friend of mine who visited Derry City recently commented
that he was surprised (and deeply disappointed) to
see a mural of what he described as a living
hunger striker while there was no such mural
to two dead hunger strikers, i.e., Patsy O Hara and
didnt surprise me in the least although I am
not sure if the mural he saw is representative of
any particular person but in many ways it epitomises
why there is so much revising, reinterpreting
and prolific rewriting of republican history to conveniently
suit specific political agendas and orientation. It
puts things into a context so to say, and allows for
frank and honest debate on the controversial claim
that history is written by the victors. Im not
sure about this one, sounds too elitist. Napoleon
maintained that history is but a fable agreed upon.
are vignettes of how we interpret and perceive the
past. They are barometers which denote changes within
the political climate but less subtly and more subliminally
they convey an exclusive interpretation all of which
is so apparent within loyalist communities where ubiquitous
tattered flags lay territorial claim to corners and
cul de sacs.
we are into commemorative culture and most republican
murals throughout the north commemorate (or celebrate)
the past thirty years of struggle; they constitute
a sort of history according to the Provisionals. My
friend's comments came as no surprise and no eyebrows
were raised when I learned that a recent conference
which focussed on the setting up of a museum to commemorate/celebrate
the history of republican struggle in H Blocks, Long
Kesh, etc, excluded IRSP/INLA reps. Apparently it
was overlooked. Not at all. Provisional
apologists, historians and literati, et al, are singularly
focussed on establishing Provisional political and
historical hegemony by crook or by hook.
alternative to Provisional republicanism and the organisations
now deeply diluted socialism is seen and deemed as
a threat. There has been a lot of airbrushing of collective
and individual sacrifices and suffering and with a
proposed political tourism project being formulated
by Sinn Feins Coisde na Iarchimi its likely
we are about to see the Provisionals imposing their
own hegemonic imprimatur via elitism, exclusion and
selectivity. Sound familiar?
groups who participated in the struggle and whose
members or volunteers survived the crucibles of the
prisons and prison camps ignore these trends at their
need to eclipse political and historical events and
people out of history carries its own agenda and motive.
No need here for an exegesis on why or how. Suffice
to say that ultimately the Provisionals when making
exclusive claims to the history of republican struggle
and their interpretation of it, also aim to validate
that past and the consequence of past acts so as to
legitimise (read justify) future political strategies
and their outcomes. It has always been and remains
today an integral part of their elitist mindset. INLA
or Official IRA volunteers who went through the prisons
will find consensus on this one.
is conferred not only via those who claim to have
been protagonists and therefore having a claim to
authority on a particular slant or interpretation
of the past but this is also seen by them (and wrongfully)
as a bulwark against any challenges of that interpretation.
Thus the Provisionals' core of cadres so well trained
and equipped with the teachings of Paola Freires
Pedagogy of the Oppressed have been tasked
by their movements inner sanctum to revise,
review and rewrite history according to the Provisionals.
They are facilitated by a clique of academics and
artsy types who find it all okay and au
fait in the wake of a new so called Dispensation to
court those they once deemed as Beyond the Pale.
coveting of history for whatever purpose, is nothing
new, and the example of the Nazis comes to mind at
once. However, the Provisionals have acquired much
subtlety in their delivery and interpretation of the
past. Their canon of literature, imbued with academic
weight and validated by so-called intrinsic knowledge
and understanding of that past is to all intents and
purposes more of a valediction than a validation,
for ultimately there is a finality in all of it.
constant dripping will wear away the stone and this
drip-feeding of the Provisionals history can
and must be challenged. There is little dialectical
in it that cant be challenged indeed, if anything
there is a clear onus on all other protagonists
and republican/socialist historians to make it happen.
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