When the Good Friday Agreement was signed, some unionists (aka the DUP) were deeply sceptical about it, seeing it as a vehicle for Irish reunification. Should they have been worried? Not so far. Yes, there are cross-border bodies, but most of us don’t know what they are, how often they meet, what they do when they do meet. Then there’s that referendum which was to be held every seven years, so we could vote on whether we wanted to stay as part of the UK. We’re twelve years since the Good Friday agreement and there are still no signs of any such referendum. “But sure it’d be divisive!” is the whine you get when it’s even mentioned. Like, we’re not divided now?
But the single biggest obstacle to reunification is the population of the south. I was talking recently to a man reared in West Cork but living in the north for the past thirty years and more. His diagnosis of his fellow-countymen: far from being Cork rebels, they see the north as a place apart and they’ve swallowed the British line, energetically promoted throughout the Troubles, that one side up here is as bad as the other. If the north is depending on those in the south to work for Irish reunification, they’ll be waiting.
Except. Except that I remember the early years of the 1960s. I lived in Dublin then and the Wee North was seen as a weird place full of hard-faced people who talked funny. And then, from about 1962 onwards, a series of books and TV programmes came out, remembering the events of fifty years earlier – the run-up to 1916. Five years later all hell broke loose and people who’d dismissed Irish nationalism as old-fashioned rubbish were transformed. That was the fiftieth anniversary We’re now just six years away from the centenary of 1916. Don’t bet against a similar transformation taking place. Except, of course, the south’s political parties manage to manipulate the legacy of 1916 and using double-talk and double-think, douse its flame.
Kenny says 'IRA and army council are no more'
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FINE GAEL leader Enda Kenny has said he accepts the “IRA and its army council are no more”.
His comments follow remarks he made 10 days ago in Belfast when he said he would not sit in government with Sinn Féin partly because the IRA army council had not been stood down. The Independent Monitoring Commission reported in 2008 that the IRA army council was “no longer operational or functional”.
In the Dáil yesterday during a debate on the Saville inquiry report, Mr Kenny said he had had a difficulty with Sinn Féin for many years “on the issue of the army council of the IRA. In my presence, following questions, both the president of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams and the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness confirmed that from every perspective they could see, the IRA and its army council are no more. I accept the Deputy First Minister’s statement in that regard”.
Mr Kenny said he would be writing to Mr McGuinness “in due course about several other matters”.
Four relatives of victims of the Bloody Sunday shootings, guests of Taoiseach Brian Cowen, attended the Saville report debate. They left the public gallery during a speech by Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin in which he said “it is a disgrace that the Irish Government has cut funding for the only victims’ group in this State, Justice for the Forgotten.
“It is equally disgraceful the Taoiseach has failed to raise with the British prime minister this Dáil’s unanimous call for the British government to furnish to an international judicial figure all files in its possession relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the other fatal acts of collusion in this jurisdiction. It is almost two years since the Dáil passed that resolution on July 10th, 2008. I call again on the Taoiseach to act.”
Mr Ó Caoláin said the Taoiseach “could not wait for the ink to dry on the Saville report before inviting the English queen to visit but he made no effort to progress that unanimous Dáil resolution by pressing the issue with the British government. We know from the history of the Bloody Sunday relatives’ campaign how the British system works so assiduously to conceal the information in its possession.
“Persistence has paid off before and it is required again to vindicate the families who have been campaigning so long and hard under the banner of Justice for the Forgotten.”
Opening the debate, Mr Cowen said that for the Bloody Sunday families, “the scars and the pain of their unspeakable loss were made worse by the inquiry chaired by Lord Widgery which blackened the names of innocent men.
The campaign to repudiate the Widgery report’s status as the official version of events lasted 38 years. It ended on June 15th. The families can now say that the world knows their loved ones are innocent, that their killings were unjustified and unjustifiable.”
In a sometimes emotional speech Mr Cowen read into the Dáil record the names of all 14 men and boys fatally injured on Bloody Sunday. He said “their innocence is forever inscribed on the pages of the history of Ireland. It is fitting that their innocence is today formally placed, once again and for all time on the record of Dáil Éireann.”
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said that for the three decades after Bloody Sunday “the only politics in Northern Ireland was the politics of the last atrocity.
“And the only common experience in an increasingly divided community was the pain and suffering of the bereaved and injured on all sides.”