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ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort
and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
In the context of political slogans, "Not one bullet. Not one ounce" is a proclamation of an unabashed implication. It is an oath of defiance. Painted on the walls of Belfast, Derry, and throughout the occupied counties it has historical and cultural significance. For many Irish Americans, it represented the terms under which they could support the Belfast Agreement. It was, in effect, the bold print superimposed over the fine print. Yet it has been betrayed. ‘Not one bullet’ has become ‘take the entire lot’. The finality to which they perhaps naively held out has been crossed, spat upon, and swept into the closet of concession and surrender.
Following the unequivocal compromise of Provisional weapons, many Irish Northern Aid supporters find themselves awkwardly close to confessing the illegitimacy of the previous thirty-year campaign. There is no unification. There is not a Dublin-based representation. The militarization of Irish soil enters another year, and still the riots and incursions upon the nationalist community ignite daily.
Founded as a prisoner support group and human rights champion, Irish Northern Aid’s once boisterous and politically-incorrect defiance has been numbed by the reality of a suspect treaty signed by Gerry Adams some three and a half years ago. Their political activism, while previously commendable, has become a litany of social nights haggardly supporting a deliberately selective Republicanism which, in the end, has abandoned its cause. In their camaraderie with the leadership of Sinn Fein, they have accepted British Apartheid as the status quo and deny the validity of those who argue otherwise.
It is in this aftermath that Irish Northern Aid has become a house with three legs. In principal it exists no longer. The current path to which its members have been herded denies the intent of its foundation. Specifically, the strict adhesion towards Sinn Fein policy fails the Fenian tradition which obligates an equation between imprisoned Irish Republicans and Prisoners of War. However, political activity does not forgive ignorance. This conflict is not solved. The violent Loyalist campaign, British collusion, the assassination of Joesph O’Connor, the inhumane treatment of Danny McAlister, the unconstitutional ban of IRPWA in America, and the more than fifty prisoners of war in Portlaoise are legitimate matters which INA members either ignore or treat as taboo.
The Belfast Telegraph recently typified the current INA nescience. Writing about a Sinn Fein fundraiser in New York it described a stocky diner tucking into a broiled beef fillet with mushroom sauce. It quoted him: "We used to bomb Britain but we don’t do that any more. That’s a good thing."
The current INA membership is a perpetual donation scheme enforced to provide Sinn Fein with new offices and paid political advisors. Political philosophy is irrelevant. Internal discussion is unnecessary. The mantra that there are no prisoners contradicts reality and is traitorous to the memory of those they purport to honor with their t-shirts, posters, post cards, and bumper stickers.
Currently, the situation at Portlaoise has deteriorated dismally. Political prisoners have been beaten, stripped, denied electricity and heat, and refused contact with immediate family members following their peaceful sit-in which protested earlier denial of rights. They have as well been denied medical assistance, toilet access, and private possessions. For the next two months they will receive no outside communication. No visits, no letters, no newspapers. These conditions are no more acceptable now than they were twenty years ago. These men are not criminals. They are Irish Republicans. This current situation therefore cannot be ignored by any group aligning itself to the Irish Republican family. It demands outrage from every individual purporting to support a United Ireland and nothing less.
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