Martin McGuinness – A Day of Eulogies and Hate!

Posted on March 22, 2017

In the ten years I have been blogging, I am not sure if there has been anything more emotive to write about than Martin McGuinness, freedom fighter, terrorist, peacemaker and finally, a politician, who died yesterday, at the surprisingly young age of 66.

I say surprisingly young, because ever since I can remember, Martin McGuinness has been in the news, from peace marches gone wrong, to devastating pub bombings in Guildford and Birmingham, political attacks in Brighton, peace talks with John Major, and finally, a ludicrously unlikely friendship with staunch Unionist, Ian Paisley.


The Strangest of Friendships: McGuinness and Paisley were known as the Chuckle Brothers.

If you lost members of a family during ‘The Troubles’ or you were a member of the armed services in the 1970’s and ’80’s, you could be fully excused for celebrating the death of McGuinness but, I guess it won’t take away the pain from the bitterest of civil wars that took place on our doorstep.

I was talking to a retired army officer on my dog walk today (The Test Valley around Andover is full of them) and he said to me that to be qualified to either condemn or condone Martin McGuinness, you need to first understand the complexities of British and Irish history, in particular, the pre-troubles treatment of Irish Catholics during and after civil rights marches in places such as Derry and Belfast.

I thought for a former army officer to be big enough to say what he said was commendable beyond the call of duty and is perhaps something we can all learn from before we blurt out what comes into our head first. Whilst some may say that Norman Tebbit was justified with his celebratory comments today, if people like him still existed in government, God only knows how many more lives would have been lost.

Tebbit is an evil individual and has more blood on his hands than most, so we are better off listening to those who embarked on a courageous and complex route to peace rather than those who wanted the bloodshed to continue unabated. Unless they chucked a nuclear bomb on Northern Ireland, taking all the unionists out as they did so, the British government were in an unwinnable conflict, so something had to change.

The first question I always ask myself when the history of Ireland comes up, is whether by accident of birthplace, I would have joined the IRA had I been born in Bogside or Falls Road. It is an impossible question to answer of course, however, it is a distinct possibly I would have, and so would have many of you reading this blog, especially if you saw the squalor and prejudice these people suffered.

It is important to remember that people don’t become terrorists for a bit of a laugh, it is a choice where there is every likelihood they will end up dead or in prison for a long time. To take that route in life, it means that at some point desperation has taken over and the attraction to a violent cause is seen as the only solution.

It is also worth noting that in the 1960’s, the IRA was predominately a Marxist organisation against violence and the use of weapons. Instead, it carried out a series of civil rights marches campaigning for voting rights, equality of employment and the welfare system. Effectively, being Catholic in Northern Ireland was like being a black man in the Deep South of America or in apartheid South Africa; it was a hopeless life.

However, by the late 1960’s, peaceful civil rights marches were being regularly attacked, with Catholics seeing their homes and businesses burnt out by loyalists whose actions were more often than not, ignored and even protected by the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) a predominantly Protestant police force.

After the ‘Battle of Bogside’ that sparked riots across Northern Ireland, the British army was brought in to create lines between the rioting groups and it was from there, in effect, that 30 years of bloodshed began and the dissident IRA, under a young Martin McGuinness (a former Bogside resident) and Gerry Adams, evolved.

The Northern Ireland security forces placed the blame on the riots on the IRA but latterly the British Government’s ‘Scarman Report’ came to the following conclusion.

‘Undoubtedly there was an IRA influence at work in the DCDA (Derry Citizens’ Defence Association) in Londonderry, in the Ardoyne and Falls Road areas of Belfast, and in Newry. But they did not start the riots, or plan them: indeed, the evidence is that the IRA was taken by surprise and did less than many of their supporters thought they should have done’.

After the Bloody Sunday debacle which became a recruiting tool for the IRA, the British government, particularly under Thatcher (with the likes of Tebbit as her henchmen) refused dialogue, so the violence continued until John Major and then Mo Mowlem, sort a road to peace. This, as we know, involved a painful process of releasing prisoners, forgiveness, and untold amounts of patience from all sides of the dispute.

Let’s be honest, what other route was there?

Norman Tebbit might not think peace was worth it, but kids growing up in a safer Northern Ireland are benefitting from it now, as I write. If peace can remain in future generations, the hatred will dilute and unity will eventually thrive, because if history tells us one thing, conflict can only ever end with dialogue. Without it, you might as well sit back and count the death toll…take a look at Israel and Palestine.

Nothing has been simple with Ireland but those from both sides of the dispute who have said that enough is enough and sat around a table, deserve a fair amount of credit, if not gushing, far-fetched eulogies.

Personally, I am ambivalent as to whether Martin McGuinness rests in peace, I just hope the decent folk of Ireland, whom I have known many, can maintain it.

I guess that if ever there was a case of ‘One man’s freedom fighter being another man’s terrorist’ Martin McGuinness was a classic example.


*For those who don’t know me, I have no faith and hence no bias to the protestant or catholic religion.


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