Monday, 20 April 2015

Myth & Countermyth

Flag of the Irish Republic, GPO, 1916

I like Ruth Dudley Edwards a lot. We became friends in recent years through email and the internet. In my experience, she is a very kind person and is remarkably generous with her time. Politically speaking though, we are poles apart. I also find her analyses of Irish history deeply problematic. This is especially true of her perspective on the Easter Rising. Indeed, it seems to me that in challenging the ambiguities and contradictions of 1916, Ruth engages in some anachronistic myth-making of her own.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Injustice Ignored: The Christy Walsh Case

Christy Walsh
Today, an Irish man will embark on the 26th day of a hunger strike in protest against his treatment by the British justice system in Northern Ireland. This man was framed by the British Army in 1991 and spent 7 years in prison. After several appeals, his conviction was finally overturned in 2010 after it emerged that one of the soldiers had retracted his testimony and that the prosecution service had suppressed evidence that would have undermined its case. Astonishingly though, the authorities in the North have refused to apologise, admit wrongdoing or pay compensation.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Killing Palestinians: The "Combat-Age" Excuse

In modern propaganda, excuses are the weapon of choice. As the Palestinian death toll rises above 1000, apologists for the IDF's brutal war of choice against Gaza have come up with a rather clever excuse indeed: the age and gender of the Palestinian dead.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Déjà Vu in Gaza

As the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) expand their ground operation in Gaza, I cannot help but feel a numbing sense of déjà vu. Indeed, if I changed a few details, I could almost pass off the article I wrote about the last major crisis there in November 2012 as a commentary on the current violence. Sadly though, the IDF's Operation Protective Edge is longer and far bloodier than its 2012 offensive. At the time of writing, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that the IDF have killed over 400 people in Gaza. Palestinians militants have killed 18 Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians. The United Nations (UN) estimates that three-quarters of the Palestinian dead are civilians and that at least 73 were under the age of 18. More children will surely die before it's over.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Cutting Through Kilkenny's Heart

Pile driver at the CAS construction site in Kilkenny City

There is something rotten in a country that pours concrete over its heritage. That is what we do in Ireland though. We did it to Wood Quay in the early 1980s and to the Tara Valley in 2007-10. Now Kilkenny City is the crosshairs of the concrete fusiliers. Instead of completing the construction of the existing ring road around the city, Kilkenny County Council wants to build a heavy-duty central access road with a large garish bridge right through the city's beautiful medieval heart. It's just another cynical, short-sighted, back-of-the-envelope half-measure that typifies infrastructure planning in Ireland.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Bias, Bona Fides, & the Boston Tapes: An Interview with Anthony McIntyre

Anthony McIntyre

This is the transcript of an interview I conducted with Anthony McIntyre via email. McIntyre is a former IRA volunteer and ex-prisoner. He spent 18 years in Long Kesh, including 4 years on the blanket and no-wash/no-work protests against criminal status for republican prisoners. These protests eventually led to the 1981 Hunger Strike.

Following his release from prison in the early 1990s, McIntyre completed a PhD at Queens University and went on to become a journalist and academic. He was employed by Boston College as a researcher for its Belfast Project, an oral history archive of the Troubles. For this project, he was involved in the interviewing of 26 republican activists who gave accounts of their political activism and/or paramilitary activities during the conflict.

the arrest of Gerry Adams a month ago, the Belfast Project has become international news. There has been extensive media coverage of how the PSNI gained access to a number of interviews from the archive following a lengthy legal battle and, based on the content of these interviews, arrested Gerry Adams and several other individuals in connection with the murder of Jean McConville in 1972.

I plan to conduct further interviews with Anthony at some point about 
the legal battle that was waged to stop the PSNI from gaining access to the archive and the threats that have been made against him and his interviewees since some of the interviews were handed over to the PSNI by US authorities. However, this particular interview explores the specific criticisms of the project that have been made since Gerry Adams's arrest.

At this point, I should also declare a bias in this matter -- Anthony is a friend of mine. However, to paraphrase the late historian 
J. M. Roberts, all writers have a bias, and so we should simply declare our own particular bias at the beginning of our work and try to keep it in check thereafter.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

"Danny Says": The Mental Gymnastics of Danny Morrison

Danny Morrison is not a happy man right now. Indeed, he took huge umbrage at Ed Moloney’s defence in the Irish Times of Boston College’s Belfast Project. In his subsequent letter to the newspaper, Morrison complains that Moloney “repeats allegations about myself, Gerry Adams and the 1981 hunger strikes made by former prisoner Richard O’Rawe”, whom Morrison accuses of “rewriting history”. 

The real problem for Danny Morrison is not only that his own account of the 1981 Hunger Strike is full of holes – as
Richard O’Rawe’s devastating rebuttal shows – but also that his account keeps changing. Morrison now denies that he brought in a British offer to the hunger strikers in the H-Block prison hospital when he visited Long Kesh on 5 July 1981. This was not always his stated position though.