Monday, August 01, 2005

Oh so predictable responses to the IRA stand-down

Robin Livingstone:

Magnanimity and optimism were the defining characteristics of newspaper coverage of Thursday’s IRA statement. We reproduce here a selection of the most outstanding pieces written in the wake of the IRA order to dump arms.

A journalist writes...

I’ve been covering the conflict in Northern Ireland for over 30 years now and I have to say that it sticks in my craw to think that we’re expected to give thanks to the IRA for not killing people.

It’s been hard for me all these years trying to remain detached in the face of such unremitting brutality, but stay professional I did, winning Feature Journalist of the Year twice: in 1972 for my piece ‘Bloody Sunday: about time too’ and in 1987 for ‘Loughgall: that’ll teach them’.

Over the years my job has given me the chance to look into the heart of darkness as I probed each latest republican atrocity.

Mostly, those insights came in brown envelopes that I used to be given at the bar in the Europa by a bloke called Nigel in a green sweater with patches on the shoulder.

Not that I was content to sit all day at the bar drinking gin and swapping dirty jokes with other journalists, oh no.

Many’s the time I ventured on to the mean streets of Turfmurphy or Ballydale in Belfast West where I came face-to-face with cold-eyed IRA killers in the keg rooms of social clubs.

They told me spine-chilling tales of what they did to informers – or ‘brussels touts’ as they called those who broke the omerta – the centuries-old Irish code of silence.

They told me of the horrific punishments they handed out to anyone who wouldn’t pay them protection: the ‘Matt Talbot’ – whipped and chained to a church railing; the ‘King Herod’ – breeze blocks on the shins of first-born boys.

I’m happy that down through the years the profession of journalism added to our understanding of a complex conflict and I’m proud that we never took sides and reported what we saw without fear or favour.

My proudest possesions are the plaque on my wall which reads ‘Who Dares Wins’ and the watch which never leaves my wrist and which bears the inscription ‘Fishers of Men’ – both presented to me by Nigel at a boozy drinks party in Thiepval barracks.

A unionist councillor writes...

We’ve been duped before and we won’t be duped again. Actions speak louder than words and if it emerges in time that the IRA has handed over all its weapons – witnessed by Ian Paisley with a camcorder – and ceases all activities, including breathing, then we will consider accepting their apology after the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

What we want to see is peace and prosperity in this here province, as I explained to the Mid-Ulster brigadier of the UFF during a coffee break at the last meeting of the Loyalist Commission, which I was privileged enough to chair. He told me that there are tensions within loyalism over the drugs business – I told him I’d put in a word for them at Invest Northern Ireland.

I’ve written to the chief constable, Hugh Ward, to complain about the provocative behaviour of his officers at a traditional UVF take-over in Garnerville this week. Despite the fact that the men in scarves and baseball caps were doing nothing except lying on the grass and eating crisps, police sat in their vehicles in an intimidating and provocative manner. Only the restraint and good sense of the paramilitaries ensured that no trouble ensued – well, that and the fact that they were full of skunk and bumble bees.

I fully accept the statement of the Ulster Political Research Group this morning that there is no prospect of loyalists giving up their arms in the present political climate. The loyalist paramilitaries have been left uncertain and confused by this week’s events – on the one hand Celtic were beaten 5-0 by a crowd of Slovakian students and postmen; on the other hand they lost fifty grand’s worth of Asian sweat-shop Viagra in north Belfast. Talk about mixed feelings.

A dissident republican writes...

As a republican there’s nothing I hate more than a tout, so it’s important that readers understand that while I earn a few bob writing for English papers and speaking on radio and TV about who’s in the Provos and who’s not, this is in no way analagous to people taking money from British intelligence for doing exactly the same thing.

The Provos of today are unrecognisable from the IRA that I joined. For one thing, they don’t wear platforms and flares; for another, we never had to fund-raise as our money came in mysterious bundles that appeared at the end of the cabbage patch.

I reckon I could remember the cause of the conflict in Ireland if I really put my mind to it, but I don’t really feel like it, and I will defend my right to express bitterness and personal animus to the last penny of Rupert Murdoch’s News International’s money.

Yes, it’s true – journalists like me a lot. And I’ve heard the cruel remark that I’m like an Amazonian tribesman being paraded before a Victorian dinner party. And yes, I’ve often wondered myself why someone like me is flavour of the month with hacks who say they hate the Provos because they’re bloodthirsty savages. After all, I think the Provos are lily-livered sell-out merchants and one more 30-year push would have driven the Brits into the sea. I reckon journalists just like my company and my style.

This latest Provo statement is the most craven capitulation to date because it means that Provo Sinn Féin can no longer call themselves republicans, it means that the Provos have surrendered, and, most importantly, it means that my cheques could well dry up.

Adams succeeded where Dev failed

Onus is now on both governments

Statement poses challenge to Irish republicanism

EDITRIAL: Bold response from unionism is needed

Religious festivals and the new 'terror'


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