Monday 16 September 2019

Eoghan Harris: 'Lyra McKee's murder - reality check for Irish nationalists'

Cartoonist: Jim Cogan
Cartoonist: Jim Cogan
Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

Lyra McKee will not have died in vain if it shocks Irish nationalism, north and south, into resetting its moral compass.

We need to do that because under cover of our anger about Brexit, Sinn Fein is rewriting the narrative of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Bad enough that most Northern nationalists forget who did what to whom and vote for Sinn Fein.

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But because we, in the Republic, no longer teach compulsory Junior Cert history in our schools, Provo propagandists on social media are soaking the rising generation in sectarianism.

We are shedding crocodile tears unless we take three steps to remedy our complicity in the historical chain of events that culminated in the murder of Lyra McKee.

The first step is to face the fact that the Provisional IRA was the prime mover in the Northern Troubles, not the British army or the RUC.

The Provisional IRA killed half of all those killed in the Troubles (49pc) as compared with the British army security forces (11pc).

The Provisional IRA pumped sectarian poison into the body politic by murdering 790 Protestant civilians, sometimes as they held their children's hands.

The Provisional IRA's campaign created the cruel climate for the Recurring IRA, one of whose branches murdered Lyra McKee.

The second step is for RTE to stop lazily depicting the Troubles with stock images of the British army in action while leaving the Provo IRA out of the frame.

A more representative image of the Troubles would be a hooded body with a Provo bullet in the head.

The Irish Government also helps the Provos by invoking images of the militarised border of the Troubles without forcibly pointing out the IRA was the only cause for security.

Finally, we in the Irish Republic have a moral duty to challenge Northern nationalism on its support for Sinn Fein.

How can nationalists vote for a party that supported a sectarian campaign that killed 790 fathers, sons and daughters of their Protestant neighbours?

Lionel Shriver, the American novelist, author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, who lived in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, never lost her moral compass.

"When I arrived I did not think the lack of civil rights and the injustices going on were of such egregious character that they merited violence and therefore I found myself completely at odds with the IRA."

Alas, Nancy Pelosi is no Shriver. Her Dail Eireann speech put no pressure on the Provo narrative.

In misty-eyed mode, she stroked the audience of selfie-takers with Michael Collins... waffle... Yeats... waffle... Martin McGuinness... waffle.

But she could only mention a photo of David Trimble - who had a much harder job convincing Protestants to trust a sectarian IRA murder gang.

Gerry Adams had earlier been all over Congressman Richard Neal, an Adams admirer from way back. After Pelosi's speech, Adams was all over her, too, with ardent hugs and kisses.

Pelosi, who would have called the cops if Trump had tried it, gave Adams no Joe Biden problem. She even pulled his beard.

Congressman Richard Neal told Caitriona Perry of RTE News that he recalled Northern Ireland as an "armed military state and people feared for their lives, including the innocent".

How much better for our moral health, and for factual history, if RTE guidelines required her to reply: "Well of course, congressman, that was because of the Provisional IRA murder campaign."

Later, the line-up at the Dublin Castle dinner did nothing to dispel the tribal temperature.

Ranged alongside Leo Varadkar were Pelosi, Mary Lou McDonald, Richard Neal and Dan Mulhall, with Arlene Foster on the latter's far side, out of the Leo loop.

The Taoiseach and his group never publicly acknowledged Arlene Foster's presence nor did he mention her in his speech.

To her credit, Pelosi paid tribute to both Enda Kenny and Bertie Ahern. But Leo Varadkar left them both out.

But he surely made Foster and Robin Swann of the UUP feel at home by recycling an aged anecdote about Michael Collins.

Next day, Nancy Pelosi, speaking at the Donegal-Derry border, recalled "tanks and wire" but made no mention of the reason for them - the Provisional IRA.

Congressman Richard Neal recalled his own stock images of the British army.

"I was on a bus here 30 years ago with the Speaker of the House, Tom Foley. The bus was stopped and British soldiers mounted the bus with full night-vision and armament and they searched the bus."

Now why did Neal think the British troops were searching the bus? Was it just pure Brit badness?

But, of course, Pelosi and Neal were merely taking their line from the Irish Government bluster about Brexit bringing back violence via a hard border.

In peddling this line, Leo Varadkar and the compliant Irish media are concealing the following facts.

The Recurring IRA have never stopped killing people in the 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement.

Four months after the GFA, dissident republicans killed 29 people in the Omagh bombing, the worst death toll of the Troubles.

In the past 20 years there have been a shocking 158 "security related" deaths in Northern Ireland.

In sum, the Recurring IRA does not need Brexit to justify doing its dirty work.

Lionel Shriver lays it on the line: "It is strange that no one ever mentions by name the IRA or its weirdo affiliates when warning of renewed violence."

We also don't mention that the British government has always made it clear it is not going to put up any physical infrastructure on the Border. The only one who might do that is the EU.

Our bluster about the Border is simply part of the campaign to bully the Brits into a customs union and hang the unionists.

Last week in The Guardian, Rory Carroll and Lisa O'Carroll revealed the Irish Government's political agenda in a compelling chronicle of the Brexit negotiations.

"After Leo Varadkar succeeded Kenny in June 2017 the Irish pressed their advantage. The new Taoiseach wanted a 'win', said one Fine Gael party colleague, and squeezing the Brits proved popular."

Lionel Shriver, with a novelist's feel for the politics of human nature, points to the Taoiseach's role.

"I think Leo Varadkar is part of the problem. He got caught up in a crusading impulse and regards it as a nice turnaround of which country is now top power. The whole argument around the Border is, I believe, perfectly insincere."

Before the next American politician arrives at Dublin Castle to be told jaded Michael Collins jokes, perhaps the Department of Foreign Affairs might recruit somebody who could challenge their cosy assumptions?

Catherine McCartney, sister of Robert McCartney, murdered by the IRA, would be a good choice.

She crossed swords before with Richard Neal over his eulogy to Martin McGuinness in St Peter's Church, Washington, in 2017.

Catherine cuts to the chase: "The personal relationships between political leaders seems to me to cloud their view of what is actually happening on the ground."

In life there are no free lunches. If we let the IRA write the narrative of the Northern Troubles we are sowing dragon's teeth for generations to come.

Sunday Independent

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