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The Imperfect Peace: Terence O’Neill’s Day Has Come


Anthony McIntyre • Belfast Telegraph, 18 August 2004

Ten years ago as August drew its last breath a buzz of excitement swept through West Belfast. The Provisional IRA had just declared its first major ceasefire in 19 years. Later in the day Provisional leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness would be feted with flowers at Connolly House. The Falls was awash with anticipation, the Shankill subdued by suspicion. The mood in both communities would have been vastly different had anyone suggested on that day that a full decade later the British would still be here, having shown not the slightest inclination to leave; that the consent principle, which republican volunteers had fought, killed and died to usurp, would reign supreme; that IRA weaponry would be decommissioned; that the Provisional Sinn Fein leadership would be worshiping at Temple Stormont; that it would be openly stating as its objective the reform of the RUC and the disbandment of the IRA. As one time republican prisoners we had spent decades inside dreading such an outcome, seeing in it only defeat. Yet hardly a word of protest from within Provisional ranks: David Aaronovitch of the Independent, apparently hitting the bulls-eye when he later wrote: ‘it has taken 3,500 deaths and 30 years for republicans to understand that John Hume was right all along.’

Sometime in the afternoon of that ‘historic’ day, I was with one of those former republican prisoners, Tommy Gorman, when he phoned Bernadette McAliskey to endorse her BBC Talkback comments that ‘the war is over and the good guys lost.’ As we made no attempt to conceal our affirmation of her view the leadership thought police soon came to learn of it. They were not enamoured towards us. What did they expect? Because they were fluent in gibberish and had the most amazing capacity to absorb nonsense that everyone else should be the same? Days earlier, when a senior IRA member had ‘briefed’ me that there would be a ceasefire, my first comment was ‘the leadership might have surrendered but we haven’t.’ The vacant look on his stunned face was so bottomless, revealing a cerebral nothingness, I wonder if the realisation has sunk in even today.

After his call to Bernadette, Tommy Gorman and myself walked down a sun-caressed Whiterock Road. We had not covered any great distance before being approached by an excitable but solid local Sinn Fein member who invited us to join him on the party cavalcade that would shortly wind its way through West Belfast. My response, ‘turkeys celebrating Christmas’, seemed to offend him. He genuinely believed that something was coming. We sensed we were about to be shafted. And we were.

At the time, the defeat of the Provisional IRA was hushed up by all sides. It suited. If fudge and ambiguity allowed the leadership to deceive its grassroots about the enormity of the climb-down it was preparing to make, then London, Dublin and the other main players would provide cover. Only now, when all but the recalcitrant few believe the IRA can't go back to an armed campaign, are observers prepared to acknowledge that the IRA lost the war. Before he died Joe Cahill was openly likened to Comical Ali for being sufficiently immune to public common sense to have been able to say the Provisional IRA had won the war and now it was time to win the peace. Few thought to ask if the war was truly won why so much difficulty in announcing that it was over?

After our initial forays into that dangerous realm of independent thought, it soon became clear that the bearers of dissent were to be identified as prime candidates for the persona non grata award. Furious party apparatchiks would froth at the mouth at the slightest sign of a hand they did not control going up at a meeting. ‘At the end of the day, Gerry is right’, the tautological mantra. As the years have passed and everything that was not supposed to happen has happened, it is now clear why the leadership was determined that its strategy would not be questioned. It was based on an utter falsehood. The struggle to achieve ‘national liberation’ was being abandoned – traded in for an internal solution. In order to protect this falsehood our leaders ruthlessly pursued a policy of organised lying, methodical lying. It took the endeavour of Ed Moloney via his discerning tome A Secret History Of The IRA to bring it home to greater numbers.

Before the Provisional IRA was founded the Unionist Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Terence O’Neill, pompously stated that if the unionist community would only treat Catholics well and allow them some prosperity, they would stop having seventeen children and come to live like Protestants. His day has come.







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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

19 August 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Rathenraw Threat
Anthony McIntyre

Troubled Waters
John Kennedy

International Conference Misled by Sinn Fein
Francie Mackey

Rearming the Provos with Picket Signs
Marty Egan

Richard Wallace

Fionnbarr Ó Dochartaigh and the Captain Kelly Campaign
Liam O Comain

Imperfect Peace: Terence O'Neill's Day Has Come
Anthony McIntyre

16 August 2004

Repression in Rathenraw
Anthony McIntyre

Beating the Wife
Kathleen O Halloran

Fan Abuse
Sean Smyth

Save the Black Mountain
Davy Carlin

Parallels and Paradoxes
Liam O Ruairc



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