Earlier today I had the misfortune of switching on Marian Finucane’s radio programme on RTE, while driving to visit my mother. The first thing I noticed was that the rebirth of Bertie Ahern continues apace in Donnybrook, with Marian acting as midwife. To be fair to Marian, she has recovered well after some tough times. In 2008 she was earning €570,000, as RTE outbid all the other media outlets in Ireland to secure her services. Now she is on a mere €295,000 per annum.
But I digress – back to the programme itself. The conversation was symbolic of the media and ‘experts’ in the twenty six counties over the last week, since Martin McGuinness’s passing. Biased, blinkered and so far out of touch within its own little establishment cocoon that you would nearly feel a sense of sorrow. Over the last week, RTE including Marian Finucane’s programme, the INM media brigade (oops, sorry lads), other newspapers, current and former politicians, current and former journalists and whoever else was versed in the correct mantra were all wheeled out to besmirch Martin McGuinness’s good name.
That old line that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter was never so relevant as this week. The lack of context when discussing Martin McGuinness’s life was obvious, so much so that I suspect it must have been deliberate. The hypocrisy, though, was just breathtaking. If only time machines had been invented I would ensure that every member of Establishment Ireland was sent back to nationalist areas of Derry or Belfast in 1950’s and 60’s and abandoned there for a few years, before being returned. Although it would be tempting to just leave them there.
That hypocrisy could not be illustrated any clearer than Enda Kenny standing before a picture of Michael Collins, while evaluating Martin McGuinness’s life and his conversion from ‘terrorism’. Personally, I have never seen Michael Collins as a terrorist, I have always seen him as a freedom fighter. Collins was the man who, on the morning of Bloody Sunday 1920, planned and organised the killing of the Cairo Gang, 14 undercover British intelligence agents and members of the British military in Ireland. Collins’ actions were those of a man at war, a freedom fighter at work, a military man. The irony is that had Collins committed his actions in the north in the 1970’s he would now be labelled a terrorist. There would no painting of Collins to be found hanging in a Fine Gael Taoiseach’s office. The man’s name would be wiped from Fine Gael’s past by now.
Last year, we had the embarrassing spectacle of Establishment Ireland tiptoeing around the centenary of the 1916 Rising, in case they were seen to legitimise ‘terrorism’. Lest we forget, the men and women of 1916 were deemed to be the terrorists of their day. Our newspapers denounced the Rising and the Independent called for the execution of its leaders. (A hatred of republicans maintained to this day). It is noteworthy that by the 50th anniversary of the Rising in 1966, the rebels who had been denounced in 1916, were venerated as martyrs. Of course, after the eruption of war in the six counties, any mention of 1916 was quietly swept away under the carpet of self-censorship by government after government here. That’s the way it worked, the paradox of it all was too much for Establishment Ireland to handle, so best say nothing.
And let’s not forget the Civil War. Can you just imagine the forthcoming awkwardness of commemorating that? Ballyseedy – where nine republicans were taken to Ballyseedy, tied to a landmine and blown up. Luckily one, Stephen Fuller, survived to tell us the story; Countess Bridge in Killarney – where five republican prisoners were blown up in a similar manner as indeed happened to four others in Caherciveen. Then there were the brutal executions of Rory O’Connor, Dick Barrett, Liam Mellows and Joe McKelveey in December 1922. Freedom fighting, terrorism or acts of war? History is always written by the victor.
The problem with much of the ignorant pontifications concerning Martin McGuinness this past week is that they came from the same bases and sources. The journalists, the opinion piece writers, the ‘expert’ analysts, the historians, the politicians and the retired politicians have been generally anti-republican by default. It is a necessary requirement of joining the cult that is Team Mainstream Media, the ‘experts’ and ‘opinion makers’ in the twenty six counties. When it comes to the north, that simplistic attitude can be summarised as John Hume and the SDLP: good, Martin McGuinness and Sinn Féin: bad. And yet even that underlying simplistic opinion is steeped in hypocrisy. When John Hume began talks with Gerry Adams, he was castigated from a height in the south. He was portrayed as a demon and abused in media comment after media comment. God help us all when John eventually shuffles off this mortal coil. The hypocrisy will jump at you from every media outlet in sight.
And that hypocrisy has continued through the decades. Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are political parties steeped in a bloody past. A past they continue to celebrate and commemorate. Nobody decommissioned their arms. They moved smoothly from weaponry to government without a care in the world. Nobody asked questions about their past, particularly concerning the bloody Civil War. And not to forget the Labour party who constantly celebrate their connections with James Connolly. Even more recently Proinsias De Rossa, TD, MEP and President of the Labour party was imprisoned in Mountjoy Prison for seven months and later interned in the Curragh Camp after being arrested at an IRA training camp in the fifties. You will remember the media asking Proinsias about this at every opportunity throughout his political career. Well, no, of course you won’t. It was never raised. Hypocrisy once again.
Let there be no doubt the hypocrisy of Establishment Ireland will continue. The same people who will continue to besmirch Martin McGuinness’s name, would not have been fit to wipe his boots. As Gerry Adams so eloquently put it: “Martin didn’t go to war, war came to him”.
Martin McGuinness stood up for the people, fought for the people and went into politics for the people.
His life is now forever etched into Ireland’s history. He will be remembered with fondness and love, with appreciation and thanks – long after the naysayers, the begrudgers, the bitterati and the revisionists are forgotten.
Maith thú, a Mháirtín.