The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The History of the Troubles According to the Provisionals

John Nixon • August, 2003

A friend of mine who visited Derry City recently commented that he was surprised (and deeply disappointed) to see a mural of what he described as ‘a living hunger striker’ while there was no such mural to two dead hunger strikers, i.e., Patsy O Hara and Mickey Devine.

This didn’t surprise me in the least although I am not sure if the mural he saw is representative of any particular person but in many ways it epitomises why there is so much ‘revising’, reinterpreting and prolific rewriting of republican history to conveniently suit specific political agendas and orientation. It puts things into a context so to say, and allows for frank and honest debate on the controversial claim that history is written by the victors. I’m not sure about this one, sounds too elitist. Napoleon maintained that history is but a fable agreed upon.

Murals are vignettes of how we interpret and perceive the past. They are barometers which denote changes within the political climate but less subtly and more subliminally they convey an exclusive interpretation all of which is so apparent within loyalist communities where ubiquitous tattered flags lay territorial claim to corners and cul de sacs.

Today we are into commemorative culture and most republican murals throughout the north commemorate (or celebrate) the past thirty years of struggle; they constitute a sort of history according to the Provisionals. My friend's comments came as no surprise and no eyebrows were raised when I learned that a recent conference which focussed on the setting up of a museum to commemorate/celebrate the history of republican struggle in H Blocks, Long Kesh, etc, excluded IRSP/INLA reps. Apparently it was ‘overlooked’. Not at all. Provisional apologists, historians and literati, et al, are singularly focussed on establishing Provisional political and historical hegemony by crook or by hook.

Any alternative to Provisional republicanism and the organisation’s now deeply diluted socialism is seen and deemed as a threat. There has been a lot of airbrushing of collective and individual sacrifices and suffering and with a proposed political tourism project being formulated by Sinn Fein’s Coisde na Iarchimi its likely we are about to see the Provisionals imposing their own hegemonic imprimatur via elitism, exclusion and selectivity. Sound familiar?

Other groups who participated in the struggle and whose members or volunteers survived the crucibles of the prisons and prison camps ignore these trends at their peril.

The need to eclipse political and historical events and people out of history carries its own agenda and motive. No need here for an exegesis on why or how. Suffice to say that ultimately the Provisionals when making exclusive claims to the history of republican struggle and their interpretation of it, also aim to validate that past and the consequence of past acts so as to legitimise (read justify) future political strategies and their outcomes. It has always been and remains today an integral part of their elitist mindset. INLA or Official IRA volunteers who went through the prisons will find consensus on this one.

Legitimacy is conferred not only via those who claim to have been protagonists and therefore having a claim to authority on a particular slant or interpretation of the past but this is also seen by them (and wrongfully) as a bulwark against any challenges of that interpretation. Thus the Provisionals' core of cadres so well trained and equipped with the teachings of Paola Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ have been tasked by their movement’s inner sanctum to revise, review and rewrite history according to the Provisionals. They are facilitated by a clique of academics and ‘artsy’ types who find it all okay and au fait in the wake of a new so called Dispensation to court those they once deemed as Beyond the Pale.

The coveting of history for whatever purpose, is nothing new, and the example of the Nazis comes to mind at once. However, the Provisionals have acquired much subtlety in their delivery and interpretation of the past. Their canon of literature, imbued with academic weight and validated by so-called intrinsic knowledge and understanding of that past is to all intents and purposes more of a valediction than a validation, for ultimately there is a finality in all of it.

But constant dripping will wear away the stone and this drip-feeding of the Provisional’s history can and must be challenged. There is little dialectical in it that can’t be challenged indeed, if anything there is a clear onus on all ‘other’ protagonists and republican/socialist historians to make it happen.









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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

4 September 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


US Denies It Gave Safe Harbor to Brian Nelson
Fr Sean Mc Manus


Between Theory and Reality
Eamon Sweeney


In the Name of Security
Jim J Kane


Caught at it Again
Anthony McIntyre


The History of the Troubles According to the Provos
John Nixon


Moving Forward Past the Past
Davy Carlin


More Questions than Answers
Mick Hall


In Memory of Robert Emmet

Charles Murnick


Attempted Suicide by Iranian Asylum Seeker
Debbie Grue


Dublin: Maghberry Briefing Meeting
Mags Glennon


Belfast Anti-War Movement
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Latest Police Attacks on Press Freedoms
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We Haven't Gone Away, You Know
The Blanket Back Online


The War Crime of Secret Graves
Anthony McIntyre


Horses for Courses
Eamon Sweeney


Rwanda: Crushing Dissent
Liam O Ruairc


Terrorists, Their Friends and the Bogota 3
Toni Solo


Aznar: Spain's Super Lackey
Agustín Velloso


Orwell Centenary Talk

John O'Farrell


The Letters page has been updated.




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