was only 17 years old when standing at the side
of my friend's coffin. I was proud to be his friend
and proud to be a member of his IRA guard of honour.
It was the only thing I could do at the time for
my dead comrade and friend.
have never forgotten my deep sense of helplessness
and inadequacy primarily at the impossibility of
rectifying the situation by restoring things as
they once were for my friend and secondly my sense
of complete uselessness to a family who unlike me,
will be grieving for all time to follow, the loss
of a deeply cherished brother and son.
my many thoughts while in "aire" beside
the IRA Volunteer's coffin, I pondered on my own
long rite of passage (6 years) from a green beret
to a black beret and how I yearned for the day when
I would eventually graduate from Na Fianna Eireann
to Oglaigh Na hEireann.
was in itself a powerful distraction from the tingling
irritable sensation in my locked "at attention"
legs and thinking also served as a buffer for me
from the full painful reality of permanent loss
through death that only close family members experience.
still vividly recall the many thoughts that rushed
through my mind when in sideway sneaky glances I
looked at the closed tight coffin draped in the
Irish Tri-colour with a black beret and black gloves
on top. The coffin was closed tight and I thought
about what, if anything, might remain of my lifeless
friend and mentor's body.
tried then like I do often to conjure up and relive
our many past moments together and our previous
conversations. One conversation which remained most
vivid and lingered as a loving memory went along
the lines of the fallen IRA comrade holding up an
armalite (AR15) in a call house saying he would
"kill me if I got killed". When I reflect
on my friend's words, I also recall his love for
the common Irish people and the underdog anywhere
else in the world.
comrade always spoke with certainty about his beliefs
that the IRA would eventually achieve a United Democratic
Socialist Republic. He also talked about his death
as an unlikely event that might come about and if
it should occur, his death would only be a small
sacrifice for the liberation of others.
look upon his death then as I do today as a noble
and altruistic act. An action whereby this IRA volunteer
like many hundreds of other men and women from the
ranks of the IRA died so people like me might live
and live in a better place in time and space free
from fear and oppression deriving from the British.
However, I never thought I would have to contemplate
a time when some individuals within the Republican
family itself would be the root cause of much fear
and oppression, and today they are.
volunteers then and up until the most recent present
lived by the people, of the people and for the people.
The Volunteers were a genuine conduit for the Republican
movement directly from the home and hearth of the
people. The volunteers listened to the people and
carried back the mood of the people to the leadership.
The movement was truly a bottom up movement on the
move and moving with the people. I believe Sinn
Fein is failing as a true conduit from hearth and
home or worse it is not listening to the people.
in the not too distant past, the common people were
clearly defined by republican soldiers and thinkers
alike in terms of revolutionary support, suffering
and succor and not votes or potential votes based
on a political science and a self hypnotizing program
set to achieve political power in corrupt corridors
with robots armed with a "big picture"
theory. A theory it seems that few if any are willing
to put before the people and much worse none will
tolerate any enquiring, whatsoever. So who are the
people now and who really knows the game plan -
big picture, if one exists at all?
in the republican community who ask questions today
are being regarded as negative, non-committed, non-programmed,
not green booked or simply bad republicans or not
republicans at all. Where is the positive Irish
republican confidence borne out of integrity, altruism
and love for the common Irish people gone today?
Is it still there and I don't see it? Is it bad
to even ask or is it worse that I am so stupid because
I have to ask?
Irish republican people and more often our young
people are often asked to stock take or muster up
resistance, come out and vote, block a road, take
a kicking or not to defend their homes for the sake
of the too complicated to explain "big picture".
big picture theory that intentionally or not has
created self styled arrogant elites with measuring
sticks. There ought to be no measuring sticks held
up against the rite of passage within the broad
Irish republican family and yet there is. What is
so complicated about the "big picture"
that it is beyond the intelligence of the common
people who faced the might of the British war apparatus
with fists, bricks, stones and sometimes prams?
Republican Movements of all shades would, if my
experience counts, be ruthlessly self critical especially
when assessing their entire liabilities and assets
as a people driven organization. A peoples' movement
on the move with the people that my dead friend
and me joined and served were definitely schooled
and disciplined in such a manner; has this republican
ideology changed? I am not afraid of change but
I am sensing a change within the republican areas,
where there is a growing reluctance and a deeper
fear developing within the Irish Republican family.
The people are becoming less willing to offer their
opinion or criticism not only about the Provisional
Republican Movement but also to it. So who is moving
away from whom?
same movement once encouraged me to embrace self
criticism as a means of improvement via the ranks
of Na Fianna Eireann and later also in the IRA.
Many volunteers were always mindful and more pertinently,
reminded not to bring the organization into disrepute.
Many of us didn't, many of us went to jail, and
others went to the grave. Some of us have yet to
arrive at either place thanks to the others and
the common people.
I went to another wake in the heart of a staunch
republican community. I looked at the people on
the streets and many of them were schooled just
as I was. Some of us nodded, few of us spoke. We
had little to say. We felt the pain of a Short Strand
family. We shared the peoples' anguish of ruthless
self criticism upon us. Robert McCartney was murdered
by one of our own - an action that brought a republican
organization into disrepute and the McCartney family
left with the lifelong loss of a cherished son,
partner and brother and the Short Strand community
with the loss of a friend.
my friend died the Catholic Church was mounting
ferocious attacks against funerals of IRA members
and the local parish priest then was particularly
outspoken. My friend's Mother was and she remains
to this day a daily mass-goer and communicant. During
her son's wake she stuck to her daily routine and
headed for morning mass as usual. When she arrived
back I said to her, "How can you go near that
church after what the parish priest said about your
son?" My friend's mother replied, "It
isn't the parish priest or any priest that I go
to mass to see."
has taken me years to understand and fully recognize
not only the dignity and strength that permeates
throughout most Irish Catholic Republican homes
especially at a time of death but also to come to
terms with my own ignorance and stupid republican
quiet dignity and strength that I recognized and
witnessed at the home of my friend, comrade and
mentor is no different to the dignity I encountered
at the McCartney home. Their grief was no less,
both families lost a son. But, one family's son
died as a highly reputable IRA member and another
family's son was killed by an IRA member disreputably.