Of the eight letters (‘Letters: Sinn Féin TD’s tweet on IRA attacks’, 30 November 2020) which comment on Brian Stanley’s tweet, only one considers the truth or otherwise of his words.
In the tweet, Stanley compares the Kilmichael ambush of 1920 with that of Narrow Water in 1979. Some facts:
- Both events involved the IRA killing British military: 16 at Kilmichael, 18 at Narrow Water.
- Both British forces – the Auxiliaries at Kilmichael, the Parachute Regiment at Narrow Water – had particularly brutal records in Ireland. The Auxiliaries murdered Cork Lord May Tomás Mac Curtain in March 1920, Eileen Quinn and Harry and Patrick Loughnane in south Galway in November 1920, and burned Cork two weeks later. The Parachute Regiment shot dead 10 innocent civilians in Ballymurphy in August 1971 and 14 innocent civilians in Derry in January 1972.
- Stanley’s tweet says that both events made clear to the British military and the British establishment the cost of occupying Ireland. Many unionists would reject the term ‘occupying’, but whether it’s called posted or serving or peace-keeping or occupying, the British military in both cases were involved in conflict in Ireland and the cost in military casualties was indeed noted by the British military and the British establishment of the time.
- Stanley claims that the British were ‘slow learners’. It is certainly true that British forces continued in conflict in the north of Ireland for some 15 years after the Narrow Water deaths.
Many people, including his own party leader, believe Brian Stanley should not have posted the tweet. They may be right. But to condemn the tweet without considering the factual accuracy of what he wrote strikes me as one-eyed judgement.