I’ve seen some things that others, given the choice, would rather have avoided. I’ve borne witness to events that I’d rather, would not have passed. But as a young lad of just 29 summers, I’m one of the lucky ones – I didn’t have to bear witness to the worst of ‘the troubles’, as it’s known by those who want to avoid the definition of ‘war’.
My first memories of the war begin probably in the early 90’s. Seeing columns of foreign troops walk along your street, rifles shouldered, and battle ready was normal. Every child was warned by angry parents, “don’t talk to the f*ckin’ peelers”. This of course didn’t stop you from looking through the scope of an SA80 assault rifle when given the opportunity by a ‘friendly’ British Soldier playing ‘hearts and minds’ with the local children. Those same soldiers, false faces left at the barracks, later threatened to shoot members of my family, including me. As a child in Ireland, you learned quickly not to trust an Englishman, especially one wearing combat fatigues.
What followed these years is, arguably, the greatest defeat ever sustained by republicans in Ireland, and after probably the longest period of sustained conflict in our history. What makes it all the more bitter, for some, is that the flag of surrender, raised above Connolly House so proudly in the month of July 2005, had the words ‘VICTORY’ and ‘UNDEFEATED’ written in copious enough quantity to disguise the white of the flag.
The peoples guns, entrusted to the Provisional Army Council, were handed over en masse to a foreign government, who wilfully televised their destruction. The British institutions of that state would become the new frontier for the establishment of ‘the Republic’. Like Connolly and Pearse, walking up the steps to the GPO, so did Adams and McGuinness take to the steps of Stormont, and instead of stopping to declare a new Republic, one that might have cherished all the children of the nation equally, they just walked on in.
And that was it. History stopped for the Provisional movement. They had attempted, like so many before them, to bring ‘republicanism’ to the masses, but by the time they got there, the bag was empty.
Almost two decades since the signing of ‘The Good Friday Agreement’ not much has changed. You now see the odd ministerial car knocking about the Falls Road, and a Ferrari or two, but the poverty statistics remain the same.
But there is hope yet. And I am as sure of past events, as I am of the future.
As partition digs its way into oblivion, taking with it the twin economies of the two failed States it created, upon the fresh soil it shovels out behind it, the people will build a new society; a new Ireland; a new economic system with its roots in the Easter Proclamation of 1916 and the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil of the Irish Republic. Gone will be the moneylenders and the landlords – gone will be that great threat to the people of this island: Imperialism, and all its selfish interests, marginalised and pushed back to the shores from whence it came.
‘Economic sovereignty’ and ‘international solidarity’ will be the rallying cry of the Irish people as they become the masters of their own destiny. The eyes of the world will turn to this small green isle, as it takes its place among the nations of the earth, and watch with bated breath as takes its first strides forward in the name of humanity.