Don’t fear to speak of Easter Week, but speak the truth

Speaking for himself

“The only solution is to kill 600 people in one night. Let the UN and Bill Clinton and everyone else make a scene – and it is over for 20 years”

Such was the late Alan Clark’s prescription for dealing with the Provisional IRA. It says much for the peace process and the changed state of Northern Ireland that yesterday’s ‘rally’ by the Real IRA drew only half that amount.

The gathering was held to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916. The 300 souls in attendance, clad mostly in tracksuits as befits such a somber occasion, listened to a speech read haltingly from a crumpled bit of paper by a fat man kitted out from Millets. Many of his words were lost in the strong wind which whipped the hillside cemetery.

What could be made out was chilling. With the Queen due to visit Ireland next month this tubby masked man claimed to speak for “the Irish people” and warned that “The Queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and not wanted on Irish soil. We will do our best to ensure she and the gombeen class that act as her cheerleaders get that message”

This mans grand claim in front of his smattering of followers to be speaking for “the Irish people” is rather undone by opinion polls suggesting that the majority of Irish citizens actually support the visit. But then men dressing up in military uniforms and issuing declarations which claim their opinion is shared by all “Irishmen and Irishwomen” and that they are “entitled to…the allegiance of every Irishman and Irishwoman” is something of an Easter tradition in my ancestral homeland. At least Patrick Pearse had a way with words and enough personal bravery to show his face.

More chilling given the recent murder of young policeman Ronan Kerr was the warning that the Real IRA would target police officers

“Oglaigh na hEireann (the IRA) call on any young nationalist who may have been sold the lie that the RUC/PSNI (Royal Ulster Constabulary/Police Service of Northern Ireland) is somehow an reformed, non-political police service to think again, those who think they are serving their community are in fact serving the occupation and will be treated as such. The GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association), Catholic Church and constitutional nationalism will be unable to protect those who turn traitor, they are as liable for execution as anyone else regardless of their religion, cultural background or motivation”

Threats to the Queen and threats to police officers; why did the police not swoop in and arrest these people?

Sadly, despite the pitiful crowd yesterday and all the outrage over PC Kerr’s death, the answer is that a strong police response to these people would probably have been condemned. ‘Counter productive’ and ‘harmful to the peace process’ are phrases which would, no doubt, have been quickly on the lips of even supposedly respectable nationalists like Sinn Fein.

This is because even now Sinn Fein are not anti violence, they are just anti other people’s violence. Violence, after all, got them where they are so, unsurprisingly, they take a pragmatic rather than moral view of it. Gerry Adams condemned the murders of two soldiers in 2009 as “counter productive”

But even mainstream nationalism is tainted with this equivocation. As my friend Ruth Dudley Edwards pointed out recently the men of 1916 “were a clique within a clique within a clique”. The Irish Volunteers who, along with the Marxist Irish Citizen Army, mounted the 1916 rebellion, numbered 180,000 men on the outbreak of the First World War. 170,000 of these joined the British army. Of the 10,000 left only 2,000 went out with Pearse at Easter Week. Yet Pearse, like the sweaty terrorist yesterday, claimed to speak for the Irish people.

Yet these men who, acting on their own, unleashed violence on the streets of Ireland are venerated by mainstream politicians in the south. Until this changes we will never hear a true condemnation of dissident Republicanism. As Dudley Edwards puts it “as long as we continue to glamorise 1916 and any of what followed, we legitimise the activities of those who believe they carry the torch lit by Patrick Pearse”

This is why we wont yet see strong action taken against the Real IRA. Newly respectable Sinn Fein and long respectable parties in the Republic might well look at the Real IRA and see only an unwelcome, distant, grubby and deluded cousin, but they see a cousin all the same.