I’ve had two tenuous encounters with the consequences of IRA terrorism in my life. Both came in 1981 when I was a child who had not long moved to Wimbledon in south-west London. The first took place in late April when our primary school Headmaster, Mr Hawkins, asked us to pray for somebody called ‘Bobby Sands’ in our Friday morning assembly. According to Hawkins, Sands was someone in the final stages of life after bravely enduring a protracted hunger strike for a political cause. There was no mention of the context, of his violent past, or of the criminal organisation to which he belonged. When my Mother asked me what I had done at school that day, I innocently told her (bear in mind I was only 8 years old at the time) we had been asked to pray for “this Bobby Sands bloke”. The following Monday morning, with me in tow, she marched into Hawkins’ office and told him in no uncertain terms never to subject me to the indignity of praying for terrorists of any description ever again. To see her that annoyed was a rare sight for me as a child.
My second encounter came on the cusp of my ninth birthday. My mother worked in care home management at the time and we were provided with accommodation in the exclusive Copse Hill area of Wimbledon. Just around the corner from our flat lived the, then, Attorney General and local MP, Sir Michael Havers. One night in November, I was almost blown out of my bed by a massive IRA bomb attack on his home in nearby Woodhayes Road. Fortunately, neither Havers nor his wife were present at the time as they was attending a conference in Spain.
I’m lucky my association with the sheer barbarity of the IRA was confined to events with no direct bearing on my life. The same luck cannot be said for the hundreds and hundreds of people whose lives were directly impacted by the fallout from their bloody activities. They’re not just names. I’m talking male, female, British, Irish, European, army, police, civilian, white, black, Asian, young and old here. Everyone from the likes of Catholic Paddy Gillespie (a husband and father who worked as a chef at the Army’s Fort George Barracks in Londonderry. He was strapped to a bomb and forced to drive to a checkpoint at Coshquin near the border, where it was detonated remotely killing him and five soldiers), to William Hazard and Fred Love (two building contractors months from retirement, working on repairs to a police station in Belleek. As they drove home from work, they approached a junction and were promptly surrounded by 4 IRA gunmen who emptied no less than 150 bullets into the two of them).
There is a reason I’m focusing on the activities of the IRA rather than their so-called ‘loyalist’ counterparts here. Political parties associated with groups such as the UVF and UDA have been comprehensively shunned by pro-Union voters in Northern Ireland. By comparison, republican voters flock to Sinn Fein with gusto…and not only in Northern Ireland. Judging by their electoral fortunes in 2020, coupled with consistent opinion polling, it looks likely the Republic of Ireland will soon become the first sovereign state in Europe to be governed by a party inextricably linked to – and governed by (according to UK and Irish intelligence) – the ‘Army Council’ of a terrorist organisation. I wonder how many of London’s Left-wing media elite, who seldom tire of telling us just what awful governments are now wielding power in Poland and Hungary, will respond to such an eventuality. I suggest the whiff of cordite will, hypocritically, desensitize their metropolitan nostrils considerably.
Despite efforts by journalists (who should know better) to portray the Shinners as having undergone a Damascene conversion to democracy, the truth is very different. Not only do elected members of that outfit continue to write encomium after encomium to some of the most deranged and violent individuals to have stalked UK and Irish soil over the past century, there’s the trifling issue of the 26 murders carried out by the Provisionals SINCE the Belfast Agreement was concluded in 1998. Each time the politicians in both London and Dublin have moved heaven and earth to avoid having to take action against them for fear of disturbing the ‘peace process’. Now, faced with a younger generation of Irish voters who feign amnesia when it comes to Provo murder (though always able to quote chapter and verse about Oliver Cromwell) the Republic is about to take steps guaranteed to plunge Anglo-Irish relations to their lowest point since Haughey, seriously destabilise politics in a part of the United Kingdom, probably drive international investment away from its shores, and allow the frontmen for the IRA to gain access to intelligence files on those in the Republic’s defence forces who fought them for three decades. That’s just for starters!!
It needn’t have been like this. Had Ireland’s politicians accepted Brexit and done their utmost to make the border between ourselves and their state workable for the general good, things could have been sorted out by now. Their preference – especially in Fine Gael – was to resort to the sort of futile ‘Fourth Green Field’ revanchism, blended with less-than-subtle Anglophobia, that has hobbled Irish politics periodically for a century. Playing the nationalist card could only have one outcome: the inexorable rise of the party best suited to honing that message with a bloody pedigree to match. We’re told the rise of Sinn Fein in the Republic has more to do with housing pressures and a disenfranchised younger population, rather than territorial annexation. Really? So why not choose from the many other parties who have not pursued this ideological path? I have had concerns over the amount of immigration into the UK for over 20 years, but not once would I ever countenance voting for the British National Party. My innate decency and good morals would prevent me every time. Thus, I don’t need lecture from Irish commentators on the ‘toxic rise of English nationalism’ in relation to Brexit – a choice I was happy to make in 2016 and have no regrets about today. Because their brand of nationalism has far more violent credentials than we could ever hope to emulate!!
“He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas” is a quote attributed to Poor Richard’s Almanack by Benjamin Franklin. Since 1998, far too many have willingly laid alongside the mongrel pooches of the peace process, consequentially unleashing the fleas of the Irish Republican movement to the extent they now swarm in eager anticipation of ‘taking power in Ireland’. Joining a list of countries such as Afghanistan and Libya in being governed by individuals with terrorist links would have to place our nearest neighbour in the category of a ‘failed state’.