Posts categorized “Peace Process”

Cruel Inhumane Behaviour.

Man’s inhumanity to man (and to women and children), was never better exemplified than in the last few bloody days, which saw the shooting down of the Malaysian Airliner and Israel’s unpardonable butcheries in Gaza.  The primitive attitudes displayed by allowing drunken “separatists” to prevent crash scene experts retrieve evidence, which includes human bodies, from the site of the crash of the Malaysian airliner, is as sickening as it is inhumane.

       The mental torture endured by the relatives and loved ones of the dead visualising those corpses strewn across the Ukrainian landscape is unimaginable.  Obviously the Russians are hoping to get to the black boxes and other vital evidences so as to prevent the fact of their missile systems involvement in the downing of the airliner.  But this behaviour makes Putin, the hand up the marionette’s glove, that is the separatist movement, look less a modern world leader than an old style Asiatic dictator.

       Whatever about diplomatic manoeuvrings and great power cover ups, or attempted cover ups, which one might expect any country to engage in, the interference with that most basic of human rights, the enabling of human beings to enjoy that most fundamental human decency, the according of the right to bury their loved ones with decency has been trampled on and made a victim of Putin’s clumsy efforts at geo- politics.

       There is nothing clumsy however about the Israeli onslaught on the virtually defenceless population of Gaza. Patiently, with Nazi like efficiency, the Israelis are showering one of the most densely populated areas of the world with high explosives.  Their spokespersons appear on television, sibilant of tone and sanitised in language to talk about “operations”, not the slaughter of children.

       The diseased clarity of the Israeli case: “Hamas must stop the rockets terrifying our people. It is they who are exposing their people to sacrifice. We want only peace” is as cynical as it is inaccurate.

       Of course Hamas should stop the rockets, if for no other reason than that they are militarily ineffective and politically disastrous in that they provide a fig leaf for the Israeli’s campaign of atrocity.

        But this is the part of the play where we, the world audience, come in, the real drama has been building up off stage for decades. What the Israelis have been doing behind their duplicitously sincere media campaign has been ethnic cleansing.

       A state which under the Balfour declaration of 1917 was conceived in the belief that; “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” has instead subjected the Palestinians to systematic ethnic cleansing.  The UN has passed some 45 resolutions condemning Israel’s breaches of human rights to no avail.

Behind the excuses about Hamas is the reality that Israel is coldly, brutally working to make the two state solution to the Palestinian problem unworkable. The objective is to leave the Palestinians without sufficient land on which to found any state.

       Systematically the Israelis have been driving the indigenous population off their lands and filling them with settlers. Israel is not an oasis in an Arab desert of obscuranticism. It is a cuckoo’s nest society in which the intruders hatch new holdings and squeeze out the original occupants of the nest.

       The terrible irony of the situation is the extent to which the abused have become the abusers. The only avowedly anti-Semitic government in the world today is Israel’s – the Palestinians, let it be remembered are a Semitic people.

       The Israelis are making political capital out of the Hamas theology and their futile rocket campaign by coining slogans such as, “Hamas denies the State of Israel’s right to exist. How can we negotiate with such people? These people are only terrorists”.

       What Hamas is doing is wrong and stupid but much of what the IRA did was equally so and yet the wheel turned eventually to the point where the electorate eliminated the moderates and voted for Sinn Féin. In Palestinian terms, Hamas could be seen as an off shoot of a physical force tradition which could be called PLO or Fata one day but evolve into something else as the years pass as did Irish militant republicanism morph from simply three letters, the IRA, into the official IRA, the Provisional IRA, the INLA, the Continuity IRA, the Real IRA and so on and so on.

       But at least in the Irish situation there is a hope of Peace taking hold, of evolution, of economic progress subsuming the militant traditions of both Orange and Green. The Israeli tactics provoke only despair and a thirst for vengeance. Peace will never be built that way.

       If Israel’s had been the prevailing attitude in Belfast, Dublin, London and Washington during the 1990s there would have been no Good Friday Agreement.  The mutually exclusive goals of the Republicans and the Unionists could have been manipulated to stall the Peace Process in its tracks.

       But sloganizing was not allowed to have its way. Washington in particular, played a proactive and a constructive role but while this is being written, Washington, in effect, stands idly by and allows the Israelis to rain death and destruction on the untermensch.  

       To think that a people who endured the Holocaust and indignities like the scourging of the Warsaw ghettos, the dehumanising regime of the yellow stars, could act like this makes one despair of human progress.

       The history of the Israeli settlement in the Palestinian lands has been an atrocity laden tale that has veered downward from that calculated effort at frightening the Arabs from their holdings that was Deir Yassin in 1948, in which some of the founders of the Israeli state used axes as well as hand grenades to dispose of men, women and children from that ill-fated village, to today’s brutalities in the skies over Gaza.

       The Jews are one of the great civilisations of the World but what is being done in Gaza at the moment is a both a defecation on the memories of Jewish martyrs like Anne Frank and Jewish geniuses like Albert Einstein.

Back to the Future


The light is fading on New Year’s Day as this is written, but it is not intended as a song at twilight but as a promise on the dawning of a New Year- I’ll keep the Blog up to date in 2014! After what we’ve been through it would be permissible to open the New Year simply with a salvo directed at the decision takers who have brought such misery on our people. But I feel that there is room for a modest optimism at the impending arrival of economic crocuses to join the floral ones on their way.

There are damn few reasons for optimism, floral or otherwise emanating from Northern Ireland of course. I didn’t expect the recent talks to produce anything.  One of the sharp images I have in my mind from the time of the Good Friday Agreement is of Geoffrey Donaldson driving angrily from Stormont as the Good Friday Agreement neared completion because of his opposition to its contents. I couldn’t see him driving towards a New Year’s Eve agreement with a smile on his face and he’s not the worst of them.  The reality is that in Dublin a Fine Gael led government preoccupied with economic problems and in London a conservative one not too bothered about the north anyway both took their feet off the accelerator of Northern Ireland progress.

London and Dublin should have been at the talks despite Richard Hass’ presence, and that of the attractive Megan O’Sullivan one did not have the feeling that here was the full monty.  We’re in a season of orange commemoration reaching from the signing of the covenant to the Larne gun running and a symbolism of the Loyalist camp at Holy Cross monastery in north Belfast should not be over looked.

The camp is of course an extraordinary provocation to the nationalists of that area whose children had to be escorted to school each day through cordons of chanting loyalists, but if any attempt were made to remove the camp by force what would be the chances of the survival of the monastery itself. They haven’t gone away you know even if Fine Gael and Labour chose to conduct themselves as though they had.

Back to our own economic and psychological state in the republic while I said at the outset and say again that a little guarded optimism is justified I consider it utterly opprobrious that those responsible for the economic treason are still walking about scot free while suicide rates soar, our young people shoal out of the country and able bodied valuable men and women gaze dull eyed a the dole queue and the emptiness of their future. The administrators, the bankers, the politicians and the senior figures in Ireland’s small but terribly influential financial community should be in jail by now not free to make golfing jaunts to the sun or to transfer some of their ill-gotten wealth to their wives.

It’s an open secret that the financial people are in league with the legal profession – important sections of which also invested in bank shares and property busts. Each side props up the other in an outrageous, but hitherto successful, attempt to defeat justice. To paraphrase Padraig Pearse ‘until prison holds these men Ireland will never be at peace’.  

However not to end on a sour note may I wish all my readers a Happy New Year, and one in which the flowers of economic revival really do bloom.

The truth about the man who accuses Adams…

Tim Pat reviews ‘Voices From the Grave’ by Ed Moloney for the Irish Independent

Back in the sixties, when I was starting to research my book on the IRA, Andrew Boyd arranged that I be brought to Belfast’s Linenhall Library where I was sworn to secrecy, brought down to a locked basement wherein a locked steel box was opened and I was given access to the library’s collection of IRA documents — a few handbills and a copy of the booklet Operation Harvest, which was written by a former sub-editor colleague of mine on the Evening Press, Sean Cronin.

Such was the impact of the Special Powers Act and the state of republican documentation at the time. Consequently, as a writer committed to the principles of free speech, I must support the appearance of Ed Moloney’s Voices from the Grave.

But the support has to be accompanied by a health, or rather a provenance, warning.

» Read more

Review: An Irish Voice by Niall O’Dowd

Niall O’Dowd went from being an ordinary Irish emigrant to the US in the late ’70s to playing a key role in the peace process. Now he has written his autobiography, ‘An Irish Voice’.

Read Tim Pat’s review from the Irish Independent:

I have always thought of Niall O’Dowd as the contemporary equivalent of John Boyle O’Reilly, the 19th-century Meath-born Irish nationalist who became both the foremost Irish-American journalist of his day and the leading proponent of a political, non-violent settlement of Ireland’s difficulties.

» Read more

Executions in Irish History – RTÉ radio segment

On RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy Show (11/2/10), Tim Pat Coogan and George Plant, whose father George was executed in Portlaoise in 1942, discuss the topic of executions in Irish history. Get the podcast (24 minutes long).

Why Israel lobby is wrong to demonize Mary Robinson

The shots fired at Mary Robinson by Jewish groups are probably really aimed at President Obama and his efforts to broker a peace deal with Israel starting with an end to the building of illegal Jewish settlements.

The President is right to work for peace. The blame which America’s apparent willingness to support Israel in whatever it does has occasioned in the Arab street is both harmful to America’s national interest, and a source of support for Al Qaeda.

But the attempt to target one of the greatest living Irish women, internationally recognized as a human rights campaigner, in a smear campaign orchestrated by lobbyists for the State of Israel has implications for Irish policy towards Israel and contains potential repercussions for the lobbyists’ cause that do not appear well thought out.

It comes just after an Irish parliamentary delegation had returned to Ireland from a fact finding mission to Gaza and the other Arab territories. It also comes at a time when the recent fighting and its aftermath has increased the swing in Irish public opinion from an uncomprehending, but generally admiring, attitude towards the foundation of the State of Israel, and the State’s early fight to defend itself, to one of ever growing distaste for its increasingly brutal and ineffective military approach to the Palestinian problem.

A few days before the Robinson controversy blew up, I spoke with a highly respected Irish political figure (incredibly there are still such) who had been on the all-party Irish parliamentary delegation and found him to be horrified as much by the illegal settlement building as by the devastation caused to the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip and the effects of the state of siege which the Israel military are enforcing on the population of Gaza.

To judge from the initial statement the delegation subsequently released, everyone else in the party shared his concerns and the full Report of the delegation , scheduled for next month is expected to be particularly damning. Israeli embassy spokespersons are already mounting a campaign to discredit the delegations findings. Even in the midst of chronic economic problems, this controversy seems certain to grow, not diminish.

The TD I spoke to represents a border constituency and was an informed participant in the behind the scenes diplomacy that led to the Good Friday Agreement. His father was a member of Michael Collins’ elite hit team The Squad and by birth and up-bringing he would have regarded the Unionists with distaste and wished for a United Ireland.

But, as a practicing politician, he recognised that times had changed and it was time to move on. The gun had to be put away, the Six County State recognised, the British presence accepted, and both sides, Republican and Unionists, had to co-operate in the interests of peace, allowing the ultimate solution of deeply embedded problems to be resolved in the future by their grandchildren if necessary.

Translated to Palestine this viewpoint would mean that Hamas would cease rocket attacks, recognise the State of Israel and the Israelis would engage in-all party talks, brokered by the US, which would give the Palestinians their State, end the blockade of Gaza and the building of illegal settlements.

The Irish political class, more than most Europeans, have an empathy with problems left over from the days of the British empire. Arthur Balfour, the British politician probably most responsible for the introduction to Ireland, was also the statesman who set today’s events in train with his Declaration, issued during the same era, (1917) which favored “ the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”.

The Declaration also stated that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

However the reality which confronted the Dáil delegation in Gaza, during its recent visit, was, in Irish terms, as though a million and a half Nationalists, unwillingly and without compensation, had been forcibly driven across the Border and penned into an area one-third the size of Louth where they could look across the border at the land they once owned.

The creation of such ghettos would have not just produced murderous and irresponsible reactions such as the creation of Hamas and its criminally irresponsible rocket firings, but IRA atrocity on a scale not even possible to guess at, As it was, the hatred that Unionist discrimination spawned in Ireland did gave rise to a plethora of IRAs.

But the British did not drop white phosphorus on densely populated civilian areas, as was done during the recent destruction of Gaza. Nor did they automatically blow up the homes of known IRA men as standard operating procedure. Nor (in recent centuries at least) did they deliberately use massacre as a counter-insurgency tool as was done in Deir Yassim in 1948 and at Sabra and Shatilla in 1982.

The fact that the Israeli propaganda machine dubs such activities “operations” does not sanitise them, lessen their impact, nor make them more morally acceptable. The policy which the Unionists once espoused, that error has no rights, opponent, no justification, or legal protections did not eradicate terrorism. It encouraged it.

Directing the blame for “operations” at those who may have thrown, a bomb, a rock, or fired a rocket neither makes “operations” justifiable nor proportionate.

The analogies between the Irish and the Palestinian situations however do have a contemporary relevance which contains important seeds of hope. The name Clinton shines by its own light where the Irish peace process is concerned. But not alone is Hilary Clinton the American leader most charged with finding a Middle East solution, the man who did most to smooth the Good Friday negotiations, George Mitchell, is on the ground trying to repeat what was done in Belfast.

It is in America’s and the world’s interest that they succeed. But above all it is in the interest of Israel and the Palestinians. Peace is what should be striven for by the Israeli spin doctors, not the demonization of Mary Robinson.

- First published 10th August 2009 at

Why life can defeat death in Northern Ireland

There are two time bombs ticking away in Northern Ireland. In fact some would argue three, given the potentially explosive effect of cross-Border shopping by the Republic’s citizens on the economy of the 26 Counties.

But in view of the serious situation created by the recent lethal Republican activity in the North I will leave this topic to another day and concentrate on two of the bombs: 1) The Real IRA, and 2) The demographic changes now occurring, which, though they could trigger dangerous reactions, might also bring about a peaceful de-fusing of all three challenges. Ironically they could very well achieve through life what the Republicans seek through death: a United Ireland.

Taking the Real IRA issue first. From the signing of the Good Friday Agreement back in 1998 the elephant in the room has always been the reaction of rejectionist, physical force republicans.

Were it not for the dead who died in the Omagh explosion we would have had to reckon with that beast’s strength well before the recent shootings of soldiers and a policeman reminded us that they haven’t gone away you know.

The debate, which was eventually won behind closed doors by the followers of Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly, was at times ferociously passionate, and always carried the whiff of Thermidor and the French Revolution.

Advocates of the settlement were sometimes met by strangers in darkened car parks and driven, in un-marked vans, to meetings they were not certain of returning from, at unknown destinations These meetings often took the form of intense confrontations between senior Provisionals over the merits of the proposals in settings such as the kitchens of farm houses in Fermanagh, Tyrone and South Armagh.

But as the raised voices quietened, finger wagging stopped and jaw muscles relaxed it appeared that the doves had convinced the hawks and that not alone would there be peace, but, it was claimed by the doves, that this time, miraculously, there would be no split. Michael Collins’ experience would not be revisited.

Alas the republican doctrine of continuity, of a rising in every generation is not that easily by-passed. The rejectionists argued that A) When it came to the crunch the Unionists would never honour their side of the bargain B) That the British would shrink from forcing them to do so and C) That the British had no right to be involved in Irish affairs anyhow.

As we know a split did develop in the republican family. Some members rejected the Good Friday Agreement as roundly as did Cathal Brugha and de Valera the Treaty which Michael Collins had achieved. However, this time though there were Cathal Brughas a plenty there was no de Valera, no political rejectionist of a stature who might have mobilised a significant section of public opinion in favour of rejecting half a loaf in favour of no bread.

What did remain were those isolated farm houses, a limited degree of military expertise and the ABC view of Irish history. Most of the Provisionals’ top guerrillas and bomb makers went with the peace party. Omagh disrupted the Real IRA’s hopes of either persuading them to change sides or of fairly speedily replacing their expertise with their own. Now it would appear that a little of both may have occurred, with the Continuity IRA, hitherto one of the lesser republican groups, appearing on the scene, subsequent to the shooting of the two soldiers, to kill a policeman either acting in tandem with the RIRA or merely by coincidence.

In seeking guidance as to whether hawks or doves will win the battle for hearts and minds which will undoubtedly be played out in the coming months it may be instructive to examine two tipping points in the IRA’s history. One is the shooting of three off-duty British soldiers at a pub in Ligoniel, Belfast in March 1971, the other the IRA’s promulgation in 1950 of what became its Standing Order No.8 which laid it down that henceforth action was to be directed solely against Crown forces, no hostilities were to be waged against the Republic’s security forces.

It was issued, not out of altruism, but because the IRA of the time realised that after the deaths, hunger-strikes, jailings and gun battles of earlier years that the southern population would not tolerate violence directed against either its police or army.

In the case of Ligoniel the deaths of the three young Scottish soldiers, two of them brothers and teenagers, were marked poetically by Seamus Heaney with the line “their bellies full of beer and bullets” and politically by the North’s going over the cliff.

The sympathy which many, including nationalists felt for the dead soliers was overwhelmed by the huge loyalist political convulsions which led to Brian Faulkner’s becoming Prime Minister and internment being introduced to Northern Ireland a few months later. Standing Order No. 8 however helped to greatly curtail IRA violence in the South.

Inevitably some security personnel lost their lives, but, over the 30 years of “the troubles”, the South, compared to the North, remained a haven of tranquillity.

The recent shootings were directed at the Adams party’s influence over the Republican family as much as at their direct victims. The RIRA also sought to provoke a Ligoniel type backlash amongst loyalists. This has been unequivocally rejected by contemporary loyalist leaders.

In their own way Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have met the challenge by issuing a contemporary version of Standing Order No. 8. McGuinness, by branding the RIRA as “traitors to the Irish nation.” Adams by making the historic declaration that in his view the shooting of soldiers is as reprehensible as the shooting of policemen. Policemen will still examine their cars for bombs before getting into them. Will be well advised to vary family routines, such as driving children to school, or partners to supermarkets. But those precautions may not be long lasting.

For what Adams, McGuinness, and, let it be acknowledged their Unionist counterparts, may have done is to establish as a functioning tenet of daily political life the reality that though the fundamentalists may legitimately claim to be the Keepers of the Sacred Flame of Irish Physical Force Republicanism the majority want to see approaches to power take place only with a ballot box in one hand and—a ballot box in the other. And what has the demographic time bomb to do with all this? A very, very great deal is the answer.

For, largely over-looked in the welter of publicity produced by the recent killings, we now have to hand the findings of the Department of Education’s 2008-2009 Schools Census. This confirms statistically something which I have long believed to be the case, based on my own observations and research. Namely that the Catholic school (and university) population was increasing while that of the Protestants was declining. The statistics given by the Department for the current school year are that currently the Catholics number 50.9 per cent, Protestants 40.7 per cent and the accompanying graphs illustrate clearly that Catholic gains and Protestant decline are an accelerating trends.

These schoolgoers have one thing in common. They will all be entitled to vote when they reach 18. A Catholic majority therefore is not a Six County electoral mirage. It is a clearly visible prospect on the political horizon. In the circumstances there is a clear cut political, as well as a moral, imperative for the Republican extremists to allow life rather than death to achieve their objectives.

- First published 18th March 2009 at

Splinter groups aim to weaken Sinn Fein’s leadership

From an article in today’s Washington Post assessing recent developments…

Historian Tim Pat Coogan, who has written a history of the IRA, said it is unclear whether Continuity IRA and Real IRA are cooperating or competing with each other. But he said that with these attacks, both splinter groups aim to weaken Sinn Fein’s leadership.

“They are trying to make trouble for Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. They think they were sellouts” for dropping the fight to force Britain out of Northern Ireland, Coogan said in a telephone interview from Dublin.

Although these splinter groups have few members, he said, it does not take much to do damage “if you have an isolated farmhouse at the end of the lane and you get some guns.”

“It has been known for some time that they were gaining strength,” he said about the dissidents, noting that Orde had called for special intelligence reconnaissance teams to return to Northern Ireland and that there had been a surge in attempts against the police.

Full article

Coogan Tells All reviews Tim Pat Coogan’s new memoir…

“Coogan quite simply is the world’s leading authority on the IRA, and his book is a fascinating insight into how the peace process came about… The book reveals for the first time that it was Coogan who was chosen by peace process priest Father Alec Reid to make the initial contact with the Irish government on behalf of Sinn Fein.”

Read the full article