It takes two

It takes two to tango.  Try to tango on your own and you’ll end up looking seriously stupid. Maybe it’s the normal sadness of Summer’s near-end that’s infecting me, but I have a sense of one-person tango beginning to emerge in our little society. 
The other morning, for example, I heard a man on The Nolan Show  ringing in to express his outrage that Nolan hadn’t been sufficiently ‘neutral’.  How’s that? Well, apparently Stephen had John O’Dowd on earlier in the programme, alongside a unionist politician.Stephen, the caller said, had allowed O’Dowd to compare British commemoration of their war dead on Remembrance Sunday with Irish commemoration of their war dead in, for example, Castlederg! The man was livid: he didn’t expect any better from the likes of O’Dowd,  but that Stephen Nolan should have allowed him, unchallenged, to draw the comparison!  
Shortly after that I read a response to a blog I’d written about bridge-building.  I’d noted that Sinn Féin’s declared policy was to build bridges and reconciliation between former adversaries. Hogwash, my blog-respondent said in so many words. How did Castlederg fit into such a policy?
Finally there’s Peter Robinson with his hand-brake or is it commitment-breaking turn  regarding the peace centre at the Long Kesh/the Maze site.  The First Minister was going back on his word but that, Edwin Poots explained, wasn’t his fault,  leaderless Sinn Féin were to blame for that.  First their attitude to Union flag flying in Belfast City Hall showed poor leadership, and now their support for this Castlederg commemoration of IRA volunteers killed in the Troubles showed poorer leadership still.  
Can you see the common thread? It’s the pride the British have in their ‘fighting men’, living or dead.  In some ways you might say such pride is understandable.  The way they re-invaded the Falklands/Malvinas, their role in Iraq, SAS activities here and in other parts of the world  –  these are cited as reasons for holding the British soldier in high esteem. 
Except the three respondents in the cases I’ve cited go beyond pride in British soldiery. The Nolan Show  caller was appalled that someone should dare to speak in one breath of the British military war dead and IRA war dead.  Likewise my blog respondent.  The honouring of IRA war dead in Castlederg was cited as evidence that republicans were not interested in reconciliation, even though they agreed to a rerouting which avoided the  British army cenotaph in the centre of the town. And finally Peter Robinson, in his 12-page letter, declared  the Long Kesh/the Maze peace centre agreement impossible because republicans had commemorated their war dead in Castlederg.  
At the heart of these responses is a refusal to countenance any comparison between the British army and the IRA.  Why? Because the British army are proper soldiers whereas the IRA were mere terrorists.  But hold on. Terrorism is a military tactic, a methodology, not a philosophy.  It’s a tactic advocated and employed by ‘fighting men’ down the decades – George Washington, Che Guevara, Michael Collins, the SAS – even Winston Churchill:   “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
And I haven’t even mentioned the British army’s willingness to work with loyalist terrorists groups in the many cases of collusion here. Now let me be clear.  I don’t doubt that many unionists are still hurting from losses during the Troubles, as are many nationalists and republicans. But maybe the unionist indignation at comparisons of the IRA with ‘their’ soldiers has a deeper motivation. Maybe unionism’s refusal to equate the IRA war dead with British war dead springs from unionism’s unwillingness to equate living republicans with living unionists. 
Now there’s a thought that stops the music and freezes the dancers in their tracks. 

10 Responses to It takes two

  1. giordanobruno August 23, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Talking or the Irish commemorating their war dead imples a nation united in such commemoration. This is hardly the case when it comes to the IRA.They never had the support of more than a small minority of the people of Ireland.
    More like a violent cult than republicans, who nevertheless, should of course be able to remember their dead like anyone else.
    As to the tactics of terror, those were the tactics the IRA set out to use on a daily basis, in their cunning plan to bomb their neighbours into a United Ireland.
    How was that going to work exactly?
    And how many prisoners did they take during their war?

  2. Anonymous August 23, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    Certainly a chilling thought Mr Collins ,I think you hit the nail on the head again.

  3. Anonymous August 23, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    Oh this is hilarious. Irish republican apologists take a new low, folks. Comparing HM Armed Forces with the Provisional IRA is like comparing Rosa Parks to the Black Power Movement because they share the same colour of skin. There is NO comparison between the two, nor will there ever be – notwithstanding attempts by the likes of you to rewrite the narrative.

    A person in Northern Ireland was 250 times more likely to be killed by a member of the IRA than a member of the Army. Ever stopped to think about that glaring statistic? Ever stopped to ponder the fact that the IRA killed more Catholics than anyone else? Ever stopped to think that members of the Army didn’t go out with their vehicles laden with bombs in order to kill and maim anyone who just happened to be caught up in their path?

    The average annual strength of the Army and the RUC between 1969 and 1998 was between 15,000 and 20,000 personnel. The average annual strength of the Provos was between 500 and 1,000 terrorists. Yet, the Provisionals killed more people than the Army in every single year of those Troubles. Care to explain why?

    Number of Catholics killed by source:

    IRA = 338
    UVF = 265
    Army – 258
    UFF = 132
    UDA = 58
    Royal Ulster Constabulary = 44

    Care to tell us why those ‘noble freedom fighters of the downtrodden Catholics’ – the Provos – took 49% of all the lives lost in the Troubles, including 21% of all Catholic lives? Whilst you’re about it, perhaps you could explain why only 9% of total deaths were the responsibility of the Army, in spite of having a personnel strength many, many times greater?

    Haass will fail in these talks. Why? Because there’s far too many people like you who are prepared to defend the indefensible. And there’s no way a majority in Northern Irish society will be prepared to let them get away with such whitewashing. How do you like them apples?

    • Anonymous August 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

      About IRA = 338 / UVF = 265 / UFF = 132 / UDA = 58

      How many of those people were killed by IRA/ UVF/UFF/UDA units infiltrated with British, American, Irish, Israeli, South African and Rhodesian agents?

      My bet is MI6/CIA/CIC, SB/MI5 and many others added drastically to the death toll.

  4. Anonymous August 23, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Good morning ,Jude;its your blog respondent here.I’m honoured that my comment has struck a chord with you.However I’m less impressed with the slant you chose to put on my remark.I cannot be responsible for the other respondents but to interpret my comment as a pride in British soldiery is blatant misrepresentation on your part.My point was essentially to point out the hypocrisy of Sinn Fein in moving the commemoration from Galbally(where there is overwhelming support for the party) to Castlederg where at best there is 50/50 support.To many people,not necessarily unionists,it seemed like an exercise in coat-trailing ,especially when the two lauded “patriots” died when they were en route with a bomb destined for C/derg.We hear much from Declan Kearney about bridge building but it seemed to me that this was hardly the way to show the hand of friendship to the unionist community .I appreciate that any even mild criticism of Sinn Fein doesn’t go down well with you but I hope you welcome an exchange of views.You should not think that because people offer criticism that they are dyed in the wool admirers of the British Army.Far from it!

  5. Anonymous August 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    Great stuff, Jude.
    Hit another raw nerve here too.
    Parity of esteem does not extend to our war dead either! Quelle suprise.

    • Anonymous August 24, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

      If you read what Anon( 12 14) above says,what was the motivation for moving the annual commemoration from Galbally to Castlederg other than. to antagonise the unionists in that area.Some might also see it as a tactical move in the run up to the Haas talks.I doubt if many would wish to prevent republicans honouring what they describe as their “volunteers” but the move to Castlederg smacks of cynicism .Carrickmore for example would have been a suitable alternative venue.

  6. Colman August 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    Doesn’t really help the argument when the leader of the ‘Republican’ movement denies, or is it lies, that he was never a member of the IRA, threatens to sue those who would blacken his good character by accusing him of such, and now agrees that their actions were murder to your favorite, female TV journalist.
    When its own leadership is embarassed or ashamed of it, then you cant really blame the combined partitionist forces from piling on and burying the narrative that the men and women of the IRA, though numerically outnumbered and vastly outgunned, sacrificed their personal ambitions, economic futures and lives in a military campaign to end British rule in a bigoted, discriminatory and sectarian statelet, undemocratically imposed on the Irish nation.
    To the extent they were defeated and their leadership absorbed into administering the same state albeit with a few minor changes, does not diminish the fact that the IRA’s resilience and tenacity was ever so close to forcing the British Government to consider withdrawing from Ireland.
    That is the narrative that the Brits and Unionists dont want to hear and hope to bury under the soiltop of Long Kesh. The real lack of leadership will be Sinn Fein allowing them to get away with it.

  7. Ceannaire August 23, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Anonymous 11:12:

    “Number of Catholics killed by source:

    IRA = 338
    UVF = 265
    Army – 258
    UFF = 132
    UDA = 58
    Royal Ulster Constabulary = 44″

    I’ve noticed you have focused on a narrow part of the conflict here. It’s also a narrow view you take in relation to the stats you provide.

    You do realise that after presenting IRA stats you then list 5 groups which, we now know, essentially worked hand in glove with each other – through the provision of intelligence, weapons and funding etc. Jaysus, there are even photos of the UDA and British Army on joint foot patrol. Now, based on that, lets re-tally the figures.

    IRA 338
    British 757.

    Your stats certainly look much different now.

    I have stats, too. From the CAIN website:

    “Civilians are the largest category killed, and account for 53 percent of the total killed, with the British Army accounting for almost 15 pre (sic) cent. Republican paramilitaries account for almost 13 percent, the RUC account for 8 percent of those killed and the other groups each account for less than 6 per cent.”

    Our conflict was a terrible experience. But there were two sides to that conflict. You can deny that all you want. That is your right. But don’t try to take away the right of others see it differently.

    I certainly have no love for the British forces in the conflict here but I’ll respect the right of those who wish to remember them. No amount of protest from me would change that anyhow.

    • Anonymous August 25, 2013 at 6:03 am #

      Wow, moral relativism and now a blatant misrepresentation of the statistics based on a few bad apples amongst HM Forces. Perhaps you should change your avatar to ‘Con-air’.