The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Summertime and the living is easy.....


Eamon Sweeney • 26 July 2004

It is now late July and the light is fading on yet another dreary northern summer.

So much for the unhealthy promise of global warming. The only thing apparently in full bloom is the flower of the poisonous media, silly season plant. Flower perhaps is too kind a word, weed maybe more applicable, given the strength and proliferation of it’s choking spread. Yet this year it would appear that the politicians have finally outstripped their erstwhile media benefactors and have choreographed their own displays of tomfoolery.

The supposed shock generated in some quarters surrounding the spectacle of Sinn Fein luminaries standing in defence of British military vehicles in north Belfast, is really not that suprising. Yet, I for one was more bewildered at Antrim hurling manager, Dinny Cahill’s comments last week prior to the Saffron’s tilt at Cork. I am still more amazed that my native Derry are in an All-Ireland quarter final. Yet I have realised that Cahill has been as Antrim manager a regular visitor to Andersonstown, specfically Casement Park. Perhaps because of his sojourns to this area he has become imbued of talking big and acting big, yet he did not realise you are not supposed to really mean it. The use of the GAA in juxtaposition with northern nationalism is not as tenuous or spurious as you might believe. For, at least some six-county entities are making dominant in-roads in the traditionally trenchant enclaves beyond the Tyrone, Derry and Armagh borders, in-roads at least that may actually achieve something truly meaningful. In-roads that are based on toil and sincere desire to act on behalf of those they represent; not promote half-baked aspirations, thinly veiled as radicalism and fiercely guarded by a superb level of Orwellian interference and double-speak, so confident in itself that it has constructed it’s very own vocabulary.

The most shocking thing about the actions of Sinn Fein activists in Ardoyne over the twelfth is that others were shocked about it. To blame the “securocrats” (please consult Sinn Fein lexicon) constantly for trampling over the rights of nationalism and then leap to their physical defence when that is literally what happened should begin at least to make it plain to all those assembled at Ardoyne shops that what official Republicanism says and means are two entirely different things. Latent claims that the British army were spirited out of the area because they threatened to open fire on the crowd, should hold no water at all. It’s not as if it ever stopped them firing anyway on countless other occassions.

In the turbulent summers of the mid-90’s when thousands of young men and women were strongly and frequently urged to take to the streets in protest at the state sponsorship of Orange and Loyalist triumphalism the rallying cry was then more akin to unspoken yet tacit encouragement to hurl every piece of stone that could be located at anything that resembled a “securocrat”. Thousands of eager young heads were shoved under batons and quite a few were cracked with baton rounds. Why?

Because we were told it was the right thing to do. It had nothing to do with the fact that the monster that was created in confronting Orangeism had enraged the nationalist population so much that a level of rioting had to be allowed to commence as a vent against a backlash of republican inactivity and of course, more importantly for international media purposes. No, not at all, Sinn Fein were not that cynical!

It was in these days that the roots of the counter-insurgency agenda were firmly cemented to the very kernels of defiant nationalism. The plethora of residents groups and the community industry spawned from them, were warning signals if they were ever needed that the attempted conquest of imperialism was over and that the conquest and control of nationalist hearts and minds was underway. As I had been fed legendary tales of the civil rights campaign since I was a pup, as a new politics graduate in the mid-90’s, I was eager to believe that at the end of a 25 year cycle I was witness to the birth of another mass movement. Quite correctly, I was put in my place by many older people who asserted that the violence in Derry’s streets a decade ago, was not the “Battle of the Bogside” mark two, as they had defended the area when it needed to be actually defended from something. These people were not the initiators of the conflict in 1969, and that it was my generation who had started it in 1995. We quickly realised however that we were not alone. I was also foolish enough to believe that there was a genuine sentiment in this that in the 1960’s and again in the 1990’s that civil rights were for all. I know now that 40 years after the initial foray into this type of activism that civil rights were for some only. From the 1970’s onwards as the civil rights movement transmogrified into the SDLP it was the offspring of the great and the good who gained the decent jobs and benefited from the old-green tie phenomenon. Now in the new century as they have been supplanted by the new vanguard of constitutionalism, nepotism, access to responsible jobs without relevant qualifications if any at all are apparent, is the order of the day and the spirit of Fenian Freemasonry sweeps the land. Cliques and inner circles generate ever growing pools of cash and resources for themselves, whilst little physical evidence of achievement, except murals and monuments spring up all over town. Those men who slapped teenagers almost senseless because of their desire to copy their “heroes” now use terms like responsible citizenship, preach about models of community structure and vilify “anti-social” behaviour as is defined by their narrow concept of it.

In mid-90’s Derry noted republicans hovered on the peripheries of riots promising more stringent action if things got out of hand. On one occasion I clearly remember one of these individuals in the centre of a roundabout wielding a thin wooden baton, directing masked teenage troops who duly obliged by making loud noises in hi-jacked cars, but far removed from the front-lines of confrontation. Needless to say so was I, that’s how I saw what I have just described. After three nights of unrestrained and pointless mayhem, these same individuals saw that the control was being removed from their hands and it was on this particular night that myself and two friends were asked by one of these veterans to lend a hand to get the younger guys off the streets.

I am actually proud to say now that we refused totally as these were the same people who had put them there in the first place. As this took place, and under the lights of one of Derry’s gates, a fitting symbol of Unionist domination, a senior republican pounded the head of a sixteen year old who had not heeded the “ceasefire” order, and fifty yards around the corner several more were herded away arms twisted badly up their backs by characters of the same persuasion. Cops are cops after all no matter what the garb.

The point that I am making should be by now abundantly clear, that this hardly a new development in the grander scheme of things. Shocking as it was to witness a leading figure within the republican movement arms akimbo in front of an army jeep, it is only truly shocking in the sense that this time a lot more witnessed it via TV when in my experiences it only happened on the dark edges of riot zones. There are those that will undoubtedly contend that this was for the greater good; that the propagandistic value gained from this display of taking the moral plateau will in the long run benefit the wider nationalist community. Somehow I think we are being told that this was the spirit of Terrence Mc Swiney on the streets of Belfast, that it will be those who endure the most that will eventually succeed. However it is unfortunate that fabled and sacred principles of yore are now so over used that their emptiness now resounds with the hollow clank of a rusty paint tin, the contents of which was once used to daub such sentiments proudly and with vigour upon many walls.

I also vividly remember another conversation that took place on the edge of Guildhall Square at this time involving more senior Sinn Feiners surrounded by the customary bodyguard as a deterrent against their own people. In the midst of the riots that they had engendered they assured people wholeheartedly that republican action was immediately forthcoming and that the area should be cleared at once in preparation for this as they were loathe to use the civil insurgency as cover for their actions.

Three nights later after a local man had been mashed under a Saracen tank in a deliberate act of murder, no action had been forthcoming at all.

The more cynical amongst us could contend that the events in north Belfast this year were a pre-arranged pressure valve to remove the steam from the rest of the summer. Yet again the “universally reviled” Parades Commission banned the north Belfast march, only to renege under the overt threat of Loyalist paramiltarism and the following blessing given by the PSNI and their army cohorts. Perhaps however it was better to have one afternoon of mayhem and a few roadblocks afterwards than a full summer of destruction. Yet again no-one, especially their own representatives had bothered to tell Ardoyne residents about this, after all they only have to put up with this shite 364 days a year. Perhaps however, Ardoyne residents are no longer listening with the reverence or fear that that they once did to the representatives that claim to have their best interests at heart.

Perhaps the vanguard of the proletariat has eventually succumbed to the counter-revolution. Wishful thinking I know, but it sounds good. Now where did I learn habits like that!

As I write I note with amusement that in Derry fears are mounting that the annual August 12th debacle will denegrate into mayhem, because of the threats beginning to emerge concerning the feeder parade on the Lower Ormeau road. The business orientated interlocutors that go-between the Apprentice Boys and the Bogside residents have started the annual round of appealing for calm and reason. The Bog men, will not stand idly by, if only to batter any youngfella silly enough to think he is allowed to riot anymore, and the interlocutors will whine about the detrimental effect that all this will have on business. This is despite the fact that business will simply grind to a halt anyway, violence or not and that these same business figures are under the impression that there are enough worthwhile jobs in this city to get people to spend their money anyway. Another by-product of this shambles is to encourage people into the city to parade around in open-top double deckers whilst manufacturing and heavy industry have been replaced with white-elephant hotels, bars and restaurants, call centres and cafes that almost without exception pay peanuts for unsociable and extremely long hours.

The emasculation of Derry as a vibrant place for genuine thought, debate and protest has long been completed, in it’s place compliance, nest-feathering and nepotism are supposedly disguised by lip-service responses to genuine grievances. You are supposed to be grateful to have a job because of the place of your birth, you don’t dissent because your “defenders” will become your enemy. You are told that Derry’s walls are a vital aspect of attracting people to a pretty but economically bleak town, but yet ten years ago, you were encouraged to picket upon them and try and pull them down brick by brick as they represented the very yoke under which you were trapped.

In short there are more pertinent issues in Derry to address than concern over bowlered hat buffoons staggering around for one day a year. In the maelstrom summers of a decade ago, people were under the misapprehension that in Derry’s west bank we were subjected to the same level of threat, force and humiliation than the people of areas like the Ardoyne. Never did it enter their minds that a big river largely demographically partitions the rival communities in Derry, whilst in Belfast they live cheek by jowl in a myriad of terraced streets supposedly protected by high spotlighted barbed wire adorned walls. When the last Molotov was despatched as daylight rose in Derry and the drink began to wear off, we went went home to bed. In Belfast the luxury of dissipating tension under the banner of civil disobedience was a pleasure not afforded to it’s natives. If Derry does descend into violence this August, please remember that it will only be a staged managed effort to redress what happened in Ardoyne. Stay at home and sing the Sash, at least the words in that song still resonate a modicum of faith, true to it’s codes and beliefs.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


Historians and economists {subsidized by governments} are very good at creating and perpetuating myths that justify increasing the power placed in the hands of government.
- Reuven Brenner

Index: Current Articles

30 July 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Summertime and the living is easy...
Eamon Sweeney

The Strip
Anthony McIntyre

The Provisionals: A Repeat of History
Liam O Comain

Free Seamus Doherty
Martin Mulholland, IRPWA

Sartre Review
Liam O Ruairc

Bollix: Barriers and Borders
Matthew Kavanah

26 July 2004

Joe Cahill - Provisional Republican Veteran
Anthony McIntyre

Meet Sean Keenan
Kathleen O Halloran

Captain James Kelly - A Brief Biography
Members of the Kelly Family

The Kelly Affair
Liam O Comain

Kelly Detractors Challenged
Darinagh Boyle

Hope Floats
Mary La Rosa


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