- A complaint was filed with the Independent Press Standards Organisation by Martin Galvin in relation to alleged references to him and Irish-Americans contained within an article by Ruth Dudley Edwards published in the Belfast Telegraph on January 26, 2015. The newspaper rejects in its entirety any allegation that it has violated the Editors' Code, but has agreed to publish the following article by Mr. Galvin in order to provide him with a right of reply and resolve the matter.
Imagine writing that British rule in Ireland was motivated solely by “hatred,” and Unionists supporting this “curse” could be labeled “ignorant, gullible or malign” or “typical of a particularly stupid strain”. Then claim that supporters of British forces “liked people to kill.” There would be a furious reaction to sentiments that seemed more bigotry than reasoned commentary.
Now apply those quoted words to the Irish leaders honored in 1916 commemorations, to American supporters of Irish independence or reunification from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, and then add Ms. Edwards’ insulting Irish-Americans while targeting me and readers may understand my indignation.
There is nothing new in British officials or apologists, blaming Irish Americans for civil rights protests or armed resistance to British rule. During my years as a National Director of the Irish Northern Aid Committee and Editor of the Irish People Newspaper British officials often resorted to this myth. It was designed to divert attention away from the inequities and injustices within British rule that were the real causes of conflict.
One typical illustration followed the murder of civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989. We charged British complicity and collusion in his murder in major protests and in Congress. The British Ambassador was outraged. He said the British government would never soil its hands with such misdeeds. Only misinformed Irish Americans would entertain such accusations. More than 20 years later, British secretary Owen Paterson apologized for collusion and the parts played in this murder by paid British Army and RUC agents.
Books and documentaries have exposed British collusion with loyalists in crimes back to the early 1970s, including 120 Glennane Gang murders and Dublin-Monaghan bombings. Irish-Americans were right, and decades ahead. British officials were misled or deliberately misled others.
Recently Martin McGuinness told reporter Eamonn Mallie, he had been “proud to be a member of the IRA.” Is it really plausible to suggest that those, including the Deputy First Minister of the British administration, who once fought to end British rule were not moved to do so by discrimination, or Internment or Bloody Sunday, but because Americans like me were aiding the families of Republican prisoners and highlighting injustice?
Ms Edwards takes this fiction to unprecedented extremes. Those who proclaimed an Irish Republic in her native Dublin in 1916 will be celebrated by millions for the Easter Rising which ultimately led to independence for 26 counties. Executed labour leader, James Connolly said of his British firing squad, “I will say a prayer for all brave men who do their duty according to their own lights.” Surely he and other leaders, who millions honour as patriots, deserve better than a sneering category “killed and died for hatred.”
Ms. Edwards is correct that from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, there have been Americans who believed Ireland would be better served by independent Irish government than by British rule. Indeed she might have pointed to the beginning of that century and United Irishmen. They were proven right by British policies a half- century later, during the Great Hunger.
Their heirs in this generation marched the streets, flooded Congressional offices and Presidential forums until a Presidential candidate named Bill Clinton pledged in response to my question, that he would end visa censorship against Sinn Fein and put the north back on the American agenda. It is a proud legacy.
Certainly the commitment and contributions of Irish-Americans towards achieving a united Ireland may be unwelcome by some readers. I make no apology. Let us disagree in Connolly’s spirit, respecting others who do what they believe right according to their own differing lights. Would it not be “ignorant, gullible or malign” to do otherwise?