Here’s Fergal Keane in this morning’s Irish Times:
“I don’t know if [David] Cullinane ever heard a shot fired in anger, or stood amid the gore of a bombing, or if he has seen the mess a high-velocity round make of the human head….I saw much of what I have described above – in the North and in many subsequent wars – and it left me with an abiding distaste of slogans shouted far from the battlefield.”
He goes on to say that Mary Lou McDonald has an opportunity: “She could become the first republican leader in Irish history to say we must speak of the truths of war and not just those that damn our enemies…If she can lead republicanism into an honest accommodation with history, McDonald will be thanked for generations to come.”
In the first quotation above Keane is damning Cullinane for “shouting slogans far from the battlefield.” Since Cullinane was born in Waterford in 1974, it would have been difficult for him to be other than far the battlefield. But Keane’s clear implication is that those close to violence will, like him, be sickened by it.
It is true that only a psychopath would revel in violence. It is also true that republican communities throughout the north supported the IRA during its campaign. Had they not, the IRA could not have continued for thirty weeks, let alone thirty years. As Mao Zedong put it: “The guerrilla must move among the people as a fish swims in the sea.” Those republican communities saw the horror of the Troubles close up, much closer than Keane himself, who spent less than a year (1989-1990) as RTÉ’s northern correspondent.
As for the second paragraph and the need for Mary Lou to be “the first republican leader in Irish history to speak of the truths of war and not just those that damn our enemies”, Keane clearly wasn’t listening on the several occasions when Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness expressed regret for all of the violence that occurred in the Troubles. In 2015 when Gerry Adams met Prince Charles, he told the media “Both he and we expressed our regret for what happened from 1968 onwards.” In 2012, Martin McGuinness said that he regretted “every single life lost” during the decades of violence.
In 1996, Keane was awarded and accepted an OBE.