The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Reality Check

Patrick Lismore • 28 August 2004

Let me begin with I don't belong to any Republican group and I don't speak for any either. I write of my own accord and just to express my own views and opinions.

For me 1998 was a mixed up year. I had my GCSE's to contend with and we had the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

I am going to give you an insight into the mind of some teenagers when the Good Friday Agreement was signed and the mind of one of those 21 year olds now (myself), in the current view of the situation that Provisional Sinn Fein has brought about.

Growing up in Andersonstown at the heart of the republican community —I come from stanch republican family— the goal was to end the illegal partition. Let's bear in mind, "accept partition or face all out war". This was hardly democratic. It was hardly democratic drawing a border where one group of people would be in a majority; this was not fair for the people who had to suffer those injustices, those discriminations.

Going back to my teenage years, all through the 90's we, when I say we I am referring to my friends and I, as teenagers we had always a feeling that there was a war, a guerrilla war with the British, those people who had brought this terror to our land. We were at war with the British Army, not the people from the other community. We did acknowledge that there were loyalist paramilitaries and we did however understand that it was not all of the people within those communities. Our war was with the occupying army and the illegal state that discriminated heavily on one section of the people.

When we were in our teens, we did not take any direction from any paramilitary organisation. We, although young, were not blind to the fact that there were times when the whole community was needed, times when army incursion into our communities was high. A brief example was when Lee Clegg shot a teenage girl on the outskirts of Lenadoon, she had been travelling in a stolen car that broke a check point. It was the youth, without any direction from anyone. It was they who participated in the lockdown of our community, it was they who helped barricade ourselves in. It was we who felt, "that’s it - are they going to come in and shoot us all?"

Then of course, when we are in the middle of anarchy, protesting our outrage and anger at the state, and the politicians!! Along come elements within the Provisional Republican Movement to quell the disruption!!

"Right, lads, wind it down, move on, let's go." They struck fear into anyone who dared speak back, for those who speak back to the Provisional Republican Movement could well find themselves on the receiving end of a baseball bat or a 9mil to the kneecap.

"Right, lads, let's go, no more," was said as we left with a slight clip to the ear. We knew that there were ceasefires on and that there were negotiations taking place; we all suspected that there was something that Sinn Fein and the Provisional Republican Movement had if negotiations failed and we went back to a war situation.

I can honestly say growing up as a teenager we all thought if the war continues we would one day probably have to go to the aid of our communities. We knew that if we done nothing we could risk getting shot or blown up and likewise if we had of joined a political organisation or a paramilitry organisation we could well have been shot. It was a no win situation.

There was a general feeling that one day we may be shot and killed as a result of the situation in the 6 counties. This was an everyday realistic feeling.

When the Docklands bomb went off, I remember, so clear, "News Flash," a bomb has just tore through the London docklands. There was a feeling that the negoiations had failed and that was us back to war. There was a surge of patriotism within the community to see that the republican movement had still not given up fighting the enemy. People reading this who are not from Belfast or the north of Ireland, for your benefit, we still had British Army walking our streets, MI5, SAS, and other British Military Intelligence operating in the 6 counties.

It was then I started taking an interest in the political side of Republicanism. We had interpreted it as best we could when we were 16, 17, 18. I remember the Agreement coming through the door. I called my friend, "Did you get one of these Agreement things?"

"Aye, I did."

"What do you think?" I asked.

He said, "Personally, I think we are being sold out."

"How come? At least it gives us hope," I said.

"C'mon, man, you're not that stupid. You're going to do A levels. Glance through it and get back to me."

I began reading the Good Friday Agreement. I noticed that this GFA involved Sinn Fein taking part in a devolved British assembly at Stormont.

Right there and then I said, hold on a minute, I thought we were negoiating the end of a war and I believed along with a lot of others that would result in the British leaving the north of Ireland. I didn't think that this would have involved Sinn Fein taking part in a devolved assembly! A British or "Northern Ireland assembly"!

I thought Sinn Fein was looking out for our interests. I often hear those dedicated to Provisional Sinn Fein saying the GFA is about equality and we should back it. We hear a lot about failed policiess; try a new way. The abstentionist policy may have failed in the past but I believe that Eire Nua has a place ahead of the full implementation of the GFA, if it ever gets implemented.

Let me just say, we should have equality and police reform as a pre-requisite before any sort of negotiation.

So the day came, the signing of the GFA. The sorrow and the sombre mood was so thick you could have sliced right through it. We heard the car horns beeping, people hung from the cars with tricolours claiming we won!! We Won!! I turned to my friend. "We Won What!!!" "Is that it, the brits are going home?" My friend, who is a year older, said, "No, mate, they're going for this fucking Good Friday Agreement."

Outrage wasn't the word, it was like, what are these people doing? People could not understand why people like Bobby Sands and Joe Mc Donnell and all those others make the ultimate sacrifice for us, to accept a devolved British assembly for "our" Politicians to get assimilated right into the system that had discriminated against our people, this illegal partioned state? At least it will be our own people working on our behalf rather than some minister in London.

I am from the community that Gerry Adams is from. I honestly believe that he is doing the best for our community and his party as whole.

When we were talking amongst ourselves, one of my friends said we should have listened to RSF in 1986. I looked at him. "What are you on about, we have been supporting Sinn Fein."

He said, "I take it you are not familiar with the abstenionist policy and Republican Sinn Fein."

"Of course I am, that’s why I am raging about these Sinn Fein members wanting to take part in a British government."

He said, "Do you know what happened in '86 the split?"

Then I got the educated, streetwise, about Sinn Fein voting whether to go into or stay out of constitutional politics. It was like, can this situation get anymore worse? Next you will be telling me they are joining the cops! Another guy laughed, "You know, there is part in this assembly for devolved policing." It was here I first heard about Republican Sinn Fein.

I think there and then each of us decided that Provisional Sinn Fein had changed its path from what it had set out to do after the split in 69'.

They are expecting us young men and women on the verge of becoming an adult, the Irish youth, to endorse this, to accept this as the way in which our country should be run; maybe it is the way. I think there had been a lot of people, not just old republican veterans, but a lot of young people who felt that this was going to cause a division within the republican community. I as a young adult just couldn't get enough information as to how are we going to achieve our aim of a 32 county republic in this way. Being realistic I don't think a majority wants a return to war.

Endorse a contradiction I as a 17 year old could see? How can you tell the unionists that their union is secure and turn around and say to the Republicans & Nationalists that this is your stepping stone to a united Ireland? More clarification is needed on this point.

I do agree a lot has come out of the GFA and Sinn Fein's path into northern politics. I do honestly believe that progress is being made slowly and through a lot of sacrifices. There is still that fear that the British may turn on republicans when they are totally defenceless and do a way with all the progress that is being made ,bringing us back to a sectarian state, and war.

Let me say no matter how many republicans deviate from the principles of 1905, there is always going to be people who are dedicated to the Republican principles of 1905 Sinn Fein. It is these people who are still excluded from politics in the country. Yes, by choice, but if genuine political negotiations were taking place which were putting into affect all Ireland political structures to unify the country politically and the intention of the British to disengage from the north, I believe these people would be at the forefront of negotiations. Should another 30 years go by and another lot deviate from 1905 principles to the constitutional path so be it. There will still be that flame burning within Irish people that their country is still not free. Lets get a reality check here!!


To be continued next issue.




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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

30 August 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Knackers Yard
Anthony McIntyre

Spin Cycle
Mick Hall

Reality Check
Patrick Lismore

32 CSM Pays Tribute to Memory of Republican Socialist Volunteers
Marian Price

Let Them Stay
Davy Carlin

"Fine Words"

27 August 2004

"Every Editor's Nightmare"
Carrie Twomey

Topsy Turvy World
Eamon McCann

A Quarter of a Century Ago
Anthony McIntyre

Gali Beaarda and the 40 Thieves
Harri Kaharazad

Nuclear Solutions Lost in Ambiguity
Mary La Rosa



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