Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Omagh and After" - 1954

 The following is a piece from The Spectator (26 Nov, 1954) after the botched raid on Omagh Barracks.




"It was an army of soldiers that England first sent over to conquer our Nation. It is with an army of soldiers that England today maintains the conquest of our Nation. What established the conquest and what maintains the conquest—FORCE--is the one effective weapon that we can use to undo it."

This succinct statement of policy appears in a small news- sheet published in Dublin and entitled The United Irishman. Below is a list of names--including two in Scotland and one in England—of ' contact addresses for people who wish to join the -Republican movement.
    Lest they should be in doubt about what they are doing, the advertisement says : "An active Civil Organisation backed by a strong military arm can smash England, but not without your help.' And on the front page is a glowing account of the raid by the Trish Republican Army on the Omagh barracks.

The name of the IRA recalls to British minds, no doubt, the days of 1939 anthe days of 1939 and bombs in pillar-boxes. To the Irishman it rings with half a' dozen different notes. For it was an IRA that fought the Black and Tans, and its ex-members today draw State pensions and parade on Easter Sunday, decked with medals, behind the Aryl), hand,

The IRA split on the Treaty, and when the civil war began Mr. de .Valera threw in. his lot With the anti-Treaty faction and became their nominal head.

But, in 1926, when he decided to form his political party, Fianna Fail, the IRA split away from him, too: and he, who was once its leader, became one of its bitterest enemies when his Government was obliged to execute IRA members., From that time onward it was an underground movement, proscribed by law, rent by its own differences of leadership and policy. With no leaders well known to the public and making little impact on everyday life.

The strength of the IRA has always been a matter for conjecture, and remains so today. It must be so, indeed, because it is impossible for even the well-informed outsider to draw a line between, the " activists" ' and the mere fellow-travellers and sYmpathisers. During the war the number interned was about 2,000 (nearly 1.000 of them in Eire), and the total strength may have been 7,000 or 8,000. But the war brought a major split on principle. The rightists and the opportunists —those whose only principle was to support anybody who was fighting England —wanted to aid Germany. and some contacts were in fact established. But the leftist-liberal element, which has always been strong since the days of the Citizen Army, could not stomach the idea of an alliance with the Nazis. In the prison camp this split on principle was embittered by the clash of personalities. and when war ended and the internees were released the IRA was only a remnant of its former strength. The last few years have seen a rebuilding of the organisation combined (apparently) with changes in leadership and policy.

The pre-war IRA was purely a military movement which called itself a 'government.' Today it is the military arm of a political movement whose speakers appear in public and which publishes The United Irishman. The " activists ' number perhaps 800 to 1,000. They still have substantial dumps of arms, and they are sustained by funds coming largely from America. As a matter of policy, the organisation seems to have abandoned the wiping out of old scores within the Twenty-Six Counties: there is no more talk of the ' execution lists' that were notorious during the war. The new policy is concentrated on one objective, expressed by The United Irishman: . . . ' after thirty Years or futility . . . getting down to the 'vital, fundamental Issue—to get the invaders out, completely and as quickly as Possible.'

"The invaders": those words are the keynote. It is an article of faith that England is the only architect of Partition. The United Irishman denounces those who misrepresent' the purpose of the IRA as an attack on Northern Protestantism as such and no doubt it is sincere, as it is no part of the IRA
tradition to be the spearhead of "Rome Rule.' But one can imagine that the distinction seems a fine one to the 750,000 or so people in the North who vote Unionist. In fact, this distinction, or lack of one, seems to lie at the root of the conflict between IRA policy and Government policy. In the Dail debate that followed the Omagh raid, Mr. John A. Costello, the Prima Minister, made a reasoned case against the use of force, and he was supported by Mr. de Valera as leader of the Opposition. Both of them accepted explicitly the fact that' the ending of Partition depends on winning over the Northern Unionists, and that getting the invaders out.' even if it were possible, would
be no solution. Let us have a united nation,' said Mr. Costello, but let it be a union of free men, and not a united nation in which one-fifth of the people have been cowed by • force or fear and feel themselves enslaved.'

How is it that, against all this consensus of political wisdom, the lRA can still gain recruits for its ' physical force ' policy? The answer 'is that those political leaders themselves, who . have now attained to wisdom with the years, have put the sticks under the pot. The right of a fervent minority to take it upon itself to represent the nation is sealed by the niemory of 1916 (when there were some 300,0(X) Irishmen in the British forces, as compared with a thousand in the Rising) and 1922. The "lesson that you can get nothing out of England except by force ' is rammed home by a teaching of history which represents a gallant Ireland as forcing the mighty Empire to its knees. In fact, for all the courage and resourcefulness of the men who carried on the war, the victory was won in 1921 by public opinion, in the world at large and in Britain itself. And it is that force of world opinion which would be firmly, decisively and almost unanimously against any use of force to reunite Ireland today. To Americans-- --even to Irish Americans. -the alliance with Britain against Communism is too important- to be jeopardised by quarrels like this.

The elder statesmen lit the fire, and now they find themselves ignored or scorned when they try to damp it down. Indeed, it is not hard to see why their hard-won wisdom is spurned by those ardent young men whose anger has been aroused by the injury of Partition. Not only the extremist but the moderate must feel that thirty years have failed to produce a positive policy on Partition, and that moderation, in the official mouth, is only an excuse for doing nothing. It is possible, I feel, to produce a policy which, if it will not appease the extremists, will relieve the moderates of their feeling of frustration. First of all, there is one point on which the Northern Ireland case is vulnerable, and can be shown to be vulnerable. The two counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone have consistent nationalist majorities, and there is no argument for dividing the Six Counties from the Twenty-Six which will not go equally for dividing these two from, the Six. Here is the point on which to concentrate propaganda. The alleged misdemeanours of the Northern Ireland Government. which Republican spokesmen have spent so much time in denouncing, are totally irrelevant, as long as it continues to get elected.

Secondly, there is no evidence (or at any rate none known to the public) that the Government of the Republic has ever given a day's thought to the practical problems—fiscal, financial, economic—which would be raised instantly by the abolition of the Border. Why should it not appoint at once a non-political Working Party, to ask the necessary questions and try to work out the answers ? A start could be made with an examination of the practicability of a customs union between North and South. Here there would be the precedent of Benelux. and the blessing of OEEC; and no doubt the scheme could count on United States support. It would be at least a start towards a plan for wiping out a Border which cannot, after thirty years, be demolished simply by proving it absurd. if the result was merely to force an ackhowledgement of their true position on some of the Southern businessmen who are making money out of non-competitive, tariff-protected industries, the Working Party would have paid its keep.

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