Letters to the Editor

Military solution preferred option of unionists and British army in 1971

A photo after the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971. Picture from Colm Lenaghan, Pacemaker

In September 1971, as reported in On This Day (September 3), Ian Paisley called for a new Third Force, like the B-Specials controlled by Stormont “Not a policy of containment of the IRA but a policy of annihilation.” Presumably Mr Paisley would not have been perturbed if countless innocent Catholics had been annihilated in the process.

A military solution was very much the preferred option of unionists and the British army at that time and maybe still is. Throughout the Troubles loyalist paramilitaries masqueraded as ‘defenders of Ulster’ and still propagate the myth that they took the fight to the IRA. In reality they simply targeted Catholics. As a consequence one third of all Troubles victims were innocent Catholics. Young loyalists still hero worship these men, like those responsible for the Miami Showband Massacre and bandsmen, parading through Derry, feel quite at liberty to taunt the citizens about the innocent victims of Bloody Sunday.

The collective unionist response to loyalist terrorism can, at best, be described as ambivalent, at worst complicit. Not one unionist, to my knowledge, has ever called for an inquiry into security force collusion or called for a security clampdown after a loyalist atrocity. Allegations of collusion were dismissed and perpetrators labelled as being ‘a few bad apples’. Consequently, the killings continued unabated and the likes of the Glenanne Gang, most of whom had security force connections, were able to operate with impunity, murdering up to 120 innocent Catholics.

Much has been made recently of legacy issues – again unionists and the British establishment are outraged that ‘their’ security forces are being held to account. The security forces did commit atrocities and these atrocities were covered up – if they had been properly investigated at the time there would be no legacy issues now and Captain Mike Jackson, of the Parachute Regiment, would have been stood down after the Ballymurphy massacre. It took 50 years to prove there was no gun battle with the IRA, as he had claimed – only soldiers discharged gunfire and all the victims were totally innocent.  The Paratroopers were allowed to repeat the exercise in Derry, barely six months later, and the IRA was inundated with recruits. So much for a military solution. General Sir Mike Jackson was later appointed the army’s Commander in Chief.

John Hume warned the Stormont government that a military solution was not the answer in 1971. What a tragedy unionism never had a leader of his stature, foresight and integrity.

Instead we had the war-mongering rants of Ian Paisley, which continued for the next 30 years until he achieved his ultimate ambition by, eventually, becoming one of Terence O’Neill’s successors.   

Newry, Co Down


EU jam would be very thinly spread

I don’t know bread and jam is a normal part of the diet in his native Slovakia, but I am surprised that EU vice-president Maros Sefcovic should think it would be a good idea to put jam on both sides of the bread.

(‘Investors keen to benefit from having “jam on both sides of bread”’, September 10)

It is the kind of thing that a young child might try out, until he was told not to do it and had his sticky fingers wiped.

However, on a serious note, the jam to which he refers, the economic advantages of the EU Single Market, would in any case be spread pretty thin.

According to a report issued by the EU’s erstwhile chief negotiator, Michel Barnier in 2013, the net benefit averaged about 2 per cent of GDP across the EU member states, while another analysis agreed with that estimate but reckoned that the benefit to the UK was only half of the EU average.

For nearly six decades Tories greatly exaggerated the economic impact of EU membership, which was always marginal, and probably marginally negative rather than positive, and if the present Tory government has gone along with this nonsense about the benefits of the protocol that can only be because old habits die hard.

Maidenhead, Berkshire


Church has often read the letter but not explored the spirit

FR  PATRICK McCafferty – ‘We cannot save ourselves’ (September 8) – responding to an article by Mary Kelly, quotes St Augustine as basically saying that if one does not accept the gospel(s) in their totality then one is not hearing the gospel.

I recall reading that Henry VIII (Defensor Fidei), on hearing that scriptures were being translated into the vernacular, said that every farm hand would have his view, so I read anyway.

My sense is that Fr McCafferty has Church teaching on the gospel as the truth - now there is a loaded word. In Matt 22:21 Jesus responds to a query from the Pharisees by saying, “Return to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” One is left to ponder whether Jesus was referring to the authority of Caesar and not just taxes.

Here in Ireland, as elsewhere in the world, established authority has been cruel, unjust and murderous. There was resistance. The Church has condemned this resistance. Spain is a classic example, where the Republican government was overthrown by a fascist dictator, Franco. The Catholic Church overtly supported this and subsequent horrors.

My point is that there are and have been many occasions where the Church has read the letter but not explored the spirit.

Fr McCafferty quotes Luke 8:8: “Who has ears, let them hear.” I do wonder if Mother Church is listening. I mean, is it a case of, “I hear you, are you listening to me?”

Derry City


Momentous occasion

There is nothing like being in Dublin on All-Ireland Football Final day whether you are in the stadium or in the city.

One can feel the excitement and the absorbing atmosphere all over the place. It is a unique day that brings out the best in people with bars bursting at the seams and everyone in a happy mood.

There are not many cities where you will see fans from the opposing teams that are playing, drinking and laughing together before the match.

Such scenes are so uplifting and give you a great sense of wellbeing. I was lucky to be there for this year’s final last Saturday, not in Croke Park, but in this great city of Dublin on a momentous day.

Cullyhanna, Co Armagh

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Letters to the Editor