“I yearn for hammerblows on clinkered planks,
the uncompromised report of driven thole-pins,
to know there is one among us who never swerved
from all his instincts told him was right action,
who stood his ground in the indicative,
whose boat will lift when the cloudburst happens.”
On Derry’s cobblestones Irish Catholics learnt the lesson that merely asking for constitutional rights from an alien state was never going to be sufficient.
A lesson which ideally would have been imparted in the time of O’Connell, Bloody Sunday killed stone dead prospects of the budding Civil Rights movement and any amicable end to hostilities for a generation.
While the historical bun fight for legitimacy means every political faction and their mother seeks to claim some slice of the pie, let us be glad the commemorations can be reduced to one notion and one notion alone. Irish blood was shed on Irish streets and our people however ground down today are conscious enough to recognise that on a collective level.
To some, Northern Catholics would have ideally gone the way of the American Negro from a stagemanaged progressive led civil rights campaign into a generation of pacifist agitation followed by being swallowed up by the British welfare state as an occasionally useful grievance group. Irish history however is a cruel mistress and the resulting decades played out like something akin to Algeria than Alabama dooming many in the process.
Bloody Sunday and the resultant fury showed the Irish question to be radically more versatile than any marxian theorist could imagine, with the North proving itself to be the square peg to the round hole of an increasingly post-nationalist Ireland.
Our cultural elites while wailing against supposed Catholic authoritarianism in the Republic kept mum on the horrorshow of the North with the diligently enforced Section 31 spiking public perception on the conflict to this day.
Even now our supposed head of state opted to honour a foreign genocide over injury done to our own people within his own lifetime. The Irish state is barely coming to terms with events of a century ago and has many moons to go before internalising our more recent history.
Attempts to bring the British state and its servants to justice 50 years after the event by judicial means somewhat misses the point. In the current year the British government is quite apologetic about most of its colonial history, except of course the country it still maintains a formal occupying presence, Ireland.
Slave holder statues find themselves dunked in English harbours but one may find still Cromwell’s features sitting pretty in the Palace of Westminster. The British state grovels at the altar of diversity at home with its famously pitiable police force but is more than willing to operate a thinly veiled police state in the six counties.
While political unionism finds itself on its deathbed with Brexit and the immolation of the DUP, any day trip to Belfast or Derry reveals a very militarised and surveilled state lurking beneath the surface should violence erupt again.
For the south, Bloody Sunday presented itself as a menacing Rubicon to which Dublin could never avail of. Already phasing out the half disbelieved brand of Pearsian nationalism at an institutional level, the emergence of an ethnic blood feud north of the border was the last time that the state geneflectured in a meaningful way to militant republicanism.
Then as now, idealism of our revolutionary era carried a hefty price tag for future generations to live up to and a rather unimaginate Dublin government opted for counterrevolution over the risk of allowing the war to spread south.
Whatever the truth behind the actual events or even viability, the Arms Crisis however hamfisted marked the final act to which militant nationalism was considered feasible at a state level.
One didn’t expect Lynch to roll tanks across the border (assuming the Irish Army had any) but the spate of revisionism promoted subsequently to purge the state of republicanism did much injury to our national wellbeing and was unlike anything a normal country does.
14 body bags was the answer to the idea that the Irish could take the easy route to national liberation. I’m content with living in peacetime and understand those who have moral qualms against violence but am grateful that Bloody Sunday taught us the merits of our own ‘Blut und Eisen’ way over a cheap form of freedom won by passivity
It’s very easy to ruminate on an armed campaign 50 years after the event from behind a computer screen but I’m still glad to live in a country where men and women took up arms for the national cause within living memory.
My question is that would the people who cowered under NPHET’s feet for 2 years have enough spirit to ignite the British embassy if the outrage occurred today?