I have a problem with Sinn Fein, (Who hasn't John, I hear you cry). I grew up in the sixties and seventies in Cork, Southern Ireland and that whole racket in the North was a backdrop to my formative years back then.
I did have an insight though as my Father had been born in Belfast in 1908 and though he died a year after the "Troubles" began, my Mother filled me in on many aspects of life in the North for a catholic growing up there. The early years of the war in Northern Ireland were characterized by the systematic burning out of Catholic streets by Loyalist/Protestant mobs, ably assisted by the RUC, (The police force of Northern Ireland).
Our black and white TV set showed flickering images of thousands of catholic families streaming south across the border to refugee camps in Co. Louth. The young catholic men that remained though were hopelessly outnumbered so they took out the guns and began to fight back. Then, and only then, did the British Government send in the army. It is often forgotten now that when the troops did arrive, they took up armed positions on catholic streets to protect the residents, who in turn brought them out tea and sandwiches. The torching of homes ceased temporarily before the loyalist mobs took once more to the streets.
Overseas readers must be wondering just what hideous crime or actions had the catholics perpetrated to prompt such a violent response? They had marched peacefully for civil rights, one man one vote and an end to discrimination based on religious belief. The loyalist rioting as a result of this was incredible. It planted the seeds of the IRA and the rest is history. Sinn Fein emerged as the political wing of the IRA with the slogan, "A ballot box in one hand and an armalite in the other."
But decent respectable people in power down here now have conveniently forgotten that in their teens and twenties, they like me were urging our own Government to send the Irish army north to protect our Irish catholic brothers and sisters. This mood prevailed for years even as the IRA exploded bombs without warning that killed civilians from both sides. There was an ambiguous scenario whereby individual atrocities were condemned at the same time as a silent sneaking regard for the IRA was widespread in Southern Ireland. The relationship between Dublin and London was also at an all-time low.
But Sinn Fein were a legitimate party down here from the birth of the State and sat in our first Government also. They were the only all-island political party and still are. When the ceasefire happened, Sinn Fein played a huge part in it and they were never thanked or recognized for their contribution. But as Sinn Fein become more active in politics in the South now, smear campaigns are in full flight to thwart their advance.
The President of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, has consistently denied being a member of the IRA and therein lies the problem. I don't believe a word of it. He fucking ran that outfit in Belfast at the height of the carnage. But from this point on, I have a different take on things. Why, I wonder, is he too embarrassed now to admit the part he played? Any capable young guy in the scenario he found himself in had a stark choice. Either get out of the place or stay and fight. Like it or not it was an undeclared civil war up there and Gerry stayed and fought back. Dirty nasty things were done by both sides, have no doubt about that, and when the British got involved, they too pulled a few questionable tricks of their own.
I do not trust Gerry Adams but having said that, I don't trust Michael Martin, Enda Kenny of Joan Burton either. The main political parties are scampering at the moment to take back the Republican credentials of 1916 for themselves while demonizing the very republicans who fought a war of their own more recently in Northern Ireland that was related to the events of the same 1916 uprising and what came after it.
And as usual in all of these things, truth is the casualty. That is why I intend to vote only for unknown Independents in the next election. Maybe a 166 drawn from their ranks might give truth a chance.