• Sunday 26th May 2019

Window On Westminster By Gary Kent

Let’s not stop at Anglo-Irish issues, examined other milestones,such as the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916,


Window on Westminster


Historical events linger across generations with sometimes lethal consequences but dispassionate revisionism with new insights, facts and reflections – good history in short – can scotch potent myths and consign running sores to the past, as has been the case with troubled Anglo-Irish relations, and could be for Kurdistan.

A recent and major issue in British and Irish politics was the killing in January 1972 by British soldiers of 14 unarmed and innocent civilians in the second city of Northern Ireland, Londonderry or Derry depending on if you are a Protestant or a Catholic, in not dissimilar ways to the use of Hawler and Erbil.

The Derry massacre and the subsequent whitewash were major recruiting sergeants for the then new IRA, which became one of the world’s most effective terrorist groups as it persuaded many young people that reform was futile and that physical force was the only answer in a conflict that eventually took 3,500 deaths.

On the annual anniversary of Bloody Sunday, Irish nationalists and their supporters organised marches in Britain and elsewhere to mark Bloody Sunday and some exploited it to justify the IRA’s campaign. In the early 1990s, British-Irish peace groups and the Irish President Mary Robinson sought to show that the IRA had no legitimacy for its actions. Trade unionists, politicians and intellectuals ran peace trains to protest about the IRA regularly bombing the main Belfast-Dublin rail line.

Campaigners, including myself, also suggested an historical inquiry into Bloody Sunday which morphed into an official £200 million investigation that led to a statesmanlike apology by the British Prime Minister in the Commons. It cannot bring people back to life but has taken the life out of the event.

This year sees the centenary of another, rather larger historical event – the start of the First World War – which has also been an awkward issue in Anglo-Irish relations. Ulster Protestants celebrate the contribution of Protestants at the battle of the Somme in 1916, where many thousands died, as part of mobilising to protect their British identity.

Wearing red poppies in solidarity with the fallen of all wars has been a significant symbol of their allegiance to the UK while many Irish Catholics refused to wear the Poppy, while some preferred to wear an Easter Lilly in solidarity with the nationalist Uprising of 1916 at about the same time as the Somme slaughter. The two collide because Ireland was part of the British Empire, the rebellion was treated as treason and its leaders were executed.

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