‘Speaking about the Dead’ by Joe McVeigh


I write for this blog as a way of engaging with others about issues and events and people that are important to me and to others. There are so many issues that preoccupy us these days. One is the untimely death of Martin McGuinness, another is the growing support for Sinn Fein, there is the breakdown of the Stormont Assembly due to lack of respect shown to Irish speakers and there is of course Brexit. I write about these so that we can have a debate or so that I can express how I feel at a particular time. There are not many other places where I have an opportunity to have a rational debate or to make my views known without being censored or distorted.

Recently, I have been taken to task by the anonymous unionist contributor because, in my tribute to Martin McGuinness, I did not mention the victims. I do not see the point of this objection except to create animosity and ill will. This man says it is in the interest of balance. In a tribute to someone who has just died you do not go looking for balance especially when you do not have all the facts about a person’s life. You write or speak about the person you knew and the positive legacy he or she left behind. My focus was on Martin McGuinness, the peacemaker, because that was the Martin I knew and that was the Martin people came out in their thousands to honour. Martin’s great legacy was peace in our time and a way to go forward politically. Martin McGuinness the soldier is not of much interest to me –unless I was writing his biography which I am not. I do not know what he did as a soldier in the IRA. I know that the IRA is not blameless and Martin was always prepared to take that on board. I do know that when I got to know him Martin was working to save lives and end the armed conflict. I think of the countless number of people who are alive now due to the efforts of Martin McGuinness to take the gun out of Irish politics. I know that was a difficult task. He risked his own life to achieve it. I know we are now –all of us -in a better place because of his efforts to make peace and to reach out the hand of friendship to erstwhile enemies. To dwell on Martin’s past in the IRA is of no benefit in furthering the peace process. Then there are some who do not want to further the peace process.

Some victims on all sides, I know, are still hurting. That is the legacy of war. Martin always said he was prepared to deal with that and his own past whenever the British agreed to do the same and set up a Truth Recovery process. It never happened and it is now unlikely to happen.

So you can rake away at the past and the IRA victims while ignoring the victims of British terror if you want. That will not bring us one inch nearer to reconciliation. There are still some British propagandists who just want to score political points. They could n t care less about the victims.

Those who want to be reconciled with their neighbours will want to do so knowing that we may never get the whole truth about the past.

It strikes me as odd that in the glorification of Thatcher and Churchill their past actions which involved huge loss of lives is hardly ever mentioned. It is the same with regard to the soldiers in 1916 and in the War of Independence. Yet some people are intent on focusing only on what Martin McGuinness did when he was in the IRA. There is never nay attempt to understand what drove him and many others to join the republican movement. There’s a lot of dishonesty and a great deal of hypocrisy in the pro- British propaganda.


32 Responses to ‘Speaking about the Dead’ by Joe McVeigh

  1. jessica April 1, 2017 at 9:06 am #

    It is ironic that the same people who say the violent response wasn’t needed as politics and talking would have seen better results, are the same people who wont allow the politics or talking a chance but instead are incapable of moving beyond the last conflict which until britain leaves there will always be a “the last conflict”.

    The same people who refuse to accept that the community demanded an armed response to unionist and british aggression. That is a fact, that I witnessed first hand.

    Women were not out clanging bin lids off the ground because they were so pleased to see the RUC and Army land rovers lining up facing the estate.

    The cheers when the IRA came out with their guns and took up positions pointing guns back at those pointing towards our community were very real.

    These facts will disappear with the generation that witnessed them.

    There can be no return to Stormont until the past is dealt with now, once and for all.

    No agreement will be acceptable without this closure, no more deadlines, no more fudges, no more kicking things down the road.
    The buck has to stop now no matter what.

  2. michael c April 1, 2017 at 11:51 am #

    I see the TV correspondent in todays Irish News chooses to link Martin to several incidents for which there is no proof .If a senior member of RUC special branch for example dies,will Mr Foley throw out the names of collusion victims with the same abandon.?Mr Foley is a freestater who informed readers a while ago,that his family all voted for southern Unionist Jim Kemmy so I’m not entirely surprised.Is there a newspaper anywhere that is so out of step with the majority of it’s readers?

    • Rory April 2, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

      I agree, if you cast your mind back till the Nolan show opening line of McGuiness statesman or gunman will we get the same for the death of the Queen, will head of state or head of terrorist state be the opening line.

  3. giordanobruno April 1, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

    I am not sure if you are referring to me as the anonymous unionist contributor or not as you cannot bring yourself to refer to the person by name, so distasteful are their views!
    If it is me you are replying to then thank you. You say you use this forum to engage with others and debate, yet you very rarely enter into debate.
    I wish you would do so a bit more, as the debate below the line can sometimes clarify views and even find some common ground (not often admittedly but still…).

    i take your point about paying tribute to someone recently died. I think it is reasonable to focus on the positive aspects of a person’s life.
    But when both yourself and Jude give the clear impression that McGuinness’s time in the IRA was in fact also a positive aspect then that has to be questioned.
    When we are told he had a life welllived I think it is only reasonable to ask if his activities in the IRA were part of living life well or not.
    For his time in the IRA has not been ignored on this forum. It is just that it has been treated as if it were in fact a fine and admirable part of his life,as though no actual victims were created,as though he had no negative impact on those lives at all.
    Even your piece today is, I am afraid, somewhat mealymouthed, with a phrase like ‘the IRA was not blameless’ being as close as you come to implicating McGuinness in anything unpleasant.
    Just to be clear I will say again I admire the work he did as a peacemaker and I am sorry he is gone. He was still needed.
    So I am just hoping for an honest appraisal and I absolutely apply that to looking at the life of any public figure.
    You as a man of God must value the truth above any mere political posturing.
    Thank you for addressing my points.
    And I am not a unionist!

  4. ANOTHER JUDE April 1, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

    Can anyone give me a valid reason why any Nationalist who lived through the conflict should have supported the loyalist/ British side? I just can’t think of any.

    • jessica April 1, 2017 at 8:04 pm #

      Plenty do, usually because it suits their pockets.

      • giordanobruno April 1, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

        It is a magical gift you have to be able to see inside people’s minds and know why they do things.

        • jessica April 1, 2017 at 9:03 pm #

          I wish gio, I still don’t know what your reason is

  5. giordanobruno April 1, 2017 at 9:54 pm #

    Sinn Fein got about 18% support of all those eligible to vote. That is the result they are hailing as a great success mind you.
    Even after 20 years and more of having abandoned physical force republicanism they have the support of 18%..
    The majority of nationalists, and the great majority of voters are not impressed with SF.
    That is reality.
    Can you dispute it, or would you rather talk about Ian Paisley again?

    • jessica April 1, 2017 at 10:39 pm #

      Very much so, nationalism has not been so energised since the hunger strikes gio.

      More people all over this island are talking about unity than ever before. Even Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are now arguing over who is the unity party. It is almost laughable.

      There is a growing confidence within nationalism that politics can work, that the unionist hegemony can be broken.
      If that confidence can be encouraged, nurtured and harnessed, elections could achieve more than armed struggle ever could.
      But only if it can be seen to deliver.

      No one expects to be treated so shoddily and Sinn Fein have the backing of the nationalist community to keep Stormont closed indefinitely until all previous agreements are honoured and unionism has proven it is willing to show some respect and work for all in this society.

      The DUP have already begun to panic.
      Jeffery Donaldson is on RTE telling everyone who will listen the DUP are ready to get back into Stormont and help Ireland through brexit.

      They have the biggest expenses bill with more constituency offices than any other party and having just lost the funding for 10 MLAs, the longer Stormont remains closed, the more they will fear losing the finding after the 3 months wage freeze comes into play.

      This will hurt all parties including Sinn Fein, but it has to be done now.

      The Rubicon has been crossed and all outstanding issues must be resolved before there can be any return to Stormont.

      Yes, it will be financially difficult for them but the respect they will gain all over this island by standing firm and putting the past behind us once and for all, for bringing unionism dragging and squealing into the modern world and to accept that all opinions on this island are of value.

      If they can stand firm and do deliver, they will become the largest party in both parts of this island without any doubt.

      That is the reality of the mood within my community gio.

      It is no surprise to me that a unionist such as yourself wouldn’t know that.

      • giordanobruno April 1, 2017 at 10:52 pm #

        You are offering anecdotal evidence against the hard indisputable reality of the election.
        Do you dispute it?
        Judging by your constant labelling of me as a unionist you presumably consider the other 82% of the electorate who do not support Sinn Fein to be unionist too.
        Where does that leave your reality?

        • jessica April 1, 2017 at 11:24 pm #

          Reality to me is what I see every day gio.
          Statistics without context are meaningless.
          You say Sinn Fein got 18% of the nationalist vote.
          Where did you get those figures from and wouldn’t that suggest there is a nationalist majority?

          • giordanobruno April 2, 2017 at 7:43 am #

            SF got the support of roughly 18% of all those eligible to vote I am not sure if that is precise but it is around that.
            That is after RHI and a huge effort by their support base to get the vote out.
            That is worth remembering.
            My point is most people (over 80%) do not support them even when pursuing peaceful means.
            Even less so when they were the political wing of physical force republicanism.
            Would you accept that figure or not?

          • jessica April 2, 2017 at 8:07 am #

            Absolutely not, you cannot lay claim to the support of people who did not even cast a vote.
            How do you know how they would have voted or even what the reason was they did not vote?

            From what I can see on the ground in the nationalist community Sinn Fein are the most eligible representatives of nationalism in the north and well on their way in the south also.
            Just like the DUP are the most eligible representatives of unionism.
            Whether we like it or not, those are the facts we all have to live with.

            You are pushing the boundaries of reality to attack Sinn Fein now though gio.
            No, I do not accept your logic at all, it goes against the grain of democracy altogether,

  6. Argenta April 1, 2017 at 10:57 pm #

    Fr Joe
    You mention in your blog that “the I R A were not blameless “.Maybe you could expand on that in relation to the Poppy Day bombing in Enniskillen some decades ago.This after all took place in your own town and County,so you’re bound to have a view on it.Maybe you even knew some of the deceased .

  7. michael c April 2, 2017 at 9:21 am #

    Gio,by your reckoning ,no Irish or British government EVER had a democratic mandate to govern as they never came anywhere near a majority of those ELIGIBLE to vote.SF got 28%in a dead heat with the DUP who stumbled big time.Grow up your gerrymandered unionist state is falling down round you and you now want to tweek the rules to give non voters a veto.Brookeborough would be proud of you!

    • jessica April 2, 2017 at 9:44 am #

      That is exactly what it sounds like Michael, a non voter veto

      What will they come up with next 🙂

    • giordanobruno April 2, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

      michael (and jessica)
      I said nothing about giving a veto to non voters.
      By not voting they are giving up their say in what kind of government we have.
      But that does not mean they do not exist.
      The fact is Sinn Fein have the support of 18% of those eligible to vote.
      Neither of you are denying that.
      So maybe they should proceed with a bit of humility rather than getting too cocky!
      The same goes for the DUP of course but there is little chance of any humility from them either.
      michael it is not my unionist gerrymandered state so try harder to respond to what people actually say and not what you think they mean.

      • jessica April 2, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

        Who is being cocky or not showing any humility gio?
        I have no idea what relevance Sinn Fein having the support of 18% of those eligible to vote is.
        I do know they were 1200 votes short of having an overall majority and being the largest party in the north and is that not more relevant?

        • giordanobruno April 2, 2017 at 6:50 pm #

          18% is all the support they have.
          You don’t think that is relevant. Fair enough.

          • Emmet April 3, 2017 at 12:25 am #

            18% “is all”, that us almost 1 in 5. Who has more than 18% and by how much?

  8. michael c April 2, 2017 at 4:07 pm #

    Yes it is your unionist gerrymandered state.You claim to be from South Derry like myself where gerrymandering for over 50 years allowed a unionist minority to discriminate against a majority in the Magherafelt district.It even continued for a further decade because of Republican non voting but thankfully in 81 your orange junta was finally ousted and people were treated with respect for the first time.The orange junta comprised the entire spectrum of unionism but I’m sure you opposed that with all your might.And please don’t insult our intelligence by claiming you’re not a unionist.Your every utterance on this site belies that.

    • giordanobruno April 2, 2017 at 6:48 pm #

      I have never claimed to be from South Derry.
      Your bitterness is preventing you from having rational conversation.
      You should look into that.

  9. michael c April 2, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

    You have referenced areas like Magherafelt and named residents of it ,professed a dubious knowledge of areas like Bellaghy and advised us to vote no hope candidates because of their S.Derry names in a manner that professes a connection to the area.

    • giordanobruno April 2, 2017 at 8:45 pm #

      Let’s start over.
      I’m not from South Derry and I am not sure how you got that idea (you may be mixing me up with someone else) but no matter.
      I am also not a unionist but you can think whatever you like.
      I just ask that you debate with what I say rather than having a go at me as a person.
      I am not disputing Sinn Fein’s democratic mandate,or that of the DUP.
      I am just pointing out that they should not get too carried away with their recent success when you look at how much support it actually represents.
      Do you accept that their vote was about 18% of those eligible to vote?

      • jessica April 2, 2017 at 8:55 pm #

        In what way are they getting carried away with their recent success?

        If I am being honest, I suspect they would like to go back into Stormont very much but are fearful of the backlash from those who put their trust in them at the recent election.

        The nationalist community do not want Stormont back unless it is fit for purpose and operating on the basis of equality gio, it is not Sinn Fein calling the shots on this. If you live in a nationalist community how are you not aware of this?

      • Emmet April 3, 2017 at 1:30 am #

        Gio, you seem obsessed with the 18% figure. It is a silly stat to quote because you could argue that if they could be bothered to vote 30% of the non-voters would vote SF. 30% of the 35% is about 12% bringing the total portion of the vote to 30% to SF. I’d love to know who you voted for, could you say?

        • giordanobruno April 3, 2017 at 6:49 am #

          I am not obsessed with it.I have repeated it because both jessica and michael seem to feel it is either wrong or unimportant.
          Do you acknowledge it is about right?
          You do not get to make up percentages for people who don’t vote I am afraid.
          Maybe some would vote SF, but the point is they did not.
          Neither of the two big parties has the support from the people they would like to pretend they have.
          Even after a vote with an increased turnout that is the reality and I am simply saying they should both bear that in mind.
          I voted 1 2 3 for smaller parties this time and SF got a preference somewhere down the line. The DUP did not.
          I hope that satisfies your curiosity.

          • Emmet April 3, 2017 at 9:23 am #

            Doesn’t really satisfy my curiosity- which smaller party? Doesn’t really matter though, you should discount people who waste their vote in any analysis, we will never know who they would have voted for. In any democracy it is very rare to get a high percentage of the registered electorate to vote for one party; it is almost unheard of. 1 in 5 of a registered electorate voting for one party is massive (relatively). Think of the percentage of people voted for the minor parties- would it be fair to say they are insignificant- no it would not because we can’t just say because we only had 65% turnout for the election that no-one has the people’s support. You can’t subvert democracy to try and claim the second largest party doesn’t have much support from the people, when in reality has has received the biggest proportion of the vote ever and almost on par with the biggest party,

          • giordanobruno April 3, 2017 at 9:57 am #

            If you really must know I voted for the Greens on this occasion, for want of a better alternative.
            I agree when analysing results we discount non-voters for the purposes of looking at government.
            But the non voters are real people with needs and aspirations and they do of course matter in the real world.
            It is not subverting democracy as you somewhat dramatically put it to state a simple fact.
            The biggest proportion of the vote ever still only amounts to 18% of those eligible to vote.
            Analyse that!

    • Argenta April 2, 2017 at 10:53 pm #

      Maybe I’m missing something in Gios posts over the years but I’m unable to find any evidence that he’s from South Derry or that he invited other posters to vote in a certain way.Could you produce the evidence that you claim to have or are you mistaken?

      • giordanobruno April 3, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

        Of all the hurtful lies and accusations levelled at me here the accusation that I am from Derry is without doubt the worst!
        On another note I am disappointed that Joe has (once again) not ventured into the comments to follow up on his piece.
        So much for ‘engaging with others’ and ‘an opportunity to have a rational debate’