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August 05, 2005

Response to "Northern Ireland's Gasp"

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WASHINGTON, D. C. 20003-4303

August 5, 2005

Letters Editor

Dear Editor:

Ms McKenna misstates an important concept ("Northern
Ireland's Gasp" 8/2) which is often overlooked in the fever
of violence. She notes " Working class communities have
withered under the grip of violent thuggery…" She seems not
to grasp that the violence and social order breakdown in
certain communities was a form of collateral damage to be
endured for God and Queen. The working class communities
of East Belfast served imperial purpose in two ways.
Thanks to the division of the labor pool through systematic
anti-Catholic discrimination manpower was cheaper than in
England and from the gritty streets of such communities
came those weaned on anti-Catholic bigotry anxious to do
the bidding of their MI-5 handlers. They were trained in
the private army of loyalism—the Ulster Defense Regiment—
and stepped up to handle Britain's dirty work with deeds
like the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.

There was no "government's blind eye" to the decay of
working class communities. It was all part of the plan of
Her Majesty's Government.


Judge Andrew Somers (Ret.)
National President


Opin: Northern Ireland's Gasp

By Therese McKenna August 4, 2005

The IRA pronouncement last week meant everything and
nothing, a vividly postmodern moment in the catalog of
choreographed set pieces stumbling across the stage of
Northern Ireland politics.

It was written. It was spoken. It was beamed across the

On July 28, that hidden, disembodied man of letters, P.
O'Neill, put on flesh and raised his voice, stepping up
before the camera lens to stand himself down.

In the following moments we scrambled to attach meaning, to
dissect the words, analyze, contextualize, and question. We
scribbled conclusions from omissions, inclusions, texture,
timbre, and timing. We paused to regret, resent, and to
mourn. We acknowledged the futility of years of murderous
mayhem done in adherence to the old lie of nationhood. We
extrapolated, examined, cast eyes back, and turned thoughts
to the future.

But in that very instant of disclosure, Northern Ireland
took a sharp inhalation of breath and gasped -- ''wow."

Something had lifted, and in the pure emotion of that
second we understood. No going back. Our stale and sickly
democracy eased itself up the bed. It must get well soon.
Hope burned.

After the fact, one girl, any girl, sat back and considered
how this event might impact on life as she had it.

What would become of the city? Already signs of the
farewell to arms flickered on the Belfast skyline as
British forces met words with action high upon Divis flats
in the west. Figures tiny like industrious ants chipped at
the army watchtower whose grim presence alienated many in
the republican stronghold.

Some cry ''capitulation," but what's to fear from
normalization? The north that unionists strive to keep ''as
British as Finchley" will never be so green and pleasant if
it remains festooned with ugly wartime relics and over-run
by more troops than Tony Blair sent to Iraq.

The people Ian Paisley and such purport to represent can
only gain from the removal of coercion from the streets.

Trouble is that sectarian votes which rely on fear of the
other will be strangled if this vacuum is filled. If power
is the sole end, our politicians may not let the people
breathe and grow. Maintain misery, maintain a mandate.
Sustain suspicion, count your ballots before they're cast.
But admit that things are getting better -- uncharted

Strong leadership and vision are vital for regeneration of
this place -- a willingness to see suffering and offer
humanity, not cynicism.

Working class communities have withered under the grip of
violent thuggery, and compassion wizened to bitterness
through years of deprivation unnoticed by government's
blind eye.

Maybe now that we have shared a moment, now that something
''big" has occurred, those who have been ignored so that
their unhappiness forced them to spit fury on to the
streets will see something of the mythic ''peace dividend."

While no one like me, with access to education, money, and
tree-lined suburbs, has awaited with bated breath for the
IRA say-so to live normally -- we have been gradually
bettering our lot as cash has trickled in since the cease-
fires a decade ago -- anyone not coached in the arts of
getting ahead has been cast to the wolves. For those in
comfort, the constitutional question is boring irrelevance
or interesting diversion -- a crossword puzzle.

The money is boomeranging about Belfast. Perhaps the IRA
announcement will encourage government to target it at the
communities where it would not previously go.

It would be grand if last week's scene-stealing performance
by the IRA were to catalyze a true revolution. If it
prompted the powerful to take us forward socially and
economically rather than munching on rhetoric and traipsing
the interminable tribal dance staged to pass for politics.

Grand if this were the statement to end all statements --
the one after which we all got on with it and grew to be
the society we could, weaned off reliance on outside help.

Grand if Sinn Fein were to give a blessing to policing, so
a service at full power could really set about tackling the
pervasive criminal culture of post-cease-fire Northern

Grand because this place looks better than ever -- civic-
minded architects have set public spaces in Belfast aglow
of late, and attitudes are changing with the streets.

It would be grand, and since there can be no going back we
may as well put our foot on the pedal and go.

Therese McKenna is a journalist with the Irish News.

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