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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

An Irony of Irish Politics

Radical Unionist commentator Dr John Coulter gives a Protestant unionist perspective on former Maze Prison Officer Commanding of the Provisional IRA, the late Brendan Hughes.

Dr. John Coulter • 24 February 2008

To what we unionists brand as the modern day dissident republican movement, the late Provo commander, Brendan Hughes would probably have been an icon.

When he was a key person within the Provisional republican movement - and especially during his role in the first republican hunger strike of 1980, unionism would have adopted the view - let him die!

But by the time of his death earlier this month, many unionists would have understood the depth of his disillusionment with his natural political home, Provisional Sinn Fein.

Just as many within traditional Right-wing unionist grassroots find it difficult to comprehend how certain sections of the DUP have fitted so comfortably into their snug power-sharing with Sinn Fein, so too, those same unionists could appreciate the depth of disillusionment and questioning which Brendan Hughes did with the Sinn Fein agenda.

As a unionist, I did not agree with Brendan Hughes' political outlook and strategy as a republican. As a unionist, I would have had no hesitation in using both MI5 and the SAS to eliminate the republican threat - and that would have included Brendan Hughes.

But unionists can learn a lot from the questioning which Brendan Hughes did of his own republican movement. He must have posed the question - from his perspective - what did all his IRA 'comrades' die for on hunger strike, or in 'actions' against the Crown forces?

Many in the Unionist community must now be asking - what did all the Protestants, police officers, and British Army soldiers die for? Is it so the Paisley camp can pussy foot and chuckle with Sinn Fein in the running of the North?

I never knew Brendan Hughes personally. I know of him. He talked about the Occupied Six Counties when referring to my country of Northern Ireland. But less than a century ago all of this island was under Crown control.

Brendan Hughes, Bobby Sands, the other Maze hunger strikers have coined the phrase in my mind - the Occupied Twenty-Six Counties. If chuckling with Sinn Fein is no longer dismissed as a political myth, then just maybe, we unionists have a chance to bring the 26 counties of the so-called Southern Republic back into the British Commonwealth of nations.

Maybe that is why Brendan Hughes became so disillusioned with the current republican movement? Maybe he realised the war against 'the Brits' was lost? Had Sinn Fein won up to a dozen Dail seats in last May's Southern General Election and become a coalition partner with Bertie Ahern's Fianna Fail majority government, then I would have said to Brendan Hughes - the Adams strategy has worked for the Northern Sinn Fein leadership.

But the Southern electorate have dumped Sinn Fein at the polls. Perhaps Brendan Hughes' disillusionment with the present Sinn Fein peace strategy is a sign that Unionists should look to having an all-island identity?

After all, our historical birthright was created by King Billy at the Glorious Revolution - Protestant power and influence across the whole island. Is it possible Unionists could build a new Ascendancy in Ireland?

Since my primary school days, I have witnessed Unionists indulge in the political drug fuelled luxury of infighting and fragmentation. Unionists seemed to take a greater delight in 'politically gutting' their fellow Protestants than protecting the Union.

Ironically, could the united Ireland which Brendan Hughes worked tirelessly for be the bitter medicine which at long last permanently unites Unionism, Loyalism, Protestantism and Orangeism?

With the emergence of Jim Allister's Traditional Unionist Voice - and as clearly demonstrated by the recent Dromore by-election - Northern Unionism is entering yet another period of internecine warfare.

As a Revolutionary Unionist, I want to see Unionism represented by a single party - the Unionist Party; by a single faith - the Salvationist position as underlined by the New Testament text of St John Chapt 3, verse 16 - and I want to see the Occupied 26 Counties back under the control of the British Commonwealth.

In a united Ireland, Unionists could have a major say if they were united. Why should we be content with control over six counties, when we could run the whole 32 - just as we did before the 1916 Rising?

While very few Unionists, if any, will physically mourn the passing of Brendan Hughes, they should take special note to understand why he disapproved of the Sinn Fein peace strategy. Why? Because in the comments of Brendan Hughes lies the Achilles Heel of republicanism.

Irish republicans have always relied on Unionists saying 'No'; that we want nothing to do with the 'auld enemy', the Irish Free State.

But the Catholic Bishops no longer have the same control over the Occupied 26 Counties as they did in the late 1920s and early Thirties.

Brendan Hughes believed passionately in the concept of the Long War. Unionists should adopt his tactic of a political Long War - to bring the Occupied 26 Counties back into the British Commonwealth.

The passing of Brendan Hughes should not be viewed as the clock ticking on the Union; rather it should be the fuse being lit on a political timebomb which will finally see the end of the Republic as a political entity and the flag of the British Commonwealth fluttering over both Dublin Castle and Leinster House.

As another of Brendan Hughes' colleagues, Bobby Sands, is attributed as stating - you can kill the revolutionary, but not the revolution. The Unionist Revolution has now begun.

Perhaps in a spiritual eternity, I will have the chance to bump into Brendan Hughes. It would be nice to tell him - there was a united Ireland, but the Brits are back! My fellow Unionists should remember, in a united Ireland, there will be no reason for Sinn Fein to exist.

A final thought - Unionists should remember Brendan Hughes; a republican who realised the pitfall into which Sinn Fein had tumbled. So my fellow Unionists, forget the feuds - when Paisley is gone, we can formally begin the process of reclaiming our ultimate birthright bequeathed to us by King William III in the Glorious Revolution.

Ironically, it may well have been IRA OCs such as the late Brendan Hughes who pointed the way. Now that's one of the ironies of Irish politics.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles


24 February 2008

Other Articles From This Issue:

Fear Dorcha
Anthony McIntyre

An Dorcha
Richard O'Rawe

Brendan Hughes, Comrade and Friend
Dolours Price

Meeting Brendan Hughes, "The Dark", 1948-2008
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Still Unfree
John Kennedy

An Unrepentant Fenian
Martin Galvin

RIP Brendan Hughes: "The Dark"
Mark Hayes

For Darkie
Brian Mór

The Funeral of Brendan Hughes: Setting the Record Straight
Anthony McIntyre

Irish News Report of the Funeral of Brendan Hughes
Dolours Price

The Resolve of the Dogs
Tommy Gorman

Adams in the Dark
Brian Mór

Weep, But Do Not Sleep
Anthony McIntyre

Hard Times for Gerry Adams
Brian Mór

Tribute to Brendan Hughes
Bill Ashe

An Irony of Irish Politics
Dr John Coulter

Brendan Hughes, 1949-2008: Irish Republican, Soldier, Socialist
Mick Hall

Ride On
Anthony McIntyre

17 February 2008

Brendan Hughes
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