Columns: June - July
"I am only slightly less puzzled by the American reaction to the death of Bobby Sands. It is reliably reported that American dollars, recently almost a trickle, are going to the IRA in large amounts since the death of Bobby Sands.
Do American contributors to the IRA know that their money almost certainly goes to buy Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons from Eastern Europe? Do they know that the IRA is an organization deplored by no leftist or terrorist organization in Europe or Asia? Do they know that Moscow praised Bobby Sands as a martyred freedom fighter? Do they know that this terrorist organization is not supported by the Republic of Ireland or the vast majority of Catholics in the North?
I have said many times that the problem of Irish unification is an insoluble
one, and this I still believe...And the suicides of Bobby Sands and the
others who are choosing to die by starvation, I firmly believe, have put
that solution backward by at least a decade."
"Mrs. Thatcher seems to have become increasingly
nervous as hunger striker Joe McDonnell nears death and she is concerned
that the uproar among Irish-Americans will be greater this time than it
was when Bobby Sands died. One of the main objectives of her government
is to persuade Irish-America that the British are not the tyrants that
many people over here think they are."
"The whole sad affair in Ireland is something the average person cannot comprehend. At an age when most American boys thought a really major disaster was a pimple on the nose the night of the prom, the Irish lads were already seasoned fighters. These boys sucked up hatred and rebellion with their mother's milk. It's a way of life to them.
Other terrorist groups have committed horrible crimes in Northern Ireland, but none has sold itself so successfully on this side of the Atlantic as the Provisionals...
The current hunger strike is a last-ditch survival attempt by the IRA, whose capacity for direct action has dwindled during the past nine years...
The cold reality is that the Provos are a small band of violent murderers. They have abused a fine and honorable tradition to exploit the honest emotions of Irish Americans. Their misguided idealism does not change the facts. They are not freedom fighters. They do not speak for the vast majority of the Irish people. They are not the legitimate heirs of the original IRA who fought to push the British out of the south of Ireland 60 years ago...
Stripped of its tawdry veils of romance, the hunger strike is a pathetic
and hypocritical irrelevance that can only perpetuate and increase the
violence here however the government responds."
"But the troubles in Northern Ireland have long since diluted any feeling on my part concerning beauty in Northern Ireland. Belfast to me is a gray and cheerless city, and I remember Derry's downtown section as being almost devastated by bombs and fire. Mutual hatred between Protestants and Catholics is almost a tangible quality in Northern Ireland and has been for longer than anyone can remember.
However, something significant has changed in Northern Ireland - but at a terrible price. Six IRA members have starved themselves to death in their unsuccessful campaign to gain political status for prisoners.
But something changed when Bobby Sands died, because "murderers and thugs" do not normally starve themselves to death to support a cause. Five more young men, all IRA members, followed Sands' example and died for a cause they obviously feel is worth their very lives.
They have become martyrs on a troubled and bloody island that has honored
martyrs for longer than anyone can remember. Much longer. But perhaps
more significant is that the six dead young men have given the IRA a degree
of legitimacy despite the Catholic Church's traditional opposition, and
have focused some world attention on the apparent fact the IRA has more
support on the Catholic side of the barricades than previously believed."
In fairness it must be said that there are many Irish north and south of the Border who share the same viewpoint.
However, the point is not really that the hunger strikers may or may not be terrorists. The point is that they do not see themselves as such. They see themselves as irregular soldiers captured in the conduct of a guerilla war-and a war that was declared as such by no less a personage than the commanding officer of the British Army in the North.
They also regard themselves as the legitimate heirs of the republican
tradition, fighters for the right of all of the Irish people to independence
and sovereignty, a right which the total electorate overwhelmingly endorsed
on the only occasion the British allowed them to opt to show a mandate."
Possible the queen could convince the unyielding prime minister that
stopping the hunger strikes would be a victory for England-and for her,
and that a halt would be a sensible security measure for the royal wedding
"The mounting toll of hunger strike murders
continues. For us in New York, suffering through an unexpected July heat
wave, the murders only make the oppressive dog days and nights seem longer.
The British murder machine is back in high gear, as Thatcher's intransigence
depends together with the resolve of the hunger strikers. The high hopes
engendered by the delegation of clergy who visited the men engaged in
the life and death struggle turns out to be another ploy of the British
government to try to discredit the protestors as the eleventh hour approached.
There would be no concessions but it was worth milking the situation for
all it was worth. Anything to try and convince the world and blistering
Britain that these people want to die, and there is nothing that her majesty's
government can do with people who are intent on taking their own lives.
I'll give them this, they are consistent, and have been since before the
Treaty of Limerick, when they deal with the Irish."
"As a mother caught in the middle of both a
family and an international tragedy-she doesn't approve of the fast but
she understands the position of her son-Mrs. McElwee can hardly be dismissed
as a propagandist for something as vague as the Irish nationalist cause.
She is concerned about saving lives-her son's, the sons and daughters
of other mothers, whether Irish or British, Catholic or Protestant-by
means of a political settlement to Northern Ireland's violence."