, was an affront to civil liberties, and was a real denial of the civil liberties of minority religious groups in this State, and to that I think this State can plead guilty. And there are a number of other instances. But on the whole the tradition has been a very laudable one, and one of which we can be justly proud.
Cultural rights: “I don’t think that there are any significant human rights lacunae in this State. I’m not saying we couldn’t do more, and I’m not saying the Supreme Court couldn’t be more dynamic, but if we have a lacuna, it’s not as such in the human rights area, but if we have a lacuna vis-a-vis Northern Ireland it is in the area of what we might term cultural rights. I think that one has to acknowledge that we don’t have a sufficient understanding or appreciation of the Unionist tradition. .. Speaking purely for myself, I would have loved to have seen the Orange Order march in Dublin this year as they had promised. I don’t believe that there was any significant opposition to that march. I welcome what Dr. Mansergh has just said about the various steps that the Irish Government is taking. I belive they should go further and, for example, consider declaring the 12th of July to be a public holiday. I think it’s through steps like that that we could show in a tangible way that we appreciate the cultural rights and interests of the Unionist community. But on the narrow issue of human rights itself, without seeking to be complacent, I think that our record is as good as any other member state of the Council of Europe. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.”
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you, Dr. Hogan, for that very interesting and challenging address. I suppose it wouldn’t really matter from a unionist perspective how good the human rights tradition and laws and legal position is, but of course the last point I think is important – the Orange thing – that’s one of the ones I was thinking of. In the Orangeman’s psyche, and in fact in the psyche of many Protestants in the North, the fact that the Orange parade couldn’t take place in Dublin had significant repercussions. I was once a member of the Orange Order, and I know something of the feeling that somehow they feelthat where the Orange parades can go there’s freedom. Now you might think that’s a crazy thing – you might think it’s precisely the opposite, because they seem to force their way. But there is a sense in which they feel a minority in Ireland and that represents a central part of their tradition, and even people who don’t associate with Orangeism feel that somehow the blocking of Orange parades has other motives than it has, and it’s very very difficult to change that mindset.
“But the point I was trying to make was that no matter how much the change is in the Republic, it shouldn’t be – and I’m sure it’s not – done to try and create unity. But maybe it is done sometimes to create unity. It will not create unity in itself – it’s to do with the relationship between people – and I think the idea of “cultural rights” is moving towards that, where people can begin to feel at least that the enmity has died. I don’t think it’s possible for people down here to appreciate the feeling that I had when I first came down here – that this was really a frightening place. I’m talking about back in the 60s. That probably sounds incredible. Even though I came down first of all to find the farm from which my great-great grandfather came from – which I found – it still was a frightening place. And I think even though we move towards a situation where the South of Ireland has much more development in human rights, liberties and freedom and so on, until something is broken about the relationship between the two groups of people we’re still going to have a long way to go. In the end it must be some situation of mutual respect and tolerance which may develop in strange ways – maybe it will result in a united Ireland. I think some of the loyalists whom I know very well have lost the fear of a united Ireland, and that’s a major development. A lot of them haven’t lost it of course… But surprisingly, people who were at the front of the conflict, that I know personally, would have expressed those views – that no longer can the fear of a united Ireland be whipped out. It’s very very difficult, but I think both communities have to be generous and start to reach out. Tonight we’re talking about the South, and I’m sort of an interloper here in a sense, but I feel from the North, people have got to get out there and do it, and symbolise it. It’s not about argument, and it’s not about rejecting people’s traditions – it’s respecting people’s traditions, and finding ways of accommodating each other. The future, I think, is open. I think the hard line about a united Ireland or even a United Kingdom, is so hard that it is counterproductive. I imagine that some republicans recognise that certainly the violence was counterproductive. The reason why unionists are so upset, I think, is that actually there is a real challenge in the peace process – a real challenge for them. In fact the more conciliatory republicans become, or were to become – I feel the republicans are still hurting and are not so conciliatory as they could be – but the more conciliatory they become the more the unionists would fear. That’s my feeling.
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS (Summary only)
Q. 1. [Co. Louth resident]: “I would like to say a few words on behalf of a completely forgotten group of victims in this war, that haven’t been taken on board by the peace process …… How were the Troubles prevented from spreading south of the Border? Apart from the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the south of Ireland remained largely unscathed while Northern Ireland bled – Protestant and Catholic. .. What would have happened if Jack Lynch had sent the army into Derry, in 1969? … There was only one army going into Derry – the British Army – and in sending in the British Army it meant the British were going for a military solution… but they had to have the South of Ireland on side – that meant full exchange of information between the Special Branch and the RUC Special Branch.. . They had to have permission for their agents to … operate on the Southern side of the Border….. What these fellows did, with the help of the Special Branch, was to murder innocent Irish citizens, up near where I live, along the Louth-Armagh border. They came there to take out what they perceived as IRA godfathers. They went to the wrong houses, killed completely innocent people, but there was an inbuilt mechanism there when they discovered what they had done – they covered up these crimes, dumped the bodies along the border … The families even to this day hardly knew what happened…. but instead of apologising or helping the families they were blackguarded endlessly, even up to this day. This is how the Troubles were prevented from coming South. An awful lot is owed – while the fat cats in the South of Ireland got the brown envelopes and the big salaries, these people were in hell. … These people have been forgotten .. they paid the price for the Troubles not coming south of the border. It’s time their suffering was recognised. Some of them are in asylums, some are already dead. De Valera’s Constitution didn’t protect them. Who is going to take them on board? …
Q. 2. [Arthur O’Connor, Trim– to Dr. Hogan]: “When the Treaty was signed… what was the status of Northern Ireland at that time… … If it was a true treaty, how could De Valera and and the Irish Government … bring out a referendum in 1937 and include the North, Articles 2 and 3, if it was copperfastened? ….
Q. 3. [Nuala McGuinnes, Nobber resident]: “I’m very glad that Dr. Hogan mentioned the Orange Order . … Speaking as a Northerner who has lived in the South for 20 years… I have found over the years here a tremendous complacency and lack of knowledge about Northern Ireland .. The summer before last, Julitta kindly asked me to go to one of the grammar schools in the area to talk to the Transition Year. The views of the students were just echoing their parents and grandparents. They had an emotional attachment with the nationalist people in Northern Ireland, but they had absolutely not a clue about the unionist people. The Republic, in the year of the Millennium, missed an opportunity it will not get again, in not allowing the Orange march to continue in Dawson Street.. That was a token march – it was organised initially by the brethren in Wicklow who are Irishmen… No doubt they have an Irish passport.. no doubt they pay their income tax..
…And this gentleman I heard on the radio said he was an Irishman, his loyalty was to the Irish state, but he could not profess his identity and his religion in his own country. He spoke about the origins of the Orange Order, which like so many things gathered baggage over the years… He said it initiated from the principles of the French Revolution and it was not anti-Catholic – it was founded from the Reformation churches, where the individual conscience determines all. It was to protect the followers of the Churches of the Reformation from the Church of Rome which is not a democracy, power comes from on top.. . I read in the paper that first of all the march was going ahead, and then I read that all the business premises in Dawson St were intimidated by Sinn Fein, and I would like to ask Dr. Mansergh … why did the government not stand up and say “let them march”? …
“Another point – to Mr MacDonncha – a few years ago, the RUC officers came down to play rugby in a Dublin suburb with members of the Garda Siochana. Everyone got on very well… I put on the television that night and I was sick, sick, to see Sinn Fein with their horrible old placards complaining about the match. What was the harm?.. The RUC wanted to come back and play again, but to the best of my knowledge they never came back…
Q.4 [Liam McGlynn]. “Would it be a good idea to have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar to South Africa?
Answers to questions 1-4:
Dr. Martin Mansergh:
[Re victims on the border] …There is an investigation going on in the Dept. of Justice in relation to the Seamus Ludlow affair … I think your allegations particularly in relation to that case are to be taken seriously
Questioner. – I’m not referring to the Seamus Ludlow affair ……
Dr. Mansergh: “With regard to the status of Northern Ireland — that was settled in terms of international law, not really in the Treaty, it was settled in the Boundary Agreement of 1925, and that was settled in terms of legality, but the Republican side didn’t accept the legitimacy of that… Legitimacy and legality are not the same things.. Legality is something in the legal realm, whereas legitimacy is in the moral and political realm. Articles 2 and 3 – if you stand back and be objective – were challenging more the legitimacy of Northern Ireland rather than the legality.. In a sense, once the State had signed a Boundary Agreement recognised in international law, it’s not really possible to go back unilaterally on international agreements.
Re Irish Constitution – “Perhaps I could just bring in here a couple of comments made by Gerard Hogan – one good reason for not altering the Preamble to the Constitution is that it has a quite uncanny resemblance to the Preamble to the Ulster Covenant!
“Both speak of the struggles of our fathers in times of trial, and I’ve always thought if there were ever a united Ireland, one of the easiest things to do would be to amalgamate the Preamble to our Constitution and bring in the Ulster Covenant!
“With regard to De Valera anddivorce, he did leave an escape clause for the minority – the recognition of foreign divorces, and in those days maybe he was thinking mainly of the Anglo-Irish who flitted between the two countries…
Re the Orange Order and Dawson Street – “The Guards were approached, and were quite happy to police. The Taoiseach was approached – through me as it happens – and had absolutely no problem with an Orange march. However, one of the requests they made was that they could use the facilities of St. Anne’s, Dawson Street, and the Church of Ireland rector was not willing to do that. And if I could put a Church of Ireland hat on, the whole Drumcree business has been very divisive in terms of the Church of Ireland, and I think the Church of Ireland didn’t want to send the message to people in the Republic that it in some way or other identified with the Orange Order, especially as each year with Drumcree you see a big Church of Ireland spire, and you have the people protesting outside. I do honestly think – naturally we are a free democratic state, the Orangemen march in Rossnowlagh as it is, and there’s no reason in principle why they shouldn’t be subject to the public order, why they shouldn’t march in Dublin, I mean the Guards were prepared to deal with that situation.. .
“But if you’re asking away from law, I do think it would be better for all concerned if the Drumcree situation were sorted out. I’m afraid I don’t accept that the Orange Order is not anti-Catholic, you’ve only got to look at their constitution. Remember, David Trimble when he went to attend a memorial service for people in Donegal, there was a motion in one of the Orange lodges to expel him from the Orange Order for attending a service in a Catholic Church. I’ve met many people in the Orange Order, and like every other institution, be it a church, be it a State, they need to update and modernise which they haven’t done for a very long time – to modernise anachronistic parts of their Order. But I do want to say the State had no objection to the Orange Order marching, but the Church of Ireland did have an objection – they were not willing to allow St. Anne’s to be used.
Questioner – Could they not have held it in the Mansion House?
Dr. Mansergh: “That would be for the current mayor – she was actually very supportive”
Questioner – “When I referred to the Orange Order, I was talking about when they first set up, and they took the principles from the French Revolution…
Dr. Mansergh – “No it was the Glorious Revolution, not the French Revolution, which is quite different. The Orange Order was anti the French Revolution…
Brian Hayes: Re Truth Commission. “The straight answer is yes. We’ve all seen the difficulties in Yugoslavia, when that war-torn country was attempting to be put back together again. How difficult it is to face the future unless the past has been confronted, and all the hurt that has been done to people – that gentleman there expressed it and there are countless examples in the Republic and in Northern Ireland. A way forward could be seen in the following way. The Fusco case was interesting – the British Government dropped the extradition charges – there are about 40 persons from N.I. who reside here in the Republic who still have charges to their name in Northern Ireland or in other parts of the UK. I understand that in the majority of those cases that extradition warrants are not now being served for those people, so it is clear that those people will not now come before the courts. And if that is the case for paramilitaries, surely then we should look at the establishment of some kind of Commission, where loyalist and republican death squads and where the State failed in its responsibility, and all groups could be given an opportunity to come before some kind of Commission. I think we have to look into that, because the grievances felt by so many people have not been adequately addressed in this process. It’s quite clear, the one group of people who have not had their story told are the victims. I know we have a Commissioner who is doing excellent work, but I do not believe the process has dealt with the vicitms in the way it should have, and I think a Truth Commission is one way where we might make progress…
Re Orange Order – “We saw today in the streets of Dublin where the taximen demanded their right to march .. … how emotive and important this issue actually is. .. I happen to believe that the Orange Order handled last summer’s events badly – that’s my honest assessment of it. They were given an opportunity to assemble in the Mansion House, by Dublin Corporation, and were shown tremendous courage from the Labour Party Lord Mayor. I’m aware that St. Anne’s did not give them permission to assemble in their Church. But I would have liked to see it happen. I’m also aware that there was intimidation to shop owners in that area – whether it came from the group you mentioned, I have no evidence, but it happened. And as long as that kind of dual personality exists within some of those organisations that kind of intimidation will continue, vouched and cloaked in the kind of political participation that some people argue. So I very much regret that that march did not take place, but I think there was as much fault on the Orange Order as there was within Dublin Corporation at the time, because the facility was made available to them. I think the problem was insurance costs at the time, but I would like to see that happen, because it would be a good example of a modern pluralist country.
Annual Day of Reconciliation: “Finally, can I say, I’m very much in favour of a Day of Reconcilation.. . This idea came from the Irish Government last year, and it was a very novel proposal…. whereby one day of reconciliation would be established and on that day progress would be made on the decommissioning issue and the Executive would be re-established..
“But I don’t think it should be actually one day… I believe there should be an annual day of reconciliation that would be common to both Northern Ireland and the Republic … I think some day has to be established so that people can pause and stop and think of the suffering that has bedevilled this island for so long.”
Co. Louth questioner – “Should that be before or after the Truth Commission is set up?
Brian Hayes: “I think it should take place next year – as a principle I would be in favour of it…”
Micheal Mac Donncha: “On the issue of the Truth Commission, I think we do need to look at models where this has happened in other countries – various ways of getting to the bottom of what actually happened, and obviously to do it in a way which can advance what everybody is trying to achieve at the moment. I did mention the activities that happened in this State over the years – we do need to see those investigated as well, specifically where they involved incursions into the South.”
Re Orange Order march in Dawson St: “I have to refute immediately any allegation that Sinn Fein was involved in intimidation of any kind. I am very surprised to hear Deputy Hayes mention intimidation of people in Dawson Street, it’s the first time that I ever heard of it – I haven’t heard anybody in that street making that accusation. I can recall.. that one of the shop owners was interviewed in the Sunday Business Post and said quite openly that he objected to the march. To clarify Sinn Fein’s position – we did not object to the holding of an Orange march, and we do not object to the right of the Orange Order to march anywhere in the country. There are Orange marches in this jurisdiction, we do not object to that in any way… We defend the right of the Orange Order and other groups to assemble and parade. What we did object to was that, in the context of the continuing standoff in Portadown and the siege that the people of Garvaghy Road were under at that time, that the Mayor of Dublin, Mary Frehill, proposed to formally welcome the Orange Order on behalf of the people of Dublin. Our councillors objected to that. We did not object to the march. As Dr. Mansergh has said, the Church of Ireland rector in Dawson Street did not welcome the group there. So I must totally refute any notion of intimidation and I would like to see evidence that could be brought forward of it..
Now just on the Orange Order, I have my own experience – my father, his own father was from a family in which they were all members of the Orange Order, but because he didn’t join – he joined Brian’s former party, the Labour Party, and married a Catholic, he was actually ostracised by the rest of his family. Sadly the reality is that the Orange Order is a sectarian organisation – that is not in any way to deny people’s right to be part of the Orange Order, or to deny that that is a strand or tradition in Irish life, but we have to face reality. There’s no point in being starry-eyed and saying “let’s embrace this tradition, let’s embrace this organisation”, without looking at what exactly it is
Constitutional change: “ I think the changes in terms of divorce, in terms of the place of the Catholic Church in the Constitution here, were the right changes to make, they were long overdue, not only for the purpose of reconciliation, but also because of the rights of people in this jurisdiction.
“I was interested in the remarks of Roy in relation to the change in attitudes – and it’s a very slow historical process – the change in attitudes of everybody, but especially including unionists, and maybe not being so nervous as they were before in looking at different options for the constitutional future of this island. What we need to talk about is… what sort of united Ireland? … It’s not just about uniting territory, it’s not even just about uniting people…
Chair, Roy Garland – re Orange Order: “Dr. Mansergh spoke about the need to update and modernise, in regard to the Orange Order. I would totally agree. The difficulty that I would see, as a former member of the Orange Order, is that they are so much on the defensive they are not capable of changing and reforming at all. They are not a strong organisation as they are depicted, they are a weak organisation, and to my mind they’re sort of flailing out aimlessly. They really don’t have a coherent strategy. They really don’t know where they are going, they don’t know what they are about. They are a weak organisation. Once they had influence – if it was influence – with the Unionist Party. I think actually it was the other way round, but even that they’ve lost. And if you look at it from that perspective – if you can reach the Orangemen in some way, by opening up the possibilities in the Republic, I think you are freeing unionists. Because a lot of unionists, even if they are not members of the Orange Order, somehow see the way the Orange Order is treated as reflecting them, and they feel a minority on this island who are under pressure, they feel they are being squeezed out. Now I don’t agree with that, I think it’s self-defeating, but nevertheless it is a reality, and I think we all have to try and address that.
“But it’s extremely difficult, and I get frustrated and feel like saying all sorts of things to them – and I have said some things, which actually doesn’t help. And I think nationalists, particularly in the South, have the opportunity of showing to Orangemen, like in the situation of the parade, that it can take place. It’s very regrettable that it couldn’t take place, for whatever the reason, because it confirmed the worst prejudices of Orangemen and many unionists as well. There’s room there to do something about that – to open up that dialogue. We had a meeting last week in Co. Louth, with leaders of the Independent Orange Order. It was very hard stuff. I felt angry at some of what they were saying, and other people felt angry. but they needed to say it. The dialogue started with the Independent Orange Order who are more extreme, in religious terms, than the Orange Order – if I could use that word “extreme”. We’ve got to get into dialogue with each other, the most extreme groups on both sides need to face the realities and say it to each other face to face…
Q.5. [John Keaveney, Kilbride teacher] – to Brian Hayes on schools: “.. there’s a lot of things going on at primary level, and I would hate to think that policy would leave out the primary schools.. I think the Irish and British Governments should develop the Socrates programme … which would bring Scottish, Welsh, English and Irish together… .. so that more children can meet each other at a very young age. If you wait until they are 16 or 17, you’re too late to change their perceptions…
To Dr. Mansergh: “The Dept. of Foreign Affairs funds all peace groups – the Dept of Education appears to be being left out of the picture, to a certain degree… There’s a North-South committee in the Dept. of Education but nobody seems to know it exists – has that been set up as a result of the Good Friday Agreement? Could Foreign Affairs try to channel some money to education?
Q. 6. “I’d like to compliment all speakers here tonight…. I’m wondering.. I’m sort of sceptical that there’s a body of unionist opinion that will not accept us, no matter what happens down here .. I wonder, were we to embrace the British constitution, I wonder if Jeffrey Donaldson would ask us to embrace the monarchy as well?
Q.7. [Meath resident] Re Orange Order: May I remind people that in Donegal, there’s an Orange march without any trouble whatsoever every year. Surely if the people of Donegal can travel with an Orange march, surely the liberal people of Dublin can do likewise?
Q. 8. [Tom Hodgins, Drogheda Ecumenical Peace Group: “ I feel that changing our laws and proving ourselves or parading our business acumen will not of themselves bring peace to our land. I think I would be more thinking along the lines of building friendship and contact, and an overt showing that we are willing to change. Because we are all instruments of peace… I have two questions – one to Gerard – is our record so pristine in the human rights area because of our high regard for the dignity of the individual or is it because of the lack of strength of challenge? To Martin.. should the South spend more time working on our own calendar to help people on their own journey. Is it almost too taken up in responding to the situation in the North? .. Could we help people on their journey by showing the way in healing by bringing to a proper form of closure our own Civil War, to mark respect for the people who died in that period?
Q.9. [John Clancy, Meath Peace Group]: “We talked about the Truth Commission, and that seems to be broadly acceoted.. With regard to the possible apathy among people – I don’t think that apathy is there, I think we needs to fertilise it. The number of people who have come to these talks, the number that is here tonight, shows that there is interest which needs to be fostered. Can I suggest a variant of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation to help focus and develop this dialogue?
Decommissioning: “A specific question to the Sinn Fein speaker, and you are very welcome indeed. As I understand it the two independent assessors visited in the order of 30 dumps in the Republic. It defies my understanding of the issue of decommissioning that they haven’t engaged with De Chastelain.. Why has not more happened? .. The interlocutor was appointed but no conversation has taken place.. How or when does Sinn Fein reckon that this may happen before May 21st next year?
Answers to Questions 5-9
Gerard Hogan: “Our record on human rights is not pristine, certainly not.. but it is much better than it is depicted – I was seeking to put that in a comparative perspective. And it is certainly not because of any lack of challenges. The first case ever to come before the European Court of Human Rights.. was after all an Irish case… The number of constitutional challenges that are presently going on, not to speak of those that have gone on in the past, is almost overwhelming.. ..One thing is for sure it isn’t for want of the government being challenged in the courts. The Government is challenged in the courts day in and day out.
“One other thing about the Orange march.. I have no doubt whatever but that the Orangemen’s right to march is absolutely protected by the Constitution, and any attempt by this State to stop them marching would be an unconstitutional interference with their liberties. It may be unwelcome news to them, it may be a surprise to them … but they would be better protected under Mr De Valera’s Constitution than under the common law in Northern Ireland.
Micheal MacDonncha – re decommissioning: “I don’t think that information [re arms dumps] came from the arms inspectors.. I have to say I was surprised that there was a second inspection given the context. The fact that the Policing Bill had been so far removed from what the Patten Report had envisaged, and there had been very little progress on demilitarisation. I think that’s the reason why more has not happened. I believe that the commitment that the IRA made in May was sincere, they will continue with the process, but it’s part of the political difficulties, it’s part of the overall context of what decommissioning means.. that we touched on earlier….
John Clancy: “Will we see something before the deadline, May of next year?
Micheal Mac Donncha: “We’ve always said that deadlines have never been helpful.. I think the context in which progress was made was a context where everything was to be moved forward together…
John Clancy: “The guns are a political tool, are they? You seem to be linking them in with a whole lot of things…
MichealMac Donncha – “I didn’t say that that all, I’m simply recognising the reality that is there. I’m speaking for Sinn Fein. The reality is that you can bring people as far as they are willing to go – it has to happen within a context. It is fruitless to go to any organisation to seek to achieve something which you are of the view is unachievable at the time. So I would refute the notion that it’s deploying something in order to make political gain, I would totally refute that.
Brian Hayes: On the decommissioning issue – our Constitution is very clear about this matter, as to the rights of the Oireachtas solely and exclusively.. to raise an army… .. The Taoiseach was very brave in what he had to say on this matter some months ago when he clearly made the distinction between the Northern Ireland Executive and the Oireachtas, and specifically the role we have as an Oireachtas to raise an army and to maintain an army.
On schools, “the gentleman rightly said I did exclude primary education.. you are right, it needs to start at an earlier age. Also there was a commitment in the Agreement for a joint parliamentary forum .. I think it would be quite a useful thing if a civic forum were to be established in the Republic which would allow groups like yours, and there are countless others, in the peace and reconciliation business, as it were, to tap into all the arms of government and tap into the potential that is there… I think some kind of consultative forum should be established, and I think there is provision for it in the Agreement…
Dr. Mansergh: On the last point – there is provision, and the government would be keen – obviously it’s a matter for the Government and the Assembly.. At the same time, realistically, we need to get over some of the current difficulties first. I do broadly agree with what Micheal said about the context in moving things forward, whether we like it or we don’t like it, and much of the time we don’t like it. For example, David Trimble has created a linkage between appointing people to the North-South Ministerial Council and meaningful re-engagement with the de Chastelain Commission. From a Government perspective, one may dislike these linkages but the reality is you tend to move forward a few issues at a time, and that’s very often the only way you can deal with an individual difficulty.
Education: “I’ll certainly look into the question of education and peace and reconciliation funding. I would have thought that would have been covered.
Truth Commission: “We have a truth commision of a sort in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, just relating to a particular episode. There are pros and cons of that. I was interested in the idea of possibly using a revived form of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation looking at those sort of matters. I have no doubt the feelings of victims will remain very intense for a long time to come.
“Somebody raised the question .. if we adopted the British Constitution would unionists join a political structure? I happen to believe that, if for pure theoretical argument, we were prepared to go back into the United Kingdom on a Home Rule, sort of Redmondite basis, I still think you would find that Ulster Unionists would not be prepared to come in under a Dublin Parliament, even though that was a united Ireland with devolution in a unitary state of the United Kingdom. It underlines the point that beyond a certain point … there ‘s no point whatsoever in attempting to stand on our head, because you won’t necessarily get the response.
“I take the point about the Civil War but I genuinely believe that Civil War politics has been transcended at this stage. Most people can see, whatever tradition they identify with, that there was something on both sides of the argument. I remember one former Taoiseach whom I served but who also had links with the Free State side saying he often found it very difficult to make up his mind, who was right and who was wrong. I think Fianna Fail people certainly respect Michael Collins and I think probably a lot of Fine Gael people respect at least some of the achievements of de Valera, the Constitution especially, and certainly Sean Lemass.
Brian Fitzgerald: “In relation to the Forum that you referred to, yes. But I think the best forum of all is in the schools and I believe a lot more could be done in the schools. I think the teachers should encourage bringing people in – people like yourselves – I know they did for a period, there was a pilot scheme introduced, and that could be done on a far broader basis to give people a better understanding of what we are talking about. A lot of the language that is spoken on television goes over the heads of young people. They’re not interested, it’s boring. But if they listen to it in the school, for a half an hour or something like that, it may get through to them what we are about. There’s a lot of things being spoken here tonight, if they were addressed to a young audience would they listen? I don’t believe they would. That’s the reality. But they’re the people we’ve got to get if we’re going to ever build peace and reconciliation on this island – a lasting one.
Re Orange Order: “I remember when a number of us were invited to meet a group from the Orange Order, and we were sitting having a discussion. There was a guy from the Ballynafeigh lodge who used to march up and down the Ormeau Road, a young chap. And I asked him – why do you have to march if you’re offending people who feel that you shouldn’t march? Why must you march that particular route? His only answer was, and the only reason why he was insisting that he should march, was “my great-grandfather walked it., my grandfather walked it, my father walked it, and if I don’t walk it I’ll let them down.” How are we going to change that thinking? As you said, they’ve no direction and that’s the tragedy. There are many many other groups in our society who feel the very same on other issues. We’ve a lot of hard work to do but we cannot sit on our butt in the South and be complacent and be comfortable. Because the problem won’t go away – it has the unfortunate knack of coming round. And we can have difficulties here, because there are some very very courageous people in Northern Ireland who have been involved with paramilitaries on both sides, who are preventing atrocities happening both North and South, and we should all remember that . We are only a very small distance away at any one time from some nut doing something rather stupid and rather tragic like what we saw in Omagh and elsewhere.
CLOSING WORDS AND THANKS
Chair (Roy Garland): “.. Just on the last note, about the contribution of loyalists and republicans “on the ground” – it’s a very real thing. Unfortunately they don’t get a lot of thanks for it, because it’s not seen, and it’s hard work. And I know there are people on both sides .. having extreme difficulty bringing the hardliners along. Sometimes it looks like they are sort of retreating because they are trying to speak to them, but they have to speak to them. We’re almost learning in Northern Ireland to speak in that way and understand the other community. And loyalists do understand, and republicans do understand, the difficulties that the other community has. That doesn’t make it any easier. Things are extremely difficult at the moment, but, like many people, I have a confidence that somehow we’ll reach there in the end, I hope, and yet we’re on a knife edge. So I’m very grateful to all the people who have worked, from both communities, and for you down here and the people we have here on the platform, and on your behalf I would like to thank each of the speakers here tonight for giving up their time and energies for us tonight. Thank you.”
Julitta Clancy: On behalf of the Meath Peace Group, Julitta Clancy thanked the speakers and the Chairman, Roy Garland, for their time and generosity, and she thanked the audience for coming, some from great distances. She also thanked the Columban Fathers for once again facilitating the talk at Dalgan Park. Picking up some of the themes mentioned in the question and answer session, she said that the group would like to see some sort of a people’s forum in the South – “to get people talking – even on a pilot basis – but also to allow community groups to feed into this peace process”. On schools, the Meath Peace Group had considerable experience in secondary schools in Meath and Louth: “young people of 16 or 17 can do so much to change attitudes. They start with prejudices as we all do, then they listen, they argue, they challenge each other, and we have seen tremendous good coming out of those exchanges”. The group would like to see resources made available for schools and teachers who really want to do this work. “It’s no threat to anyone, it actually works extremely well”.. .”We need to build and cement this peace and we appeal to the government to consider the idea of a forum … there is provision in the Agreement for some sort of a joint forum, but I think we need to do something before that.” She said such a Forum could also take in issues relating to minority groups such as those now coming into the country.
Meath Peace Group Report. December 2000. (c) Meath Peace Group
Compiled and edited by Julitta Clancy. Taped by Anne Nolan and Oliver Ward.
APPENDIX A: BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES ON SPEAKERS
Cllr. Brian Fitzgerald (Independent). Trade unionist and full-time SIPTU official, Brian has served on Meath Co. Council for 15 years and was chair of the Council from 1999-2000. He is also a member of the North Eastern Health Board. From 1992-1997, he served as Labour Party TD for Co. Meath. During that time he held many positions in the Labour Party, and was also a member of the party’s delegation to the Forum for Peace and Reconcilation. In the period 1993-94 Brian was involved, along with Fergus Finlay, in ground-breaking talks with loyalist paramilitaries prior to their ceasefire.
Roy Garland: Belfast teacher, researcher and member of the Ulster Unionist Party, Roy writes a weekly column in the nationalist Irish News and was one of the few members of his party to address the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in 1995. In the course of research into his family’s history he made contact with many people in Louth and out of these links he founded a unique historical and reconciliation group “The Guild of Ancient Uriel” – which has met regularly in Louth since 1995 and has been involved in dialogue with a wide variety of groups and individuals from all sides of the divide in Northern Ireland. The Guild’s members come from North and South of the border and Roy is the co-chair of the Guild along with Julitta Clancy of the Meath Peace Group
Brian Hayes, TD (Fine Gael). Educated at Garbally Park, Ballinasloe, Maynooth College, and Trinity College Dublin, Brian was formerly a secondary school teacher and Fine Gael National Youth and Education Officer. He has been a member of Dublin County Council since 1995, served on Seanad Eireann from 1995-1997 and worked as secretary to the Fine Gael Group at the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. Elected to the Dail in 1997, for the constituency of Dublin South West, he first served as Spokesperson on Housing, House Prices and Urban Renewal and was recently appointed Front Bench Spokesperson on Northern Ireland. He is also Vice Chairperson to the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of Strategic Management Initiative in the Irish Civil Service
Dr. Gerard Hogan, Senior Counsel, Barrister of King’s Inns, Fellow of Trinity College Dublin and Lecturer in Law, is the author of numerous works on constitutional and administrative law and is the editor of Kelly’sIrish Constitution. Dr. Hogan served as a member of the Constitution Review Group from 1995-1996 and is currently a member of the Offences Against the State Review Group set up as a result of the Good Friday Agreement. Dr. Hogan first addressed the Meath Peace Group in September 1994 when he spoke on the subject of Articles Two and Three of the Irish Constitution
Micheal MacDonncha (Sinn Féin). Native of Dublin, he has been a member of Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle since 1990 and was Editor of An Phoblacht/Republican News from 1990 to 1996. He has served as Dail secretary to Sin Fein deputy for Cavan/Monaghan, Caoimhghin O Caolain, since 1997, and is the author of the Sinn Fein submission to the Committee to Review the Offences Against the State Acts.
Dr. Martin Mansergh (Special Advisor to the Taoiseach on Northern Ireland): Son of the Tipperary-born historian Nicholas Mansergh, he was educated in Canterbury and Christ Church, Oxford, and entered the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1974. He served as Third Secretary, First Secretary and Principal Officer in various units before resigning from the civil service in 1981 to become Head of Research, Fianna Fail. He subsequently served as Special Advisor to three taoisigh – Charles Haughey, Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern, and was co-winner (with Fr. Alec Reid and Rev. Roy Magee) of the 1994 Tipperary Peace Prize. He is the author of numerous articles on the peace process and other political and historical topics, and edited a volume of speeches of Charles Haughey The Spirit of the Nation, in 1986
APPENDIX B:Principles Underlying the Good Friday Agreement and Commitments made by the Irish Government – A Summary (Compiled by the Meath Peace Group)
Declaration of Support
In the opening chapter of the Agreement – the “Declaration of Support”, the participants (i.e. the parties and the two governments), in a “spirit of concord”, strongly commended the Agreement to the people, North and South, for their approval, and set out the key principles underlying the Agreement. These principles were reaffirmed in the British-Irish Agreement.
New beginning “We … believe that the Agreement we have negotiated offers a truly historic opportunity for a new beginning”
Legacy of “The tragedies of the past have left a deep and
suffering profoundly regrettable legacy of suffering”
Remembrance “We must never forget those who have died or been injured”
Fresh start “But we can best honour them through a fresh start”
Reconciliation “We firmly dedicate ourselves to the achievement of
Tolerance reconciliation, tolerance and mutual trust,
Mutual trust and to the protection and vindication of the
Human rights human rights of all”
Partnership “We are committed to partnership, equality and mutual
Equality respectas the basis of relationships within N.I. ,
Mutual respect between North and South, and between these islands”
Democracy “We reaffirm our total and absolute commitment to
Non-violence exclusively democratic and peaceful means of resolving differences on political issues, and our
Opposition opposition to any use or threat of force by others
to use of force for any political purpose ..”
Equality “We acknowledge the substantial differences between
of our continuing and equally legitimate, political
Reconciliation “We will endeavour to strivein every practical way towardsRapprochment reconciliation and rapprochement …”
Good faith “We pledge that we will, in good faith, work to ensure the success of each and every one of the arrangements to be established under this agreement.”
Interdependency “It is accepted that all of the institutional and constitutional arrangements … are interlocking and interdependent and that in particular the functioning of the Assembly and the North/South Council are so closely inter-related that the success of each depends on that of the other .. ”
“Legitimacy of whatever choiceis freely exercised” by a majority of the people in N. Ireland
Self-determination “It is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively… to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent freely and concurrently given, North and South. to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish”
Consentprinciple: “This right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of NI ”
Status of N. Ireland: “The present wish of a majority of the people of N.I. … is to maintain the Union”. Therefore “it would be wrong to make any change in the status of N.I. save with the consent of a majority of its people.”
Exercise of Governmental power: Government to be exercised with“rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions” and founded on the principles of
“full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights,
of freedom from discrimination for all citizens and of parity of esteem and
of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities”
Identity: Recognition of “birthright of all the people of N.I. to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British,or both”
Strand One: Democratic Institutions in Northern Ireland
Assembly: “This Agreement provides for a democratically elected Assembly ..which is inclusive in its membership, capable ofexercising executive and legislative authority, and subject to safeguards to protect the rights and interestsof all sides of the community.”
Safeguards: Allocations of key posts in proportion to party strengths; decisions to be human rights–proofed; Human Rights Commission; Bill of Rights; key decisions to be taken on cross-community basis; Equality Commission to “monitor a statutory obligation topromote equality of opportunity in specified areas and parity ofesteem between the two main communities…”
Ministers’ Pledge of Office: Pledge of good faith; commitment to non-violence and “exclusively peaceful and democratic means”; “to serve all the people of Northern Ireland equally”, “promote equality and prevent discrimination”; support “all decisions of the Executive Committee and Assembly”; comply with Ministerial Code of Conduct.
Ministers’ Code of Conduct – Propriety, impartiality, integrity, objectivity in relation to public funds, accountability, reasonableness; promotion of good community relations and equality of treatment; non-use of information gained for public gain, declaration of interests…
Strand Two: North/South
North/South Ministerial Council: To bring together those with executive responsibilities in N.I. and the Irish Government, to “develop consultation, co-operation and action within the island of Ireland … on matters of mutual interestwithin thecompetence of the administrations, North and South”. “All Council decisions to be by agreement between the two sides”. Best endeavours “to reach agreement on the adoption of common policies”.
North/South Implementation bodies: on “all-Ireland and cross-border basis”. Considerationalso to be given to establishment of: Joint Parliamentary forum and a North/South Consultative Civic Forum
Strand Three: British-Irish Dimension
British-Irish Council: “To promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands..”
British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference: “To promote bilateral co-operation at all levels on all matters of mutual interest within the competence of both governments” . Provision is also made for regular meetings concerned with “non-devolved Northern Ireland matters”, facilitation of co-operation in security matters, review of the workings of the agreement, and addressing areas of rights, justice, prisons and policing in N. Ireland.]
Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity
Human rights: General commitment to the “mutual respect, the civil rights and the religious liberties of everyone in the community”.
Rights specifically affirmed –
right to free political thought, freedom and expression of religion, right to pursue democratically national and political aspirations,
right to seek constitutional change by peaceful and legitimate means; right to freely choose one’s place of residence;
right to equal opportunity;
right to freedom from sectarian harassment;
right of women to full and equal political participation
Steps to be taken by British Government – Human Rights Commission, Incorporation of ECHR, Equality Commission. Bill of Rights: “to reflect the particular circumstances of N.I. ….. to reflect the principles of mutual respect for the identity and ethos of both communities and parity of esteem”
Steps to be taken by the Irish Government
Setting up of Human Rights Commission; examination of question of the incorporation of the ECHR, measures to ensure “at least an equivalent level of protection of human rights as will pertain in Northern Ireland”; ratification of Framework Convention on National Minorities; employment equality and equal status legislation. Government to take steps to “further strengthen the protection of human rights in its jurisdiction”, “bring forward measures to strengthen and underpin the constitutional protection of human rights.” and ““continue to take further active steps to demonstrate its respect for the different traditions in the island of Ireland”.
Joint committee of the two Commissions envisaged “as a forum for consideration of human rights issues in the island of Ireland”. Consideration of “the possibility of establishing a charter, open to signature by all democratic parties, reflecting and endorsing agreed measures for the protection of the fundamental rights of everyone living in the island of Ireland.”
Victims of Violence
Need to “acknowledge and address the suffering of the victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation” is recognised. The participants promise support for the development of community based initiatives and recognise the need for services “supportive and sensitive to the needs of victims”.
Reconciliation and Mutual Understanding
Tribute paid to the work being done by many organisations to develop “reconciliation and mutual understanding and respect between and within communities and traditions, in N. Ireland and between North and South” . Such work is seen as having a “vital role in consolidating peace and political agreement” . “An essential element of the reconciliation process is the promotion of a culture of tolerance at every level of society…” Initiatives to facilitate and encourage integrated education and mixed housing.
Economic, Social and Cultural Issues
Economic growth and stability in N. Ireland: provision for a new regional development strategy “tackling the problems of a divided society and social cohesion in urban, rural and border areas”; measures for advancement of women in public life, employment equality, new Targeting Social Need initiative, combatting unemployment, and “eliminating the differential in unemployment rates between the two communities”, protection and enhancement of the environment, etc.
The importance of “respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity “ is recognised “including in N.I., the Irish language, Ulster-Scots and the languages of the various ethnic communities.” Support and promotion of the Irish language provided for..
Symbols and emblems
Acknowledgment of the “sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes, and the need in particular in creating the new institutions to ensure that such symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division…”
“The resolution of the decommissioning issue is an indispensable part of the process of negotiation”. Progress noted in developing schemes “which can represent a workable basis for achieving the decommissioning of illegally-held arms in the possession of paramilitary groups.”
Commitment to disarmament: “All participants .. reaffirm their commitment to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations”. Confirmation of intention to work constructively and in good faith with the Independent Commission, and to use any influence they may have, to “achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms within two years following endorsement in referendums North and South of the agreement and in the context of the implementation of the overall settlement.”
“normalisation of security arrangements and practice. ”
Steps to be taken by British government include reduction of numbers and role of Armed Forces, removal of security installations, removal of emergency powers, consultation with Irish Government, consultation on firearms regulation
Steps to be taken by the Irish Government:
“The Irish Government will initiate a wide-ranging review of the Offences Against the State Acts 1939-85 with a view to both reform and dispensing with those elements no longer required as circumstances permit.”
POLICING AND JUSTICE
Future policing arrangements in N. I. – provision for the Independent Commission on Policing and the review of the criminal justice system.
The participants recognisethat policing is a “central issue in any society.” They equally recognise that “N. Ireland’s history of deep divisions has made it highly emotive, with great hurt suffered and sacrifices made by many individuals and their families, including those in the RUC….”
The Agreement provides the “opportunity for a new beginning to policing in N. Ireland with a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole.” They also believe that this Agreement offers a “unique opportunity to bring about a new political dispensation which will recognise the full and equal legitimacy and worth of the identities, senses of allegiance and ethos of all sections of the community in N. Ireland.”
“Essential that policing structures and arrangements are such that the police service is professional, effective and efficient, fair and impartial, free from partisan political control; accountable, both under the law .. and to the community it serves; representative of the society it polices, and operates within a coherent and co-operative criminal justice system, which conforms with human rights norms. ….”
Criminal Justice System
Wide-ranging review of criminal justice system to be undertaken
Aims of criminal justice system: to “deliver a fair and impartial system of justice to the community”; to “be responsive to the community’s concerns, and encouraging community involvement where appropriate”, to “have the confidence of all parts of the community” and “deliver justice efficiently and effectively”.
Release: Accelerated programme for the release of prisoners. ”Prisoners affiliated to organisations which have not established or are not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire will not benefit from the arrangements…” Review process to “provide for the advance of the release dates of qualifying prisoners while allowing account to be taken of the seriousness of the offences for which the person was convicted and the need to protect the community…”
Reintegration: “The Governments continue to recognise the importance of measures to facilitate the reintegration of prisoners into the community by providing support both prior to and after release, including assistance directed towards availing of employment opportunities, re-training and/or re-skilling and further education.”
Meath Peace Group Report. December 2000. (c) Meath Peace Group
Compiled and edited by Julitta Clancy. Taped by Anne Nolan and Oliver Ward.
Meath Peace Group Committee (all in Co. Meath): Julitta and John Clancy, Batterstown; Pauline Ryan, Navan; Anne Nolan, Slane; Fr. Michael Kane, An Tobar, Ardbraccan; Rev. John Clarke, Navan; Philomena Boylan-Stewart, Longwood; Leona Rennicks, Ardbraccan; John Keaveney, Kilbride; Olive Kelly, Lismullen
25 – “Unionism and Unionist Politics”
Monday, 28 April 1997
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
Dr. Feargal Cochrane (Research Officer, Centre for the Study of Conflict, University of Ulster; author of Unionist Politics and the Politics of Unionism Since the Anglo-Irish Agreement)
Dr. Norman Porter (Member of UUP; author of Rethinking Unionism)
Roy Garland (Member of UUP; Co-Chair, Guild of Uriel, Louth)
Chaired by Henry Mount Charles, Earl of Slane
Addresses of speakers
Questions and comments
Henry Mount Charles (guest chair): “Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. I’m delighted to be able to fill in tonight. I admire the Meath Peace Group and it was through the group that I chaired the debate between the present Secretary of State [Sir Patrick Mayhew] and perhaps the future Secretary of State in Northern Ireland [Mo Mowlam]. [Editor’snote: the debate referred to was held in Craigavon and hosted by the Interaction Group]. It gave me an opportunity to get to know Mo Mowlam very well and it might be interesting in the years to come. … I have always felt … that until we on this island really attempt seriously to reconcile the two traditions we’re really not going to make any progress. … There was some reference made that the next meeting might be disrupted by the general election. I would like to make two remarks to that; I see a gentleman sitting in the audience whose collection of literature I have already received, so he’s already on the campaign trail! I was also pleased that Julitta made reference to the fact that I’m still an active member of Fine Gael. There was a piece in the Sunday Independent which suggested that I was no longer a member and that I had been rejected by the Progressive Democrats. I’d like to set the record straight – I am still a member of Fine Gael and I was asked by both the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Progressive Democrats to stand in this constituency in the forthcoming election. For reasons that I wish to keep to myself I decided against that particular proposition.
We have a collection of very distinguished speakers tonight and forgive me if I scramble around a bit with my notes but our first speaker will be Dr. Feargal Cochrane who is research officer at the Centre for the Study of Conflict at the University of Ulster, author of Unionist Politics and the Politics of Unionism since the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I was interested – just flicking through the notes – in relation to some of the remarks that Feargal Cochrane has said – that a description of the Unionist state of mind is that they live within a state of secular insecurity and perhaps he’ll make some reference to that. On my right is Dr. Norman Porter and again I was looking at the brief on his book Rethinking Unionism and I was amused and intrigued to see that he had received accolades from characters as diverse as Garret Fitzgerald and Martin Manseragh and indeed I’ll quote Hilda McThomas from An Phoblacht: “Porter’s book must be read by Republicans if only for the insights it provides into Unionism”, now that could be a mixed compliment! Roy Garland will speak last and he is a well known columnist for the Irish News and I’m sure probably well known to all of you. We will start off now and I will call on Dr. Feargal Cochrane to speak first.
1. Dr. Feargal Cochrane: “Unionist Politics”
“There are two main things I would like to do this evening; the first thing I want to do is make a few observations about the ideological complexion of Ulster unionism. What are the main dynamic forces which determine the political behaviour of Ulster Unionism? Secondly, I will make a few comments about the current leadership of unionism under David Trimble.
Ideological complexion of Ulster unionism: “I think the first thing to say is that unionism is by its very nature a reactive rather than a proactive ideology. It is at its strongest and most coherent as a political movement when it reacts against something that all unionists can commonly agree to be objectionable. For example, Home Rule at the beginning of the century, the ending of Stormont, and introduction of direct rule in the 1970s, the Anglo-Irish Agreement in the 1980s and the Frameworks Document in the 1990s. What these examples all have in common is that they were perceived by unionists to be a threat to their position within the UK. The trouble starts when unionists have to be more innovative and progressive. When they have to say ‘yes’ instead of saying ‘no’. When they have to decide between various policy options and advocate a united position for moving forward.
“I think there are essentially two reasons why they have difficulty in doing this. The first is because of the social composition of the ideology, and the second is because of the climate of fear and insecurity which inhabits and inhibits the unionist political psyche.
Diverse movement: “With regard to the first of these, unionism is a hugely diverse movement, a catch-all, cross-class, cross-everything political alliance, a single-issue group, if you like, with the one aim of preserving and strengthening the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Unionism has classically been seen as a “monolith”. In reality it is anything but. It has certainly been an electoral monolith, but this cohesion at election times masks a hugely diverse group of people.
“The former unionist leader and NI Prime Minister James Chichester-Clark put it like this. He said that the trouble with the Unionist Party is that all you had to say to be a member was that you supported the union with Great Britain. Beyond that you could be any political complexion you wished. This is a problem for unionism as people are unionists for all sorts of different reasons, and while they may find some commonality over the core question of Northern Ireland’s position within the UK, beyond that they could almost be in different political parties and many would possess different and almost conflicting beliefs.
Insecurity: “The second major problem unionism has in presenting a positive and progressive face to the world emanates from a fear of their political surroundings. This derives from the historical experience of the unionist community and has been described as “settler (secular?) insecurity”. The Protestant community were, after all, the minority in Ireland until partition. The largest group in the North East, the Presbyterians, were regarded as heretics by both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. They had to form a paramilitary army and threaten to rebel against the state they were loyal to, in order to avoid being sold out as they saw it by the British in 1912. They feared the same was happening in 1973 with the Sunningdale agreement and Power-Sharing Executive, in 1985 they felt the same thing was happening with the AIA and almost constantly the same thing has been happening in the 1990s. They felt that the Catholic community in the North and the South, have wanted to destroy the NI state since its inception, and technically speaking the Republic, through Articles 2 and 3, have been trying to do this since 1937. In fact the Republic could be seen as more aggressive now than in 1937 after the Supreme Court ruled in the McGimpsey case in 1990, that the achievement of Articles 2 and 3 were a “constitutional imperative”.
“The more radical unionists see enemies of Ulster all over the place really, in foreign fields, namely America and Europe. Some people in the DUP for example regard Europe as a Rome-dominated conspiracy designed to overthrow the Protestant position in Northern Ireland. You sometimes get the impression from Ian Paisely that the Pope is devising all sorts of schemes to take over Ulster.
Siege mentality: “In other words, to varying degrees unionists feel under threat. This has often been referred to as the “siege-mentality” of unionism. This varies in intensity from time to time depending upon the prevailing circumstances, it may vary from one person to the next. Michael McGimpsey summed it up when I asked him a few years ago if he had heard any whispers about the Anglo-Irish Agreement before it was signed in 1985. “Obviously we had suspicions before it, we all had suspicions, but then that is part and parcel of unionists’ paranoia and its very hard to know whether your suspicions are just merely in your mind, whether you have some basis for them, or whether you are simply being paranoiac. It’s the unionist nightmare you know, that they are going to be sold out.”
“Obviously, such feelings that their “civil and religious liberties” are being steadily chipped away by Perfidious Albion ie Britain, under the Irish Government, vary from one individual to the next, rising and falling on the barometer of constitutional uncertainty. Fundamentally however, unionism is an ideology which is very aware that it is alone in the world. The knowledge that they cannot unilaterally sustain the Union, has produced an inward-looking political culture, which has steadily lost touch with the patron-state to which it gives allegiance. Many Unionists, they often quote Margaret Thatcher’s comment that NI is “as British as Finchley”, many Unionists now fear that they are as British as Hong Kong.
Negativism: “In practice, this sense that they can trust no-one but themselves, and at times that they cannot even trust each other – witness Ian Paisley calling James Molyneux a Judas Iscariot a few years ago – this sense of nothing there to trust, either their political opponents or their political partners, is very debilitating for the ideology in general. It is often said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, well if that’s true then the price of vigilance is eternal exhaustion as everyone reads their political tea-leaves for signs of treachery! This has produced a sort of endemic negativism within unionism, where anyone who moves forward in a progressive direction is examined for signs of weakness, and undercut if they show any signs of moving away from the status quo. The safest political ground, it seems to me, lies behind the barricades and any unionist who moves out, and I have two exhibits sitting beside me, risks being sniped at by other unionists either motivated by narrow political opportunism, for example saying they can prosper at the expense of another political party, or else a real fear of betrayal.
Lundyism: “One member of the UUP made the astute observation a few years ago that “the spirit of Lundyism haunts all within Unionism who consider compromise, conciliation or negotiation.” The accuracy of that comment can be seen from innumerable examples, one of the more photogenic being the Rev. Willie McCrea’s public heckling of David Trimble last year, following Trimble’s acceptance of George Mitchell as Chair of the inter-party talks at Stormont. On the face of it this seemed a reasonable enough thing to do, George Mitchell for most neutral observers saw him as being a fairly fair-minded guy, a mild-mannered politician willing to help, certainly didn’t seem a republican sympathiser. For some unionists though, Mitchell was American and that was enough. He was Bill Clinton’s representative and consequently deemed to be on a mission to destroy Ulster. When David Trimble accepted Mitchell as Chair of the Talks he was attacked on all sides for showing weakness. UK Unionist Bob McCartney accused him of being gutless, unprincipled and a disgrace to the pro-Union people. The following day when Trimble was being interviewed on television, Willie McCrea shouted from the wings “Ulster’s not for Sale”.
“That is only one example of many which suggests that at timesit is impossible for unionist leaders to lead, or at least to lead in a positive direction, without jeopardising their own political careers.
Why should that be so? Why should unionists have this sense of siege?
After all, they are the largest political bloc in Northern Ireland, they have a built-in written guarantee, what republicans refer to as a constitutional veto, (in Article 1a of the Anglo-Irish Agreement; paragraph 4 of the Downing Street Declaration; and ad nauseam in the Frameworks Documents) that the constitutional position of Northern Ireland will not be altered without the consent of the majority within Northern Ireland.
“The explanation as to why unionists have not been reassured by this shower of literature, can be explained in one word. Fear. Unionists don’t believe the assurances which the British give them, that they will remain British until a majority within Northern Ireland desire otherwise. Those who do believe such guarantees, are afraid of what will happen if and when the mathematics change.
In addition, the guarantees they receive from the British appear anaemic in comparison with the position of other outposts of the Union, such as Scotland. They see the paradox in John Major’s opposition to granting internal devolution to Scotland on the grounds that it will “tear the fabric of the Union to shreds”, contrast that with his policy towards Northern Ireland, which is to promote not only power-sharing devolution, but with a substantial input from a “foreign” country. The conclusion which many unionists draw from this apparent anomaly, is that Northern Ireland’s position within the UK is not as strong as that of Scotland, and its leaving would not tear either the constitutional or psychological fabric of the Union apart.
“Consequently, Northern Ireland cannot be “as British as Finchley”, because the government have recognised through the AIA [Anglo-Irish Agreement], Downing Street Declaration and the Frameworks Document that there are two equally legitimate and conflicting sovereignty aspirations exist within the region and must be accommodated through constitutional compromise. It is not simply a case of Ulster being British.
“Clearly then, the present constitutional guarantee that Northern Ireland will remain a part of the Union until the British can get a reasonable excuse to get out, does little to assuage unionist fears.
While outsiders may see the insistence of Orangemen to march their traditional routes; the obsession with ceremonial ephemera such as flags and emblems, or the picket at the Catholic church in Harryville, as simple bigotry, where one community seeks to emphasise its domination over another, the underlying motivation for the importance of these rituals derives from a sense of fear.
“In effect, Drumcree, Lower Ormeau, the controversy over the playing of the British national anthem at Queen’s University etc., or more recently, two weeks ago, the abuse received by the parents of F1 motor racing driver Eddie Irvine, when a tricolour flew over his head at the Argentinian Grand Prix instead of the Union Jack, are all part of an annual virility test between unionism and nationalism. Each year, each side tests out where the boundaries lie within the “state”, in an effort to see if their position has grown stronger or weakened. Consequently for many of those unionists involved, Drumcree was not just about marching down the Garvaghy Road, it was about everything. Paisley gave the most voluble exposition of this particular case. “…There can be no turning back on this issue – we will die if necessary rather than surrender. If we don’t win this battle all is lost, it is a matter of life and death. It is a matter of Ulster or the Irish Republic, it is a matter of freedom or slavery.”
“While these remarks may over-state the case as far as the majority of unionists are concerned, the phrase “enough is enough” was uttered from many liberal unionist lips last summer. They claimed that they had been compromising for 30 years, they had nothing left to give, they were drawing “a line in the sand”.
Besieged minority: “This sense of being a besieged minority is an intrinsic facet of contemporary unionist behaviour and central to its political dynamics. It’s interesting to ask the question “has any Unionist leader in living memory for example, lost power or influence because he has been too hard-line?”. All have perished because they have been, or were perceived as being, too liberal. Terence O’Neill, Sir James Chichester-Clark, Brian Faulkner, Bill Craig and eventually James Molyneaux, were all pushed out of the unionist nest because they were seen to have jeopardised the tenuous position of unionists within the United Kingdom. Even the current Grand Master of the Orange Order, Robert Saulters, who claimed that Tony Blair was a traitor for marrying a Catholic, is now cast as a Lundy by those within the Spirit of Drumcree group, because of his pragmatic position over contentious Orange parades.
Mistrust: “This lack of confidence in their political surroundings has resulted in an innate mistrust, and made it very difficult for unionists to negotiate with their political opponents. The fear that they are losing out on all of the political, cultural and social indices, has produced the desire for retrenchment, for clawing back ground which has been lost or soon will be lost. This knee-jerk response, to hang on in desperation, acts as a barrier to progressive thinking and action within the unionist community, corralling the ideology within an intellectual and political ghetto. It may be a big ghetto, but it is still a ghetto.
David Trimble: “The news is not all bad however. Unionism has several things going for it. They are, after all, the largest political grouping in Northern Ireland. David Trimble is an intelligent, energetic and relatively young leader with the potential to negotiate a settlement with both the British Government, and Irish nationalism. He has been a much more proactive leader than his predecessor, setting up offices in Britain and the USA. He has talked a lot about modernising the UUP, changing the link between his party and the Orange Order, and he has promoted a lot of young blood within the party. Unfortunately he has done little more than talk about modernisation and the young Turks he is promoting seem to be even more hard-line than he is which is particularly worrying. Nevertheless, it is more likely that someone like Trimble from the right of the party with impeccable hard-line credentials in Ulster Vanguard in the 1970s, the Ulster Clubs in the 1980s, and Drumcree’s I and II in the 1990s, could lead his party towards a historic compromise, than someone like Ken Maginnis from the liberal end of the spectrum.
“However I think there are a number of difficulties which will have to be overcome before anything like that can be achieved.
“It would be fair to say that Trimble does himself few favours, often appearing hot-tempered, and arrogant, calling Dick Spring impudent, storming out of television interviews, running up and down the Garvaghy Road with Ian Paisley etc. It’s ironic that he may often confirm British stereotypes. “Those red-haired Irishmen old boy, they’re so temperamental”. Given his negative public image outside unionism, it’s difficult to envisage him being able to break down the barriers of mistrust which obviously exist between unionist and nationalist politicians in Northern Ireland.
“It seems to be that David Trimble needs a public image makeover, but it is unlikely that his actions this summer will provide it. Of course his defenders might counter this by saying that nationalists dislike Trimble simply because he is capable of standing up to them. However it has to be said that to date he has failed to lead his party towards compromise with nationalism and he has failed to halt the inexorable slide in unionist political fortunes. He needs a good election. He is no longer just looking over his shoulder at the DUP, as the knives are already out for him in his own party.
“In conclusion, while the spirit of Lundyism may haunt those unionists who consider compromise, conciliation and negotiation, this is a ghost which will have to be exorcised if unionism is to make any progress towards its objective of preserving and strengthening the position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. I would tend to agree with Norman Porter’s view, that if the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is to survive into the 21st century, the unionist ideology must divest itself of its sectarian baggage and facilitate the Irish national identity within the institutions of the state. This requires establishing a new identity for unionism which is not based on Protestant culture, Protestant folk memory or selective historical recollection.
“It may be ironic, but the only way unionists can secure and strengthen the Union in the long term, is by loosening and weakening the political bonds which currently tie it together. They only way they will be able to make the Union more acceptable to the nationalist community is by recognising not simply their “aspirations” but by reflecting their cultural and political identity within the structures of the state. By recognising them not just as nationalist people, but as Irish people.
“Finally, Ulster may well stay British, but it will only do so in the long term if it becomes less British.” Thank you very much.
2. Dr. Norman Porter: “Rethinking Unionism – Towards a Northern Ireland Worth Having”
“I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to say why I believe unionism should be rethought, and to gesture at what a rethought unionism might look like. I can’t, of course, hope to do so in any comprehensive way. At best, I can merely provide a snapshot of a few of the central arguments developed more thoroughly in my book, Rethinking Unionism. In particular, I want to pick up those arguments which bear directly on the question I’m taking as the theme of tonight’s talk: how might we, in Northern Ireland, move towards creating a society worth having for all citizens?
“In a nutshell, my answer is that we can’t move towards the creation of such a society without a good deal of give and rethinking all round. But I’m not concerned here to speculate on what sort of give and rethinking is required of nationalists and republicans. I’m solely interested in what unionism needs to do to put its own house in order, so to speak.
“It has to be said from the outset and this comes as no surprise to anyone, that there’s huge resistance within mainstream unionism to the idea that its house needs very much putting in order. On a good day, perhaps, we might get the concession that the chairs around the kitchen table could be rearranged, or perhaps that the odd flower-pot could be repositioned. But there’s no recognition that the essential furniture has become a bit musty and threadbare and could do with replacing. On the contrary, unionist attention is devoted to spotting the dreadful flaws in the furniture of nationalism and republicanism. The operating assumption continues to be that unionism runs a very fine house which nationalism would do well to emulate, especially given the propensity of nationalists to tackiness and disorder. To cast doubt on such conventional unionist wisdom, particularly as a member of the unionist household, is to risk ridicule and ostracism.
“As an example of what I’m driving at, albeit one expressed in different language, take the remarks David Trimble made about my book, we might as well make it personal, during his speech to the annual UUP conference. If I understood him correctly, Mr Trimble was saying two things: that my views were either old hat or they’re off the wall.
“They’re old hat, apparently, in the sense that my vision of a non-sectarian, inclusive Northern Ireland in which all citizens have some sense of belonging (which by the way is integral to what I mean by a Northern Ireland worth having) is the vision that has inspired the policies of the UUP for as long as anyone can remember (and he said this with a straight face).
Compromise with nationalism: “But my views are also off the wall, apparently, inasmuch as I suggest that such a vision of Northern Ireland should be one that finds space for Irishness as well as for Britishness. And this is unthinkable – at least in the terms I propose – because it would require the seemingly impossible: which is that unionism compromises with nationalism, or, as the unionist-inclined academics of the Cadogan Group put it in their most recent pamphlet, it’d be equivalent to imagining that circles can be squared.
“This, I suggest, is tantamount to saying that unionism’s furniture is fine as it is. But the serious point to be underscored here is that unionism, as defined by Trimble, Paisley, McCartney or even by fellow travelling academics, can brook no compromise with nationalism. And to understand its seriousness we don’t have to hang around until that stage in substantive political talks where constitutional details are up for discussion; rather, we’ve seen it already in divisions among Northern Ireland’s politicians over the issue of decommissioning. Here the striking, and to my mind startling, feature of the unionist position is that compromise on decommissioning is equivalent to a compromise with nationalism, and therefore isn’t to be entertained.
Disagreement with mainstream unionism: “Anyway, what is revealed here, through these my examples, is one of the sources of my disagreement with mainstream unionism. What it wants to keep forever separate – the achievement of a non-sectarian, inclusive Northern Ireland on the one hand and the accommodation of Britishness and Irishness or, if you like, a reconciliation between unionism and nationalism on the other – seems to me utterly wrongheaded: you can’t possibly have the first without the second. To imagine or pretend that you can, seems to me to be barking up the wrong tree. Because I believe that, I also believe that unionism needs new furniture; that’s why unionism needs rethinking. In the absence of rethinking, unionists cannot do other than come up with an inadequate vision for Northern Ireland – a vision that completely fails to offer a way of life worth having for all citizens.
“And yet this is what we’re mostly stuck with. And to understand why we’re stuck with it, we have to understand that it’s in large measure a product of the priorities, commitments and conceptualisations commonly associated with unionism. To hope for a better vision from unionism seems to me impossible without first of all challenging its basic priorities, commitments and conceptualisations. This is what I very quickly want to do now in order to clear a space for a vision that draws on a different set of priorities, commitments and conceptualisations.
Challenging mainstream unionism: “I am claiming, then, that Unionism’s habitual attachment to old furniture, its reluctance to engage in any serious rethinking, reflects the priorities and commitments of most unionists, as well as the conceptual frameworks within which unionist thinking operates. And it’s precisely these priorities, commitments and conceptual frameworks that I think have to be challenged.
“First, I think the priority of unionism – “the Union, the whole Union and nothing but the Union” – that is the priority. I think that priority is no longer sufficient, if it ever was. It screens out or closes its eyes to the entitlements of non-unionists to Northern Ireland: Unionist politicians consistently have been oblivious of the effects of partition on the non-unionist minority which found itself living on the wrong side of the border against its wishes. This priority of unionism – the union, the whole union and nothing but the union – in practice has demonstrated little other than grudging acknowledgment (if any at all) of the wrongs of the old Stormont. We also find that unionists who expouse this priority tend to harbour lingering suspicion of Catholic/nationalist motives which makes relationships based on trust very hard to establish between political opponents; Unionists working on this priority tend to assume that the entitlements due to the “minority” are entirely non-political in kind and involve no tinkering whatsoever with the Union. Therefore nationalist aspirations are reduced essentially to a wish list politically speaking. That can be their only status. If your priority is the union, the whole union and nothing but the union – that can’t be tinkered with-then the heart of the nationalist claim in NI cannot be given any political expression, so it’s reduced to a wish list.
“Second, I’m critical of typical unionist commitments to ways of life that are presumed to be exclusively British. These commitments define a British way of life in Northern Ireland in two principal ways, either (i) exclusively Protestant terms (cultural unionism), or (ii) they assume a way of life in Northern Ireland that’s the same as or aspires to be the same as it is in Kent/Surrey (liberal unionists). That is the view which I associate with Liberal Unionists and by Liberal Unionists in this context I mean those Unionists whose heart’s desire really is to have full integration with the rest of Britain.
“Both of those commitments seem to be misplaced. Both seem to fly in the face of certain realities about NI and how its constituted and both are offensive in various ways, because both are incapable of taking seriously the fact that there are a substantial number of people in NI who do not think of themselves as British in either a Protestant sense or in a Liberal UK sense. With those commitments you can’t take properly seriously the commitments of those who don’t fit either the Protestant or the Liberal camp.
“Third, I think that unionism’s major conceptual frameworks require ditching. Either they entail, what I would regard as, unsustainable concepts of loyalty and liberty which inflate the virtues of Protestantism (by wrongly assuming, for example, that civil and religious liberties somehow depend upon Protestant allegiances); or they peddle unsustainable and one-dimensional notions of equal citizenship and freedom which ignore non-unionist positions, imply unbelievable caricatures of the British and Irish states, which then assume we are individuals and nothing more, and reveal a narrow, procedural approach to politics.
“The upshot of these various priorities, commitments and conceptual frameworks is that unionists, in my view, create straitjackets for themselves which make flexible, creative and generous politics very hard to imagine. Rather these priorities, commitments and conceptualisations underwrite a form of politics which is obsessed with rules (e.g. the multi-party Talks) and which seems to require the drawing of fresh lines in the sand (e.g. decommissioning and Drumcree).
Alternative: civic unionism: “Therefore I am suggesting that as an alternative I propose a view which I call “civic unionism”. It’s this view which I think is capable of defining a Northern Ireland worth having in a way that other unionist views can’t, that’s what I want to claim. It entails a different set of priorities, commitments and conceptualisations which, very crudely, it may be characterised as follows.
“First, its priority – the overwhelming priority is making Northern Ireland work. It’s the quality of social and political life in Northern Ireland that matters most and not the Union or a united Ireland. What matters most is the quality of social and political life in a society which we from NI have to live. What I regret is that the quality of that life has been systematically been sacrificed in the name of the union or in the name of a United Ireland. For the sake of the union we have been willing to ruin our own social and political life so that we now have the most segregated housing that we’ve ever had, certainly in Belfast. We have a sort of ongoing sectarian violence that’s just almost accepted as part of daily life in certain areas. We don’t even bat an eyelid any more. The sort of things that are thought to be outrageous or considered utterly intolerable in any civilised society are shrugged at in NI, why?, because we put up with it for the sake of the union or for the sake of an all-Ireland. It seems to me that our priorities are obscured, that we’ve got it wrong, there’s something drastically wrong. It’s bonkers. In that sense what I am saying the priorities of making a united Ireland on the one-hand or maintaining the union on the other are secondary to that priority.
“This should be plain enough, but at least one reviewer of my book missed it altogether. According to him, I’m saying that the UUP “must be dynamic and proactive in putting forward a more socially progressive vision of Northern Ireland, after the Union is secure. This civic unionism would create a new consensus more thoroughly copperfastening the Union”. Now this makes it seem that securing/copperfastening the Union is my priority and that I think this can best be done by privileging the quality of social and political life in Northern Ireland. (Thus he identifies me with the Cadogan Group). But my point is precisely the opposite: the quality of social and political life comes first, and the Union (or a united Ireland) second.
“A civic unionist alternative involves, secondly, commitment to the creation of a way of life in which we can all share as citizens. This means, at a minimum, one:
guaranteeing the protection of individual/group rights;
devoted to the achievement of a decent social life, i.e. one not simply held hostage to the whims of market forces, but based on acceptable principles/practices of social justice;
characterised by acceptable legal/security institutions, i.e. institutions which aren’t perceived merely to reflect the interests and ethos of the dominant tradition;
defined by its pursuit of a common political life, i.e. where the possibility of a common political identity is entertained through citizens’ involvement in practices of self-rule,healthy democratice practice seem to me to be only remotely possible if we have devolved institutions based on principles of power sharing;
seeing Northern Ireland not just as site of the Union, but also as site of co-mingling and clash of British/Irish factors all of which need to be accommodated and reconciled – North/South, Irish/British institutions.
“My argument is for Unionists to recognise that they are shaped by Irish factors which they often find hard to acknowledge and for nationalists to acknowledge that they are being shaped by British factors, that it runs against the grain for them to acknowledge. It’s only sense that we could properly define ourselves as decent mongrels and I think that that would be a much better way of going about things.
“All of that I say you can hold together if you have a more adequate conceptual framework which is based on three things at the very least.
(i) Due recognition – “it simply says this that who you are, who I am as a person is dependant upon my recognition by other people. In other words if none of us are recognised by other people, it’s very difficult to have a sense of who we are and put a value on ourselves, because the value we put on ourselves very much depends on our being affirmed by others. But we’re not just individuals, we are that but I would also claim that who we are is defined very often by our cultural identities as well so that not to give proper recognition to our cultural identities is really to cast a slight on groups of people, is not to take those people seriously as they define themselves. So what we need is an idea of giving people whether as individuals or as members of a tradition to give the recognition they are due, without which we can’t every hope to function properly as human beings.
(ii)Civic Republicanism: politics of state and politics of civil society. [Editor’s note – tape ends here]
(iii)Dialogue central – “Thirdly and integral to that notion of citizen participation in the institutions of society is the idea that Dialogue is at the heart of politics, so that any notion of politics which sideline dialogues which thinks of it as some optional extra should be stopped because what it means is that politics has been distorted. Put it like this in the absence of dialogue politics becomes really the exercise in power which relies on coercion and manipulation, of certain people trying to get their way. It’s only when dialogue is seen to be at the heart of the political enterprise that there can be half decent notions of citizen freedom and equality which I argue all decent politics relys.
“So that’s my alternative vision, so that’s why I think Unionism needs to revise its priorites, rethink its commitments and operate within a broader and more expansive conceptual framework.
3. Roy Garland: “Unionism and Unionist Politics”
“I don’t intend to keep to you too long. I agree with most of what has been said, however I am slightly hesitant about the impression we are creating, that the Unionist community in NI, there’s little hope for them, they’re so intent on this madness associated with the conflict and the siege mentality that there’s very little hope for change there. It reminds me of a film I saw at Christmas time, I can’t remember the name. There was a married couple and they were fighting over small things, things gradually get worse and they end up in a very complex set of circumstances, actually bringing the house down around them, destroying everything and they both ended up dead. I think NI is a bit like that. I see it as a very sad situation, people are caught in the midst of forces that they have no control over.
“I believe and I would wish for the sort of reforms Norman was talking about, but I know where they’re coming from and it’s very difficult. If you’ve any idea what it’s like to be in a rival situation, we do resort to madness, we do resort to very silly things which when we reflect on we realise how very stupid they are and we do that in NI all the time. The difficulty is we’re talking about two communities, not two people and how are you going to get the two communities to move forward-it seems very difficult.
Hope: “I nevertheless believe that there is hope, there is hope amidst in the situation. I feel we’re walking along the edge of a cliff and at one side there is the abyss and if we descend into that and we may, we’re really in a Bosnia-type situation, but if you keep your eyes on that and the fact that we’re so near to that, it certainly has kept people’s eyes on the road and we try to make sure that we don’t go over and we haven’t gone over. I believe that because of that there is hope. Little bits of light here and there. So many cross-community contacts have been established including contacts north and south. People who would have never talked with each other are now talking, even in the midst of all the sectarian bitterness and the burnings of Churches and Orange Order halls, they’re still is in the centre of that chinks of light and it reminds me of the old saying “You’re better to light a candle than curse the darkness” and there are candles being lit and the hope is that those will be found into a flame.
“My hope for coming down here is that everybody can play some part and the more they understand what we’re involved in, the better the chances for getting through this because the alternative is pretty catastrophic. I remember people used to say “we’re Unionists, we never resort to violence”, that was some years ago. I think it is now conceived that violence is endemic in the NI situation, it’s built in violence and the potential for further violence is still there…..
Principle of consent: “One of the more positive aspects of the present situation in Northern Ireland from a unionist perspective, is that nationalist parties have faced up to, and accepted, the principle of unionist consent to constitutional change. This has the potential to release unionists from the age-old siege mentality and allow them to move into a more constructive mode of thought. However there is a number of factors that make that difficult, the fact the Sinn Fein have refused to accept that principle. Now there’s a sense in which it appears that that refusal is only being used as a bargaining tool. There’s also a feeling among unionists, that ok the principle of consent for a United Ireland has been accepted but in the sense there’s a pressure on unionists to move toward a united Ireland. I don’t see it this way, I feel that as Norman said we need to change the union in order to preserve the union. If things are to stay the same they have to change. But unionists feel that the change must always be in the direction of Irishness rather than Britishness and of course the background to that is the whole siege mentality and the hesitancy about trusting. It’s a very very human problem. I do believe that given a credible cease-fire on behalf on Sinn Fein and on SF’s inclusion in the talks, a settlement might be a possibility. Violence has been tried in NI for 27-30 years and it hasn’t worked. Both communities have had enough I think. Both communities don’t want it back, that’s not to say we won’t go back to it but it’s a very conscious desire that we won’t go back to it.
“However, unionist politicians remain reluctant to accept it at face value. Their right to reject a united Ireland appears to them to be qualified by the need to make progress in that very direction.
Violence: “There is also the problem of Sinn Fein’s rejection of consent and the IRA’s use of violence and the threat of violence as a political weapon, with which to coerce unionists. Unionists fear that the IRA will seek to de-stabilise any potential agreement short of their stated objective, a 32-county socialist republic. Sinn Fein leaders have stated they are prepared to support a negotiated settlement. My understanding by what they say is providing all-inclusive negotiations take place there is a point beyond which the IRA won’t go back to violence- but tell that to the Unionists. The unionists frankly don’t believe this, the unionists feel that whatever settlement is arrived at that the IRA will de-stabilise it until they get what they want and Sinn Fein have not done an awful lot to convince them otherwise. Of course they have their own problems, this is the difficulty in NI – two communities with their own problems, their own hard-liners, their own violent men, trying to move into a situation in which they can accommodate each other.
Loyalism: “Violence, perhaps at an unprecedented level, remains a real possibility. As long as the IRA plays around with violence and disruption greater and more serious Loyalist retaliation becomes a likely outcome. If the loyalists begin to retaliate in a serious way then we’re into the nightmare. Loyalist leaders have played a central role in fostering the prospects for peace over many years, under very very difficult circumstances. I have a little booklet here, I only have half a dozen, which is part of a dissertation that I did on the UVF and their attempts to change the political complexion to some extent of NI. Sums of people ended up in prison and those outside began to think the unthinkable and think about the possibilities for another way forward. They also had the dubious benefit of being in prison where they could talk to certainly official IRA and even some members of the provisional IRA in prison and talk with each other in a situation where they were withdrawn from it. In my mind that’s one of the hopes, one of the lights in the situation. They find expression now in the PUP and to some extent the UDP. My understanding of their unionism is that it is a unionism that is devoid of sectarian rhetoric and links with religious bodies and that sort of thing. They’re looking for progressive Unionism. They have had great difficulty getting it off the ground. They have been going for 20 odd years. Relatively small group, within the paramilitaries. When they first tried to go in to the political realm they were hammered fairly seriously, mostly by other unionists, but they have learned a bit from that and they’re plying away at the moment trying to make an impact not with terribly great hopes of success but they’re looking towards the local government elections that are coming.
“IRA violence has made it extremely difficult for those people to take the stand as I believe they are capable of. They also make it very difficult for anybody else in the Unionist party to move forward. They have been frustrated in their efforts by those unionists whose concerns with conspiracies have served to paralyse all forward movement. IRA violence also makes it extremely difficult to restrain elements in the Loyalist paramilitaries.
“Some Loyalists have engaged in redefining and reconstructing unionism as a potentially inclusive philosophy, devoid of sectarian rhetoric, since the early 1970s. While there have been significant changes among republicans they have hardly yet begun to seriously redefine and reconstruct a new republicanism devoid of nationalist rhetoric and violence. Nor have they expressed remorse for victims of violence in the way that Loyalists have done.
“David Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party, I believe, may be prepared to do a deal with nationalists, despite outward appearances. However he faces determined opposition from Ian Paisley who waits ready to pounce should Trimble make on “mistake”. This would enable him to initiate a “Trimble must go” campaign and take the lead in unionist politics. I believe that’s a serious danger, I was at a unionist meeting two weeks ago in which a fairly seniour member of the Unionist party launched a vicious attack on his own leader. He’s extremely vulnerable not only to Paiseley on the outside but Paisleyites on the inside and some elements in the Orange institution who would be more sympathetic to the spirit of Drumcree so David Trimble is in a very dubious situation. Having said that he comes from that background himself but I believe there’s some progressive or let’s say sensible elements in David Trimble and the people around him who could move forward and I am hopeful that there may be if he has the strength, and I believe he is very weak in terms of his own party and the opposition party and I think you have to take that into account with any change.
“Significant elements, in the Orange Order and in the Unionist Party itself, are prey to the same deep-seated fears of betrayal and insecurity, upon which Paisley has built his empire. He could easily galvanise support for himself from within the Unionist Party should Trimble put a foot “wrong”. That was the case in the 60s. I was a member of the Unionist party from roughly 64-72 and at that stage there was a very significant element in the Unionist party whose loyalties were actually to Paiseley and there’s still that element in there which makes it very difficult for Unionists to move forward. So Trimble must proceed very cautiously remembering the fate of some of his predecessors.
“The Orange marching tradition has provided both extremes with an opportunity to pursue their respective sectarian agendas. There’s actually suggestions that some of the violence; the burning down of churches etc. were actually done by one community in the name of the other, by people who actually want to stimulate strife because they feel that until there’s a more aggressive approach then the situation won’t change. The problems of Northern Ireland are such that a high degree of wisdom, restraint and responsible behaviour is required of both communities, if further violence is to be averted. Many obstacles lie on the road to a peaceful settlement and the eventual outcome is unlikely to meet the aspirations of either community so the potential for de-stabilisation will remain strong.
Fears of peace: “There are those in both communities who fear peace, and would not know how to respond to such an eventuality. Peace would bring into question the years of violence by the IRA as well as the intransigence of certain types of Unionism. What was it all about if we can find peace in some sort of context where people are sort of half satisfied where nobody’s fully satisfied, why all the bands, why all the killing, why all the instransigence? It begs the question about all the past behaviour. The path ahead is narrow and difficult but there are some grounds for hope that in the end, we will find a way forward. How much more suffering and sorrow we must go through in the meantime, only time will tell. Thank you.
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS (incomplete)
Q1. “I’ve been coming over here to talks for the last two to three years and every unionist that was here, with the possible exception of Martin Smyth, all said that we needed to move the furniture and something else in the party. Very little seems to be happening, they all seem to have the same idea that there’s change needed in the Unionist party … but nothing is happening.”
Roy Garland: “You’re back to problems of people in the Unionist party. There was a decision to examine the Orange link, there was serious discussion about that and there was documents sent out to the local branches and when some of the branches got the documents they were very annoyed that they should tamper with the orange link. At a Unionist council meeting, a fairly leading orange man and unionists stood up and asked was this what they were planning to do and I think the leadership was immediately on the retreat. You’re moving from a situation where there is a significant Orange element in unionism, I know that the Orange Order seriously contemplated going to Dublin to make a submission to the Dublin Forum for Peace and Reconciliation which would have been a very very positive development but southern Orangemen blocked that because they felt they would not get any credence from the Gerry Adams outfit- the peace commission. Some Orangemen are progressive. There is a strong element in there that are very fearful which would be associated with people like ..Patten of the Spirit of Drumcree and are hesitant to move forward at all. I should say that at the moment that I have hope for change in the unionist party but as Norman and Feargal know my membership of the Unionist party is under doubt at the moment because I was pictured with Gerry Adams. It would be interesting to see how that pans out. Things were beginning to open up during the peace process. I was able to share a platform with Martin McGuinness and stay in the Unionist party as part of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. There was some question about but in the end they said it was ok. Ken Maginnis was prepared to speak with the leader of Sinn Fein, things were opening up and people were calling for change in the Unionist party. The Republicans had their problems and they decided that they had to go back to violence and that detroyed the whole process. I think they expected too much – 18 months and it seems something should have been done, I thought so and I did what I could and everyone did what they could but 18 months is not long enough – this is a centuries old problem. It will probably take many many years before we’ve got to where we’ve got to go. My understanding is that there is attempts to ensure that the next time there is a peace process it will be more solidly grounded and there will be more of a realisation on behalf of the people that this will take some time and it won’t happen overnight.
Feargal: agrees with questioner and with a lot of what Roy said. Difficulties were outlined earlier. Trimble said he wanted to change – but the foot soldiers sent a stern message. Current Grand Master of the Orange Order – started off badly but he’s now being called a Lundy.
Q. 2: unionists portray the British as tricky.
Feargal: I am not actually a unionist. Huge complexities in unionism – Ulster loyalist “more British than the British”. Regionalism
Q: Where does allegiance lie?
Feargal: Paisley – fundamental – Sammy Wilson doesn’t care about monarchy. David Ervine couldn’t care about monarchy. Hutchinson is a socialist. “Ulster” first. Some people in DUP are “yuppies”
Norman: complex – depends on how unionists define themselves. Protestantism – peculiar sense of Protestant Britishness now located in NI. Prophetic role – “chosen people”. Integrationists – allegiance due to Britain – more galling for them when they see perfidious Albion.
Q. 3: He refers to NI as “Northern Ireland” – Wishes NI people would refer to our state as “Ireland”. If intended to be offensive, then they are offensive.
Unionist position is something we are not constantly aware of. He would defend unionist right to be unionist, but he is aware of areas where people believe they are governed without the consent of the governed. border not just the cause of the problem – but problems about its location. If people in NI would concede these areas – it might contribute to peace.
Should Ireland be re-partitioned?
Norman: “Belfast would be a problem”
Feargal: “It would cause huge tensions”
Roy: There may be more opposition from republicans. He believes it would be pretty awful. Nationalists in NI are more nationalist than southerners. we almost thrive on confrontation – republican negative thinking – “Brits out” terminology – “we’re Ireland as well”.
ENDS [Editor’s note: audiotape incomplete but video tape to be examined further ]
Meath Peace Group talk 25 (1997) (c) Meath Peace Group
Compiled and edited by Julitta Clancy