The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Patriot Game
Kathleen O'Halloran • 21 December 2003

My grandmother came from Balymacarret and thought she was born in 1882, but could not be sure. Her proud boast was that she had never been hungry in her life. She worked all her days as a doffer in the mills on the Falls. In August 1969 I lived with her half way up Divis tower and together we watched the Falls Road burn. Rumours were flying around that 'they' were coming to set fire to the bottom of the tower and we were all going to go up in smoke. In September of that year I walked up the Falls to school as a brown bomber. It was still possible to smell the smoke but there was a feeling that things were changing. That was the first year we lived in the flats, 1969, and I still have a newspaper cutting of a journalist interviewing a lower Falls resident. He, the resident, was complaining that the rents in the new dwellings would be a half crown, (two shillings and six) and where would working class people in these areas get that kind of money! My parents who lived in the near by maisonettes had a god send when the sdlp called for a rent and rates strike. My mother never paid rent from that day forward, it was a miracle we never ended up on the streets.

Of course, there was the lower Falls curfew. I was at my brothers home in Frere Street just off Raglan Street to see his new baby. His wife and I soaked old newspaper to stuff windows and under doors so that the new baby would not breathe in the CS gas. I had heard that women brought down food from Andersonstown to feed us, but I don't remember any coming across Albert Street from the flats as those poor souls didn't even have enough to feed themselves, although I could be wrong.

During the Ulster Workers Strike lorries came around and distributed bread and milk, which was given out freely. Sometimes lorries with food had been hi-jacked and this food was given out as well. The problem was what to cook it on as there was no electric. The barricades were up, and men from the area took turns in manning them, and women stood in groups at their front doors talking and smoking a wee feg. There was a great sense of belonging on the Falls Road then, we were all on the one boat.

Things are different today, Sinn Fein want us to turn out in our droves and vote, but at eighteen I burned my first vote near the top of Leeson Street almost where the Sinn Fein offices are today. There was a pile of voting papers on the road and everyone threw their paper on and then someone set fire to it. Nobody voted then, it was almost seen as a betrayal of your own. Today Sinn Fein call this infantile behaviour.

My first job came under new legislation. Something akin to what the Americans would call positive discrimination. I was taken on for six months by the Northern Ireland Civil Service, simply because I was a Catholic and for no other reason. There was a line of us made to stand at the back of the room and all of us were given various positions, but there was no real job there. You were looked at with some amusement and you felt somewhat inferior, thinking to yourself what am I doing here, me one of the great unwashed from the flats in this respectable middle class unionist establishment.

Back then in the beginning there was a sense that maybe all this upheaval was about civil rights, but that was quickly overtaken. We were on the road to a United Ireland, the slogan then was a 32 county socialist democratic republic, and everybody knew it. We cheered at the news when an I.R.A. bomb blew a building to bits, or when the Crumlin kangaroos jumped over the wall, and the provie birdie landed in Mount Joy, and we felt the pain and loss when we were hit back. We collected and gave to Green Cross, we went to clubs to hear Kathleen Largey sing-

'This island of ours has for long been half free,
Six counties are under John Bulls' tyranny,
so I gave up my boyhood to drill and to train,
and to play my own part in the patriot game'

There was a war on you see, and we were going to kick Britain out. So we built our barricades and created no go areas, we supported the struggle any way we could. Yet at the height of this struggle shortly after the hunger strikes when ten men died here and two in England we now are told that Gerry Adams' was in secret negotations. The result of those negotations was the Belfast agreement. So now they do not want you to burn your votes, man barricades or sing rebel songs. We have moved on, we are a people now reaping the benefits of thirty years of struggle, and we have equality. No one lives in Divis flats anymore; that slum has been replaced by bigger and better 'sink' estates, that have no infrastructure or amenities and widespread unemployment. And we still can't afford the rents! Catholics are still more likely to be unemployed than our non-catholic counterparts, and we are suffering from rampant anti-social behaviour in our sprawling crisis loan estates. So what did we get for our thirty years of struggle. We have Sinn Fein as the biggest nationalist party who are ready and willing to introduce water charges and cut our services to save money for the British exchequer.

Still by 2016 we will have a United Ireland! I wouldn't bet on it - that idea has long been sold out by our very own bearded quisling.



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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.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

4 January 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Anthony McIntyre


New Years Statement 2004

Óglaigh na hÉireann


New Year Greetings
Jimmy Sands


In Memorium
Brian Mór


Is This The Real IRA?
Liam O Ruairc


Dec. 16th Dail Questions



Provos/SDLP/Dublin Securing Partition
Liam O Comain


The Patriot Game
Kathleen O Halloran


Wiping Out the Opposition
Aine Fox


They Will Never Get Us All
Sean Matthews


The Letters Page has been updated.


17 December 2003


An Autopsy on the Provos
Sandy Boyer


The PSNI Threat

Anthony McIntyre


Seize the Opportunity, Seize the Moment
Liam O Ruairc


Happy Xmas from Little England
Eamon Sweeney


Dublin Cover-up Was Government Policy
Father Sean Mc Manus


Warm (Flat) Earth
Michael Youlton




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