Tom Cruise, the southern government and those military archives


I was watching a Tom Cruise movie last night (yes, Virginia, I am a sad case), and at one point Cruise joins a local urchin in doing a series of rapid somersaults – about ten in a row – before grinning and high-fiving the youngster. I do hope the southern government watch that movie. It’ll give them an idea of what they’re going to have to perform as the centenary of 2016 approaches.

The Irish Times this morning has links to military archives from 1916-22. It contains some of the tens of thousands of applications for pensions made by those who had been involved in the violence of the time. Those applying argued their case for a pension on the extent to which they could detail the operations they had been involved in.

Even the most cursory glance through some of these  is like flicking through Irish newspapers from the 1970s and 1980s: attacking police stations, arranging explosions, planning ambushes. Which puts the southern government in a spot. Because if they are celebrating/honouring/commemorating these events (and don’t forget, people got pensions on the extent to which they had been involved in these activities), then they’re going to have a hard time holding the line that what happened here in the north was some sort of perversion of republicanism, that it brought shame on true republicans through its brutal and lethal activities. Because that’s what the military archives online will show: men setting out to maim or kill other men.

Put like that, there’s a natural sense of recoil, of disgust even, that human beings could do such things to one another. But as the archives show and the newspapers of forty years ago show, that’s exactly what happens in violent conflict. To honour the memory of men and women of violence in the early part of the century, who were rewarded with pensions for their activities, and to denounce republican violence here in the 1970s and 1980s, and declare them unfit to hold public office, will require the Tom Cruise  somersault only performed at ten times the speed and with one hundred times the agility.

7 Responses to Tom Cruise, the southern government and those military archives

  1. MPG ..... January 18, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    Well said and too true! Let the somersaulting and contortionist begin.

  2. Stranger Still January 18, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

    It’s amazing how maiming and killing can be considered justified in a conflict which was successful and had a happy ending, and how everything can be considered unjustified and unnecessary and pointless when there’s no happy ending.
    Same goals, same methods, different result, different commentary, different degree of sanctimony.

  3. Am Ghobsmacht January 19, 2014 at 5:21 am #


    Dunno about this Dr C.

    If I understand correctly, in the early part of the 1900’s it was almost ‘Ireland vs. Britain’.

    Ireland was fed up, the people united and there was a determined effort to oust Britain.

    And with the exception of them up north, it was successful and not completely drawn out along religious lines.

    Compare that to ‘the Troubles’.

    The republicans involved (who, were at first seemingly the minority in the early Provos) put together a cocktail of Catholicism, self-defence, nationalism, republicanism and a sprinkle of Marxism.

    It wasn’t so clear cut, the goals were blurred and varied e.g. one minute it’s equal rights (even though NICRA did an awful lot in a very short time, the Provos ‘achievements’ took nearly 3 decades) the next minute it’s ‘freeing Ireland’ (from a country that doesn’t want to be here, and they still failed) and then it’s defence of Catholic areas (which was fair enough, they could have ran with just that one, but they didn’t, they went for the oxymoron of ‘oppressed-yet-fighting Irish’).

    At least it was relatively straightforward for the republicans and independence fighters of the earlier part of the century; they wanted British rule no more and that was that.
    And they fought a war of independence against the army and other agents.

    The Provos only started attacking the army once the army had (to a belated extent) tempered the loyalist aggression.
    Surely you must remember how raging the loyalists were at the army’s involvement?
    Sure his big white self was (I believe) the first to compare the army to the SS.

    So, not so clear cut.
    The British army and British state weren’t ‘the enemy’ from the word go, we (unionists) were (in general).

    Throw into the mix the exceptions that Southern guerrillas didn’t have to deal with or at least face up to: Carrickfergus, Larne, Bangor, Portadown, Lisburn, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Ballyclare, Coleraine….

    The people of Cork might have welcomed the flying columns, the people of the above towns would gladly have seen them hang (as a rule of thumb).

    Yet the IRA’s narrative of ‘freeing Ireland’ is one that we’re supposed to accept despite the strong feelings of the towns named above that didn’t want ‘freedom’?

    (yes, ditto for the towns unfairly thrown into the new state of NI. That argument is a cop-out in the context of the above)

    So, let us not hammer an independence-fighter shaped peg through a chaotic shaped hole.

    If the IRA’s campaign had been a guerrilla war in mainly nationalist areas of NI then they would have a case for argument.
    But they didn’t.
    They involved everyone, moved the goalposts and varied the narrative.

    The fighters of the earlier campaigns didn’t (well, at least till the civil war, but that’s a different topic)

    I’ve noticed a slow but quiet retro-acceptance of the Provos’ campaign.

    The thought of seeing their neighbour laying in the pavement with blood pouring out of the back of their caved-in skull didn’t sit easy with people when it was a possibility 20 odd years ago.

    Now with the passage of time and the reduced likelihood of such events it’s seemingly more acceptable to palm such events off as ‘collateral’.

    So, personally, I don’t think they’ll have to twist and somersault that much.

    I’m just a slow witted bludger with a lap top and I just had a go at it.

    Imagine what some one intelligent with political skills and a sharp advisor could do?

    PS Surely the modern republicans/militants deserve some penalty points as they managed something that the earlier republicans didn’t: The conversion of 10’s/100’s of thousands of Irishmen to an exclusively ‘British’ identity.
    How did that benefit Mother Erin? THAT alone should demerit someone when it comes to holding an Irish public office.

    A million starving Irish is (rightly) regarded as a disgrace but the ‘loss’ of another near million by means of ‘persuasion’ is not?

  4. Jude Collins January 19, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    Well, AG, no one can accuse you of not giving the post some thought – for which go raibh maith agat. Now let me disagree with you a little – oops, I mean discuss your points.
    I agree that the movement for independence was less complicated at the beginning of the twentieth century than now. Religion is more clearly in the mix here – but perhaps only in quantity rather than quality – there were lots of Protestants/unionists in the south post-1916 (and yes, we could discuss why Protestant population shrank after (partial) independence but let’s rain-check that).

    The cocktail you mention is true – but check out the 1916 leaders – just as wide a spread of takes on reasons for revolution – Connolly, Pearse, McBride, de Valera, etc.

    I don’t think unionism was ‘the enemy’ from the word go: in the civil rights days, because unionism largely lined up against granting civil rights, then unionists were ‘the enemy’; but for republicans, it might have involved civil rights but the central objective was removal of the link with London and Irish unity.
    Yes of course, Portadown, Carrickfergus, Ballymena etc were and are towns that are opposed to any effort to leave Mother Britain’s wing. But I don’t think democracy works on a town-by-town basis – otherwise the town I lived in for two years, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, would undoubtedly be an independent republic. (You should hear what they say about southerners – English southerners, that is). Anyway, of course the IRA involved ‘everyone’ – they weren’t aiming to have a further partitioning of the country, least of all on a town-by-town basis. I think you’re right about ‘retro-acceptance’ of the IRA campaign – but of course for people to say they accepted it at the time would have left themselves open to imprisonment and maybe being killed, so it’s hardly surprising those who had sympathy with the campaign kept their traps shut. And yes, the sight of a dying neighbour does tend to focus the mind wonderfully; but then that’s what wars are like. They involve killing people, which is the ultimate barbarity. But it’s also a fact that every country that has an army believes in killing people or threatening to kill them – they don’t train soldier to make daisy-chains. There’s a serious need for consistency among those who are (rightly) horrified by deaths at the hands of paramilitaries here.

    Coming back to somersault – that’s what the southern government must now confront: the issue of consistency. Read accounts of killings during the Black and Tan war – they are just as brutal and terrible as anything that happened up here. Ditto the civil war.

    ‘The conversion of tens of thousands of Irishmen to an exclusively ‘British’ identity’ – EH? is that based on the ticking of the ‘Northern Irish’ box? If it is, it’s a wildly optimistic (from a unionist point of view) conclusion. I would have said ‘Northern Irish’ would have been an Alliance box if anyone’s; but check how many council seats/European seats Alliance gets in May.

    The last point of ‘loss of another near million by means of “persuasion” ‘ – I don’t get it, I’m afraid. Are you talking about one million unionists in the north? That’s obviously a fact. But I’m not sure what the point is that you’re making. Sorry. Early in the morning.

  5. giordanobruno January 19, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    Is it not possible that different circumstances prevailed as Am Ghobsmacht has tried to demonstrate.
    Many who feel the PIRA campaign to have been justified now condemn dissident actions even though they use the same tactics and methods.. Is that somersaulting?

    • Jude Collins January 19, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

      I guess it could be interpreted that way. SF would argue that in the 70s and 80s, there was no alternative to physical force, whereas there is today. I’m not totally convinced but there is a strong argument that the northern state today is a totally different place from the 70s and 80s. I know people talk of Sunningdale for slow learners but they conveniently overlook the Ulster Workers’ Strike, or whatever it was called.

  6. Stranger Still January 19, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    I think, JC, that AG is asserting that the IRA’s use of force “persuaded” a million residents of the six northeastern counties to regard themselves as British in order to distinguish themselves from the type of person who likes to frolic with bombs in shopping centres.
    We all know that Ruth Patterson was a big-hearted young lady who love Irish dancing before the IRA ruined everything and 2 young girls told Ruth they wouldn’t play with her because she was a Prod.
    I happen to agree that the war/conflict/trouble polarized NI and entrenched hatred and segregation. I don’t agree that the IRA were wrong to respond with violence to the events of the 1960’s and I don’t believe that they deserve the blame for the Troubles and for the yokels who appear on the Nolan Show all huffy shouting “WEEE’re BRIITISH!!”
    People here in Canada always asked me “What are they fighting about over there? Why are they fighting about religion? Why are they fighting with each other? They’re all Irish, right?”
    And it seems as though a lot of people in NI regard the violence of the Troubles as abnormal or out of the ordinary.
    From my study of human behaviour, nothing that happened in Ireland in the last 8 or 900 years is out of step with normal human stimulus-response patterns of behaviour.
    Big country invades small country in increments, settles some people. Those people go Native. Natives periodically rebel. Big country crushes rebellion. Northerners defeat big country by trickery(bullets not roof). Big country settles large numbers of their own to keep natives in line. Natives massacre newcomers. Newcomers persevere but are forever nervous and fearful about the natives. Natives in most of country gain independence through violence. Northern part remains allied with big country due to presence of newcomers who are no longer newcomers but not native either. Natives regard every sperm as sacred and ratios become more even. Natives tired of being second-class and tired of being pushed around. Newer people survived through intimidation and dominant behaviour and poke the older people one too many times. Older people wage guerilla war. People killed and maimed. Like it’s never happened before. Like it’ll never happen again all over the globe where inequality exists.
    Get a grip on reality. The Troubles were far from the worst case of human aggression and violence. In fact, Irish people(including Irish/British people) and British people showed , in my opinion, great restraint. The toll of dead and wounded could have been much higher.
    Get over yerselves.