Throughout the years of the IRA’s long war, (1969-97) the British and Irish media continuously proclaimed that PIRA volunteers were thugs and murderers and their leaders Mafia godfathers. When republicans were arrested and imprisoned the same journalists taking their cue from their political masters, informed their readers that the UK did not have political prisoners, only common criminals were locked up within the British prison system.
After the British government signed the Good Friday Agreement with SF, the most contentious issue arising from it as far as the media was concerned was that the British government had agreed to release all political prisoners, whether members of the IRA or loyalist paramilitaries. (Funny how governmental attitudes change when the need arises)
Under the GFA approximately 450 prisoners were released early, of whom 159 were lifers, many of whom had been involved in some of the most controversial incidents of the ‘troubles’. Yet ten years on only one Republican prisoner is back in jail due to having had his license revoked; and out of the 450 paramilitary prisoners released early under the GFA only 12 are back behind bars.
As many people said at the time these men and women were political prisoners and if the British politicians had recognized that fact at the start of the war and dealt with the shortcomings of the northern statelet, many of those who lost their lives in the troubles may have still been with us today.*
Perhaps Jonathan Powell’s book reveals more than he intended?
Last week the Guardian newspaper serialized Jonathan Powell’s book about the north of Ireland peace process, Powell acted as Tony Blair’s chief of staff throughout his period as UK Prime Minister. In the book Powell writes that after reading Lord Widgery’s Report, which looked at the events on Bloody Sunday when a regiment of the British army shot dead 13 unarmed demonstrators on the streets of Derry, he concluded the report was a white wash.
What he fails to tell his readers is one Brian Hutton was central in drawing up the Widgery Report and Blair, on Powell’s advice went on to appoint the same man to conduct a Public Enquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly and the events that led up to the start of the Iraq war. Although by then having been ennobled Mr Brian Hutton had morphed into Lord Hutton, although with a tap on the shoulder he had lost none of his skills in the art of creating a political cover up. Which is why some think he was given the task by Blair and Jonathan Powell. **
Speech at 1916 Easter Rising Commemoration highlights the traumatic period Irish Republicanism is passing through.
Over last weekend, it being Easter there were commemorations of the 1916 Dublin Rising taking place throughout Ireland. It is a time when Irish Republicans come together and remember their dead and their heroic deeds. With the signing of the Good Friday agreement by SF, Irish Republicanism is going through a traumatic period where old certainties are being questioned and for some being betrayed. Whilst the overwhelming majority of Republicans may have welcomed the ending of the armed struggle, most feel they have no need to apologize for resisting the oppression they suffered in the six country statelet, nor their wish to create a thirty two county socialist republic.
Republicans are also increasingly bewildered as to why the Adams leadership continues to make concessions to the British State and unionism, when they can see no real sign of social and economic benefits developing within the working class republican heartlands from whence they come. Some of these areas, West Belfast for example which is Gerry Adams own constituency, have been plagued by unruly anti social elements who have become embolden since the PIRA was stood down, as to the PSNI they are about as useful as snow on a fine day. Indeed only last week a former volunteer was beaten to death by one of these youths when he attempted to intervene when the lad was behaving badly.
Whilst most of the speeches which were made at the Easter commemorations were more of the same, especially those made by senior members of SF, Anthony McIntrye made some interesting points at the Republican Network for Unity Easter commemoration at the Republican plot in Derry city cemetery. His speech is well worth a read. ***
Additional material taken from Irish News.
** See R.C. Blackwell letters page, Guardian 25.03.08.
*** Read McIntrye’s speech here, http://bigmackers.blogspot.com/2008/03/easter-oration-derry-2008_23.html