A letter the Indo turned down by Tom Cooper

The SUNDAY INDEPENDENT refused to publish a letter from Tom Cooper, on Eoghan Harris’s endorsement of the view that the IRA were engaged in ‘ethnic cleansing’. A copy is published below. Readers can make up their own mind about about whether it is a suitable candidate for censorship. There is one change: the section mentioning Sammy Wilson and the DUP is expanded, so as to set out more fully Mr Wilson’s view of ethnic cleansing in ‘Ulster’.


In his attempt to serve up sympathy for the DUP, Eoghan Harris quoted Ian Acheson in the Spectator on IRA “ethnic cleansing” of Protestants along the border (Sunday Independent, 20th October). Acheson noted “a ruthless and cynical IRA campaign that attacked vulnerable and isolated Protestant communities there and decimated them. Professor Henry Patterson in his book, Ireland’s Violent Frontier, views this campaign in the 1970s to mid-90s as a form of targeted ethnic cleansing, designed to force Britain to negotiate with Sinn Féin.”

In fact, in 2007 Patterson “reject[ed] current attempts to label [IRA actions] a form of “ethnic cleansing””. In 2011 he wrote, “The narrative of ethnic cleansing misses the point”. Patterson cited Colm Tóibín’s observation on south Fermanagh, “I discovered certain things that were useful and interesting. One suggested that the IRA were picking off the only sons of Protestant farms in Fermanagh, that turned out not to be true.” Patterson remarked also, contrary to Acheson, “Fermanagh did not experience… wholesale forced emigration”. By 2013, in Ireland’s Violent Frontier, Patterson, who is sympathetic towards unionism, said ethnic cleansing allegations represented an “emotional truth”. With no factual basis, they had propaganda value.

The paramilitary UDA, that routinely killed Catholics, borrowed ‘ethnic cleansing’ terminology from the Yugoslav conflict in the early 1990s. At the end of 1991, the relatively short Serbo-Croat war saw 18,000 confirmed casualties. Another 14,000 were missing, presumed dead. There were 703,000 Refugees and over 100,000 dwellings were destroyed or damaged. By way of contrast, over 1969-94 in Fermanagh, that is 25 years of the Troubles, 112 in total were killed, of which 33 were civilian. Civilians suffered more in urban areas.

In 1994 the UDA ceased using ethnic cleansing as a stick to beat the IRA. Instead, they endorsed it as a final solution, in a “doomsday” situation. Remaining Roman Catholics in a proposed “ethnic Protestant homeland”, would be “expelled, nullified or interned”. The DUP were reported as stating that the UDA plans represented “a very valuable return to reality”. Then DUP press officer Sammy Wilson told the Irish Times, “while some will no doubt denounce and ridicule [the UDA] plan, nevertheless is shows that some loyalist paramilitaries are looking ahead and contemplating what needs to be done to maintain our separate Ulster identity”. He continued, “It is unfortunate that Ulstermen are are now having to contemplate such dramatic and radical action”.

If we omit the devastating 17th Century Cromwellian plantation, two events in the 20th Century qualify as attempted ethnic cleansing. They are the Belfast programs of 1920-22 and of 1969-70. The majority of victims on both occasions were nationalist.

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